A group of us are attempting to have a debate about the sustainability of meat production, but I’ve realised that our differences are much deeper.
So, we’ve got John and Rob, who are fine with eating the flesh of animals; Annie and Andrew, not so much. Rob is a beef farmer, John is a smallholder with chickens and ducks (I think) and lots and lots of vegetables, fruit and compost. Annie and Andrew are vegans. Andrew is an engineer who is very fond of and knowledgeable about renewables. I only know Annie from a couple of articles on this blog.
I’ll invite a hunter into the debate as well, and anyone else can join in.
I want to work out the position of Lowimpact.org on first eating, then producing, meat.
So let’s go back to basics. One thing at a time? Please? Annie? Let’s have a rule – one link each in the entire thread, so choose it well.
And Andrew, this isn’t something that can be peer-reviewed. It’s philosophy. And it’s hard ethics. But philosophy is about doing, rather than quoting dead philosophers. That’s philosophology, as Robert Pirsig calls it.
So let’s do some ethics.
I put it to you that it can’t possibly be a bad thing to go into the wilds, or to live in the wilds, and to kill and eat wild mammals, birds, fish or even reptiles and insects. No natural habitat is changed. No animals are kept in captivity. No poisons are used. No waste is produced. No additional methane or carbon dioxide is emitted. Animals in the wild tend to be eaten by other animals. When herbivores get old, they’re less likely to escape predators, and that’s what usually happens. Predators pick off the old, the young and the sick first, because it’s easier. Why risk being injured by a strong, fit animal?
A few species work collectively to prevent their gang members being eaten by predators. This includes elephants, dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons, any species of dog, meerkats and humans. The rest, mostly it’s everybody for themselves and take the weakest. That’s good for their gene pool, ultimately.
But for the breeds of animals we’re talking about, barring becoming a pet, they all get eaten. So if that’s what happens in the food chain, it shouldn’t matter to them what they’re picked off by – sharp teeth or an arrow.
Is that a place where we can all agree? Natural harvesting of plant and animal food from the wild is OK.
I just want to test the lie of the land.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Tim December 7th, 2017
If we are only thinking about sustainability, and no gene pool is reduced too much, or behaviour altered, it sounds OK to me so far.
2Mike Eaton December 7th, 2017
The problem here I think is the situation the human finds themselves in; from the hunter-gatherers point of view the main thing is survival, if you don’t eat you and yours die – thats it – any other discussion is pointless. However if we are in the situation we are mostly in – we don’t know much about where our food comes from or how it is produced, we go down the shop and buy it, often prepacked and ready to cook. In that situation the lives of all creatures (and plants) should be discussed and people can make their minds up how they wish to live. However if we decide to go to great lengths because of those beliefs were does hunting and fishing and foraging (for wild fruits etc to make into jams etc) come into our make up? Rather a complex situation!
3Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
I just want to know whether people have any problems with the ethics of killing an animal for food. Are you saying that it’s down to people’s own conscience?
4veganollie December 7th, 2017
Disclaimer: I’m vegan. I made this choice because I think it’s morally wrong to inflict violence or death on someone without their consent, and humans are able to thrive on a diet without resorting to violence. It’s my dream to live without government interference or capitalism, and I believe I can achieve this without needing to eat animals’ body parts or their bodily fluids. I don’t accept the appeal to nature fallacy that because other animals kill and eat each other, that makes it OK for humans to do it too. I believe that we can use reason and crop cultivation so that we don’t have to hurt anyone. I believe that speciesism keeps humans stuck in a human-centric point of view, unable to view other creatures that we share this planet with as much more than existing for our convenience. My view is that non-human animals exist for the sole purpose of their own lives, incomparable to that of a human.
5Mike Eaton December 7th, 2017
Who else are you going to blame? Personally I have no problem killing something (man or beast) if it affects my own survival, however I know that is my choice, I do not expect anybody or anything to tell me otherwise – it is on my concious alone!
6Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
So if I’ve got this right, you disagree with Mike Eaton, who thinks that whether to kill an animal in the wild and eat it is down to an individual’s conscience?
Have I got that right?
Would you put killing animals for food into the same category as, say, owning a slave or stealing? That as a society, we should say that it’s wrong, and prevent people from doing it, and punish them if caught doing it?
7Annie Leymarie December 7th, 2017
Hi Dave, I owe you an apology! I misunderstood your comment in the previous discussion and thought you wanted to remove the ethical dimension from the debate on sustainability, when it’s the opposite: you’d like to avoid the sustainability focus, it seems!? I won’t stay long here. There have been too many points not acknowledged and questions unanswered for me to feel comfortable with the ground shifting yet again. I see these now as tactics stemming from cognitive dissonance, I’m afraid. I have explained a number of times, as Yuval Noah Harari has also made clear, that you cannot have a sound ethical debate without first establishing clear facts. 7.6 billion of us + our trillions of farm animals cannot live in the wild. In fact there is no pure ‘wild’ left, alas, and such a tiny proportion of wildlife left as mass on this Earth, with such a fast rate of extinction (including from hunting, of course) that I really don’t see the point of a discussing such a hypothetical situation. Good luck with it!
8Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
No, Annie – it was because you were dumping so many links and copy/pasting. It was too much to keep up with as part of a working day!
I haven’t abandoned the sustainability issue – I want to move towards it from basics.
I’m guessing that everyone else here will see what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to work out how people arrive at their ethical decisions, and whether and how we apply them to everyone, not just ourselves.
If you don’t want to be part of it, that’s fine. You’ve consistently misunderstood what people have been trying to say, and it’s been very frustrating, but it would be good to have your input.
9Mike Eaton December 7th, 2017
Is this a private argument or can anybody join in?
10Maker Kade December 7th, 2017
Interestingly do meat eaters ever ponder how it is that large strong muscular animals like elephants, deer, giraffe, bison, bullocks, goats, horses, donkeys etc … all herbivores…… manage to get by without eating other animals? Many of these animals are used as workers by humans to haul massive loads, yet all done on a diet of grass and foliage. Amazing. I believe humans can survive as herbivores. If modern man had never tasted meat we most likely could also survive without it given there are so many other foods available to us now ….. and so many of us do survive and remain healthy and mentally alert. I believe it would come down to the bioregion you are forced to survive in and the knowledge you have of plant foods available there. So you need to be more specific in your debate here and select a region of the planet where you and your hunting mates imagine you will be surviving off the land. And how often do you think you would need to eat animal? How much time do you have to cultivate vegetables if seed is available? How much plant and animal life is there available to forage? How long are your winters? How long is your growing season? How old and how fit are you? and so on.
11janefoxwilding December 7th, 2017
I’m totally fine with humans, as omnivorous mammals and part of nature and the food chain, killing and eating other animals for food. I’d prefer to kill and eat wild animals, or animals that have had a ‘free’ and peaceful life, husbanded by a compassionate person in a polyculture. Of course, I believe anyone who wants to try to live without meat is entitled to do so, and I know many who do. That’s the ‘wild’ bit of your question, Dave. The idea that we can all survive on purely plant material brings the argument into the modern day, when things are very different. The part of veganism that I think is not often addressed is the decimation of wildlife (just not mega-fauna or polar bears) including insects, by agriculture. If we are to grow enough food to feed the world from arable land, we will have to grow it in small mixed farms or polycultures, not broadscale agriculture as currently practised. The other point I’d like to make is that if you grow your food on the other side of the world you are incurring a large carbon footprint to get it to you. And then there’s the issue of land and autonomy in impoverished countries, where much of the protein has to come from if you’re not eating meat or fish, and the issue of people being forced to grow cash crops for export rather than their own food. All in all, I believe it is most ethical and sustainable to eat an omnivorous, local diet wherever you are in the world, and if you want to be vegan perhaps it’s a good idea to live where vegetable protein grows readily.
12veganollie December 7th, 2017
From a moral position it’s not down to personal choice. If we take the position than violence is wrong, then to be consistent with that position requires veganism. Taking an animal’s life doesn’t take into account the animal’s personal choice to remain alive and to avoid fear and pain. Yes the concept of animals as chattel property is outrageous to me, but then so is the concept of a human being able to own land or the commons.
13John Harrison - Allotment Gardening December 7th, 2017
Lord knows! I’m dying of extreme boredom ?
14Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 7th, 2017
I aim to support wild-life, ie I don’t draw a distinction between plants or animals and I certainly don’t favour humans over other species. As such I have no more of a problem killing plants or animals for food, but I do think that we have a moral obligation to ensure that we are only killing plants or animals that have a healthy, sustainable population *after* we have taken our share. Killing to totally destroy a species or habitat for multiple species is immoral to me.
15Chris Gander December 7th, 2017
Glad to see that someone has brought in the issue of killing plants. And, presumably the point about killing plants that are not in the correct place (I believe these are also known as weeds by the unenlightened). And – never start a sentence with and – if we are following a sustainability route, where do the non ‘useful’ plants, such as giant hogweed, and Japanese hogweed, fit into the scheme of things.
16Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 7th, 2017
There is a fundamental moral difference going on here – some people support the rights of the individual at the expense of the species while others value the species over the rights of the individual.
17Mike Eaton December 7th, 2017
18Dani December 7th, 2017
Aboriginal wild hunting caused the extinction of Australia’s megafauna thousands of years ago. It does change the environment.
19Annie Leymarie December 7th, 2017
“Everyone else will see what I am trying to do”. Yes, obviously, justifying the killing of animals because that’s a very convenient premise! Might an enquiry which starts with “It can’t possibly be a bad thing…” have an inherent bias? It can’t possibly be a bad thing to eat dogs for many Chinese. It can’t possibly be a bad thing to mutilate women’s genitals for a number of Africans. It can’t possibly be a bad thing to bomb a shopping mall for a Jihadist, etc.
20Annie Leymarie December 7th, 2017
Absolutely, thank you for this comment!
From ‘Homo Sapiens – a brief history of humankind’:
“Mass extinctions akin to the archetypal Australian decimation occurred again and again in the ensuing millennia, whenever people settled (…). For example the megafauna of New Zealand – which had weathered the alleged ‘climate change’ of c. 45,000 years ago without a scratch – suffered devastating blows immediately after the first humans set foot on the islands. (…) A similar fate befell the mammoth population of Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean (…) they suddenly disappeared about 4,000 years ago, just when the first humans reached the island.
Were the Australian extinction an isolated event, we could grant humans the benefit of the doubt. But the historical record makes Homo Sapiens look like an ecological serial killer.
Within 2,000 years of the Sapiens’ arrival, North America lost 34 out of its 47 genera of large mammals. South America lost 50 out of 60. (…)
We are the culprits. There is no way around that truth. Even if climate change abetted us, the human contribution was decisive.”
21Bluebell December 7th, 2017
I believe that killing and preparing your own meat, if you choose to eat it has a very positive effect, encouraging both awareness and understanding of the animal and its environment, using it all and reducing the volume of meat consumed. Meanwhile the animal lives a free and natural existence and a quick clean death.
22Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
So would you like eating animals to be illegal? Would you like to see people punished for doing it?
23Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
I made a proposal: that it is acceptable to harvest meat as well as plants from nature, and asking for people’s thoughts on that. We can discuss those other topics as well, another time. I’m assuming that you don’t think it’s acceptable to eat animals. Would that be fair?
24Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
No, it’s nothing to do with me. I don’t hunt. And this is a very simple, ethical question. It doesn’t need any specifics. But let’s give you some. I have the option of two meals. One consists mainly of vegetables, grown on a farm that used to be a forest. The other consists mainly of venison, from a deer killed in a forest. Do you have an ethical problem with either of these meals, and why?
25Greg Hickin December 7th, 2017
All agriculture is speciesism. Its the changing of the natural world to suit the needs and wants of humans. Any type of food cultivation systematically deprives animals of their habitat and frustrates their interests.
For instance a field of wheat. First you must remove all trees, shrubs etc usually through slash and burn agriculture then plough the soil tearing the very skin off the land , a form of biotic cleansing . Sow a single variety of grass which is an anathema to nature then protect it from sap sucking insects, birds ,small rodents and large herbivores. The death toll if you include the soil biology is unquantifiable .
