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  1. #1
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    Trying to connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change

    Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change

    By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH

    EVER since “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore has been the darling of environmentalists, but that movie hardly endeared him to the animal rights folks. According to them, the most inconvenient truth of all is that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than all the sport utility vehicles combined.

    The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.

    Some backlash against this position is inevitable, the groups acknowledge, but they do have scientific ammunition. In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

    When that report came out, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups expected their environmental counterparts to immediately hop on the “Go Veggie!” bandwagon, but that did not happen. “Environmentalists are still pointing their fingers at Hummers and S.U.V.’s when they should be pointing at the dinner plate,” said Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA.

    So the animal rights groups are mobilizing on their own. PETA is outfitting a Hummer with a driver in a chicken suit and a vinyl banner proclaiming meat as the top cause of global warming. It will send the vehicle to the start of the climate forum the White House is sponsoring in Washington on Sept. 27, “and to headquarters of environmental groups, if they don’t start shaping up,” Mr. Prescott warned.

    He said that PETA had written to more than 700 environmental groups, asking them to promote vegetarianism, and that it would soon distribute leaflets that highlight the impact of eating meat on global warming.

    “You just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist,” said Mr. Prescott, whose group also plans to send billboard-toting trucks to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver when Mr. Gore lectures there on Oct. 2. The billboards will feature a cartoon image of Mr. Gore eating a drumstick next to the tagline: “Too Chicken to Go Vegetarian? Meat Is the No. 1 Cause of Global Warming.”



    The Humane Society of the United States has taken up the issue as well, running ads in environmental magazines that show a car key and a fork. “Which one of these contributes more to global warming?” the ads ask. They answer the question with “It’s not the one that starts a car,” and go on to cite the United Nations report as proof.

    On its Web page and in its literature, the Humane Society has also been highlighting other scientific studies — notably, one that recently came out of the University of Chicago — that, in essence, show that “switching to a plant-based diet does more to curb global warming than switching from an S.U.V. to a Camry,” said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the factory farming campaign for the Humane Society.

    The society, Mr. Shapiro said, is not only concerned with what happens to domesticated animals, but also with preventing the carnage that global warming could cause to polar bears, seals and other wildlife. “Our mission is to protect animals, and global warming has become an animal welfare issue,” he said.

    Even tiny pro-veggie operations are starting to squeeze dollars out of their shoestring budgets to advertise the eating meat/global warming connection. Vegan Outreach, a 14-year-old group in Tucson with just three full-time workers and a $500,000 annual budget, is spending about $800 this month to run ads and links to its Web page on about 10 blogs. And, it will give more prominence to the global warming aspect of vegetarianism in the next batch of leaflets it orders.

    “We know that vegetarian organizations have sometimes made exaggerated health and environmental claims, but that U.N. report is an impartial, unimpeachable source of statements we can quote,” said Matt Ball, executive director of Vegan Outreach.

    Like Mr. Prescott, Mr. Ball is incensed that high-profile people like Al Gore — or environmental groups with deeper pockets than his — have not stepped up to the plate.

    “Al Gore calls global warming an existential risk to humanity, yet it hasn’t prompted him to change his diet or even mention vegetarianism,” he complained. “And I guess the environmentalists recognize that it’s a lot easier to ask people to put in a fluorescent light bulb than to learn to cook with tofu.”



    Advertising specialists warn that this new attention to global warming may attract enemies as well as converts.

    “Using global warming as a tactic for advancing the cause of vegetarianism feels a bit opportunistic,” said Hank Stewart, senior copywriter at Green Team Advertising, which specializes in environmentally themed ads.

    He also questions the logistics. “You want to get the message as close to the meat-purchasing moment as possible,” he said, “but can you imagine a supermarket allowing ‘Attention, Planet-Destroying Carnivores’ on the in-store radio?”

    Environmental groups, meanwhile, readily concede that mobilizing against meat eaters is not their highest priority.

