Last week, major international newspaper Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a full-page ad that praised the sustainability of the meat industry. The ad also took a swing at the vegan movement, claiming that if every American stopped eating animal products, greenhouse gas emissions would only fall by 0.36 to 2 percent globally.
The ad was, unsurprisingly, paid for by the Beef Checkoff, a program designed to increase the consumption of beef.
“Beef’s environmental footprint may drive headlines, but the truth is, eliminating beef is not a realistic or impactful solution for climate change,” part of the ad reads. It carries on, saying that raising cattle actually helps protect the planet.
But the claims lack meaningful evidence. And while the meat industry’s editorial tantrums are not a new concept (see the similar ads it placed in WSJ and The New York Times in 2019), they are arguably more damaging than ever.
The global climate emergency is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. We cannot afford to be spreading misinformation on such a major scale (WSJ distributes around 2,834,000 copies a day).
So, here is an open letter to the publication, urging it to correct the advertisement. You can read the full version below.
Dear Wall Street Journal, Dear Mr. Murray,
We were forwarded the attached advertisement with manipulated science displayed in the Wall Street Journal on August 14, and we would like to ask your help in rectifying the advertisement, as continuing to promote beef consumption will cause tremendous damage to our planet.
This advertisement is based on questionable data. It is not credible, and contradicts data supported by the international scientific reports and data from institutions such as the FAO, UNEP, and the IPCC (leading international climate data sources).
Total emissions from global livestock: 7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions … Cattle (raised for both beef and milk, as well as for inedible outputs like manure and draft power) are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65 percent of the livestock sector’s emissions … feed production and processing (this includes land use change) and enteric fermentation from ruminants are the two main sources of emissions, representing 45 and 39 percent of total emissions, respectively.
The US figures for livestock production are lower but typically do not include any emissions caused elsewhere, for example for the production of livestock feed, usually in South America, which are a key driver of greenhouse gas emissions.
Switching to a plant-based diet could reduce your food-related emissions by up to 50 percent.
We just launched Diet Change Not Climate Change representing the facts accurately.
We would prefer the Wall Street Journal to disassociate itself from the advertisement, and a confirmation it will not advertise such misleading data again.
We would be grateful if this message could be forwarded to the correct department within the Wall Street Journal.
Jasmijn de Boo,
Vice President, ProVeg International
Director of Plant Based News
Update Friday 27th 11:52am BST
The article was updated to correct the involvement of the CCF in the production of the Beef Checkoff Ad. The CCF has asserted they had no involvement in the production of the WSJ advertisement, nor the production of the website beefwhatsfordinner.com. Plant Based News has updated the article accordingly.