Oscar-winning director James Cameron, who recently switched to a vegan diet for ethical reasons, is slamming environmentalists who continue to eat meat.
In a 28-second video clip posted on the Facebook page for the documentary “Earthlings,” Cameron admonished meat-eating environmentalists to switch to a plant-based diet if they're serious about saving the planet.
“You can’t be an environmentalist, you can’t be an ocean steward, without truly walking the walk," said Cameron, 58. "And you can’t walk the walk in the world of the future, the world ahead of us, the world of our children, not eating a plant-based diet.”
In explaining why he converted to a vegan lifestyle, Cameron pointed to the environmental damage that raising livestock for food causes.
"It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it," Cameron told the Calgary Herald. "So it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.”
In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a report indicating that 18% of the world's man-made greenhouse-gas emissions come from livestock production. In reality, that figure it closer to 51%, according to a 2009 report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the IFC Environment and Social Development Department.
Several noted environmentalists have since vocally advocated a vegetarian lifestyle, citing the environmental damage caused by livestock farming.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently suggested that everyone could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions simply by reducing their meat consumption.
Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, agreed, but said that eating cows isn't the maim problem; it's eating meat produced on factory farms.
Pelletier said grass-fed cows are better for the environment that cows raised on livestock farms, where they're pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and live in horrific, unsanitary conditions before they're slaughtered.
"If your primary concern is to curb emissions, you shouldn't be eating beef," said Pelletier, who noted that cows produce 13 to 30 pounds of carbon dioxide per pound of meat.
"Conventional cattle raising is like mining," he added. "It's unsustainable, because you're just taking without putting anything back. But when you rotate cattle on grass, you change the equation. You put back more than you take."
However, some experts take issue with the notion that grass-fed beef is more environmentally friendly that factory-farmed livestock. Dr. Jude Capper, an assistant professor of dairy sciences at Washington State University, says grass-fed cows do as much harm to the Earth as factory-farmed ones.
"There's a perception that grass-fed animals are frolicking in the sunshine, kicking their heels up full of joy and pleasure," said Capper. "What we actually found was from the land-use basis, from the energy, from water, and particularly, based on the carbon footprints, grass-fed is far worse than corn-fed."
One thing all experts agree on is that livestock production damages the planet, and a plant-based diet is far more eco-friendly than a meat-centric one. Marc Reisner, former staff writer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, summed it up best when wrote:
“In California, the single biggest consumer of water is not Los Angeles. It is not the oil and chemicals or defense industries. Nor is it the fields of grapes and tomatoes. It is irrigated pasture: grass grown in a near-desert climate for cows.
"The West’s water crisis — and many of its environmental problems as well — can be summed up in a single word: livestock.”