You Can Still Eat Meat in London, Mr. Johnson


The rather eclectic new mayor of London, Boris Johnson, apparently won’t stand for any suggestion that he eat less meat — even if doing so will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Writing in his blog (and in The Daily Telegraph), Johnson takes rather excessive umbrage at the comparatively mild recommendation from the head of the UN’s Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that people try to give up meat for one day a week.

Look, I hate to be rude to the UN. I don’t want to seem churlish in the face of advice from a body as august and well-meaning as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But if they seriously believe that I am going to give up eating meat – in the hope of reducing the temperature of the planet – then they must be totally barmy.


We are going to have carnivorous festivals of chops and sausages.

No, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, distinguished chairman of the panel, I am not going to have one meat-free day per week. No, I am not going to become a gradual vegetarian. In fact, the whole proposition is so irritating that I am almost minded to eat more meat in response.

The sarcasm and pettiness of Johnson’s response aside, there is no need to disparage the scientifically-backed notion that many aspects of our meat-eating practices do indeed contribute to global warming. (Johnson’s rather meandering retort, which grows zanier as his post continues, is that livestock human overpopulation is entirely responsible for global warming.) Johnson’s over-the-top rejection of the logical conclusion to this fact — that eating even slightly less meat is one of those conservation measures that, taken together, will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions — is similarly unwarranted, and his mocking of a distinguished UN body rings rather hollow.

So while Mr. Johnson is of course welcome to gorge as carnivorously as he chooses, let’s hope calmer heads will recognize that the UN is not in fact trying to take away anyone’s “right” to eat meat, and that its agencies’ conclusions are backed by science, not an aggressive pro-vegetarian agenda.

(Photos from flickr users adactio and lewishamdreamer, respectively, using a Creative Commons license.)