For roughly 90000 years out of the last 100000 years humans have been hunter/ Fisher/ gathers and yes we have been responsible for the extinction of species around the globe because we are novel omnivorous apex predators. All indigenous HGS do not see themselves as separate from nature there is no morality in nature things arent wrong or right they are just are.only humans can perceive themselves as moral so will tend to preserve their morality for amongst themselves and that will be driven by culture , history and the bio region that they inhabit . There are zero vegan indigenous peoples for a reason.
The question is whether its wrong to remove an animal from a fully functional eco system or better to irreversibly change the ecosystem to grow crops.
26Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
You’re way ahead of us. There have been two posts about the sustainability or otherwise of meat-eating already, which have had a total of almost 400 comments, with around 150 links to various studies showing that keeping animals was either devastating or beneficial to the environment. I realised that some people were not actually talking about the sustainability of meat-eating, but were opposed to eating animals under any circumstances. So I’ve stripped it back to basics, to explore the ethics of eating animals, before we talk about how sustainable it is. Some vegans become quite angry that the question is posed at all, but in reality, I’d like to see the number of animals killed and eaten reduced dramatically. I would have thought that for them, that would be a step in the right direction.
Also, I’m not saying that they’re wrong when they say that it can never be ethical to kill a sentient being. I really don’t feel qualified to make that decision. Humans may look back at meat-eating at some point in the future with the same horror that we look back at witch-burning now.
I’ve been fascinated by nature from an early age, but in reality, when I look at nature, I see carnage. If humans are to rise above that, then I believe it will be for our sake, spiritually, if you like. Because unless we stop nature, we’re never going to stop the violence against animals.
27Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
And what about fish? Prawns? Shellfish? Yeast? If it’s classified as in the animal kingdom, it’s a no-no, or do you have a line?
28Gerard December 7th, 2017
For something to live something else must die, simple as that. It may happen in a round about way or it may be direct but it is always a fact unless something consumes minerals.
29Dave Darby December 7th, 2017
It’s a really basic question for me though. A deer is in a forest. If it turns left, it will be killed and eaten by a bear. If it turns right, it will be killed and eaten by a human. So ethically, is it fine for the deer to be killed by the bear but not the human? Some people would say yes, and so rationally, that can’t possibly be about the welfare of the deer, because either way it’s going to be killed and eaten, and probably more horrifically by the bear.
So, if it’s not about the welfare of the deer, what is it about?
If it’s OK, ethically for the bear to kill the deer, then what is the ethical problem with a human killing it?
The important variable in that hypothetical scenario is the species of predator. And in fact the only predator that’s not, ethically, allowed to kill the deer is a human predator.
So now, rationally, for me it’s all about humans. Some people will say that it’s unethical for a human to kill a deer, but only a human. The deer can be torn limb from limb by any other creature, and there’s no ethical problem.
So I’ve often thought that the issue is about the effect on humans. Does it damage us spiritually to kill sentient beings? Does it hinder our evolution? Maybe it does, I don’t know. But what I do know, from the argument above, is that it can’t possibly be about animal welfare.
I’m not, on past performance, expecting people who think that it’s ethically wrong for humans to kill animals to understand this, but I wish they’d give it a go, because I find it a fascinating ethical conundrum.
30Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Hi Dani. This is a question that I will get to later – the sustainability question. Of course, I realise that humans have caused deforestation, desertification and extinctions whenever they’ve arrived in a new continent. The Americas were the last place to feel the human burn. But at the moment, I’m talking about animals that are not endangered. I’d go further than that. I stayed in a commune in New Zealand. I was told that there are no native mammals in New Zealand, apart from one species of bat and one native seal. Whether that’s correct or not, plenty of mammals from other places have been released into New Zealand’s forests, from possums and rats, to goats, foxes and rabbits. Some, like foxes and rats, are causing havoc with the native flightless birds and their eggs, and with no predators, some, like goats and possums, are destroying trees. The people in the commune I stayed at shot the non-native mammals, ate them (some species anyway) and made fur coats from their skins. Is that ethically wrong?
31Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
This is a very interesting, related point. For vegans, is it ethically wrong to enter a forest, shoot a rabbit and eat it, but ethically fine to remove the forest, grow wheat, harvest it, make bread and eat that instead?
32Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
I’m guessing that for you, there’s no difference, ethically, in killing a plant for food and killing an animal for food. Would that be fair?
33Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
We definitely are the culprits, that’s for sure. The internal combustion engine is one of the greatest sources of destruction of the biosphere, especially when you take into consideration the spin offs – the tarmac roads, the mines for the metal, the oil industry etc. A massive problem.
Is it unethical to have a car? (And do you have one?). Flying is even worse, and set to increase hugely in the next couple of decades. Is it unethical to fly, and do you fly?
34Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
I don’t understand the desire to feed more people when you know the way people naturally behave. It seems self-defeating when you know full well what a damaging and selfish species we are. Humans do not restrict themselves when given extra resources, they breed, grow and colonise until they reach the next biological limit.
35Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
I’ve been on that journey, and I came to the conclusion that it was wrong when I realised that it was all about me and my feelings – the animals are seen as unnecessary and disposable to us now we have alternatives (and that applies to all dietary groups, not just vegans). We have taken animals on a journey and to ditch them by the roadside, now, seems extremely selfish. Of course I am talking about species level, not individual.
36Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
But actually, you’re right about the title of the article, and I’ve changed it.
37veganollie December 8th, 2017
I don’t care for the state of its forms of violence. I’d like humans to realise that violence is never the way of their own volition.
38Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
But if they don’t agree, you wouldn’t want to force them to stop? It’s up to everyone’s own conscience, in other words?
39veganollie December 8th, 2017
40Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Got you. This is what I’m trying to get from people. Should killing and eating a rabbit (say) mean:
a) a nice meal
b) a stern look and a ‘tut tut’
c) the loss of a few friends
41Greg hickin December 8th, 2017
Short answer yes it’s unethical to kill a rabbit but not to remove an ecosystem like a HNV grasslands . It boils down to intent .If you are intending to kill then it’s wrong though once you’ve witnessed the destruction caused by the plough doing it again in my opinion removes that , as you know you are going to kill /displace animals . If you are hunting / foraging for sustenance then you are fulfilling the ecological niche humans first evolved in. The extinction events have rapidly increased since the dawn of civilisation and agriculture, before it was large mammals and large birds now it’s effects every phylum.
42Gerard December 8th, 2017
All things have a right to life and even if you grew vegetables yourself you probably have removed other vegetation and habitat to do it. The main thing is to respect the life you consume no matter what it is and be thankful.
43Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
So are you happy (ethically speaking) for humans to clear land for agriculture, and also to hunt game from the wild?
44Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
So the additional sentience of the animal isn’t an issue – it’s just the fact that it’s alive? And for humans to live, other things have to die. But ethically, that’s fine as long as it doesn’t include unnecessary or unintended cruelty (and can cruelty be unintended)?
45Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
The three important questions (for people who don’t think it’s ethical to kill and eat an animal) that have emerged from this exercise so far for me are:
1. why is it not ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal, but it is ethical to remove the forest, preventing the wild animal from living at all, to provide land to grow crops?
2. if there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?
3. would you like the killing and eating of animals to be illegal, or are you happy for it to be left to an individual’s conscience?
46Amanda James December 8th, 2017
In response to your question to Ollie, I do think killing animals should be made illegal; we are just animals after all and we have legal protection. I think one day we will look back, as Simon Amstell’s Carnage does, and view killing animals in the way we now view slavery or killing humans. I don’t think ‘punishment’ is the word. I think the aim of prison is to stop people doing what they have been put in prison for. I believe the great majority of humans can live without eating other non-human animals and I choose to do this. Back me into a corner where it is a choice of live or die (kill another animal – including a human – or starve to death) and I can’t give you a definite answer. I know I can kill an animal and I would certainly defend myself against a human trying to kill me; I suspect my survival instinct would mean I would kill. I assume my debate would be do I die or risk being in prison for ever (assuming killing animals were illegal). I have no problem with people eating me if I am dead.
I do draw a boundary between plants and animals because if I don’t then I can’t survive and I do think it “damage(s) us spiritually to kill sentient beings”. Yeasts are in the fungus Kingdom and I do eat them.
How you get to making something illegal is another matter. I don’t think civil war (e.g. American Civil war over slavery) is a good way as that is violent and I do not advocate violence. I think this debate route is a constructive way and I think education is a way (people believe carrots grow on trees so they can be very ill-informed about the source of their food and therefore the decisions they take).
A vegan diet does not have to mean monocultures and removal of forests and it should mean the reverse. I advocate permaculture principles, forest gardening, agroforestry. Zero Carbon Britain advocates a move towards a diet of less meat and explains the resulting changes in land use http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/en/ in their report; it is an inefficient use of resources putting them through non-human animals first.
Or if, as Greg has said, there is no right or wrong in nature, why do we not accept that we are part of nature and revert to killing each other again, as a food source (and as a result population control) and part of the cycle of life? I respect you Gerard, but when I meet you, you will be my first taste of human!
47Greg hickin December 8th, 2017
Erm yes and no and Yes! .Mainly because agriculture has now become necessary part of human culture and we can’t roll back 10000 years . Ive no problem with people hunting for sustenance unless you are going to class all indigenous peoples as unethical. The arguments against civilized people hunting because they can acess the supermarkets which is a system so destructive it’s destroying the bio sphere seems warped to me.
I’ll be honest I spent over two decades as “plant based” and like 80% of vegetarians have returned to eating meat mainly for health reasons but other complex reasoning that I would be hard pressed to really quantify here. I’ve found the thoughts of Glenn Aalbrecht to be the nearest expression of how I feel at this time. It’s a short article but along with other thinkers like Aldo Leopold and his land ethics have influenced my thinking.https://glennaalbrecht.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/becoming-a-sumbiovore-and-a-sumbiotarian/
48Greg Hickin December 8th, 2017
Or as Aldo Leopold succinctly stated ” A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
49Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
and so this killing thing and aggression did actually get us out of the trees Ollie, without it no doubt by now we would have all been killed off and eaten – that works out as being extinct . . . . . . . this includes you!
50Bluebell December 8th, 2017
for me the next logical step from this argument is that we should limit the human population because no matter if we are vegan or meat eaters we are having an adverse effect on the planet by our sheer numbers and if as a meat eater I saw such over population and devastation in an area caused by a wild animal I would reduce their numbers by removing the old, weak, sick and injured. I’m not suggesting homicide – just following a train of thought, which even if you were to use birth control to manage population would be unacceptable to large sectors of the population and to some extent unworkable as evidenced in China.
51Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
Dave, how true, no I don’t drive thus I don’t have a car, awful noisy contraptions, as for flying sadly my wings have not as yet developed for me to be able to do this
52Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
What a good idea Bluebell, perhaps you would like to make a start? but how do we do this without affecting everybodies right to life? Actually we do carry out the occasional cull of humans – they are carrying one out in Syria at the moment I believe, good isn’t it?
53Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
This is becoming tedious, there are as many different views on the subject as their are people on the planet – are they all wrong or are are they all right? To me tis neither and both. My view as I’ve stated before is that it must be up to the individuals on conscience on this – I would add the provisio that certain things MUST also be included – if the individual wishes to eat meat then they must be willing to kill that meat as painlessly and as quickly as possible (if you can’t don’t do it), you must be able and willing to butcher clean and cook that meat AND most importantly you MUST use every part of the animal and not waste any of it – it died so you may live, do not waste that life. There again thia also should mean the same for anybody who wishes to eat vegetables and plants (they too live after all – it’s life Jim but not as we know it – to use an often used quote). the final part is simple; are there any bad people in this – only those who try to force their ways onto others! I may not agree with your choice but it is not mine to question nd i would be willing to die for your believes if necessary – and yes I’ve done my share of that but luckily did not die.
54Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Greg – so if ‘sentience has been removed from the menu of primary ethical choice’, as humans, we’re in no position to distinguish between the right not to be killed of any plant, fish or mammal based on sentience. Is it then OK to kill and eat a chimpanzee, as long as no damage is done to its habitat?
And if sentience is removed from the equation altogether, it means that other humans should also be fair game when it comes to food? Would killing humans then be OK if no ‘levels’ of sentience were recognised? Soylent Green wouldn’t be a problem?
(I’m not trying to be awkward with these questions by the way. I’m just trying to knock together a coherent ethical stance around eating meat, because in the previous thread, about the sustainability of meat-eating, I realised that it was impossible to have that discussion without coming to a position first about eating meat at all).
55Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
That’s how I see it too. One of the major reasons for us to go vegan, according to vegans, is that it makes us healthier and live longer, which can only be a bad thing for the future of the planet even if plant food production had zero effect. One of the greatest advantages of being (sustainable) meat eaters is that it limits our own population. Despite what others will say, cows may have a higher impact than humans in terms of methane emissions, but they also have a much lower impact in terms of not driving cars, producing plastics, living in houses, etc. etc.
Incidentally I’d like it if more humans were to make better use of the resources that can be grown (and are often ‘wasted’) within a sustainable cow ecosystem such as the nature reserve that I help to manage – willow for baskets, leather, wool, rush-fibre, etc. This would simultaneously benefit wildlife in terms of habitat quality as well as reducing demand for plastics.
56Rosewood Farm December 8th, 2017
Well Mike, eating meat kills us, so that’s a good start…
It also means we can feed as many humans.
57Amanda December 8th, 2017
Do you mean that you do kill what meat you eat yourself?
58Amanda December 8th, 2017
So do you kill what you eat yourself?
59Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
Not these days Amanda, but I have in the past
60Amanda December 8th, 2017
What do you think about where your meat comes from and do follow through on that ie where and what you buy?
61Amanda December 8th, 2017
62veganollie December 8th, 2017
Like I said, appeal to nature fallacy.
63Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
Rather complex this; what little meat I do eat comes from sustainable herds that have been bred organically and had a good life. when I get my meat (bought or otherwise) I try and normally do use every part of the animal and give thanks to the spirit of the animal for supplying me with itself so I may live – much the same as any plant life I use. When I mention “little meat I do eat” I must admit I don’t each much meat, not for any ethical reason but because I just don’t like the taste of meat in general. I do however process any meat used (making my own bacon, sausages etc). As I said complex!
64Amanda December 8th, 2017
Yes, well said Ollie … we have a ways to go but the foundation is clear. Following the vegan path is a choice …. the longer I am vegan the more compassionate and peaceful i seem to be … as well as physically healthy although there are many unhealthy vegans who eat fast food etc. I actually dont see that I have any right to take a life .. and I dont want to either. I didnt start that way … health was my first motivation. But now I see that we are all equal and I sincerely hope i never resort to eating another animal. Hence I actively promote the healthy vegan diet to support those in transition. Any reduction in killing has to be an advance for the evolution on this planet. I am alos reading the Anastasia books …. it might seem fantasy to some … but its real for me. There is another way of being with life on this planet and I’m holding the space for that to evolve. Bring it on. Tks for your contribution.
65Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
I think we underestimate sentience in other species, massively, because we don’t understand them. However research is building in that area so I think that we are not far off understanding that everything in the forest perceives the world around it and consciously adapts.
66Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
So Ollie, you dispute my lifestyle, have you an alternative considering you do not know me nor know and understand where I have been in my venture though life. What right do you presume to have to tell me this? Am I telling you how to live? All I am saying is that to me the previous statements apply
67Amanda December 8th, 2017
So you eat meat because it reduces your life span? Um …. if people werent here … then nor would the number of cows or even cows at all! …. and the ‘better use of resources’ sounds great! There are many folks doing that in my county ;-))) and I completely agree.
68Amanda December 8th, 2017
Brilliant … and yes!
69Amanda December 8th, 2017
I think there can be a moral argument but also there is simply ‘creating a world that works’ … which is very compelling to me. I wouldn’t like it to be illegal …. much better that we all understand why it doesnt work … and get behind each other in creating a world that does. We can choose our future …. whatever teeth we have. I think animals are far too much fun and inspiration to kill …. and use etc. The internet is full of funny animal pictures … I think we all love them! Who wants to live next door to a slaughterhouse? Anyone? I wonder why…..
70veganollie December 8th, 2017
The only irrefutable argument for veganism, in my opinion, is ethics. Environmental and health claims can be disputed. It’s hard to disagree with avoiding unnecessary suffering for something as insignificant as palate pleasure. Vegans hear the idea that destroying land for crops is unsustainable. We hear that a lot. It’s a ridiculous idea though, because the animal abuse industry uses far more land for growing many more crops to feed livestock. When people become morally consistent and cease abusing animals for their pleasure and convenience, much less land and water will be required for humans, and more can be given back to wild nature. Although in a capitalist system it will probably be sold to the highest bidder.
71Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
“So you eat meat because it reduces your life span? Um …. if people werent here … then nor would the number of cows or even cows at all! …. and the ‘better use of resources’ sounds great! There are many folks doing that in my county ;-))) and I completely agree.”
No, I don’t believe that it does reduce my lifespan but apparently it does so for the people who do believe that then it must be a good thing. I think that the major benefit in eating only sustainably produced meat is that it significantly limits the number of people that can live within an ecosystem.
I mainly eat meat because animals are important in maintaining the pastoral ecosystems that I manage.
72Amanda December 8th, 2017
So you dont even like it then!! Sorry … this is a bizarre thread!! We dont have to eat the animals for them to contribute to the ecosystem. In fact, it would be true to say that a great deal more would exist on this planet without us!!
73Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
“The only irrefutable argument for veganism, in my opinion, is ethics.”
Agree 100% Ollie. I have been in many debates with vegans where I’ve managed to eliminate every single point but the one thing I can’t refute is personal choice, and nor would I wish to.
Destroying land for crops is unsustainable, whether you feed them to humans or animals. Therefore we should get maximum nutrition out of the crops we produce by eating as much of it as we can and feeding the waste to livestock to create edible food for humans and also using non-cultivated cropping systems/semi-natural ecosystems to produce food (and soil) while benefitting wildlife.
74Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
No, I do like meat, but that doesn’t mean I eat it just because I like it. I wouldn’t eat a) what I don’t like or b) what I believe is destroying an ecosystem. Granted the latter is easier with meat than it is with the major part of my diet – vegetables, but we all do the best we can.
It’s also true that I don’t need to kill grazing animals for food to manage the grazed ecosystems I manage, and in fact the majority of my herd I don’t kill at all, but it seems wasteful not to eat the animals & I do need to earn an income in order to live so until people start paying me for managing the grassland habitats while keeping all animals alive then I’m going to have to produce food from them. Anyone is welcome to sponsor a cow that will never be killed but I’ve yet to find anyone willing to do that, so all the animals that aren’t killed are sponsored by either myself or the sale of their offspring for meat.
75Amanda December 8th, 2017
Yes … I agree … I have friends who only eat the animals they kill … and one of those never uses a gun … so its fair game so to speak (though its not my bag) and they are more likely to take the slower, weaker animals .. as do animals. But I am human .. and I can choose. Culturally we are all mixed up … we love dogs and steak ….. lalala …. so many points to make … but I choose the eco-vegan path and love it. I also buy locally and love it. If someone is ok to kill … then let them kill until they get to see another way …. and maybe we can help with that …. and we are all on the same planet … somehow therefore we are all one ….. and parts of us keep killing.
76Amanda December 8th, 2017
I was agreeing with Ollie there ….
77Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
So, bearing in mind the question: ‘why is it not ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal, but it is ethical to remove the forest, preventing the wild animal from living at all, to provide land to grow crops?’
Why doesn’t it work? (using ethics, not personal preference)
78Mike Eaton December 8th, 2017
I’ve been looking at this and the many different views and one thing occurs to me – very few if any of us know each other, their ages and their life experiences – all of which will of course be different and will I’m sure affect their views on the subject. Knowing some of these may show a pattern which otherwise is missing from our views. Anybody agree with me in that the above things could and probably will affect how you see life in general and the maintenance of it!
79Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
That’s not what the question in this article is about though. It’s not about using land to produce crops to feed to animals. We’ll come to farming later. This is just about killing and eating animals per se. In this case, these are the two ethical questions I’d like to ask you:
1. why is it not ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal, but it is ethical to remove the forest, preventing the wild animal from living at all, to provide land to grow crops?
2. if there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?
80Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
I agree that age and life experience could influence your views on the subject, but it doesn’t add or take anything away from your ethical arguments. They have to stand on their own. Rational debate can’t and shouldn’t be concerned with a participant’s age, ethnicity, gender or anything else.
81Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Several people have now said that they wouldn’t eat meat themselves because they think it’s morally wrong. But they wouldn’t want to extend their morals to other people. In other words, it’s a matter of individual conscience, not law. Unless anyone comes in with a good argument as to why killing and eating an animal is wrong, but so wrong that it should be illegal, I’m going to drop that one. Which leaves these two questions that I’d like to put again to people who think it’s wrong to kill and eat an animal:
1. why is it not ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal, but it is ethical to remove the forest, preventing the wild animal from living at all, to provide land to grow crops?
2. if there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?
82Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Sorry, your comment went into spam (we’ve got an over-enthusiastic spam monitor). I’ve put your email address into our ‘not spam’ list now, so you’ll never get put in there again.
Excellent – at last someone who’s prepared to throw people in jail for killing animals. I don’t agree with that position, but it’s interesting. Do you think we’ll ever get to that point? You’d have to persuade an enormous number of people who aren’t convinced right now. But it was the same before the slave trade was abolished, or before women got the vote, or before homosexuality was legal. The consensus was that those things would never happen. But they did.
So, lots of questions:
1. I also love forest gardens. But if it were illegal to kill an animal, would everything else apart from forest gardens be illegal too? Because if it’s not a forest garden, that allows wild animals free access to it, then wild habitat would have to be cleared to grow crops, which prevents animals from living.
2. Also, if you had your way, would you give special dispensation to, say, Inuit or Kalahari bushmen, who would have to leave their traditional way of life if they couldn’t hunt?
3. People do eat and farm animals, and so Lowimpact.org has a ‘game/wild meat’ topic and a section containing information about keeping various animals. I’m trying to work out what we should advocate. I think that eating (unendangered) wild food is sustainable, and as we’re a sustainability organisation, I’m happy to provide information about it. We’ll never support industrial agriculture, but I’m trying to work out what we should support – ie. scale and practices. As long as people keep, kill and eat animals, we’d like it to be as sustainable and cruelty-free as possible. Would you condemn us for that, or support us, or somewhere in between?
4. What do you think of the killing of invasive species in New Zealand, like rats, goats, possums etc. who have no predators and are destroying the populations of native wild birds and destroying the forests too? Still not OK to cull them?
83Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Also: ‘I do think it “damage(s) us spiritually to kill sentient beings”.’
That’s the first answer to the question:
“if there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?”
There are no hunter-gatherer / pre-industrial societies with vegans, either now or in the past. Were they less spiritually developed than a modern vegan?
84Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
But killing animals is – partly – illegal! If I’m seen in the street strangling or beheading a dog, even if it is a stray dog and even I am using what is deemed a ‘humane’ killing method the law would be against me, especially if I do it for instance at the gate of a primary school. If I”m a teacher in that school and take the kids to an orchard, all is well. If I take them to a slaughterhouse, all is not well – despite the fact that I am just showing them where our food comes from!
85Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Someone has since come out and said that they think killing animals / eating meat should be illegal (Amanda James – above). Do you think it should be illegal? I’ve asked Amanda various questions about that, above.
86Bluebell December 8th, 2017
If it is impact that you are looking at I would hazard a guess that locally produced and killed meat is a lower impact than exotic fruit shipped half way round the world or stored for months, or even some of the highly processed vegetarian foods.
87Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Do you want to have a go at those two questions above?
88Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Bluebell – Agreed, but we’re looking at the ethics (rather than the sustainability) of killing animals at the moment.
89Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
In your woodland scenarios you’ve left out two important other options: one is that we just forage and not hunt, as we know that at least some of our prehistoric ancestors did (and our closest cousins still do). The other is that we consider fair prey other humans, as many of our ancestors did and until quite recently were pretty common. How do your readers feel about cannibalism? We too are animals, so if you exclude some species, on which basis?
90Bluebell December 8th, 2017
So ethically it is better to kill the planet by eating exotic fruits than by eating locally produced meat? ?
91Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Excellent question. Greg Hickin, above, believes that we’re not in a position to ‘grade’ plants or animals in terms of sentience, because we just don’t know. This would seem to suggest that there’s there’s no ethical distinction between killing a human or a carrot. I asked him if that’s what he believes, but he hasn’t replied yet.
But where is your line, in terms of sentience. Is it the plant / animal kingdoms? But that is just a human invention. Are shellfish ok to eat? Fish?
And are you saying that there are or were vegan hunter/gatherer societies? (or more accurately, gatherer societies)?
92Bluebell December 8th, 2017
So is foraging illegal if you don’t own the land. So only those with land would survive?
93Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
No – I agree with you, but that’s not the question being discussed (the one at the top of the page). There was another post about the sustainability of eating meat (https://www.lowimpact.org/does-the-sustainability-of-meat-production-depend-on-the-size-of-a-holding-and-the-number-of-animals-kept-on-it/) and we’ll return to it again. But this post is just about the ethics of killing and eating animals, even if it’s done super-sustainably.
94Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Bluebell – who’s that question to, and why?
95Bluebell December 8th, 2017
Annie’s comment about some killing being illegal.
My point is that picking vegetables can also be illegal but in both cases it is mostly legal.
96Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
Foraging is still having an impact upon other living things, not sure why you draw a distinction only between eating animals directly and not plants.
As for cannabalism, no, I’m not into that, and neither are many other animals.
97Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
Very good point Bluebell
98Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
What’s wrong with taking children to see an abattoir? We visited one when I was in primary school.
99Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Am in a train and busy. I’ll look at all that later today. But killing some animals in some ways is already clearly illegal!
100Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Your guess has been proven wrong by science in terms of climate change for the majority of foodstuff but let’s stick to the parameters of the current debate, even though I fail to see how doing everything we can to hamper climate change (and loss of biodiversity) isn’t an ethical priority!
101Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Science has shown quite clearly that in most cases the climate impact of local meat (especially grass-fed, thus often organic meat) is a lot worse than imported fruit and veg. On other threads I have posted some of the many studies that show this.
102Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Rob – I think Annie’s saying that killing a dog in the street is already illegal, and so it’s possible, even if it looks unlikely from where we are now, that killing animals in any circumstances might one day be illegal.
Is that fair, Annie. And do you think that killing animals should be illegal?
Because it isn’t illegal now, we provide information about keeping, hunting, killing and eating animals, in the most sustainable and cruelty-free way possible. Would you condemn us for doing that, or support us, or somewhere in between? I want to see where people are on the killing issue before we get on to the sustainability issue.
103Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
The second law of thermodynamics (trophic levels, ecological efficiency) do you remember? And sentience, ability to suffer, central nervous system, does that ring a bell?
Many of our ancestors and even quite a number of recently documented tribes (certainly in my lifetime) were cannibals.
104Amanda December 8th, 2017
I think not knowing is a valid point …. and that actually makes me very grateful for the plants that i have to eat. BEing in a space of gratitude is important to me … and it makes me wonder what the animals (assuming they have sentience which i do) would think of who eats them and to what purpose. I think we humans are messing up big time ….. If i had to die to be eaten for a human that adds nothing to this planet (and just likes the taste of my flesh) i would be well pissed off!!! No animal agrees to being killed in our human scenario and certainly not on the basis of taste … its violence, pure violence based on our own self-importance. And we know nothing of them either … their ability to communicate across long distances, the scale of their consciousness. So I can avoid eating them easily although my vegan diet came about through health and has expanded my consciousness ever since. I see animals very differently now that I dont eat them. I spent some time with a herd of cattle and sheep … all of which were being kept and allowed to roam free …. and their purpose was just to be on the land and be themselves whatever that is. It was an extraordinary experience. Yes, they taste good and we need to make money …. thats as far as it goes!! All ive been used to is seeing animals in fields preparing to be forced to give milk or meat for money. I dont like being used at the best of times. My own dear omnivorous mother raised the issue of cannibalism yesterday …. There may be a few ways to save the planet … one is to plant trees very fast … another is to eat a vast amount less meat …. and for my own sensibilities i would love it if we had a global vegan planet. I think its an experiment worth exploring! I dont know if im right or not …. its an idea …. if we hang onto ‘right or wrong’ then yes … we’ll never get anything done!!
105Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Re sentience, the whole of Yuval Noah Harari’s video, which I thought you told me you watched, was about this: we do know very well that animals suffer and share many of our emotions and feelings (+ have their own). He also of course stressed, that particularly in these times when we are faced with risk of widespread extinction, we need to have our opinions well grounded on proven facts or they shouldnt count so much!
Re vegan ancestors, yes we had prehistoric ones, I sent links to the relevant studies (!)
106Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
“Culturally we are all mixed up … we love dogs and steak ….. lalala …. so many points to make … but I choose the eco-vegan path and love it. I also buy locally and love it.”
That’s great that you love it, not replying to that bit but the culturally mixed up reference. I don’t think that’s mixed up. Eating one animal does not make you obliged to eat *all* animals just as eating plants doesn’t oblige you to eat *all* plants. Eating a carrot means you can still choose not to eat a daffodil without being called up for cultural inconsistencies.
107Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Annie – you posted about 100 links. Too many to look at. Do you have a reliable source for your claim that there were or are ‘gatherer’ vegan pre-agricultural tribes / societies? (Not that it’s relevant to this question, but it’s interesting).
Yuval Harari’s video is irrelevant to this question. Yes a deer is sentient, but it’s sentient whether eaten by a bear or a human, so it’s sentience is not relevant to the question. If it’s ok for a bear to kill the deer, why is it not ok for a human to do the same thing? There are no facts that can be brought to the table on this issue. It’s about ethics. So make your ethical argument about why it’s ok for the bear to kill the deer, but not the human. Sustainability / extinctions / climate change can come later. How many times do I have to say it?
108Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
I think we can’t oversimplify some complex questions. I think it is crazy to kill animals for food that plays a key role in amplifying climate change and some of other worse problems, such as loss of biodiversity and species extinction, whilst being overall very bad for our health. My many links were to show the well established science on those these facts. It’s a different matter to kill malaria moskitoes, even though avoiding all killing of animals would be ideal!
109Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Re the deer, for exactly the same reason that it’s not ethical to kill another human: because we don’t need to, because we are endowed with brains and hearts which allow us to consider ethics – thus empathy – and to be able to minimise suffering around us. The bear needs the deer – or similar – ( though I can also show you videos of bear choosing fruit over very readily available meat and fish). We have absolutely no need whatsoever to eat deer!
110Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
But if a deer turns left and is killed by a bear, or it turns right and is killed by a human, where is the reduction in suffering? There is none. The animal is killed, and it makes no difference to the animal’s welfare which other species it is killed by. This particular ethical problem can’t possibly be about the welfare of animals, because if that was the issue, we’d be forced to stop the deer being killed, by any species.
Someone (Amanda James) above, has said that killing animals is bad for human spiritual development. Now that’s at least a coherent argument. Animal welfare, in this situation, isn’t.
111Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Dave I don’t want to condemn you but I feel it’s crucial to re-assess how you define sustainability and make that clear. My 100 links are all about that: how urgent is climate change? And the other crises on our hands, such as air and water pollution, to name just two more. What contributes to them and how much? I have now said many times that
opinions not based on solid factual ground shouldn’t have much weight. I don’t think you would engage in long debates with flat-weather. Let’s get our facts correct first. Then we can define sustainability, then choose our ethics. I fully support you in allowing these debates, in fact now to you (as long as evidence is taken into account!)
112Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
I agree with Amanda and also in giving the deer the same chance that we would want, i.e to be killed neither by the bear nor the human, or at the very least to be perhaps killed later in life. We were also defenceless preys once, and if there had been a bear or a gun at each corner to kill each one of us we wouldn’t be here.
Humans don’t die of old age, they die of organ failures, the wrong cells multiplying, bacteria, viruses etc. So why not say that since human’s get killed by something anyway, it’s fair game to kill any of them when we feel.like it?
113Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Typing from a phone whilst standing in a train. Several typos, sorry, one of them was “flat-weather” instead of ‘flat-Earthers’, somewhere…
114Bluebell December 8th, 2017
So if we choose not to kill animals but are growing crops how do you stop deer, rabbits etc eating your crops and if you do succeed in stopping them do you then watch as they starve?
115Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
As I think others have already stressed here, firstly we choose the most nature friendly ways of growing food as well as the most ecologically efficient – big emphasis on agroforestry and perennial plants, permaculture etc. By removing much or better still all livestock, we gain huge amounts of land and much of this can dedicated to rewilding. All wildlife benefits enormously! The number one cause of loss of biodiversity in the world, as well as the biggest land use by a very long way, is animal farming.
116Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
“Rob – I think Annie’s saying that killing a dog in the street is already illegal, and so it’s possible, even if it looks unlikely from where we are now, that killing animals in any circumstances might one day be illegal.”
Actually I think it is *very* likely – we are seeing the gradual erosion of our abilities to kill our own animals for food and to process that food. Abattoirs were hit with severe hygiene laws in the 1990’s that closed many down and we’re seeing new laws added all the time that don’t necessarily make them illegal it more costly and impractical to keep and slaughter animals.
I can see why this is happening – large companies make more profit from cheap grains sold to us as a ‘cheap’, ‘ethical’ and ‘healthy’ alternative to expensive meat, and governments want to encourage large companies rather than individuals having control over their food system.
It’s the same with transport – it’s getting harder to ride your horse without first putting it in a trailer and transporting it to the ‘designated’ horse riding places which means you have to pay for fossil fuel to move your horse, so you may as well ditch the horse and go jet skiing instead…
The End is Nigh for animals (if we continue to follow the current trajectory) but it has nothing to do with animal rights.
Just watch how the ‘science’ is gradually changes on the ‘health’ of meat just as we’re developing the technology to produce it in labs…
117Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
You agree with Amanda that killing animals is bad for human spiritual development? Right, at last. Noted.
There’s no chance at all of stopping predators picking off young, old and sick prey. If you could stop predators breeding, so you didn’t have to kill them, would you do it, to prevent any animals being eaten by other animals?
118Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
“So if we choose not to kill animals but are growing crops how do you stop deer, rabbits etc eating your crops and if you do succeed in stopping them do you then watch as they starve?”
This question always goes unanswered. As a pastoral farmer I don’t kill anything to protect my crop and indeed I enjoy sharing it with wildlife. However, that annoys vegans because I’m not being ‘efficient’ enough. You literally cannot win.
119Bluebell December 8th, 2017
So your wildlife prefers grass and shrubs to nice juicy lettuce, kales, sweetcorn etc? That is a most unlikley scenario! In our area the deer population ( mainly imported) make a habit of going for highly cultivated plants given the choice.
For species such a muntjac that can live very happily in large gardens this would prove a major issue for urban growers.
120Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
Annie – I don’t know any other way to say it, I honestly don’t. This post is about one question: is it ethical or not to kill a wild animal for food – an animal that has no bearing whatsoever on sustainability or climate change? A grey squirrel. A rat. A possum in New Zealand. Later, I’ll move on from this point and first, talk about whether it’s ethical to keep animals on farms. Then, later, I’ll talk about whether keeping any animals at all is sustainable; and then later still, about how unsustainable our current animal agriculture is, and what we can do about it. But those questions are for later. I’m asking what people think about the ethics of killing animals. Please, please don’t mention sustainability again in this thread – that’s coming later.