    “We try to be strategic about doing the things where each unit of effort has the most impact,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. Mr. Pope notes that his group has stopped short of castigating people for driving S.U.V.’s or building overly large homes, too.

    “We’ll encourage companies to make more efficient S.U.V.’s, and we’ll encourage consumers to buy them,” he said, “but we do not find lecturing people about personal consumption choices to be effective.”

    Environmental Defense is also “in agreement on the value of eating less meat,” said Melanie Janin, director of marketing communications. But, she added, her group would rather spend its time and money influencing public policy — specifically, getting Congress to regulate greenhouse gases.

    Mr. Gore declined to make himself available for comment. Chris Song, his deputy press secretary, simply noted that a suggestion to “modify your diet to include less meat” appears on Page 317 of Mr. Gore’s book version of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

    He did not address Mr. Gore’s personal food choices.

  2. #2
    gwd
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    The article compares going vegetarian with switching from an SUV to a Camry. For us, we'd be more interested in comparing going vegetarian with switching from an SUV to a bicycle. Also, many people have reduced their meat consumption. When I was young I never had a vegetarian dinner but by the time I was in high school my mother had learned to prepare several types of delicious vegetarian dinners.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Most of us aren't willing to become vegetarians, but there are things we can do to minimize the impact of meat consumption. Obviously, eat less meat, and make many of your meals vegetarian. Make sure the meat you buy is from local sources, and try to find farms and ranches that raise animals humanely. That means, the animals should be raised outdoors and the farm should follow organic, sustainable, "biologic" or "permaculture" practices.

    The best source of information on this that I've seen is The Omnivore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan. Everybody who is concerned about meat consumption (and the food supply in general)should read this fantastic book by an author who is not a vegetarian.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    ...and try to find farms and ranches that raise animals humanely. That means, the animals should be raised outdoors and the farm should follow organic, sustainable, "biologic" or "permaculture" practices.
    How does that reduce the methane (greenhouse gas) produced by livestock?

    Buying local will reduce transportation energy but thats a good idea for any product. The issue here is the number of livestock animals, the amount of feedstock needed for the animals and the deforestation of land to provide that feedstock and grazing land.
    Last edited by BikeManDan; 08-30-07 at 06:16 PM.

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    It is all pieces and parts of the total puzzle. Most Americans eat much more meat than is really needed for a properly balanced diet. Americans as a whole would be much healthier if the ate more vegetables and reduced their meat intake, as well as increased their exercise levels. I think many of us on this board are well ahead of the game. No single thing is going to make the difference, but lots of little things can and do add up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    It is all pieces and parts of the total puzzle. Most Americans eat much more meat than is really needed for a properly balanced diet. Americans as a whole would be much healthier if the ate more vegetables and reduced their meat intake, as well as increased their exercise levels. I think many of us on this board are well ahead of the game. No single thing is going to make the difference, but lots of little things can and do add up.

    Aaron
    +1

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    Some of us eat meat because we simply like the taste.

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    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Quote-"but that U.N. report is an impartial, unimpeachable source of statements we can quote,”

    Yeah right impartial my butt.

    You've got two of the most of the wall, nutcase, radical orginizations in the world ( PETA And the un) in one article.
    Not too much to say here

  9. #9
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    Quote-"but that U.N. report is an impartial, unimpeachable source of statements we can quote,

    Yeah right impartial my butt.

    You've got two of the most of the wall, nutcase, radical orginizations in the world ( PETA And the un) in one article.
    I won't argue that point! Most anything that comes of the UN is suspect IMHO. And PETA is no shining star of impartiality either.

    Aaron
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spaceman Spiff View Post
    Some of us eat meat because we simply like the taste.
    Some of us drive cars because we simply like to be lazy.

    If all people just did what they wanted/liked, this world would fall apart (as it is now).

