What’s Really Behind The Plant-Based Diet Agenda?

January 23, 2019

I have previously covered the anti-animal agriculture narrative here and the plant-based and/or alternative protein agenda here.

But as the plant-based diet agenda is currently enjoying an uninterrupted public relations campaign facilitated by the obliging media; and given last week’s launch of the EAT-Lancet Commission’s report on healthy diets for sustainable food systems, I feel compelled to delve a little deeper into the matter.

Although I loathe mixing business and politics, livestock agriculture is becoming increasingly politicised. Regrettably, this forces one’s hand.

Why something so innocuous as personal dietary choice needs to be voiced so loudly is a strange phenomenon. However, there are some interesting facets of information that can be gleaned by analysing the EAT-Lancet Commission’s posturing and the alternative protein movement.

The anti-animal agriculture narrative and plant-based diet agenda combines political ideology and commercial interests. This “movement” is insidious, unsavoury, and cannot be ignored by those who value liberty and consumer choice.

Although most people cannot deprive themselves of high-quality nutrition for long-periods of time, the fact that some people are going to such great lengths to avoid the consumption of meat and dairy products is rather telling.

The nutritional argument against consuming animal source foods is non-existent. It is quite simply illogical that red meat or dairy products cause modern diseases (I have previously covered this subject here).

Dietary recommendations have been moulded by religious and other personal beliefs (such as the temperance movement), animal rights activists, and food companies since their inception. None of this is anything new. What is new, is the concept of promoting a “planetary health diet.”

Nutrition science is ambiguous enough without adding extra layers of complexity. What’s good for the planet and what’s good for human health are understandable concerns to have. But conjoining the two is imprudent, especially when innumerable falsehoods are bandied about regarding both.

By far and away, the biggest contemporary driver of the anti-animal agriculture narrative is the supposed environmental impact of livestock – and that is a good place to start a critique of the plant-based diet agenda.

Climate Change Cover Story

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy

Central to the anti-animal agriculture narrative, is climate change. The accusation that cattle are a leading cause of anthropogenic climate change is perhaps the most absurd concept of the global warming theory.

Nevertheless, this is the charge being laid against livestock agriculture.

Analysing the anthropogenic climate change thesis is not the purpose of this post. But the promotion of this claim is pivotal to the anti-animal agriculture narrative.

It is important to remember, that there is no such thing as consensus in science. Science progresses by exploding dud theories of the past. Consequently, the debate around anthropogenic climate change will continue for some time yet.

That the climate is constantly changing does not appear to be in dispute. What causes the weather to do what, particularly in terms of historic records and future predictions, is the bone of contention.

In the video below, the oft berated Lord Christopher Monckton shares his thoughts on climate change and why it should be questioned.

Lord Monckton’s conclusions on what is really driving the fixation with anthropogenic climate change is important to note, if one wishes to fully understand the plant-based diet agenda.

In any event, even if the politically distorted and commercially valuable anthropogenic climate change claim is assumed to be true, and the correct course of action to “save” the world from impending doom is to reduce the minute concentration of a substance essential for all life on earth, targeting livestock agriculture is of little consequence.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture accounted for 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. Of this 9%, animal agriculture was responsible for 4%. Transportation and electricity generation were each responsible for 29% of emissions, industry 22%, and commercial/residential 12%.

However, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) claim that livestock agriculture is responsible for a sizeable 14.5% of global emissions. This figure is such because less developed countries are generally home to inefficient, unproductive livestock.

For example, in 2014/15, the average daily milk yield of indigenous cows in India was 2.54 kg. Whereas the average daily milk yield of an American cow is approximately 31 kg.

Therefore, one American cow produces as much milk as twelve Indian cows. As a result, the less developed countries contribute a greater portion of their greenhouse gases to the world total in the form of livestock emissions.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 70 – 80% of global livestock related greenhouse gas emissions stem from developing countries. The implication of this, is that third world countries are to blame for “causing anthropogenic climate change” – which is obviously ridiculous.

As a final blow to this livestock emissions nonsense, consider the following:

In 1909 the number of motor vehicles registered in the U.S. totalled 312,000. By 2015, this had increased to 263,610,219. Over this time period, the number of motor vehicles per person increased by a whopping 27,233%.