121Dave Darby December 8th, 2017
We’ll see what happens when the oil’s gone (well I won’t but you know what I mean). If humans are still around, draught animals might be a lot more useful.
122Rosewood Farm's Rob December 8th, 2017
If we still have (useful) draught animals by then…
Most of us in the west don’t even realise that oxen still outnumber working horses.
123Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
We are of course the top predator on Earth and we can of course reduce suffering around us. Most of us yearn to do that. We have intelligence, imagination, empathy and compassion. We can change our habits and our cultures and do it all the time. Why not in this instance?
124Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Because in our way of producing food, we protect much larger populations of animals than you do without ever breeding any with the sole purpose of killing them when still juveniles! We can fence for rabbits and deer and we can also agree to share some of our food with some wildlife!
125Greg December 8th, 2017
Well Dave I didn’t say that there’s no difference between a carrot and a person and it’s frankly a ridiculous statement to assign to me.
Also you’ve taken that one line out of context. The point was if we extend the idea of sentience to incorporate forests , wetlands and grasslands is it still ethical to “kill ” them?
If we are going to extend rights to individual animals ( some of them at least, the ones most like us) but not to the habitat that supports them then what the point? If it’s wrong to kill a chicken but not kill a redshank through depriving it of food then the differences between them become arbitrary.
I’m not suggesting do away with morality and engage in some kind of cannibalistic frenzy. I’m suggesting that we extend at least a modicum of moral consideration to the vast majority of animals that aren’t considered sentinent.
126Greg December 8th, 2017
Cripes I’m struggling to read comments here as they just appear in a long line down one side of the screen!
127Greg December 8th, 2017
Well there’s is no morality in nature and I was specifically talking about hadzas HGS, IF you told a hadzas that it’s wrong to kill an animal they wouldn’t understand why and if you told them it’s more ethical to plough up the savannah and plant corn they would think you are mad.
128Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
Oh great – let me know when I can visit and see these much greater populations – we only had seven calling corncrakes this year but I’d love to see more!
129Bluebell December 8th, 2017
I agree Robert (107) the area dedicated to growing organic veg is currently very small and to say that stopping meat eating would automatically improve wildlife and biodiversity is frankly somewhere between fantasy and bunkum!
What about the animals that benefit from pasture, such as badgers, the birds that have a great food source from Cowpats etc? Since there would be no economics reason to maintain any pasture most land that was not farmed would revert to low grade scrub.
130Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Ethics doesn’t make sense out of context (eating a rat might make sense in some situations but none in most others, etc.) and you are again oversimplifying. Bodiversity has a big bearing on climate change. In a study published this year in ‘Nature Ecology and Evolution’, Sobral et al showed that the more mammal species, and the more mammals in a forest, the more carbon is stored in the trees and the soil. They made it very clear that “human-induced defaunation is a climate problem, and conservation a climate solution”.
They estimated that “a forest with 30 mammal species can sequester an extra 10,000 kilograms per hectare in above-ground tree biomass alone. Extrapolated to the entire Amazon, that translates to some 5.5 billion tons of carbon, roughly equivalent to U.S. emissions in 2015 — and that doesn’t even account for soil-bound carbon, which would drive the total much higher”.
But they also warned that “The relationships are not simple. They involve many scales and processes, and “cannot be easily deconstructed into individual function–service relationships”
131Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
That’s right Bluebell (I can’t figure out the numbering system on here – 107 seemed to change to Annie’s post after you posted your reply). We’ve already seen biodiversity threatened (or not helped as much) by people eating less meat from these types of grazing systems while chicken production continues to grow. The problem is that the people who take notice of the eat less meat messages are, generally, already supporting more sustainable producers.
132Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
“We’ve already seen biodiversity threatened (or not helped as much) by people eating less meat from these types of grazing systems” –
Who is that ‘we’ who is so at odd with the findings from ecologists?
133Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Google ‘Rewilding Britain’, for instance.
134Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
I didn’t know much about Hazdas so looked it up and read this great article about how rich their digestive bioflora becomes when they are in a phase of gathering rather than hunting and how it changes with meat consumption, but then becomes rich again in the next gathering-rather-than-hunting season. The researchers think it’s all about the fiber, non-existant in the meat and plentiful in wild plant food. Exactly what nutritionists say about our own diet.
135Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
So we, for instance, are outside nature?
136Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Re plant-eating human ancestors (I thought I wasn’t allowed links?)
For instance: • https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/08/neanderthal-dental-tartar-reveals-plant-based-diet-and-drugs.
Rob Dunn (2012) Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians. Scientific American. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/
And of course, once again, our closest relatives in the animal family, such as the gorillas.
137Bluebell December 8th, 2017
Yes reintroduction (accidental) of Lynx worked really well in mid Wales! An animal that didn’t know how to kill slaughtered at least 7 sheep. Rewinding cannot work in any but the most inaccessible areas of the world. I would suggest there are no such places in the uk due to population density.
For most people there is no connection between the burger they eat and the animal in the field so there is little hope of stopping them buying meat or even worrying about its provinance.
138Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
““We’ve already seen biodiversity threatened (or not helped as much) by people eating less meat from these types of grazing systems” –
Who is that ‘we’ who is so at odd with the findings from ecologists?”
The JNCC? http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-5849
Those involved with the floodplain meadows partnership;
Miles King is one of my most respected and he visited earlier this year, perhaps he might know someone who is an expert in this area.
Even George Monbiot, granted he’s gone a bit feral of late but just over a month ago he was lamenting about a lost meadow near his old home.
139Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
Dave, catching up with old comments and not sure whether replies will still make sense within the thread.
Have already sent you links about gatherers rather than hunger-gatherers.
Re sentience, I agree it’s not completely black and white but we do know quite well that killing a fellow human if generally not very ethical – we can never know for sure what someone else exactly feels, but we have a pretty good idea. So equally we have a pretty good idea what our dogs feel , and the same for all the mammals and other animals that have a central nervous system like us and a brain very similar to ours.
One rule of thumb is to avoid killing anything with a face. We know for sure that fish suffer and have very complex mental processes and social interactions, comparable to ours. After that it gets more difficult to decide but for me avoiding all animals, including oysters for instance, makes sense. And I can go further of course in my ’empathy’. For instance I literally ache when I see a tree that’s been butchered by a bad tree surgeon, and I often have to remember to tune in more deeply to notice more suffering around me in the tree realm. And I seem to ‘feel’ when a tree gives me its fruit. Where I live I have a close relationship with some yew trees, for instance, They give me their berries and I can feel a friendship has developed. I often go and say hello to them and we have a little chat about the weather…
This may seem nonsense to some, just is might have seem nonsense a few centuries ago to claim to have a close friendship with a black slave… Ethics and culture evolve…
140Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
TBH I haven’t found a single ecologist who genuinely thought we should cease to manage semi-natural grasslands with grazing livestock or that what we are doing at Rosewood is bad for wildlife.
141Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
“The threat of people eating less meat” is certainly not documented in the ref you sent. It lists these as their top problems:
Ploughing and re-sowing [grass], heavy inputs of fertilisers, intensive cutting or grazing, over-grazing and cutting [grass] at the wrong time of year.
It would seem that the meat eaters are the problem!
142Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
Not nonsense but it is all about what we, as humans feel. eg the tree doesn’t ‘give’ you berries – you take them but it makes you feel better to give reverence.
Equally, the ‘butchered’ tree – even when a tree surgeon does a good job he’s not using anaesthetic so the tree still feels the loss of it’s limbs regardless.
143Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
144Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
Why did you miss out the one I was referring to?
For the benefit of anyone with a genuine interest, here is the full text;
Scrub Sites need a minimal level of grazing and/or hay-cropping, which in some cases is not achieved. For flood meadows and purple moor-grass and rush pastures, management by cutting and/or grazing may need to be increased if the water which inundates them contains high levels of nutrients. Under-management is largely due to current agricultural economics and policies, exacerbated by stock regulations and restrictions. Some farmers are reluctant to keep stock (large stock in particular) on pasture perceived to have little nutritional value. The consequent lack of management such as cutting, grazing or flooding will lead to colonisation by shrubs and trees which over-top the grasses and herbs and develop into scrub and woodland. On some grasslands, bracken encroachment is a common result, sometimes together with invasive species problems. Calaminarian grasslands require more or less continuous grazing by rabbits or sheep, without which soil organic material builds up, with a gradual dilution of the effect of heavy metal contaminants, often resulting in scrub invasion. In this case some form of disturbance may be necessary to maintain soil toxicity.”
145Sam December 8th, 2017
To answer your questions in turn:
“1. why is it not ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal, but it is ethical to remove the forest, preventing the wild animal from living at all, to provide land to grow crops?”
It is not ethical to do either, but most people would find it less unethical to benefit from a farm that sits on land cleared a long time ago (in human timescale) rather than an animal killed very recently. It is not a sound ethical argument, but it seems to me similar to the situation that many people who live in a country that has been colonised find themselves in; profiting from damage done to the original inhabitants with no palatable option to return things to the way they were.
If faced with a forest here and now, I would choose to kill and eat the wild animal (preferably a non-native or over-abundant one) than to remove the vegetation and start farming.
“2. if there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?”
I understand the value of reducing an argument to this core level for philosophical purposes, and so have to answer that there is no difference to the wild animal. It may be spiritually damaging for humans to kill animals – particularly if done often, I don’t know from experience.
“3. would you like the killing and eating of animals to be illegal, or are you happy for it to be left to an individual’s conscience?”
Neither. Ideally there would be strong societal pressure to practice a sustainable form of meat eating (I understand the debate on what this would look like will follow) with most people eating very small amounts of meat infrequently.
146Dani December 8th, 2017
1. why is it not ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal, but it is ethical to remove the forest, preventing the wild animal from living at all, to provide land to grow crops?
(Ignoring context of availability) I think it’s more ethical to enter a forest and kill and eat a wild animal than remove a forest which supports great plant and animal life.
Of note, I’m vego and mostly eat vegan because it’s not an option currently an option for me to kill wild animals from the forest – there aren’t really any native areas left. We could start on “pests”/invasives but that’s a whole other argument about what/who is a pest and what isn’t.
2. if there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?
3. would you like the killing and eating of animals to be illegal, or are you happy for it to be left to an individual’s conscience?
Neither. Well, slightly more individuals conscience but with ideally social structure, e.g. you can’t take too much of your fair share, or too much to shift the natural balance.
147Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
“Grazing livestock are a fully automated system for ecological destruction”.
George Monbiot, ecologist,
“The ecological costs of livestock grazing exceed that of any other western land use”
The Center for Biological Diversity, (ecologists)
“Grass-feeding produces unnecessary low-quality calories at ostentatious environmental costs while displacing wildlife.”
Gidon Eshel, Professor of Environmental Science,
(More about him: Eshels’ work focuses on the environmental consequences of human diets. His findings have given him a strong message to deliver: ‘lose the beef’.
He has for the past decade emphasized the benefits of switching to a purely plant-based diet (in which foods such as peanuts, soy, and lentils play a prominent role). When making their dietary choices, Eshel said, in summing up his research, individuals “get to tip the scale of environmental, social, and political contests,” as well as improve their personal health. Eating healthy foods that use less land, therefore, “is one of the callings of our time….”
Eating for the Environment, Harvard, April 2017 https://harvardmagazine.com/2017/03/eating-for-the-environment
148Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
“colonisation by shrubs and trees” is precisely what we want far more of to combat climate change and recreate apex vegetation, thus bioidiversity (rewilding)
149Annie Leymarie December 8th, 2017
150Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
Thanks for demonstrating how little you know about bioDIVERSITY
151Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
152Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017
LOL Monbiot’s a journalist, who has never visited the Lower Derwent Valley.
Neither do any of your other references relate to the LDV, or HNV grasslands or, indeed, conservation grazing.
153Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
No Greg, I didn’t say that you said that, and I didn’t assign it to you. It was my phrase. The author of article you’re influenced by said that ‘sentience has been removed from the menu of primary ethical choice’ and that ‘it’s time to include plants in the realm of sentient creatures’. I said that it seems that there are no ‘levels’ of sentience, which would imply that there is no ethical distinction between killing a human or a carrot (or, if you like, a kangaroo or a turnip. The species are irrelevant if there is no distinction based on sentience). I think it’s a very interesting stance. It’s not one that I feel drawn to, but plant sentience? Who knows?