  11. #11
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    Thank you, that is all.
    In the words of Einstein
    "And now I think I'll take a bath"

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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Does anyone have links to specific studies that support the point made in the article? I can believe that livestock production contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but not more than all forms of transportation combined. Also, how does this play out? Is it mostly methane produced by the animals themselves, or does it have more to do with the fuel and fertilizer needed to produce the grain to feed the animals? And how do people figure this stuff out, to the extent that they're able to make these comments with such a high degree of confidence? (i.e., how do people know where exactly the greenhouse gases are coming from, and in what proportions?)
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    Does anyone have links to specific studies that support the point made in the article? I can believe that livestock production contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but not more than all forms of transportation combined. Also, how does this play out? Is it mostly methane produced by the animals themselves, or does it have more to do with the fuel and fertilizer needed to produce the grain to feed the animals? And how do people figure this stuff out, to the extent that they're able to make these comments with such a high degree of confidence? (i.e., how do people know where exactly the greenhouse gases are coming from, and in what proportions?)
    I think it's probably a combination of factors-- the methane produced, fertilizer and fuel to grow the grain, energy to transport the livestock to market. There are an enormous number of domestic ungulates raised for meat, and the contribution they make to global warming should go into the "human source" column. On the other hand, there were an enormous number of wild ungulates before the introduction of domestic livestock, and presumably, they also emitted methane. If we hadn't killed them off and replaced them with domestic ungulates, their methane emissions would rightly have gone into the "natural source" column. However, wild ungulates didn't eat grain grown with petroleum-based fertilizers, and they weren't driven to market in petroleum-fueled trucks, so the overall contribution of wild ungulates to global warming was probably less than that of domestic ungulates.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post


    Thank you, that is all.
    + 1

    If we don't eat them, china and india will

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwoloz View Post
    How does that reduce the methane (greenhouse gas) produced by livestock?

    Buying local will reduce transportation energy but thats a good idea for any product. The issue here is the number of livestock animals, the amount of feedstock needed for the animals and the deforestation of land to provide that feedstock and grazing land.
    Methane is not the problem. Methane is the release of carbon that had been temporarily sequestered by plants. That carbon would be released on the death of the plant even if it wasn't consumed by a cow, chicken or pig.

    The biggest problems with meat production has to do with the monoculture production of their feed, mostly corn and soybeans. These crops are farmed with intensive use of petroleum-derived fertilizers and toxic pesticides. Then of course, both crops and meat are transported long distances by truck or train. Another issue is that animals raised this way suffer throughout much of their short lives. Finally, many people believe that the meat raised this way is unhealthy for the humans who eat it.

    If you'll re-read my post, which you're responding to, I mentioned fuel used in transport is only one of the environmental problems associated with meat production. Besides being locally grown, I suggested that people should try to buy meat that is organically fed and that's pastured rather than caged or fed in a feedlot.


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    Senior Member Bike-a-Boo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TurdFerguson2
    Some of us drive cars because we simply like to be lazy.

    If all people just did what they wanted/liked, this world would fall apart (as it is now).
    So true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spaceman Spiff View Post
    Some of us eat meat because we simply like the taste.
    Probably true, but I suspect a lot more of us eat meat because we can't really imagine an alternative. I still have this totally irrational sense that if I haven't eaten meat, I haven't eaten.

    What about dairy, by the way? If cows are contributing to greenhouse gases in such a big way, the dairy industry must be a big part of the problem as well... and what about chickens for egg production?

    Take away my meat and eggs and cheese, and what's for dinner? I know, I know, there are viable alternatives, but they're not that appealing to me.
    The truth is, I find it difficult to view vegetarian food as a viable alternative, in exactly the same way as most Americans can't see bicycles as a viable form of transportation.

    It's a bummer, but saving the world is going to involve some pretty fundamental changes in values.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    The truth is, I find it difficult to view vegetarian food as a viable alternative, in exactly the same way as most Americans can't see bicycles as a viable form of transportation.
    That's what I was getting at (you are just much more clear than me). I guess that makes some of us hypocrites. But, I suppose it depends on your reasons for being car-free in the first place.

