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The meat industry is borrowing tactics from Big Oil to obfuscate the truth about climate change

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Through a massive PR effort, the meat industry sows confusion and misinformation. Maybe those consumers are happy to be misled. Many of us would prefer to believe that our habits aren't harmful. And that's exactly what the agriculture industry, like the tobacco and fossil fuel industries before it, capitalizes on.

BRIAN KATEMAN: The New York Times published findings from Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace U.K., regarding the funding of The CLEAR Center, a major research center for environmentalism and sustainability. The center is located at the University of California, Davis and headed by Dr. Frank Mitloehner. According to the report, it receives the majority of its funding from organizations directly connected to the agriculture industry.

Worse, CLEAR was conceived by a trade group — IFeeder, the nonprofit extension of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA). IFeeder is “a livestock industry group that represents major agricultural companies like Cargill and Tyson,” according to the Times. In addition to members of the AFIA, its advisory board has included Cargill and the North American Meat Institute, two more groups that represent the meat industry’s interests.

The Times article, as well as several environmental researchers quoted within it, point out that CLEAR’s research can’t possibly be free from bias given the industry that backs it. When Dr. Mitloehner makes assertions contrary to the general scientific consensus — for instance, when he tweeted that “‘cut meat, save the planet’ messaging is just that. A distraction from the real issue” — it’s hard to believe that his statements are free from the industry’s influence…

the fact that the research center receives industry funding is hardly a bombshell. Indeed, Dr. Mitloehner has been fairly transparent about the center’s funding, identifying IFeeder of his own initiative, though he’s not legally obligated to.

The real takeaway is that the agriculture industry spends loads of money to manipulate scientific research for its own benefit. The ostensible mission of UC Davis’ CLEAR Center, as stated by Dr. Mitloehner, is to study ways to make the industry more sustainable. But thanks to confidential internal documents that came up in the investigation, we know that this is little more than a cover story. The uncovered memo explicitly states that IFeeder selected Dr. Mitloehner as a collaborator because they believed he could provide “‘a neutral, credible, third-party voice’ that would ‘show consumers that they can feel good’ about eating meat”…

Through what’s essentially a massive PR effort, the meat industry sows confusion and misinformation to keep consumers from changing their purchasing habits. And maybe those consumers are happy to be misled. Many of us would prefer to believe that our habits aren’t harmful, to our own health or to the world around us. And that’s exactly what the agriculture industry, like the tobacco and fossil fuel industries before it, capitalizes on.

As long as Big Meat is able to, they’re going to keep spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying governments and funding disinformation. For our part, we must stop taking the bait and giving airtime to the few stray voices that counter scientific consensus — especially when they have ulterior motives. They’ve already gotten far more consideration than they’re due, and the longer we humor them, the longer it will take us to repair the problems that we know — not so deep down — are caused by agribusiness. And we haven’t got time to waste. SOURCE…

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