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Earlier this month, reports indicated that Haarlem, The Netherlands, had become the first city in the world to ban advertisements for meat and meat products from appearing in public spaces such as buses. The city says it adopted the ban, which will take effect in 2024, to reduce meat consumption and combat climate change.
The ban made news around the world, with some outlets suggesting this global first could or should herald similar bans in other countries.
Councilor Ziggy Klazes, the local councilmember who drafted the ban, acknowledged stern opposition. "Of course, there are a lot of people who find the decision outrageous and patronising, but there are also a lot of people who think it's fine," Klazes said in remarks reported by The Guardian. "It is a signal–if it is picked up nationally, that would only be very nice. There are many groups… who think it is a good idea and want to try it."
The ban is problematic for reasons beyond its attack on free speech—starting with the premise that meat makes some sort of outsized contribution to climate change, a claim that's been challenged. As an NBC News op-ed explained last year, "only about 15 to 18 percent of carbon emissions come from livestock. And that number includes all livestock on the planet as well as the entire process of raising, slaughtering, transporting and eating meat—including the carbon you yourself make while eating and digesting it…. Notably, only a portion of that process involves actual animals. The rest of it is transportation and processes that also produce carbon when growing and consuming vegetables, wheat and practically everything else we eat."
Even if eating meat contributes to climate change and that was somehow a good reason to ban eating or marketing meat—it's not—bans still ignore the fact not all meat has the same carbon footprint. For example, this producer in Manitoba says it's been carbon neutral since 2019. Others—including big American producers—could join that producer if they choose. A white paper published last year by UC-Davis researchers outlined steps the U.S. beef and dairy producers could take to become carbon neutral by 2050.
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