We are sometimes approached by people asking why we provide information on vegetarianism, veganism and keeping animals. Isn’t that a bit incongruous? We don’t think it is, because we want to a) help reduce the overall amount of meat eaten, and b) help people to make a living from smallholding, which becomes a lot more difficult (although not impossible) without animals.
Hi Simon. So if the world turned vegan tomorrow, how difficult would that make life for organic smallholders?
Well it would certainly reduce their options, and it would reduce the number of smallholders. It would basically reduce their options to market gardening, and producing a few other niche things like mushrooms, perhaps. It would effectively mean that you wouldn’t be able to run a smallholding on the very large areas of land that are not arable.
And how difficult would it be for smallholders to make a living from just plants? With planting, weeding, stopping pests, fertilising, harvesting, processing, it’s much more work for a lower financial reward, isn’t it?
I would agree. You can see that very clearly here at Monkton Wyld community, where I produce all the dairy – all the milk, yoghurt, cheese, plus I supply sausages, and I do all that part-time; and that’s for an average of 30 people per day. Whereas, the garden has two people working there, and they’re nowhere near self-sufficient in veg. It’s quite noticeable how it takes much less work to produce rather more nutrition from animal products.
And in terms of income for smallholders?
Well it is possible to make a living without animals. There are people who do it. Ian Tolhurst does it, as do several others. It’s not impossible – it’s market gardening. And at the moment, a lot of our veg is imported from abroad, so there’s room for more market gardeners.
What I’m trying to work out is how difficult life would become for smallholders if they didn’t have the option of producing and selling animal products, in competition with giant industrial agriculture, with their huge infrastructure, aerial spraying etc.
All the smallholders without high-quality arable land would probably be put out of business. You can make a living from market gardening, but your land would have to be good-quality arable, quite flat, good soil, not wet etc. All the rest of the land, especially on the western side of the country – the vast majority of it isn’t suitable for arable production. It’s suitable either for trees or for grass. And you can make a living from a much smaller area of grass than of trees.
But it would be much more difficult for an organic smallholder than an artificial farmer to survive without animals, because there would be no manure to put on their land (as well as the lower income). Most organic grain producers, for example, will have livestock as well, because that’s the most sensible option. Most artiticial grain farmers don’t – because they fling on the nitrogen, which is made from fossil fuels, and it doesn’t build the soil.
And if you have orchards on your smallholding, and you have livestock, the grass underneath your trees is your first crop – you won’t get your fruit crop until maybe September, but you’ve got a crop of grass to feed your animals in June, which will have got all the sun because there won’t have been many leaves on the trees until then. So that all adds to your profit, and helps you survive. If you don’t have livestock, what you have is a problem – grass that needs to be mown (or worse – kept down with herbicides), and with no animals to fertilise your trees.
In most of the UK, without animals, you wouldn’t be able to make a living from a smallholding. You’d have to have good arable land to do that. And even then, it’s more difficult to compete with industrial agriculture if you’re a small arable farmer than if you’re a small mixed farmer, because of the machinery and chemicals used in large-scale arable farming. Without meat, there would be far fewer smallholders (apart from market gardeners) and agriculture would become much more industrialised overall.
Another argument we hear is: if land isn’t arable, then why not plant trees, and try to make your living from fruit, timber, firewood, charcoal burning, tourism etc.
The best way is to have variety – you want a mixture of things. That’s what Permaculture is about, for example. And just trees would mean no grassland environment, and none of the quite good income that animal products bring.
I guess your book is full of these kinds of arguments. What would you say is the main conclusion you come to in your book?
I found that around 50% of meat and dairy globally is produced with a very high environmental impact, because it’s produced using grain grown and then fed to animals, which is extremely inefficient. But on the other hand, there’s a huge amount of vegetable matter – a by-product of plant-based agriculture – that doesn’t get eaten by humans. So that’s waste food, processing waste, spoilt crops, surplus crops, plant matter from non-arable areas – and it just doesn’t make sense not to feed this to animals. And animals produce manure that provides fertility to the land, and of course they provide high-quality food. It doesn’t really make sense to take animals out of the equation.
On top of that, in order to ensure enough grain in a bad year, globally, you’ve got to sow enough that you’ll have a surplus in every other year apart from the worst years. This is called the feed buffer. Livestock bring in elasticity into the food system. If there weren’t any livestock (or something else, like alcohol) where you can put the surplus grain, then people wouldn’t sow enough of it in a bad year, and this would result in an increased risk of starvation for lots of people in bad harvest years. So to avoid this risk, you have to produce a grain surplus in every year that it’s possible – and once you’ve done that, the most efficient thing to do with it is to feed it to animals. You could make gin out of it, or put it in your car, but the most efficient thing by far is to feed it to livestock – preferably dairy, but also pigs. If you don’t, it’s a waste. So you get meat with a very low environmental impact, because it’s a by-product of the farming system.
It’s possible to maintain soil fertility without animal manures though, isn’t it?
There are lots of people who say that it’s not possible to maintain soil fertility globally without animal manures – the Biodynamic people, for instance. I don’t know the answer to this, but if you’re using a green manure like clover for fertilising your arable land, and doing it in rotation, which is what organic farming is all about, then it makes more sense to feed the clover to dairy cows than to plough it in, from the point of view of farmers’ income and a balanced diet. It’s certainly very low impact, as no tractor / fuel is needed because no ploughing is needed.
You’re critical of the industrial meat system. Would you say that we eat far too much meat?
Yes. I think that in industrial countries, it needs to go down to around one-third of what we eat at the moment if we’re going to stop feeding grain to animals (apart from the surplus grain grown for bad years that I mentioned above).
We get an organic meat box delivered from a farm in Yorkshire. Rob, the farmer there, tells me that if overall meat consumption falls, the kind of people who eat less meat, or no meat at all, would be the same people who would otherwise have eaten organic meat from mixed smallholders. So this would damage smallholders, but factory farms wouldn’t be affected.
I’d agree with that. What I would say is that by going vegan, you lose your leverage on the meat industry – to create a decent industry. If you eat only sustainable meat – and I and many others have made a pledge not to eat meat from factory farms – then you’re creating a demand for decent meat, and you’re willing to pay more for decent meat, which gives an incentive to farmers to produce meat more humanely, with a lower environmental impact. If you give up meat altogether, you’re creating no demand for that at all, and as I’ve explained above, that’s not a good thing, environmentally.
I agree, but Rob is saying that the only people who will listen to that message are the people who care. The majority, who have no problem eating factory-farmed meat, won’t hear or care about that message.
I think these ideas filter through though. For example, pretty soon, there are only going to be free-range eggs in UK shops. The idea that battery chicken farming is bad has gained more and more acceptance over the years. So things change.
Yes. Another thing I’ve said to vegans is that if the world became vegan tomorrow, then we wouldn’t be able to hunt rabbits or deer (that have no natural predators in the UK), or to run animals underneath orchard trees, or in woodland, and so a lot more natural habitat would have to be turned into arable land to grow crops.
It would probably mean that a lot more of our food would have to be imported too – soya products, bananas, coconuts, rice etc.
And if we stopped eating fish – there are some countries where fish provide quite a large proportion of people’s protein – a lot more agricultural land would have to be brought into production to replace that protein with plant foods, and that would mean less natural habitat.
That’s true. There would have to be lots more arable land for producing food for humans. But at the moment, lots of arable land is used to produce feed crops for livestock. So more arable land would become available, which might reduce the need for more habitat removal. There’s no doubt that if we lived on a completely vegan diet, we’d need less land to feed ourselves. But pasture-fed livestock have a benign impact on the land. They keep a grassland-based ecology going, that has always been there, because of large herds of wild herbivores, which don’t really exist any more – not in developed countries. What we need is a decent mixture of trees, grassland and arable. If we don’t have livestock, we won’t have that mixture unless we resort to fire or fossil fuels and machinery. And there’s no need to do that. Animals do it much more efficiently – they harvest biomass and provide fertility much better than anything else.
From experience, the vegan response to those points will probably be that ecology did perfectly well on its own before humans cleared forests for fields – wasn’t that a ‘good’ ecology?
There were grazing animals before humans, and there’s always been a ‘war’ if you like, between trees and grass. Trees compete with grass by overshadowing, and grass competes with trees by covering ground so effectively that tree seeds can’t get in. The way grass achieves this is by co-operating with herbivores, because when herbivores eat grass they create a thick carpet that trees and shrubs can’t get into. If you throw an acorn onto a lawn, it’s not going to grow, because there’s no way that it can get into the soil – and then some animal will come along and eat the acorn.
Humans didn’t invent grazing animals – they only domesticated them.
What do you think of the moral argument that it’s wrong to keep animals or to kill a sentient being?
I think that’s moral squeamishness, really. Almost all animals end up getting eaten at some point – even top predators, when they get old or sick. I don’t buy the argument that animals suffer less in the wild than if they’re farmed either. Farmers provide for animals. The animals provide meat, dairy, eggs, plus soil fertility, and the farmer guarantees that they have a decent life, that they get fed during the winter, and that they get a quick death. These things can’t be guaranteed in the wild.
For example, wild pigs produce 5 or 6 young per year. If they all survived into adulthood, it wouldn’t be long before the world would be overrun with wild pigs. But they don’t all survive, by any means. 90% of wild piglets die before adulthood. That’s the way nature works – it produces a massive surplus of babies, and most of them either get eaten by predators or die of disease or starvation. What humans do is to guarantee to animals that their young will be fed until slaughter, when death will be fast and painless. They won’t be killed by predators, which often takes several minutes of horror, and they won’t be left to die painfully of disease or starvation. The fear, agony and horror suffered by wild animals is very far from the experience of farm animals. Opposing that, to me, has to be about their own moral sensibilities rather than animal welfare. This is bearing in mind that I’m only talking about smallholders keeping livestock free-range and humanely, not industrial agriculture, which I oppose.
So to conclude?
I’d say two things. First, environmentally, it would be good if humans ate less meat, but not if they ate no meat; and second, keeping animals on farms is definitely not bad for their welfare compared to the awful things that happen to virtually all animals in the wild – and usually before they’re a few months old. Wild animals don’t die in their sleep at a ripe old age. Refusing to eat meat or animal products because of a concern for animal welfare is down to an inability to understand or accept the basic fact that nature runs on different things eating each other. This might be down to the fact that veganism is more an urban than a rural phenomenon, where people live further from nature.
Simon Fairlie is the author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance, and The Rural Planning Handbook. He runs a micro-dairy at Monkton Wyld Court Community in Dorset, and the Scythe Shop, offering Austrian scythes and beginners’ scything courses.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Robert Jones September 16th, 2018
If the world turned vegan what would happen to the animals,birds and insects that inhabited the land required to grow the extra plants to feed the world? I have read that if we turned to use biodiesel there will not be enough land left to grow the food we need now !
2John Harrison September 16th, 2018
What a great article! The only thing I could find to even raise an eyebrow at was the inability of two full time growers to provide vegetables for thirty people. Sounds like a time management or methodology based problem.
I’m afraid facts, logic and rational argument won’t convince any vegans though. In my experience they’re totally convinced of their moral superiority and rightness of their position. Oddly similar to those whose religious beliefs dominate their existence.
3Annie Leymarie September 16th, 2018
Robert Jones: if the world turned vegan we would need far, far less land to feed the world. This is a key reason why the 20,880 (nearly twenty-one thousand) scientists who have signed the recent ‘Warning to Humanity’ want us to move to a mostly vegan diet (and preferably a vegan one – as promoted by the lead author, an eminent professor of ecology – https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229). This would free much land for rewilding, which would give biodiversity a badly-needed boost – as well as provide other services such as indeed energy – and biogas can be produced from the grassland areas that some livestock farmers claim are only good for grazing. This is done in the UK by Ecotricity (https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-green-energy/our-green-gas).
See explanations on land use for instance here: https://www.facebook.com/awellfedworld/photos/a.10151311391538296/10156337188328296/?type=3&theater.
Some 60% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef accounts for only 2% of the calories consumed (https://www.globalagriculture.org/report-topics/meat-and-animal-feed.html). Thus a highly regarded polymath scientists writes that “The aggregate mass of cattle and humans is crushingly larger than the total mass of all wild vertebrates, and it clearly leaves too little space for the multitude of other species. Cows and men occupy much of the available land, consume much of its photosynthetic product, and generate an increasing amount of greenhouse gas. No wonder we are in the midst of mass-scale species extinction, with no readily acceptable and effective relief in sight”. (http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/planet-of-the-cows).
A major study on land use by the United Nations concluded that “A global food transition to less meat, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food, would have a dramatic effect on land use with many other positive implications as well, like increased carbon uptake and substantial reductions of methane and nitrous oxide [two major greenhouse gases, far more potent than CO2]” (http://wedocs.unep.org/handle/20.500.11822/8861).
4Dave Darby September 16th, 2018
Annie – agreed – the less meat we eat from where we are now, the better it would be for the environment. But there would come a point at which that would reverse.
Like you, I’d like to see factory farming eradicated, but eating no meat at all would be worse, ecologically-speaking, than eating a small amount, for the following reasons that I’ve used before:
1. If no animals were harvested from the wild, more agricultural land would be required to replace the protein that this would have provided.
2. If no fish were harvested from the sea (OK, this is a subset of 1, with the same result).
3. If no animals were run under orchard trees, or chickens allowed to peck around on smallholdings, this would have the same result.
4. If no animals were run on non-arable land or in woodland, this would have the same result.
Plus one more reason that I learned from Simon:
5. The grain surplus grown to insure against lean years would be wasted, again, requiring more agricultural land to make up the shortfall.
But for me, the most important battle right now is the one to support mixed smallholders against industrial agriculture, and it would just make it harder for them if keeping animals wasn’t an option.
5Malcolm September 16th, 2018
Mmmmmh, interesting but!!……I am a big fan of the work that Simon Fairlie has done and have also bought one of his scythe’s (very good too). However there are a number of comments here that may seem a bit off beam to some people. There are a number of animals that are not exploited for their carcasses that are excellent as manure animals for farmers, horses and donkeys for one and alpacas and the other camelids also spring to mind. So some people might find the statement that ‘it would be difficult for organic smallholders to survive as there would be no manure to put on the land’ not completely fair. Excess horses are sold as could be other animals, people like having animals and chickens are popular in most towns/cities still and most are not really there solely for food production.
Also, many will question that ‘market garden land needs to be flat and good quality arable, not wet West land which is suitable for grass and trees only’. With permaculture principles is is perfectly possible to produce abundant fruit and veg’ (market garden) on hill land in the West as we are doing in the far North Highlands of Scotland at the moment, and this on very stony beach land that is almost continually battered by winds, and we are far from alone. It is also possible to grow large amounts of grain such as oats on this land, as has been done for centuries. We have a 16th century grain drying kiln on our land. Arable land in the East is not a prerequisite for excellent abundant vegetable, grain and fruit production by small farmers.
If we consider that we eat very little meat in the future, pigs, cattle, sheep, chickens etc do not just disappear and can still be used to manure land and maybe even produce some surplus milk. And as meat eaters are not likely to disappear also, the excess/culling if there is any could be done humanely and used for food for those that want it. The other statement that there is ‘less work to produce more nutrition from animals’ seems to miss the fact that it maybe less work for the farmer but there is a whole lot more work in transportation for slaughter, slaughter, butchering, plus more transportation, than there would be for market garden or grain produce.
It also seems strange to say that ‘meat would have a low environmental impact by feeding excess grain from grain surplus in good growing years’. If grain is produced by large farmers, either organically or non-organically it would not have a low environmental impact whether there was an excess or not.
At the moment 80% of the worlds food is produced by small family farms http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X15001217
and there is nothing to say that this cannot increase and that meat production can decrease dramatically, indeed many people would say that this is necessary and critical now.
We do not have to be rigid in our definition of vegetarian or vegan and treat it like a dogma. It is very possible that many of us can eat very little meat that is produced in an ecological way and humanely killed. It is very difficult to see a way out of that situation given the amount of livestock that we already have in the world and also given the fact that our biodiversity is reducing at 70,000 species a year, we do not want to add to that by culling all of our ‘domestic’ livestock as well? And that livestock can fertilise our land. Let those people who want it have a little meat but work on greatly reducing its inhuman production and slaughter, including the unbelievably lengthy transportation of it for slaughter from most areas.
Keep up the great work on the site here.
6Annie Leymarie September 16th, 2018
I am off soon to Africa for several months (by train) and can only dip in here very briefly. Several months ago I posted much evidence that counters some of the points made here but was told that Dave (the editor) did not have the time to read and respond, but would find the time…soon. This never happened and now we have this interview. Might a livestock farmer (and writer on the topic) have some vested interest in livestock farming? Will ‘Low Impact Living’ also interview others – George Monbiot for instance?
Simon is asked what would happen if the world turned vegan tomorrow. Of course it won’t happen tomorrow but we need to move in that direction extremely fast if we want a livable planet. Yet another report published last week explains the crucial and huge contraction required from the EU livestock sector to remain within safe environmental limits (http://www.risefoundation.eu/images/files/2018/2018_RISE_LIVESTOCK_FULL.pdf).
It highlights some of the problems with livestock: “first are the GHG emissions, mostly methane and nitrous oxide from animals, their manure, and from the production of their feeds. Second, is the leakage of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus and their compounds which cause serious water pollution and eutrophication, and air pollution. Third, there is direct and indirect degradation of biodiversity through land use change and degradation of soils by production of livestock and feed crops. Fourth, negative human health effects from livestock can arise as respiratory disease from air pollutants, especially ammonia, from anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and zoonoses, and risks of certain cancers increase with the consumption of processed and red meat products. Also, a general over-consumption of livestock products (and sugars) has led to a serious rise in obesity and an associated constellation of chronic and damaging diseases including diabetes and coronary heart disease. Given the innate inefficiency of biological processes involved and the leakiness of livestock production, the over-consumption of animal protein, which is simply burned for energy, represents a grossly wasteful and damaging use of scarce resources”.
The report also demolishes the myth that “livestock add nutrients to the system”. For instance compost, green manure and other strategies can replace animal manure without the high leakages from livestock farming, as an increasing number of veganic farmers are demonstrating. For instance Organic Lea, promoted in Low Impact Living’s previous blog post, have made the request to become certified veganic growers (https://www.facebook.com/groups/veganorganicnetwork/?hc_ref=ARTM4E_KA4d1LuOkMgIP_jv0b3coR1R5UKJwbm6IJdzX88q1UjqLo5SnoS8DXXFFWB0) and this trend is growing fast.
The report cited doesn’t cover areas such as “fish, water use and availability or biodiversity”. Fish farming also adds huge amount of methane to the atmosphere, as well as many other detrimental environmental impacts and low efficiency (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth?CMP=fb_gu).
For water, another report published this week shows that three thousand litres of water are required each day to feed one average British person (https://phys.org/news/2018-09-meat-free-diets-footprint-scientists.html), largely due to the “colossal amount of water for producing meat – typically 15,000 litres per kilogram of beef, for example, versus 1000 litres for a kilogram of grain” (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2179017-france-going-veggie-would-save-1m-litres-of-water-per-person-each-year/).
Biodiversity is also key – with land use being highest for free range farm animals (as well as their GHG emissions) countering any relative benefits of this type of farming over more intensive systems. This is why George Monbiot writes that choosing one over the other is to “swap one disaster – mass cruelty – for another – mass destruction”. One study examined biodiversity impacts in Europe and showed that a Mediterranean diet, widely considered a ‘healthy, balanced’ diet”, had regional biodiversity impacts three times as high as those from a vegan diet (with GHG emissions twice as high as well as a lower nutritional value) (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261730848X.
Simon Fairlie argues about manure – and other aspects – “from the point of view of farmers’ income and a balanced diet” – but income depends on demand as well as taxes and subsidies and these are changing fast! They will have to change much faster still. The EU guidance report also states that “Larger efforts will need to be made specially to reduce methane emissions, since during 1990-2015 the reduction in methane emissions in the livestock sector was low compared to that of other sectors of the economy that have managed to reduce them by half. Increased production and expansion of the dairy sector have kept methane emissions high, but lack of markets for some of the products could add additional pressure to the sector to contract. (…) It is suggested that the change must be a citizen-led, consumer-led, enterprise. Although it requires action by both consumers and producers the transition required will only occur if driven by consumers. This will not happen spontaneously but only if Government takes strong action to spur the necessary changes.”
An article about the report puts it more bluntly: “One of the largest barriers to this sustainable food vision is Europe’s farmers themselves (…)”. Indeed livestock farming lobbies have had huge power over governments and various institutions, such as the FAO, to evade or weaken reporting of GHG emissions and other polluting impacts. There is plenty of evidence on this (e.g. https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5976-emissions-impossible-how-big-meat-and-dairy-are-heating-up-the-planet).
As to the “balanced diet”: Overall, scientific evidence clearly shows that whole food plant-based diets are the healthiest. The editorial team and advisory board of the new ‘International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention’ are all top health experts who promote whole food plant-based diets because these have been shown to prevent 80% of non-communicable diseases, i.e. the bulk of the health burden worldwide https://ijdrp.org/index.php/ijdrp/about/editorialTeam. The Editor in Chief, when President of the American College of Cardiology (the biggest association of cardiologists in the world) said: “There are two types of cardiologists – vegans, and those who haven’t read the data”.
Other points: permaculture indeed promotes variety but one doesn’t need to kill and remove animals from the system when they are till adolescents – thus creating some of the leakages mentioned. There are now plenty of examples of veganic permaculture (e.g. http://www.veganicpermaculture.com/).
Simon says “by going vegan, you lose your leverage on the meat industry”. Indeed by stopping smoking you lose your leverage on the tobacco industry, by avoiding a diesel car you lose your leverage on the diesel car industry, by avoiding nuclear weapons you lose your leverage on the nuclear weapons industry, etc. An increasing number of people want to say “good buy and good riddance to livestock farming” – and know what the best leverage is! https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/livestock-farming-artificial-meat-industry-animals
As to free-range eggs and humane organic meat and dairy, increasingly consumers are waking up to the realities and seeing how they have been so often duped https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/organic-milk-video-footage-animal-cruelty-farm-equality-uk-a8508956.html.
Producers too are shifting in increasing numbers, e.g. https://freefromharm.org/humane-farmer/. They can get help to shift from a number of sources (e.g. https://www.vegansociety.com/take-action/campaigns/grow-green) and they can choose to “lead, follow or get out of the way” (https://www.gfi.org/meat-industry-insider-tells-peers-to-lead).
Simon mentioned the current lower returns for tree crops rather than grazing livestock, but the demand for nuts is growing exponentially, the UK is hardly producing any for sale and the few producing seem to be doing rather well, and will do better still with new subsidies (https://www.kentishcobnuts.com/shop/kentish-cobnuts/). The same is true of many other crops that have a bright future here, such as hemp (https://www.goodhempfood.com/). And of course the UK currently imports 80% of the fruit and vegetables consumed. Isn’t that a big enough niche for wise entreprising farmers?
In conclusion: “Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth?) – and this is confirmed by many other studies, including on human health too. The evidence on this for low impact living is just too strong to deny! Instead of resisting it, let’s get together and help producers shift.
7Doctor Hilary Jones September 16th, 2018
One thing to keep in mind is that, in a country like Britain, arable land has to be on a rotation, usually of four years; and it doesn’t grow breadmaking wheat every year. There has to be a barley break, then feed wheat, then something else, most beneficially fodder beans or peas that leave nitrogen in the ground and provide valuable protein feed for stock which spares Amazonia and the pampas. Organic arable farms usually have a grass break to build fertility; and of course, as Simon says, it’s crazy to bring on machinery to keep mowing it off when it could be grazed and would improve the soil better that way as the animals leave their droppings.
This organic farm is totally unsuitable for arable production because the fields are too steep and inaccessible to get modern machinery into; never mind the investment in drying and storage facilities that would be necessary. However, today’s walk round showed not only thriving stock, but also ever-expanding diversity in the sward, fungal , insect and bird life.
8james bate September 16th, 2018
Thanks for your post Annie ,a comprehensive thread killer that asks why are we still having this discussion, if you must have animal protein its mussels or insects.
To paraphrase Mandy . He makes sausages he would say that.
Have a good trip.
9Annie Leymarie September 16th, 2018
Dave, I’ve just moved to a flat in London that I’m still refurbishing and am utterly overstretched so must resist responding at length. I believe I’ve previously responded to your arguments. Let’s consider a situation where humans would only eat a very small amount of wild animals if and when this becomes a genuinely valid scenario. Where you intend to hunt wild animals you could be foraging plants instead, getting healthier food with a smaller footprint, choosing lower on the food chain. Wherever your food comes from, you cannot escape the second law of thermodynamics. For the time being you are still “getting an organic meat box delivered from a farm in Yorkshire” (assuming you are the interviewer) – possibly shooting wildlife in addition.
Meanwhile, wild animals keep being killed by livestock farmers – such as the tens of thousands of badgers currently ‘culled’ for no valid reason other than assuaging frustrated dairy farmers.
Apart from road kill (and it’s amazing how many of my friends claim to only eat road kill when I mostly see this on motorways where it’s impossible to stop), killing for food by humans mostly contributes to loss of biodiversity. We need to add non-human predators to land freed for rewilding, not subtract preys. For instance the catastrophic loss of birdlife in France has been blamed (rightly!) on pesticides and loss of woodland but the French also love shooting wild birds – and this can’t help.