However, between 1909 and 2015, the number of cattle (beef + dairy) per person in the U.S. decreased by 58%.

The premise that cattle are a leading cause of anthropogenic climate change never really made sense. This argument is merely co-opted to further the anti-animal agriculture narrative.

Resource Depletion

After cattle are accused of causing global warming, the allegation soon follows that they are responsible for resource depletion and world hunger as well.

The sustainable management of natural resources is indeed a subject worthy of attention. Nevertheless, this topic area can quickly give rise to all kinds of perturbed knee-jerk reactions.

Calls to limit population growth or redistribute surplus food are the most common, yet ultimately misguided “solutions” to the resource question. Indisputably, there is still considerable room for resource efficiency improvements in livestock agriculture, and this is of course our company’s raison d’être.

However, the anti-meat posing as green activists, propagate many dubious resource use factoids to discredit livestock agriculture.

A 2017 study published by Global Food Security examined the claims concerning the “burden” livestock agriculture places on the human food supply. The report suggests the feed/food challenge is a much smaller threat to food security than often reported.

Furthermore, the report explains that livestock contribute directly to global food security, because animals produce more highly valuable nutrients for humans, such as proteins, than they consume.

The reports lead investigator, Anne Mottet PhD said: “As a Livestock Policy Officer working for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, I have been asked many times by the press to report on the negative environmental impacts of livestock.”

“Doing so, I came to realize that people are continually exposed to incorrect information that is repeated without being challenged, in particular about livestock feed.”

The report determines that 86% of livestock feed is not suitable for human consumption. Dr Mottet said: “The media often reports how consumers’ choices can contribute to sustainable development, like through a vegetarian diet; however, erroneous information is provided regarding livestock feed requirements.”

The FAO estimates that 32% of the world’s cereal production is used for animal feed. It is worth noting, that one of the key pieces of technology to be employed by the SAS System is hydroponic feed production. This technology has the potential to reduce the quantity of grain consumed by cattle by as much as 40 – 50%.

Furthermore, it is often stated that there is so much food in the world, 2.1 billion people are overweight or obese, yet 815 million people go hungry. The naive utopian belief is that overweight people eat too much, and this food could otherwise feed those who are hungry.

This oversimplified statement is correct in that there is no global shortage of calories. There is, however, a shortage of nutrition.

As I covered in this piece here, carbohydrate foods keep people fed, but not nourished. In order to alleviate malnutrition, populations throughout the world need access to nutrient dense animal source foods.

People who wish to insinuate that animal source foods have a high carbon or resource footprint (compared to plant source foods), can only do so when privileging calories as the numeraire.

Vegetables and grains are nutrient poor, whereas animal source foods are nutrient rich. Comparing bioavailable minerals, essential fatty acids, and digestible protein would be a much more appropriate measure, but this would tip the scales in favour of animal source foods.

Less developed and developing countries struggle to produce adequate quantities of nutrition for various reasons. Chief among them is political corruption; civil unrest or war; inadequate property rights; resource mismanagement; poor infrastructure; inability to access finance; inefficient farming practices; and a shortage of farm management expertise.

There are very few technical reasons preventing people from enjoying healthy diets rich in nutrient dense animal source foods.

For example, last year a British agronomist in Kenya grew a trial plot of barley that yielded 11.84 tonnes/hectare. The UK average spring barley yield is approximately 7.5 tonnes/hectare. The agronomist said: “The only food crisis Kenya should have is where to export all the food it produces. Shows what is actually possible right now with the application of proper science and agronomy.”

Any suggestion that the consumption of animal source foods in developed countries has anything to do with world hunger or resource depletion, is complete and utter drivel. Dangerous political ideologies, brutal tyrants, and warlords are responsible for famine and resource mismanagement – not “livestock agriculture.”

Food Utopia or Food Dystopia?

“Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.” – Thomas Sowell

Given that the anthropogenic climate change and resource footprint accusations against livestock agriculture do not hold water, what’s really behind the plant-based diet agenda?

Well, the empirical evidence suggests it is the advancement of plant-based diets for all.

Indeed, the plant-based and alternative protein movement is about more than industry disruption. It’s an ideology, one hell-bent on replacing traditional food with a utopian “food” solution – it’s political as much as it is commercial.

