Urge Chinese to eat less meat to 'change the world'? Stop passing the buck

2021-02-04 22:01 947

BEIJING, Feb. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A news report by on meat consumption and environmental issues:

TIME magazine recently published an article titled "How China could change the world by taking meat off the menu."

It gives an overview of the development of plant-based meat in China. Seemingly objective, the author linked China's meat consumption with global environmental issues between the lines, implying that China should and can put its weight behind the plant-based meat industry and cut meat consumption.

However, the author deliberately ignores an important fact: per capita consumption of meat in China is well below levels seen in Europe and America.

In light of eating habits and spending power, people in China don't eat meat every day or every single meal, compared with European and American countries where meat consumption has a larger place in culture and tradition. OECD data shows that in 2014, the three countries with the highest per capita meat consumption were Australia (90.3kg), the United States (90.1kg), and Argentina (86.6kg), while the average consumption in the EU countries is 64.9kg. In light of these figures, China's per capita meat consumption of 49.8kg ranks behind many Western countries.

In recent years, some Western media have tended to play up China's meat consumption. TIME's article is nothing new. In 2016, the Washington Post reported on the updated set of dietary guidelines released by the Chinese government, but its focus was on how the new recommendations had the potential to reduce China's meat consumption, or at least slow its growth, which in turn it said would help put a substantial dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, the Atlantic published a piece with the headline "China's love for meat is threatening its green movement," while in 2019, an article from the Economist stated that "The planet needs China to curb its appetite for meat."

These articles sensationalized beliefs around the ideas that "China's meat consumption is high" and "China could change the world by eating less meat." They maintained that China should take a large portion of responsibility for environmental issues and accused China of being the "biggest environmental destroyer," trying to pass the buck on how their own practices affect the environment.

China has always advocated and taken action in trying to solve environmental problems in different ways. For example, China has promoted frugality nationwide and launched campaigns to curb food waste, which effectively reduces energy consumption, including those related to meat. China's total installed capacity for renewable energy currently accounts for 30% of the entire world's volume and the proof of its afforestation efforts and making the country greener are for all to see. In 2019, China's carbon emission intensity dropped by 48.1% compared with 2005 and achieved its 2020 emission reduction targets ahead of schedule. After the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, China once again made a new emission reduction commitment. It can be said that China has tangible evidence of its contributions to addressing climate change.

Environmental issues should be taken seriously by all humanity, but paying more attention to the issue doesn't mean asking any country to simply "eat less meat." It's better to unite and do one's part, rather than shifting responsibility onto others. Saving the planet is not the responsibility of China alone. To change the world requires the joint efforts of the whole world.

China Mosaic

Urge Chinese to eat less meat to 'change the world'? Stop passing the buck

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