We’re over-consuming protein. Thus let’s go plant-based – if only for our own health! – and allow much land to rewild, leaving animals in peace. Simon claims – as you had – that wild animals tend to have a much shorter and horrid life than farm animals. I disagree. Give me the life of a wild rabbit rather than a farmed one any day! As a farmed animal I am deprived of freedom, I have no choice how I reproduce, nor where I sleep or what I eat, in many cases I never meet the other gender other than, if I’m lucky, children that will be taken away, I will have my tail cut off, my balls squeezed off, my tits squeezed or any other atrocities committed without anaesthetic, I will be genetically selected to grow too fast for my body, it is an absolute certainty that I will be killed at a very young age (unless I’m a dairy cow or a laying hen, for instance, and then I suffer a few more years of torture) – not my idea of a good life!
Excess grain can be turned into a range of other products, such as alcohol as Simon mentioned (or kombucha), or various processed food, or composted, or biodigested for energy, or given to wildlife – and most importantly it can be kept for several years, in the right conditions! Some people report storing grain for 20 years and still find it edible (in the Bible they mention 7 years as standard). Also imagine how many refrigeration facilities would be made available, both commercial and domestic, if indeed we went vegan overnight – and what a difference this would make to the climate. The famous Project Drawdown puts management of refrigerants as the No 1 most impactful measure to adopt (http://www.drawdown.org/solutions-summary-by-rank).
10Malcolm September 16th, 2018
Yes, I agree with most of your comments Annie but we cant get everyone to give up meat anymore than we can get everyone who has one to get rid of their car. So, we need a discussion as to the way forward that involves some people, probably a lot of people, still eating meat and how we produce that sustainably.
11Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 16th, 2018
Malcolm I would love people to have access to solid evidence to help them make informed decisions but sadly this is rarely the case. It took the publication of more than 7000 scientific studies before anything was done by any government anywhere to inform people about the health dangers of tobacco. The tobacco lobby was too powerful and a large proportion (the majority?) of doctors and decision-makers themselves smoked, so were not keen on any change. A friend was telling me yesterday to his father is a vascular surgeon yet chain smokes at home. So there’s still progress to be made there, but at least the information is now readily available and smokers have become a minority. Animal-based food doesn’t just heavily impact our health, it contributes to threatening life on Earth. And yet, despite hundreds of studies, misinformation prevails. Many sites which should be informing us in fact misinform. I am very grateful to Dave for allowing comments so that we can have such conversations. The Sustainable Food Trust (founded and run by a livestock farmer) puts out misinformation but refuses to publish comments that present counter arguments. The propaganda from the Savory Institute, which claims that livestock can help heal the planet, is relentless.
Sociologists have worked out that it takes 10% of a population to be change-makers for tipping points to take place very fast and for social situations to be radically transformed. Quite a number of key personalities have adopted plant-based diets and are telling the world are much better they feel for it. Among top athletes, for instance, are Novak Djokovic (just won US Open, 12th Grand Slam), Venus and Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton, Scott Jurek and many more who feature in the recent film by (vegan) James Cameron – ‘The Change Makers’.
Our taste buds actually adapt very quickly to change but for those who can’t let go of meat there are now some terrific ‘plant-based meats’ and very soon lab-grown meat – so sweeping change is happening in the same way as plant ‘milks’ are gradually replacing dairy. Cheese is very addictive but here again there are some fabulous plant alternatives, though sadly not readily available in many places yet (and there’s much potential for farming entrepreneurs there).
It won’t be long before governments introduce taxes and subsidies that favour plant crops over animal products because pressure is growing fast for them to do so.
So why not focus on all the possibilities this changes are opening up?
You’ve written that you do not want to add to the massive losses in biodiversity “by culling all of our ‘domestic’ livestock as well” – but exactly the opposite would happen! Our domestic livestock are all bred artificially and practically all killed when they are still juveniles. All this killing would stop: http://thevegancalculator.com/animal-slaughter/ – as well as the killing of all the wild animals killed to protect livestock and game (in the UK badgers, foxes and birds of prey come to mind, for instance https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/07/unfair-game-why-are-britain-s-birds-prey-being-killed). Others have given it a thought, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M1fKxjlLV4 and https://www.thoughtco.com/what-will-happen-if-everyone-goes-vegan-127602. So biodiversity would thrive!
One recent study is called: ‘Biodervsity conservation: the key is reducing meat consumption’. It explains that “the consumption of animal-sourced food products by humans is one of the most powerful negative forces affecting the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity. Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss (…).Livestock production is also a leading cause of climate change, soil loss, water and nutrient pollution, and decreases of apex predators and wild herbivores, compounding pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity. It is possible to greatly reduce the impacts of animal product consumption by humans on natural ecosystems and biodiversity while meeting nutritional needs of people, including the projected 2–3 billion people to be added to human population. We suggest that impacts can be remediated through several solutions: (1) reducing demand for animal-based food products and increasing proportions of plant-based foods in diets, the latter ideally to a global average of 90% of food consumed (…)” (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969715303697).
Please also see my response to Robert Jones above – with quotes from other scientists about biodiversity,
12Malcolm September 17th, 2018
These are good academic arguments as are many of Annie’s but they are, well,academic. We will still have the domestic farm animals that we have now, unless of course you have a mass cull and why would vegetarians/vegans do that? So you would still have the animals to run under orchard trees etc etc.
The WHO says that we have enough food to feed 15 billion people now and not all of that is meat. OK we have to sort out our criminal waste of food and the distribution of that food to those who are starving, but when you consider that the majority of us in the western world are overweight, the growing of food is not the major difficulty in our food system.
Maybe I have missed something in Simons analysis of the excess grain production and using the surplus provided, therefore becoming low impact, surely high impact doesn’t become low impact if you use it? You also mention the grain surplus being wasted? Surely if you grow an excess for lean years this is not wasted but stored for the possibility of next year being a poor harvest? You cannot therefore use this excess, it must be stored and if not used you do not need to grow so much next year? Excuse me if I have misunderstood this system and if I have perhaps you could explain it?
The other difficulty in our food system is that the staples such as grain, potatoes etc are sold on the commodities market only, so by the very nature of this it is not low impact as obviously the profits go to the money men (and supermarkets) not the producers, and as stated before this money is not ring fenced. Our whole food and farming system needs to be dismantled and put on a proper footing wher producers are paid for the food they produce, not given subsidies.
As someone said recently ‘ one day you may need a policeman, one day you may need a lawyer, one day you may need a vicar but every day, three times a day you will need a farmer’.
13Dave Darby September 17th, 2018
Annie – your arguments are against industrial agriculture, which we agree with. We’re not advocating industrial agriculture, or over-consumption of meat products.
And yes, let’s help smallholders to become veganic growers if they want to. From where we are now, the more of those the better – we promote veganism and vegetarianism after all; but keeping a few animals allows smallholders to feed those green manures to animals and get some income from the meat, as well as fertilising the soil with manure, rather than having to use fossil fuels to plough green manures in.
I agree with your point about leverage on the meat industry btw – I didn’t think that was a great argument.
14Ed Cummings September 17th, 2018
Must remember that meat,milk, and eggs (food) aren’t the only products we get from animals http://animalsmart.org/feeding-the-world/products-from-animals and I wonder if anyone has compared the alternative? http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-05-24/vegan-leather-is-it-a-sustainable-alternative/9774768 https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mark-oaten/faux-fur-is-more-than-a-f_b_11294686.html
15Dave Darby September 17th, 2018
Annie – let’s boil it down to this. Imagine I have a mixed, organic, permaculture smallholding, and on that smallholding I have tree crops. Under the trees I run a few sheep. They keep the grass down, which means I don’t have to spend money and burn fossil fuels to mow it, or time to scythe it. I cut some grass for hay, and grow a few mangolds for them to eat in the winter. I then sell the meat, which gives me an income that I wouldn’t otherwise have had, so I can compete more easily with industrial agriculture. There is no runoff – it all goes to build soil and fertilise the trees. The ghg emissions are no greater than from the wild herbivores that would have lived there if there were no smallholdings. And of course I allow a few chickens to free-range so that I can harvest their meat and eggs – again, for an income that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. They get all their own food, apart from a few scraps that I give them. They are excellent pest controllers. I sell the meat via a butcher in a local town, and I deliver it by bicycle.
Please tell me the where the environmental problem is.
Or – I go into the wild and catch some fish / rabbits, and so harvest food from the wild, which doesn’t require the removal of wild habitat for agriculture. Again, tell me where the environmental problem is.
Disagree with your analysis of farm life for animals btw. I used to look after the sheep at Redfield. We also had free-ranging chickens and pigs in the woods – they had idyllic lives. 90% of wild animals die horribly in the first few months of life.
I agree with Malcolm – people eat meat, so let’s provide it as sustainably as possible. I don’t want to criticise your train journey to Africa – I’m very impressed (we don’t fly either), but you didn’t have to do it. Same for car journeys, or many other things that people do. We just have to provide things as sustainably as we can, as well as cutting down overall. We have to do this with meat as much as anything else. But I think your focus on meat is on moral grounds. Is that fair to say?
16Annie Leymarie September 18th, 2018
Hillary, why do you want your beans and peas to be fodder for livestock rather than food for humans – which would be so much more ecologically efficient, health-promoting and potentially more economically rewarding? There is excellent potential in the UK for human-edible pulses which are so often imported despite the fact that demand is on the increase! See for instance the Hodmedod entreprise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgYUxb7Zr1k.
One recent and important study has shown that “if Americans replaced the beef in their diets with beans, the U.S. would immediately reach up to 75 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for 2020. It confirms what we’ve known for a while: To protect our warming planet, we must start moving animal products, like meat, cheese and eggs off of our plates (…)”. The writer continues: “As an added benefit, it turns out that what’s good for the planet is also good for our health. As a dietitian, beans are one of the superfoods I always recommend to my patients. Beans are packed with protein, but unlike animal products, they’re low in the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight problems, dementia, and even some types of cancer.
Beans are also packed with fiber, an important nutrient 97 percent of Americans fall short on. Fiber, which is only found in plant foods, can help control weight, lower cholesterol and even fight off cancer. Fiber also helps control blood glucose, which may be why studies show that beans could play a key role in stemming our growing type 2 diabetes epidemic.
In addition to being versatile—take your pick from black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, navy, soy, and more—beans are also easy on the wallet. A pound of pinto beans runs for about $1.20, while a pound of lean ground beef now costs $5.70. Choosing more plant-based foods is an astonishingly simple solution to so many of our nation’s problems (…)”. Do read the whole article: https://www.alternet.org/environment/how-you-can-help-save-planet-and-yourself-simply-substituting-beans-beef.
And there are so many other crops that can be grown besides the ones you mention. Innovative farmers are doing very well growing and selling quinoa, soya, hemp (https://www.goodhempfood.com/our-story/) and many other crops for which the demand is increasing fast. And of course there is also a high demand for UK-grown vegs and fruit.
You don’t need to have a grass break to increase fertility, you could have a row of perennial nitrogen-fixers – shrubs or small trees, such as various Eleagnus species, or alders, or sea buckhorn, etc, which can act as windbreaks, are fantastic at increasing fertility and provide all kinds of products such as fruit, fibres and wood (see nitrogen-fixers for instance here http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.com/2011/05/plants-nitrogen-fixers.html). No need to mow!
If your farm is too steep for arable it might be perfect for tree crops – fruit, nuts or timber – and/or you could get subsidies for planting trees (or letting the land rewild naturally) just for wildlife habitat https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/michael-gove-farmers-must-plant-woodland-subsidies/. For all kinds of reasons we will have to move away from meat and other animal-sourced food, and thus will release much land for other purposes, with the restoration of biodiversity being a top priority.
17malcolm September 18th, 2018
Annie, Many thanks for your comments, they are very good and useful. I agree with you that this is a very good forum for discussing these issues and I too appreciate it very much. I am also in agreement with you on most of what you say, I rarely eat meat (I term myself a meat eating vegitarian…). There are one or two points though that maybe worth consideration.
On the health front it is slightly incongruous for us to stop eating meat to transfer to a plant based diet that is drenched in toxic chemicals that have been widely documented to cause a huge number serious health risks and deaths, one example here https://www.ehn.org/what-foods-have-the-most-pesticides-on-them-2518891617.html The risk to our water supply from these pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodentcides is also a great concern. Transferring to a plant based diet, although probably beneficial overall, is certainly not a silver bullet for health.
Our current farming system is also not beneficial to the environment even without the meat production, indeed Michael Gove stated in October last year that our topsoil is 30 – 40 years away from becoming infertile. https://www.landlove.com/article/2837/news/gove-britain-s-soil-is-30-to-40-years-away-from-becoming-infertile. We can maybe survive a nuclear war, survive a military coup but no country can survive a loss of topsoil. So it may well be that we have more pressing things to consider than the very important issue of reducing our meat consumption. I’m not of course saying that reducing our meat production will not help the soil but it will not stop its demise on its own, and many people would say that to drastically reduce our meat consumption within 30 years is not very likely.
Although many of our animals are artificially inseminated it is certainly not all of them. “Sheep breeding in the UK remains largely an extensive natural mating system” according to the defra website. The majority of chickens are also not given AI https://www.msdvetmanual.com/poultry/artificial-insemination/overview-of-artificial-insemination-in-poultry.
If we relate the smoking situation in the UK to the transfer to a meat free diet, there has been an approx’ 30% reduction in smoking in the last 44 years https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2015#smoking-data-for-great-britain-and-england-from-the-opinions-and-lifestyle-survey-1974-to-2015-adults-aged-16-years-and-above
If this was possible for the reduction of meat eaters we would still be a very long way away from the 90% target stated. We still have over 17% of people in the UK who smoke, and we are 79th on the list of smoking nations. Some countries such as Vietnam and Thailand show increases in smoking https://ourworldindata.org/smoking and other countries. 60% of men in Russia smoke https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/world-according-to-tobacco-consumption/
So, statistically the figures do not look at all good for 90% of a world population to give up meat in anything like the near future, especially if we relate it to the smoking situation, which does not seem unfair and was also the analogy given.
So, many people would say: reduce meat consumption but produce it sustainably, stop using pesticides, herbicides, fungicides (suicides?) and heal our soil as a matter of urgency, whilst dismantling our industrial farming and food system.
18Dave Darby September 18th, 2018
Annie – we’re on an organic farm in Tuscany (got here by train). It’s gorgeous – terracotta roofs, stone walls, lakes, woodland, goats. We came across a kitten who we suspected had lost her mother. She was crying to us, but too scared to come to us. The cutest thing you’ve ever seen. She’s almost definitely going to suffer the same fate that the majority of wild vertebrates suffer – a painful and terrifying death before 3 months old. That doesn’t happen on farms.
I watched a documentary about Tuscany before we came here. They were showing the wild boar hunt, then cooking the meat with pasta, Tuscan stylee.
You’d be against that, I guess.
They showed one local farm that kept pigs – the females escaped to the woods and had sex with wild boars. Why wouldn’t they? Then they broke back into the farm to have their stripey, mixed-race babies. They knew they would be fed, protected, and their children would grow to adulthood.
It was no contest for them whether to stay in the woods or come back to the farm.
And try setting chickens ‘free’ from a farm, where they have a comfy, and most importantly, locked, hen-house at night. They all get a cushy life, free from predators, and a mercifully quick death. Virtually no animal in nature gets a quick death. Struck by lightning – one in a billion. Much more likely to be slowly eaten by parasites, or for your organs to fail as you starve to death, or to be torn apart by carnivores – even lions, when they get old.
We can be on the same team on this. Let’s bring meat consumption down. But the most important battle – and I think we’re on the same side about this too – is for organic smallholders versus industrial agriculture.
I’d love for humanity to have a Jainist attitude to food, and one day, we might. If you can get your food without killing anything – plant or animal, then why not do that? The Jains have some funny rules – you know, women can’t eat beans on a tuesday, that sort of literal religious nonsense. But basically, I think they’ve got it right – although of course wild predators are not going to follow this path, and animals in the wild will still have a gory death. The Jainist approach can only be for the (spiritual?) benefit of humans, not for animals.
Here we’re staying among olives, tomatoes, apples, aubergines, figs, plums, peppers, walnuts, grapes, mushrooms. Add beans, peas, pulses, seeds, nuts, avocadoes, coconuts and that sounds like a mighty healthy diet, especially if you can include free-range unfertilised eggs, honey and dairy (if the calf is kept with the mother), as ‘fruits’ – ie nothing is killed, plant or animal.
But Annie, this is my fundamental point – that that’s not the important battle right now – that’s one for the future. Right now, it’s organic smallholdings versus industrial agriculture. Let’s not throw spanners in the works for smallholders – let’s make it as easy for them as possible. Let’s focus on dismantling corporate, monoculture, toxic, cruel agriculture. As I said above, running a few animals under your tree crops or harvesting animals from the wild is not a problem environmentally – it can only be a problem in terms of killing animals at all – the ‘moral squeamishness’ that Simon was talking about. If some people don’t share that moral squeamishness, I don’t think we should try to tell them that what they’re doing is environmentally-damaging, when it isn’t.
But even that isn’t the main argument – it’s that we’re going to need a new economy to survive what’s coming. Vegans can work with meat-eaters on this – especially as it means eating less meat overall. If you don’t want to eat animal products, then we support you. But humanity eating no animal products at all will make life more diffiult for smallholders – it will, Annie.
But let’s realise that we can make alliances that allow us to survive as a species. The (total) veganism argument isn’t the one that we need right now. If you want to be vegan – great, but don’t impose it on others. Realise that nature is cruel, and let’s build a sustainable system – one that we can hone later, when the economy is stabilised – which means taking power from the corporate sector.
19Dave Darby September 18th, 2018
‘So, many people would say: reduce meat consumption but produce it sustainably, stop using pesticides, herbicides, fungicides (suicides?) and heal our soil as a matter of urgency, whilst dismantling our industrial farming and food system.’
And the surplus grain question. I hope Simon might come and answer this one, but as I understand it – we can’t know if the grain crop is going to be a bad one in the coming year, and so to avert famine, a surplus has to be produced in the years in which that is possible. Grain doesn’t store forever, and you wouldn’t want to use energy and equipment to store it longer than necessary; and so if the crop failure doesn’t come for a while, it has to be used. Annie has mentioned that it can be turned into alcohol or biofuel, and she’s right. But those aren’t particularly desirable things to produce, and it can also be fed to animals, to provide nutrition for humans. That’s a perfectly valid use of the surplus, unless you have an ethical problem with killing animals per se. If vegans can persuade the world that it’s ethically wrong, then legislation can be brought in to stop the killing of animals by humans (but not by other animals of course – we can never make the world a safe place for animals without destroying nature). As you rightly say, in the real world, that’s not going to happen, any more than it will be possible to persuade people not to drive, so when it comes to meat production (and car use) let’s reduce it overall, and do it as sustainably as possible. And first and foremost, let’s dismantle industrial agriculture.
20Simon Fairlie September 18th, 2018
“Maybe I have missed something in Simons analysis of the excess grain production and using the surplus provided, therefore becoming low impact, surely high impact doesn’t become low impact if you use it? You also mention the grain surplus being wasted? Surely if you grow an excess for lean years this is not wasted but stored for the possibility of next year being a poor harvest? You cannot therefore use this excess, it must be stored and if not used you do not need to grow so much next year? Excuse me if I have misunderstood this system and if I have perhaps you could explain it?”
Yes you are right but this would require globally centralized planning of grain storage and state controlled pricing which frankly (and as a socialist it pains me to say this) hasn’t got a very good record in respect of famine prevention. The safest way to ensure sufficient food is grown is to provide a financial incentive for growing a surplus (though this in itself doesn’t guarantee that everybody gets sufficient).
“One recent study is called: ‘Biodiversity conservation: the key is reducing meat consumption’.”
Indeed , I agree that we need to reduce meat consumption. The point is that becoming totally vegan and banishing an entire taxonomic kingdom from our agro-ecological systems is extreme, unnecessary, inefficient, and would lead to less biodiversity than a measured reduction in meat consumption, since a lot of plant and wildlife has co-evolved with grazing livestock — which is why conservationists frequently use grazing animals to enhance biodiversity.
“Yet another report published last week explains the crucial and huge contraction required from the EU livestock sector to remain within safe environmental limits. (http://www.risefoundation.eu/images/files/2018/2018_RISE_LIVESTOCK_FULL.pdf)”
Again this report, which Annie cites at some length, proposes reductions in meat consumption, not complete abstinence.
The “colossal amount of water for producing meat – typically 15,000 litres per kilogram of beef, for example, versus 1000 litres for a kilogram of grain”
Both these figures are bunkum. It does not take 1000 litres of water to grow a kilo of wheat unless (a) it is irrigated, which is not normally the case with wheat, or (b) if you include every drop of rain which falls on the wheat field — which would fall on that field whether or not you grew the wheat (ie 1000 litres per sq metre assuming 10 tonnes wheat per hectare). The same applies to beef. I did calculations for one of our grass-fed cows, Bramley and worked out that he consumed , during his lifetime at the very most 400 litres per kilo of beef. All but a tiny proportion of this water entered him at one end and exited the other end, or else through transpiration, and then either evaporated, or found its way into tree roots, or into the river, much as it would have done if Bramley had never existed.
Give me the life of a wild rabbit rather than a farmed one any day! As a farmed animal I am deprived of freedom, I have no choice how I reproduce, nor where I sleep or what I eat, in many cases I never meet the other gender other than, if I’m lucky, children that will be taken away, I will have my tail cut off, my balls squeezed off, my tits squeezed or any other atrocities committed without anaesthetic, I will be genetically selected to grow too fast for my body, it is an absolute certainty that I will be killed at a very young age (unless I’m a dairy cow or a laying hen, for instance, and then I suffer a few more years of torture) – not my idea of a good life!
What a ragbag of generalizations, which when they are accurate mostly refer to industrial agriculture.
(i) Rabbits I don’t support keeping caged rabbits, or caged hems or pigs. There are plenty of wild rabbits to eat, and a wild rabbit probably has a more painless death when it is shot than when it is eaten by a fox;
(ii) Tail cut off — only occurs in factory farms, which I think nearly all readers would wish to see abolished:
(iii) Children taken away. This is not true of suckler beef cows, many sheep herds, or of dairy cows kept on a calf at foot basis. In all these sytems offspring are raised by their mothers until weaned.
(ivi)Tits squeezed — if you are referring to milking , the action of a machine or the human hand is far more gentle than the violent bunting of a hungry calf; given the freedom of choice, cows choose to be milked about three times a day.
(v) Genetically selected to grow too fast — again only true of highly bred industry animals.
(vi) Atrocities committed without anaesthetic Vets do not normally carry out painful activities without anaeasthetics
(vii) Unless I’m a dairy cow or a laying hen, for instance, and then I suffer a few more years of torture. It is ludicrous and insulting to suggest that dairy cows are subject to torture. Like most farmers, I spend a huge amount of my time ensuring that ours have enough to eat throughout the winter (when in the wild they would have a significant chance of starving) and go to any expense to ensure that they get medical attention whenever they are ill or in pain.
(viii) Killed at a very young age. The survival rate to adulthood is approximately the same in a domestic herd as it is in the wild. Most wild animals die young of predation, disease or starvation — if this were not the case there would be massive overpopulation. Most domestic animals are killed quickly and painlessly, unlike the majority of wild animals.
There are one or two things about animal husbandry that I find regrettable, notably castration, which is necessary to prevent both overpopulation and fights between males which can be lethal. However I suspect my concern is probably misplaced anthropomorphism . I can see no evidence that gelded males either suffer for being castrated or are even aware of it. This, and some restrictions on their freedom, are the price that domestic livestock pay for having a full stomach, a relatively stress free life, and a painless death. Who is to say whether wild or domestic animals have the better deal? (Certainly not the 22 per cent of UK vegans who live in London.) There is enough room on this earth for both kinds.
21Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 18th, 2018
Dave: No, my arguments “are not just against industrial agriculture” – far from it! This is disingenuous as I’ve put plenty of evidence on this site and have already, in this conversation with you right here, quoted Monbiot: Choosing organic, free-range, grass-fed animals over those from intensive farms is “to swap one disaster – mass cruelty – for another – mass destruction” (http://www.monbiot.com/2017/10/06/the-meat-of-the-matter/). Mass destruction because of the much larger land requirements and GHG emissions from animals who grow more slowly and don’t digest grass in the same way as grain, with more enteric methane emitted. And organic isn’t healthier for us. One recent study has examined nasty carcinogens – Persistent Organic Pollutants – and found that “The consumption of organically produced meat does not diminish this carcinogenic risk, but on the contrary, it seems to be even higher, especially that associated with organic lamb consumption.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25893622).
The methane emissions from grass-fed, free-range cows (and other ruminants) are always higher than those from animals bred intensively and this can be five times higher (http://www.takeextinctionoffyourplate.com/earth-friendly_diet.html). There’s plenty of evidence on this. In the UK a dairy cow emits about twice as much methane (plus nitrous oxide and ammonia) as a beef cow per year, but because she is raised more intensively, fed more supplements and forced to produce so much milk, plus meat once killed, per kilo of protein obtained her emissions are much lower.