The CEO of Impossible Foods, Patrick Brown, has announced that: "The whole mission of the company is to completely replace the use of animals as a food technology globally, by 2035. And that is unequivocally the most important mission in the world, full stop.”

The level of hubris emanating from alternative protein companies is remarkable. Removing the pinnacle of human grade nutrition from the food supply could only be considered the most important mission in the world in the minds of ideological elites.

But can the founders and CEOs of the alternative protein companies really be so ignorant as to believe their own hype? Or is the disinformation campaign being waged against livestock agriculture merely the pretext for the insertion of imitation animal food products into the food supply?

The UN also believes “tackling meat is the world’s most urgent problem.” Unsurprisingly then, the UN named Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat as the 2018 joint winners of the Champions of the Earth Award, in the Science and Innovation category.

It is interesting to note, that in the two great dystopian novels of the 20th century, Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, synthetic food is integral to the themes explored.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell recounts Winston Smith’s interactions with food on several occasions.

When Winston is queuing in the canteen, food trays are pushed beneath the grille: “onto each was dumped swiftly the regulation lunch – a metal pannikin of pinkish-grey stew, a hunk of bread, a cube of cheese, a mug of milkless Victory Coffee, and one saccharine tablet.”

Orwell then describes Winston eating the lunch: “He began swallowing spoonfuls of the stew, which, in among its general sloppiness, had cubes of spongy pinkish stuff which was probably a preparation of meat.”

Did the EAT-Lancet Commission take its cue from Nineteen Eighty-Four?

Similarly, in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley references “vitaminized beef-surrogate.” In these novels, food is linked to survival and it comes from the state, hence the state equals survival.

Alarmingly, the relationship between a nation’s protein food supply and political ideology is nothing new.

In 1929, Benito Mussolini ordered the formation of the Committee for the Study of Soya, and boldly announced a plan to require soy flour as a mandatory ingredient in the Italian staple polenta.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Communist Party in the Soviet Union pushed soy protein and soy margarines as the solution to low-cost feeding of the masses.

Indeed, Stalin’s efforts to collectivize agriculture involved the liquidation of the kulaks as a class (landowning peasantry). These farmers were opposed to giving up their cattle and land to collectivization, and as such, represented a counterweight to Soviet power.

Furthermore, the Native American Indian were starved into submission when the settlers exterminated the main food source upon which they had relied for generations – the bison.

The best hope to control the Native Americans was to: “make them poor by the destruction of their stock, and then settle them on the lands allotted to them” – according to Major-General Phillip Sheridan, the man tasked with this objective.

Controlling the means of production and interfering with a country’s food supply appears to be a constant theme of totalitarianism. Undoubtedly (from an historical point of view at least), the consumption of nutrient dense animal source foods is associated with wealth, health, physical strength and intelligence. In combination, these attributes empower the individual and enable independence from the state.

It is not hard to deduce, that the end goal of this contemporary plant-based diet agenda, is not about treating animals with humanity, but treating humans like animals.

The Elite Diet Diktat

“I think that insofar as dictators become more and more scientific, more and more concerned with the technically perfect, perfectly running society, they will be more and more interested in the kind of techniques which I imagined and described from existing realities in Brave New World.” – Aldous Huxley, 1962

The plant-based diet rhetoric is sounding increasingly dictatorial. It is morphing from a teenage rebellion or bohemian novelty into an officially endorsed diet option.

Undoubtedly, some of the plant-based diet promoters will be simply well-intentioned but misguided people (and perhaps suffering from early onset SDS – Steak Deficiency Syndrome). Nevertheless, ignorance is no excuse when such damaging agendas are being peddled. As Thomas Sowell said: “Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.”

It is all too easy to deride the conflicted puppets of the anti-meat posing as green crowd – such as Gunhild Stordalen, the founder of the EAT organization. Similarly, it is easy to single out the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” report contributors – such as Walter Willet (nutrition researcher) or Dr Marco Springmann (meat tax study). But of far greater importance, is establishing who the puppet-masters are.

It is important to acknowledge, that the anti-animal agriculture narrative; the plant-based diet agenda; calls for the introduction of a meat tax; and the anthropogenic climate change claim, are cut from the same cloth.

