Meat and Crusaders

Before I get started today, I want to take a few moments to address some reader feedback to my last essay, "A Clear and Pheasant Danger."

First, I give a heartfelt thanks to those who wrote in with kudos and "attaboys." It’s always nice to hear from those who’ve been persuaded, or whose points of view, so long unechoed in the mainstream, have been affirmed. Special thanks to the fellow who invited me to join him for a pheasant hunt on his Michigan farmland.

I also want to thank the entire Whiskey & Gunpowder readership for NOT writing in to bust my chops about the cheesy pun I used for the title of my last piece. I simply could not resist the wordplay, even though it no doubt made some of you groan. A thousand thanks for your restraint (not one person wrote in about it) — and a thousand apologies for my self-indulgence.

And finally, just to prove to you that we don’t shrink from criticism here, I offer the following responses to my detractors…

To those readers who wrote in to claim, in so many words, that I’m an enemy of the Earth, I say this: As a lifelong outdoorsman and conservationist, pristine, untrammeled nature is as precious to me as it could ever be to you, likely more so. And I’d wager you a year’s salary that I spend more time out in it — and more dollars on its preservation, defense, and maintenance — than you ever will.

To those readers who complained that I tend to steer my essays on the environment toward issues involving shooting and the blood sports, I say this: I write about freedoms. And when it comes to the environment, those freedoms most in the cross hairs of the quasi-religious fashion show the environmental movement has become in this country are those involving hunting, shooting, fishing, and the responsible treading upon the lands our tax dollars pay for with the gear involved in pursuing these freedoms.

To those who wrote in to take offense at characterizations like "tree-hugger" and "enviro-Nazi," I say this: These labels are meant to call into glaring relief zealous factions of the new religion of environmentalism that would sacrifice all American freedoms — not to mention prosperity — on the altar of flawed assumptions about the natural world, and about how best to save and preserve it. Most Americans who would call themselves environmentalists fall nowhere near these classifications in my eyes. Apologies if I didn’t make this clear in my prior essay. The last thing I wish to do is alienate the open-minded and receptive with my characterization of the narrow-minded and destructive.

And last but not least, to the guy who wrote to excoriate me as clueless and factually inaccurate because HE didn’t distinguish between my comments on carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, I say this: Get a clue yourself — and learn to read!

Now, onto other matters, like offending another group of misguided, misanthropic misusers of the environmental agenda: animal rights activists.

An Inconvenient "Toot"

As you know, I’m normally either poking fun at the animal rights crowd or exposing their agenda as disingenuous, fraudulent, and logically flawed.

But today, I’m their best freakin’ friend. Seriously, I am so glad these fools exist right now — because they’ve poked a far larger and more-visible-to-the-mainstream hole in the human-caused global warming argument than I could with a thousand essays in this forum…

As you may have noticed, a new element has entered the global warming debate lately. Well, it’s not really new at all, but it is newly anointed as credible by the mainstream media — owing largely to the slick, refined PR machine that PETA and friends have spent all their donation and membership monies building (they certainly haven’t used it to buy any land for wildlife to flourish on). The element I’m talking about:

Greenhouse gases from livestock, uhh… emissions.

Yep, cow farts and other livestock-related processes. As it turns out, PETA’s rabid hatred of all things carnivorous has driven them to mass-publicize a fact that pulls the rug out from under a major pillar of Al Gore and company’s politically motivated hatred of all things carboniferous: that the cumulative effects of raising animals for food creates more greenhouse gases than all the world’s cars and trucks combined.

Only around 9% of the world’s atmospheric CO2 comes from livestock sources. However, as measured by CO2 equivalent, around 18% of the Earth’s greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide are the biggies) result from animal emissions, the livestock-rearing process, and the carbon-negative impact of clearing grazing acreage of forest and other plants, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report released last November.

Here’s how this is possible, in case you’re wondering…

While it’s true that the carbon dioxide that cars, trucks, fossil fuel power plants, and the like spew out represents around 75% of the greenhouse gases released by all mankind-related sources, other gases — like the methane and nitrous oxide that livestock rearing generates in copious quantities — have a "greenhouse" effect many times more powerful than CO2. In fact, methane’s actions in the atmosphere account for 23 times more GWP (global warming potential) than CO2, and nitrous oxide nearly 300 times as much!

What this means is that if Earth’s current warming trend is indeed caused by mankind (despite what Gore and friends say, there isn’t a scientific consensus), and if the U.N. report is accurate, then cows, pigs, and chickens are more to blame for it than cars…

This is what PETA has latched onto and successfully penetrated the mainstream media with. On the strength of this U.N. report and the high profile of Al Gore’s movie, PETA is calling for eco-minded Americans — and, specifically, Gore himself — to go vegetarian in the name of Mother Earth. And indeed, it has a point.

According to researchers from the University of Chicago, if someone really believed that reducing their personal "carbon footprint" (more accurately called a "greenhouse footprint") would make a difference in the global temperature, eschewing meat would make far more of an impact than buying a Prius. Around 50% greater, the U of C scientists estimate.

Unwittingly Exposed: The Green Crowd’s 1% Solution

I’m a hunter and carnivore — so why do I love the PETA crowd for exposing this, you’re asking?

