Ron Webb wrote:If that's what you've been saying, then you and I aren't that far apart. If the title of this discussion had been "Please cut down on meat and dairy" I probably would not have raised any objection. To me, "Please become a vegan" is on a par with "Please don't have children". It's personal option, certainly, but it's too much to expect from most people.
Of course that's what I've been saying. I could hardly have put it any clearer. On March 10 last year I said in this thread: “Not that I think it's likely that large numbers of people will become vegan, and I'm not proselytising for veganism. I would, however, encourage people to eat less meat, dairy and eggs ...” On March 13 I added: “Still, as I said, I'm not proselytising for complete veganism. If people reduced their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs to the extent that only land that is not suitable for growing crops is used for grazing, then that would be a Good Thing, in my view.” Later the same day I said: “I'm not anticipating or advocating pure veganism for all anyway, so I'm not suggesting that all grazing animals should or could be done away with. I'd be more than happy if demand for meat dropped significantly, and meat-eaters were more willing to eat mutton and rabbit, and intensive, grain-fed livestock rearing stopped altogether.” Then this year, on May 11, to you, Ron, I said: “Actually, I am opposed to urging everyone to become vegan. I would rather urge people to eat much less meat, less fish, and less dairy produce.” The same day, to Compassionist, I said: “Becoming a vegan is not easy … Reducing your consumption of meat, fish, eggs and dairy is much easier, both to do and to encourage others to do.” And finally, on Thursday, in response to your comment: “But then I doubt that it's possible or politically viable to convert us all to vegans either”, I wrote: “But I'm not suggesting that, and neither is Compassionist. What I would like is for people to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products voluntarily, because they recognise the environmental impact of them.” Pretty unambiguous, isn't it? If ... er ... somewhat repetitive.
I didn't choose the subject title of this thread. Having said that, saying "Please become vegan" isn't quite the same as saying "Everyone in the world should become vegan." It's a plea that was made in a vegetarian humanist forum. For people who have already given up meat for ethical reasons (i.e. related to animal welfare and the environment), the arguments against eating dairy products and eggs are pretty powerful. I don't think Compassionist, when he made the plea, was anticipating any kind of positive response from meat-eaters. Just as well, really.
Ron Webb wrote:For the record, I have already cut down on meat and dairy, and probably will reduce it further as prices continue to rise (and I think we agree that the best way to achieve reductions is by charging the real cost of meat production, including passing on the environmental costs to consumers).
Ron Webb wrote:
I did take a look, and what I have seen suggests that Kerala's low birth rate is a consequence of education, particularly women's education (as you said), and a strong social welfare system which reduces social and economic inequality. On average the economy is no better than elsewhere in the country. In fact, Kerala's official Web site
says that "In terms of per capita income and production Kerala is lagging behind many of the Indian States." (http://kerala.gov.in/economy/index.htm
Yes, that's what makes it so impressive, I think. The focus of most development policies (especially as advocated by the World Bank and the IMF) has always been on economic growth, and Kerala has shown that you can improve human welfare without increasing GDP. I think that's where the focus needs to be. Economic growth also tends to reduce the birth rate — precisely because it tends to lead to better health care and education and greater opportunities for women, I assume — but it also leads to higher consumption of scarce resources.
Ron Webb wrote:So we can agree that education and social/economic justice are key to reducing the birth rate of poor countries; but I still am not convinced that overall improvement in Third World economies will necessarily result in lower birth rates or smaller families.
Not necessarily, no. If the benefits of economic growth go to a small minority of the population, leaving the majority in poverty and creating greater inequality, then things might even get worse. That's why I referred to poverty-reducing policies rather than growth-stimulating policies. I do agree that welfare and equality are key.
Ron Webb wrote:
The report does not exactly say that. What it says is that current practices are unsustainable given the present and predicted world population. The whole purpose of the report is to outline ways in which practices can be made
sustainable. Certainly it can be sustainable as long as the population is stable and small enough. By contrast, a constantly increasing population is always
unsustainable in the long run.
We've already established, I think, that it is not going to be possible to reduce the global population in the short term. Even if it were possible to keep the population at current levels, a preference for lots of
meat and dairy would not be sustainable even in the short run, if it were shared by everyone. Some
meat and dairy, yes; lots of
meat and dairy (i.e. the amounts eaten by the average Canadian, say), no. Just as the population would be sustainable if families had one or two children on average, but not if they had lots of
Ron Webb wrote:
By the way, I had to chuckle when I came across this item
while learning about Kerala (italics added):"The livestock sector plays a vital role in the economy of Kerala, and offers great potential for alleviating poverty and unemployment in rural areas. The majority of livestock owning farmers are small and/or marginal or even landless. In view of its suitability for combination with the crop sub-sector and its sustainability as a household enterprise with the active involvement of the farm women, livestock rearing is emerging as a very popular supplementary vocation in the small farm segment."
Hmmm. Interesting. The only trouble with that is that there has actually been a declining trend in the livestock population in Kerala since 1996 (Virtual University for Agricultural Trade
). Meat consumption is still pretty high in Kerala, compared to other Indian states, but nearly 65 per cent of the meat required is met from animals of neighbouring states (Livestock Kerala
The last two Census periods witnessed a drastic decline in the livestock and poultry population in the State. It is assumed that the factors attributed to the decline are scarcity of cheap and quality fodder, rapid increase in the price of feed and feed ingredients, inflow of cheap and low quality livestock products from neighbouring states, indiscriminate slaughter of animals, under exploitation of production potential of animals, non availability of good germplasm and threat from contagious diseases like FMD etc.
So I'm not convinced that small-scale livestock farming is a particularly sustainable way of alleviating poverty and unemployment. I'm more hopeful about amaranth