It's the sort of thing you would see on propaganda passed out by animal rights activists at a global warming rally, but somehow the message has infiltrated the mainstream.
ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson" told viewers on May 13 to curb beef consumption to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
"You are staring into the face of one thing scientists say you can do to fight climate change," ABC correspondent Dan Harris said as the face of a cow filled the screen. "Leave this cow alone and eat less beef. According to the United Nations, 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions comes from sending beef and dairy products to your kitchen table."
Just assume for a moment viewers took this suggestion seriously, there could be serious consequences. The beef industry is a huge part of U.S. agriculture. According to Dan Otto and John D. Lawrence, two professors at Iowa State University, the beef industry represents $188.4 billion of direct and indirect economic activity throughout the U.S. economy.
However, Harris told viewers they didn't have to give up all their beef consumption, just some of it.
"You don't have to give up your cheeseburgers, but if we all reduced our meat consumption by just 20 percent, it would be as if we all switched from regular cars to hybrids. It would also be good for our health," Harris added.
But it's hard to imagine the job losses and the subsequent economic impact throughout the country if Americans cut back their beef consumption by as much as 20 percent. According to Otto and Lawrence, jobs related to the beef industry are a huge part of the American work force.
"Direct and indirect employment in or related to the production and processing of beef supports over 1.4 million full-time-equivalent jobs in the U.S. as well," Otto and Lawrence wrote in a paper posted on the National Cattlemen's Association's Web site. "Cattle are produced in all 50 states and their economic impact contributes to nearly every county in the nation and they are a significant economic driver in rural communities."