Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron have teamed up for their first joint project since The Terminator – but this time it’s not a film but an initiative to encourage people to eat less meat.
They are focusing their efforts on China, where meat-eating is on the rise as a result of a burgeoning middle class in a country of 1.3 billion people. Along with leading Chinese actress Li Bingbing, they are hoping to persuade people there to eat 50 per cent less meat, in line with new recommendations from the Chinese Nutrition Society.
The initiative was devised by environmental group WildAid as part of its 5 To Do Today campaign, which, like Meat Free Monday, is trying to effect environmental change by encouraging people to make changes at an individual level. In a recent survey the group established that many Chinese people were willing to eat less meat. Health officials say the move could see the harmful greenhouse gases associated with meat eating reduced by the equivalent of 1.5 per cent of global emissions.
Schwarzenegger’s most recent role is that of an environmental activist on the world stage. The former governor of California attended the COP21 climate talks in Paris last year to add his voice to those calling for the world to eat less meat for the sake of the planet. Schwarzenegger said of this latest campaign: “As much as we in California have been leaders and have inspired China to go in the right direction with environmental issues, they are now inspiring us.”
Cameron, who directed Schwarzenegger in several action films, including The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and True Lies, is also a passionate advocate of environmentalism and food activism. As well as his Avatar Alliance Foundation, which supports issues around climate change, he founded the Food Choice Task Force and the recent My Plate, My Planet initiative, a consortium of organisations focused on increasing nutrition and food sustainability.
“China’s move to cut meat consumption in half would not only have a huge impact on public health, it is also a massive leadership step towards drastically reducing carbon emissions and reaching the goals set out in the Paris agreement,” Cameron said. “Livestock emits more [emissions] than all transportation combined. Reducing demand for animal-based foods is essential if we are to limit global warming to 2°C as agreed at COP21.”
China is a significant battleground in efforts to curb spiralling levels of meat eating. It is the world’s most populous country – closely followed by India, which has also broken the 1 billion mark – and consumes 28 per cent of the world’s meat. In the next 15 years it is expected to add the equivalent of the US’s total consumption to its plate. By 2050, meat eating is expected to have climbed by 76 per cent.
“Our national meat consumption is increasing every year. The increase is mainly from livestock such as pork and beef,” said Professor Yang Yuexin, president of the CNS. “Much evidence has shown that long-term overconsumption of meat, especially processed meat, will impose adverse effects on our body, affecting our health in the long run.”
In a recent survey, 5 To Do Today established that 83 per cent of Chinese people were willing to go meat free for one day a week and 62 per cent for two days a week for the sake of their health and that of the planet.
“It is hoped that people will rely less on the livestock industry,” said Li Junfeng, of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. “Through this kind of lifestyle change, it is expected the livestock industry will transform and carbon emissions will be reduced.”
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