“Climate change is a convenient horse for elites to ride in the implementation of a new world order. Debating the science of climate change is beside the point. There are heated views on both sides; some science is settled, some not. Global elites treat the debate as settled to mask a larger project. For elites, a global problem once defined conjures a global solution. Climate change is the perfect platform for implementing a hidden agenda of world money and world taxation.” – James Rickards, The Road to Ruin

The plant-based diet rhetoric could be more correctly described as a propaganda bombardment. One where the end goal is to coerce the masses into accepting the elite diet diktat.

However, to really decipher the plant-based diet agenda and the bizarre EAT-Lancet report, an understanding of the Hegelian dialectic is a prerequisite.

In a July 2018 insight, Alasdair Macleod (Head of Research for Goldmoney), wrote the following in an article entitled “State or Individual?” As a preface, Macleod outlines that modern statism has its origins in Marxism.

“Marx was a student of Hegel and based his philosophical analysis on Hegelian dialectic. Hegel concluded we all take our cue from our social and cultural surroundings and circumstances, and that they in turn are set by historical events. This became the basis for Marx’s extreme philosophy of class structure, which, in common with that of Hegel, denied any role to the independence of human thought.”

“Marx’s philosophical stance was comprehensively set out in his book, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859. The fundamental principle behind Marxism is stated early in the preface, where he defines his deduction from the Hegelian dialectic: ‘It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.’ In other words, social organisation takes precedence over the individual, and it therefore follows that the individual is subordinate to the social organisation.”

The following statement found on page 34 of the EAT-Lancet report confirms the analysis of Macleod’s writing: “However, the scale of change to the food system is unlikely to be successful if left to the individual or the whim of consumer choice.”

By understanding Marx’s philosophical stance and applying the Hegelian dialectic, it becomes rather obvious that the plant-based diet agenda promoted by the EAT-Lancet Commission contains at least a strand of political ideology.

Macleod summarised the Hegelian dialectic as follows: “Hegel, as did Marx, reasoned from a thesis, then a negation of the thesis, and then a negation of the negation. This was meant to be irrefutable proof of a surviving conclusion. But if the historical and ordinary facts and any assumptions are wrong at the outset, the whole thesis obviously fails.”

I find explaining the Hegelian dialectic in plain English to be somewhat difficult. But as a layman, I will attempt to use the dialectic in the context of the plant-based diet agenda.

Essentially, two extremes are required – one being the thesis (“livestock agriculture destroys the world”), and the other the anti-thesis (“the consumption of animal source foods must be phased out”).

However, the two are capable of reconciliation by combining them into a wider idea – a synthesis of opposites (“insert imitation animal food products made from plants into the food supply”).

Therefore, it can be deduced, that the advancement of the plant-based diet agenda will not take the form of a coup d’état. Instead, its implementation will advance subtly through various institutional and corporate channels, most likely via the alternative protein industry.

Food Financialisation

The lure of “disrupting” what remains of the unadulterated food supply (meat, dairy, fish, eggs) is an appealing proposition for start-up alternative protein companies and incumbent food industry giants.

The profitability of taking what should only be considered livestock feedstuffs, and processing this into human-consumable products, is an extremely lucrative business.

At the time of writing, a 415-gram box of “Nestle Shreddies Cereal” (96% whole grain wheat) can be purchased at the UK supermarket Sainsbury’s for £2.15 or £0.52/100g (a retail price per tonne of £5,200).

Currently, the spot UK milling wheat price is approximately £180/tonne.

A back of the envelope calculation indicates a mark-up of 2,788%. Although I am not familiar with the detailed economics of breakfast cereal processing, one can assume the margins will be at least several hundred percent – after packaging, transportation, and the processor’s margin is accounted for.

Whereas beef processing margins (after all costs), as an industry norm, are “in very low single digit percentages” – according to Tom Kirwan (CEO of ABP, a leading UK and Irish beef processor).

Given these indisputable facts, it is easy to see why Cargill and Tyson Foods (established animal protein processors) are keen to invest in alternative protein companies.

To them, a saleable product is a saleable product. If impressionable people are willing to buy their offerings, then a market will develop.

In late 2018, Nestle announced its plans to tap into the plant-based trend, having identified this as one of several fast growing “food tribes” (their wording). According to media reports, Nestle’s scientists are “experimenting with a liquid derived from walnuts and blueberries, with a purple hue. There’s also a blue latte featuring spirulina algae.”

