Opinion: Knowing what to believe or believing in nothing

Opinion: Knowing what to believe or believing in nothing

‘Activist science’ twists our perception of meat.

A growing body of evidence links prolonged sitting to health problems such as obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

According to the Mayo Clinic, too much sitting also increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Sitting is the new smoking, as some have opined.

Knowing this, wouldn’t it make sense to mandate warning labels on chairs so sitters are aware of the damage they’re doing to their bodies by using this piece of furniture?

Ridiculous, you say? Yes.

But it’s a tongue-in-cheek example that shines light on the absurdity of new “science” from Europe that recommends warning labels on packages of meat.

Three academics from Durham University in the United Kingdom recently argued that awareness of meat’s supposed damage to human health and the planet has not influenced consumer behaviour.

They suggested warning labels would draw attention to this, and be just as effective as the labels on cigarette packages that have become a common tool in the war on smoking — those showing diseased body parts ravaged by cancer.

Their research found that study participants reduced their meat purchases by seven to 10 percent when confronted with graphic warning labels on packages.

Labels claiming the harmful effects of meat production on the environment were more effective than those describing consequences for human health and disease epidemics. As a result, the academics suggest government regulators should start with the climate change focus.

This is ludicrous on many levels, but the comparison between smoking and meat consumption is particularly spurious.

True, some studies have drawn a connection between red meat consumption and poor health, but much scientific evidence supports the opposite conclusion as well.

The same goes for cattle production’s environmental impact. Conclusions in some studies blame the industry for a variety of environmental ills, including excess water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Many other studies show the environmental benefits of cattle production, including protection of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Smoking is a completely different animal. There are no studies indicating that smoking tobacco is beneficial.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but likening meat consumption to smoking is nuts.

Sadly, this “activist science” is becoming an all-too-familiar weapon used by a variety of special interest groups, whether they are opposed to genetic modification, glyphosate or meat.

The goal of these campaigns, which are often far outside accepted scientific consensus, is to create confusion in the public, to the point where many people don’t know what to believe. Once that happens, they tune out altogether, leaving the field open for such ridiculous things to occur.

Researchers who squeeze facts through the lens of a particular world view to achieve desired results give science a bad name.

Our world is teeming with conspiracy theories and bad information — everything from shadowy entities inserting tracker chips in vaccines to governments starting horrific wildfires to advance their climate change agenda.

It’s easy to joke about absurd reports such as the one out of Britain, but where do they lead? Confusion? Public apathy? Irrational government policies?

Will a warning label on your chair be next?

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Michael Robin, Robin Booker and Laura Rance collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

SASKTODAY.ca is Saskatchewan’s home page. Bookmark us at this link.



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