    It would be nice to know more details on the report. i.e. what part of eating meat is so bad for the environment. People above have mentioned numerous reasons above, but which of those factors are the main problem? Am I harming the environment if I raise a cow, a goat, and chicken in my yard? Or is it because of transportation costs? What if I buy local meats, that have been grain-fed local feed? Is it because of 'monoculture' of only growing one type of feed for animals?

    Surely there is a solution that allows for some meat consumption, just as car-free solutions still often rely on transport trucks, or rail, or some other form of motorized transport of goods (I know, not all, but most practical solutions).

  19. #19
    chic geek vacher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TurdFerguson2 View Post
    which of those factors are the main problem? Am I harming the environment if I raise a cow, a goat, and chicken in my yard? Or is it because of transportation costs? What if I buy local meats, that have been grain-fed local feed? Is it because of 'monoculture' of only growing one type of feed for animals?

    Surely there is a solution that allows for some meat consumption, just as car-free solutions still often rely on transport trucks, or rail, or some other form of motorized transport of goods (I know, not all, but most practical solutions).
    This isn't directed entirely at you:

    The key word that people need to focus on is ...some... meat consumption. One of the big reasons why the meat industry is so huge is because a lot of people were somehow convinced that meat needs to be the centrepiece of every meal, and that fruit+veg are just a garnish or side-dish. Ideally, fruit+veg should be the centrepiece, with meat being eaten sparingly or substituted by other proteins like beans, nuts, tofu, etc.

    In addition to that, there is no real 'main' problem when you talk about the big meat industry. Every piece of the puzzle is vile, it doesn't matter what direction you go- 'animal rights' vs. environmental cost vs. transportation/carbon issues vs. monopolistic corporate practices. It's not PETA-extremist to believe that the system that the world uses in regards to consumption is fundamentally flawed and unless the values changed, the world is in for a big shock.

    There's no singular issue that is bad, they're all bad separately, and when combined they make up a disasterous industry that is seriously harming the world.

    Do you want your meat and eat it too? Go ahead and buy meat- buy local, free range, organic meat. Support farms that are less than 100 miles away from your house. Go to farmer's markets or local butchershops that don't buy their stock from the super corporations. Bring your own bags and ask your butchers to use minimal packaging. If you can, take your bike or ride public transit there. You're still making an unnecessary impact on the environment by buying meat, but if you're adamant, you're going to eat it anyway. You may as well try to reduce the amount of stress you're putting on the world.

    And remember that eating veggies doesn't make you any less 'manly' in fact you'd probably impress a lot of ladies by choosing an informed lifestyle instead of being ignorant to what's really going on.

  20. #20
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I think the main problem with both the meat and the veggies at the moment is the massive factory farm and the fact that your supper has traveled an average of 1500 miles prior to it hitting your plate. I am sorry but that IS NOT environmentally friendly. I also contend that we wouldn't keep having the food recalls and scares if food were grown and processed locally. If a farmer in Wisconsin has a bad batch of spinach it shouldn't be affecting a family in Georgia. I realize that not everything can be grown everywhere and that some things will require transportation if we are going to be able to get them. I am old enough to remember when certain things were in season and were almost impossible to get off season. Eat local, support a local farmer. There is a website 100milediet.org about just this scenario. I am very fortunate in that I live in an area that is a veritable cornucopia of food. Outside of specialty crops like tropical fruit, coffee and a few others everything I need for a well balanced diet is grown and produced with in 100 miles of my front door and in many cases much closer.

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  21. #21
    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Methane is not the problem. Methane is the release of carbon that had been temporarily sequestered by plants. That carbon would be released on the death of the plant even if it wasn't consumed by a cow, chicken or pig.

    The biggest problems with meat production has to do with the monoculture production of their feed, mostly corn and soybeans. These crops are farmed with intensive use of petroleum-derived fertilizers and toxic pesticides. Then of course, both crops and meat are transported long distances by truck or train. Another issue is that animals raised this way suffer throughout much of their short lives. Finally, many people believe that the meat raised this way is unhealthy for the humans who eat it.

