Meat consumption contributes to famine and depletes the Earth's natural resources.
Some have argued that cows and sheep require pasturage that could be better used to raise grains to feed starving millions in Third World countries. Additionally, claims are made that raising livestock requires more water than raising plant foods. Both arguments are illogical and simplistic.
The pasturage argument ignores the fact that a large portion of our Earth's dry land is unsuited to cultivation. The open range and desert and mountainous areas yield their fruits to grazing animals . On top of that cattle return to the soil a large part of what they eat as fertilizer, thus improving the soil, whereas grain just takes and takes and puts nothing back.
Unfortunately, the bulk of commercial livestock are not range fed, but stall fed. They do not ingest grasses and shrubs (like they should), but are fed an unnatural array of grains and soybeans. It is true that these foods could be fed to humans. The argument here, then, is not that eating meat depletes the Earth's resources, but that commercial farming methods do. Such methods also subject livestock to deplorable living conditions where infections, antibiotics, steroids and synthetic hormones are common. These all lead to an unhealthy animal and, by extension, an unhealthy food product. Organically raised livestock, then, is a healthier and more humane choice (see myth #15 for more on this topic).
As for the claims that raising livestock requires more water than raising plant foods, water that livestock drink would be drunk by them anyway, even if they were not being raised for food. Additionally, the urine of grazing animals, which mostly comprises water, is rich in nitrogen which helps replenish the soil. Much of the water used in commercial livestock farming, however, is used up in growing the various grains and soybeans fed to the animals. If a concerted effort were made to return to the ecologically sound "mixed farm," (described below), then such huge expenditures of water would be unnecessary.
A far more serious threat to humanity, and the Earth, is the monoculture of grains and legumes, advocated by some vegetarian groups, which depletes the soil and requires the heavy use of artificial fertilisers and dangerous pesticides; pesticides that must first be tested on animals for safety.
The solution? Astute writers on this dilemma have pointed out:
The educated consumer and the enlightened farmer together can bring about a return of the mixed farm, where cultivation of fruits, vegetables and grains is combined with the raising of livestock and fowl in a manner that is efficient, economical and environmentally friendly. For example, chickens running free in garden areas eat insect pests, while providing high-quality eggs; sheep grazing in orchards obviate the need for herbicides; and cows grazing in woodlands and other marginal areas provide rich, pure milk, meat aand healthy fats making these lands economically viable for the farmer. It is not animal cultivation that leads to hunger and famine, but unwise agricultural practices and monopolistic distribution systems.
The "mixed farm" is also healthier for the soil, which will yield more crops if managed according to traditional guidelines and newly introduced practices and technology. Also a better understanding and implementation of use of plant physiology has improved grassland management to the point that stocking density can be more than doubled with even bigger benefits to the soil.
British organic farmer and dairyman Mark Purdey has accurately pointed out that a crop field on a mixed farm will yield up to five harvests a year, while a "mono-cropped" one will only yield one or two . Which farm is producing more food for the world's peoples? Purdey well sums up the ecological horrors of "battery farming" by saying:
Our agricultural establishments could do very well to outlaw the business- besotted farmers running intensive livestock units, battery systems and beef-burger bureaucracies; with all their wastages, deplorable cruelty, anti-ozone slurry systems; drug/chemical induced immunotoxicity resulting in B.S.E. [see myth # 13] and salmonella, rain forest eradication, etc. Our future direction must strike the happy, healthy medium of mixed farms, resurrecting the old traditional extensive system as a basic framework, then bolstering up productivity to present day demands by incorporating a more updated application of biological science into farming systems.
And many more Myths (Check Here) that threaten our very existence and are only kept alive because they serve commercial interests.
Make no mistake : Big business does not have your interests at heart. It never had and never will have.
It is the Evil that exists among us because we serve its interest often because we value short cuts over value, we value quantity over quality,
Corporate interests do not exist in a vacuum. We have to take responsibility for the mess we have created
And then there are the organic farming myths, quite pervasive and quite persistent because of so many vested interests.......
MYTH # 2
Organic farming must be inefficient, since organic food is more expensive than regular food.