‘If we are going to extend rights to individual animals …. but not to the habitat that supports them then what the point? If it’s wrong to kill a chicken but not kill a redshank through depriving it of food then the differences between them become arbitrary.’
.. is precisely one of the points I’m trying to make. If it’s unethical to kill an animal in the forest, how can it be ethical to remove the forest to grow crops?
154Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
oh dear. what are you looking at it on?
155Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
Very interesting. So some ancient hominids had plant-based diets. Although it says in the same article that their northern cousins were munching on rhinoceros. But I didn’t know that, thank you. As I said though, it’s irrelevant to the discussion here.
I’m still trying to get to the bottom of how you think we can prevent animal suffering in the wild. If you could stop predators breeding, so that they slowly became extinct, would you do it, to prevent them killing other animals?
156Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
Good lord. What just happened?
157Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 9th, 2017
The universe may have imploded.
158Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
1. and 3. – agreed. Why is 2. N/A?
159Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
That’s pretty much exactly my position.
160Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 9th, 2017
You asked for a quote from an ecologist, I found this whilst looking for something completely unrelated to our discussion;
“And all to the good – scrub encroaches onto land of high nature conservation value, such as unimproved lowland grassland, lowland fen, or lowland heathland and replaces a high value habitat with one generally of lower value for wildlife.”
161Amanda December 9th, 2017
What a beautiful response, thank you! I’m reading the Anastasia books … it’s a whole beautiful way which includes what you describe … as a matter of the natural expression of who we are … there’s no shoulds … there’s simply the natural expression of who we are on this planet … and it doesn’t include eating animals interestingly! Remarkable books, remarkable content! Enjoy your space! ?
162Amanda December 9th, 2017
Thank you Anne Leymarie for your information …. I have taken several references from your posts and love the quality of your contributions. A question was put above, given the choice, in a ‘perfect’ world, would I eat animals? And the answer for me is no. I wouldnt. I wouldnt need to. I would enjoy a much deeper and more beautiful relationship with everything if I didnt …. and I wouldnt need to because there would be plenty for me to eat that is much easier to catch … its natural for animals to run if you want to kill them … but they dont if you just choose to relate without use/abuse. The conversation above will go on forever because it exists in a world of right/wrong or even can/cant. In my world I would love the matter of creation and choice to come into play …. so that we choose our future …. and for me its vegan. Its many other things too. Thats my answer to the original question too … and i gracefully sign off this discussion and thank you for everyones contributions. Have a great day.
163Amanda December 9th, 2017
I posted another response just before my last one but it seems to have got lost … apologies if it appears and confuses things!! Just a technological hitch on my side ;-)))
164Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 9th, 2017
No worries ?
165Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
OK, Monbiot’s degree is in zoology (from Oxford) but he has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford – in environmental policy – and East London – n environmental science ( as well as others). He also has honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews and the University of Essex, and an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University.
He has received the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award (and much else).
166Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
Dave, briefly I’m again very busy today and won’t be able to follow this for a while: “How can we can prevent animal suffering in the wild”?
By focusing on our present very real crises rather than hypothetical situations, by looking at the bigger picture. By putting the brake as hard as we can on our habits that increase climate change (already impacting on so much of wildlife, including here in the UK where bird migrations are changing quite dramatically, etc) , that destroy biodiversity, that pollute air and water. One key action – and the easiest for any individual to take – is to reduce as much as we can our consumption of animal-based food. This has the added advantage of being overall much better for our health, which also reduces our climate and environmental footprint. It frees much land on which we can urgently let trees re-grow: it’s such a cheap carbon-storing option: nothing much to be done, letting the scrub then trees take over, re-creating much needed habitats for wildlife, which also help as flood defenses (increasingly needed with climate change).
167Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
That human is an animal too. Is there an ethical problem with you human killing another human to eat him or her? If so, why?
168Rosewood Farm's Rob December 9th, 2017
Your point being? He didn’t mention HNV grasslands in your quote.
169Dave Darby December 9th, 2017
Now we’re talking. That’s a really interesting question. Ethics is about asking the question ‘how are we going to live?’. It’s the opposite side of the philosophical coin to metaphysics, which is about asking the question ‘what the hell’s going on?’ or ‘what’s the nature of reality?’. With metaphysics, facts are vital. Humans can’t ever really nail ‘facts’ though, because our science is fallible. However, a ‘best guess’ will have to do. Our best guess is that the earth is somewhere around 4.5 billion years old, for example. However, there are some people who think it’s around 6000 years old – but that isn’t our best guess. In fact it’s completely wrong.
But with ethics, it’s a different ball game. Facts can inform, but they’re not vital to the debate, as with metaphysics. There’s no right or wrong when we ask the question ‘how are we going to live’ – it’s a matter of opinion and persuasion. For example, probably most people in the world today believe that trying to achieve perpetual economic growth is vital for our well-being. If you show them how this quest is damaging the biosphere, which we need for our survival, and that unless we stop this insane quest, we will become extinct, they will ignore you, because their story, their worldview depends on the quest for perpetual economic growth. If we’re going to challenge that, we’ll have to give them a new story.
But if we don’t manage to persuade the majority that we need to stabilise the human economy, and stop growing it, really quickly, and if that means that humans become extinct – well, that’s what will happen. Maybe the universe will be better off without humans – who knows? So, in the same vein, maybe you will never be able to persuade most humans that it’s not ok to eat animals. Worse than that, maybe you and I will never be able to persuade the world to dismantle industrial agriculture, and maybe that will make humans extinct. But again, maybe the universe will be better off without us. Nature will bounce back.
In this thread, I’m trying to work out what people think about the ethics of killing animals, but not on a scale that will threaten the biosphere or our survival. Killing one grey squirrel, for example, will not threaten the biosphere. What about if thousands of people started killing and eating grey squirrels in this country (and maybe re-introducing the red squirrel as they did so)?. How much food could that provide, and therefore how much farmland could it take out of use, to revert to nature, and could it help re-establish the red squirrel, and therefore biodiversity? Do you see how in some cases, eating animals could be beneficial to the environment? But the ethics of it is a completely different question. Something might be beneficial to the environment, but still unethical (killing humans, for example).
But, I’m doing what I asked you not to do – focusing on sustainability. Let’s bring it back to ethics, and specifically, to your question about killing humans. As I said, ethics doesn’t rely on facts, it relies on values, opinions, debate, persuasion. So this is why I believe that most people think that it’s unethical to eat humans. It’s because they’re humans. They can see that an ethics that includes the killing of humans could be quite dangerous to them, so they oppose it. I’m sure that if grey squirrels could do philosophy, they’d oppose a grey squirrel cull, for the same reason. I think the fact that most people don’t believe that it’s ethical to kill humans is ultimately down to expediency.
170Charlie Portlock December 9th, 2017
This an incredibly balanced, emotionally restrained and well reasoned thread. I eat a plant based diet supplemented with local wild meat that I kill myself. As I read more and more on animal sentience and the fallibility of the dominion argument, I feel an increasing conflict in my choice to eat meat at all. I currently believe that this is the most ethical, healthy and environmentally sound option for my household but it’s great to read such well thought arguments on both sides of the debate. I don’t think that deciding to eating meat should ever be the easy moral, emotional or practical option and perhaps it’s that very conflict which should act as a moderating force to prevent exploitation. We seem to have lost the connection to the earth which may previously have made us act more as members of the ecosystem rather than its ‘managers’.
171Bluebell December 9th, 2017
To play devils advocate a little there are also good biological reasons not to eat other humans as caniabalistic societies tend to have more problems with the build up of disease in the community, some of which are fatal or severely debilitating.
172Rosewood Farm's Rob December 9th, 2017
“re-creating much needed habitats for wildlife, which also help as flood defenses (increasingly needed with climate change).”
You’re actually a lot more on board with what I’m proposing than you realise.
173Rosewood Farm's Rob December 9th, 2017
That’s very true Charlie, our morals should moderate our actions. Personally I have never felt more at ease with my decision to eat meat, although I was totally vegetarian at one point. As the years have gone on, though, I’ve come to terms with my position within the ecosystem, rather than trying to battle against it, and that led me back to eating animals as being the least destructive option.
174Rosewood Farm's Rob December 9th, 2017
There are few animals in this world that kill members of their own species for food. Usually intra-species killings are over territory, or food, but not for it.
Equally, I can’t imagine many plants, if they could communicate with us, would ask to be eaten. Many plants have developed defense mechanisms against being eaten which we have overridden by breeding. Carrots, for example, are succulent and juicy in their highly-bred, domesticated form, but their wild cousins are pretty horrible. Some members of the carrot family are poisonous too.
175Mike Eaton December 9th, 2017
More a case of survival than any silly ethical choice, you ate what you got or starved. As for this far fetched idea that we could or should control the killing of wild animals, I’m not sure how you would so that “naughty naughty poacher you musn’t kill those poor animals now go away, get rid of your guns and pointy sticks and grow yams instead”. But yams too are living things! I know what his answer would be and you wouldn’t like it! Incidentally killing things is natures way of getting rid of the weak, maimed and over populated – seems to work in a lot of the world, there again they don’t bother about ethics do they? Too busy living for that rubbish!
176Amanda December 9th, 2017
Yes my thought too Annie … hood point well made.
177Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
Finally catching up on this conversation, which has some excellent comments! You’ve asked me if I fly and have a car. I have flown three times in the past 27 years (to Senegal where I volunteered on two permaculture projects). I have a car but hardly ever use it. One reason I moved from Totnes in Devon (where Larch still lives) is to avoid driving. I now live in Brighton where I walk and cycle everywhere and there is excellent public transport. You haven’t asked me the question that has the most relevance to assess an eco-footprint: how many children I have! I don’t have any, because in the early 70s I read The Population Bomb and Silent Spring and both books had a huge impact on me. But I’m far from perfect, I use a computer and a smart phone and possess far too much stuff. A lovely friend of mine is Mark Boyle (aka ‘The Moneyless Man’) who is a million miles ahead of me in shrinking his footprint. He has ditched all modern trappings, so I can’t email him to ask whether he is still a vegan, as he had been for many years when I last saw him. He’s had a vasectomy before he could have any child. He sometimes (hand) writes for The Guardian.
178Mike Eaton December 9th, 2017
Ah Totnes, the (expensive) Hippy Capital of England to Brighton, explains a lot that does thanks for that useful information!
179Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 9th, 2017
On a personal level children are fairly irrelevant in terms of effects on population, as it’s easy for a personal reduction to be offset by somone with a larger family so you have to look at births per thousand people. The more significant factor in pushing up population in western countries today is longevity, though.
180Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
Hi Greg, A late response to your post No 56.
Re vegetarians lapsing, I’ve been very intrigued by the high figure you – and many others – quote. I wonder who counts and how, and what would happen if we looked only at vegans (since milk, cheese and eggs cause a lot of health problems). I may well live in a bubble (though I don’t belong to any specific vegan group) but among people I know or have known to be on a plant-based diet I can’t think of any who has gone back and can think of many who have said they wish they had shifted earlier in their life and feel so much better for it. The studies who have followed a sufficient number of vegans over a sufficient period of time (and sadly there aren’t enough such studies as yet) show that overall vegans outlive others by quite a number of years and avoid many health problems. Still, I trust your own testimony, of course.
I read a bit of the Gleen Aalbrecht post you recommend and was quickly struck by his belief in plant sentience (which I share with him, though our vocabulary is pretty inadequate) as well as, through a linked post, his promotion of Polyface Farm as model of sustainable meat production that “respects the principle of unity-in-diversity”.
Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm, is an evangelical Christian who is indeed highly respected in the world of ‘holistic’ livestock farming, but his take on sentience is at odds with Glenn’s, it seems – and certainly at odds with mine! He has said for instance that “People have a soul. Animals don’t. It’s a bedrock belief of mine. Unlike us, animals are not created in God’s image, so when they die, they just die”. (cited in ‘The ethics of what we eat – why our food choices matter’ by Peter Singer and James Mason [a book I haven’t read yet]). In a short video called ‘God’s plan for creation’ you can see Salatin asserting the Biblical precept that “God’s mandate to humans is to occupy the land until He comes”. And Salatin has often stated that his duty is to obey God.
Undoubtedly when you believe in a Deity who dictates your ethics – through the words of the Bible, the Coran or similar – your moral decisions are simplified. God has created animals to serve humans, so there! No discussion, thinking or feeling required.
181Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
Bluebell re 118: the low-grade scrub quickly become woodland through successions ending in climax eco-system, which hosts the most biodiversity and wildlife. As James McWilliams wrote in ‘Slate Piece on Earth Day’: “The best thing we can do to any ecosystem is leave it well alone. Back off, human! Removing domesticated animals from the planet is the best way we can do this”.
As to the badgers benefiting from pasture, I don’t think the relatives of the 30,000 or so badgers killed through the cull in the past two years – many of which will have been orphaned, widowed, wounded made homeless and/or otherwise displaced, feel huge gratitude towards livestock farmers who use them as scapegoats for their sick cattle!
As to impact on birds: climate change, partly caused by livestock farming, will cause infinitely more problems, as is happening already now: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/05/climate-change-is-radically-reshuffling-uk-bird-species-report-finds
182Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
Hello and bye bye Amanda, lovely to meet you and your poetical compassionate stance here!
183Annie Leymarie December 9th, 2017
Dave, go tell a judge that ethics (= defining what is right and wrong) is not based on facts! Let’s forget all of Law and Justice!?
184Siobhan December 10th, 2017
Thankyou Jane, for articulating so clearly everything I wanted to add to this debate.
185Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
Annie, you have blatantly ignored my request to see your “much larger populations of animals than you do”. You’ve also be quite disparaging of my efforts, despite the results you insist you can do better. It seems that you can’t back up these statements.
Meanwhile I could go out with a camera and take photos of the wildlife…
186Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
Jane your information is incorrect! Many agricultural activities are indeed highly destructive but none more so than livestock farming, which takes up 80% of all agricultural land in the world yet only meets an extremely small fraction of our needs. It is highly inefficient and polluting, contributing more to climate change than all of transport put together. It is the leading cause of the reduction in biodiversity and key to the high losses of wildlife in the world (now increasing fast with climate change).
The Centre for Biological Diversity explains that “Meat production is one of humanity’s most destructive and least efficient systems, accounting for astounding levels of wildlife losses, land and water pollution, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.
While “grass-fed” beef is arguably more humane for the livestock animals and doesn’t produce the concentrated manure and runoff found at factory farms, it isn’t as sustainable for wildlife or the planet as many people believe, especially in the context of a human population of billions that needs to be fed. By destroying vegetation, damaging wildlife habitats and disrupting natural processes, livestock grazing wreaks ecological havoc on riparian areas, rivers, deserts, grasslands and forests alike — causing significant harm to species and the ecosystems on which they depend.
Studies have also shown that grass-fed cattle are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than those raised on grain feed — as much as 500 percent more — in addition to requiring more land and water per pound of beef. And while there are a lot of important reasons to support local agriculture, replacing meat one day per week with a plant-based meal saves more greenhouse gas emissions than eating an entirely local diet.”
A 2015 study on biodiversity conservation published in ‘Science of the Total Environment’ also stresses the importance of drastically reducing our consumption of meat and other animal-based food to conserve wildlife.
It says “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, and both livestock and feedstock production are increasing in developing tropical countries where the majority of biological diversity resides.
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.
Animal product consumption by humans is likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions since it is not only the major driver of deforestation but also a principal driver of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas, facilitation of invasions by alien species, and loss of wild carnivores and wild herbivores”.
It has also been very clearly demonstrated that the “impoverished” countries” you mention would benefit enormously from Westerners shifting to plant-based diets and themselves resisting the current trend of increased adoption of Western diets, including far more meat and dairy than their traditional diets contained. Many studies have shown that.
Finally, there is plenty of protein in most vegetables and we consume too much of it anyway. Dr Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains that “An average woman needs about 46 grams of protein per day; the average man about 56. If a person were to eat nothing but broccoli for a day, a 2,000-calorie diet would provide a whopping 146 grams of protein. Yes, green vegetables are loaded with protein. A person eating only lentils would get even more—2,000 calories’ worth of lentils pack 157 grams. Of course, no one would eat only broccoli or only lentils, and it is much better to combine foods—beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits—to get complete nutrition. The point is that plant-based foods clearly provide abundant protein.
The average American [and Brit!] actually consumes too much protein, with most people getting nearly double the amount they actually need. And more isn’t better. When protein comes from animal products—which are high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol—diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease often follow.”
I have listed many relevant studies in comments on two posts from this website, from December 3 (‘Does the sustainability of meat production’…) and from October 15 ( ‘Is it ethical to eat meat’).
187Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
And there ends the party political broadcast from the lop-sided evidence party. (btw you said 80% while your source said 70%…)
C’mon Annie, shows us your real evidence for your claims. I can show you the wildlife that exists within my meat production, and you claim to “protect much larger populations of animals than you do” so let’s see your species list. Here’s what you’ve got to beat; http://ldvnnr.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page_91.html
188Mike Eaton December 10th, 2017
So were all doomed, took a lot of hot air to say it though! I wonder if any of these doomsayers have actually carried out any farming, no not three chickens and a row of potatoes but real farming to feed many hungry mouths!
189Bluebell December 10th, 2017
So you are advocating the immediate slaughter of all animals bred for meat?
190Dave Darby December 10th, 2017
Annie – ha! I know Mark too. He stayed here on his way to going bush in Ireland. Can only contact him by letter now. https://www.lowimpact.org/review-of-drinking-molotov-cocktails-with-gandhi-by-mark-boyle-part-1-the-machine/
191Dave Darby December 10th, 2017
Rob – I’ve looked at that from several angles, and it still makes no sense to me. Having children is irrelevant to population – the important thing is births per 1000? You do know what a ‘birth’ is?
We posted an article about this actually – based on research at Lund University in Sweden. https://www.lowimpact.org/whats-the-most-environmentally-damaging-thing-that-a-human-can-do/
The crucial part as far as this thread is concerned are the figures they put on various aspects of life in terms of rough carbon emissions:
having an extra child: 59 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year
driving: 2.4 tonnes
flight (one per year): 1.6 tonnes
eating meat: 0.8 tonnes
(I wonder what that last figure would be for only eating wild meat, or only eating meat twice per month?)
192Dave Darby December 10th, 2017
Annie – your position that as far as biodiversity and carbon capture is concerned, the more land we could possibly take out of agriculture of all kinds and allow to revert to climax vegetation (which in most places would be trees unless too dry, wet, hot or cold), is one I share unless proven otherwise. Both you and Rob have sent various links to show that grazing land can / can’t capture more carbon and supports more / less biodiversity, which I’ll explore in more detail in a later post. In the meantime, I wish you’d be patient and stick to the question at hand – the ethics of killing a wild animal. If I go into a forest (or actually, from my bedroom window) and shoot a squirrel, I’m not culling 30,000 badgers or causing climate change. I’ve tried so many times though, I guess you’re just not going to get this point.
193Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
I did prefix it with “on a personal level” Dave. eg in a family of five if only one child has 3 children themselves others might look at them as increasing the population when in fact there is a net decrease of -3 if the other four don’t have partners or -7 if they do.
In the UK each woman must have, on average, 2.075 children for replacement, the actual rate is 1.81 (2016) but population also has to take into account increased longevity. If you’re actively seeking to increase longevity (as I understand is a supposed benefit of veganism), you’re also increasing population.
194Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
I was enjoying your article, it raises many of the points I have made in these discussions, however, why do you say that death is not a part of reducing your effect? Clearly it is, especially if you don’t have children before you die.
As someone on the poverty line I am restricted as to the amount I can consume. One of the things that prevents me from having more children is the cost – if I ate less meat I could afford to have more kids…
195Dave Darby December 10th, 2017
There is no fact that you can provide that can contribute to an ethical decision (judges sentence people based on a verdict, on the defendant’s perceived danger to society, on guidance on sentencing etc. – not on the ethics of the defendant’s behaviour. And the jury’s verdict is a majority opinion, not a fact, based on legality, not ethics. At some point, the ethics of the law are worked out – e.g. you’re not allowed to kill someone – but not through facts). For example:
You: ‘We mustn’t eat meat because x badgers are culled every year because of livestock farming.’
Me: ‘Good. I hate badgers.’
You: ‘We mustn’t eat meat because it produces x tonnes of carbon per year, which contributes to climate change which will make humans extinct’.
Me: ‘About time – we deserve it, and the world will be better off without us.’
etc. (I’m not saying that I believe those things, of course)
When it comes to ethics, you can only try to persuade, but facts are irrelevant.
In this case, I’m asking if there’s an ethical problem with somebody killing a squirrel and eating it, and facts could influence me (squirrels are endangered, the person was starving etc.), but they might not – it depends on whether I care, or think that the facts are important or not. The same facts could help different people come to different ethical positions.
196Dave Darby December 10th, 2017
I said that?
197Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
Dave, some comments don’t have a ‘reply’ option and I am only now finding them. Am also short of time and trying to stick to my aim of mainly correcting prevailing misinformation. The enquiry you have offered has a built-in bias from its title and the instructions to omit crucial contexts such as sustainability and health. I have said many times that when issues are oversimplified debates become pointless. Ethics do not make sense out of context.
But nonetheless here is a brief reply to you post 131 – and why I would find your killing a squirrel unethical (probably, depending on circumstances):
1. You have absolutely no need to do so. A plant-based diet is overall heathier than one with meat and if you want wild food, you’re welcome to go and forage.
2. At a time when humans are destroying life at a staggering pace, the need to extend our kinship beyond our own species seems more urgent than ever. You wouldn’t shoot your child, and presumably nor your dog either. The squirrel is your kin too and it wants to live. The little wildlife left on Earth – and in particular in England which has one of the lowest ratio of wildlife on land on the planet – badly needs our respect and care.
3. I have on this thread shown a study which explains that defaunation has in fact an impact on climate change – potentially a huge one.
You’d be probably shooting the squirrel for social reasons, for being embedded in a meat-eating culture, but cultures can evolve very fast and someone concerned by low impact living could or should, I feel, be role-modelling a behaviour in line with the priorities of our times. Another reason might be that you love the taste of meat but here again, situations change very fast. Dr David Katz, who has spent much time studying the topic, writes that “Taste buds are adaptable little fellas. When they can’t be with foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with” (I’d be happy to provide the link, as ever!).
198Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
“is (of course) about having fewer kids, not killing people who are already alive”
And sorry, I phrased it wrong by saying;
“why do you say that death is not a part of reducing your effect?”
when what I meant to say was;
why do you not say that death is a part of reducing your effect?
199Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
What if you were killing the squirrel because it was an introduced Grey and you were trying to redress the imbalance created by humans in the first place, by encouraging Reds?
200Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
Farm animals are, as you know, slaughtered soon enough, many of them not even making it beyond childlhood. A broiler chicken is typically killed at 5-7 weeks of age. All we need to do is top breeding them.
201Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
So we both know two great men! I was very active in Transition Town Totnes (I organised several hundred free workshops over a number of years) and some were with Mark (and we shared delicious vegan meals). Three years ago I also spent a week with him and a forager friend of his at Schumacher College where they led a course on ‘Wild Economics’. They decided to give all the money they’d earned from teaching the course to the participants. The College felt so moved that they in turn gave money to everybody! A keep a great memory of that week…
202Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
We agree, our ethical decisions are based on the facts we know. So having genuine evidence rather than untruths will make a huge difference to our ethical decisions. This is why the first words of Yuval Noah Harari in that recent video were:
“More and more political and ethical questions, especially in the 21st century, depend on scientific knowledge, on knowing the scientific facts and theories. Examples range from global warming to the rise of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. You can have different opinions about these matters, but if you don’t know the scientific facts, your opinions shouldn’t count so much”.
