Over the weekend, Republicans accused Joe Biden of trying to ban meat.
The claim you’ve heard of Donald Trump Jr.. and Greg Abbot, Texas Governoris that Biden’s climate plan bans Americans from eating burgers to limit greenhouse gas emissions associated with industrial agriculture.
On Fox News this Friday, former Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow warned of a July fourth when „you can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts” (Kudlow seems unaware of this What beer is made of?). MP Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called Biden „The Hamburglar. ”
Biden’s climate protection plan, of course does not restrict eating meat in some way. A Washington Post fact-checking The burger-banned Biden myth originated in a misleading article in the daily mail, a British tabloid known for sensational reporting and right-wing politics. Biden’s current climate policy has so far focused on reducing emissions from cars and power plants without blocking meat production or consumption.
At first glance, this is another example of a fake cycle of indignation in the right echo chamber tied to a lie. But here, too, there’s something more worrying – it’s the latest example of how efforts to contain the climate crisis and our reliance on meat are only becoming the newest hotspots in our all-consuming cultural wars.
The grain of truth in the Republican claims (agri-pun intended) is that any serious climate change plan must do something about meat production. A new one by in scienceA leading academic journal found that foodborne emissions alone put the Paris Agreement’s warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius out of reach. The most effective way to combat these emissions, according to the authors of the Per, is to move away from meat consumption globally.
Biden’s climate policy has not yet achieved that goal, so those conservative shots over the weekend were lies. But here’s the thing: Biden’s plan should definitely do something about industrial agriculture. Any plan to combat climate change should help reduce US reliance on the meat industry. Moon shot subsidies for laboratory-grown meat, for example.
But everything is related to our political identity these days, and meat has a cultural and economic meaning that few other things can match. Anything Democrats propose to address the issue of animal husbandry emissions is – is already being resolved – by a major backlash from the right.
America’s carnivorous methods are increasingly being drawn into our culture wars. This is yet another sign of how polarized our country is and how much that polarization is making it difficult to combat a catastrophic threat like climate change.
The anatomy of a meat smear
On Thursday the Daily mail published an article with a characteristically inflammatory headline: „How Biden’s Climate Plan Could Limit You to Eating Only One Burger a Month.”
The use of the word „could” there is crucial as the content of the article is entirely speculative. It takes Bidens recently announced climate protection targets – Cut 50 to 52 percent of US emissions per month – and try to predict what policy changes might be required to achieve that goal. Although Mail reporter Emily Crane admits that Biden „has not yet released exact details on how such a plan will affect the daily lives of ordinary Americans,” she makes some sketchy guesses.
„Americans may need to cut their red meat consumption by a whopping 90 percent and cut their consumption of other animal-based foods in half,” writes Crane. “To do this, Americans would only have to consume about four pounds of red meat a year, or 0.18 ounces a day. That’s roughly the equivalent of an average-sized burger per month. ”
The estimate is based on one University of Michigan per year How much hypothetical dietary changes could American climate emissions reduce?, who found the US could achieve a 51 percent reduction in food-related emissions by cutting beef consumption by 90 percent and all other animal-based foods by 50 percent. However, there is no evidence that the Michigan estimate affects Biden’s climate policies.
We can’t assume that Biden would attempt to cut emissions by exactly 50 percent in every industry for an overall 50 percent reduction. The plans for the agricultural sector could be more or less, and they could aim to achieve them through means other than reducing domestic meat consumption (such as meat consumption) Reducing nitrogen consumption in crop farming). As the mail itself admits, we really have no idea.
Despite these flaws, the Mail’s article has caught on in the far-right media world, and many have interpreted it as an actual summary of Biden’s political goals. According to the fact check of the PostThe most influential vector was Fox News, which made an easily shareable infographic about „Biden’s Climate Needs,” which washes the Mail’s misinformation as a authoritative claim about Biden’s plan originating from the University of Michigan itself.
