Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Newton

Second Advisor

Dr. Alastair Norcross

Third Advisor

Dale Miller

Abstract

Animal product consumption is environmentally inefficient, destructive to wildlife habitat, and a large contributor to climate change. However, animal product consumption is expected to increase per capita with a growing world population. In order to understand state actor interventions to reduce animal product consumption in the United States, I conducted a literature review on past interventions to affect dietary behavior domestically and abroad and conducted correlation analysis on agricultural subsidies, environmental regulations, and nutritional guidelines. Acknowledging the U.S. context, I ultimately recommend three phases for state actor intervention. Between now and 2020, civil society and market actors should build awareness about connections between animal agriculture and negative consequences starting with health. Starting in 2020, state actors, including the federal government, should utilize newfound political support from the public to build awareness, including factually accurate 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, climate- and health-friendly public procurement standards, and potentially even health labels on animal products. Starting in 2024 or 2029, depending on levels of public support, the federal government should update its Farm Bill to decrease subsidies for animal operations and feed crops while increasing subsidies for climate- and health-friendly specialty crops, in conjunction with transitional programs to assist farmers. Furthermore, the federal government might consider food-specific taxes that tax products based on their climate or health impacts, in which the revenue supports healthy food access for low-income communities. Interventions by state actors will promote large-scale dietary shifts that support climate change mitigation and improved human health.

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