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Organic Consumers Association

Open Letter to Al Gore: You Can Have Your Meat and Eat It Too

  • By Jill Richardson
    Organic Consumers Association, July 20, 2008

Web Note: Jill Richardson is the editor of the website and a new Policy Board Member of the Organic Consumers Association

Dear Al Gore,

At Netroots Nation, [July 19 in Austin, Texas] I asked you about the role of meat consumption in global warming. You responded very honestly that it was not something you had addressed much yet, partially perhaps because you eat meat. I say that for a "recovering politician," you are obviously cured. That kind of honesty is refreshing. But I sensed that you thought that a "low carbon diet" means no meat or little meat - something you and most Americans are not prepared to accept. That is not true. A "low carbon diet" means sustainable meat.

Let me first share with you a few personal notes that I've long wanted to say to you, even if they are superfluous to this topic. I was a student at Washington University during your debate [in 2000]. I was in the audience that day. It was the most memorable day of my college experience and also the day my world turned upside down.

I left the debate knowing you had won, and the media said Bush won. What? I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. Yet the media denied it. It got worse. You won the election. The media denied it. The public denied it. And on it went for eight years now of denial and destruction to our constitution and our earth.

To me, you are more than just a former veep. You represent a combination of my president, my father (who you remind me of very much), and a leader who is more than either of those, someone on the level of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi. I burst into tears when you took the stage in Austin. I don't know why but I couldn't control it.

If you aren't perfect despite your passion for the environment, neither am I. I drive a Corolla bearing a bumper sticker that says "Polar bears for global cooling." I can't afford a Prius and I can't bike to work. I understand the irony that my instrument of global warming calls for its prevention. I can't throw stones and I don't wish to. I wish to work with you, if you are willing, towards a healthier planet.

The idea that animal products in particular (above all other foods) contribute to global warming is fairly established by studies such as one called "Diet, Energy, and Global Warming" published by University of Chicago researchers a few years ago. It is true. When considering only conventional, factory farmed meat, the less you eat of it the better. I became a vegetarian for that very reason. The silver lining is that the flaw isn't in animal products themselves but in how we produce them.

A friend of mine, Judith McGeary, produces sustainable lamb, chicken, turkey, and eggs on her small Texas farm. The sheep graze on pasture, harvesting their own food. Judith tries to source feed for the chickens and turkeys locally when possible.

Most of all, the farm represents an enormous carbon sink. Instead of collecting manure in polluting, smelly lagoons like a factory farm, Judith lets nature take its course. Dung beetles on her land take care of all of the manure and they improve the soil at the same time. Then she sells the meat to local customers who use little oil to transport the meat home. She uses a lot of energy for refrigeration but she offsets it with solar panels on her roof. Her new home, currently under construction, will be a green building.

Judith is a scientist and an environmentalist. She earned a degree in Biology from Stanford, a JD from UT-Austin, and she also studies graduate level eco-agriculture at UT-Austin. Thousands like her around the country are equally passionate about sustainable agriculture. They might not all have degrees from Stanford but they aren't starry eyed, idealistic hippies either.

The "eco" in "eco-agriculture" stands for "economical" as well as "ecologically-friendly." Sustainable farming is a fantastic business model, producing a valuable product that more and more consumers are embracing.

I hope you will continue working on all of your current efforts - plug-in hybrids, solar panels, etc - but if we have five years to save the polar icecaps as you say, we need to do what we can do now. Sustainable agriculture is something we can do now. Sustainable agriculture means you can have your meat and eat it too.


For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

post Jul 21 2008, 01:29 PM

another dillusional customer of Al Gore. come on... GHANDI? the only thing he has in common with MTK jr is he is dreaming. if the polar ice caps will melt in 5 yrs, us not eating beef is NOT going to save them. i cried when i saw him during the elections too. because i was afraid this dimwit was going to run our country... right into the ground and let Israel fall to the Islamist FACISTS that endorsed GORE AND NOW OBAMA. you know how i vote? exactly the opposite of my enemies if i dont understand all the positions they stand for.

post Jul 21 2008, 03:48 PM

You seem to have missed the point of the article. It was that sustainable, healthy meat production is possible.