Evidently, there is substantial corporate interest in the alternative protein concept.

Impossible Foods, the company receiving much of the alternative protein limelight, has attracted nearly $400 million in total funding. The company counts Google Ventures and Bill Gates among its investors.

Gates is not the only high-profile billionaire backing the alternative protein mania. Richard Branson is another notable example, he is an investor in Memphis Meats – a synthetic protein start-up.

Despite operating an airline (apparently among the worst airlines for pollution); and developing a space tourism venture, Branson wrote the following concerning his investment in Memphis Meats: “This could have a huge impact. Livestock is estimated to produce 18 per cent of all ‘man-made’ greenhouse gas emissions. This makes it a bigger contributor to global warming and environmental degradation than all forms of transportation.”

Sir Richard Branson’s actions perfectly demonstrate that the anthropogenic climate change story is worthy of the appellation “Saving the Planet Inc.”

Last year, New Crop Capital (private venture firm) launched a $100 million “New Protein Fund” to focus on investments in alternative protein companies.

The fund’s co-founder and chief investment officer (CIO), Chris Kerr, certainly believes there are fortunes to be made. “We will be rich, not matter what” he said in a pitch to a food manufacturing business, according Bloomberg Businessweek.

Reportedly, Kerr created New Crop Capital with funding from “wealthy backers who wish to remain anonymous.” The December 2018 article said that the fund has stakes in 33 vegan food companies.

Bloomberg summarised the discussion with the fund’s CIO, by stating: “To go truly global, in other words, vegan foods must be financialized and industrialized.”

Indeed, in this age of financialisation, it isn’t entirely surprising that the concept of an alternative protein industry has eventuated – anything seems possible.

Patrick Brown has said: “I love VCs and particularly the ones invested in us…. but it’s truly astonishing how little diligence they do in terms of the actual science that underlies some tech companies.”

“Sometimes……some of the VC firms we work with will ask me to take a look at a company. But it doesn’t really matter what I say because sometimes I’ll say, ‘If I were you I’d just flush my money down the toilet because it is faster and easier.’ But it doesn’t matter. They’ll do the deal.”

Patrick Brown’s observation confirms a recent comment made by financial journalist Edward Chancellor: “The market value of Elon Musk’s firm overtook BMW’s even though the profitable Bavarian luxury carmaker produced 30 times as many cars last year as the loss-making Tesla……With so much dumb money about, one of Silicon Valley’s new mantras is ‘spray and pray’.”

Many companies today exist only because of financialisation. As Roy Sebag, Founder of Goldmoney recently said: “We live in an age where liquidity masquerades as solvency.”

However, the situation the global economy and financial system finds itself in today is unprecedented. Many alternative protein companies who think they have a future could end up as ephemeral as dot-com companies – the similarities are striking.

Food Supply Control

It is important to distinguish between plant-based and synthetic protein (lab-meat) alternative protein companies. Synthetic protein companies have not yet commercialised the manufacture of “lab-meat.”

But if (and it is a big if), the process of manufacturing synthetic protein proves to be technologically and economically feasible, this would potentially put the means of “meat” production under the control of a small group of intellectual property-owning companies.

However, a more credible outcome, is that the promise of synthetic protein is simply used to cajole unwitting omnivores towards a utopian “meat” future. When they get there, they will instead find a plant-based food solution.

Covertly, I suspect the alternative protein promoters know that the commercial production of synthetic protein is impractical.

By following the money, it is plain to see that the alternative protein movement is primarily focussed on plant-based companies. Imitation plant-based products (such as the Impossible Burger) can be manufactured now, using readily available agro-commodities such as soya, wheat, peas, oilseeds etc.

Therefore, the only real barrier preventing alternative protein products from entering the mainstream food supply, is consumer preference.

Alternative protein company executives know that most food consumers will only buy their imitation products if they can be made cheaper and more appealing than the real McCoy.

