Ingrid Newkirk and Al Gore: In the Same Leaky Boat

 

Two of my heroes, Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and PETA president Ingrid Newkirk are doing incredible work that is making the world a better place.  Like all of us, they have some inconsistencies, but unlike the rest of us, they are in high profile positions and the example they set is immensely powerful.

 

It's no secret, in veg circles, that Ingrid Newkirk has been all over Al Gore for his refusal to acknowledge animal agriculture as a major player in global warming. Fervent PETA members hound him at his talks with signs asking him, “Too Chicken To Go Vegetarian?” Newkirk released a letter chastising him and pointing out, among other things, that:

 

The effect that our meat addiction is having on the climate is truly staggering. In fact, in its recent report, "Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues and Options," the United Nations determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

 

Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius.

 

The best and easiest way for Mr. Gore to show his critics that he’s truly committed to fighting global warming is to kick his meat habit immediately.

 

Who can argue with this reasoning? Anyone who cares about the long-term viability of the planet has to look at the enormous impact of their diet. Al Gore claims to care, but may find it difficult to act on what he knows when his family and powerful friends are in the Angus beef business.

 

However, Ingrid Newkirk is also inconsistent with her environmental message. Ingrid and Al both seem to have left out the part of walking the talk that is inconvenient for them or might cost them or their organizations a bit of profit.

 

PETA touts the environmental message at every opportunity but sells non-organic shirts.  Those who have attempted to point out this inconsistency over the years have been ignored. 

 

THE CURSE OF CONVENTIONAL COTTON

 

Pesticides exist to kill and they do that quite well. Billions of targeted and untargeted animals die every year and billions more have their DNA damaged as the chemicals moves up the food chain. One resulting calamity of these poisons is the infamous Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico along the U.S. coast. It’s larger than the state of Louisiana and marine life ceases to even exist in much of it. A good portion of the Dead Zone can be attributed to the runoff of pesticides sprayed on conventional cotton fields in the South. Shockingly, it requires roughly one third of a pound of pesticide for each and every non-organic cotton T-shirt manufactured!

 

Okay, so PETA doesn’t buy that many cotton shirts - just like Al Gore doesn’t eat that many burgers! However, if PETA sells a few hundred shirts every year, they could be indirectly responsible for harming tens of thousands of animals. This is an easily avoidable tragedy and it’s time that Ingrid truly aligns herself and her organization with a message of compassion and environmental stewardship.

 

By directing her purchasing staff to buy only organic sustainable clothing it would serve at least three purposes. The obvious one would be that fewer animals would end up floating upside down in the Gulf of Mexico and the second is that PETA would stop supporting chemical companies like the animal experimenting Monsanto. A third benefit would be, if done correctly, educating her supporters by setting an example of consistency.

 

If Ingrid were more consistent, perhaps Al would be more open to hearing her message and they both could be better models of Mahatma Gandhi’s insightful message, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

 

JC Corcoran, is a long-time environmental educator and activist. He has been leading programs for groups ranging from the Sierra Club to Clean Water Action for over 20 years. He is co-founder and past president of VegMichigan, Michigan’s largest vegetarian organization. JC also publishes one of the nation’s most popular vegan lifestyle e-newsletters, News For Life. Visit www.plantpeacedaily.org for the current issue and to subscribe.