I believe in moderation when it comes to our diets. I eat meat three or four times a week. What I eat the most of is grains, followed by vegetables and then nuts and fruit. I have a desert once or twice a week. I don't believe in totally cutting one basic food out or our diet. When we do that, we are just as bad off as those cows and hogs as far as not eating the foods we were meant to have.
I am an omnivore, as are all humans naturally (and I do like my bacon sarnies), but I also recognise that "free range" food is not "efficient" in terms of the amount of meat protein demanded by the world's ever increasing population. This puts me in a dilemma because I do not like the idea of animals suffering by being intensively reared.
Due to medical reasons I have reduced my meat intake - but much of what I do eat is chicken, turkey and salmon - all of which tend to be intensively reared. I do try to be selective and check on the sources as much as possible.
Food for thought indeed...
The meat industry is powerful. Our population is ever increasing. The world's per capita demand is increasing, and I expect any attempts to include externalities in the price of meat would result in popular revolt.
At least not everyone was as easily taken in as George Monbiot:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... lth-planet
This is a bit vague and general and I'm not sure what you mean by it. Could you give specific examples?banbbc wrote: Although claiming to be freethought the attitudes expressed here seem deeply rooted in traditional beliefs often from Christian religion.
I see no mockery of vegetarianism on that thread and no disrespect. There is nothing to stop you taking issue with anything anybody has said on any thread but you need to make a case for the opinions you express. Simply calling posts 'disrespectful' or saying they are rooted in the Christian religion without specifying why you think you are, isn't constructive and makes you sound a bit petulant, if I may say so.Whilst the mockery of vegetarianism in some of the responses to "What do humanists eat?" was simply sad and disrespectful.
the fact is that livestock take up large amounts of land which could be used to grow non meat foods which require less space for the same outputs of calories. the land freed up as a result of changing to a largely vegetarian diet could be used to feed more people (or in some cases turned over to other less intensive uses)
however I agree that the arguments are not in themselves a wholly convincing argument to give up meat. theres no reason why better managed farming (including of livestock) would not be compatible with a low carbon and sustainable lifestyle.
as an aside, I suspect that most people who give up meat do so for moral rather than environmental reasons. all animals are sentinent creatures and are conscious of pain. to the extent that we see the minimisation of pain and suffering as an ethical issues then there is perhaps no reason not to extend that to suffering other animals.
but to return to the point at hand. I do worry that good livestock farming techniques persuade some that to continue to eat meat is a credible choice - without seriously challenging the production process across the industry. if you are worried about the impact of food choices on the environment - vegetarianism still offers a clear set of options.
The point I would really like to make is that livestock farming involves an obvious problem, the slaughter of an animal, so people think immediately of eating non-animal produce only instead (as my wife did till she met me). However, if you asked me what is the worst thing I do on the farm, I would genuinely say making hay is high on the list. We grow the grass till it's high, then mow it with an 8' wide mower, then we go round with a tedder that spreads the hay, then we row it up and bale it. Most of these processes mean the total destruction, or at least the displacement of lots and lots of wildlife. We don't have a serious alternative.
If there is a deer calf in the long grass, they usually don't move, they stay still, hiding. I've slammed on the brakes within a couple of feet of chopping one to bits more than once.
So being vegan or vegetarian does not exclude "cruelty" to animals unless you live entirely on home-produced, home-picked food. You could possibly argue that arable is worse than traditional livestock farming depending upon whether you consider the death of 50 small things, birds, mammals, nests destroyed, instead of one large one (I just made those figures up!!!).
As a note, I'm in the UK, and the majority of farmland, I think it's 70%, is not suitable for arable production. A scientific report produced in Wales recently has shown that some traditional livestock farms are not only low producers of carbon, but some are actually carbon negative.
I know next to nothing about farming. Is hay used for anything other than feeding farm animals? If so, I can immediately see the argument a vegan might make...
When we're making hay we leave strips of long grass so that the leverettes that don't get run over can find their way )hopefully) into it. If they don't, they get picked up and taken away by birds of prey which are always hovering around any tractor in a field. You could say that is natural predation, but it isn;t really is it? It's a direct side-effect of tractors doing what they do.
Making of hay is an arable-type process which we can't avoid it unfortunately, and about 1/3rd of the grassland is used to produce hay/silage on a typical traditional livestock farm such as ours. On the good side, my type of livestock farm is a haven for wildlife. We were arable, changed 10 years ago and now we have more of everything and also the soil is now in good condition instead of being ruined by constant taking everything out of it.
I'm not making this as a case for anything. I'm just pointing out, because no-one ever seems to, that arable isn't all harmless as many seem to believe. I think when you realise this, it does change views on the meat-eating / non-meat-eating argument.
Sorry if I've gone on a bit!!!!
Thanks for the welcome, I'm a new Humanist as well.
The best thing about Monbiot's article is seeing what a real thinker does when confronted with new evidence: he changed his mind! Respect!
