THE Johns Hopkins University's Center for a Livable Future (CLF) is an organization that has quickly become one of the most vocal critics of modern food animal production.
In addition to questioning the industry's use of antibiotics and "intensive confinement" housing systems via its reboot of a 2008 report from the Pew Commission on Industrial Food Animal Production, CLF is known for its role in kick-starting the "Meatless Monday" movement 10 years ago.
"I've never seen anything quite like it," one former university professor told Feedstuffs last week regarding CLF. "I'm quite surprised that a well-respected university such as Johns Hopkins would operate such an academically biased organization."
Founded in 1996 as part of the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health, CLF's mission is "to promote research and to develop and communicate information about the complex interrelationships among diet, food production, environment and human health, to advance an ecological perspective in reducing threats to the health of the public and to promote policies that protect health, the global environment and the ability to sustain life for future generations."
In 2003, CLF helped former advertising executive and author Sid Lerner launch the Meatless Monday effort that encourages consumers to forego meat and other animal-derived proteins one day each week, ostensibly as a way of improving their own health and overall environmental sustainability.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), in a statement on last week's Pew retrospective, made the connection to the school of health's namesake — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and his efforts to ban the sale of large sodas over obesity concerns. NPPC referred to the financial media magnate as "the poster boy for the food police."
While Bloomberg has no overt ties to CLF — aside from having his name on the school itself — the center has made criticizing the meat industry its primary stock in trade, perhaps lending some credence to the "food police" label.
"Changes in the scale, concentration and manner in which food animals are produced over the last half-century are unsustainable and pose serious risks to rural communities, consumers and environmental quality," CLF said in describing one of its key programmatic focuses. "The purpose of the Industrial Food Animal Production Project is to address these ills by contributing to the state of peer-reviewed knowledge and communicating findings to policy-makers and advocates, working with communities burdened by food animal production operations and by translating science for persons in the media for rapid dissemination."
CLF executive director professor Robert Lawrence delivered a 2012 TEDx talk in Manhattan, N.Y., on the "effects of a high-meat diet on public health."
Among his conclusions, Lawrence asserted that a plant-based diet would facilitate feeding 9.5-10.0 million people globally but claimed that the food system could only support feeding 3.5-4.0 million based on a meat-centric, westernized diet.
CLF staffers have ignored repeated requests for comment on recent stories involving the Meatless Monday movement and the center's food animal production projects.