In most studies, methane is considered to be about 25 times more potent than CO2 as a GHG. In fact this figure is outdated and also only applies to a 100 year horizon. The most recent figures from the IPCC put methane as 86 times more potent than CO2, with climate carbon feedback, within a 20 year horizon so crucial to try and prevent catastrophic climate tipping points (and it’s more than 100 times more potent than CO2 over 10 years). The ‘25’ figure is used largely to be able to compare and pool data from many sources but if we upgraded the calculations we’d find the climate impact of livestock (as well as fracking and rice, for instance) to be much higher. The IPCC methane figures are due for revision and will almost certainly be increased. The global livestock methane emissions have been underestimated by at least 11% (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/29/methane-emissions-cattle-11-%-higher-than-estimated) – probably more if we acknowledge that the sector is refusing to have its emissions reported (https://www.iatp.org/emissions-impossible ) and thus more than one quarter of all global warming is attributable to livestock farming (it was 23% in 2010 but is higher now http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13975/abstract).
“Let’s help smallholders become veganic growers if they want to”, you write. Yes, but it’s not just about them. Farming has a huge impact on all of us and all of life (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html) . Climate change, loss of biodiversity, water use and pollution, societal costs of the health burden are major issues, but there are others too, such as air pollution, currently much talked about. Agriculture is as big a culprit as transport and industry here too – with livestock farming having the biggest impact (two thirds) within agriculture. Ammonia and other particulate matter from manure (organic manure too!) travel in the air and mix with the particulate matter from diesel engines and others to produce the nasty pollution making us sick (https://ensia.com/features/ammonia/).
We need to fight for truthful information and for measures to help farmers do not just what they want but what protects them, the rest of us and nature. You’re asking me to confirm that “my focus on meat is on moral grounds”. Well of course it is. What else could it be on: money, fame, power? A few days ago, at the Global Climate Action Summit Harrison Ford said: “I’m here, you’re here, because we care. Not just for today, but we care passionately for the future. We know that we have only a possibility of avoiding looming climate catastrophe if people like us refuse to give up (…)” I can’t find the full clip now but it continues like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elWauyLExK0&list=PLg6_bxOboM1aLLsN-eWikB0gMYG_EOUTu. So yes, this is about ethics, about fighting for the wellbeing of all humans and all of life – not just a narrow focus on self-interests, convenience, obsolete traditions and taste buds addictions.
Taste buds, you know, “are adaptable little fellas. When they can’t be with foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with” (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/10/28/the-case-for-taste-bud-rehab). The same top health expert, looking at all the evidence from all over the world confirms that “Good diets are made up mostly of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and plain water for thirst, pretty much everywhere and every time” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diets-live-die-david-l-katz-md-mph-facpm-facp-faclm/). So why insist on meat in your virtual scenario when the Second Law of Thermodynamics is inescapable and if you’re off hunting you could just as well be off foraging, which would be much more ecologically efficient and healthier for you too?
In your smallholding you don’t need sheep because you don’t need grass! Create a forest garden with different plant layers, mostly perennials, and a minimal path that won’t need mowing. I was chatting recently to a great man on a wonderful project in Wales (https://www.allotment-garden.org/garden-diary/5363/free-plants-a-different-approach/ and https://www.facebook.com/Creating.Welhealth.Coop/). No grazing animals, no mowing and great productivity! There are of course many other such projects. And if you really want grass, have a pet donkey, or miniature poney, or pet ducks. Let them live their whole lives. Make money from producing more food where the grass would have been (e.g. wild stawberries, or so much else, in the lower layer) and/or from being able to open your farm to visitors as a truly nature-friendly, climate-friendly and child-friendly venture: you won’t have to lie to the children about what happens to the sweet animals they meet. No extra ruminants adding methane, no carcasses constantly leaving the site and adding GHG emissions when they’re incinerated, no extra highly polluting refrigerants for the meat (http://www.drawdown.org/solutions-summary-by-rank), no or less vet costs, no or less need for antibiotics, etc, no need to cut tails off and other cruel measures. Your system will be more ecologically efficient and you can use compost rather than manure, without big leakages from the ecosystem.
Yes to chicken but why eat eggs that have so much cholesterol and are bad for us? World experts agree: “It remains prudent to advise patients to significantly limit intake of dietary cholesterol in the form of eggs or any high-cholesterol foods to as little as possible” (http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/69/9/1172). For the harm on our arteries “The effect size of egg yolks appears to be approximately two-thirds that of smoking” (https://www.atherosclerosis-journal.com/article/S0021-9150(12)00504-7/abstract). You might find studies with other results… funded by the egg industry (https://www.pcrm.org/nbBlog/how-egg-industry-funded-studies-harm-public-health).
In the wild most birds lay no more eggs in a year than we have fingers on one, or at the most two hands – unlike domestic hens bred to lay one a day, So you could run an educational and commercial project to promote and sell pet hens – not for their eggs but for their endearing cuteness. You’d be looking at different breeds and explaining to people that a pet hen is far more environmentally friendly than a carnivorous pet cat, for instance. And hens don’t kill birds, which are disappearing so fast from our land.
Let’s agree to disagree on the wellbeing of farmed versus wild animals. I’d choose wild any time – unless I’m a well-cared-for pet and my keeper doesn’t intend to have me murdered.
“People eat meat” – you write. Yes, we humans do all kinds of things that are unhealthy for us and the planet. Why not put our energy into promoting first and foremost what’s best? My trip to Africa is long precisely so that I can actually have a smaller footprint than if I’d stayed in the UK: little or no electricity, 100% very local food, foot or bicycle for most transport, little clothing and other needs, etc. But this is not about me – and I’m far from perfect! The beauty of a transition to plant-based food is that it’s win-win-win – other than for smallholders who might find venturing into new areas too challenging – despite huge opportunities. Organisations such as yours can play a big part in making sure they get all the support they need.
There are many projects to get inspiration from. For instance Finland in the 1970’s had the highest mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases in the world. But a community-based project was designed to counter that with a series of measures, including helping meat and dairy farmers switch to berry farming. It was rolled out nationwide and achieved remarkable results in two decades: across the country an 80% drop in cardiac mortality, drops in cancer rates and life expectancy increases of 7 years in men and 6 in women – just by cutting down on animal products! (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/finlands-radical-heart-health-transformation/389766/).
I’ll leave the last words to the man who probably knows more about UK farming systems than anyone else and has been fighting tooth and claw to increase production of fruit and vegs here – professor Tim Lang.
In early 2016, he was asked “what would happen if everyone in the UK stopped eating meat?”. He responded:
“For a start we would dramatically increase our horticulture. The good things for your diet and mine are actually plants. Fruits, vegetables, cereals; staple foods. And there has been a catastrophic drop in the production of these things in Britain. If we stopped eating meat we would have to resuscitate and reinvest and re-skill ourselves in horticulture. And we have to do that anyway, certainly with climate change. When I was a farmer in the uplands on the Pennines, 50 years or so ago, even then, we’d experimented with growing crops in parts where people would say, “Oh, that’s sheep country.” In fact you could grow swedes, turnips, brassicas and potatoes very easily and very well, and historically they did.
We would have to re-skill a lot. It would mean the transformation of British agriculture. The politicians are frightened, but they have to address this issue. Climate change is going to make them do it. The food system is being forced to change by climate, by water stress, by population changes, by geopolitics.” (https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/yvxjjw/what-would-happen-if-everyone-in-the-uk-stopped-eating-meat).
(PS This week Tim Lang was still frustrated by the lack of progress in the area of healthy food production, especially since the UK trade gap has yet again widened – though not for meat https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2018/09/18/the-new-agriculture-bill-has-no-vision-for-food/)
22Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 18th, 2018
Simon: I have much respect for what you do and you definitely know far more about farming than I do. But I come from a family of French livestock farmers and butchers, and as a child have spent time on farms, milking cows and witnessing a lot, such as the force-feeding of geese by my family, who make ‘foie gras’. As an adult too I have spent a fair amount of time on small farms. You accuse me of insulting (farmers, presumably) by mentioning ‘torture’ of dairy cows.
For sure no farmer intends to harm but there is immense disconnect about what actually happens. You will hate this short film and various images from it clearly don’t apply to your farm, but please tell me what part of the basic information provided here is not true? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcN7SGGoCNI&t=2s. The fact that atrocities take place also on certified organic farms is becoming increasingly known https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/organic-milk-video-footage-animal-cruelty-farm-equality-uk-a8508956.html.
I don’t have the time right now to debate animal welfare issues further – there are plenty of organisations devoted to that – and I feel more passionate about the issues of climate change, other environmental crises such air pollution, water pollution and shortages and loss of biodiversity, as well as human health – and I want to focus on evidence-based information. Modern science has huge limitations but it’s still our best tool to assess these issues.
You write that “conservationists frequently use grazing animals to enhance biodiversity”. As you well know there are big debates about this (including about the lobbying power of livestock farmers). For instance I attended a recent debate on rewilding the UK uplands, came with an open mind but and as you might guess was far more convinced by George Monbiot and Mark Cocker than by those defending the role of livestock (https://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/the-battle-for-the-countryside-britain-should-rewild-its-uplands/).
Elsewhere in this conversation I have quoted the US Center for Biological Diversity http://www.takeextinctionoffyourplate.com/earth-friendly_diet.html. Here’s one ecologist writing to a colleague, accusing him of perpetuating “the myth of ‘well managed’ grazing: For every example of ‘green grazing’ out there I can show you 100 examples of where livestock production is destroying and degrading our natural landscape. Why not do everyone a real favour and do a piece on the multiple ways that livestock production harms our wildlife and biodiversity. I would argue that you can mitigate the negatives from grazing, but you cannot entirely avoid them (…)” (http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2017/08/14/critique-of-montana-outdoors-proposed-green-grazing-article/).
The nearly 21,000 scientists who have signed the ‘Warning to Humanity’ promote various rewilding and reforestation schemes but certainly not grazing animals (https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229). In fact prof William Ripple, its lead author, has spent much energy showing how detrimental these can be (e.g https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YFKJdwfYAI&t=3s). He comes from a ranching family so you can’t accuse him of being “an urban vegan”. Prof Eshel Gidon owned and managed a cattle herd himself yet comes to the conclusion that “Grass-feeding produces unnecessary low-quality calories at ostentatious environmental costs while displacing threatened wildlife”. http://blogs.reuters.com/environment/2010/04/08/grass-fed-beef-packs-a-punch-to-environment/. Yes of course it will depend where and how. But let’s look at all the evidence!
23April Reeves September 18th, 2018
There was one extremely crucial element left out of this equation: not every blood type can go vegan, and those that can’t and don’t know it, will have health issues, especially in healing. Just came off a seminar that went through this. Interesting timing…. Luckily, I am not one of those blood types.
24Malcolm September 18th, 2018
Simon and Dave,
Many thanks for your explanation of the grain surplus. Keep up the great work on this site it really is appreciated.
Just one point Simon. The figure for the water is for ‘one Kg of Beef’ so I’m assuming that the extra water is for the slaughter house, transportation, butchering and maybe the embodied energy in those extra systems rather than just the water used inside the farm gate?
25Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 18th, 2018
April, There is not a slither of scientific evidence to back the blood type theory. You could just read the last two words of the transcript from Dr Michael Greger’s video on this: “crass fraud”.
26Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 18th, 2018
Sorry April, I meant to add the link: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/blood-type-diet-debunked/.
27Elizabeth Fletcher September 18th, 2018
In terms of co2 emissions, has anyone checked the carbon footprint of a vegan diet? The amount of transportation and heavy processing in order to maintain a healthy diet is astronomical.
Surely natural is better- a little meat, not much, and natural organic farming and foraging. Livestock required to fertilize the land should be native to the country using it. This encourages the native biodiversity – the plants and animals have evolved ecosystems unique to their geographical location.
If the vegan argument is based on morality, I want to know where the line is drawn- bacteria is a form of life, so is washing wrong? Yeast is bacteria, so is bread out? Egg is a bi-product And arguably never alive (if unfertilised)… So what constitutes life? Is it sentience? Self awareness? In which case there are some interesting recent studies showing behavioural responses of plants and evidence to suggest sentience. So would a vegan not eat anything?
I digress. I personally think each individual has A right to choose, but not to push that one someone else. From a logical standpoint, meat and livestock are necessary, providing it’s kept natural and not industrialised. Meat consumption should be reduced, but vaganism is an ideology that is based on ignorance of biodiversity and ecology.
28Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 18th, 2018
Hi Ed Cummings There are lots of vegan bio-leathers made from plants, mostly waste products (I wear every day a big bag made of cork, highly environmentally friendly and hard-wearing) – and lab-grown leather is also being developed.
See for instance:
Cork https://www.corkleather.com.au/ https://www.corkor.com/blogs/corkor/how-durable-is-cork-fabric https://www.mbcork.com/collections/cork-bags
Mushroom mycelium http://www.mycoworks.com/ and other fungus https://lifematerials.eu/en/shop/muskin/
Pineapple leaves https://www.ananas-anam.com/products/
Grapes (skins, seeds, stalks) https://www.vegeacompany.com/project/vegeatextile/
Seaweed http://www.nanonic.us/smartcel-Seacell.html and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWjRJms3Aww
Bacteria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds8ZFzOwGeI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmcforoWc_g&feature=youtu.be&t=1m38s
29Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 18th, 2018
Many scientists have “checked the carbon footprint of a vegan diet” – and it is practically always the lowest by a very long way, even when food is imported from a long distance. Food miles have a minimal impact compared to that from our food choices and animal based food – especially red meat (beef, lamb, pork) and cheese but all animal food – are way up on the scale of climate (and other environmental) impacts. Check out the chart in this recent article https://www.popsci.com/wasted-food-environment-impact#page-2.
These climate and other environmental footprints are the reason scientists are telling us that “veganism is the single biggest way to reduce our impact on the planet” https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html and that “The only Way to Guarantee Enough Food in 2050 Is if the World Turns Vegan” https://www.ecowatch.com/researchers-say-only-way-to-guarantee-enough-food-in-2050-is-if-the-wo-1891121933.html
Do read some of the references I have cited elsewhere on these pages – and here are just a few other relevant ones (I could list hundreds):
You write: “The amount of heavy processing required in order to maintain a healthy diet is astronomical”. In fact it is precisely zero.
From Dr Staton Awtrey:
“Literally hundreds of scientific studies published in peer reviewed journals have proven that diet is often the key to health or disease. These studies demonstrate that a “whole food plant-based diet” will lead the way to less cancer, less heart disease, less diabetes, fewer strokes, less osteoporosis, less Alzheimer’s disease and less obesity.
Cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension, for example, are virtually unknown among Central Africans, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, the peoples of rural China and the highland tribes of New Guinea. What these peoples all have in common is their diet. They all consume an unprocessed, or “whole food plant-based “diet with no dairy or animal products. When they immigrate to the west and adopt the standard American diet, however, they come to be afflicted with the same chronic diseases we suffer from. http://www.mrt.com/news/health/article/Plant-based-diet-is-solution-to-ending-7414519.php
Dr Tuso, Dr Ismail, Dr Ha and Dr Bartolotto:
Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. We present a case study as an example of the potential health benefits of such a diet. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/.
From Dr Kim Williams:
“Reading the existing literature and evaluating the impact of plant-based nutrition, it clearly represents the single most important yet underutilized opportunity to reverse the pending obesity and diabetes induced epidemic of morbidity and mortality.
Evidence for the benefits of plant-based nutrition continues to mount. This now includes lower rates of stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, myocardial infarction and mortality, as well as many non-cardiac issues that affect our patients in cardiology, ranging from cancer to a variety of inflammatory conditions. Challenges with the science are, however, less daunting to overcome than inertia, culture, habit and widespread marketing of unhealthy foods. Our goal must be to get data out to the medical community and the public where it can actually change lives – creating healthier and longer ones”.
I can’t list the “literally hundreds of studies” that indeed prove that plant-based diets are healthiest – as long as they’re mostly ‘whole food’ (unprocessed) – so here’s just a tiny sample of the evidence:
“Across studies, consistent evidence indicates that a dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods (e.g., vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains) and lower in animal-based foods (especially red meat), as well as lower in total energy, is both healthier and associated with a lesser impact on the environment”.
Thus, Dr Mosera, Dr Stiglera and Dr Haditscha, explain:
“Physicians should use their societal influence for the common good and advocate for healthy lifestyles and healthy public policies aligning efforts of medicine, public health, and planetary health. In moving towards a locally produced, biologically grown, plant-based diet, everyone can participate in promoting planetary ecosystem stability and global health”. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542519617300232
You write: “If the vegan argument is based on morality (…)” – how do you define morality please?
You write: “From a logical standpoint, meat and livestock are necessary”. Please, what is this logic?
30Rosewood Farm's Rob September 18th, 2018
Great to hear Simon’s perspective on this, which I cannot disagree with. I have often said that we should eat more meat from sustainable farming systems but I’m humble enough to realise that not everyone listens to me!
I am grateful for all our supporters at Rosewood (even the animals rights vegans!) but without our carnivore supporters this winter you would have to refer to Rosewood Farm in the past tense.
31Dave Darby September 19th, 2018
Annie – it would be great if you could shorten your comments. This reply doesn’t cover everything you’ve said because I haven’t read it yet. And I know that you’re posting the links to support your position, but you do know that they’re not going to be read? Each one would take about half an hour to really consume properly, and you’ve posted I don’t know how many – I counted 18 in one comment and 20 in another. It would take about a week’s full-time work to consume them. No-one’s going to do that. Just make your case, with an occasional link for important points.
And I repeat – you’re criticising the current levels of meat production and consumption, i.e. ‘global livestock methane emissions’. I know – and I agree. Let’s reduce the amount of meat consumed and produced. This debate would be much better if you could stop criticising the current levels and methods of meat production as if I supported them. I don’t.
We’re not advocating any more domesticated herbivores than would have existed in wild herds before agriculture destroyed them all. So their contribution to GHG emissions won’t be any more than wild levels. If you say that domestic cattle etc. are bigger, and emit more GHGs, then OK, let’s have fewer of them, or keep rare breeds that are nearer to their wild cousins. We’re only advocating a level that balances with nature.
I’ve never said anywhere that organic is healthier in terms of human consumption – I think that’s the wrong argument to defend organic. Organic is better for ecology and for soil – which is itself healthier for humans in the long run.
You say: ‘Organisations such as yours can play a big part in making sure they get all the support they need.’ – yes, we would absolutely support any smallholder that wanted to start a vegan holding. Absolutely. But we’d also support those who wanted to keep a few animals for meat. We don’t want to hamstring them in their competition with industrial agriculture.
We can agree to disagree about whether keeping animals on smallholdings is cruel or not if you like, but I think that the case of the female pigs escaping to breed with wild boars, then coming back to the smallholding to have their babies shows that it definitely doesn’t have to be cruel, and is definitely sometimes the preferred option for the animals themselves. And we’re only advocating the keeping of animals in ways that aren’t cruel.
I think you’re anthropomorphising animals when you call them sweet. Pet cats can be sweet with humans, but they’d torture a smaller animal. And if food was scarce, any animal would allow others to starve rather than share food. Nature is cruel, not sweet.
This is the crux I think – it’s ultimately down to the ‘moral squeamishness’ that Simon talks about. You say ‘if you’re off hunting you could just as well be off foraging’. But what if I don’t want any more nuts – what if I want a rabbit or a fish, or even a deer (that have no natural predators and therefore need to be culled)? [Not that I do hunt or fish – but I certainly would if I needed to to survive; but this is a philosophical point]. What’s the problem, environmentally, with doing that? (bearing in mind that ‘I don’t like it’ isn’t an environmental reason)
32Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 19th, 2018
Hi Malcolm, We consume far more plants drenched in toxic chemicals when we eat animal products than when we don’t, albeit indirectly, since such a large proportion of plant crops are fed to livestock, and mostly grown with less environmental safeguards than for human consumption. Take soya for instance: “The average EU citizen consumes 61 kg of soya a year, but 93% of this is embedded in animal feed to produce meat, dairy and eggs http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?247051. The soya fed to livestock is mostly imported from South America and contributes tragically to deforestation (https://fern.org/sites/default/files/news-pdf/TheAvoidableCrisisPDF.pdf) whereas the soya consumed by humans (including by the London vegans that Simon doesn’t seem to trust much!) is mostly grown in Europe, including in the UK, and much of it is organic.
I fully agree that our farming system is in a terrible state.
The majority of chicken are not given AI but egg production requires hens to have the equivalent of a woman’s period every day of their life (whether on a large industrial or small organic farm) and male chicks to be ground alive (or otherwise killed right after birth – as our many or most male calves in the dairy industry). For the vast majority of broilers life is no better a they have been bred to grow so fast that they can hardly stand on their legs. The link you sent confirms that turkeys are so deformed that they cannot breed naturally at all.
Yes many people smoke and many people eat meat (which has far more negative impacts on the rest of life on Earth and the climate). Surely it makes sense to continue informing people and promoting healthy shifts rather than see doom as inevitable?
33Elizabeth Fletcher September 19th, 2018
Thank you for the links, I will check them out when I have more time, then I will comment as appropriate. ?
You asked where the logic is- humans evolved as omnivores- yes science can currently prove the health benefits of a plant based whole food diet, but with climate change those whole foods cannot be guarantees production without chemical help. These chemicals are dangerous both for humans and wildlife.
50 years ago science said smoking was healthy- my point here is that we are learning more about our own physiology all the time, and there is spot we have to learn. So I personally trust in the 10000 years of human experience over the last decade or so of science.
One can argue 5 square acres of land can provide enough to support a family who eat both meat and whole food, without requiring anything from else where. (Just look at amazonian tribes who eat a mainly plant based diet, yet still hunt meat for crucial protien). The same can’t be said if it’s just whole food diet as certain nutrients are missing or lower than the RDA.
I agree completely that we need to dramatically cut down on meat consumption, but cutting it out entirely is not the way to go. Organic sustainable food production is the way forward. Animal welfare is paramount.
Let’s say we knew humans were food for something else- given the choice i would rather my children had a guarantee of a long healthy happy life on a farm than take my chances outside of that safe environment. Death happens either way, but on a farm they’d have a better life.
So in terms of morality, I mean to quantify this in terms of animal welfare. A lot of vegans I know choose to be, as they believe meat consumption to be cruel. But I see it as a necessary evil. If you are going to take a life for food, you need to make sure that life is as happy as possible. Bar herbivores, (Which in turn are prey for other animals) all animals are prey. With the exception of humans. We are predators. But we also have the intelligence and compassion to make sure we do things as humanly as possible.
So if humans were to become herbivores, we would have to spend far too much time eating raw food, just to get key nutrients. (Just look at how long primates have to spend eating, and even they will occasionally eat meat).
I will find one of the evolutionary studies I read recently showing the correlation between the increase of intelligence in species when they have a meat protein diet- my point is that we evolved our intelligence a result from our diet. Being both meat and plants.
This is the way it’s has been all through human history, so why fix something that isn’t broken?
The current process we use for our meat is however, very wrong. It isn’t the natural way. This is what needs addressing. Cut down on the amount of meat, and increase the welfare and natural process to obtain that meat.
34Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 19th, 2018
Hi Elizabeth, A few points, very briefly, as sadly I need to disengage from this conversation for lack of time. You might read my responses to others are some are relevant
Climate change is making livestock farming even harder than arable farming and horticulture – all over the world!
“50 years ago science said smoking was healthy” – only a small proportion of ‘science’, because the tobacco industry was spending vast amounts of money bribing corrupt scientists – and because some scientists were themselves so addicted they couldn’t face the truth and were biased. The vast majority of studies were in fact clearly showing the harm but they were ignored. This is exactly what’s happening now with the meat, egg and dairy industries, together with the pharmaceutical industries who want us sick. There is lots of evidence on this.
“If humans were to become herbivores, we would have to spend far too much time eating raw food”: But we are largely herbivores (as well as ‘starchivores’) and certainly not natural predators – we don’t have any of the characteristics! Please watch this short video with Dr Neil Barnard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Zy_erwWzdc.
Although I don’t particularly recommend it, there are plenty of people thriving on a purely raw diet. A friend of mine has been on it for more than three decades and doing very well. For him the idea of cooked food “feels like death”. And no, they don’t spend long on it. My own diet is at least half raw because I’m lazy, so I skip the cooking of vegetables whenever I can and add plenty of fruit, nuts, seeds, muesli, etc.
The theory of intelligence linked to meat protein is weak. In fact recent theories favour a diet based on foraged fruit as a key factor of intelligence development (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/27/fruit-foraging-primates-may-be-key-large-brain-evolution). Our human ancestors were nearly all vegetarians (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/), and at least some Neanderthals were vegans (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/08/neanderthal-dental-tartar-reveals-plant-based-diet-and-drugs).
