How come newspapers are still publishing meat recipes?

Let’s make every (publishing) decision as if we were in a climate emergency — because we are.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

One billion people on Earth live in one of the 2,071 jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency. The signatories have acknowledged that humans’ industrial activity disrupts the relative stability of the planet’s climate, and that as a result we can no longer take for granted that it can provide us with the necessities of life as we know it. The declaration empowers leaders to take decisive action and mandates everyone to make every decision as if the climate crisis mattered — because it does!

Such declarations are not binding but they certainly should be inspiring!

At the same time, we have known for a while now that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce our impact on Earth. Building on established mainstream knowledge, a study published just this week in PLOS Climate demonstrates that “rapid global phaseout of animal agriculture has the potential to stabilize greenhouse gas levels for 30 years and offset 68 percent of CO2 emissions this century.” They did the math: if we rapidly weaned humans off meat and “if native biomass were allowed to recover on the 30% of Earth’s land surface current devoted to livestock production,” it would be a game changer. Personally, I see a decisive push to ditch meat as humanity’s last hope.

Living in a climate emergency, as we do, we must weigh every decision we make every day in light of that emergency. Our house is on fire! Many may think that they will squeak out (at the end of their natural lifespan) before anything “really bad” happens, but they are deluded. In 2021, 40 percent of the United States population was living in counties that were directly hit by climate calamities. A friend’s home in Colorado was spared by the devastating Marshall Fire, but their house and all of its contents are now contaminated with the dust of the building materials, electronics, plastics, and chemicals that burnt hot in the brush fire that consumed over a thousand buildings in mere hours. Here, around Vancouver (Canada), exceptional flooding carried away homes and contaminated our most fertile farms. Earlier in 2021, my own neighbor and friend died in the early-summer heat wave, one of at least 595 people to meet such an untimely end in my province alone. Catastrophes occur with increasing frequency and in a manner we can’t predict accurately. If disaster hasn’t yet struck you personally, or very close, it will soon.

Newspapers and other media know very well about all those disasters. Bad news actually bring audiences flocking to media pages to get the latest updates. Often we end up zombified as we “doom scroll” through awful news.

If food editors live on the same planet as the rest of us, isn’t it about time they start doing their jobs like the climate matters? They could start with the one tiny thing they could do to be part of the solution: stop publishing meat recipes.

Let’s face it, the world does not need another roast chicken recipe. A Google search for “roast chicken recipe” returns nearly 2 billion results. If one is stuck on a desert island with only a chicken and fast Internet, they’ll easily find out what to do. To be symmetrical, the world doesn’t even need another vegan mac and cheese recipe either (almost 50 million results). But can anyone go to bed at night thinking they have done a service to humanity because they told them how to make a better Sunday beef roast?

New York City has adopted a declaration of climate emergency. The New York Times knows about it. So why is Sam Sifton suggesting we cook roast pork and fried chicken this weekend? How does that even help anyone?

The European Parliament adopted a declaration of climate emergency at a time when the United Kingdom was still a member. The Times knows about it. Multiple London borough councils did the same, including The Time’s own borough of Southwark. So why is the London institution publishing “Four Australian recipes that hero meat” (I won’t link to it — easy enough to find if you must). Article authors and celebrity chefs Jane and Jimmy Barnes bemoan that “It sometimes feels like the traffic is all one way towards veganism these days,” like there isn’t a reason for that. Who thought it would be a good idea to publish such a piece? (And Jimmy Barnes’ Wikipedia entry lists him as a practicing Buddhist?! Obviously I am not following celebrity gossip closely enough.)

Even The Guardian, where everyone should know better, insists on adding ham to its pea soup and even suggests “four recipes with SPAM.” (Again, no links provided as I am not trying to improve their SEO.)

When they publish meat-heavy recipes, newspapers and other media outlets contribute to the general ideology of carnism. They further reinforce the idea that it’s “natural,” “normal,” and “necessary,” as well as “nice,” to eat animals. We now know that this is all untrue and, critically at this stage, that doing so is not only deleterious to our health but also destroying the planet and destabilizing the climate.

What will it take for them to stop?

If you still read a newspaper or subscribe to one, please take a moment to write to them, in an email or, even better, in an actual paper letter, how you feel about this issue. Find out the name of the person in charge of the food section and write to them directly. Your personal letter and showing that you care may prove to be the right nudge to move someone who already would like to do the right thing, but lacks the courage to do so.

Brigitte Gemme is a vegan food educator, meal planner, and coach. After a PhD in sociology of higher education and a 15-year career in research management, she got impatient with the slow pace of planet-friendly change and decided to help individuals live a gentler life. If you need help deciding what’s for dinner, check out her meal plans at VeganFamilyKitchen.com. If you need personal guidance and accountability to embrace a gentler lifestyle, consider signing up for a free week with her on coach.me using coupon code BRIGITTEWEEK. Brigitte loves nothing more than helping more people eat more plants.

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Brigitte Gemme

Vegan cooking mentor, mom, runner, writer, avid reader, PhD in sociology, certificate in nutrition, morning person. Author of _Flow in the Kitchen_.