Josh Tetrick, founder and CEO of JUST, Inc. (an alternative protein company with a 2017 valuation of $1.1 billion) has said: “If my Dad can go to Walmart and buy cheap cod for $2.99 or [cell-based] Bluefin tuna for $2.49, then he might pick the tuna. If you can figure out how to get the cost down and the quality is better, it doesn’t matter if they [consumers] care about animal welfare, if they understand anything about the GFI, or if they believe in the science of climate change, or if they are a Trump voter….that’s when the switch [from conventionally produced meat to cell-based meat] will occur.”

Price is one of two elements central to the success of any food product.

The second element, taste, is outlined by Patrick Brown (he really is the gift that keeps on giving) in a response he gave during a 2009 interview (see interview here).

As a preface, Brown was explaining that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN published a study looking at the environmental impact of animal farming, “and the bottom line is that it is the most destructive and fastest growing environmental problem.” Here’s what he said about his plan to “eliminate animal farming on planet Earth”:

“The gist of my strategy is to rigorously calculate the costs of repairing and mitigating all the environmental damage and make the case that if we don’t pay as we go for this, we are just dumping this huge burden on our children. Paying these costs will drive up the price of a Big Mac and consumption will go down a lot. The other thing is to come up with yummy, nutritious, affordable mass-marketable alternatives, so that people who are totally addicted to animal foods will find alternatives that are inherently attractive to eat, so much so that McDonald’s will market them, too. I want to recruit the world’s most creative chefs – here’s a REAL creative challenge!”

Firstly, this statement is a clear indictment of the alternative protein agenda, including the meat tax conspiracy.

Anyway, as the ultra-processed food industry has demonstrated, the blandest ingredients can be made palatable through chemical trickery. Supposedly, Impossible Foods has mastered this technique also. If a concoction of grain and oilseeds can deliver a meat-eating sensory experience, perhaps unsuspecting omnivores will buy alternative protein products?

Alas, it is the average Joe who will determine their level of entrapment to the elite diet diktat. Aldous Huxley very nearly surmised this exact predicament several decades ago:

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.” – Aldous Huxley, 1962.

Corporate & Academic Collusion

In the 2009 interview, Patrick Brown also alluded to “driving up the price of a Big Mac.” I wonder how he intends to do that?

“A new study (useful things these studies eh?) from researchers at the Oxford Martin School has found that a health tax on red and processed meat could prevent more than 220,000 deaths and save over US$40 billion in healthcare costs every year.”

The report was led by none other than Dr Marco Springmann – a vegan activist.

And which journal published the report?

Well, that would be the Public Library of Science (PLoS) – “a nonprofit Open Access publisher, innovator and advocacy organization with a mission to advance progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication.”

And who co-founded this journal?

None other than CEO and founder of Impossible Foods – Patrick Brown.

In that expository 2009 interview, Brown said: “I want to LITERALLY overthrow the scientific publishing establishment……that is what I want to do. PLoS is just part of a longer range plan. The idea is to completely change the way the whole system works for scientific communication.”

Evidently, “part of a longer range plan” means publishing studies conducive to his commercial interests.

And lastly, does the Oxford Martin School really think that taxing meat could “prevent” more than 220,000 deaths every year?

To quote the inimitable Dr Malcolm Kendrick: “The chances of getting out of life alive are zero. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, no-one has managed it yet.

(Note: Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s exceptional 2014 book, Doctoring Data, is a must read if you have even the slightest interest in your own health).

Governments & Meat Tax

Indisputably, there is a vociferous mob who would willingly support a plant-based diet for all. Indeed, after announcing the meat tax study, Dr Marco Springmann made sure he used the one-sided mainstream media soapbox to full effect: “For the average consumer…...the takeaway message is, change your diet and write to your politicians to implement better regulations.”

However, politicians in office are not yet displaying much fervour for taxing meat. They must surely know that pushing up food prices is a sure way of instigating a revolution? (case in point, the Arab Spring).

A British Minister of State (Claire Perry) has said: “I don’t think we should be in the business of prescribing to people how they should run their diets……Who would I be to sit there advising people in the country coming home after a hard day of work to not have steak and chips?”

The idea of taxing red meat doesn’t seem to be getting much traction in Australia either.

The Australian Minister for Agriculture (David Littleproud) said: “The idea of taxing red meat by Oxford University shows just how irrelevant these institutions are becoming…...You have to question who commissioned this report.”

“I don’t tell people what they should eat. People can make up their own minds and government should stay out of their lives.”