Nearly all Western countries provide price supports for agriculture, and in the US these subsidies are overwhelmingly directed at conventional crops, not organic crops. Additionally, much of the agricultural infrastructure - cooperative extension services and agricultural research; transportation and storage systems for commodities; marketing mechanisms - all tilt heavily in favor of conventionally produced crops. If these disadvantages were removed, organic products would be reasonably close in price, and any remaining difference would be due to:
• the costs associated with organic certification, and
• the "externalities" of conventional agriculture - i.e. costs that are NOT included in the price of conventional agriculture's products, such as the ill effects on human health and the environment caused by the chemicals in our food and the pollution generated by conventional farming.
MYTH # 3
An acre of organic agriculture can't produce as much food as an acre of conventional chemical-based farming.
Research has shown that when acreage is first converted from conventional to organic, there is a temporary lowering of productivity. But over time, the natural fertility of the soil returns, and after some three years, organic yields are equal to or superior to the prior yields from conventional crops. Think of the initial dip in productivity as withdrawal symptoms.
MYTH # 4
The amount of pesticides in non-organic food is insignificant.
Pesticide residues in food are limited by federal regulation. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control both released studies in 2003 indicating that the average North American carries a "body burden" of chemical pesticides, and other studies have shown similar results. A University of Washington study found that children fed mostly organic produce and juice had only one-sixth the level of organophosphate pesticide by-products in their urine compared to children who ate conventionally grown foods. The difference was statistically significant and meaningful to health:
• the children who ate conventional diets had levels above the amount considered to be "negligible risk" by the EPA;
• the children who ate mostly organic diets had levels BELOW the negligible-risk threshold.
MYTH # 5
There is no nutritional difference between organic food and non-organic food.
Chemical farming damages the natural fertility of soil because it kills or suppresses the beneficial soil organisms that help ensure the nutrient richness of soil. The soil on an organic farm is loaded with these beneficial organisms and is chock-full of micro-nutrients. The result is that organically grown plants are healthier and more resistant to disease, and the food from them is more nutrient-rich. Research done at the University of California at Davis found that organically grown berries, corn and vegetables have over 50% more antioxidants than the same conventional crops. (Antioxidants are nutrients that activate the immune system, important to avoiding cancer and maintaining good overall health.) Studies also suggest that organic foods are higher in a variety of minerals.
Organic farming also does not cause the many problems associated with modern conventional farming, such as groundwater and streams that become polluted with pesticides or rivers and bays that are dying from oxygen deprivation due to fertilizer runoff.
Does that mean that we at Palliser Downs favour organic farming? Not in the way it is often understood, but we do advocate farming practices that :
1. do not impact the environment negatively
2. are sustainable
3. use natural fertilizers as much as possible
3. limit the use of pesticides to natural ones, and then only when there is a threat of pest through external sources , e.g.thrips
4. are conducive to arriving at the maximum attainable brix levels in our plants and products, thereby often limiting the necessity of pesticides.
Some of those practices are :
collecting the fall leaves from many places in the area, compost them and work them into the soil ;
the same hold for grass clippings that a property maintenance company drops off here on a regular basis;
we have been switching from bio-and photo-degradable plastic mulch and to using wood chips from a local saw mill;
we have been rotating some of our lands with a dairy farmer who provides it with a good coating of manure.
In fact our farming practices could be considered organic, but we'd rather call it ethically and biologically responsible.
We will not use any means, ways or products that we consider harmful or would not want to expose our own family to.
"I was wrong about veganism. "
"Let them eat meat – but farm it properly"
The ethical case against eating animal produce once seemed clear. But a new book is an abattoir for dodgy arguments
"..This will not be an easy column to write. I am about to put down 1,200 words in support of a book that starts by attacking me and often returns to this sport. But it has persuaded me that I was wrong. More to the point, it has opened my eyes to some fascinating complexities in what seemed to be a black and white case.
In the Guardian in 2002 I discussed the sharp rise in the number of the world's livestock, and the connection between their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. After reviewing the figures, I concluded that veganism "is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue". I still believe that the diversion of ever wider tracts of arable land from feeding people to feeding livestock is iniquitous and grotesque. So does the book I'm about to discuss. I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.
In Meat: A Benign Extravagance, Simon Fairlie pays handsome tribute to vegans for opening up the debate. He then subjects their case to the first treatment I've read that is both objective and forensic. His book is an abattoir for misleading claims and dodgy figures, on both sides of the argument.