post Jul 22 2008, 10:34 AM

I just want to thank you so much for the ideas expressed in your letter to my personal hero, Al Gore. What is ironic is, I love this site yet hadn't been here in ages, and I just popped over here from an Al Gore aficionado forum where we were discussing the EXACT topic of your letter, as I wanted to get the link for this site to include in that discussion precisely because this site focuses on the truly low-carbon, humane and healthy goal of sustainable, organic farming, versus the false debate over meat eater v. veggie. Factory farming is what is not sustainable, not humane, and not healthy. It is possible to farm in organic, sustainable, humane and healthy ways, whether raising meat or produce and THAT should be our focus. Brava to you for expressing that. May we all train our energy and efforts in that direction, where they belong!

post Jul 22 2008, 10:43 AM

P.S. Just to clarify: when I referred to it being ironic that I saw your letter today, I meant because we had been discussing that exact topic on the Al Gore aficionado forum and I came here to get a link for this site, as I mentioned, but I should have also pointed out that we had NOT any idea of the existence of your letter, so the two things were happening simultaneously, yet even without knowing of your letter, I knew OCA to be a site that I find wonderful in so many ways, one of which is precisely that it is a site focused on organic, sustainable, whole foods WITHOUT preaching that we should all necessarily be vegetarians. That is why I thought of this site something I should provide a link for in the other discussion on the Al Gore discussion board. Little did I know there would be a letter posted here that makes the EXACT point I and a few others were trying to make there regarding how our focus should be on sustainable, humane, organic farming and not on pitting vegetarians against "the meat industry" because it is factory farming that is environmentally unsustainable, not "the meat industry". Factory farms are the enemy, and organic, sustainable farming techniques are the antidote. I'm so impressed that not only is that being discussed here very directly and clearly but that you actually were writing to Al Gore about it because he is, imho, the leader of the effort to turn around global climate change and all your points were very important ones to make. Brava again!!!

post Jul 22 2008, 11:08 AM

"you know how i vote? exactly the opposite of my enemies if i dont understand all the positions they stand for."

Hmm...I am not sure if anyone else caught this quotation of yours. I don't exactly think a lack of understanding is a very relaible voting method. IGNORANCE must be bliss for you!

post Jul 22 2008, 12:43 PM

Good work! So many people in the environmental movement view agriculture as a "necessary evil," with organics perhaps being the lesser of two evils. But a richer understanding of how natural systems works shows that we can provide positive benefits to our environment depending on how we farm. Both crops and livestock can be raised in ways that are very harmful, or they can be raised in ways that work with the ecosystem to provide benefits. It's all in how it's done.

Everyone eats. Our food choices are a daily decision that can promote both our own health and that of the environment around us.

post Jul 24 2008, 05:56 AM

It is quite a paradox. Gore has raised such an awareness, but he is only running a brilliant PR campaign to increase the value of his investments. In fact, that is what all politicians seem to be doing. Global warming crisis mode is most likely a diversion so we don't pay attention to the real problem of processing, poisoning and profiteering our way into oblivion. Please use your newfound enlightenment to focus on the real problems of food and drug piracy and the devastation it causes.

auntie em
post Jul 24 2008, 06:16 AM

QUOTE (truthurts @ Jul 24 2008, 10:56 AM) *
It is quite a paradox. Gore has raised such an awareness, but he is only running a brilliant PR campaign to increase the value of his investments. In fact, that is what all politicians seem to be doing. Global warming crisis mode is most likely a diversion so we don't pay attention to the real problem of processing, poisoning and profiteering our way into oblivion. Please use your newfound enlightenment to focus on the real problems of food and drug piracy and the devastation it causes.

I absolutely agree--remember, in the 1300s they were so worried re glacial attack, that there were priests standing and uttering prayers at the edges of the glaciers...In other words, I am THANKFUL for "global warming"--if indeed such is going on, as where I currently live, would be under ice if warming hadn't occurred.

Peter Fulda
post Jul 24 2008, 11:01 AM

Al Gore can have his meat and eat it too, but not for long. An animal-based diet still require ~10x or more land than a purely plant-based diet. Eventually all Organic Consumers will have to deal with this reality.

post Jul 24 2008, 11:15 AM

Here you concern yourself with Gore's lack of interest in meat consumption yet fail to mention his whole life style is based on over consuming. His large mansion consumes more electricity than several households together. I'd have to agree he is far from Ghandi and plays PR politics like the rest of them. Nothing wrong with your concern over the environment but lamenting the past will not change the future.