On Monday, John Roberts of Fox News admitted the mistake on air: “A grhic and the script incorrectly implied it [the Michigan study] was part of Biden’s plan to combat climate change. That’s not the case. „But it was too late: the Grhic had already motivated the more prominent false claims on social media, and prominent Conservatives tweeted them again as if they were correct:
As we have seen in the past, lies that circulate unchallenged in the right-wing media ecosystem can sometimes harden into myths. Birtherism and the Obamacare Death Panel rumors began when marginal claims were made with little to no factual basis. After being reinforced by conservative media, they were widely adopted by the GOP grassroots and elements of the official Republican Party. The notion that the 2020 elections were somehow stolen, while similarly factually questioned, spread even faster (mainly because their ancestor was also the incumbent president and party leader).
Because so many conservatives distrust the mainstream media, fact-checking like the Post’s won’t change the Fox Republican narrative. While Biden continues to implement his climate protection policy, Expect some conservatives to ban beef – even if it doesn’t.
The culture war over meat begins
Here’s the problem, however: if Biden’s climate plan doesn’t address meat, it is likely to fail.
Animal production represents worldwide a significant part of total greenhouse gas emissions. The reasons for this lie in the meat production itself; There is no way for people to consume meat the way we do without benefiting from it catastrophic warming.
Ruminants such as cows, which are kept in much larger numbers due to the need for meat and milk, emit methane gas their body functions – a pollutant that is stronger than carbon dioxide. The rearing of allegedly more climate-friendly meat such as chicken also emits significantly more greenhouse gases than vegetable protein production. Animal husbandry requires clearing large amounts of land, a major cause of deforestation in places like Brazil’s Amazon. Concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs), factory farms where animals are huddled together in tiny cages and kept in terrible conditions, are emerging massive feces that exacerbate the methane problem.
In short, there is no getting around the problem: If we want to keep climate change at a manageable level, we have to change the way we produce and consume animal products.
The Biden administration may or may not take steps to resolve this issue. But the hysterical response to a lie that will do so suggests how explosive the response will be if Biden actually moves in that direction.
In both the US and around the world, the cultural significance of meat is difficult to exaggerate. Humans have eaten animals for millennia and it is deeply ingrained in our cultural rituals and self-image. In America, meat is associated with masculinity and ideals about the virtuous traditional American peasant – central concepts in a Republican party dominated by culturally conservative rural whites.
To make matters worse, animal husbandry is also big business, which means billions of dollars would likely be behind meat-friendly Republicans. A new study by my colleague Sigal Samuel found that the animal husbandry industry has already spent millions undermining climate change policies if federal efforts were not made to purposely reduce American meat consumption. Imagine how hard they would fight if there were one.
This combination of forces – the cultural force of meat and the interests of large-scale agriculture – make the problem of reducing meat consumption politically challenging.
With a draft FAQ on the Green New Deal mentioned the problem of animal methane emissionsConservatives responded by falsely claiming that politics would ban cow production – viewing this as a strong line of attack. There’s a reason Biden’s team responded to the latest rumors from tweeted a picture of Biden Grill Patties: This is a fight they don’t directly want to have.
Even the tastiest meat alternatives, such as laboratory-grown meat and Impossible-style vegetable protein, threaten both America’s conservative self-image and the bottom line of agriculture. When current Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) was eating at a vegan plant-based restaurant in Atlanta during the 2020 campaign, his opponent David Purdue mocked him by tweeting a picture of himself Eat bacon. The ction? „Choose your side, America.”
The unstoppable force of advocacy for climate change on the left hits the immobile object of attachment to flesh on the right. The resulting struggle will create problems at the core of American identity, a country where animal husbandry is an integral part of our mythological cowboy past and economic present.
Given the high stakes, there is every reason to believe that meat could be the next big battle in our all-consuming culture war. „Biden bans burgers” is not a one-off lie; We can look back on it as Fort Sumter of the Meat Wars.