Eating Meat: The Climate Equivalent to Socializing Amid the Pandemic
Do the stories of people ignoring stay-at-home orders and continuing to attend large church gatherings or parties bother you? Do you wish that everyone who can, would just do their small part and stay home? Do you feel frustrated and aggravated that other people’s actions might be putting you and your loved ones at risk?
I get it! That’s how I’ve been feeling for years about the climate crisis and people continuing to eat animals. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day during the global coronavirus pandemic, we are learning that individual choices definitely have an impact on the rest of the world and that we should take that responsibility seriously.
As a vegan climate justice activist, I regularly educate people about the impact that raising animals for food has on the planet and the climate. Science shows us that animal agriculture is a leading driver of Amazon rainforest deforestation, species extinction, freshwater depletion, ocean pollution, and of course climate change [1, 2, 3]. A study published in 2018 in the journal Science found that even the least impactful animal-based products had a much greater environmental footprint than the most impactful plant-based products, leading the author of the study to conclude that “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the planet”. 
Yet, when I share this information with people I frequently hear things like “don’t force your food choices on me,” or “individuals don’t make a difference,” and “blame the system, not the individual”.
So why the difference? Why is it acceptable to encourage, shame, and even mandate that individuals stay home for the good of society (even if they themselves aren’t worried about COVID-19), yet it is considered rude and inappropriate to even tell people that their choice to eat meat is harming the planet and that they should stop?
Yes, eating food is very personal. But it is also one of the most political and consequential acts in our day-to-day lives that we have control over. We can already see just how powerful our personal food choices are in shifting the market, with the explosion of plant-based dairy products as demand for them has risen sharply in the past few years. Imagine the…