“Why fix something that isn’t broken?” you ask. Because it is terribly, terribly broken. Climate change is happening much faster than the worse predictions from a decade ago, threatening all life as we know it within a short time scale and our meat-eating habits are responsible for a quarter of it. And that’s without counting all the indirect consequences, such as the fact that due to the adoption of diets rich in meat and dairy (as well as sugar and processed food), we now have over 40% of all adults in the world either overweight or obese – with much higher proportions in the West and a trend showing no sign of abating. And so many other negative impacts such as the air pollution now so talked about and also due for a large part to livestock farming (the polluting particles travel with the wind and link up with those from diesel and industries), deforestation, water pollution, eutrophication, over-use of antibiotics, etc, etc.
Livestock farming is the No 1 cause of the tragic losses in biodiversity and wildlife in the world. I’ll post it yet again: the largest study ever conducted on the environmental impacts of agriculture has made it very clear: “Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth? (PS The lead author was a happy omnivore until he went more deeply into the research and felt he had to become a vegan because the evidence was so strong – as is indeed happening to many of us who show deep interest in these issues).
35Elizabeth Fletcher September 19th, 2018
Annie- the two groups you sited as being incredibly healthy and living off raw food are rural. You said this yourself.
Raw food is more expensive and not sourced locally. I personakkyvtried vwganism for one week, buying all my food organically and as locally as possible. Now I live in North wales- pretty rural, yet my food was coming from Scotland, the Midlands and some that I chose not buy, came from abroad. Hence why it lasted one week. Since then I buy local and nothing I eat comes from more than 50 miles away, because these, nuts and other protein sources I get from local organic meat that I know is raised with care.
So I bring you back to my original point that this would not be viable for the entire world population – the majority of humanity live in urban areas where this is not possible. Therefore the food would still have to be transported a great distance.
I don’t mean to sound cynical but you don’t seem to be addressing all the points made on the other side of the debate. Is your understanding on veganism based on ecology, politics, ethics or sustainability? And can you please quantify what your version of veganism is? (I don’t mean that to sound accusational- to be doesn’t across on screen). I am genuinely curious as to how you understand it; i know many vegans and they all have differing views on what it is. So for the purpose of debate, I’m unclear as to what constitutes vegan in this instance.
Sorry for the long reply. I’m keen to learn and understand both sides equally. ?
36Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 20th, 2018
Elizabeth, I’d love to spend time on this but sorry I can’t – currently very overstretched. Sorry also there are many typos in your last comment and I can’t understand some of it, for instance your first sentence: what two groups are you referring to?
Raw food is more expensive? Since when are raw carrots, beetroots, spinach, broccoli, peppers, oats, buckwheat etc. etc. more expensive than their cooked versions? Since when are foraged hazelnuts more expensive than meat as a source of protein – that’s just one example but I really can’t think of any raw food that is more expensive than a cooked equivalent. You must have a very strange conception of raw food!
If you read my comments you’ll see the issues I feel passionate about: climate change is a big one and I’ve explained that in this respect, it’s far more important to choose plant food over animal products – especially red meat and cheese – than it is to worry about the provenance of the food. Many studies have come to this conclusion, including some that I have already cited in this conversation. Here are a just a few more confirmations:
“There is no scientific evidence that local food production is universally superior to non-local food in terms of its impact on either climate or health (…) In the UK greenhouse gas emissions per item of food would probably be greater under a scenario of self-sufficiency than under current food systems” https://biblio.ugent.be/publication/8521128/file/8521129
“Localisation does not improve sustainability much. What matters most is reducing meat and dairy consumption.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170621082745.htm
The commonly-held belief that reducing “food miles” is always good for the environment, because they reduce the use of transportation fuel and associated CO2 emissions, turns out to be a red herring. Strange as it might seem, local food uses about the same amount of energy — per pound — to transport as long-distance food. Why? Short answer: volume and method of transport. (…) And “food miles” aren’t a very big source of CO2 emissions anyway, whether they’re local or not. In fact, they pale in comparison to emissions from deforestation, methane from cattle and rice fields, and nitrous oxide from over-fertilized fields https://globalecoguy.org/local-food-is-great-but-can-it-go-too-far-ba686abe2ab7
“The greatest changes in the effect of a person’s diet on the planet comes from choosing certain kinds of food over others”, with plant food having the lowest impact. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987
“Eating food that is produced locally is great. It helps build a community, supports the local economy, and maybe even tastes better. Unfortunately, it does little to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food supply chain”. http://www.sierraclub.org/rocky-mountain-chapter/blog/2016/10/help-environment-don-t-just-eat-local-eat-smart
“Transportation as a whole represents only 11% of life-cycle GHG emissions, and final delivery from producer to retail contributes only 4%. Different food groups exhibit a large range in GHG-intensity; on average, red meat is around 150% more GHG-intensive than chicken or fish. Thus, we suggest that dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than “buying local.” Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18546681
This is an American article but the message would be the same here:
For the climate “You’re better off eating vegetables from Argentina than red meat from a local farm” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/03/upshot/what-you-can-do-about-climate-change.html
I’m all in favour of local food and again if you read my comments you will see that I would love Low Impact Living to promote horticulture since the UK imports such a large proportion of the fruit and veg (and nuts) we consume (and we need to consume far more). I feel it’s crucial that the UK moves towards more food self-sufficiency but it’s more important still to drastically reduce meat and dairy production and consumption – for quite a number of reasons – though of course we need to do both.
I’m not sure what you are asking about veganism. If I care about ecology I will automatically also care about sustainability and ethics and probably politics too. Ethics is not just about worrying about the welfare of farm animals, it’s about caring about all sorts of things, wanting to do one’s best to do as little harm and as much good as possible. I rarely call myself a vegan but equally I don’t really care about the label. I just choose the type of food that plenty of strong evidence shows as being overall best for my health and best for planetary health, including for other living beings.
37Dave Darby September 20th, 2018
Annie – when it comes to the links that you’re posting here, I think that either you haven’t understood our point, or you’re deliberately avoiding it. We are advocating the keeping of low numbers of animals (i.e. a number that nature can cope with easily – and there is a number). But the links you post criticise industrial agriculture, which we’re not advocating, and in fact, are strongly opposing. I checked this one – https://www.popsci.com/wasted-food-environment-impact#page-3 – which you used to try to show that transporting vegan foods from the other side of the world is somehow better for the environment than eating locally-produced meat. The comparison is with industrial meat production. For example, it says ‘Meat is extremely polluting; beef most of all. That’s because animals require a lot of feed, which itself must be grown, and that extra step of growing mostly grain-based chow really adds up.’ That’s not what we’re advocating at all, and you know that.
I’ve checked a few more of your links, and they all seem to be the same – criticising the current, industrial methods of meat production, which is not what we’re advocating.
Here are some reasons that local meat is better than soy from the South-east Asia (etc.)
1. As I’ve said before many times, we’re advocating a level of domestic livestock similar to the wild herds that have been replaced with agriculture, human habitation, roads etc. (although you insist on linking to studies focusing on the GHG emissions of industrial agriculture). So emissions from domestic livestock would be no more than natural, pre-agricultural emissions.
2. If you point out that domestic livestock are larger than their wild ancestors, resulting in more emissions per animal, then let’s have fewer animals (or rare breeds that are close to or the same as their wild cousins). An organic agricultural system with no more animals (or impact of animals) than pre-agricultural levels can’t possibly be criticised in terms of emissions, runoff etc.)
3. Organic smallholders (or at least good ones) produce no runoff – it’s all used to maintain soil structure and fertility. Allowing fertilisers to runoff would be a very strange thing for an organic smallholder to do. So arguments in terms of emissions or nutrient runoff are not valid for the type of agriculture we are advocating.
4. If we consider that the fossil fuel use in getting meat from smallholdings to local shops is the same as getting vegan foods from docks or airport to local shops (and that’s giving you a huge concession), and that the fossil fuel use is the same for the public to get the food to their home, then all that’s left is the fossil fuels needed to get the vegan food from where it’s produced. This is additional fossil fuel use that wouldn’t be required if we ate food produced locally.
5. This is a more complicated argument, but I know that you understand it. The long-distance vegan diet is more corporate. The brands themselves may be corporate, and the plantations, ships, planes, fossil fuels and packaging plants will definitely be corporate. This is a system that enriches the corporate sector, and helps them preserve this damaging economy, and their hold over our democracy. On the other hand, people could get organic, free-range meat from a local farm that keeps money in our local communities.
6. The vegan food grown on plantations in poor countries for Western markets is damaging food security in those countries, and preventing smallholders from having a few acres to supply local markets.
38Dave Darby September 20th, 2018
Annie – at the bottom of comment 29, you asked for a definition of morality. I think this is a good question, because I think your argument is entirely about morality. None of your other arguments work against low numbers of animals kept on mixed smallholdings – only against industrial agriculture.
From Wikipedia: ‘Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal.’
Now by the standards of Western philosophy, culture and most religions (not Jainism, for example), eating meat is acceptable. But for you, veganism is a standard that you believe should be universal.
So you need to make your case in terms of morality. If you can convince enough people, laws could start to be changed to make it illegal to keep animals, to kill them for meat, or even to hunt animals from the wild (this would mean the end of Aboriginal, Maasai, Inuit, Kalahari bushmen cultures, and many more, but I assume you’d be content with that). I’d say you’re a very long way from that.
So – I say that if it’s ok for a bear to eat a deer, then it’s ok for a human to eat a deer.
Over to you – why is it not?
39Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 21st, 2018
Dave, My final response before leaving the conversation as I am too pushed with time and have answered all your points in the past – and also here.
You don’t like references? Don’t read them! It’s not Annie’s opinions that count but those from people with the credentials, skills and experience (and preferably no vested interests) to examine these issues carefully. I am presenting their voices.
Re industrial ag versus smallholdings: Free-range animals cause higher environmental destruction than intensively-reared ones through much higher land use (as well as other resources) and greenhouse gas emissions. The most comprehensive study on agriculture’s environmental impacts, already cited here twice (as well as Monbiot) makes that very clear:
“THE RESEARCH ALSO FOUND THAT GRASS-FED BEEF, THOUGHT TO BE RELATIVELY LOW IMPACT, WAS STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR MUCH HIGHER IMPACTS THAN PLANT-BASED FOOD. CONVERTING GRASS INTO MEAT IS LIKE CONVERTING COAL INTO ENERGY. IT COMES WITH IMMENSE COST IN EMISSIONS”
From another recent study:
“If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (versus grain-finished), the cattle population would have to increase by 30% because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Existing pastures would have to become up to 370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates”.
The Food Climate Research Network summarises some problems with grazing livestock in a short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nub7pToY3jU
And here’s again Monbiot in ‘The meat of the matter:’ https://www.monbiot.com/2017/10/06/the-meat-of-the-matter/
… So when you write that “arguments in terms of emissions (…) runoff are not valid for the type of agriculture we are advocating” – whatever ‘emissions runoff’ might mean? – it’s… cattleshit. One commonly used arguments in favour of organic livestock farming is the use of manure – which you cannot have without nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions, in any farming system – adding more to climate change and air pollution, on top of the methane.
Local food. Once again: I am advocating the promotion of horticulture and tree crops, since we import the majority of the fruit, vegetables and nuts we consume – and we should be consuming far more! – whereas we’re producing TOO MUCH meat and dairy, according to the very conservative official health recommendations and economics. Such shifts would help shrink, not increase, transport emissions!
Thus a new People’s Manifesto unveiled this week by Chris Packham recommends “Focusing on increasing domestic fruit and vegetable production with special support for small-scale producers. Launching a public education campaign to change what we eat – less meat and more fruit, vegetables and pulses”. (http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Peoples-Manifesto-Download.pdf Low Impact Living could be fully on board with this!
Your arguments about “long-distance corporate vegan diets” and “food grown in plantations” are not about veganism but about food policies. Subsidies, taxes and other incentives need to change to support local healthy food and discourage unhealthy ones – and they will anyway, probably sooner than you think: so how about getting ready for these changes? The growing popularity of plant-based diets – for a host of reasons – is an undeniable fact and much of the industry is wising up (see https://www.foodpolitics.com/2018/09/plant-based-dairy-and-meat-latest-developments/). Let’s make sure smallholders are on the case!
You tell me that you advocate levels of domestic livestock similar to ancient wild herds – but these are completely irrelevant to our current situation of nearly 7.7 billion humans, over 70 billion farm animals and climate chaos in full swing. We need to avert the immense threats to the next generations and act as fast as possible. Every new molecule of methane, of nitrous oxide as well as CO2 and refrigerants (emitted more by animal than plant farming) released in the atmosphere takes us further away from the hope of a liveable planet! The distant past doesn’t matter one iota – except perhaps to teach us that our meat-eating habits have played a big part in putting us in the dire situation we’re in now, for instance by inducing desertification in the Sahara and elsewhere (http://worldpreservationfoundation.org/environment/desertification/ and https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-really-turned-sahara-desert-green-oasis-wasteland-180962668/ and https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/why-humans-might-be-responsible-for-transforming-the-sahara).
Shifting diets is win-win because it’s also good for our health (avoiding even more GHGs) and thus also for the economy. It’s blocked mostly by “inertia, culture, habit” (as already quoted) as well as strong pressures from the industry. The recent EU guidance paper that insists the livestock sector must shrink fast by 50% explains that a key obstacle is farmers themselves.
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40Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 21st, 2018
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And there other reasons to shift. A recent study on food waste confirms that “The highest rates of loss are associated with livestock production (…)” and that “Over-eating is as large a contributor to food system losses as consumer food waste. Influencing consumer behaviour, e.g. to eat less animal products (…) offers substantial potential to improve food security for the rising global population in a sustainable manner”. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X16302384). Another study on food waste comes to the same conclusion: “The most important source of food waste is not uneaten portions that end up in the trash. The biggest issue is animal-based food products” . http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/03/20/1713820115 .
I fully understand that overall for smallholders it is hard, on practical and financial grounds, not to follow traditions – hence my call for more support from all relevant organisations, starting by accurate information. Similarly for consumers, changing diet is hard socially and psychologically but let’s make sure people can make informed choices.
Now your question about problems with hunting a rabbit or a deer (or a fish). I am sighing about your tendency to divert the conversation from evidence-based priorities to hypothetical scenarios or abstract discussions on the meaning of morality, for instance, but hey, this is normal where there is cognitive dissonance and my friend Mic says I should be very gentle with you (apologies if I’m not!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNerOJxtBh0.
There is no way we can all go hunting without exterminating all the animals. Wildlife now represents only 4% of mammals on Earth – our livestock is 60% and us 36%. Scientists are shouting that we need to restore 50% of the Earth to wildlife by 2050 (as advocated for instance by E.O Wilson https://eowilsonfoundation.org/half-earth-our-planet-s-fight-for-life/). In a study published this week they say that “This will be extremely challenging, but it is possible, and anything less will likely result in a major extinction crisis and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of future generations”. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6407/1051
I’ll be marching for wildlife this Saturday with Chris Packham and many others. His announcement of the People’s Manifesto says:
The state of nature in the UK is “ horrifying. Depressing. Disastrous. And yet somehow we have grown to accept this as part of our lives – we’ve normalised the drastic destruction of our wildlife.
To our shame, we are careless with our language. We say that ‘we’ve lost 97% of our flower rich meadows since the 1930s’ or that ‘we’ve lost 86% of the Corn Bunting population’. We speak of ‘a loss of 97% of our Hedgehogs’. Loss , lost . . . as if this habitat and these species have mysteriously disappeared into the ether, as if they’ve accidentally vanished. But they haven’t – they’ve been destroyed.
Our lazy, self-excusing terminology is representative of our chronic acceptance of such appalling catastrophes. We share these shocking statistics amongst ourselves like a vicious game of top trumps – to the extent that they have lost their meaning. We’ve forgotten that they are a death toll, that they are the dwindling voices of vanished millions, a tragic echo of a recent time of plentiful life.
It’s time to wake up. We must rouse ourselves from this complacent stupor, because we are presiding over an ecological apocalypse and precipitating a mass extinction in our own backyard.
So all you farmers, foresters, reserve wardens, teachers, students and children, all of you ‘ologists’, scientists, artists, writers and bloggers, you activists, volunteers, gardeners, can everyone please see that this is not your last chance to make a difference – it’s ours“.
Yes a few species in a few places are over-abundant through our actions, but we badly need to spare land (by shifting our farming ways) and reintroduce predators, as for instance pine marten for the grey squirrels https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/07/return-of-pine-martens-could-save-britains-red-squirrels-say-scientists.
Let’s stop killing foxes and they’ll take care of rabbits. Let’s bring back the lynx, etc.. Chris Packham is a great lover of hedgehogs but he is also a great lover of badgers (often accused of killing the former) and wants to stop the massacre caused by dairy farming.
I have vast experience of boar hunting: I went on many dozens of hunts during the fours years I lived in Algeria – and was in love with a hunter. I hated it – the hounding, the unnecessary stressing and killing of magnificent creatures mothers – or fathers – removed from their children and so many other aspects of that violence. You’ve told me twice about the Italian sow who went back to the farm to give birth. How do you expect a domestic farm animal to survive well in the wild? In any case variations on the theme of the Stockholm syndrome are well known among humans too.
When I suggest you go foraging instead of hunting, for a more ecologically efficient (and healthier) way of feeding yourself, you reply that you, in this virtual situation, really want to kill a rabbit or a deer or a fish. ‘Just because I want to’ is not very good role-modelling for Low Impact Living! The biggest pest on Earth is us humans but we don’t go round killing each other just because we want to. Most people are outraged at the sight of a trophy hunter proudly posing with the giraffe they’ve just killed. It seems such an unnecessary crime https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=90&v=S-lfXCrJqB4. Yet in the situation we’re in now, the killing of pretty much any wild mammal, indeed perhaps any animal unless there is an extremely valid reason to do so, is an ecological crime.
George Monbiot was tweeting yesterday: “To love the living world is to recognise that even the creatures that can harm us are magnificent” (having explained he nearly died from being stung by hornets but still loves them).
But you insist on an ‘environmental’ argument (as if the environment was only ‘out there’ and not within our own bodies and psyches too). Eating lower on the food chain – thus plants over animals – is always environmentally more efficient, using less resources.
And you’re not a natural predator: you’re not designed to chase the deer with your legs, to kill it with your hands, to skin it with your teeth, to digest it raw and unprepared with your stomach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Zy_erwWzdc
When our ancestors were still in balance with the world around them, their focus was on foraging, not hunting – yet they survived well since we’re here now (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/
and https://nutritionfacts.org/video/paleopoo-what-we-can-learn-from-fossilized-feces/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LevGHptvW8
I’ll finish with quotes from two men who are highly regarded for their vast knowledge, grasp of complex systemic issues and ability to provide wise advice: Vaclav Smil and Yuval Noah Harare:
“In terms of total mass (or weight) we are the number two species on Earth, with the number one being our cows – to which we can add, of course, all other ‘livestock.
The cattle zoomass is now at least 60 % larger than the anthropomass and the live weight of the two species together is about one billion metric tons.
The aggregate mass of cattle and humans is crushingly larger than the total mass of all wild vertebrates, and it clearly leaves too little space for the multitude of other species. Cows and men occupy much of the available land, consume much of its photosynthetic product, and generate an increasing amount of greenhouse gas.
No wonder we are in the midst of mass-scale species extinction, with no readily acceptable and effective relief in sight. By 2050 there will be 9 billion people and, most likely, 2 billion cattle, together augmenting their already crushing dominance of Earth. http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/planet-of-the-cows
“Destroying the world
If you took all the people in the world and put them on a large set of scales, their combined mass would be about 300 million tons. If you then took all our domesticated farm animals—cows, pigs, sheep and chickens—and placed them on an even larger set of scales, their mass would amount to about 700 million tons. In contrast, the combined mass of all surviving large wild animals—from porcupines and penguins to elephants and whales—is less than 100 million tons.
Our children’s books, our iconography and our TV screens are still full of giraffes, wolves and chimpanzees, but the real world has very few of them left. There are about 80,000 giraffes in the world, compared to 1.5 billion cattle; 200,000 wolves, compared to 400 million domesticated dogs; 50 million penguins compared with 50 billion chickens; 250,000 chimpanzees—in contrast to billions of humans. Humankind really has taken over the world.
The wild giraffes and penguins have no reason to be jealous of the domesticated cows and chickens, though. From a narrow evolutionary perspective, domesticated species are an amazing success story. They are the most widespread animals in the world. Unfortunately, this evolutionary perspective fails to take into account individual suffering. Domesticated cows and chickens may well be an evolutionary success story, but they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived. This discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering is one of the most important lessons of history”. http://www.ynharari.com/topic/ecology/.
Many thanks for allowing this debate and best wishes for your – and our – further explorations of what low impact living might look like!
41Dave Darby September 21st, 2018
Annie – I don’t have time to read all of your posts, but I’ll respond to two points I’ve picked out.
1. You say: ‘Free-range animals cause higher environmental destruction than intensively-reared ones through much higher land use (as well as other resources) and greenhouse gas emissions.’
That’s only true above a certain scale. And we’re saying let’s find that scale and stay under it.
The links you provide are all relevant to industrial-scale agriculture, but not to the kind of agriculture we’re advocating.
Grazing animals under orchards (or pigs in woodland, as we had at Redfield), or free-ranging chickens around smallholdings doesn’t involve ‘higher land use’. Plus, pre-agriculture, of course there was grassland, with wild herbivores, as well as woodland – and so there’s room in a sustainable agriculture for some fields with animals in them. And, of course ‘free-ranging’ wild animals.
That’s the scale of meat-eating that we’re advocating – no more domesticated animals than existed in the wild pre-agriculture, and so that can’t possibly be unsustainable. If you (rightly) say that modern domesticated animals are larger than their wild ancestors, and emit more GHGs, then let’s have fewer of them, or revert to rare breeds closer to their wild ancestors. There’s a sustainable level of domesticated animals in terms of GHG emissions – i.e. the same level from animals as existed pre-agriculture. Let’s find it. And as I’ve mentioned, the runoff argument doesn’t apply to organic smallholders, because they would never allow nutrients to leave the smallholding.
It’s a kind of agriculture that would require a huge drop in meat consumption, so, like you, that’s what we’re proposing. Vegans? Let’s have loads more of them. Where we differ is that we understand that meat-eating is still going to happen, so let’s do it sustainably. Plus we don’t want to disadvantage smallholders by forbidding them to produce meat (not that that’s going to happen).
The battle between organic smallholders and industrial, corporate agriculture is the battle we need to win before anything else.
2. You say: ‘Eating lower on the food chain – thus plants over animals – is always environmentally more efficient, using less resources.’
No, it’s not. Catching a fish from the sea or a rabbit from a woodland is more environmentally friendly than obtaining the same amount of protein from runner beans grown in a field that used to be natural habitat, or from soya beans grown on the other side of the world on land that used to be tropical rainforest.
42Malcolm Purvis September 22nd, 2018
Well………..Surely this has become far too long and antagonistic. This illustrates the difficulties of the situation Jim Bendell cites in his ‘Deep Adaptation’ paper will throw up in the future? We are in difficult times, much more difficult than we thought we would be at this stage, change is happening very quickly now and we need many people trained in conflict resolution and a different way of dealing with this situation than we are used to dealing with difficult situations, hope that makes some sort of sense…
Joanna Macey says that we have had 8,000 years of and agricultural revolution, 250 years of an industrial revolution and we are now at the point of ‘the great turning’. We (those of us that survive) will have a new consciousness and we need to evolve quickly, this is as big a change as when our direct ancestors came out of the sea and started to live on the land……We need more love, more compassion, more empathy and it is likely that only those people that can tap into that will survive. We are in interesting times, lets use these difficulties to grow, that is why they are here (these difficulties), we must rise to the challenge.
43Dave Darby September 22nd, 2018
Malcolm – I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not feeling at all antagonistic. Maybe it’s because the written word is difficult to interpret due to the lack of facial expressions, tone and body language.
Disagreement is absolutely fine.
44Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 22nd, 2018
Dave: in haste as I really don’t have the time. I am not pushing for more vegans, I am pushing for valid information to guide consumers, producers and decision-makers. I fully realise that meat and dairy production will continue (though lab-grown and plant-based products may replace them sooner than you think) and thus we need to promote the more environmentally-friendly ways of produce them. My arguments are about informing well!
My responses to yours:
1. You: I don’t have time to read all of the posts
Me: Please don’t respond without having read the evidence – ignoring it doesn’t advance the conversation!
2. You (about the fact that free range, grazing animals have higher GHG emissions and land use than factory farmed ones): That’s only true above a certain scale.
Me: No it’s not! I’ve provided plenty of evidence. Just one grazing cow emits more methane than just one grain-fed cow and it uses more land. It’s not about scale.
3. You: The links you provide are all relevant to industrial-scale agriculture:
No they’re not. For the third time here, here’s for instance a quote form one of Monbiot’s articles (and I wish you’d read the whole thing, or various other articles he’s recently written). I’ve sent several other perfectly relevant links.
“We are told by celebrity chefs and food writers to keep livestock outdoors: eat free range beef or lamb, not battery pork. But all this does is to swap one disaster – mass cruelty – for another: mass destruction.
Almost all forms of animal farming cause environmental damage, but none more so than keeping them outdoors. The reason is inefficiency. Grazing is not just slightly inefficient; it is stupendously wasteful. Roughly twice as much of the world’s surface is used for grazing as for growing crops, yet animals fed entirely on pasture produce just 1 gram out of the 81 g of proteinconsumed per person per day.
