The Italian superminister for climate change began his mandate by going against meat and dairy consumption; the Spanish government in its 2050 plan, presented yesterday, endorses Greenpeace’s doctrine and proposes to halve consumption by raising prices; in Germany ending cheap meat is one of the main proposals of the Green party, which is likely to head the next government. Meat, dairy and other high-quality protein foods are well on their way to becoming luxury products. With the Green Deal, the diet of the working class is once again the terrain of class struggle.
Table of Contents
- Dishonest arguments
- Dietary matters are a matter of class
- The real goal underneath the reduction of meat and dairy consumption
- Under the green discourse and the vegan immorality, the profitability of capital
The argumentative scheme used by European governments to render the consumption of meat and dairy products, or in other words high quality proteins, unaffordable for middle and low incomes is always the same. First of all, the worst-case scenarios of climate change are assumed, exaggerated and taken for granted, ignoring the context of the projections.
The Spain of 2050 will be much warmer, drier and more unpredictable than today. Average temperatures will increase, especially in the peninsular interior and the Mediterranean arc. Madrid will have a climate similar to that of Marrakech today and Barcelona’s climate will closely resemble that of TunisiaSpain 2050 Strategy
Secondly, they remind us that livestock farming, in general and in the world as a whole, represents 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, forgetting that not all livestock farming is the same, that not all produces the same pollution and above all… that it has not always produced such pollution, nor does it need to produce it.
In fact, the FAO states that emissions can be cut across all species significantly. And for instance, we know that just by incorporating seaweed into cattle feed we can eliminate up to 82% of methane emissions, the most important emissions produced by cattle.
Finally, after hiding the main cause – livestock feed – they claim that the only alternative to intensive industrial low cost livestock farming is extensive artisanal livestock farming, and they set a horizon in which only the latter should exist. The result: meat and dairy products, from steak to milk coffee, will become luxury products by 2050.
Dietary matters are a matter of class
From there the discourse becomes markedly classist and unabashedly denigratory of workers. For this kind of thing, the fusion between the social Darwinism of vegan moral discourse and feminism’s identity politics is most useful. Le Monde reminded us for example that vegetarians and vegans have a decidedly urban, female and university profile, with omnivores being predominantly male, overrepresented among inhabitants of small towns or rural areas and with less than a bachelor’s degree.
In Spain, the self-described most progressive government in history plays the paternalistic priestly game and asserts that things like a diet of meat and dairy products or warm houses in winter do not bring happiness.
This reduction in certain consumptions will not lead to a worsening of living conditions or the well-being of the citizenry. In fact, it will probably help to improve them. Numerous studies point out that the Spanish population’s meat consumption is between two and five times higher than recommended, that 55% change their cell phone when the previous one they owned was still working, and that energy consumption is much higher than necessary. On a broader level, there is literature that shows that higher spending on food, housing, cars or other services is not directly related to a higher level of life satisfaction.Spain 2050 Strategy
The real goal underneath the reduction of meat and dairy consumption
In our articles on the agrarian sector we have seen how small agrarian property is a brake on accumulation because of its difficulty in attracting capital at the rate of industry or services. This difficulty in constantly recapitalizing itself leads to a permanently intervened market and to wages and infamous conditions of misery for day laborers. Finally, as capitalization is concentrated in the agri-food industry and associated services (logistics, catering, etc.), the result is a massive and constant degradation of the quality of food which leads to epidemics of its own making.
Capital’s solution? Vertically integrate production and concentrate ownership in order to efficiently mechanize for profits. The issue is how does it affect the meat and dairy sector.
Extensive small-scale production of meat and dairy under organic farming, like the utopian postcards of organic farming peddled on the news are just a decoy. The owners of most organic production today are the big owners of massive plastic greenhouses in Southeast Spain. And the rise over the past five years of the sector has been indistinguishable from the entry of large capital and companies.
But, as Greenpeace candidly recounts in its report, which serves as a literal guide to the government’s 2050 plan, livestock farming hinders this process of concentration and capitalization reinforced by the shift to industrial organic farming: it increases the demand for fodder and removes incentives to the concentration of land in the hands of large companies. The same can be said about normal industrial livestock farming, which still accounts for the vast majority of the sector except for one mega-farm in operation and another in planning. As the Dutch multinational of environmentalism says: less livestock, more land. If this means that meat and dairy are only for the rich, so be it
The new land hunger of capital in Europe is due to the fact that the profitability of extensive livestock farming today is low relative to the investment needed in land purchase. Reducing land prices – stretched on the other hand by speculation in renewables – and above all limiting competition, would allow the change of model towards industrial extensive livestock farming: half the production, more than proportionally high prices.
Under the green discourse and the vegan immorality, the profitability of capital
As everything about the Green Deal and its consequences technological change is not what enables the return to profitability. What allows capital to be placed in large masses and profitably is a new political framework, subsidies, monopolies and legal restrictions which ensure a massive transfer of rents from labor to capital. Such a transfer occurs via a mixture of price hikes and taxes in a first movement and via unemployment and consequent pressure on wages in a second.
The profit recovery strategy for capital known as the Green Deal goes so far as to leave out of workers’ consumption possibilities the regular consumption of meat and dairy, about the only sources of high quality protein for workers. The ongoing impoverishment of the working class reaches into the diet.