post Jul 24 2008, 11:23 AM

I still think a vegan diet, especially one based on locally grown and organic foods, is the best for the planet, the animals, personal finances and health. So called "sustainably raised" meats and other animal products are often difficult to find and are typically very expensive. Vegetarian staples, such as legumes, nuts and whole grains, are sold at every grocery store and usually at a fraction of the price that "organic" or "sustainable" meats are sold at. It's wasteful to feed grain to animals such as chickens, even if the feed is local or organic. Many more people can be fed on a plant based diet than a meat based one. In addition, cows or pigs raised "organically" still go to the same slaughter houses as the conventionally raised ones, as farmers in America are prohibited from killing their livestock (except poultry) themselves on their farms. Cows and pigs are transported long distances on trucks to slaughterhouses, which as we've seen from several recent investigations, inflict horrific cruelty on cows and other animals. Workers have been filmed dragging the cows to the kill floors and beating and torturing them. Sorry folks to inform you that there are not separate "humane" slaughter houses for "organically" raised animals. If you want to prevent farm animal cruelty, leave animal products off your plate.

post Jul 24 2008, 11:44 AM

There seems to be too much division between those that believe in a vegan lifestyle and it correspondingly unhealthy diet. Sorry for such a statement but the truth is that humans digestive system is not now and as far as I can tell has never been designed for a vegan diet. Industrialized agriculture has spoiled most of the food available to us all. Al Gore may have at one time been interested in saving the planet but his real agenda is making money. That's is all there is to it. He is cashing in on the environmental movement. All of the rest is just fluff. He grew up as a member of an "elite class" but most people seem to forget about his "aristocratic" upbringing. I completely agree with the point of this article however. Sustainable organically raised livestock is much more environmentally friendly. The big plus is that it is also healthier to consume. Excellent article.

Pink Zinnia
post Jul 24 2008, 11:46 AM

There is a person on here who has mentioned something I wanted more (truthful) information on! I am a "moderate" Al Gore fan. But I've
had several people tell me about his lifestyle, and his big new mansion. At first I didn't believe it. Not because I believe HIM - he's a
politician. But I did HOPE that he was better than some. It does appear to be true, however, that he's another "do as I say, not as I do" sort of guy. And it's sad that so many "Gore Groupies" ignore this. I am curious as to why he has such a hold on certain people? As I said, I do not personally dislike everything about him, but I think I can see he's not much different than other politicians. And yes, I
also heard that he spent a fortune on making his new mansion "green". Oh, puleeease! So that makes it ok? Pathetic!!! I remain "interested" in some of the things he talks about, and I can agree with some of what he says. Nonetheless, I prefer to think and reason for
myself and not follow blindly. He's a politician.

post Jul 24 2008, 01:23 PM

This is such a great article! I was a vegetarian for a few years, before I did my research and realized that there is a way to eat meat sustainably! The health differences between factory farmed meat and meat from local, organic farms is HUGE! The omega 3's and 6's and the cholestorol levels are completely different depending upon how the animals are treated in their lifetimes and what they consume. There's so much information out there about being a vegetarian or vegan, but very little about eating locally produced, humanely treated meat! In other words, I'd rather see someone be a vegetarian than eat factory farmed meats, BUT the healthiest option that is most in accordance with our nutritional needs and the most delicious and still manages to treat the animals as beings worthy of humane treatment - is to eat locally raised, free-range, organic meat!

post Jul 24 2008, 03:17 PM

For every action there is a reaction. It is impossible to propagate a single species of animal without serious detriment to all other species.
In this country we consumed approximately 32 million cows last year(that's from the USDA statistics). Where, pray tell, do you propose to raise 32 million cows, sustainably????? They're cutting down the rainforest at an alarming rate, to do that very thing. Here in the U.S., Wyoming and Utah are killing wolves(the same ones that were reintroduced, because they were on the brink of extinction) because their measly numbers are "supposedly" threatening the cattle herds that feed on our public lands, now. Can you imagine what would happen to the wildlife and the environment, if the cattle industry relocated every last cow on to public lands? This doesn't even factor in the dairy industry. Our planet is overpopulated. We need common sense solutions, not ones that worked before the industrial age. My family stopped eating meat,with the blessings of our doctor, (yes, the human digestive system is and always has been designed for a vegan diet. Just check the colon of a meat eater and you'll see why). 25% of Brits are vegetarian due to the Mad Cow scare. How long are we going to live in denial that meat isn't good for humans or the planet?

