Democrat 2020 presidential candidates urged Americans on Wednesday to eat less meat to help ward off climate change, proposing some level of government intervention to help it happen.
The candidates spoke about reducing meat consumption during a CNN town hall event on climate change, to reduce emissions from cow flatulence which they believed was hurting the environment.
Many of the candidates professed their love of cheeseburgers, but they also proposed some sort of government intervention to change American diets.
Andrew Yang cited a United Nations study positing the world would halt climate change if the majority of the world went vegetarian.
“It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your health if you eat less meat,” he said.
Yang explained meat was “expensive” environmentally to produce and also unhealthy.
“I think it would be healthy on both an individual and a societal level for us to move in that direction,” he said.
Yang admitted the United States believed in freedom, noting that the federal government could not force people to go vegetarian but cited ways to encourage Americans to eat differently.
“You can’t force people’s eating choices on them,” he said. “All you can do is try and shape our system so that, over time, we evolve in a productive way.”
When Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked about meat, she warned of obesity in the country, saying that she continued to support putting calorie counts on menus in restaurants.
“We have to make sure we look at science and we make sure we do everything that’s healthy, not just for individual Americans but also for our environment,” she said.
When asked if she would support changing dietary guidelines to reduce meat consumptions, she replied, “Oh, I think you can look at doing that of course.”
Sen. Kamala Harris said the government should create incentives to encourage Americans to eat healthier and educate them of the environmental impact of the food that they ate.
Harris said she would support changing the government dietary guidelines and the food pyramid to reduce the amount of red meat in American diets.
She also supported the idea of putting climate impact labels on food.
“I’ve always believed that we should, you know, expand what’s on those cans of those things you buy in the grocery store,” she said. “We should expand the list. And included in that should be a measure of the impact on the environment.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for more “balance” in American meat production but was careful to say he was not in favor of abolishing the cow.
He argued that government intervention like a carbon tax would encourage Americans have “more balanced diet” and a “more balanced footprint.”
“Instead we change the economic signals,” he said. “We bring it into balance and balance is what we have lost when it comes to our relationship with creation, with the earth that sustains our ability to live.”
O’Rourke cited a similar solution, arguing that a carbon tax would balance out the carbon emissions by the meat industry.
“I think we just have to be more responsible in the way that we do it and the best way to do that is to allow the markets to respond by setting a price on carbon in every single part of our economy, every facet of American life,” he said.
Sen. Cory Booker confirmed he was a vegan, but dodged the question about whether he would ask the government to intervene in American diets to reduce meat consumption. Instead, he proposed that the government stop subsidizing unhealthy foods.
“Let’s talk about healthy food systems and the toxins that are in our food,” he said. “And so I will always be about the freedom to eat what you want, but we are going to have to make sure our government is not subsidizing the things that make us sick and unhealthy and hurt our environment.”
Top tier candidates Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sanders do not appear to have been asked a question about meat reductions.