Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | September 17, 2010

Lady Gaga, Make a Real Statement: Sustainability

Lady Gaga’s meat dress has been getting a lot of attention lately.  The shock value she was going for was certainly realized.  Like most of the bloggers out there, I thought it was gross.   (I also happen to be a vegetarian, which made me all the more annoyed about it from an animal cruelty perspective.)  Here, though, I’d like to focus on a broader Christian eco-justice perspective on the dress:  how it was insensitive to God’s hungry people and unsustainable for God’s over-burdened creation.

Food is a gift from God that should be savored with reverence and gratitude.  Psalm 104 praises God for providing us with food:  “the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use to bring forth food from the earth… to strengthen the human heart.”  In many places in the world, food is scarce or unaffordable, and people can only afford to eat meat on special occasions.  About 9 million children die of hunger each year.  Television often depicts lavish consumption, which gets broadcasted all over the world, even to communities that experience food scarcity.  The meat dress on MTV’s Video Music Awards was no exception.  Lady Gaga’s dress could have fed 30 people dinner… but it has been cast away for no one to eat. (Click here to see a Time/CNN photo essay showing the disparities in what families around the world eat .)

People of faith are called to “serve and keep the land” (Gen 2:15). We have a God-given mandate to share all we have and refrain from wasteful behavior.  While meat has long been part of the human diet, people of faith should be conscious that meat production requires more energy and water than plant-based food production.

* On average, 40 calories of fossil fuel energy goes into every one calorie of feed lot beef. (The ratio for plant-based food? 2.2 to one.)

* 1,800-2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.

Lady Gaga’s dress was about 25 pounds of beef, approximately 22,893 calories.  That means 915,720 fossil fuel energy calories and between 45,000-62,500 gallons of water went into that dress.  For all the energy poured into meat production, those calories should at least stay in the food chain… and not be cast away to rot.   (To see more info from the United Nations on the heavy environmental cost of meat production, click here.)

Lady Gaga attempted to explain her get-up: “…if we don’t stand up for what we believe in, if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon, we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.  And I am not a piece of meat.”

Lady Gaga, I’m afraid you have missed the  mark in your effort to make a revolutionary statement.  The media has focused more on how disgusting and shocking the dress was than any message behind it.  How about standing up for global poverty consciousness and sustainable living?  Next time you want to make a statement, why not tell the world you will only wear clothes that were sustainably produced by workers who were paid a living wage?  You will be defending the rights of all Creation.  That would be a fashion statement and a moral statement that people of faith could affirm.


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