Antagonism to Big Health is making unlikely allies of crunchy moms and right-wing trads.
The Meat Replacement Hypothesis
The plot to eliminate animal protein is well ahead of your plans to keep eating it.
Farmers across the world are in open revolt against their governments. In India, thousands of farmers have stormed New Delhi, alleging collusion between the Prime Minister and major agricultural corporations. In the Netherlands, new restrictions on nitrogen emissions from fertilizer that threaten to destroy farmers’ livelihoods have driven battalions of tractors into the streets—and conflicts with the police. In Sri Lanka, the President’s sudden decision to ban chemical fertilizers and impose universal organic farming recently led to massive protests and the collapse of their government. Similar environmentalist policies are about to be imposed in Ireland and Canada, where just last year truckers shut down the city of Ottawa over COVID vaccination mandates.
Writing for National Review, Andrew Stuttaford predicts an impending farmer’s uprising in Canada in response to what he calls Canada’s “war on beef.” The phrase echoes a common belief on the American right that leftists seek to hyper-regulate or outright ban animal protein in the same way they do guns or fossil fuels. The Foundation for Economic Education began talking about a “war on meat” as early as 2019. Senator Joni Ernst referenced “the left’s war on meat” to advocate her TASTEE Act last year. John Daniel Davidson of The Federalist recently warned that “America is Next” for a farmer uprising, due to the climate policies that Democrats are imposing here. Ultimately, many Americans have come to agree that this war on meat is a conspiracy of globalist elites, attributing even everyday agricultural misfortunes such as fertilizer scarcity, diesel fuel price hikes, widespread food processing and crop fires, and supply chain disruptions to a purposeful agenda.
The concern is warranted. Upending the meat industry for environmental or health reasons should not be a serious policy debate. Ranchers and farmers are the only source of the nutritious, whole protein that nearly every culture includes in its cuisine. For all but the most religious vegan or “food activism” theorist, there is little doubt that including animal protein in your diet keeps you leaner and stronger, alive longer, and free of chronic illness.
Eat the Bugs
I presented the question of a “war on meat” to John Cain Carter, a cattle rancher whose operations in Texas and Brazil led him to establish the well-known rainforest conservation organization Aliança da Terra. Through his advocacy, he is deeply familiar with the world of pro-environment NGOs, but despite working in the same field, he does not view them positively. Groups like the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, The Rockefeller Foundation and others are engaged, says Carter, in a “siege on the beef business” and “an attack exquisitely planned as far back as the 1950s.”
“These groups want to wipe out independent family ranches in advance of corporate takeover,” Carter said, “And they push for policies that increase input costs and keep commodity prices stagnant while inflation rises.” And governments, he continued, are more than happy to oblige “under the auspices of climate change, animal welfare, and endangered species to restrict grazing rights, control water usage, and enact other regulations.” In essence, Carter was describing a hostile, focused agenda that was neither accidental nor disorganized.
Many governments and influential NGOs regularly call for the end of meat-based diets, and take steps to ensure that meat is eaten less. Most notoriously, World Economic Forum chair Klaus Schwab has made reducing meat consumption an essential element of the WEF’s “Great Reset” plan. Along with the WEF, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the EU’s “Green Deal” call for less meat-based diets. Germany, Denmark, and Sweden have proposed a meat tax as a way to reduce carbon emissions from cows. All of these measures focused on the meat industry as a significant driver of climate change.
Texas cattle rancher Bart Simmons, who has built a social media presence to counter what he calls “elite anti-meat messaging,” considers such arguments pernicious. “The anti-meat movement effectively tied methane from cattle as a cause for climate change early on in the debate, and it stuck,” Simmons told me. “The EPA attributes only 1.9% of America’s greenhouse gases to methane and nitrous oxide from beef cattle, less than a tenth of other industries like electricity or transportation.” If there is a war on beef, it’s misguided.
This is especially true when we scrutinize what would replace meat in the global diet. The famous expression “we will not eat the bugs” has become a canned response to global initiatives focused on protein derived from crickets or mealworms. But the meat replacement industry is even more technologically savvy: Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and other billionaires have begun heavily investing in laboratory meat products (which they ironically call “clean meat”) grown from stem cells, soy, gelatin, and genetically-engineered yeast. An NYU researcher has even proposed making modifications to human bodies to make us smaller and allergic to meat, specifically citing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a motivation. On the economic side, one of the WEF’s favored startups, Doconomy, has introduced a “carbon credit card” which will shut off if the user purchases too much meat. Such climate-conscious financial practices align well with the World Bank’s Food Systems 2030 plan, which shares the same views on global agriculture.