A paper in Science of the Total Environment reports that “livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss”. Grazing livestock are a fully automated system for ecological destruction: you need only release them onto the land and they do the rest, browsing out tree seedlings, simplifying complex ecosystems. Their keepers augment this assault by slaughtering large predators.
In the UK, for example, sheep supply, in terms of calories, around 1% of our diet. Yet they occupy around 4 million hectares of the uplands. This is more or less equivalent to all the land under crops in this country, and more than twice the area of the built environment (1.7 million hectares). The rich mosaic of rainforest and other habitats that once covered our hills has been erased, the wildlife reduced to a handful of hardy species. The damage caused is out of all proportion to the meat produced.
Replacing the meat in our diets with soya spectacularly reduces the land area required per kilo of protein: by 70% in the case of chicken, 89% in the case of pork, and 97% in the case of beef. One study suggests that if we were all to switch to a plant-based diet, 15 million hectares of land in Britain currently used for farming could be returned to nature. Alternatively, this country could feed 200 million people. An end to animal farming would be the salvation of the world’s wildlife, our natural wonders and magnificent habitats”
4. You: Grazing animals under orchards doesn’t involve higher land use.
Me: Yes it does! Where the animals are grazing you could grow various types of plant food, without methane and other emissions and such high energy leakages, as I have already explained.
Pigs in woodlands and free-range chickens require extra feed, which uses land. The free-range chicken are the least ecologically inefficient of the ones you have mentioned, but they don’t beat plant food (plus eggs, with their high cholesterol, tend to make us fat and sick, which in turn has a high eco footprint – there are other factors that come into play).
5. You: Pre-agriculture, of course there was grassland, with wild herbivores.
Me: Perfectly irrelevant to the current climate catastrophe.
You: no more domesticated animals than existed in the wild pre-agriculture can’t possibly be unsustainable.
Me: Thus no more coal mines than in the 9th century can’t possibly be unsustainable?
You: There’s a sustainable level of domesticated animals in terms of GHG emissions – i.e. the same level from animals as existed pre-agriculture. Let’s find it.
Me: You keep repeating this argument which is like me arguing over and over about sustainable levels of flying or driving diesel vehicles, etc! Less emissions from any source is better and any unnecessary GHG emission is unsustainable. There is no need to eat meat, dairy or eggs to be very healthy – especially in a country such as ours where 30% of the population is obese and we have one of the lowest scores in biodiversity. The word ‘sustainable’ has become meaningless.
6. You: The runoff argument doesn’t apply to organic smallholders, because they would never allow nutrients to leave the smallholding.
Me: They allow methane, nitrous oxide and CO2 emissions to leave the smallholding as well as ammonia which contributes to air pollution, the carcasses are still disposed of, the meat is still refrigerated, the urine and manure still seep into the ground and into waterways, the grazing animals still reduce biodiversity, red and processed meat remain carcinogens, etc. etc.
7. You: Where we differ is that we understand that meat-eating is still going to happen, so let’s do it sustainably. Plus we don’t want to disadvantage smallholders by forbidding them to produce meat (not that that’s going to happen).
Me: Once again: my ‘beef’ is about correct information to help smallholders best adapt to changing times. Explaining that policy-makers are urged to reduce livestock farming in Europe by 50%, that meat taxes are likely to be imposed, that “avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the planet” (according to the largest ever analysis of farming’s impacts), that the growth in demand in plant-based alternatives is growing exponentially and there are plenty of opportunities. Let’s help smallholders and consumers be on the right side of history!
8: You deny the validity of my comment that “Eating lower on the food chain – thus plants over animals – is always environmentally more efficient, using less resources” – but clearly this was intended ‘within a same or similar environment’, i.e. when you’re out in the woods your footprint will be lower through foraging than through hunting, eating directly the kinds of food your would-be prey eats. The Second Law of Thermodynamics again. There are some lovely people out there in the UK who are romanticising hunting and paleo diets – but the former cannot be scaled up without even more tragic damage to our wildlife and biodiversity, already in catastrophic decline, and the latter has been conclusively shown to be harmful to our health in the long term.
And for general guidance, the experts are very clear again: in most situations, ‘food miles’ play a tiny role for climate change compared to our choice of food, with local animal products – particularly red meat and cheese (and particularly from grazing animals) – far worse than vegetables shipped or flown in from anywhere (please see references provided – and there are plenty more). This is about the climate (a Big One!). For the local economy, for instance, local food is clearly better so the ideal situation is to produce more local plant food. That’s my main argument here. The UK is producing too much meat and dairy but far too few vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and various grains such as oats, quinoa, spelt etc. We’re importing so much that we could easily grow ourselves, and so much that would be excellent for our land, such as legumes (soy for instance!) and tree crops.
PS I’m now off to Hyde Park now to march for wildlife, with Chris Packham, George Monbiot, Caroline Lucas and many others.
45Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 22nd, 2018
Malcolm – thanks for your reminder in wisdom. No doubt I, for instance, stray away from heart wisdom and could be forever reskilling in that area. But as a great fan of Joanna Macy – a terrific role model whom I have met a number of times – I also know her work emphasises the need for different forms of actions. Throughout her life she has been a fierce campaigner for correct information, fighting for instance the nuclear industry with all her might, writing reports many hundred pages long to dismantle misinformation. But you’re right that we also need to learn to create more bridges than ditches – one of the main purposes of the march by Chris Packham that I am about to attend. Namaste!
46Rosewood Farm's Rob September 22nd, 2018
Dave – I aren’t going to comment extensively because I genuinely don’t have time for the hyperbole here. It sounds like a representation for big business that I don’t think fits in at all with the low impact lifestyle.
Clearly meat eating is sustainable as we’ve been doing it for millenia and if done well it can actually increase the vitality of a landscape down to arable agriculture. No it can’t feed vastly more of us than there are now but that seems like an unsustainable situation in itself and not a goal we should be aiming for.
47Dave Darby September 22nd, 2018
Annie – you say:
“2. You (about the fact that free range, grazing animals have higher GHG emissions and land use than factory farmed ones): That’s only true above a certain scale.
Me: No it’s not! I’ve provided plenty of evidence. Just one grazing cow emits more methane than just one grain-fed cow and it uses more land. It’s not about scale.”
You’ve provided plenty of evidence to back up this same point, many times, yes. And I’m saying that it’s logically wrong. The vast area of agricultural land that we have now has replaced natural habitat, and displaced wild herbivores. If we substitute domesticated herbivores for those wild ancestors, there obviously won’t be any more GHG emissions, will there? A corollary of your position is that wild herbivores are unsustainable.
48Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 23rd, 2018
Dave, one final comment and then I’m stopping for good. Firstly, sending a virtual hug to you and reiterating my appreciation for so much of what you do at Low Impact – including allowing debate! And I also want to stress that I have no doubt that life is hard for smallholders and it’s completely understandable that finding the time, money, energy, knowledge and support to investigate systems outside established traditions isn’t easy.
Now to your last question: at the dawn of agriculture (and how far back do you suggest we look?) humans were at most a few millions, so thousands of times less than now.
We cannot reproduce that past – we would need to cull 99.9% of humans for a start. Currently the mass of terrestrial animals is 60% farmed animals (with a strong majority of ruminants), 36% humans and 4% wildlife – of which a small proportion are herbivores, of which a small proportion are ruminants – so we have some 0.?% of wild ruminants on Earth. Just to give you an idea.
Free-to-roam wild herbivores have a very different impact on the Earth than farmed ones who are fenced-in. Permaculture teacher Aranya, writing in the current issue of ‘Going Green International’, explains for instance that:
“Animals are supposed to be free to move through the landscape and parasites are one way that nature ensures that this happens. Herbivores that move are not only harder for predators to find, but they also leave behind the eggs of many parasites in their faeces, rather than reingesting them. Nature needs these animals to move to ensure that the plants they graze and browse upon have time to recover in between meals. Many plants and trees also rely on the animal kingdom to transport their seeds (…) Most crucially for us perhaps, is the important role animals perform in moving nutrients, especially minerals, across the landscape. Soils often suffer localised mineral deficiencies, potentially a problem for plants, being unable to move. Animals, including ourselves, are supposed to eat from one place and then defecate those nutrients elsewhere, solving this problem”.
He is (as I am) in favour of animals in our farming systems. So he also writes:
“We need to remember that animals of all sizes are a crucial part of any healthy ecosystem. We don’t have to eat them, but the land suffers in their absence. I’m not going to become a carnivore any time soon, but landscapes where large herbivores can roam widely are proving vital for species diversity and ultimately the resilience of the whole ecosystem that supports us. I am, through and through, a vegan [he has been since 1984], living in a world which requires that some species are not”.
It seems that your ideal system for meat production would look very much like Knepp Castle? This is what George Monbiot writes about it:
“What Isabella and her husband have done at Knepp is beautiful. But we simply cannot use it as a general justification for eating meat. The Knepp estate supplies 0.0075% of the beef the UK eats, and there is nowhere else like it. So what if everywhere was like Knepp, producing 54kg of meat/hectare? The UK’s 17.2m ha of farmland would produce slightly less beef than the UK eats. And nothing else.
Knepp is wonderful. But as a general model, it’s a formula for starvation.
As you know, I strongly support rewilding – of infertile and unproductive land. I do not support rewilding as a substitute for productive crop-growing. The amazing thing about a plant-based diet is that it uses far less land, releasing more for rewilding. According to the estimates by Simon Fairlie (himself a small livestock keeper), a vegan diet could feed all the UK’s people on just 3m hectares of land. Alternatively, all the productive farmland in the UK could be used to support 200m people.
By contrast, if Knepp-style production was applied across all the UK’s farmland, it would supply the UK’s population with around 75 kcal per person per day – roughly 1/30th of what we need to survive”.
In addition there is still the methane – much more than if the land was purely rewilded with predators, with the meat and bones entirely recycled in the ecosystem etc. As it is harder to sell meat from non-ruminant herbivores such as wild horses, there is currently an over-emphasis on ruminants. Isabella Tree writes that she relies on plants with furmaric acid to reduce enteric methane. But this has been shown to have zero effect (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16699105) and she has misinterpreted another study – basically lying about methane emissions. The comments section to her recent Guardian article got closed very fast (so I couldn’t get in!) but it’s interesting to see how many commentators have seen the flaws in her reasoning. Things are changing very fast! (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/veganism-intensively-farmed-meat-dairy-soya-maize#comment-119748600).
So my own vision of healthy food systems would be one of a mixture of land left for rewilding – mostly in the uplands but ideally elsewhere too – with predators re-introduced: ideally wolves, but at least lynx, pine martens, etc. – then food produced in all kinds of forest gardens such as this one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GJFL0MD9fc) as well as orchards where domestic animals would be free to roam without getting killed, grains and other products grown on farms such as this one http://www.learnpermaculture.com/blog/275-wakelyns, plus vegs and fruits also produced on farms such as Iain Tolhurst’s (http://www.tolhurstorganic.co.uk/about-us/biodiversity/). We would get a much higher proportion of our food from perennial plants, including trees, with for instance flour from chestnuts, possibly acorns, and many other nut crops as well as seeds. Our diets would also include a much higher proportion of locally grown legumes – peas and a range of different beans, including organic soy. People would be supported to grow food in every garden, allotment and public space. There would be hedgerows and strips of wild plants everywhere and kids would learn to forage some wild food.
On Sunday, after George Monbiot spoke brilliantly about rewilding, I met old friend Mark Boyle – the ‘Moneyless Man’ (who was with Shaun Chamberlin, another very bright young man). Sadly I couldn’t stay long with Mark, but he confirmed that he had done to some extent the reverse transition from Monbiot’s – gone from an ardent vegan campaigner to currently doing some hunting and I believe keeping chicken on his 3 acre land (although saying he is still mostly vegan). As I think you know, Mark is now trying to live a life without practically none of the modern ‘trappings’ such as a computer or smart phone. I don’t believe he walked from Ireland to London though…
He is trying very hard to get away from agriculture, in many ways using your arguments about hunting, even though he is still very sensitive to animal suffering and thus, he tells me, still refuses to eat meat or dairy from farmed animals. I look forward to reading his upcoming book – ‘Returning home’ or something like that.
After Simon Fairlie, I would love you to interview others – thus indeed George Monbiot and/or Chris Packham (who has been trying his hardest to stay in very good terms with farmers – but not the NFU), Mark Boyle, Aryana, or even maybe Shaun Chamberlin (whose last post is about the ‘hypocrisy’ of some of our [food] choices http://www.darkoptimism.org/articles.html).
I’ll leave it here! Very best wishes to you!
49Dave Darby September 24th, 2018
Thank you Annie.
“He is (as I am) in favour of animals in our farming systems.”
Great – but having the animals in the farming system, and letting them live for many years after reaching full size, and never eating them, is a huge waste of resources, and a huge loss of potential income for smallholders.
I know that you don’t see it that way, because, as we’ve discussed before, you believe that it’s morally wrong for humans to kill animals. Not for bears, foxes, wolves – just for humans. So many vegans will present the argument that the only sustainable level of meat production is zero – i.e. there is no sustainable way to produce it and no sustainable scale of production. However, they wouldn’t say the same thing for cars, energy generation, houses, tree-felling, the internet, or humans themselves. A reduction in all those things would be environmentally beneficial – but a reduction to zero is not advocated in those cases. That only applies to meat. I don’t find that argument convincing.
But to the moral question. As I’ve said before, if ‘meat is murder’, then we either need to get into nature and arrest murdering predators, which is clearly absurd; or we have to claim that humans are not part of nature – a very dangerous step, I think.
Which leaves the argument that killing animals to eat their flesh damages us – psychologically, emotionally or spiritually. This, for me, is the best argument that vegans (or more precisely, those who think that veganism should be compulsory) have. It’s obviously coming from a place of compassion, which I respect. And I can imagine a time in the future when eating meat will be anathema. But that time is not now. I believe that humanity’s priority is to replace our current economic system with one that can be stabilised. It is the overall growth in human activity (including meat production) that is so damaging to the biosphere. To do that will mean challenging the power of multinational corporations – in agriculture as in everything else; and we won’t do that by preventing smallholders from keeping animals or selling animal products – a vital source of income for most small farmers.
One other thing that I don’t think we’ve discussed – societal collapse. I think we’ll be very lucky to avoid it this century. We’ve been criticised for promoting things like hydroponics, aquaponics etc, because they involve plastics etc. Picking wild mushrooms is another one – if we all did it, we would destroy all wild mushrooms pretty quickly. Of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone forage for mushrooms or that all our veg be grown hydroponically. But in the case of ecological and societal collapse, perhaps with thermonuclear war thrown in for good luck, people will need all the skills they can get to survive. That might mean tinkering, using bits of industrial society that are still lying around – including plastics, and especially if soils are degraded or toxic. Foraging and hunting will be essential, and anyone who refuses to eat animals in that situation will be at a huge disadvantage. And yet still, we encourage and promote veganism, because it reduces meat consumption overall, but we know that not everyone will do it, and so we’ll continue to promote the keeping of animals and the use of animal products sustainably.
As you’ve said that you’re not against a farming system with animals in it, then our only difference is whether morally, we have the right to eat them or not, and we’re back to the argument above – ad infinitum, because moral questions don’t have objectively right or wrong answers.
[I know Mark and Shaun, btw – have interviewed Mark for this blog before, and want to interview Shaun about various things. Am more than happy to interview anyone about anything that might be of interest to readers of our blog, as long as they’re happy to debate / be challenged. At the moment, I’m part of a group looking at setting up a national mutual credit scheme, which is taking a lot of my time. As I’ve said, our main focus is to help build a non-corporate, stable economy, via the mutual credit idea, NonCorporate.org and using Lowimpact.org to help people gain skills, or to trade with people who already have those skills. Smallholding is just a small part of what we’re about, and livestock keeping a smaller part still. We’d like to see a reduction in meat production, and that’s one thing that we can agree about, at least. I know there are many others.]
50Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 24th, 2018
Dave, I’m with you on most things and fully back the other work you’ve mentioned but feel frustrated that you’re once again attributing to me thoughts that I’ve never had, let alone written about. I’ve never said that ‘meat is murder’ but that meat is UNECESSARY in our present situation because we are overall much healthier WITHOUT it, and so is the climate, and so is the rest of the environment – including farm animals and wildlife. Unlike getting rid of all cars, houses, computers and humans, a shift to plant food is win-win-win for us and for nature – once producers are fully supported and fellow consumers well informed.
Tarring all vegans with the same brush is like me saying “You’re a carnist therefore you back very right-wing governments because most carnists vote for them”. Sloppy argument. I don’t even normally call myself a vegan (others do!) but someone choosing a whole food plant-based diet because it makes most sense on all ground, in most situations in the West.
I’m off to Africa soon and may well decide to eat meat or fish there, if it makes sense. Idem if the situation changes here. But for now, I will follow the path of the many bright scientists and thinkers – many of whom love the taste of meat – who have examined the issues very carefully and have come to the conclusion that “Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the planet” – i.e. to live a low impact life (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth?).
51Dave Darby September 24th, 2018
Annie – read it again. I didn’t say that you said ‘meat is murder’. That’s what some people say. You can replace it with ‘eating meat is morally wrong’.
‘Unlike getting rid of all cars, houses, computers and humans, a shift to plant food is win-win-win for us and for nature’
Why is it unlike the others? Why is zero meat a valid target, but zero cars isn’t?
‘I’m off to Africa soon and may well decide to eat meat or fish there’
I’m truly gobsmacked.
[Your link, btw, once again, is about the current levels of industrial meat, not what we’re advocating.]
52Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 24th, 2018
Zero meat is a valid target because it’s most likely to increase someone’s health right at the first meal, just like zero tobacco would. This is likely to be beneficial to the person’s finances, and certainly will be to the economy, and even more certainly to the climate and wider environmental aspects. There isn’t a single negative side to it – other than personal and social habits – as well as, temporarily, financial ones for some producers. Re personal habits, taste buds adapt very fast and re social habits, as soon as 10% of a population shifts to new ways it tends to become quickly the new norm. This is happening anyway!
Zero cars is also a valid target which I fully support, but it is far more inconvenient for most people. I try to apply in my life and push for relevant policies but the drawbacks, unlike zero meat, are many.
I am surprised you are gobsmacked by my readiness to eat fish and/or meat. I have never ever been an absolutist. You are the one bringing assumed rigid moral rules into the equation, not me! I could definitely kill an animal given the right circumstances, in fact I could also kill a human animal – and perhaps eat it too!
Here Dr Hans Diehl, who has vastly improved or saved tens of thousands of lives through his CHIP program promoting whole food plant-based diet (https://www.chiphealth.com/About-CHIP/Scientific-Publications/ ) explains that in terms of health “it’s a no brainer” and in terms of the environment (from 5’15):
“My goal is to make sure that I leave a legacy behind for my kids. That a liveable planet is still going to be around when my kids are growing up – and we can make a major contribution in terms of living a softer footprint on the planet by moving towards a simpler diet, eating more foods as grown. It would make all the difference. It’s a difference for people all over the world! It would mean less hunger, it would mean less malnutrition, it means health for people and the survivability of a planet that means everything to us, especially for our grand-kids”.
53Dave Darby September 24th, 2018
OK Annie, I don’t think this can go any further. The zero meat but not zero cars argument makes zero sense to me. We’re talking past each other. For me, if all energy was from renewables, all food was organic, all waste was recycled, all buildings were from natural materials, and everyone was vegan, none of this would make any difference at all in terms of retaining a liveable planet within the context of a perpetually-growing corporate capitalist economy. We want to support alternatives to that, and if smallholders can’t keep animals, it hinders them, rather than helps them.
You don’t see it that way, and we’re not going to persuade each other.
Enjoy Africa. D
54Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 24th, 2018
Sorry Dave, but I won’t let you get away with distorting evidence!
You wrote: “Your link, btw, once again, is about the current levels of industrial meat, not what we’re advocating”.
So I read the study again and it’s very clear that it’s not about industrial farming or industrial levels but covers every type of meat production, based on data from some 40,000 farms, including lots of small ones.
This is what it says:
“Athough ruminants convert grass into human-edible protein,, the environmental impacts of this conversion are immense UNDER ANY PRODUCTION METHOD PRACTICED TODAY.
We find that the impacts of the lowest-impact animal products exceed average impacts of substitute vegetable proteins across GHG emissions, eutrophication, acidification (excluding nuts), and frequently land use.
Today, and probably into the future, dietary change can deliver environmental benefits on a scale not achievable by producers. Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential, reducing food’s land use by 76%, including a 19% reduction in arable land; food’s GHG emissions by 49%; acidification by 50%; eutrophication by 49%; and scarcity-weighted freshwater withdrawals by 19% for a 2010 reference year.
These figures are global averages. In countries such as the UK where meat consumption is twice the global average, or the US where it is three times the global average, dietary change has the potential for a far greater effect on food’s emissions, reducing them by up to 73%.
Consumers can play another important role by avoiding high-impact producers”.
And you’ve also distorted what I last wrote. It wasn’t ‘zero meat but no zero car’, as you write, but very much both, ideally. The difference is that zero meat can be done by anyone at any meal with an instant beneficial impact on their health, most likely their finances and certainly the planet, whilst having the largest impact of any of our individual choices – bigger than ditching the car in the vast majority of cases.
My own final words will be said by another top doctor, who has also saved or improved tens of thousands of lives through whole food plant based diets.
55Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 24th, 2018
I meant to add that to me it doesn’t matter what economy we have if we don’t have a planet to live on.
56Dave Darby September 25th, 2018
‘Moving from current diets’
and ‘In countries such as the UK where meat consumption is twice the global average, or the US where it is three times the global average, dietary change has the potential for a far greater effect on food’s emissions, reducing them by up to 73%.’
and ‘takes up 83% of farmland’
and ‘global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%’
and ‘uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions’
and ‘86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans’
You really can’t see that this is about the current levels of meat production and consumption, not what we’re advocating?
‘it doesn’t matter what economy we have if we don’t have a planet to live on.’
Ah, I assumed we were on the same page with this. It’s our perpetually-growing economy that’s the engine of environmental destruction, whatever our diets, or any other aspects of our lifestyles. This is why we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on the issue of not making life difficult for smallholders.
I’m confused by the fact that you can’t see either of the above points; and by the fact that you say you’ll possibly eat meat in Africa and that you could kill an animal, but you won’t accept that there’s a sustainable level of animal agriculture; and that of all the damaging aspects of industrial society, it’s only meat that you see as feasibly reducible to zero (even though you say you’re not an absolutist).
But I’m going to leave this now. We’ll only go round in circles. At some point, hopefully this year, but maybe next (lots of things happening, and this is only a tiny part of it – but an important one) I’ll write up our policy, check it with everyone else here (there are 3 of us in the co-op, with 4 advisors, and we’re all pretty much on the same page), then blog it. I’ll make it as comprehensive as possible, so that any comments can be referred to points in the policy, or if they’re new, can be added to the policy. If we’re presented with an argument that convinces enough of us, we’ll change the policy.
57Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 25th, 2018
I am on the same page as you for the economy and very much fighting for changes there too but this doesn’t stop me choosing a diet that has, by far, the lowest GHG emissions and other environmental impacts, as well as health benefits – and everyone else can do that too. Climate change is happening much faster than even the most gloomy scientific predictions had warned us about. The study quoted explains that consumer changes are far more powerful to reduce emissions and other impacts in this respect than producer changes. It also confirms that this is the area where we can, as individuals, have the biggest impact on climate change as well as other key ecological crises. Producers will follow the demand anyway, just as they will also need to adapt to the changing climate, changing subsidies and probably soon changing taxes.
To me the priority is to get correct facts out about human and planetary health impacts – as it is well established that people are vastly misinformed and underestimate those impacts, or don’t know about them. This won’t happen when the people providing the information have vested interests. So far on this site, for crucial conversations, we’ve had opinions from a beef farmer and a dairy farmer (wise as he may be on many aspects of farming). VW will also tell me that driving one of their cars is pretty benign, it’s about numbers, or whatever. Will you interview others who have studied the issues carefully and are not livestock farmers themselves? George Monbiot? Joseph Poore (the author of the study, based in Oxford)? Otherwise, sorry – I’m likely to see your policy as very biased.
58Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 26th, 2018
Space devoted to orchards and other fruit trees and berry plantations: 0.04%
Space devoted to pastures (grazing farm animals): 28.42% (the largest land use recorded)
59Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 26th, 2018
Statistics (on comment above) about land use for pastures do not include moorlands, also grazed, nor land used to grow feed, nor farm facilities…
60Malcolm purvis September 26th, 2018
We still seem to be missing the elephant in the room here. 1.16% of the UK is vegan, according to the vegan society and approx’ 0.5% of the US is vegan. Although we should not necessarily assume that the figures quoted in some reports of 900million (the largest estimated figure and many people dispute this) worldwide are insignificant they are a drop in the ocean. Most people would see that for the world to become vegan anytime soon is (meat?)pie in the sky.
Whilst the rise of veganism is to be commended and encouraged, it will not solve our current crises. Maybe we just need a revolution?……..
61Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) September 26th, 2018
The Vegan Society also says that “Demand for meat-free food increased by 987% in 2017 and going vegan was predicted to be the biggest food trend in 2018.
