Meat & Livestock Australia responds to Peter Singer

Following Peter Singer’s Lunchbox/Soapbox appearance yesterday, we invite Meat & Livestock Australia to respond, as well as asking you to join the debate.

Peter Singer

Peter Singer

Watch Peter Singer and join the debate here.

David Palmer Managing Director of Meat & Livestock Australia:

David Palmer

David Palmer

“Peter Singer’s suggestion that red meat should be taxed alongside items that are not good for people, such as tobacco and alcohol, is ridiculous and irresponsible. Red meat is an essential part of a healthy diet and the environmental impacts that Peter Singer is attributing to red meat are incorrect.

“Australian red meat production is amongst the most efficient of the major beef producing nations. A recent study by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) found that Australian production systems use considerably less energy to produce red meat than is often quoted in the media and by people such as Peter Singer.”

“The UNSW study was a life cycle assessment, which is a form of cradle to gate analysis that attempts to quantify the important environmental impacts of all processes involved in a production system. Based on figures from the research, eating red meat three times a week results in between 164kg to 258kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions a year, vastly different to figures quoted that claim up to 1.5 tonnes.

“Australian farmers are also naturally environmentalists, caring for and managing large parts of our amazing country.

“Despite what Peter Singer would like to have us believe, a recent report by Cranfield University in the UK and commissioned by environmental group WWF, found that vegetarians can do more harm to the environment than meat eaters.

“The study found that switching from a diet of beef and lamb to meat substitutes, such as tofu, soy and lentils would result in more foreign land being cultivated and raise the risk of forests being destroyed to create farmland. Meat substitutes also tended to be highly processed and involved energy-intensive production.

“The red meat industry is the only production industry in Australia to have reduced greenhouse emissions since 1990. According to the Australian Greenhouse office we have reduced our emissions by 7.5%, compared to increases in other industries such as transport and electricity, up 26.9% and 54.1% respectively.

“Whilst we have reduced our emissions over this time, we know there are further improvements to be made. This is why MLA has co-invested with the Federal government and other partners in a $28 million programme with 18 research projects that are looking at how to reduce emissions from livestock.

“Importantly, the livestock industry in Australia produces food on land that often can’t be used to produce any other protein source. If we cut out red meat production on this land it couldn’t be used to grow plant based crops. Australian cattle and sheep are raised in a natural environment feeding on pastures with little or no use of fertilizers, it is a natural part of our environment.

“Calculations that are based on emissions alone, such as the ones Peter Singer has used, are simplistic and ignore the carbon cycle. If the carbon cycle is taken into consideration, as recently was done in a report by the Queensland Government (where the industry in that state is 47% of Australia’s cattle) the industry was found to be close to carbon neutral and potentially a carbon sink in the near future.

“Whilst I acknowledge the views of Peter Singer, he is fundamentally a vegetarian/ part time vegan who wants to force his views on free-thinking Australians.

“I wonder if this is not his main motivator for a tax on beef. Frankly I can’t see Australians responding well to a tax on their food.”

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