post Jul 24 2008, 04:32 PM

Hey folks, time to lighten up on the 'let's kick Al" business. It does NOT matter whether or not you "think" he is only in this for the money or whether or not you "think" he is behaving the way you "think" he SHOULD. The point is: IS HE PROPOSING IDEAS THAT WILL HELP US GET OUT OF THE MESS WE ARE IN. I happen to think that he has lots of good ideas. AND I "think" that it is time for us to evaluate those ideas and see if we can make some of them work to make our lives better. I do not eat beef or pork for both personal and political reasons. Other people make different choices. We ALL need to take responsibility for our own individual choices and to try as best we can to share with others the why and how we think those are good choices. THEN as we listen to each other we just might find a way to move toward a world that will be in better shape when we leave it than when we entered it. I am hopeful!!!

The Die Hard
post Jul 25 2008, 08:35 AM

Interesting that the first post was by one of those trolls who can't spell, write a sentence in ANY language, present a fact, or make a logical point. The rightwingnut trolls, who obviously mostly can't hold a job, must be being paid off by Herr Karl Goebbels Rove to shovel their spittle into any forum they can find.

I've been a vegetarian since I was old enough to sneak the meat to the dog, because I DON'T LIKE THE STUFF. Half a century later, I can list all the reasons why vegetarianism is good for your health and for the planet and for the human race and all other species off the top of my head, if you have an hour. But you still need an egg to bake a cake. Tofu won't work. And a kid needs a birthday cake.

Meat, especially fastfood, should carry a heavy "sin tax," the way alcohol and cigarettes do. Meat-eaters should pay higher insurance rates. Ranching subsidies should be eliminated right up there with oil subsidies, and ranching should ONLY be permitted on sustainable ground -- NO clear-cutting or forest-burning for a few million cows.

But if you still absolutely have to have your steak, how about getting it grown in a vat? Meat proteins are easy to replicate. Vat-grown beef and pork requires very little energy, involves no living beings, and can be flavored any way you wish.

Or is your "need" to eat meat based on a psychological problem, like needing to feel powerful enough to kill a helpless animal? That's the only basis left behind hunting these days....

As for Al Gore's "wasteful" mansion, that's another crap-headed lie spread and swallowed by Faux Spews sewer-drinkers. Gore's "mansion" is a political and historical inheritance, carefully upgraded -- at his own expense -- to both preserve its historical heritage and to be as energy-efficient as possible. Chicken George's pig farm, on the other hand, where he only goes to sleep off his cocaine binges, was razed and rebuild AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE, to PRETEND to be energy-efficient -- the air conditioner runs 24/7/365, just to accommodate the illegal immigrants who come by and clean up the place the week before his drunken-binge photo-op.

If you CHOOSE to eat meat, that's your business, and I don't care. If you CHOOSE to be fat and lazy, and drive up insurance premiums for the rest of us, that IS our business. If you want to eat sustainably-produced meat, not that there is or ever was any such thing, go right ahead. If you eat fried cardboard flavored by burning down rainforests, then you are a danger to all life on Earth, and should be denied the power to harm the rest of us.

But the chance to make that kind of reasoned choice was lost when the world's population hit five billion, far past our carrying capacity, much less our luxury capacity. If you're not growing your own vegetables, with your own hand-pumped well, don't count on being among the survivors of the riots when the infrastructure that the bushdicks allowed to disintegrate completely for their own personal profit breaks down.

Why do you THINK the Bush family bought a fortress in Paraguay on top of a water reservoir?

post Jul 28 2008, 07:53 AM

Excuse me Magic Dave, but your statement "Sorry for such a statement but the truth is that humans digestive system is not now and as far as I can tell has never been designed for a vegan diet" makes absolutely no sense. Apparently you have no real understanding of Human Nutrition or Physiology. A vegan diet consists of the the foods found in a "regular" diet aside from animal products. Saying our GI system is not designed to digest this type of diet is the same as saying no one can eat vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, etc. Please do your research before making such a naive statement falsely based on human evolution. Come to think of it, approximately 75% of the world's adult population is lactose intolerant...what does that say about the human diet?!

Organic Jen
post Today, 12:21 PM

The fact that vegans are calling Mr. Gore and elitist and have the smug, arrogant attitude about being a vegan really disturbs me.

Can't we all fight on the same side. Demonizing people who eat meat is only dividing us when we need to pull together desperately. You aren't winning people to your side with this attitude. Please stop.