- - Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The 2020 election cycle has witnessed some of the most bizarre proposals from Democratic candidates. From free health care for illegal immigrants to calls for the confiscation of AR-15s, 2020 Democrats are in a constant competition to outdo themselves in putting forward outlandish proposals.

One particular plan that has gained tremendous momentum on the left has been the campaign against meat. What started out as a movement only confined to animal rights and plant-based living circles has now entered mainstream political discussion. In fact, the talk about reducing meat consumption has gotten so shrill that Fox News host Tucker Carlson has chimed in about the matter.

In one of his latest episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson asserted the left is “highly neurotic about food.” A bold claim to say the least. 

However, clips from his show demonstrate that the Fox News host is not so off base. From Kamala Harris to Andrew Yang, most candidates in the recent debates were in favor of reducing meat consumption in some form. 

Mr. Yang and Elizabeth Warren linked meat eating to global warming. Mr. Yang believes that cutting back on meat consumption is “good for the environment, it’s good for your health if you eat less meat. Certainly meat is an expensive thing to produce.” 

Ms. Warren added, “there are a lot of ways that we try to change our energy consumption … Some of it is with lightbulbs, some of it is on straws, some of it, dang, is on cheeseburgers, right?”

The linkage of meat consumption to global warming has gained momentum ever since the Green New Deal’s rollout earlier this year by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Besides the blatant calls for the government to play a larger role in the economy by subsidizing clean energy and enacting new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions, snuck inside the Green New Deal are plans to reduce meat consumption. All of this is in the name of fighting global warming. 

Such a campaign marks a golden opportunity to double dip and rail against politically correct hobby horses. Indeed, the “War on Meat” can be seen as one theater of the political correctness wars being launched across the West to demonize otherwise normal activities for offending the sensibilities of PC gatekeepers in legacy institutions. Meat consumption is not only being connected to global warming but has also been tied to the bogeyman of “white privilege.” 

For the activist left, politicizing everything from the television we watch to the food we eat, is paramount. This way, they can get our already massive administrative state to further infringe upon the basic property rights and the rights of association of millions of consumers nationwide. The meat bashing of the last debate has people wondering how 2020 candidates will reach their lofty goal of lower meat consumption. Looking at the Green New Deal would be a good place to start. The Green New Deal’s FAQ sheet details the differing approaches to achieving “100% clean and renewable” energy and “100% renewable” energy. 

For the Green New Dealers, emissions from “farting cows” are the principal obstacle toward realizing the goal of a purely clean and renewable energy source. Although this assertion elicited widespread cackling across the Internet, the implications of such a claim are quite disturbing. 

But how will the meat consumption be reduced?

If history shows anything, government-sponsored slaughter programs are likely the “solution” to this problem. And this is not a baseless political speculation. A trip down memory lane shows how in the original New Deal during the 1930s, the federal government presided over the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, which carried out “emergency livestock reductions.”

At the time, New Dealers argued there was an oversupply of pigs which depressed livestock prices. In a zealous fashion, the government started buying and sending millions of livestock straight to the slaughterhouse. Historian Tom Woods recounts that the AAA slaughtered “some six million pigs” with the intent of trying to keep prices up during the Great Depression. 

The Green New Deal and 2020 Democrats proposals to slash meat consumption are lacking in policy specifics. However, the ideological background many of these proponents hints at a potential government mandate. For all we know, mandatory slaughters may be resurrected. 

Appealing to science has become fashionable for political elites who desperately want to take action on political topics like climate change. Cliche expressions like “the science is settled” serve to silence any kind of dissent and facilitate the passage of legislation. 

But if we want to remain faithful to the scientific process, we must be ready to do extensive inquiry and debate. Often times, the science is not so settled after all. Especially in the case of meat consumption and its relation to global warming.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates greenhouse gas emissions coming from livestock and their manure only constitute 2 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. 

Furthermore, the connection between livestock activity and global warming has been disputed by Virginia Tech and USDA-ARS. They concluded the elimination of livestock from agriculture production would merely decrease U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percent or 3.6 percent.

We should always remember that science is a process, which is subject to change. It is not always settled. Quickly jumping to conclusions and mixing politics makes for bad policy decisions in the long-term. What we need is more rigorous inquiry and a desire to find ways to solve problems through civil society and market means, not the legislative process. 

When discussing meat consumption, we’re talking about an activity millions of people peacefully partake in. Any form of government intervention would affect millions of lives. The world of government intervention is filled with unintended consequences that even the original drafters of legislation could never even account for. So, we should always tread lightly when trying to get the state involved in private affairs. 

There are valid questions to ask about the ethics of meat production and how livestock are treated. But this belongs in the domain of civil society, where individuals and organizations are free to raise awareness and inform consumers about the consequences of these activities.

Getting the state involved in our food just opens the door for abuse and increased politicization of our daily lives, which are already sufficiently flooded with politics as it is. For once, let’s have some lengthy discussions that come up with solutions that don’t have to involve laws or bureaucratic ordinances. Free individuals are capable of finding a way to solve these problems. 

Let’s give that a try instead. 

• Jose Nino is a Venezuelan-American freelance writer. 

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