FOR many years, the story of how meat and livestock contribute to personal health and wellbeing and ecologically balanced landscapes around the world went largely unreported. It was once widely understood.
But times have changed. Coordinated campaigns harnessing selective science and emotive invocations, amplified by social media, have been successful in turning the once extreme view that people and policy makers should abandon meat into the situation today where some countries are formally legislating to reduce livestock numbers.
Many in the global livestock sector have watched on with growing concern as a rising tide of anti-meat and dairy commentary focuses public attention on emissions produced while ignoring the key “other side of the story”.
That is the biogenic cycle of grazing systems which helps to sequester carbon in soils, helps to offset other emissions, and means livestock emissions cycle and don’t accumulate in the atmosphere over hundreds and thousands of years as other emissions sources do. Beef is often singled out as the greatest source of food-related methane emissions, but the important balancing point that it is also one of the nutrient dense largely often goes unreported.
The old fashioned notion of common sense suggests that ideological campaigns which have to ignore evidence to make their case are ultimately doomed to fail.
But, just the same, it wasn’t long ago that the thought of newsreaders holding a straight face while reporting that a cow is worse for the planet than a car would have also seemed inconceivable.
Concerned that a dramatic increase in ideological approaches is displacing fact-based decision making, a large group of independent scientists from all over the world has organised to meet in Dublin this week for a high-level summit in an urgent global effort to clear the air.
The scientists behind the summit are advocating a return to solid evidence-based policy, and the launch of a formalised international effort to counter the rising influence of incomplete science on global policy.
Adding to their conerns is an increasing trend of Government resourcing for livestock research reducing dramatically around the world, and young academics increasingly questioning whether there is a future in meat science.
Meat production and meat consumption are a pivotal source of nourishment globally, and play a large role in ecological and economic systems.
The scientists point out that meat production must continuously evolve with the best technologies available in order to maximise its benefits and minimise undesirable impacts.
“Given the importance and scale of meat production, the respective agricultural, industrial, governmental and educational actors need to continuously strive to earn their societal license to operate,” the organising scientists explain in the summit overview.
“It is critical that we clearly understand what the objective scientific evidence is saying.
“The subject is too important to be influenced by ideology and incomplete or false description in public discourse.”
Almost 200 people will attend the summit, including independent globally-leading scientists, and senior industry leaders industry leaders and Government representatives from Australia, Ireland, England, Scotland, the United States, Canada, Brazil and across Europe.
Beef Central has also been invited to participate in the summit in Dublin and will be reporting on outcomes in coming days and weeks. The visit has been undertaken at our own expense.
The organisers also emphasise that the summit has been conceived and organised by independent scientists and is not sponsored by the meat industry.
Its purpose is to bring leading scientists from across many relevant disciplines together to present, debate and achieve a comprehensive synopsis of the scientific insights on the role of meat in society, and to communicate the best science available on animal agriculture and meat consumption to industry, Governments and policy makers.
The summit itself and the resulting synopsis will focus on the best available science in three areas:
- The Role of Meat in Diet and Health;
- The Role of Meat in a Sustainable Environment
- The Role of Meat in Society, Economics, and Culture
The outcome is intended to be the development of a clear, scientific, evidence-based understanding of the impact of livestock production and consumption on societies across the globe.