Researchers want meat tagged with cigarette-style warnings to save planet from climate change

A group of scientists at England’s Durham University have produced research suggesting that fewer people would eat meat if meat products contained warning labels like those seen on cigarette packs.

Led by PhD candidate Jack Hughes, the team of scientists “split 1,001 meat-eating adults into four groups, and showed each group pictures of hot meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan canteen-style meals – ranging from burgers to quiche – with either a health warning label, a climate warning label, a pandemic warning label, or no label at all,” according to The Guardian.

The pandemic warning reportedly produced the best results, with the health warning coming in second place and the climate warning coming in third place. However, when asked directly, the participants claimed they were most moved by the climate change warning.

This is relevant because the U.K.’s Climate Change Committee has claimed the nation needs to reduce its meat consumption by 20 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050 in order to meet its climate change goals.

“When you combine that with the fact that high meat intake is linked to lots of health issues, and the way that we currently farm, or certainly some of the most common ways of farming, are also very heavily linked to the potential of pandemic outbreaks, it becomes clear that there are multiple reasons why the current way that we eat meat is maybe not the best way to do it,” Hughes said.

“Reaching net zero is a priority for the nation and the planet. As warning labels have already been shown to reduce smoking as well as drinking of sugary drinks and alcohol, using a warning label on meat-containing products could help us achieve this if introduced as national policy,” he added.

That said, Hughes and his team aren’t necessarily advocating for anything but rather just offering suggestions, he claimed.

“It is not up to me to speculate or recommend how companies and restaurants use this research. If these were to be implemented in the real world, what our research shows is that putting these warning labels alongside meat options when people are making decisions might be an effective way to reduce the amount of meat people are choosing,” he told Time magazine.

Responding to the study, critics were nevertheless incensed at even the thought of scientists telling them to not eat meat:

However, those concerned about so-called climate change reacted quite differently, with many salivating at the idea of this proposed “solution” reducing meat consumption.


This enthusiasm stems from their die-hard belief that meat consumption somehow hurts the planet.

“Livestock farming is estimated to be responsible for up to 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions arising from human activity,” The Conversation claims.

Warning labels would reportedly also be beneficial in other ways.

“Warning labels on meat packaging or menus could highlight evidence that a relatively high intake of meat products increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and according to one study, dementia. There is also evidence of red and processed meat consumption leading to a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity and multiple cancers,” The Conversation argues.

“Or, these labels could warn people that meat farming dramatically increases the risk of a pandemic. Outbreaks of zoonotic diseases (which jump from animals to humans, such as COVID-19 or swine flu) are more likely to emerge where animals are kept in extremely close contact. And as farms expand into wild land, species deprived of habitats migrate into towns and cities where encounters with people are more likely.”


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