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Meat Eaters Beef With The Weather Network Over Climate Change Video

Is it possible to save the planet while still eating burgers and steaks?
A sirloin steak with fresh thyme on top is prepared on a hot grill.
A sirloin steak with fresh thyme on top is prepared on a hot grill.

The Weather Network faced backlash over the weekend after posting a video about the apparent need for people to reduce their consumption of red meat to fight climate change.

“Cutting back on beef is necessary and easy to do,” the network said in the video. “If you really want to save the planet, you could seriously consider limiting the amount of beef you eat,” the accompanying tweet read.

It was posted on Twitter and has since been deleted and republished with a correction, but that didn’t stop the controversy.

On Monday, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) issued a statement saying they had met with the parent company of The Weather Network to discuss the controversial video.

“The video, based on a new report from the World Resources Institute, portrayed an inaccurate depiction of global beef production,” the national voice of cattle producers said. “During the meeting, CCA communicated the high level of concern expressed by beef producers across the country over the weekend.”

Some people perceived the video as an “attack on Alberta’s livestock industry.”

“Alberta Pork’s in-house meteorologist just looked out the window and has determined that eating #meat has nothing to do with today’s forecast,” Edmonton-based Alberta Pork said online.

“Unfollowed,” one Twitter account wrote.

“This kind of political science doesn’t belong on an apparently real science based account,” another user chimed in.

“Just because of your post, I went to Costco and bought a pack of beautiful ribeye steaks,” a man named Shane Wenzel tweeted.

“People would do better without busybodies telling them how to live their lives,” a woman who calls herself Gaylene wrote.

Even former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall commented on the matter and said he, too, would be unfollowing the account with more than 1.57 million Twitter followers.

Cows are known to produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. And beef production is believed to contribute to climate change.

In 2017, the not-for-profit NRDC organization claimed the production of a kilogram of beef produces 26.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas associated with climate change. That’s five times more than with chicken production.

Last November, a UN environmental agency called beef production “a major contributor to climate change and environmental destruction.”

Recent studies also suggest beef consumption needs to drop dramatically in order to feed the 10 billion people expected on the planet by 2050, as referenced in The Weather Network’s video.

And that could be especially challenging in Western societies where hamburgers and steaks are favourites for many.

The Weather Network’s video cited research from the World Resources Institute, which recommended cutting back on beef by a burger and a half per week.

“Cows require about 20 times more land and they make more than 20 times more greenhouse gas than growing certain plants do,” the video’s narrator said. “Cows also grow and reproduce slower than pigs and chicken, so they need more food and water.”

In a statement emailed to CBC News, The Weather Network suggested it may have missed the mark with its video.

“We, The Weather Network, will not actively advise people on their food consumption choices. The purpose of this article was merely to focus on sustainability and upon further review, we determined that our video and post did not reflect our intention.”

This isn’t the first time a Twitter account was criticized for weighing in on meat consumption.

In 2018, Alberta MLA Shannon Phillips had to explain herself after tweeting “eat less meat” as part of a green initiative. As the province’s environment minister at the time, she deleted her tweet and later called it “regrettable.”

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