It’s not extreme to call this trend a “War on Meat” and to point out that it is being waged by leftist elites. The top left-aligned newspaper The New York Times has called meat-eating racist, the Soros- and Ford-funded organization Open Democracy has called it “far-right”, and President Joe Biden has called for reducing red meat consumption by 90 percent. Agriculture and diet have now become a partisan struggle.
On the other hand, most leftists still eat meat, and anti-meat messaging still occupies a fairly small political niche. In fact, even the globalist organizations mentioned above are not always anti-meat in their official statements and documents. The WEF acknowledges that meat is and always will be a core part of many diets, and ought to be, given its nutritional value. The EU’s Nutri-Score, which is part of the Green Deal, rates meat products very highly as healthy choices, despite the overall program attacking meat consumption.
Whatever the urgency or seriousness of this conspiracy against meat, it would be a mistake to ignore the elites’ anti-meat trend or think it doesn’t affect us personally. Food is never just an individual choice. The unprecedented bounty of the twenty-first century creates the illusion that food supplies are infinite. But this is not the case: meat abounds because demand is high. As meat demand falls—as it has significantly in the United Kingdom and the United States—the meat supply soon follows. If you’re not convinced, go to a few grocery stores and try to buy a jabuticaba or a cherimoya—you’ll find they are not in stock, since there is no demand for them.
As NGOs and the media attack meat from a consumption side, governments across the world attack the farming and ranching profession itself. The tax proposals that have caused the uprisings in The Netherlands and Sri Lanka are just the tip of the iceberg. In the United States, a staggering number of farmers are retirement age, with an entire career spent paying off overleveraged farm land, equipment, and supply purchases, only to have their revenue subject to the whims of price control, weather, and state and federal policies. Meanwhile, while student loans for college attendees are being forgiven, there is no such debt jubilee for farmers—in fact, agricultural debt is treated far worse.
The availability of meat is not solely a matter of government policy, either. America’s farmers generally use methods of raising cattle that enervate instead of replenishing the soil. In order for meat to be plentiful and good-quality, soil must be nutrient-rich and provide diverse vegetation for grazing. Rotational and multispecies grazing are solutions that should be more widely adopted to ensure healthier livestock and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide.
Whether or not there is a conspiracy against meat, pro-agriculture reforms must be a national priority. Getting to the bottom of a globalist scheme does nothing to solve the ongoing farming crisis, but neither nor does throwing up our hands as if nothing can be done against elite global planners, who desire to remake the world, but so far lack the coercive power to carry it out.
Meat lovers should fortify the industry with some concrete steps. First, more robust marketing of healthy, high-quality meat is needed to counter anti-meat messaging. This will protect supply for meat by driving up demand. This is already common among independent sources like fitness and nutrition influencers, cooking and lifestyle magazines, and local trade groups. Like-minded health and wellness institutions and professionals must continue speaking the truth and countering false narratives about meat, before the anti-meat perspective becomes orthodoxy.
Secondly, the policy posture of federal regulatory agencies must refocus against toxic, exploitative food producers—not small farmers. The power of federal agencies like the FDA and USDA should be limited to their original purposes of truth-in-labeling and the protection of the food supply. The current confusion and industry invasion of meat replacements is a direct outgrowth of these agencies’ arrogating the magisterial authority to define specific types of foods. Billionaire-backed laboratory meat startups and green ideologues have pushed the USDA to allow controversial substances like the cultured tissue of fetal bovine serum to be speciously labeled “meat.”
Lastly, meat advocates must push for government policies focused on bolstering meat production and training more farmers. Even the most anti-meat globalist understands that meat is an industry employing millions of people—and the Sri Lankan revolt has demonstrated once and for all what happens when a “Great Reset” is attempted all at once. There is an opening for meat’s defenders to pass legislation that can financially incentivize certain types of healthy farming and make it possible for more young Americans to train in agricultural trades. If the current presidential administration can openly debate the cancellation of billions of dollars of student loan debt, surely we can discuss debt relief for small farmers, many of whom have mortgaged their land and remain buried in long-term interest payments.
Two things can be true at once: powerful forces can be leading opposition to healthy meat consumption, and the meat industry can do more to protect itself. To prevent meat from becoming a rare and prohibitively expensive luxury item, meat producers and consumers must work together to stop punitive legislation and propaganda from destroying meat-based nutrition. Simultaneously, strengthening and reforming the industry must become a policy and a cultural priority. Diet is the root of America’s national health—and we must strive to protect our high-quality protein from livestock agriculture.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.