Of course, plant-based protein companies are bound to lobby for a meat tax, and by colluding with biased academic researchers, they will strive to compile a body of “evidence.” (There isn’t a shred of discernible evidence to validate the red meat pseudo-science or the climate change claims).

Although I suspect calls for banning this and taxing that will increase as the Western world undergoes continued social, moral, and economic turmoil; it would take a brave, desperate or despotic politician to tax something as primal as meat.

It is imperative that the protein food market remains free. Free from overzealous regulations, penal taxes, and corporate dictation.

If this holds true, and people are free to eat a diet of their choosing, then alternative protein companies will have to compete against real animal source foods. This is the free market, that is how business is supposed to work.

But if food companies use corporate cronyism to influence policy makers, then the free market element will be lost, along with consumer choice.

Open Farm Pinprick

“Kill weeds when they are small – this rule applies to any problem you encounter in life.” – Matthew Naylor, Farmers Weekly columnist

Currently, the anti-animal agriculture narrative is doing damage to the livestock sector. Even if it does not result in people deliberately removing animal source foods from their diets, this propaganda bombardment plants the seed of doubt in the minds of the majority who do eat meat and dairy products.

To date, the livestock industry has been slow to dissect the anti-animal agriculture narrative and formulate a solid rebuttal. The response has been to ignore this dietary fad; pass the buck onto certain production systems; or advocate a “balanced diet.”

All these reactions miss the bigger picture. Understanding who is promoting this movement; who is profiting from the attempt to shift dietary patterns; and why this disturbing agenda is being pursued, ought to be the livestock industry’s focus.

History shows that complacency in such matters is unwise. The infamous Ancel Keys almost single-handedly instigated one of the greatest health deceptions of the 20th century.

But the contemporary assault on livestock agriculture and animal source foods could have far greater consequences.

The consumption of nutrient dense food is a fundamental pillar of a thriving civilization. No sensible person would wish to see real nutrition removed from the food supply. However, as this critique has sought to highlight, the anti-animal agriculture narrative and plant-based diet agenda harbours wider political and commercial schemes.

Nevertheless, dispelling the anti-animal agriculture narrative and exposing the fraudulent plant-based diet agenda is not an insurmountable challenge. All the actual scientific evidence, history, and logic is firmly on the side of livestock agriculture – as well as the vast majority of food consumers.

However, thinking the complicit media and ivory tower academics will embrace impartiality on this issue is ingenuous. The anthropogenic climate change claim and “red meat causes [insert non-communicable disease of your choice]” is entrenched dogma in the eyes of the media and many academic institutions.

Alas, many schools are also adept at spreading propaganda. I vividly remember being taken from the classroom to watch Al Gore’s 2006 “documentary” – An Inconvenient Truth (I don’t recall being taken to watch any other “educational” films).

Instead, the process of rebutting the anti-animal agriculture narrative and exposing the plant-based diet agenda must go direct to the people – as Dr Frank Mitloehner (University of California, Davis) summarises in the short clip below.

The whole point of our company’s proposed Open Farm agri-tourism venture is to provide a transparent platform for people to experience modern and sustainable livestock agriculture. I have briefly outlined this concept here.

Engaging with the very people agriculturalists seek to nourish is going to be a crucial aspect of 21st century food production – the state of public health and individual liberty just might depend on it.

Declaration of Interest!

Any damning assessment of the alternative protein movement, especially by a livestock agriculturalist, could easily be construed as typical luddite behaviour.

Therefore, when analysing this subject, I am mindful of the following quotation in more ways than one.

“The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.” – Wilfred Trotter, surgeon and sociologist

Notwithstanding Trotter’s valid observation, suggesting that this critique is lamenting the demise of an “antiquated and inefficient” industry would be misguided. Our start-up agribusiness is intently focussed on innovation in dairy and beef production. Indeed, developing a super-efficient agricultural production system fit for the 21st century is our ultimate endeavour.

Without question, livestock agriculture is going to have to increase its innovation commitments in order to continue dominating its very own market segment.

But there is disruption, and then there is foolishness. Thinking that people can thrive on a diet devoid of animal source foods, or one laden with imitation “meat” products, is madness.

Edward Talbot

e.talbot@sustainableag.co.uk