Democrats Are Not Trying to Take Away Your Hamburgers

The Green New Deal's advocates may not be coming down on meat, but if they did, they wouldn't be the first.
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Cheeseburgers are seen during a picnic for military families hosted by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the White House on July 4th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Cheeseburgers are seen during a picnic for military families hosted by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the White House on July 4th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

This month, conservatives coined a new rallying cry: Democrats want to take away your hamburgers. While untrue, reports say the messaging has had its desired effect, painting liberals as the enemy of the people (the meat-eating people.)

The controversy escalated this week when Republicans mocked the Green New Deal in several press conferences, amid in-fighting over the vote planned for later this year, according to the Hill. "If this goes through, this will be outlawed," Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said on Wednesday, before biting into a hamburger, the Washington Post reports.

In reality, eliminating meat is not part of the Democratic platform—although reining in big polluters (like the agriculture industry) is. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution introduced last month, aims to "achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions," according to the resolution NPR published.

The deal's supporters have offered many ways to accomplish this goal: investing in renewable energy, expanding high-speed rail and other transportation systems, guaranteeing jobs and health care for all Americans—and yes, some Democrats believe addressing "factory farming" could be one of them. As far as the GND goes, the resolution calls for the government to work "collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the [United States] to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector as much as is technologically feasible, including by supporting family farming."

For many environmental and nutrition advocates, the sustainability of agriculture is a core issue. And, right now, hamburgers aren't that sustainable: Livestock production accounts for 19 percent of all greenhouse gases, making it a major contributor to climate change; in January, a prominent group of public-health researchers escalated their criticisms of U.S. food production with a new report endorsing a red-meat tax. The GND's advocates may not be coming down on meat, but if they did, they wouldn't be the first.

Meanwhile, the pushback from conservatives lacks this nuance. President Donald Trump, for example, tweeted last month that the GND would "permanently eliminate" cows (and also planes, cars, oil, gas, and the military). Much of the ire has been directed at Ocasio-Cortez, who maintains that her stance is not anti-agriculture—or anti-cow. The representative said in an interview with Showtime's Desus & Mero, "Maybe we shouldn't be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner"—but prefaced her comments with the disclaimer, "It's not to say you get rid of agriculture."

Coverage of other liberal lawmakers has arguably been more forgiving on the food front: Presidential candidate and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is a vocal vegan—a position some speculated that he would have to address in big agricultural states like Iowa, the nation's top pork producer. But it seems the hamburger controversy has not extended to pork: "There have been vegans and vegetarians in Iowa for decades now," Sean Bagniewski, chairman of the Polk County Democrats, told Politico. "If you're voting for somebody based on what's on their dinner table, then you've got bigger problems."

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