What would it take to make meat-eating environmentally friendly?

31 mai 2016

Grow meat protein in a lab? Change farming practices? A panel looks at options public  

CALGARY, May 31, 2016 — There’s a feeling among many environmentalists that meat production is not sustainable --that the way we produce and transport meat produces too many greenhouse gases.

But is it really the case? And if it is today, does it have to be so in the future?

A round table discussion at the 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Calgary, the heart of beef country, will be delving into what has the potential to become a hot-button political and social issue in the coming decades—an issue that has the potential to have a profound effect on Canada’s food and agriculture industry.

The panel is being organized by Ryan Katz-Rosene, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa, and Sarah J. Martin, an assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. They are interested in the environmental impact of food production, and plan to write a book on environmentally sustainable meat.

“It’s pretty clear that the industrial model of meat production is not sustainable,” says Katz-Rosene, adding that some people are starting to say humans will have to give up meat-eating altogether if we’re serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says, for example, that an expanding livestock sector is exerting growing pressure on the world’s natural resources, and some studies have suggested that as much as 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture.

And a report released in 2012 by the Stockholm International Water Institute warns that the world’s population may have to swear off meat by 2050 to avoid food shortages caused by drought and inadequate water supply.

Katz-Rosene and Martin have invited panelists from various domains to discuss what it would take to reconcile environmentalism and meat-eating—in other words, “is it possible to envision a type of eco-carnivore?”

One panelist will take a gastronomical approach, discussing ways of making more efficient use of animals as food; another will look at ‘in-vitro’ meat—meat protein that is grown in a lab and has never been part of a living animal; and yet another will discuss sustainable approaches to meat-eating in northern First Nations communities.

Katz-Rosene’s own presentation will look at how small-scale rotational grazing of animals could become a way of sequestering carbon. Maybe, he says, it’s not having meat in our diet that’s the problem, it’s simply the way we raise the animals. And if we change the way we raise them, we can actually help the environment.

He expects some panelists will argue that it’s not possible to be an eco-carnivore.

So be it.

“This is the start of what is likely to be a big social debate over the next few years,” he says. “The relation between meat and our diets and the environment is going to become increasingly important, and we want to get into that debate now.”

Ryan Katz-Rosene will be presenting this research on June 2 at the 2016 Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Calgary. This presentation is called “Can Meat-Eating be Sustainable? The Politics of 'Eco-Carnivorism'” and will take place at 10:30 am - 12:00 pm in ICT – 114 on the University of Calgary campus.


About the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Congress is the largest interdisciplinary conference in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. Now in its 85th year, Congress brings together approximately 70 academic associations that represent a rich spectrum of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, including literature, history, theatre, film studies, education, music, sociology, geography, social work and many others. Congress 2016 is hosted by the University of Calgary. For more information, visit congress2016.ca.

About the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences promotes research and teaching for the advancement of an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. With a membership now comprising over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations, the Federation represents a diverse community of 91,000 researchers and graduate students across Canada. The Federation organizes Canada’s largest academic gathering, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, bringing together more than 8,000 participants each year. For more information about the Federation, visit ideas-idees.ca.

Media inquiries

Nicola Katz

Communications Manager

Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Cell: 613-282-3489