What is the Environmental Impact of Eating Meat? – Discussion Continues
In February, 2012, I wrote an article about my conversion from vegetarian to omnivore: Is Eating Meat Sustainable?. Days before Easter, 2012, I was alerted of the New York Times essay contest, “Calling All Carnivores; Tell Us Why It’s Ethical to Eat Meat: A Contest”. The elite panel of judges compelled me to enter: Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Peter Singer, and Andrew Light. In June, 2012, I published my submittal through Biocadence: What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?. I have been delighted by this discussion, as it has continued amongst Biocadence followers. Much to my surprise, Google searches have yielded the Biocadence blog as the #1 result for queries such as: Is Eating meat sustainable? and What is the truth about eating meat and sustainability?
One especially well-read follower sent me a link to the article: Visualizing A Nation of Meat Eaters : NPR. She prompted the vital question, “Even if animals are raised kindly, they still require so much resource – how does this influence the ethics debate?” I think it is important that every intellect be involved in this curriculum. Please share your thoughts. I include my response below, and ask for the discussion to continue!
~ The soil/ruminant relationship and it’s incredible carbon sequestering capacity!!!! When these (only recently forgotten) techniques are embraced, beef/water ratios can lower from 1 lb/2500-6000 lbs to 1 lb/122 lbs (Source: The Vegetarian Myth).
~ The devastating impact that feed as “food” has on energy-use, the environment AND nutrition.
~ The ENORMOUS disparity between energy-use associated with CAFOs (consider import/export of goods to maintain operation, cesspit emissions, feed as “food”, antibiotics, etc.) vs. polyculture/beyond-organic farms (requiring a tiny sliver of resources necessary for CAFO operations). See Joel Salatin at Tara Firma Farms for a profile of the beyond-organic operation in Petaluma, CA. For more, check out my tour of Tara Firma Farms.
~ The negative impact of grain/gluten/legumes/sugar in many human beings, and resulting energy-use associated with healthcare/pharmaceuticals. There are increasingly convincing arguments that prevelant illnesses may be linked to diets consisting of these foods.
~ The depletion of soil (a carbon sequestering magician) associated with farming of annuals (ex: grains) and mono-crops, and the environmentally destructive potential of farming without ruminants, considering our current population/land ratio.
~ The energy and environmental costs of global relations and global conflict: while soy and corn are subsidized and used as ingredients in artificially inexpensive/low nutrient food-like exports, they are inextricably tied to global relations and global conflict.
~ The disparity between the amount of meat in demand and the amount of meat that is necessary, especially in a diet designed to free the body of the “hunger”-like withdrawals that can be associated with a diet heavy in grain/wheat/gluten/legumes.
In conclusion, I think that it is short-sighted to educate the masses with statistics that include energy-use data from CAFOs, without including data about the above mentioned issues. The quantity of meat, and how the meat is raised are so critical to ethical eating. I’m really excited to see how the curriculum evolves as more compassionate intellect is devoted to it!!!
A few quotes from books I recommend:
“In fact, the cow, or domestic herbivore if you will, is the most efficacious soil-building, hydrology-cycling, carbon-sequestering tool at the planet’s disposal. Yes, the cow has done a tremendous amount of damage. But don’t blame the cow. The managers of the cow have been and continue to be the problem. The same animal mismanaged to abuse the ecology is the greatest hope and salvation to heal the ecology.” ~ Joel Salatin, author of Folks, this ain’t normal
“It is my conviction that growing annual grains is an activity that cannot be redeemed. It requires wholesale extermination of ecosystems–the land has to be cleared of all life. It destroys the soil because the soil is bared–and it has to be bared to grow annuals.” Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth
Written by Annie Tichenor, Founder of Biocadence, LLC.
Quicklinks to Most Popular Biocadence Articles:
- A Bone to Pick: Vegetarian and Vegan Proselytizing (atheistexile.wordpress.com)
- World Vegetarian Day: Go Vegetarian for a Day and Win (organicready.org)
- Eat your vegetables. No, wait, don’t. USDA publicly kowtows to Beef Association. (switchboard.nrdc.org)
- Rise of the ‘semi-vegetarians’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Healthy Vegetarianism (wendymyers.me)