WASHINGTON—The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is petitioning the White House to update its executive order titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” to recommend policy changes that could help alleviate the climate crisis by cutting animal agriculture and promoting a plant-based diet.
“The executive order lists several actions the federal government will take to fight climate change but fails to include steps it will take to stop the detrimental impact of animal agriculture and promote the benefits of plant-based dietary patterns—steps leading scientists, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization have recommended,” says the petition.
A report from the United Nations Environment Programme says that “animal products, both meat and dairy, in general require more resources and cause higher emissions than plant-based alternatives.” The World Health Organization says, “Studies show that cutting back on red meat production reduces the nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere by fertilizers and animal manure. Nitrous oxide is the third most important man-made greenhouse gas and the most important anthropogenic contributor to stratospheric ozone destruction. Reducing livestock herds would also reduce emissions of methane, which is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.”
The executive order creates a National Climate Task Force, which includes the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Physicians Committee’s petition requests that the White House immediately update the executive order to include the following directives:
- The Secretary of Agriculture shall propose a strategy to shift subsidies for meat and dairy products to fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans meant for human consumption.
- The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall include the climate benefits of a plant-based diet in nutrition policy including the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- The Secretary of Agriculture shall propose a plan to include plant-based meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and monitor the climate impact of U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity foods, including meat and dairy products, used in the NSLP and other federal food programs.
“The same animal products that can cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in humans are also harmful to the environment—while a plant-based diet can fight chronic disease and climate change,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD. “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad should be updated to recommend policy changes that will keep people and the planet healthy.”
The same animal products that can cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in humans are also harmful to the environment—while a plant-based diet can fight chronic disease and climate change
Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.