It might not be the facile question of the day but it deserves a place as a front-runner for the title.
It came from RNZ’s Guyon Espiner when interviewing Sam McIvor,chief executive of Beef and Lamb NZ.
The interview (HERE, duration 4′ :37″0) was a reasonable followup to an idea which won headlines and air time for James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change.
New Zealanders should eat one less meat meal a week, he suggested.
He observed that 95 per cent of New Zealanders consume meat, and this takes a toll on water, energy and land resources.
His proposal is not official government policy but it’s part of The Greens’ leader’s plan to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
McIvor told Espiner the Minister’s remarks needed considering in the context of everything else he said in a weekend TV interview about the drive to carbon neutrality.
Beef + Lamb NZ agrees with this objective. It recently released its environment strategy aimed at reaching carbon neutrality for the industry by 2050.
It contains measures for cleaning up waterways, enhancing biodiversity, having healthy productive soils – and so on.
The industry is taking a holistic approach to the environment.
Espiner then said:
“Okay. But it is true, isn’t it, that one of the things you can do about climate change is to eat less meat?”
McIvor got no further than saying “when you look at the international studies” before being put straight.
Espiner: “No, I’m actually just looking at the Ministry for the Environment – its official website says under the headline ‘what can you do about climate change’ – this is the MfE – this isn’t some crazy group of people…”
If this is what Espiner wanted McIvor to address, he should have said so when he asked his question.
And because he wasn’t prepared to hear about the international studies which McIvor was about to cite, it is outrageous for him to drag “some crazy group of people” into listeners’ considerations.
But no, Espiner was bursting to cite the over-riding authority of the Ministry for the Environment and its advice on what you can do about cliimate change.
“And the fifth thing it lists on its website is eat less meat.
“It says red meat production produces significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of chicken meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals.
“So … meat is an issue here.”
In other words, we should not disagree with advice on the MfE website – until, perhaps the Government’s Chief Scientist clarifies matters with a bit of myth-busting in five or so years?
McIvor addressed the question by saying the key thing is to look at the background to the various environmental studies and analysis
In international meat industry analysis, New Zealand is an outlier – we produce beef and lamb on country that can’t be used for any other food production.
The industry in NZ has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent since 1990 and is on target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
Ah, but Espiner was wanting us to focus on the Environment Ministry website’s suggestion we try having a meatless day once a week.
“What do you reckon – is this a fair call?”
People are already eating less meat in developed countries, McIvor pointed out in reply.
But when they do eat it, he said, they want premium products, and that is where New Zealand’s meat industry aims to position itself.
We can only feed 40 million people in the world, McIvor went on.
The clear implication is that if Kiwis give up some of their meat each week, a bit more will be available for customers in other countries – good for our balance of payments if not the environment.
But Espiner wasn’t ready to give up and asked:
“Do you back the one meat day free a week?”
This was like asking Donald Trump if he would consider accommodating a few Muslim refugees in the White House.
McIvor: “I don’t back a one meat day free a week necessarily. What I want people to do is enjoy meat – enjoy New Zealand meat – which is the best in the world and enjoy that within the context of a full diet.”
Espiner: “You are batting for your side.”
McIvor: “I absolutely am, Guyon.
Espiner: “Ha, ha. Good on you.”
A quick check with a different website would have shown Espiner that Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd is the farmer-owned, industry organisation representing New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmers.
We invest farmer levies in programmes that grow the sheep and beef industry and provide sustainable returns now and for future generations.
Shrinking the industry and discouraging meat eating is not part of McIvor’s brief.