Vegan trend quadrupled in the 5 years between 2012 and 2017, according to Google search. It now gets almost 3 times more interest than vegetarian and gluten free searches”.
“‘Veganism has skyrocketed since the last Vegan Society’s survey” (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/vegans-uk-rise-popularity-plant-based-diets-veganism-figures-survey-compare-the-market-a8286471.html). “Vegans in the UK now exceed 3.5 million, or 7% of the population. Veganism has seen a 700% growth in just two years” (https://www.livekindly.co/number-of-vegans-in-the-uk-surges-by-700-in-just-two-years/).
I went to a large Tesco yesterday (yes, shame on me!), first time in months, and was amazed by the big choice in vegan dishes. It is undeniable that whether it’s once or 7 times a week, more and more people are turning to plant-based options – so helping producers to adapt to these new trends seems key.
It’s also obvious that we need to do everything possible to mitigate climate chaos and that methane emissions in particular play a crucial role. With business as usual, methane emissions from agriculture in the world are due to increase by some 15% in the next decade or so, with “expanding livestock production the primary cause (…) Aggressive reductions are now required” (http://sci-hub.tw/10.1146/annurev-environ-102017-030154).
I get frustrated with the focus on ‘vegans’, which often detracts from the real problems and solutions. Here’s a description from a very recent Swiss study, which I feel applies to the UK too:
“For the promoters of less, but better meat consumption, taste and pleasure are central to food and eating, meaning that those who like meat should not have to relinquish it. Instead, they argue, consumers should opt for quality over quantity. Eating less of higher-quality meat is put forward as an answer to the health problems related to high red meat consumption, but also to the potential harm brought by the use of antibiotics on animals, as well as the pesticides found in their food. The diminution of meat consumption is also presented as beneficial for the environment in relation to land use and biodiversity. These ideas are mostly promoted by farmers and butchers also basing their marketing on local and “ethical” production, as well as by professional associations putting emphasis on the quality of Swiss [UK] products versus imported ones. Meanwhile, almost the entire discourse behind vegetarian and vegan diets is organized around animal rights and well-being, overshadowing arguments related to resources, health, and environmental impacts, that could also justify giving up meat consumption. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666318304070?via%3Dihub).
Vegan diets, when based on processed foods, can be unhealthy for both humans and the planet so what I advocate are ‘whole food plant based’ diets, based on local food as much as possible. In the UK we need to consume and produce far more vegs and fruit, as well as nuts, seeds and a wider range of grains, and far less meat and dairy. The vast majority of health experts and ecologists agree on this.
Dave writes that the priority for Low Impact is to change growth-based economics. Surely we need to do both, urgently! George Monbiot, who argues passionately for a shift away from animal-based food, was writing in the Guardian today about growth and climate change:
“The worst denial is not the claim that this existential crisis [climate] isn’t happening. It is the failure to talk about it at all. Not talking about our greatest predicament, even as it starts to bite, requires a constant and determined effort. (…)Like the media, we subconsciously invest great psychological effort into not discussing an issue that threatens almost every aspect of our lives.
So what do we do? We talk. (…) Let’s be embarrassing. Let’s break the silence, however uncomfortable it makes us and others feel. Let’s talk about the great unmentionables: not just climate breakdown, but also growth and consumerism. Let’s create the political space in which well-intentioned parties can act. Let us talk a better world into being”.
Monbiot has written at length about the climate and other environmental destruction from animal farming. It really doesn’t matter how many vegans there are. What matters is reducing this destruction as much and as fast as possible – and for that we need to get the data out and talk about it.
The elephant in the room is… a cow. Check out the Facebook page onto which new studies and articles are posted regularly, and have been for years, so that the site is full of relevant info. https://www.facebook.com/groups/515390858491078/.
62Rosewood Farm's Rob September 27th, 2018
Veganism is the logical conclusion of a highly industrialised food processing industry and I’m astounded to see it so strongly supported on the low impact, anti-capitalist site. The UK, like many other western countries and like the developing world today, saw unprecedented population growth on the back of a mainly plant-based diet that can no longer be maintained on a sustainably produced meat based diet due to the way our society and infrastructure is set up. Capitalism relies upon continued growth and despite the very best efforts of the industrialised food production industry we have now reached the point where meat can no longer be produced financially cheaper than it is now. The next step? cut the amount of animal products in food to a bare minimum and charge a premium for doing so and hey presto – continued economic growth!
Then all you need to do is turn the public against sustainable food production by claiming that intensive farming feeds more people with a lower per capita impact (as if the planet cares how many people it supports!?), even if it means using pesticides that destroy our wildlife, and fertilisers that destroy our soils, the important thing is that it uses less land and feeds more people to ensure yet more economic growth. It’s OK, noone takes any notice that the land ‘spared’ isn’t actually restored as wildlife habitat but instead planted with cash crops.
All of the above justifications for veganism fall apart when you take away fossil fuels – it may well be more carbon ‘efficient’ to dig hydrocarbons out of their stable stores in the ground and release them into the atmosphere than to cycle organic carbons on the earth’s surface but if you don’t have that technology you’re stuck with human and animal power. If you accept that animals are ok as part of a farming or wild ecosystem as long as they aren’t killed then you destroy the environmental argument.
Nevermind, as long as we can continue jetting around the world as we have done for what, 80 years at most? and blame every modern problem on the humble cow, domesticated a mere 10,000 years ago.
63Dave Darby September 30th, 2018
It’s weird to be defending both veganism and meat-eating in the same thread, but that is our position, with caveats on both sides.
‘Veganism is the logical conclusion of a highly industrialised food processing industry’
Why? A vegan diet could be based on squashes / pumpkins, beans / legumes, corn, plus nuts, fruit, veg, salad, mushrooms. Why does it necessarily have to be highly industrialised and processed? That’s the way capitalists would like to take it, but it’s not ineviable.
‘I’m astounded to see it so strongly supported on the low impact, anti-capitalist site’
We support it because it helps to reduce the overall amount of meat consumed, which is essential. Only a small percentage will do it, but it helps.
We don’t support corporate, processed foods, pesticides or fertilisers, or jetting around the world, and we don’t blame sustainable livestock farmers.
The land argument (I don’t have to repeat it) is valid, because we’re headed for a population of 11 billion, which will mean the conversion of a lot more wild habitat for food production. The more nutrition we can get per acre the better.
‘If you accept that animals are ok as part of a farming or wild ecosystem as long as they aren’t killed then you destroy the environmental argument.’
64Rosewood Farm's Rob September 30th, 2018
Dave – Note I said that ‘Veganism is the logical conclusion of a highly industrialised food processing industry’ as opposed to ‘A highly industrialised food processing industry is the logical conclusion of veganism’.
It comes down to profit at the end of the day, using the cheapest ingredients (they’ve made meat about as cheap as it’s going to get now, so the only way to increase margins is to charge more or lower the cost of inputs), which are plant based.
I didn’t mean that the lowimpact.org site itself is supporting capitalism but that the site is attracting some contributers who do support the highly industrialised food processing industry in preference to small scale smallholders with animals.
There are two main reasons why we are heading towards a population of 11bn in the first place and those are the plant based diet allowing us to grow and feed a population over and above the Earth’s natural carrying capacity and fossil fuels making it possible to produce that much. Take fossil fuels away and both 11bn population and veganism become impossible.
Plant based diets are responsible for the huge population growth so proposing them as the solution to the problem is like fighting fire with petrol.
Hope that clears it up.
65Annie Leymarie October 2nd, 2018
Today Chris Packham published an article explaining why he is going vegan. Extracts:
“The progress we have made on animal welfare standards is nowhere near good enough for me. Alongside that, I am aware how eating meat impacts negatively on the environment. It costs so much more in terms of the world’s resources. It is very expensive environmentally, ecologically wasteful. There is no ambiguity about that [he cites https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth).
We also know cattle produce more methane than anything else. As our population grows, the impact on our environment is so detrimental. I also have real concerns about the way the dairy industry is run. I don’t want to be a part of that.
However, our farmers are incredibly important when it comes to looking after the environment. Because 70 % of the land surface is farmed, we need them to farm it in a sustainable way. So it is vitally important to support people in the meat and dairy business through a process of change, whereby they change their methods and produce to suit the market.
Dairy farmers could be going into organic vegetable production, and we should support them with training schemes and grants to switch the land, equipment and machinery over. Right now, the farming industry is pushing back against the growth of veganism because it sees it as a direct threat to its income. It needs to realise it has to change, so why not do it in a productive and positive way? We must encourage them. We need to bring them with us.
What we’re seeing now is a rapid expansion of veganism, particularly among the younger generation. They are embracing it. They have greater awareness and the heartening thing is that rather than ignore that education they have embraced it”. (https://www.bigissue.com/latest/food/chris-packham-heres-why-im-going-vegan/)
Also today is the official release of a three-part advisory report, advocating meat taxation in the UK and shifts from meat and dairy to the production of vegetables, fruit and grain. Article about it says:
“The majority of agriculture subsidies support animal products such as meat, dairy and feed. These have the greatest impact on the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and water use. Minimal domestic agriculture support is earmarked for healthy and environmentally sustainable produce such as vegetables, fruit and pulses; and domestic production of these is in decline. Most beans and pulses are used to feed animals. Reflecting these production trends, most people in the UK are also failing to eat sufficient amounts of healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses and fish.” (http://www.futureoffood.ox.ac.uk/news/fresh-start-framework-healthy-and-sustainable-diets). Lots of great data in the reports themselves (http://www.ukhealthforum.org.uk/).
Let’s remember that it is tax payers who make meat and dairy businesses viable. So people like me who don’t consume either products still contribute far more to their production than to the production of the plant food we do eat. A few facts: “On average, English farms made a £39,000 profit last year  from their farming business, with £28,300 from subsidies and £2,100 from agriculture. On average, small farm subsidies make up around 78% of the total profit, on medium size farms it’s 61%; and on large farms it’s 46%”. (https://fullfact.org/economy/farming-subsidies-uk/).
Published last week, a study by conservationists confirms yet again that organic farming and other high-welfare low-intensity systems overall produce much more greenhouse gases and have a much bigger land use and biodiversity footprint (through their inefficiency) than more intensive systems. From article about it:
“We are certainly not pro conventional agriculture business as usual,” said Prof Balmford [lead author]. “‘We’re just pro looking at the numbers, and the numbers tell us that most biodiversity can’t survive on any sort of farm.”
When it comes to organic dairy farming in Europe, the production of the same volume of milk, organic systems takes up twice as much land and causes at least one-third more soil loss than conventional dairy farming. “Across all dairy systems we find that higher milk yield per unit of land generally leads to greater biological and economic efficiency of production,”
One key element of this report is the link between intensive farming and leaving more land for wilderness. There are various mechanisms that can be put in place to encourage farmers to take land out of production and reward them for the “public good” element that their lands provide, such as stemming the flow of floodwater, or absorbing CO2″. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45520399).
This confirms various other studies such as this one from June this year, which says for instance:
“Despite often considered prevailing wisdom, it is not the case that small farms are inherently better than large farms or vice versa. It is perfectly possible to operate large-scale farming systems that foster landscape, genetic and nutritional diversity as well as provide multiple ecosystem services with minimal environmental cost. Large-scale, intensive monoculture farming has emerged in response to a market and subsidy regime that rewards productivity and specialization (but not ecosystem services) and fails to account for environmental externalities”. It also says “Farm lobbies have remained disproportionately influential in rich countries. Resistance [to shifts to production of nutritionally and environmentally-friendly food] should be expected at all stages of the food system: from the livestock sector, grain farmers and agribusiness (for which the livestock sector is a major customer” (https://hoffmanncentre.chathamhouse.org/article/breaking-the-vicious-cycle-food-climate-nutrition/).
The recent report which warns that the EU meat and diary sector must shrink by 50% explains that “One of the largest barriers to this sustainable food vision is Europe’s farmers themselves (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/15/europe-meat-dairy-production-2050-expert-warns?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other ).
So: Let’s indeed encourage and support farmers to be ahead of the changes that will happen anyway, and let’s fight for taxes and subsidies that help that: more vegetable (including legumes), fruit and grain production for humans, far less meat and dairy, especially in the UK where the imbalance is huge (we’re over-producing milk, for instance), more land put aside for wildlife and biodiversity. There are now 21,000 scientists pushing urgently for such shifts in their Warning to Humanity http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/ .
66Elizabeth Fletcher October 3rd, 2018
Last comment from me (It’s very late and I’m freezing So please forgive any typos).
What about conservation of ‘at risk’ species?
The RBST encourages consumption of meat from the rare breeds lists because doing so creates more demand for that species, which can then result in more breeding, thus increased numbers meaning that species no longer being endangered.
The alternative is, that particular breed isn’t bred for food, so it dies out. (Ie uk goat, pig and chicken breeds).
Annie mentioned bringing back some animals that we no longer have in the UK, which is fantastic, but we also need to look at increasing the endangered ones numbers before they too are wiped out.
David and Rob made excellent points about meat free being dependent on fossil fuels and I don’t think this has been addressed.
And lastly, if I do a Tesco shop (cringe) and I’m buying food for myself, partner and three children, raw food, especially organic, is by FAR more expensive than processed rubbish (ie frozen ready meals) and quite a bit more than if i buy food with animal products in them. (Ie lactose that is often used as a preservative). I have to buy a hell of a lot more raw food to satisfy hunger for one week than if I buy the alternative. The price is literally doubled for organic. But when i can, I shop locally, and even though the food here isn’t usually organic, it’s still more expensive than supermarkets (obviously- small business always are) but still raw food is even more expensive.
Foraging was mentioned- but not everyone has access to places to forage. And if we all did, pretty soon they’d be nothing left to forage.
Lastly- how can the carbon footprint possibly be smaller having nuts/soya/rice /bananas/apples/pinapples/beans/etc flown in from abroad, compared to meat that was raised and slaughtered literally 5 miles away? The animals food was grown on the same farm. The veg too.
Look at it logically. If society collapsed tomorrow and there were no more fossil fuels, I could still get a nutritionally balanced diet within a 5 mile radius. If I were vegan, I could not.
In conclusion- For some people yes, veganism is the best way, but to say everyone should stop eating meat is simply ignorant. I think it was Dave who mentioned a few tribal groups who would die off, but there didn’t seem to be response to that specific point. So presumably either they don’t matter, or they are somehow exempt from all the evidence in favour of veganism. If it’s the latter, that would indicate that there ARE exceptions, so meat free is not the way faward.
Not taking sides per-se, but personally, I agree with everyone here that industrial meat production is wrong in pretty much every possible way, BUT if the world was to go vegan, Monsanto would be the reason for even more human health problems. Get rid of them, and other corperations and governments who control the food system and then *maybe* veganism could work. But until that happens, eating a cow/pig/squirrel/rabbit etc is the least of humanities problems. And the planet’s too.
Blessed be. ?
67Amanda Holley October 3rd, 2018
I’m coming in very late …. so many great points here and many tks for them … Annie I love your contributions! I get very frustrated with vegans being treated as one group then they’re soo NOT. A few points … we never talk about humanure … I was part of several small holdings in Australia where this was managed … I saw some incredibly intensive veg gardening there and met many smal holders who simply gave up on meat production because it was so labour intensive. Much easier to grow beans. In terms of food security it must be true to say that our best resource is ourselves … 8 bn pairs of hands! In Australia there were many small projects encouraging and teaching everyone to grow food … and cook it. Community gardens abounded, seed savers communed and we all learned to look after ourselves with great food swaps. Animals were rarely used but we got some good roo poo! In this country I met a man who grows cereals every year without using any added fertilisers … the crops had good biomass to rot down and lupin grown in between clumps of barley that were producing luscious heads of grain! There is much going on! I don’t see that animals have to be manipulated to make our food system work … aren’t we the only species tray eats the best of the animals? The natural way would not be to ‘keep’ animals so that we can steal the best. … surely we would take the weak or old if we choose any at all. My choice is not to … my journey is to live without that use of other beings. I remember many years ago we used to get veg off an old guy who just couldn’t grow small amounts of anything … he used humanure! Isn’t this logical? Birds and mammals will always be in the system .. it’s part of it … we might get gifted by nature with an old grouse or deer or something but I’d let the carnivores take that part. I’m happy not to and I’m not purist enough to think the whole world will go plantbased … but I’d love to give it a try!! There is absolutely nothing natural about the way we have reared and bred animals for our own use. What I saw on the few smallholdings that had animals was most often as cruel as the industrial production … cows crying for the calves, calves being stopped from milking too much, young strong cattle being killed to eat etc etc It didn’t make any sense to me personally and I love the challenge that comes with a commitment to NOT abuse in order for us to live … and mostly do no good on the planet!!! Hey ho.
68Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 3rd, 2018
Hi Elizabeth: The RBST encourages consumption of meat from rare breeds” – well of course: it’s run by a livestock farmer who sells meat, in support of other livestock farmers who sell meat! To me this is similar to the promotion of ‘traditional’ tobacco (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-fight-to-keep-tobacco-sacred/) or the preservation of high emission steam engines (http://www.railwaytouring.net/uk-day-trips)… By all means preserve some livestock breeds (all artificially bred and engineered by humans, of course), but let’s not claim it’s low impact nor get distracted from the main issues:
“The aggregate mass of cattle [+ other livestock] and humans is crushingly larger than the total mass of all wild vertebrates, and it clearly leaves too little space for the multitude of other species. Cows and men occupy much of the available land, consume much of its photosynthetic product, and generate an increasing amount of greenhouse gases. No wonder we are in the midst of mass-scale species extinction.” Vaclav Smil – a scientist with the highest reputation for knowledge and accuracy. He has explained: “I have never been wrong on these major energy and environmental issues because I have nothing to sell” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaclav_Smil).
“Meat-free dependent on fossil fuels”? Oh please, cite just one peer-reviewed study that will show that an average plant-based diet is higher on fossil fuels than an average Western diet with animal products. You won’t, because it’s precisely the opposite – for fossil fuels as well as other greenhouse gases!
You write: “Look at it logically: if society collapsed tomorrow and there were no more fossil fuels, I could not get a nutritionally balanced diet if I were vegan”. So tell me please how the livestock farmer, the slaughterhouse and the butcher are going to operate without transport, electricity and refrigeration? You don’t need any of those on your allotment where you can grow plenty of vegs. Modern societies that have collapsed have gone fast into largely plant-based diets and ripped terrific health and environmental benefits from it. For instance in the UK during WW2 (https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2001/jan/14/life1.lifemagazine5) and
“It is now generally accepted that the ‘ration and make do’ diet was better for the population because of its largely meatless, low fat, low sugar and high fibre foods, and 1944 saw the formation of the Vegan Society: a breath of fresh air had come.
From the War’s Minister of Food: “We had better use our intelligence and the knowledge we have. We can now produce meals without meat in them, and they will keep us well and give us all the energy we need to keep us fighting fit” – Lord Woolton, 13 April 1943.” (https://www.veganviews.org.uk/vv79/vv79war.html).
Or in Cuba, when the US embargo and Soviet breakup made Cubans grow far more veg, including in urban settings, and eat almost no meat – and become a role model in productive organic food growing: http://www.foodcomm.org.uk/articles/cubas_food_production_revolution/.
So if you’re worried about society’s collapse, the best thing you could do foodwise is learn to grow and enjoy your own veg and fruit – and lose your taste for meat!
This society’s collapse may of course take place sooner than you think, perhaps through climate change, happening now so fast. The highly potent methane emitted by ruminant livestock (the number one source of anthropogenic methane) is causing the global warming that is now triggering the release of fossil methane and CO2 from thawing permafrost – among other nasty phenomena taking place.
You also explain that “processed rubbish food with meat and dairy ” is a lot cheaper than “raw food“: I believe that what you call raw food is plant food, as opposed to meat. You seem to be associating a plant-based diet with unprocessed veg and other whole food (which is great!) but then seem to go right the other way and claim that “if the world went vegan Monsanto would be the reason for even more human health problems”. Sorry you reasoning escapes me and it seems that you need to be shown how to make terrific whole food plant-based dishes with simple local ingredients – you will find you saved money (despite the fact that indeed meat and dairy are far more subsidised than vegs and fruit – but this will soon be changin).
Various studies have confirmed this:
“In Britain at least, the market price of healthy food is not conspicuously high. On the contrary, a simple diet that meets government recommendations is generally more affordable than a diet of processed, high-calorie food. This finding is consistent with two recent studies. Lee et al. (2016) found that a healthy diet was cheaper than the diet currently being consumed by Australians of all social classes. In the UK, Scarborough et al. (2016) found that an optimal diet which meets the stipulations of the Eatwell Guide is no more expensive that the current, less healthy British diet.
With the possible exception of fish and fresh meat, the foods recommended in the Eatwell Guide are not expensive when compared to the ‘junk food’ alternatives. We conclude that the real question is not why unhealthy food is so cheap but why people consume unhealthy food despite it being more expensive. The answer, we suggest, is that taste and convenience often play a larger role in people’s food choices than price or nutritional quality”. (https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Cheap-as-Chips-PDF.pdf).
You ask “How can the footprint be smaller having nuts, soya, rice, bananas, apples, pineapples, beans etc. flown in from abroad”? Firstly, there is no need to fly in nuts, soya, apple or beans. You could plant an apple and a hazel tree in your garden and grow the rest too, of course! The beans we grow in the UK mostly go to livestock (sigh!!) or are sold to the far and middle East. But things are changing, since they are so nutritious, versatile, cheap and great for soils (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/apr/19/on-the-pulse-why-beans-peas-and-lentils-are-making-a-comeback). The soya grown in the UK tends to be for human consumption whereas the vast quantities of soya consumed by livestock are shipped from South America, causing an environmental catastrophe (http://fern.org/sites/default/files/news-pdf/TheAvoidableCrisisPDF.pdf ).
The average EU citizen consumes 61 kg of soya a year, but 93% of this is embedded in animal feed to produce meat, dairy and eggs. Our use of soya for humans (mostly from the EU and organic) is highly efficient. One acre of land used to produce beef provides 20 pounds of usable protein. That same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein if soybeans were grown instead, more than 17 times as much!
Secondly, the transport footprint is tiny compared to the footprint from production. So the methane and nitrous oxide produced for local meat and dairy far outweigh the CO2 used to ship bananas (and are you telling me no-one in your family ever eats bananas)?
It is quite possible to eat a healthy whole food plant-based diet with only food grown in the UK – and it would be a lot easier if organisations such as Low Impact put their whole weight towards pushing for more veg, fruit, nuts, seeds and grain production (and consumption) and less meat and dairy.
As to “the few tribal groups who would die off”. Firstly, no-one here has ever said that “everyone should stop eating meat”. You are making this up! Secondly, we will be killing far more people by continuing to eat meat as we are doing now than we would if somehow miraculously the world went vegan overnight. Shifts in diet towards more plant-based are not just essential for the climate, for wildlife and biodiversity and for our own health – they are very much essential for social justice too.
Here is George Monbiot: “One of the big steps we need to make both for climate breakdown and for a whole suite of other environmental and humanitarian disasters is to switch from an animal-based to a plant-based diet. This is absolutely crucial. We will not get through the 21st century – or rather billions of people will not get through the 21st century – unless we make that switch. Because we are contemplating an agricultural crisis, an ecological crisis as well as the climate breakdown crisis, and it is being driven by the food we eat and the way it is produced. The world has plenty of scope to feed 9, 10 or 12 billion people – but not if we’re all eating steak and chicken and pork! We have to go to that plant-based diet if there is to be any fair settlement, fair dispensation for the rest of this century, so that we don’t have a situation where the rich can just pursue whatever desires they want whilst the poor die as a result” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zGtk6HmVCw).
On the health front too, dietary shifts away from animal products would save millions of lives: https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/view/549.
69Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 3rd, 2018
Elizabeth, I forgot another point: The foraging I mentioned was purely in response to Dave who was promoting hunting wildlife for food as benign. So what you say about foraging – “Not everyone has access to places to forage. And if we all did, pretty soon they’d be nothing left to forage” – is even more true about hunting, which I was comparing it to. We have far more wild plant resources than we have wild animal resources and once again, it’s ecologically far more efficient to eat low down on the food chain. Better for our health too!
70Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 3rd, 2018
Hello and a warm welcome Amanda! I need to stop the conversation but delighted to read your wisdom – I agree with everything you write!
71Dave Darby October 4th, 2018
Annie – just thought I’d post some things I agree with you about for a change:
I agree that domesticated animals are not species, and so even if there were no more domesticated cows or sheep, nothing will have gone extinct.
I agree that diets based mainly on organic whole plant-based foods are not expensive. You need to learn to cook properly, but when you do it’s cheaper than corporate processed rubbish.
I agree that the scale of the meat industry contributes hugely to our current extinction event, which is why we’d like to dismantle it and we’d like overall meat consumption to fall massively.
I agree that plant-based diets don’t have to be high on fossil-fuel inputs (as long as your diet doesn’t contain lots of processed supplements or foods grown on the other side of the world).
And one disagreement:
‘it would be a lot easier if organisations such as Low Impact put their whole weight towards pushing for more veg, fruit, nuts, seeds and grain production (and consumption) and less meat and dairy.’
