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Despite Evidence, NGOs Lack Incentive to Address Role of Meat Consumption in Climate Change

Oct 15, 2014

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A new study, funded in part by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), suggests that despite strong scientific evidence indicating meat consumption is among the most important contributors to climate change, most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) did not view addressing this issue as part of their core missions.

After interviewing representatives from 34 environmental, food-focused, and animal protection NGOs in Sweden, Canada, and the US, former CLF-Lerner Fellow Linnea Laestadius, PhD, and colleagues found that the scientific evidence related to meat consumption’s impact on climate change was not enough to prompt targeted meat reduction campaigns.  Most Importantly, while the majority of participants saw this issue as both important and a part of their overarching missions, it was not considered core.  Additionally, many perceived meat consumption as a concern related to individual behavior, and saw individual behavior change as strategically challenging for their organizations.  According to the researchers, other concerns include, the perceived ineffectiveness of campaigns targeting individual behaviors; alienating members of the public and agricultural partners; limited political and public interest in climate change altogether; existing engagement in other aspects of the issue and limited resources.

“The study found a gap in the ownership of this issue, with food-focused and animal welfare groups placing responsibility for addressing climate change on environmental groups, and environmental groups reluctant to take resources away from addressing other areas related to climate change, such as energy policy,” said Roni Neff, PhD, co-author of the paper and director of the Food System Sustainability and Public Health program at CLF. “There is little debate about the enormous carbon footprint of our meat consumption habits. NGO engagement could be critical in building the policy and social shifts we need.”

The authors suggest, “Understanding the barriers will help us better support and encourage the NGO or NGOs ready to take on this issue.”  

The results are featured in the journal Global Environmental Change.