Except, of course, that a large proportion of arable crops are used to feed livestock. I think it's something like 35 or 40% globally, and significant more than that in the United States (I've seen figures of 60% and 70% quoted). In the UK, half of the barley grown is used for animal feed, and most of the rest is used for brewing and distilling (and, as far as I know, vegans and vegetarians don't drink any more booze than the rest of the population!). Around 40% of wheat grown in the UK is used for animal feed. Of the 120,000 hectares of land in the UK used for growing peas, 50,000 are for human consumption and 70,000 for animal consumption. I think the proportion of beans grown in the UK that are used for animal feed is even higher. Not even potatoes are grown entirely for human consumption (just about 80% of them). And of course we import a lot of soya to the UK for animal feed, from places like Brazil and Argentina.Koll wrote:So being vegan or vegetarian does not exclude "cruelty" to animals unless you live entirely on home-produced, home-picked food. You could possibly argue that arable is worse than traditional livestock farming depending upon whether you consider the death of 50 small things, birds, mammals, nests destroyed, instead of one large one (I just made those figures up!!!).
According to meatandhealth.com, around 60% of UK farmland is "best suited" to growing grass. That doesn't mean that some of it couldn't be used to grow other things. Hemp, for example, grows on land that's not suitable for most other crops. And there are shrubs and trees that could be grown and coppiced for fuel and fibre and other uses, as well as for food. Still, I don't think it would be necessary to plough up pasture in order to produce enough plant food to feed people in the UK. And in any case, I'm not arguing that everyone should become vegetarian, or that livestock farming should end any time soon. I would be happy if meat consumption were cut significantly, and based on the extensive rearing of livestock, using grassland and small amounts of surplus arable crops. You'd still have that problem with the hay, though.Koll wrote:As a note, I'm in the UK, and the majority of farmland, I think it's 70%, is not suitable for arable production.
Yes, three out of the twenty farms they looked at. I'd be interested to know how they did it. Were they using hydroelectric power, I wonder? Did they have woodlands?Koll wrote:A scientific report produced in Wales recently has shown that some traditional livestock farms are not only low producers of carbon, but some are actually carbon negative.
But anyway, I'm broadly in agreement with you, Koll. I'd like to see a move towards less intensive methods of livestock production, and less monoculture and more polyculture and permaculture. Perhaps agroforestry is the way to go. Meanwhile, I'm going to carry on with my own personal boycott of livestock agriculture, and remain vegan. It still makes sense, from both an animal welfare perspective and an environmental perspective, given the food production system we currently have, even if we accept Simon Fairlie's figures for the carbon emissions of livestock. (And I'm not quite ready to do that. See Elizabeth Kirkwood's defence of veganism in Prospect, 1 October 2010.) Yes, we could, in theory, come up with much better, less harmful ways of producing livestock. But if we did that, we would, I think, have to reduce our consumption of meat, dairy and eggs drastically. And in any case, we could also, in theory, come up with much better, less harmful ways of producing plant foods for human consumption. I'm hoping we do both.
Certainly for the UK, the figures quoted I find pretty dubious. On the grain front, I'd say maize is the number one feed, surely? You see it whilst you drive around, 8-10 foot high, you can't miss it, it is accepted as the most economical and easy to grow feed available. Why grow grain when you can grow maize with ten times the volume and higher feed value overall? The whole lot gets chopped, all 8-10 foot high of it, it's got to be at least 90% stem and leaf. So if the grain figure is correct, then considering the amount grown and the huge volumes available, then the overall amount of feed being used for livestock is simply beyond belief. Maybe they include the whole maize crop as "grain", or maybe they say that the land could have been used for grain so we'll count it as grain? But then, if you grew grain, instead of (say) fodder beet, as another example of mainstream cattle feed (and sheep to a lesser extent), you'd only get about 4 tonnes an acre instead of 30 (or more) tonnes, and it requires NO processing whatsoever.
What's the point in quoting figures per acre, when the crop can differ ten-fold (or more)? Peas can be fed as they are to humans except crushed, but far more common is to feed the whole crop, stem, leaves, pods and peas, again probably 10 times (or more I'd say) the volume, ensiled.
The Welsh farms had grass. Grown and grazed intelligently, it is said to be a huge carbon sink. That is one of the main good points of traditional livestock farming methods mixed with modern grazing techniques. New Zealand are experts at this. They can graze for just hours, then move livestock to another paddock creating constant regrowth.
I cannot be sure of the provenance of meat unless I only eat it at home. This means I cannot have meat when I eat out - and this includes restaurants, take-aways, the homes of friends or relatives.
So I have to say 'I don't eat meat'. I cannot say 'I won't eat YOUR meat'. This means I cannot even eat it at home.
[There are other reasons, including the wasteful use of arable to feed animals instead of humans, but I'll stop now.]
The only label that I know where you can guarantee provenance is Freedom Food. To get FF status for beef and sheep, the animal has to be born on an FF farm, raised on an FF farm, and slaughtered in an FF abattoir, which is a bit impractical really unless everyone was doing it. The scheme hasn't got anywhere yet even though it's being going for years, we were on it but gave up as no-one was interested. I don't know how it works with poultry.
Re global warming and cattle, here's a new report produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists which is quite interesting http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agricult ... ction.html.