On Wednesday, May 15th the New York Times published an opinion written by Farm Forward’s Executive Director Andrew deCoriolis in response to the Times’ interactive article Climate Change, Answered: How to shop, cook and eat in a warming world. While the Times’ article does a wonderful job of illustrating how animal products contribute to our warming world and encouraging readers to consider more sustainable options, it also recommends that readers replace beef and cheese—the foods with the largest carbon footprints—with pork and poultry.
“A 2018 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave the world just 12 years to reduce emissions and avert the worst impacts of climate change,” wrote deCoriolis. “Though chicken has a smaller carbon footprint than conventionally raised beef, ‘switching from beef to chicken’ (as your article suggests) is not a sustainable option.”
The Times deserves praise for its incisive and compelling article but—even as we face threats as serious as the looming climate crisis—when it comes to supporting the conventional pork and chicken industries in the wealthiest nations, the ends simply don’t justify the means. In deCoriolis’ words:
More than 70 percent of all antibiotics are fed to farmed animals, causing the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance. Some of the most dangerous jobs in American are in chicken slaughterhouses. Rural communities near poultry farms have their air and water polluted by waste. And let’s not forget the chickens themselves — 99 percent of whom are raised in cramped, unsanitary conditions on factory farms.
One more bit of praise for the Times. The Times editor who ultimately accepted deCoriolis’ letter initially rejected his use of the pronoun “whom” when referring to chickens. The editor informed deCoriolis that the Times’ style guide only permits the use of the pronoun “which” when referring to non-human animals. deCoriolis pushed back, and in a sign of the editor’s thoughtful judgment and the public’s changing views of non-human animals, the letter was published as intended.