The Ecologist

Rib of beef
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Letter: why are you promoting beef?

Robert Goodland

4th Febuary, 2010

Should the Ecologist run articles on meat without highlighting its ecological impact?

Dear editor,

How can you publish a whole article touting beef ('Beef: an interactive buyer's guide', 2nd February 2010) with zero mention of the overwhelming ecological costs of beef?

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock exceed that from all transport, and may even exceed that from fossil fuels. Eating the average 1kg-2kg meat/person/week is making Europe and N. America sick.  Livestock-induced deforestation and forest fires are sharply reducing carbon sequestration.

ILRI Chief Carlos Sere emphasised the folly of feeding grain to cattle rather than directly to humans. If the Ecologist is concerned about the most sustainable way to feed c.8-9 bn of us in 2050, you will urge a sharp reduction in industrial cattle ranches in forest asap. That’s the fastest and lowest cost way to prevent climate disruption. Livestock reduction is win-win-win because it would help solve the water, food and climate crises.

Robert Goodland

The editor replies:

Dear Robert,

   Thank-you for your letter. Allow me to address some of your concerns.

First, we did not publish an article 'touting beef' - we published an article highlighting the various different cuts of meat that can be obtained from cattle.

Many of our readers continue to eat, and enjoy, meat. Recognising this, the Ecologist has long promoted eating beef sourced from organically-reared, grass-fed cattle, which have a dramatically reduced ecological footprint and may, according to some research, even have a positive effect upon climate change by encouraging grassland carbon sequestration.

There is no doubt, however, that meat from animals raised in this way is expensive. This was the purpose behind the article above - to highlight lesser known and often cheaper cuts of meat which would allow buyers on tighter budgets to still enjoy meat without sacrificing animal welfare standards or increasing their ecological footprint.

We have long campaigned against industrial farming of all kinds, especially Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), as demonstrated by our groundbreaking exposés produced by the Ecologist Film Unit. Similarly, we have highlighted the devastating impact of soy monocultures frequently throughout our 40 years of publication.

We have also always maintained that a sustainable lifestyle will require a diet low in meat and dairy products.


Mark Anslow,



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