Resolution 5: Sustainable Eating Habits

Resolved, That the 169th Convention of the Diocese of California reaffirms General Convention resolutions A170 “Advocate for Safe Food Production and Farm Labor Policies” (2015) and D053 “Stewardship of Creation with Church-Owned Land” (2018);

Resolved, That this Convention encourages all parishes and institutions to reduce the service of red meat at church sponsored events, if possible; eliminate altogether the service of animal products from non-sustainable and inhumane sources; and offer the greatest proportion possible of plant-based whole food; and

Resolved, That the Diocese of California aspires to advance care of Creation with an emphasis on protecting the heath and welfare of all God’s creatures (human and non-human).

Explanation: The Diocese of California has, in recent years, faithfully responded in a variety of ways to a clear need for action in areas of care of creation and social justice. Food systems are inextricably tied to both of these large areas of ministry.

Meat production (particularly that from ruminant animals) is a major contributor to climate change, due to land use changes and the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, most notably methane and nitrous oxide. 5-7

Global climate change is an enormous health threat, both in California and around the United States. Observational epidemiologic studies have found that greater red meat consumption is associated with increases in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.1-4 Meat production is associated with a variety of other negative environmental consequences including excessive water use, land and water pollution from manure runoff, and excessive antibiotic use.5,7,8

Consequences of global climate change fall disproportionately on poor people and poor countries, those least responsible for the excess greenhouse gases causing it.9 Even in developed countries such as the United States, poor communities of color are those most affected by the ill impacts to environment caused by animal agriculture.

As the impact of red meat consumption on health and the environment has become clear, continuing to serve red meat at church-sponsored functions makes a statement that is inconsistent with the Diocese of California’s mission and values as well as those of the wider Episcopal Church.

Furthermore, animal-based agriculture has been shown to be one of the largest global contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, as well as the obvious dimension of animal suffering.

For these reasons, movement in the direction of whole foods, plant-based eating is clearly an integral part of our Church’s calling to be an active witness for care of creation as well as economic and racial justice. The action called for in this resolution is both a complement and an extension of that ratified by the Episcopal Church in A170 and D053 in that it would enhance access to healthy food for many and encourage the use of church property for responsible agricultural and food-distribution practices.

Submitted by: The Rev. Andrew D. Lobban, Rector, St. Bartholomew’s Church in Livermore and President, Southern Alameda Deanery (rector@saintbartslivermore.com); The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, Canon for the Environment for the Diocese of California (sally@theregenerationproject.org); and Mr. Sean Swift, Executive Director, The Bishop’s Ranch

References:

1.         Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al. Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(7):555-563.

2.         Larsson SC, Orsini N. Red meat and processed meat consumption and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2014;179(3):282-289.

3.         Wang X, Lin X, Ouyang YY, et al. Red and processed meat consumption and mortality: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Public Health Nutr. 2016;19(5):893-905.

4.         Etemadi A, Sinha R, Ward MH, et al. Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2017;357: j1957.

5.         United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. 2006: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM. Accessed June 7, 2017.

6.         Tilman D, Clark M. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature. 2014;515(7528):518-522.

7.         Potter JD. Red and processed meat, and human and planetary health. BMJ. 2017;357: j2190.

8.       Eshel G, Shepon A, Makov T, Milo R. Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014;111(33):11996-12001.

9.       Althor G, Watson JE, Fuller RA. Global mismatch between greenhouse gas emissions and the burden of climate change. Nature Sci Rep. 2016;6:20281.

Comments

I find resolutions 4 and 5 are in conflict on several points. 5 states the impact of red meat consumption on health and the environment is negative; 4 argues the opposite. We could take the best parts of both, and have a consistent resolution that encourages humane animal management, sustainable environmental agricultural practices, increasing plant-based and minimally processed food consumption, etc., leaving the red meat controversy to the dueling doctorates.

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