– which is exactly what we’re doing.
72Rosewood Farm's Rob October 4th, 2018
Dave; “I agree that domesticated animals are not species, and so even if there were no more domesticated cows or sheep, nothing will have gone extinct.”
Cattle are a species and they do have no surviving wild counterparts, so yes they would go extinct. Domestic sheep are a species that has some feral communities.
73Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 4th, 2018
Hi Dave, That’s excellent, you made my day! You might remember that we started this conversation about a year ago when I was really shocked to read on Low Impact pages advice for more people to eat more meat as producers needed to produce more meat. I am delighted that we can now all put our efforts towards a transition to a healthier future. And I do understand that it’s not easy for smallholders but I also feel that they need to be prepared for changes that are bound to take place – and that might even just be the climate making livestock rearing even harder than crop or veg farming.
I have just read a dense but – I feel – very interesting article that covers both our environmental and economics crises. It’s called ‘To freeze the Thames’ (and the author explains why in the text). Extract:
“Food production would have to be completely transformed to realize the goals of half-earth economics, but this should be predicated on less technology, not more. Organic vegan agriculture can achieve yields comparable to industrial agriculture, though it requires more labour and a different diet.  If agriculture were to be deindustrialized and redirected towards making food for people rather than livestock, then emissions could be reduced and new swathes of land used for parks or energy facilities. Solar panels and wind turbines can largely overlap with cities and the remaining farms. Considering that about half of all territory in Europe and the US is currently dedicated to agriculture—a ratio that would drastically shrink in a meatless society—this would free up enough room to achieve all the goals of half-earthing. The average omnivore requires 1.08 hectares to grow enough food for herself, but a vegan needs only 0.13 hectares.  Vegetarianism is a half-measure, as egg and cheese-eaters still need about 0.4 hectares per head.
It is from pasture, necessarily, that an eco-austere world will derive the land needed for Natural Geo-Engineering. Nearly half the world’s non-mountainous land is already dedicated to agriculture. Of these 5 billion hectares, 3.5 billion are pasture, which vegans would not require at all, while of the remaining 1.5 billion dedicated to crops, 400 million are used to grow animal feed and 300 million for industrial purposes such as biofuels and bioplastics. Only 800 million hectares of land are devoted to growing food directly for people. One study estimates that if 800 million hectares of land were reforested, the billions of new trees would sequester 215 GtC over the next century. Natural Geo-Engineering at this scale would decrease atmospheric carbon pollution at the scale of 85 PPM, bringing it to a much safer range in the low 300s PPM.  This feat would be relatively easy to accomplish in a mostly vegan world, even though a reforestation of this scale would be five times greater than the last massive rewilding during the Little Ice Age”. (https://newleftreview.org/II/111/troy-vettese-to-freeze-the-thames)
74Rosewood Farm's Rob October 4th, 2018
I love how Annie emphasizes the lack of bias in science and journalism as if science doesn’t require funding and George Monbiot doesn’t make 60-thousand-pounds a year from writing articles that need to sell.
Chris Packham – a great guy in many respects, a great broadcaster about wild animals and highlighting the loss in biodiversity with the People’s Walk for Wildlife but he recognises the need to work with, rather than against farmers who know the nuts and bolts of encouraging wildlife alongside producing food. Simon’s practical assessment bridges that gap between scientific mis-informed rhetoric and what is actually achieveable on the ground by real farmers.
75Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 4th, 2018
Plenty of science and even more journalism is biased – hence the need to check carefully! George Monbiot would sell far more articles and make far more money if we went along with society’s foibles and didn’t put ethics, good research and rigour first. For instance Piers Morgan, who slammed Monbiot on TV for wearing a leather watchstrap to deflect the focus on the pressing issues Monbiot wanted to discuss – such as the extinction of life on Earth – earns £22.5 million, some 340 times more than Monbiot, who is often seen contributing for free to all sorts of causes he believes in. It also would be a very different matter if Monbiot was getting some payments directly from an industry or group he supports but he is very clear about his independence. For instance he refuses to join any political party to maintain this full independence.
I agree Chris Packham is doing a great job as a bridge maker, among other things, but he is also very rigorous with the science (he writes: “I am aware how eating meat impacts negatively on the environment. It costs so much more in terms of the world’s resources. It is very expensive environmentally, ecologically wasteful. There is no ambiguity about that”) – and also very honest, hence ethical. He is going vegan but still eats cheese and explains frankly that the transition is hard for him. It is great that he wants to support farmers – and I support him in that! – but he is also very clear about his strong opposition to the badger cull or to fox hunting (which he calls ‘psychopathic’), for instance.
I bow to people like George and Chris who, like every one of us, don’t have a perfect footprint but cultivate honesty, intelligence, generosity, depth of feeling, thorough information and a broad vision.
My beef in this long conversation hasn’t been about farmers but about correct information.
76Annie Leymarie October 4th, 2018
By the way, Rob, George Monbiot’s salary is just over the threshold of what Theresa May considers ‘unskilled workers’.
Good luck to farmers who were relying on those awful immigrants who tend to our fields, our NHS and much else.
77Dave Darby October 5th, 2018
‘Dave – Note I said that ‘Veganism is the logical conclusion of a highly industrialised food processing industry’ as opposed to ‘A highly industrialised food processing industry is the logical conclusion of veganism’.
True – I read it wrong.
Can’t follow your argument about the link between eating plants and population growth at all I’m afraid.
‘Cattle are a species and they do have no surviving wild counterparts, so yes they would go extinct. Domestic sheep are a species that has some feral communities.’
True again. The Aurochs has gone, hasn’t it? I wonder if, in the case of societal collapse, a few cattle would make it to the woods and revert to something resembling the Aurochs? My money would be on Dexters if that was going to happen. But the Mouflon is still aound, so no danger of sheep becoming extinct. And I know that domesticated pigs can breed with wild boar, so no extinction there.
‘Hi Dave, That’s excellent, you made my day!’
Good. I have been saying this all along though – less meat overall, and the meat we do produce from organic mixed smallholders.
‘I was really shocked to read on Low Impact pages advice for more people to eat more meat as producers needed to produce more meat.’
We’ve never said that. Someone in the comments maybe, but we haven’t said it in a topic introduction or a blog article.
‘My beef in this long conversation’
78Rosewood Farm's Rob October 5th, 2018
Dave – “Can’t follow your argument about the link between eating plants and population growth at all I’m afraid.”
It’s largely accepted that it is the size of the population consuming meat rather than the act of humans eating meat at all that is responsible for the environmental threats. The rise in affluence and meat consumption in countries like China is behind the large growth in meat production today and these countries were previously eating a mainly plant based diet so have grown their populations to unsustainable levels because they acted more towards the herbivorous end of the spectrum of omnivority. Herbivores tend to be more numerous than carnivores in any natural ecosystem so it stands to reason. Even in the UK our diet is 71% plant-based by calories – our population would have been much lower if we hadn’t increased our ability to produce and consume more plants.
Aurochs – yes, my friend actually wrote a thesis comparing Aurochs with Dexters, a very interesting & insightful read, if you’re so inclined to be interested in such things; http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/10561/
79Rosewood Farm's Rob October 5th, 2018
Annie, correct information is what we all we want for a sustainable and low impact future.
Science has it’s place to help inform us but it has it’s limitations. With science training myself I know about those limitations all too well – gaining funding is often a major obstacle, particularly when it comes to studies that make us more self-reliant as noone wants to fund a study that benefits people to become less reliant upon business. Science is undoubtedly more prolific in the pro-vegan area right now because it is a huge growth business whereas small scale, mixed farming offers fewer opportunities for artificial inputs.
The scientific method must be focussed to be rigorous, but often that rigour also makes it restrictive, particularly in a holistic context. It can also make it impractical and unwieldy, which is where applied science comes in. If a theoretical conclusion cannot be applied on the ground then it isn’t of any value in the real world. This what we see with farming – the science says that intensive farming is ‘better’ for the environment & wildlife because it feeds more people from a lesser area, but when you apply that science to what has *actually* happened you see the coincidence of an increase in farm intensification and human population growth go hand-in-hand with biodiversity losses.
Both George Monbiot & Chris Packham are aware of the importance of livestock to biodiversity in mixed farming systems and Chris is particularly interested in our Corncrake work. However he also wrote earlier this year;
“I’ve been in my garden in Hampshire for the last couple of days. Sunny, plenty of wildflowers. Not a single butterfly. Not one. Nothing”
He also called on us (as conservationists) to ‘do something’ and we are, and it’s working, and it isn’t growing vegetables.
80Dave Darby October 6th, 2018
Rob – the reason that there are more herbivores than carnivores in nature is surely on the carnivores’ side rather than the herbivores – i.e. there are necessarily fewer carnivores, as they eat herbivores. Too many of them, and their prey starts to fall in number, resulting in a fall in carnivore levels again.
I’m reading about logical fallacies at the moment, and I think your argument is a non sequitur. Because there are more herbivores than carnivores in any natural ecosystem, it doesn’t follow that humans, who have no natural predators, and who have contraceptives and can decide whether to breed or not, will breed more or less whether they eat meat or not.
It was a wild guess about Dexters – but I could just imagine them in the wild, unlike most other domesticated animals.
81Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 6th, 2018
You write that “Both George Monbiot & Chris Packham are aware of the importance of livestock to biodiversity in mixed farming systems” and you imply that they believe that “growing vegetables isn’t working for biodiversity conservation”.
Well George writes: “Good bye and good riddance to livestock farming” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/livestock-farming-artificial-meat-industry-animals.
And he is also labelled as a “vegetable evangelist” (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/05/growingyourown.vegetables).
And Chris – vegetarian for long time, now going vegan – writes last week:
“It is vitally important to support people in the meat and dairy business through a process of change, whereby they change their methods and produce to suit the market. Dairy (and meat) farmers could be going into organic vegetable production, and we should support them with training schemes and grants to switch the land, equipment and machinery over. Right now, the farming industry is pushing back against the growth of veganism because it sees it as a direct threat to its income. It needs to realise it has to change”. https://www.bigissue.com/latest/food/chris-packham-heres-why-im-going-vegan/
So you are yet again misinforming. I have nothing personally against you and you are clearly not the only livestock farmer spreading misinformation, far from it. But what you don’t seem to realise is that such untruths are firing up people like me – and a fast-growing number of consumers – with extra energy to fight for the truth and for better ways to feed ourselves and protect nature.
With best wishes,
82Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 6th, 2018
Dave – and perhaps Rob?
A very beautiful short film about a British beef farmer transitioning to vegs.
83Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 6th, 2018
In the US, small farmers rally to transform agriculture and heal the planet:
“Activists rallied behind small farmers from around North America to proclaim that while agriculture is the problem, it is also the solution. Addressing the climate crisis requires nothing less than the transformation of our food system. The corporatization and industrialization of food systems is heating the planet directly as well as indirectly. Indeed, the corporate takeover of food systems is central to capitalism and is the basis on which are built other polluting industries. It is urgent that we defend and reclaim land and seeds and reject the paradigms of corporate agriculture, but promoting “sustainable” animal agriculture as the alternative is misguided. We ask that policy-makers support a transition to small-scale veganic farming, that the environmental movement center agriculture and the voices of veganic farmers, and that eaters go vegan and support veganic farmers when possible. Veganic farming is a real solution and the way of a climate-friendly future”.
In the UK, Plant-based Health Professionals are growing rapidly in numbers and impact:
For the times they are a changing…
84Rosewood Farm's Rob October 6th, 2018
Dave; “Rob – the reason that there are more herbivores than carnivores in nature is surely on the carnivores’ side rather than the herbivores – i.e. there are necessarily fewer carnivores, as they eat herbivores. Too many of them, and their prey starts to fall in number, resulting in a fall in carnivore levels again.
I’m reading about logical fallacies at the moment, and I think your argument is a non sequitur. Because there are more herbivores than carnivores in any natural ecosystem, it doesn’t follow that humans, who have no natural predators, and who have contraceptives and can decide whether to breed or not, will breed more or less whether they eat meat or not.”
On the first paragraph – exactly, that’s my point, there is a natural brake on population growth in carnivores that is lower than herbivores, therefore there are more of us on a plant based diet.
As for the second paragraph, I don’t think the many, many vegans who claim that a plant based diet feeds more people are making a logical fallacy. Many individuals and organisations who promote plant based use that as one of their major reasons to support plant based. As a species we *can* choose not to breed, that’s right, but it ain’t going to happen, and it hasn’t happened in the past either. Traditionally more plant based countries switching to higher meat consumption is such a commonly cited reason for world meat consumption going up that I don’t think I need to justify this position with a link, do I?
85Rosewood Farm's Rob October 6th, 2018
Annie, your ability to highly selectively quote studies and articles is without doubt exemplary – I commend you upon that. However to use that as an example of my misinforming people is really the pot calling the kettle black!
Chris Packham knows an awful lot about wildlife but there are gaps in his knowledge, but I am pleased that he is open to filling them. He also, like George Monbiot, doesn’t know all about farming, and I don’t expect either of them to. George has in the not too distant past claimed that we both stick to livestock farming because of the money (mainly from subsidies) and that we don’t make any money, rather than out of any practical considerations that we may have. The fact that neither or them are investing in a wildlife rich veganic farm suggests a lot about their level of conviction in the diet. I have invested heavily in my own ‘misinformation’ as you put it, and I am happy to be judged on my results, which includes an awful lot more wildlife than Chris’ garden
As you were present on the Walk for Wildlife I refer you to what the Minister for Farming, Miles King, said; https://youtu.be/9dBGZiuA7SA
86Elizabeth Fletcher October 7th, 2018
One point to save time because I’m getting cross at some generalisations here. The RBST is to support RARE BREEDS. The clue is in the title.
Annie said those animals are “All articificially bred and reared by humans” which is plain wrong. Bagot goats for example, can be traced back to 10,000 years in the UK. I wouldn’t call that artificially bred. These aren’t sold as meat per se, but as any form of preserving the breed.
I’m cross at how so many pages are being cited and taken out of context, and how many assumptions are being made about people who post.
Also name dropping is a pet peeve- plus the point is lost on anyone from an opposing side of the debate. Marches and trips abroad are irrelevant. I could go into all the activism and live action I’ve taken part in over the years, but choose not to as it only comes across as arrogant and isn’t relevant. Finally, just because i dont have the time ti cite peer reviewed cases in support of my argument does not make my points invalid. Peer reviewed cases once said smoking was healthy and beneficial, and at some point or other, all food was claimed to be “superfood”
I have yet to find any NHS doctor who supports veganism, and every midwife I’ve ever met all say veganism in pregnancy is dangerous for both mother and child.
As for everyone foraging for food- let’s tell the single mum of three who has two jobs to now ditch the meat, ditch the convenience food, go and forage and keep her and her kids from malnutrition. It is just not doable. Frankly I’m tired of the assumption that just because a handful of people have success at something, it equates to everyone else being told they should so it too. Live and let live, and be as environmentally friendly as possible. And don’t believe every study you read. Look at the sponsors, benefactors, and bias behind the argument. Nothing is black and white.
87Dave Darby October 7th, 2018
‘As a species we *can* choose not to breed, that’s right, but it ain’t going to happen’
It’s happening now – https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN
We’ve still got a huge hump coming, largely fuelled by Africa, but there too, the trend is down. Unfortunately the hump is going to coincide with massive biodiversity loss, desertification, antibiotic resistance and a scramble for resources between countries with ever-more exotic weaponry.
Those in power (i.e. capitalists) are wilfully ignorant of the growth problem, and so it will continue until they’re removed. It isn’t going to be pretty.
88Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 7th, 2018
Dave, what’s going on: we’re agreeing on almost everything, it would seem!!
Rare breeds: either they are essentially ‘man-made’ and wouldn’t survive without us breeding and feeding them or they are not and would survive if we were to rewild land from adopting more efficient diets and stop killing them – in which case what’s the problem?
NHS vegan doctors: You’ll find them within the Plant-based Health Professionals UK group, for instance https://www.facebook.com/wholefoodplantbasednutrition/. The room was full on them at the talk I attended last week in London (wish you were there!). In the US, several thousands gathered a few weeks ago and some 14,000 are members of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R38lohsfna4 (which has some 175,000 members altogether).
Pregnancy: “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the world’s largest association of nutritionists) that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704).
There is plenty of support for pregnant vegans and young parents, such as courses run by doctors in the UK (https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/debunking-most-common-misconceptions-vegan-pregnancy), an international magazine (https://raisevegan.com/) various books (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Vegan-Pregnancy-Book-Lifestyle/dp/144052551X) etc.
Serena Williams, vegan for several years like her sister Venus, made it to the tennis semi-final at Wimbledon just a few months after giving birth to her first child (https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/culture-news/a22015954/serena-williams-strict-diet-shape-post-baby/) – and Novak Dojokovic, also vegan for several years and owner of a vegan restaurant, won the men’s final – his fourth Wimbledon and 14th Grand Slam. His wife is also vegan and has been doing very well on vegan pregnancies (https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/3910445/novak-djokovic-wife-jelena-us-open-final-girlfriend/). Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, also vegan, has just today won his fifth world championship and 71st Grand Prix victory. Another vegan professional race car driver and environmentalists is Leilani Green (http://www.leilani.green/). Both are single and very attractive – I look forward to more vegan pregnancies to celebrate!
The peer-reviewed studies that said smoking was healthy were funded by the tobacco industry. I have only mentioned studies that show no conflict of interests. You also write: ‘Don’t believe any study you read’. Indeed! Check facts carefully. Excellent advice!
‘Everyone should go foraging’: once again, nobody has suggested that and I have already answered this comment from you. Nor has anyone ‘told everyone one what they should do’. By all means be as angry as you wish but try to stick to facts – and we fully agree about ‘being as environmentally friendly as possible’. That’s the whole point. Pfhew!
89Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 7th, 2018
Sorry I meant to add ‘Elizabeth’. since after the first line of my previous comment it’s all a response to her last comment.
90Rosewood Farm's Rob October 7th, 2018
That’s right Dave – when I say it’s not going to happen I mean that we’re not going to stop breeding as a species, not that we won’t have fewer births corresponding with lower mortality & greater longevity.
91Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 7th, 2018
Thanks for the link to Miles’s talk. I was there, right at the front. What did he say that you think I disagree with?
(Here’s a pick I took at the talk of my new ‘hero’: the extremely articulate and beautiful young Bella Lack https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10217478954835785&set=a.10201802475013587&type=3&theater and here’s George’s short talk (badly filmed, sorry) https://www.facebook.com/annie.leymarie/videos/10217479084199019/.
Miles wants more support for farmers and I totally agree. I have no doubt that making transitions will be very difficult for most, until the various subsidies and taxation system evolve (which is starting to happen). I’d love you to watch the short film below, if you haven’t yet: The reactions to the (excellent) documentary and to the story so far are so positive that I have no doubt that Bradley Nook Farm will be getting plenty of money from their forthcoming crowdfunding, especially when they explain all the environmental reasons that have also motivated them.
92Rosewood Farm's Rob October 7th, 2018
Annie you’ve made it quite clear that you disagree with all forms of animal farming whereas Miles supports mixed, sustainable farming that provides a variety of habitats to promote biodiversity – he’s a reformed vegetarian, like me.
I’ve seen Jay’s story. He was lucky to inherit his land & fair play to him he stuck to cattle farming until after his dad died, despite never really enjoying livestock He has made good use of the assets by turning it into a vegan venue but I find it a crazy situation – crowdfunding to set up a more efficicient and profitable vegan farm seems to suggest that the venture isn’t as efficient and profitable as many would have you believe.
He’s a very troubled man and it’s a shame that he seems to find life so difficult. I didn’t like the way he seemed to be suggesting that farmers don’t know & recognise their animals as individuals – it’s a common suggestion from vegans but it’s absolutely not true. I also found it a bit odd that he wasn’t aware of either growing vegetables nor stockless farming. Mercaston is a livestock area but it also has it’s fair share of arable too, he must surely have been aware of it. However I liked that he ackowledged just how much wildlife are associated with cattle but if you believe that cattle are environmentally damaging it is less justifiable to send them to sanctuary to continue consuming resources and creating emissions.
93Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 9th, 2018
Rob, I’ll “agree with forms of animal farming” when I hear about any valid reason, other than immediate economic advantages and tradition – which of course are valid enough for most. But in the current circumstances of being given 12 years to avert the full climate catastrophe plus a growing health burden crippling our society I will continue pushing for more and better information about the negative impacts on human and planetary health of all meat and dairy produced in the West – with some much worse than others.
Jay is crowdfunding because the current subsidies and other economic factors favour meat and dairy over fruit and vegetables – precisely the opposite from what’s needed. He is also having to change all his equipment, etc. And he will probably start playing an educational role, as Tolhurst does (without crowdfunding).
You imply that Jay doesn’t know what he’s talking about in relation to animal welfare – but he’s been a livestock farmer, in a livestock farming family, far longer than he has been a vegan, so his opinion as a farmer matters. And there are plenty of other similar testimonies, such as this recent one, of an ex dairy farmer who explains:
“In our culture, we have made a habit of turning away from things that bring us pain. I’m learning that turning away doesn’t fix anything. Turning toward what distresses us gives us the opportunity to change what hurts into something beautiful. Going without dairy or meat is not hard for me anymore. What’s hard is seeing people stuck in a mindset where their daily decisions are fundamentally, violently at odds with their most basic values. We can and should do better”. https://freefromharm.org/animal-farmer-turned-vegan/my-journey-from-humane-dairy-farmer-to-vegan-cheese-maker/
So yes, Jay seemed troubled at first – and who wouldn’t be? If animals are recognised as fully sentient, with personalities and a wide range of emotions similar to ours, how on Earth can we send them very young to a brutal death, without feeling troubled? How can we not feel troubled by the climate chaos condemning the next generations and all other life forms to hell? How can we not feel troubled when the majority of people in the UK are overweight or obese, when one in two will be diagnosed with cancer, even though most cases are preventable?
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -J. Krishnamurti
Cognitive dissonance might make us appear as though we are not troubled, but the feelings are just shifted elsewhere in our being and our society, causing wider damage.
I’ve spent a bit of time searching for Miles King’s current opinions on diet. Yes he seems to be an omnivore but on many blog posts and articles he is very critical of various aspects of meat and dairy production, as well as the harmful power of the meat and dairy lobbies, and he is clearly paying attention to transitions to veganism and, if anything, expressing approval: https://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/we-are-what-we-eat/.
Yesterday George Monbiot was tweeting this – about climate chaos and economic growth – relevant too I feel about our current conversation:
“This is the fight of our lives. Yet most people have not yet acknowledged it, let alone joined it. So all those of us who have done so have a duty to recruit: to break the awkward silence and talk about the subject other people want to avoid.
We need to get embarrassing about it, to overcome our own reticence, even when we are labelled Jeremiahs or Cassandras, and risk upsetting people in alerting them to what is happening and what we need to do”.
94Rosewood Farm's Rob October 9th, 2018
“Rob, I’ll “agree with forms of animal farming” when I hear about any valid reason,”
No you won’t, that much is blantantly clear.
“Jay is crowdfunding because the current subsidies and other economic factors favour meat and dairy over fruit and vegetables – precisely the opposite from what’s needed.”
What’s needed is some accurate information about the current situation – the current subsidies are paid according to land area, not what you produce from that land. You’ve been told this before so you’re not ignorant of the fact.
“He is also having to change all his equipment, etc.”
When you inherit a farm along with all the working capital you’d simply sell the livestock equipment and buy the veg growing kit.
“And he will probably start playing an educational role, as Tolhurst does (without crowdfunding).”
That’s fair enough.
“You imply that Jay doesn’t know what he’s talking about in relation to animal welfare”
I absolutely did not.
“So yes, Jay seemed troubled at first – and who wouldn’t be? If animals are recognised as fully sentient, with personalities and a wide range of emotions similar to ours, how on Earth can we send them very young to a brutal death, without feeling troubled?”
If you understood the first thing about the laws of nature you’d know that animals live longer in a farmed situation than in the wild. In order to maintain a stable population in the wild the vast majority of animals must die before they reach breeding age. Farming animals ensures that more of them live to maturity than would do so in the wild. And if we do our jobs right their death should be much more humane, too.
“How can we not feel troubled by the climate chaos condemning the next generations and all other life forms to hell?”
That greatly troubles me too, especially as so many people are taking the wrong path to address this.
“How can we not feel troubled when the majority of people in the UK are overweight or obese, when one in two will be diagnosed with cancer, even though most cases are preventable?”
Again, that bothers me greatly too, especially when so many people seem oblivious to the causes.
“I’ve spent a bit of time searching for Miles King’s current opinions on diet. Yes he seems to be an omnivore but on many blog posts and articles he is very critical of various aspects of meat and dairy production, as well as the harmful power of the meat and dairy lobbies, and he is clearly paying attention to transitions to veganism and, if anything, expressing approval: https://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/we-are-what-we-eat/.”
Like I said, we are very similar in our views. He’s definitely an omnivore, in his own words; “Well I’m not going vegan. But I am certainly cutting down on meat and only using organic dairy if I can. I used to be strictly vegetarian.”
“Yesterday George Monbiot was tweeting this – about climate chaos and economic growth – relevant too I feel about our current conversation:”
Yes, I saw that – George writes some good stuff, sometimes.
