The only positions I ever get excited about in U.S. politics are the ones that Republicans pretend Democrats hold.
The beef one is no exception.
Lately, Republicans have been pretending not just that Democrats want the usual array of things I wish someone would actually act to institute (a guaranteed income, a decent minimum wage, single-payer healthcare, a Green New Deal, a major shift to progressive taxation, defunding militarism, making college free, etc.) — THE HORROR OF IT! — but also that Biden is going to somehow forbid the consumption of more than a tiny bit of beef.
I didn’t suspect for an instant that there was a grain of truth to this story. In fact, I think I first heard about it as a debunking of a false story. Yet I do wish it were true. And twisting Biden’s actual promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into a ban on gorging on hamburgers makes more sense than might at first be evident to all McDonald’s customers.
Converting energy and transportation systems to green energy is critically important, in some combination with scaling back consumption. But it takes a great deal of time and investment, and then only gives you part of what you needed by yesterday.
Ceasing to consume animals (or dairy products, or sea life) — if the will existed to do it — could be done swiftly, and — according to some studies — the harm done by methane and nitrous oxide is worse than that of CO2, and the benefits of reducing them more rapid.
Some significant percentage of greenhouse gas emissions comes from animal agriculture — perhaps a quarter. But that seems like only a part of the story. Animal agriculture uses the vast majority of all U.S. water consumption and nearly half of the land in the 48 contiguous states. Its waste is killing off the oceans. Its growth is deforesting the Amazon.
But even that seems like only a tiny, almost irrelevant piece of the story. The fact is that the crops raised to feed animals to feed people could feed many more people if the animals were removed from the equation. People are starving to death so that the food that could have fed them ten times over can be fed to cows to make hamburgers that can be advertised on media outlets that can report as a terrible joke that someone would restrict meat consumption.
And even that seems like only a part of the problem. The other part is the brutal abuse and killing of all the millions of animals. (And the fact that treating them slightly less brutally would mean using more land and more time to feed even fewer people.)
Sometimes the pretense by Republicans that Democrats favor something is an early good omen, and decades later one can find actual live Democrats who do support the thing. Other times, the Republican propaganda serves to more permanently marginalize good ideas. What we need is a mechanism for widely communicating that what we want — in fact, what we urgently need — is what the Republicans are screaming their opposition to.
Sadly, what the actual Joe Biden values far above the future of the planet is the friendship and good will of Republicans — substances as fictional as the Biden beef ban.
Sadly, as well, agriculture is almost as taboo a topic even for environmentalist groups as the environmental destruction done by militaries.
There is nothing right now to stop Democrats from making a regular part of their stump speeches a passionate promise never to ban beef, alongside their denials of charges that they want to ban guns.
We don’t have much time left to change this.