Because it underscores exactly how insignificant vehicular CO2 emissions are, from a global warming standpoint — again, that’s IF you buy into their correlation. Think about it: Everyone’s making such a squawk about tailpipe CO2, yet if the U.N. folks are right about livestock making more of an impact than cars, that means vehicle exhausts are the source of less than 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases (some credible estimates peg this number far lower). For simpler math moving forward, let’s say that 16% of global GHG comes from vehicular exhausts. That’s probably generous, but what the hell…

This means that the mass adaptation of more efficient hybrid cars — which offer at most a 25% real-world fuel mileage benefit over comparably sized gas-powered cars (Prius real-world MPG hovers at around the high 40s, not much higher than what a Honda Civic or VW TDI will get you) — would result in a net GHG benefit of around 4% AT MOST. But remember, that’s if everyone in the world were to adopt these lean, green machines.

Of course, this wouldn’t be possible, since trucks, buses, tractors, military conveyances, and other low-mileage vehicles would still be gas- or diesel-powered. Also, not all nations give a rat’s ass about GHG, or are in a position to adapt to hybrid vehicles on a massive scale.

So let’s come at this another way — one that isolates the U.S. impact alone:

Estimates peg the current number of cars and trucks at around 600 million worldwide. Around one-third of these are here in the States. Assuming that the average vehicle in the U.S. is likely to be far newer, in much better condition, and of a more efficient design to begin with than most other places on Earth, I’m guessing that NO MORE than a fourth of Earth’s tailpipe CO2 comes from America’s cars and trucks (it’s probably far less). So given a 16% estimate of global GHG from tailpipe emissions, this means around 4% of the total annual atmospheric GHG burden comes from AMERICAN tailpipes. Now, stay with me here…

Let’s say that every American citizen were all of a sudden forced by law to trade in their current personal automobiles for hybrid "roller-skate" models. Since these cars represent only around a 25% efficiency benefit over normal cars — and since millions of delivery trucks, big rigs, buses, tractors, and military and emergency vehicles would still be guzzling gas and spewing lots of GHG — the overall impact of such a switch on Planet Earth’s annual GHG output would likely be no more than 1%.

Pretty pathetic, huh?

Now I ask you, as environmentally conscious Americans: Is a 1% reduction in world GHG really worth giving up the luxury, utility, convenience — and yes, even the extra safety — of larger and more capable vehicles?

I say no. Why should Americans give up any variety of our beloved cars and trucks — not to mention our economic advantage — while Kyoto-exempt "developing" Asian and African nations can belch as much GHG into the atmosphere as they want? It isn’t fair by any method of measure…

And now, poetically, PETA’s agenda is exposing this lack of international energy parity.

Carnivores vs. Carbon Whores

Of course, none of this addresses the "problem" of livestock/agricultural GHG sources. In other words: What should we do about the cow farts — now that we know they’re a prime source of atmospheric GHG?

Well, if PETA and friends had their way, we’d all be forced into vegetarianism for the sake of the environment. Mind you, the animal rights crowd doesn’t care WHY we’re vegetarian — only that we don’t harm their precious beasts. They’re single-issue folks, and they’re leveraging the "carbon footprint" concept to further their agenda. That’s why they feel no compunction whatsoever about throwing their own comrades on the political left under the bus with their public calls to Al Gore to become vegetarian or admit being a hypocrite…

What they don’t realize is that when forced to make the choice, Americans will stand up as carnivores instead of lining up with PETA’s carbon whores. There’s no way in this world that we’ll give up our bull roasts and pig feasts, burgers and steaks, baby back ribs and carnitas, ball park dogs and sausage links, fried chicken and Thanksgiving turkeys — even if we do suspect that it’s all contributing to global warming.

And what’s kind of funny-ironic is that if people really stop to consider the ramifications of what PETA has successfully brought to the mainstream consciousness, they may realize things that aren’t in the best interests of either the animal rights OR militant environmental movements. Things like…

What if all the fuss about animal "emissions" makes people realize that global warming from greenhouse gases is a perfectly natural process — one that has waxed and waned many times over many eons in response to many factors (like animal life and its byproducts)?

What if Americans and others around the world decide that while they can’t give up their meat — but they can do without all those GHG-farting deer, moose, elk, bison, horses, cape buffalo, yaks, gnus, caribou, water buffalo, kudus, impala, wart hogs, kangaroos, lions, tigers, and bears? (The PETA crowd would love this, huh?)

What if people start thinking about how their OWN flatulence is killing the planet? Would we start regulating our diets to reduce our own "tailpipe" emissions (I’m telling you right now, a vegetarian beans-and-cabbage diet wouldn’t be optimal)? Would we start restricting human births for fear of the environmental impact of their ass-gas?

See how absurd this could all get — how absurd it already is?

Now, imagine how absurd and restrictive all this environmental hysteria could become if the government figures out ways to leverage all these fears for more control over your dollars and freedoms? Make no mistake — that’s the goal here, as it always is with politicians.

And anyone with half a brain who’s able to detach from fear and prejudice long enough to think about it can figure this out. This leaves out most militant environmentalists (see als tree-huggers and eco-Nazis), all animal rights activists, and anyone who accepts as the scientific gospel anything in Al Gore’s one-sided, campaign-in-a-film can HOLLYWOOD MOVIE An Inconvenient Truth.

Bottom line: I don’t want to lose any more of my freedoms, choices, or money because a bunch of weasel politicians have found a way to parlay a "crisis du jour" that’s far from solidly rooted in science into even more cash and power — and a bigger, more far-reaching government. And it’s all because we’re putting our faith not in facts, or even reasoned debate, but into half-truths that we’re being scared and shamed into accepting by people who are hopelessly agenda driven…

Can’t we just stop and think about this a little — preferably over a burger — before our naivete and capitalist guilt cause us to plunge like so many lemmings headlong over a cliff of needless regulation?

Stomping hysteria in my carbon footprint,

Jim Amrhein
Contributing editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

March 22, 2007