““This is the fight of our lives. Yet most people have not yet acknowledged it, let alone joined it. So all those of us who have done so have a duty to recruit: to break the awkward silence and talk about the subject other people want to avoid.
We need to get embarrassing about it, to overcome our own reticence, even when we are labelled Jeremiahs or Cassandras, and risk upsetting people in alerting them to what is happening and what we need to do”.”
And that is precisely what I am doing.
I keep trying but I think most people will lurch too far in the opposite direction before returning to the correct path in the end. Let’s just hope that they and their influencers are not too late for the sake of the planet and it’s wildlife.
95Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 10th, 2018
Dave and Rob – and anyone else interested!
Last month’s most comprehensive study on the impacts of farming made it clear that we have to change our diets drastically and fast. But this was so last month! Another ‘most comprehensive’ study has just come out. It says that beef consumption in the UK and US (and other Western countries) needs to fall fast by 90%. Extracts from the Guardian article:
“Huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system’s impact on the environment. In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses.
The research also finds that enormous changes to farming are needed to avoid destroying the planet’s ability to feed the 10 billion people expected to be on the planet in a few decades.The new research, published in the journal Nature, is the most thorough to date and combined data from every country to assess the impact of food production on the global environment. It then looked at what could be done to stop the looming food crisis.
The average world citizen needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds.
In rich nations, the dietary changes required are ever more stark. UK and US citizens need to cut beef by 90% and milk by 60% while increasing beans and pulses between four and six times.
Reducing meat consumption might be achieved by a mix of education, taxes, subsidies for plant-based foods and changes to school and workplace menus, the scientists said. “I was surprised by the fact we need a combination of very ambitious options,” Springmann said. “We really need to push it to the edge of what is possible.” But a global change is needed, he said: “I think we can do it, but we really need much more proactive governments to provide the right framework. People can make a personal difference by changing their diet, but also by knocking on the doors of their politicians and saying we need better environmental regulations – that is also very important. Do not let politicians off the hook.”
Prof Tim Benton at the University of Leeds, who was not part of the research team, said: “Ultimately, we live on a finite planet, with finite resources. It is a fiction to imagine there is a technological solution allowing us to produce as much food as we might ever want, allowing us to overeat and throw food away.” He said the environmental burden of the current food system “undermines the ability of future generations to live on a stable and ecologically rich planet”.
Prof Peter Smith at the University of Aberdeen, who was also not part of the research team, said: “We know food choices are very personal, and that behaviour change can be difficult to encourage, but the evidence is now unequivocal – we need to change our diets if we are to have a sustainable future. The fact that it will also make us healthier makes it a no-brainer.”
Will Low Impact reflect these changes that are so essential to our suvival?
96Dave Darby October 10th, 2018
Annie, it’s like we never make any progress in these discussions. To quote my earlier comment:
‘the scale of the meat industry contributes hugely to our current extinction event, which is why we’d like to dismantle it and we’d like overall meat consumption to fall massively’
97Rosewood Farm's Rob October 11th, 2018
It seems like Annie has convinced herself that everyone else is arguing for the status quo.
Cutting beef by 90% would make it 0.2% of our diet.
Six times more pulses means re-introducing more legumous break crops into our arable rotation, which is not at all a bad idea – the trouble is getting people to consume more animal grade feed.
98Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 11th, 2018
Dave, I definitely notice progress – with no one in the comments pushing for more meat consumption, for instance – but I would love to see more facts laid out. Since the post we’re discussing was published, all the new posts about farming involve meat and/or dairy and thus make them appear as low impact, as do the many sections about these products on the site. Yet the evidence could not be clearer: meat and dairy are high impact, both on the environment and on our health. Where are explanations that processed meats such as sausages are Class 1 carcinogens and that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the biggest way of reducing our impact on Earth’? (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth?).
On health, here’s an interview published today of a highly respected heart surgeon. Extracts:
“Let’s face it, a Western diet can be quite delicious – but so can whole food plant based nutrition. Your taste buds change! I’ve been doing this now for 34 years. I was brought up on an Aberdeen Angus beef and dairy farm. Can you imagine how I felt when research clearly showed that these products were destroying people’s health? Unlike those on a Western diet, people on a whole food plant-based diet people cannot have heart attacks! This is based on rock solid scientific data. All it takes for any physician is to take one patient who is sick and really get them to do whole food plant-based nutrition and they can see how powerful and rapid and enduring the transformation is – then they’re hooked, absolutely hooked! It’s the challenges in life that are exciting, and the word is going to get out there! Medical doctors never get any tuition in nutrition.
Also, every officer in the US Department of Agriculture so far has been a president or officer in the Cattlemen’s Association, the Dairymen’s League, the Pork Board, the Egg Board… they’re enormously conflicted! That’s the problem! Then there’s the pharmaceutical industry: the statin drug industry is worth 30 billion dollars. Do you see them tripping over each other, delighted by the elimination of heart disease? And then of course there’s my own profession: how many doctors whose livelihood depends on stents and bypass surgery are urgently looking for fewer and fewer patients? The pharmaceutical industry is heavily involved with medical schools and individual doctors, and look at the ads on television: yet every time there’s another drug advertised the ad tells us what it does in 3 to 5 seconds and on the other 40 seconds tells us about the hideous potential side effects. Well there’s another side effect if you treat the causation of the illness rather than its symptoms: it goes away!
Cardiovascular diseases are not the only ones turned around by plant-based nutrition – also diabetes, hypertension, strokes, vascular dementia, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, allergies, asthma… the list goes on! Never before in medicine have we had a tool so powerful in our toolbox”.
99Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 11th, 2018
Rob, The Grow Green guide from the New Economics Foundation calls beans win-win-win-win (sustainable, affordable, healthy, ethical – https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/downloads/grow-green-solutions-farm-future-report) – but there are two more wins: they promote biodiversity (http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/about/key-messages/en/) and they’re delicious. Besides feeding them to farm animals, we currently export much of the beans we grow to the Middle and Far East as well as North Africa where they are cooked into a range of wonderful, tasty, colourful dishes. Meanwhile we import from North America most of the fava beans used to make our ‘national dish’ – baked beans. We’re clearly short on imagination.
See Rob Hopkins’s interview of Hodmedod’s cofounder: Getting the British to love beans again https://www.robhopkins.net/2017/12/04/545/
The Blue Zones project, about people living the longest healthiest lives in the world calls them ‘the world’s No 1 longevity food’. They’re a staple in most of the world’s best loved cuisines and have been loved for a very long time:
“Israeli researchers found fava seeds at a 10,000 year-old archaeological site. This suggests that people from the Neolithic era were some of the world’s first subsistence farmers. Their diets contained important cereal grains, but their protein and fiber was almost solely from fava beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas. The manner in which the bean seeds were stored showed signs of planning for future agricultural sustenance. Beans may have been the foundation of food in the past and they’re making a comeback to be the food of the future in terms of nutrient profile and sustainability for an increasing global population. Pulses are the most sustainable crops available, which make them critically important for food security in our growing world.” https://bluezones.com/2016/06/10-things-about-beans/
Homedod’s is now also growing lentils https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/aug/31/raising-pulses-uks-first-commercial-crop-of-lentils-to-go-on-sale-in-autumn and the spring saw a week-long British dal festival with masses of recipes http://www.bepa.co.uk/the-magic-of-dal-brought-over-1000-people/.
Beans are super healthy. Just a reminder that “Good diets are made up mostly of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and plain water for thirst, pretty much everywhere and every time” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diets-live-die-david-l-katz-md-mph-facpm-facp-faclm/ )
Half a cup of beans a day can significantly reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol levels http://www.pcrm.org/health/medNews/beans-benefit-heart-health and they’re great for weight management too https://www.pcrm.org/health/medNews/legumes-aid-weight-management and https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161209100227.htm
So that “what’s good for the planet is also good for our health. As a dietitian, beans are one of the superfoods I always recommend to my patients. Beans are packed with protein, but unlike animal products, they’re low in the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight problems, dementia, and even some types of cancer.
Beans are also packed with fiber, an important nutrient 97 percent of Americans fall short on. Fiber, which is only found in plant foods, can help control weight, lower cholesterol and even fight off cancer. Fiber also helps control blood glucose, which may be why studies show that beans could play a key role in stemming our growing type 2 diabetes epidemic.
In addition to being versatile—take your pick from black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, navy, soy, and more—beans are also easy on the wallet. Choosing more plant-based foods is an astonishingly simple solution to so many of our nation’s problems. (https://www.alternet.org/environment/how-you-can-help-save-planet-and-yourself-simply-substituting-beans-beef).
It sounds as though you – and many others – just need a new cook book!
100Dave Darby October 11th, 2018
I’ve answered all of your points before, Annie.
101Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 11th, 2018
Dave, Here’s the kind of advice I feel the site should be giving: to someone asking ‘should I be buying organic or local?’ Dr Nathan answers: “(…) Since the core of your question really just boils down to “how can I use my purchasing power to support the most sustainable food system,” one answer is simple: Eat less meat and dairy. Raising animals for food is the single biggest thing in our food system that has an outsized impact across all environmental indicators”.
Meat and dairy might be profitable, but they are very clearly not low impact.
Dr Donley then explains that only after that first crucial choice is made can we consider “supporting local farmers by shopping at farmers’ markets or getting a CSA share as often as one is able; buying regionally appropriate foods from small to mid-size organic farms, when available; and supporting national and local policies that demand sustainability and accountability for polluting agricultural practices.
It’s time to retire the organic vs. local debate, because it distracts from other important issues in agriculture and, at the end of the day, still leaves us with a food system that doesn’t live up to what we deserve and expect. Big changes need to happen, and complacency is our biggest obstacle”. (https://medium.com/center-for-biological-diversity/local-vs-organic-which-should-i-choose-2a0733198137)
102Dave Darby October 11th, 2018
I think you’re utterly wrong Annie. And in all of your posts here, you’ve given me absolutely no reason to change my mind.
This is our focus – https://www.lowimpact.org/lowimpact-topic/low-impact-economy/. If you understand that, and address it instead of continually repeating yourself, then we might have a useful conversation.
We want to see meat consumption reduced, as I’ve said many, many times.
But if you want us to condemn smallholders for keeping animals, or if you think that being vegan (rather than reducing overall meat consumption) is more important than local, small and non-corporate, then we’re never going to see eye-to-eye.
103Rosewood Farm's Rob October 11th, 2018
“Meat and dairy might be profitable” – I note there are no peer-reviewed links to back that statement up.
104Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 11th, 2018
Dave, the repetitions don’t come from me but from the hundreds of scientists whose opinions I have passed on – and these were just samples. Most of what I have posted are quotations, from a wide range of experts who have come to very similar conclusions. I certainly don’t want to condemn anybody but I would love people to be helped to make decisions based on accurate knowledge. At the moment anyone coming onto Low Impact site for such knowledge could be led to believe that meat and dairy are low impact and benign, when they’re not. I have just been listening to a few programs, such as the Moral Maze: whereas not long ago people would be speaking about the need to reduce meat consumption, I hear now increasingly often this being replaced by the need to quit meat consumption, as the knowledge sinks in and the urgency becomes more evident. Meat taxation is also mentioned increasingly often. We have been given 12 years to change our ways drastically. Situations are changing fast. I think it is important to help smallholders be equipped for such changes and ahead of the game. Soon everyone will feel better for it! Once again, it’s not about veganism (however you might define that) – it’s about truthful and helpful information.
Let’s stop here with a virtual hand shake and perhaps meet again in year or two! Best wishes to you!
105Rosewood Farm's Rob October 11th, 2018
I really see little point in this discussion – at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what people who read George Monbiot in the Guardian think, farmers aren’t going to turn water into wine. We have to work within our means and if people are willing to eat animal grade feed rather than feeding it to animals then I think we will see a change to global veganism, but I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that is going to happen. It’s a niche diet that big business is finding huge growth in at the moment but come the apocalypse we will realise just how vital animals are for food and farming. Hopefully we’ll have retained the animals and the skills to get the best from them for sustainable farming.
I’m proud of my impact on both mine and my customers personal health, and I’m extremely proud of the things we achieve for wildlife in an ancient but threatened landscape.
If you don’t agree with me, prove it and get farming, invest in the land, farm the tiny area needed and turn the rest over to wild habitat, I’ll look forward to seeing the Corncrakes and Curlews return to rural England, I really will – but don’t make excuses that subsidies favour livestock farming, because that’s an outright lie.
106Dave Darby October 12th, 2018
‘come the apocalypse we will realise just how vital animals are for food’ – if there are any of us left – but yes, exactly.
But that’s still not our main point – which is support for the solidarity economy, including smallholders. We’re going to continue to provide information about keeping animals sustainably, because we want to support organic smallholders producing for local markets. We do not, under any circumstances, want to make life difficult for them, or to give them a disadvantage against corporate agriculture.
Focusing on meat is misguided, and based on ‘moral squeamishness’ to quote Simon F. A more radical and realistic view is that the coming ecological catastrophe is down to the quest for perpetual economic growth, a path that we can’t get off due to corporate capture of the political system and fear of capital flight, which is down to concentration of wealth, which is down to wealth extraction from individuals and communities, which is down, ultimately, to the separation of capital and labour. We want to help reunite capital and labour. Finding a scientist to even have this conversation with would be very difficult.
107Rob October 12th, 2018
I’m totally on that page Dave – exactly.
108Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 13th, 2018
Dave, Have just attended four talks. John Vidal (ex Guardian Environment editor) explained that the rise in interest for plant-based diets shows that the younger generation now have access to much better information than the previous ones and thus huge change could take place very soon. Guy Singh-Watson explained that he thought new smallholders needed to have access to good knowledge far more than financial help. He also told me that if he was to start Riverford from scratch now, with his current level of experience, he would not include meat and dairy. He also confirmed that he was now totally sold to the use of compost, after decades of relying on manure. Ian Tolhurst (‘Tolly’) told an organic mixed farmer that manure was absolutely not essential, as is so often believed, and explained how his farm had very good productivity (as well as superb biodiversity) without any farmed animal inputs. He said that in fact he did have livestock on his farm, they were just much smaller animals: worms, beneficial insects, etc. We had a chat about OrganicLea choosing to go fully veganic, among others.
As to your last comment about ‘focusing on meat being misguided’, where you claim that finding a scientist to have a conversation about economic growth and wealth would be very difficult – you clearly have only been looking with your beef-tinted glasses.
For instance The New Economic Foundation, who have written the ‘Grow Green’ report to help farmers shift from livestock farming to producing human-edible legumes, also write:
“We believe change begins when people recognise that the spiralling chaos and insecurity of daily life is caused by concentrations of power and ownership – whether old or new – operating increasingly beyond their control.
We believe change happens when people are able to seize opportunities to take control over what matters most, not wait for it to be done to or for them.
We believe change succeeds when people take control over their own future in everyone’s interests to improve the place in which they live and shape even the most powerful institutions.
In short, ours is an agenda for people to take more control today, so that we can change the whole system tomorrow”.
They have been promoting an end to economic growth (e.g. https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/Economy_by_people_240918.pdf) AND a shift to plant-based diets (e.g. https://neweconomics.org/2017/01/change-diet-change-world).
Of course George Monbiot also argues both for radical changes in economics/politics and ‘the end of meat’.
The Vegan Sustainability Magazine is often publishing articles that promote a dismantling of the current system (e.g. http://vegansustainability.com/want-to-see-a-new-kind-of-economy/#more-2752) as well as shifts away from meat production.
There’s an article about the shift towards veganism in The Economist this week. It says: “In many countries declared vegans lean towards the political left. In America polling by Pew has found that 15% of liberals espouse a meat-free diet, as opposed to 4% of Republicans. American vegans and vegetarians are also poorer than average, and twice as likely to be single. Three-quarters of them are women. This all fits veganism’s association with valuing health, simplicity and low environmental impact—an implicit rejection of the values and coronary arteries of older red-meat-eating men”. (https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/10/13/why-people-in-rich-countries-are-eating-more-vegan-food?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/whypeopleinrichcountriesareeatingmoreveganfoodtheretreatfrommeat).
109Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 14th, 2018
Yet another study, just published, shows that for most countries, and certainly all high-income ones like the UK, the US etc,. a vegan diet is best for human health (up to 12% less mortality – thus a large reduction in the burden of health and associated financial and environmental costs), for the climate (up to 84% less greenhouse gases) and for the rest of the environment.
110Rosewood Farm's Rob October 14th, 2018
“He also told me that if he was to start Riverford from scratch now, with his current level of experience, he would not include meat and dairy.”
Do you think that’s a fair comment Annie? I don’t, as there is nothing at all stopping Guy from stopping the sale of meat and dairy right now, if he genuinely believes that meat & dairy is a problem. He’s a wonderful marketeer and he’s (allegedly) told you exactly what you wanted to hear, yet he continues to sell far more beef & dairy than I do.
“American vegans and vegetarians are also poorer than average, and twice as likely to be single.”
It stands to reason and is something I’ve always said that the rejection of meat and dairy allows food manufacturers to continue to increase growth & profits having pushed food producers to the lowest margins possible. The growth of veganism is not anti-corporate, which is not to say that vegans can’t be anti-corporate.
111Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 14th, 2018
Rob: I agree with you about Guy (though meat, he said, is about 10% of Riverford business so he’s selling a lot of vegetables! And of course meat and dairy are done by his siblings, he focuses on the vegs).
Dave (and maybe Rob): The tories blame us – ‘the anti-capitalists who don’t like meat’ – for blocking deals allowing chlorinated chicken in the UK (and they’re not wrong).
As an example of those who agree with you, here is MP Claire Perry who says:
“I like lots of local meat. I don’t think we should be in the business of prescribing to people how they should run their diets.”
… and she
Voted against: measures to prevent climate change; a tax on a bankers’ bonuses; higher taxes on banks; the mansion tax; financial incentives for renewables; a publicly owned railway system; more public control over bus services; increase of tax rate for income over £150,000; Laws to promote equality and human rights; raising welfare benefits in line with prices; proportional system to elect MPs; removing hereditary peers in House of Lords; smoking bans; slowing the rise in raise fares, etc.
Voted for: reducing tax rates on corporations; use of military force in UK combat operation overseas; more nuclear weapons; the bedroom tax; restrictive regulation of trade unions; university fees; a stricter asylum system; mass surveillance of people’s activities; selling England’s state-owned forests; culling badgers, etc.
112Rosewood Farm's Rob October 15th, 2018
10% is still £5.19m turnover on meat, which puts my £20k into perspective! That’s the equivalent of 260 farms like ours (although we do need more like 10 x that turnover to be well funded, pay a living wage & employing local people, so 26 farms like Rosewood)
I’m not sure how trying to equate meat eating with a certain type of politics is valid in this discussion – there are plenty of meat eaters who oppose chlorinated chicken.
113Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 15th, 2018
Rob, you write: “I’m not sure how trying to equate meat eating with a certain type of politics is valid in this discussion”.
Yet you “totally agreed” with Dave’s words:
“Focusing on meat is misguided, and based on ‘moral squeamishness’ (…). A more radical and realistic view is that the coming ecological catastrophe is down to the quest for perpetual economic growth, a path that we can’t get off due to corporate capture of the political system and fear of capital flight, which is down to concentration of wealth, which is down to wealth extraction from individuals and communities, which is down, ultimately, to the separation of capital and labour”.
114Rosewood Farm's Rob October 15th, 2018
Yes, I agree with Dave’s words, as he wasn’t trying to frame meat eaters as taking a particular political standpoint on a variety of issues.
115Dave Darby October 15th, 2018
Annie, if you read it again, you’ll (hopefully) see that what I said was not about equating meat-eating (or veganism) with any particular political position. I said that focusing on meat (at all) is misguided, when the battle we need to win right now is a different one. Vegans can take that position just as well as meat-eaters.
116Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 15th, 2018
Dave, On Twitter, right now, some of the brightest minds around:
“Too many of us high-emitting ‘egalitarian liberals’ hide our very high-consuming lifestyles behind a veil of concern about Neo-liberalism.”
“Couldn’t agree with you more Kevin. I’m just about to publish a blog arguing against purely Marxist interpretations of the climate crisis and avenues towards low-carbon transformation”.
“Yes, especially as personal lifestyle change and corporate impunity are intertwined. Growing carrots (and eating them, instead of meat) & using a bike (instead of car & buying fossil fuel) is not only about being “healthier & happier”, it also about taking on those corporates”.
There’s absolutely nothing stopping you taking on the battles you are mentioning whilst shrinking your own footprint drastically and helping smallholders (who represent in the region of 0.3% of society) adapt to a fast-changing situation. Fruit farmers in particular need massive help – and we import 90% of our fruit!
117Rosewood Farm's Rob October 15th, 2018
Re; carrots and corporates (and meat) – you can eat (and grow) meat without any corporate intervention, just as you can grow carrots with corporates.
118Dave Darby October 16th, 2018
That’s very muddled Annie. What reformists miss is that capitalism has to grow perpetually, which leads them down the oxymoronic path of ‘green growth’. It’s a really simple equation – capitalism can’t be stabilised, so either it goes or we go. Corporate capture of the political system and fear of capital flight means that system change isn’t coming via the electoral route, and violent revolution results in centralised power that’s never given up. So building the already existing Solidarity Economy is the only option – https://www.lowimpact.org/lowimpact-topic/low-impact-economy/. In a recent public debate with a pro-capitalist, it emerged that he was involved with a community energy scheme and a CSA scheme, after which I felt it best to be pro-SE, rather than ‘anti’ anything. If people suggest that the SE can never replace capitalism, I ask them at what size of market share would they like it to stop growing.
119Annie Leymarie (@AnnieLeymarie) October 18th, 2018
Dave: You can try to divert the attention as much as you like, there is no escaping the responsibility of educational outfits such as this site, and avoidance of the facts will only hamper those you are trying to protect instead of helping them to get ready for a harsh future and to play a positive part in shaping it for the better (that’s small producers as well as consumers). Yet another damning report has just come out on the meat and dairy industry. It starts with the warning that “A perfect storm is approaching that, one way or another, will bring disruption and change”. Further extracts:
“The case for dietary change is now so compelling on environmental, climate and health grounds that the question is not whether change needs to happen but when and how it will happen. Concerns over the devastating impacts of livestock production on the environment and on animals themselves have been known for years, but few advocacy organisations or governments have ventured into this field and taken action. Farming lobbies have also been successful in stopping even small changes in public policies or redirection of subsidies towards more climate-friendly and healthier diets and agricultural production systems. Despite the numerous reports and scientific studies highlighting that sustainable levels of meat and dairy consumption, for both personal health and the health of our planet, are far below levels of current consumption in high-income countries, not much has happened in this field beyond shifting market preferences. Indeed, current government policies are actively promoting and incentivising animal agriculture products through various subsidies and support measures. This report highlights some examples of the meat industry’s reactions to even small signs of public and political support of reducing meat consumption.
Policies range from direct and indirect farming subsidies to public money being used for the promotion of meat and dairy consumption (as the meat industry is very afraid of the trend of millennials eating less meat). Instead of promoting more sustainable and climate-friendly farming systems, governments continue to subsidise conventional animal agriculture methods, allowing the ‘polluter to get paid’. The message for policymakers and industry is simple – climate action in this sector cannot wait any longer, and the window of opportunity to meet internationally agreed climate targets is closing.
On the positive side, the transition towards a low-emissions food system is in many ways easier to realise than in other sectors, such as energy and transport. This is because there are no big infrastructure investments, while production cycles are shorter because farmers can, to some extent, switch crops and the way they manage their land – when given the right incentives to do so.
Momentum is building as more and more people turn to flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets, and plant-based foods are one of the fastest-growing food categories. However, the complete absence of public messaging and policies to promote a shift towards plant-based diets means this critical dietary shift is left to the whims of the market and personal choice. Aligning subsidies and taxation with the most sustainable food-production methods and products – which are better for the climate, biodiversity, the wider environment and animal welfare – would undoubtedly accelerate the pace of current consumption trends.
The industry is truly at a crossroads, with this year’s draughts affecting the livestock sector very badly. Paradoxically, European farmers have used the situation to ask for (and achieve) the suspension of some of the few environmental measures related to the farms and for additional financial support. This means further exacerbation of environmental problems, without any medium- to long-term measures to tackle vulnerabilities in the system or transition to more climate-resilient agriculture (and, correspondingly, more plant-based diets). It is clear that pouring more taxpayers’ money into this sector is not going to solve the problems it is starting to face. Governments must set a clear trajectory for the transition to give certainty to companies and investors, help farmers to adjust to these changes, and create an engaging and desirable vision for citizens of how one of the most important problems of our era can be addressed. The arguments in favour of health, animal welfare and the environment are overwhelming. Given the inevitability of change in the sector, the opposite will only lead to chaos.”
120Dave Darby October 18th, 2018
I’d like to take up your previous offer of a virtual handshake and meeting up at a later date. I find your inability to understand that I accept your arguments about industrial meat production and overall meat consumption frustrating, as well as the fact that you think that building the solidarity economy and supporting smallholders over industrial agriculture is ‘diverting attention’. I’m closing comments on this post now as we’re just going round in circles and wasting time saying the same things over and over again.