    If you'll re-read my post, which you're responding to, I mentioned fuel used in transport is only one of the environmental problems associated with meat production. Besides being locally grown, I suggested that people should try to buy meat that is organically fed and that's pastured rather than caged or fed in a feedlot.
    Roody, I thought methane is a better greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. I mean it traps more heat so has a stronger effect. So, if the plant gets burned we get carbon dioxide but as cow farts its worse until the methane decomposes to carbon dioxide. Isn't that why the permafrost melting is such a concern?

    Last year I splurged on some buffalo meat, totally grass fed and raised within a few hundred miles. It was expensive but very tasty. I followed the farmer's directions. I used to work with a hunter who would give away extra meat. Again, this non- grain fed meat was very tasty. I wonder if grass fed beef would use less land than grain fed? When I traveled around south asia it seemed that the towns there had a different system. The cows ate the garbage. Then the citizens collected the dung for fuel. The dried dung made an acrid smoke. It seems that the process could be improved by converting the dung to methane for fuel and using the remains for fertilizer for the fields making a more closed cycle and improving air quality. That was years ago, maybe today they have modernized and use landfills and factory farms and gotten the cows off the streets and made people purchase gas to cook with.

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    gwd...run a search for biogas generation. There are working examples all over the world...one of the more successful ones that I am aware of is utilizing pig waste, it is washed down and the methane is tapped off and used to generate steam, that in turn is used for heating and electricity generation. Not sure about the end product of methane burning.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd View Post
    Roody, I thought methane is a better greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. I mean it traps more heat so has a stronger effect. So, if the plant gets burned we get carbon dioxide but as cow farts its worse until the methane decomposes to carbon dioxide. Isn't that why the permafrost melting is such a concern?

    Last year I splurged on some buffalo meat, totally grass fed and raised within a few hundred miles. It was expensive but very tasty. I followed the farmer's directions. I used to work with a hunter who would give away extra meat. Again, this non- grain fed meat was very tasty. I wonder if grass fed beef would use less land than grain fed? When I traveled around south asia it seemed that the towns there had a different system. The cows ate the garbage. Then the citizens collected the dung for fuel. The dried dung made an acrid smoke. It seems that the process could be improved by converting the dung to methane for fuel and using the remains for fertilizer for the fields making a more closed cycle and improving air quality. That was years ago, maybe today they have modernized and use landfills and factory farms and gotten the cows off the streets and made people purchase gas to cook with
    .
    IIRC, methane is worse pound for pound, but that doesn't mean that methane from cow digestion is worse than CO2 from burning.

    Good question if grass-feeding uses less land than grain-feeding. Certainly it abuses or misuses the land less! For me, another consideration is that grass-fed cattle lead a pretty normal life (for a cow) and presumably are "happier" than cattle crowded into dirty feedlots. Of course, the same goes for swine and poultry too.

    The waste from meat production is an enormous problem. A large pig farm can house, IIRC, up to 30,000 hogs. That means there is as much waste as from a small city, and there are very few regulations for disposal of all that waste.

    Compared to the myriad other issues, it seems like methane is the least of the worries related to meat production.


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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    What about children? Children produce a lot of methane, let me tell you, and they use a ton of resources in the form of cellphones, personal computers, ipods, food, clothes, toys, soccer balls, books (a big source of deforestation there), and all the fuel required to ferry them to and from school and all of their after-school activities. I bet that children contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than cows. Maybe we should just get rid of children.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    What about children? Children produce a lot of methane, let me tell you, and they use a ton of resources in the form of cellphones, personal computers, ipods, food, clothes, toys, soccer balls, books (a big source of deforestation there), and all the fuel required to ferry them to and from school and all of their after-school activities. I bet that children contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than cows. Maybe we should just get rid of children.
    Works for me...are we going to boil them or serve them fricasseed? Actually they are being good little conspicuous consumers...learned from dear old mom and dad. And I am sure many of them will aspire to own an SUV and a McMansion. Until we can break the chain, it is doomed to repeat itself.

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