EAT-Lancet: what lies behind the Veggie-Business according to Frédéric Leory and Martin Cohen

The EAT-Lancet Commission will return on the charge tomorrow, supporting the need for a global shift towards a “plant-based” diet. Professor Frédéric Leroy and author Martin Cohen, however, are not agreeing with this, and with a detailed article they reveal to the world who and what is behind the perennial and expensive promotion of vegan lifestyles (and products).

Have you ever wondered how it is possible that veggie products have huge media coverage? Who is behind the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns or “commissions”, like the now famous EAT-Lancet, which tomorrow returns to the charge maintaining the need for a global shift towards a “plant-based” diet and stigmatising livestock as harmful? Moreover, how can meat, which symbolises health and vitality for millennia, be passed off today as harmful? And what has brought its consumption to become almost shameful?

Two people asked themselves these questions, Frédéric Leory and Martin Cohen, respectively Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Brussels and the British Social Scientist, author of the book “I think, therefore I eat”. Who, on the pages of EFA News, offer a very precise (and sometimes disturbing) picture of the “powers that be“, as some would call them, which are behind the perennial promotion of vegan lifestyles (and products)..

There are nowadays many people in the political, entertainment or even academic world that advise against the consumption of meat and animal proteins. A lot, perhaps too many, if one thinks of their power over the collective imagination. Very influential people, who through their communication channels have been promoting a constant anti-meat campaign for years. Messages such as “Meat harms”, “If we stopped eating meat we could save thousands of lives”, “Eating meat is like smoking” or other similar absurdities are now the order of the day on media and social networks.

Strong, often misleading messages, based however on scarce or non-existent scientific evidence. “These calculations are scientifically dishonest. They are based on very weak and confused epidemiological associations that do not allow causal claims, ignoring the needs for adequate risk assessment and refusing to recognise the nutritional heritage of animal products or the many beneficial ecological roles of well-managed livestock“, explain Cohen and Leroy.

To reveal the intricate network of interests behind the continuous attacks on the livestock sector, the two authors in their article make many names, some of whom are also very important. Underlining a fundamental aspect: when you have the money to do it, “influence can be bought“. And so the list of global influencers opposed to the consumption of animal origin foods grows year by year. The most striking case, back in 2010, was that of former US President Bill Clinton, who on suddenly becoming a self-declared vegan received a hefty 3.5 million Norwegian kronor (more than 350 thousand Euro) to speak an hour in defence of the veggie cause. Who paid out this money? According to Leroy and Cohen, the same people who founded the EAT commission in 2013, and that in the coming months will flood the world media with the report published together with The Lancet.

“The road towards a plant-based future is paved with good intentions … and company calculations“, the two authors highlight. We must be therefore very careful, because these expensive and massive media campaigns could “not only serve to attract the greed of governments for new taxes” (in effect, especially in Britain, a “meat tax” is aimed at that seems designed to create new social disparities), but also and above all new markets, subsidies or just simple prestige. All this by presenting “political arguments that are dangerously simplistic and could have catastrophic consequences for both human health and the environment“.

The article by Leroy and Cohen, published very recently, but already taken up by several international newspapers, is therefore generating much debate because it imposes a serious reflection on how certain dynamics, forced precisely by those who have powerful means to support their ideologies and promote their own affairs, can have deleterious effects even if they only influence authoritative nutritional guidelines, which in turn suggest to millions of people how to feed themselves over the coming decades.

This is not so much a matter of defending the livestock sector and those who work in it, but of bringing back onto the tracks of rationality the debate regarding food, and therefore of scientific evidence. The notorious IARC/WHO monograph which, more than three years ago, brought a general hysteria against meats and cured meats to Italy while relying only on a handful of studies considered scientifically valid (it is worth remembering: of about 800 epidemiological studies examined only 14 were judged reliable by IARC, and half of theses (so only 7), showed a correlation between excessive consumption of red meat and colorectal cancer). Strengthened by this experience, we hope that the media (primarily Italian) want to examine what is written in the EAT-Lancet report and even look into those who finance it and why, before starting to shout about the need to eliminate meat and animal food from our diet.

Frédéric Leroy and Martin Cohen try, in their own way, by launching a strong and clear appeal on the Internet: “To do good to the planet, let’s return to common sense – the two authors write – Yes, climate change is real and requires our attention. And yes, livestock should be optimised but also used as part of the solution to make our environment and food systems more sustainable and our populations healthier”. Having said that, however, “instead of weakening the fundamentals of our diets, we should really tackle the root causes of planetary deterioration, which include hyper-consumerism and the exaggerated use of fossil fuels, rather than getting lost in slogans and distorted visions of the world”.

The Sustainable Meat Project

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.