There's no doubt that the livestock system has gone horribly wrong. Fairlie describes the feedlot beef industry (in which animals are kept in pens) in the US as "one of the biggest ecological cock-ups in modern history". It pumps grain and forage from irrigated pastures into the farm animal species least able to process them efficiently, to produce beef fatty enough for hamburger production. Cattle are excellent converters of grass but terrible converters of concentrated feed. The feed would have been much better used to make pork.
Pigs, in the meantime, have been forbidden in many parts of the rich world from doing what they do best: converting waste into meat. Until the early 1990s, only 33% of compound pig feed in the UK consisted of grains fit for human consumption: the rest was made up of crop residues and food waste. Since then the proportion of sound grain in pig feed has doubled. There are several reasons: the rules set by supermarkets; the domination of the feed industry by large corporations, which can't handle waste from many different sources; but most important the panicked over-reaction to the BSE and foot-and-mouth crises.
Feeding meat and bone meal to cows was insane. Feeding it to pigs, whose natural diet incorporates a fair bit of meat, makes sense, as long as it is rendered properly. The same goes for swill. Giving sterilised scraps to pigs solves two problems at once: waste disposal and the diversion of grain. Instead we now dump or incinerate millions of tonnes of possible pig food and replace it with soya whose production trashes the Amazon. Waste food in the UK, Fairlie calculates, could make 800,000 tonnes of pork, or one sixth of our total meat consumption.
But these idiocies, Fairlie shows, are not arguments against all meat eating, but arguments against the current farming model. He demonstrates that we've been using the wrong comparison to judge the efficiency of meat production. Instead of citing a simple conversion rate of feed into meat, we should be comparing the amount of land required to grow meat with the land needed to grow plant products of the same nutritional value to humans. The results are radically different.
If pigs are fed on residues and waste, and cattle on straw, stovers and grass from fallows and rangelands – food for which humans don't compete – meat becomes a very efficient means of food production. Even though it is tilted by the profligate use of grain in rich countries, the global average conversion ratio of useful plant food to useful meat is not the 5:1 or 10:1 cited by almost everyone, but less than 2:1. If we stopped feeding edible grain to animals, we could still produce around half the current global meat supply with no loss to human nutrition: in fact it's a significant net gain.
It's the second half – the stuffing of animals with grain to boost meat and milk consumption, mostly in the rich world – which reduces the total food supply. Cut this portion out and you would create an increase in available food which could support 1.3 billion people. Fairlie argues we could afford to use a small amount of grain for feeding livestock, allowing animals to mop up grain surpluses in good years and slaughtering them in lean ones. This would allow us to consume a bit more than half the world's current volume of animal products, which means a good deal less than in the average western diet.
He goes on to butcher a herd of sacred cows. Like many greens I have thoughtlessly repeated the claim that it requires 100,000 litres of water to produce every kilogram of beef. Fairlie shows that this figure is wrong by around three orders of magnitude. It arose from the absurd assumption that every drop of water that falls on a pasture disappears into the animals that graze it, never to re-emerge. A ridiculous amount of fossil water is used to feed cattle on irrigated crops in California, but this is a stark exception.
Similarly daft assumptions underlie the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's famous claim that livestock are responsible for 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, a higher proportion than transport. Fairlie shows that it made a number of basic mistakes. It attributes all deforestation that culminates in cattle ranching in the Amazon to cattle: in reality it is mostly driven by land speculation and logging. It muddles up one-off emissions from deforestation with ongoing pollution. It makes similar boobs in its nitrous oxide and methane accounts, confusing gross and net production. (Conversely, the organisation greatly underestimates fossil fuel consumption by intensive farming: its report seems to have been informed by a powerful bias against extensive livestock keeping.)
Overall, Fairlie estimates that farmed animals produce about 10% of the world's emissions: still too much, but a good deal less than transport. He also shows that many vegetable oils have a bigger footprint than animal fats, and reminds us that even vegan farming necessitates the large-scale killing or ecological exclusion of animals: in this case pests. On the other hand, he slaughters the claims made by some livestock farmers about the soil carbon they can lock away.
The meat-producing system Fairlie advocates differs sharply from the one now practised in the rich world: low energy, low waste, just, diverse, small-scale. But if we were to adopt it, we could eat meat, milk and eggs (albeit much less) with a clean conscience. By keeping out of the debate over how livestock should be kept, those of us who have advocated veganism have allowed the champions of cruel, destructive, famine-inducing meat farming to prevail. It's time we got stuck in.