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Once upon a time: How Congress leader Jairam Ramesh ended up admitting that his family contributes to global warming by eating beef

Globally, beef is responsible for 41 per cent of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock accounts for 14.5 per cent of total global emission. In fact, according to one expert, eating less red meat, particularly beef, would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars.

Ahead of the third phase of 2015 Bihar elections, Congress leader and former ‘Environment Minister’ Jairam Ramesh decided to milk the politically motivated ‘intolerance debate’ and ‘beef controversy’ to maintain the party’s stronghold over the Muslim vote bank.

Although Laws banning cow slaughter were implemented by various Congress governments in respective states even before BJP came into existence in 1980, Jairam Ramesh decided to put forth his ‘secular’ credentials by hailing it as a choice that cannot be stopped through legislation. Emphasising that ‘beef consumption’ was a matter of choice, he said, “Whether you eat beef or not, these are personal issues. There are people in my family who eat beef. I happen to be a vegetarian not because I am a Hindu (but) by choice.”

Jai Ram Ramesh further added, “I lived abroad for five years. I was a vegetarian not because I am a Hindu. But my children are not vegetarians. So, I don’t enforce my own eating values. It s their free choice. You can’t legislate. You can t say that you can t eat beef.” Hailing the controversy over beef consumption as ‘nonsensical’, the Congress leader blamed the RSS for exhibiting its ‘anti-democratic’ nature.

Screengrab of the India TV article

Although Jairam Ramesh made a case for ‘beef consumption’ by dubbing its as a matter of choice in 2015, the former ‘Environment Minister’ seemed to realise how harmful the beef industry could be for the climate. In February last year, the Congress leader discouraged ‘beef-eating’ due to its contribution to the menace of global warming. Of course, there is no guarantee that he was only concerned about the environment and was not setting the stage for Congress’ soft-Hindutva plank.

The advocate of ‘beef consumption’ conceded, “I know that the beef curry is a very important element in Kerala’s diet but there is no doubt in my mind that the carbon footprint of a non-vegetarian diet is greater than the carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet.” While answering a question about the significance of veganism in fighting climate change, the pro-choice leader emphasised, “I have always held this view that if you want to do something on global warming, become a vegetarian.”

Screengrab of the New Indian Express article

The former ‘Environment Minister’, whose environmental consciousness seemed to be missing for 5 years, reinstated the importance of curbing the beef industry. But by doing so, he essentially implied that his ‘beef-eating’ family members are harming the environment with their food choices. Although a glaring contradiction of past statements is not a new phenomenon for Congress leaders, electorates are now aware of the fact that the party, which cares for the environment at one instance, might go back to appeasing its minority vote bank at any instance.

Beef consumption and its effects on the environment

Globally, beef is responsible for 41 per cent of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock accounts for 14.5 per cent of total global emission. In fact, according to one expert, eating less red meat, particularly beef, would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars.

The production of beef requires 28 times more land than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in 5 times more climate-warming emissions. As compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is far more extreme. It requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases.

As such, a university in London had planned to pull down beef from its canteen menu in September 2019 to fight against the global climate crisis. Goldsmiths, a constituent college of University in London, will be scrapping all beef products from its campus menu, the institution’s new chief has announced, as it seeks to become carbon neutral by 2025.

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