Hence my insistence on getting the facts right about climate change (and the role of grass-fed livestock), biodiversity, the health burden and its causes, etc. Then and only then can we pay attention to ethical opinions in any meaningful way!
203Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
Dave, I’ve attempted to reply through another comment. Sorry I hadn’t seen the email and couldn’t find a way to respond directly!
204Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
I’d let pine martens do the job – if the job needs doing, which is highly debatable.
205Annie Leymarie December 10th, 2017
Another non sequitur, showing an irrelevant link!
Re the 80% figure:
“Global livestock production accounts for about 80% of global land use, is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and is responsible for about 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Grazing land, plus land for crops to feed animals, makes up 80 % of all agricultural land – 3.4 billion hectares for grazing and .5 billion hectares for feed crops”.
206Bluebell December 10th, 2017
You know full well that chickens are an extreme end of the spectrum! What about all the people that keep rare breeds? Many will be killed before their time and we would loose that biodiversity. There would be no reason for land owners to have deer on their land as they would’ve have no economic value and so would be eliminated before the ban as a pest…
207Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
It helps if you quote the link that you’re referring to.
I notice your complete lack of evidence to back up your outlandish claim about your ‘larger populations of animals’…
208Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 10th, 2017
If you care about biodiversity it needs doing, though it’s obvious that you’re not that bothered about biodiversity when it comes down to it. Laissez-faire is, of course, a perfectly valid position to take on biodiversity, but please be honest and just say that.
209Dave Darby December 10th, 2017
No, we don’t agree (at least on that). You’ve completely misunderstood what I said.
210Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
Annie – re ‘reply’ button. This software only allows a certain number of replies before it loses the reply button. Then you have to go back up the thread of that particular question until you come to the last comment with a reply button. Annoying I know – I’ll ask our web guy what we can do about it.
‘crucial contexts such as sustainability and health’ – are totally irrelevant to the question. I’m telling you clearly that it’s one squirrel that I’m killing. It will have no impact on sustainability or my health. You have an almost insurmountable difficulty separating the killing of one animal with the current global meat industry. Imagine the global meat industry doesn’t exist. It’s just me and a squirrel.
‘1. You have absolutely no need to do so’ – OK, now this is an ethical discussion at last. So, I don’t need to eat carrots either. Would you have the same problem with me eating a carrot?
‘A plant-based diet is overall heathier’ – I have a plant-based diet. This is just killing and eating one squirrel. It won’t have any effect on my health. But even if it does, that’s my business not yours. If it means I die younger, then that is a good thing, from an environmental perspective. You can even assume that I’m going to commit suicide straight after killing the squirrel. The health issue is irrelevant.
‘if you want wild food, you’re welcome to go and forage.’ – I can eat the squirrel too, if I like.
‘2. At a time when humans are destroying life at a staggering pace’ – irrelevant to the killing of one squirrel
‘the need to extend our kinship beyond our own species seems more urgent than ever. You wouldn’t shoot your child, and presumably nor your dog either. The squirrel is your kin too’ – it’s not my kin, any more than a hazelnut is my kin. They’re either not my kin, or they’re both my kin. I wouldn’t shoot my child or my dog because that wouldn’t benefit me at all – my child is going to look after me when I’m old, and my dog keeps me company on walks and will protect me from burglars. The squirrel represents a meal and so it makes sense to kill and eat it.
‘and it wants to live’ – so do plants.
‘The little wildlife left on Earth – and in particular in England which has one of the lowest ratio of wildlife on land on the planet – badly needs our respect and care.’ – irrelevant, for reasons I’ve outlined above and on several other occasions.
‘3. I have on this thread shown a study which explains that defaunation has in fact an impact on climate change – potentially a huge one.’ – again, irrelevant to the question at hand.
‘You’d be probably shooting the squirrel for social reasons’ – no, I’m not.
‘for being embedded in a meat-eating culture’ – no – imagine I live in a culture that has never killed an animal – but it’s irrelevant to the question anyway.
‘but cultures can evolve very fast and someone concerned by low impact living could or should, I feel, be role-modelling a behaviour in line with the priorities of our times. Another reason might be that you love the taste of meat but here again, situations change very fast. Dr David Katz, who has spent much time studying the topic, writes that “Taste buds are adaptable little fellas. When they can’t be with foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with” (I’d be happy to provide the link, as ever!).’ – no, I hate the taste of meat – I’m just doing it for philosophical reasons.
So (without repeating yourself), why is it wrong for me to eat the squirrel? I reject your arguments above, and I think I’m right to reject them. I’m looking for stronger arguments against killing the squirrel. My responses have been finickity and meticulous, but that’s what philosophical arguments are.
The reason I’m doing this is is threefold:
1. ethics: the vast majority of humans eat meat. Do you think that they have no morals, or they’re unable to think ethically, because they think differently from you?
2. I’m ultimately doing this (but not on this thread) to work out where meat eating becomes unsustainable. Clearly it’s not me killing one squirrel (which means that I don’t have to eat something else). I’ll consume all of it that I can, including the fur, for gloves, and anything I can’t, I’ll allow to go back to nature. The squirrel was just about to be eaten by a pine marten anyway. It’s not unsustainable. But at what point does eating squirrels become unsustainable? And then I want to move on to agriculture. But you trying to imply that killing one squirrel is unsustainable doesn’t allow us to get to the interesting questions. It’s not unsustainable, although it may be unethical, and that’s what I want to explore.
3. you’ve said that it’s better for squirrels to be killed by pine martens – really vicious killers, with sharp teeth, that would probably chase the squirrel to exhaustion and sheer terror, before proceeding to tear it apart with razor-sharp teeth. It sounds as though you have zero compassion for squirrels when you say that. And yet you don’t want me to kill a squirrel instantly with a bullet. The only variable is the predator species. Pine martens, fine; humans, not fine. So logically, it follows that the ethical problem with eating meat must be about humans? Do you think that killing the squirrel would be bad for me – spiritually, maybe? Do you think that humans’ ability to kill animals gives them a propensity for violence of other kinds – it could be the source of war, murder, domestic violence etc.? If that’s what you’re saying (and I’m completely putting words into your mouth), then that’s worth exploring. (Rob too – you said you used to think along these sorts of lines, no? What changed your mind?)
211Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
By the way, I’ve never shot anything, I don’t have children and I don’t have a dog. This is not about the real world, it’s just about the ethics of killing an animal – on a different planet, with a pristine environment, no meat industry and where I have children and a dog.
212Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 11th, 2017
Yes Dave, I was once a vegetarian as I didn’t like the idea of animals being killed. I changed my mind completely when I realised that I was a part of nature and that what I wanted, ie no death, wasn’t compatible with nature. I also liked seeing baby animals, so I didn’t want to eliminate animals completely, but I did realise that a) *I* was gaining enjoyment from seeing animals and b) the only way I could prevent a death was by preventing life, which made me feel selfish.
Since then I have strived to minimise my impact on the living world around me. I started looking for the least impactful methods to grow food. When I left school I wanted to gain a wide variety of experience in farming, and I was particularly fond of arable farming, but I also liked working with animals. I realised how important livestock (reared the right way, organically, outdoors on pasture or indoors eating food waste) are to wildlife, as I hardly saw any wildlife in the purely plant farms of arable and horticulture I worked with. I came to the conclusion that farming without livestock correlated with less wildlife. This was reinforced when I found out about the countryside stewardship scheme in my first job, which gave payments to help reintroduce livestock to sensitive habitats.
Then I became involved with grazing one of the most biodiverse habitats in England and although I always knew that my way of farming was good for wildlife, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how good it was & how real, fully trained ecologists were so excited about the difference our cattle were making to the grasslands. It was at this point that I read a book about the area which charted the protection of the area from intensive farming & mining. The legal protection was vital but it had also become the thing that was stopping farmers from managing the land, as they could no longer make a living from livestock. I saw that in protecting the land from misuse it was reverting to scrub and the species for which the area was protected were in decline with less overall diversity so it was self-defeating.
I never realised back in 1996, when I bought my first cow, just how vital they would become in preserving the amazing, wildlife rich landscape that I had grown up in and had taken for granted until I had gone to work in other parts of the country.
213Annie Leymarie December 11th, 2017
Chicken: extreme? It is the species we kill the most of, together with pigs (apart form sows, practically all killed before they reach 1 year and most after just a few months). In the whole world, the average consumption per capita is 15 kg of chicken meat a year – and that’s without deducting the millions of vegetarians or vegans who don’t eat any nor the millions who can’t afford to eat it, or very little. In the UK, just counting broilers and not laying hens, we kill nearly 100 million animals each month (some months more). Yes: one hundred million per month – and we import an additional 1 million tons of chicken meat each year because we can’t get enough of it. Don’t you think that stopping the unimaginable suffering of these trillions of animals, the large majority of whom will have never seen the daylight in their life but will have lived in abominable cramped conditions, consuming mostly imported often GMO feed, would be a great thing?
You know very well that the world will not go vegan overnight. You know very well that farmers adapt to demand and to subsidies. We could easily keep some of the rare breeds and let them free, as we do with ponies on the moor for instance. I long for a world where economic value is not the only reason to encourage wildlife. I used to live on the Mendips, where I owned several acres and grew a lot of my own food and was still delighted to have wild deer roam freely on that land. It was a joy for my soul, for my senses, for my whole being to share the land, which I never felt I fully ‘owned’. In the rewilding schemes I support we could have wildlife without economic value other than boosting biodiversity, so desperately needed, storing carbon in the enriched habitats and providing us with unforgettable experiences of nature.
214Mike Eaton December 11th, 2017
and so Annie somewhere in your diatribe you mention that millions of chooks are bred for meat in terrible conditions, in the dark etc. etc. You go on (and boy do you go on) saying don’t you think that stopping all this would be a great thing? In the first instance please remember that there are many many farmers and others who doing just that, free ranging the birds and giving them a decent life, don’t decry those eoffots at going the right way as you seem to decry otther attempts – as even you say it can’t be done overnight! Meanwhile to mention the slaughter involved – if I was one of those chooks I’d look forward to my imminent death as a release from all this suffering I was going through, had I the brains to do it.
215Rosewood Farm's Rob December 11th, 2017
“I long for a world where economic value is not the only reason to encourage wildlife.”
No you don’t, you’ve done nothing but argue against me. You’re choosing not to support encouraging wildlife out of principle. Every single animal born on my farm dies, the vast majority at a young age because they are wild animals. Some are those rare breeds released onto the ‘moor’ and die of natural causes, just like those wild animals and a small proportion go for food to provide some economic value. As a farmer you, like most vegans, refuse to support me unless I go vegan and start producing vegan food only, as a conservationist you are refusing to support me because I’m a farmer. It’s a vicious circle that I have no means to address. All I can do is take the support from meat eaters and do my best with that, but all you do is criticise.
216Mike Eaton December 11th, 2017
Rob in reply to your response to Annies monotologue of course all she can do is criticise, she’s a vegan! That is all they can or will do because they have no answer to the moans and whinges they produce, unless of course you happen to moan and whinge about them then they are striaght down to see what ever PC Do-gooder they know to complain that you are upsetting them. . . . . . BooHoo he’s being nasty to me that awful meat eater!
217Amanda James December 11th, 2017
Sorry I assumed my post hadn’t worked since I got no email updates.
Do I think we will ever get to the point of it being illegal to kill non-human animals? Unlikely but not impossible.
1. Agricultural methods other than forest gardens would be legal, but there would be a greater diversity of crops intermingled with forest gardens and woodland rather than swathes of grazing land or monoculture crops (UK). I acknowledge that unintentional death occurs all the time.
2. No dispensation. Sheep farmers in Wales wouldn’t get dispensation so why should anyone else?
3. I would neither condemn nor support you in that area. I appreciate Low Impact’s existence and acknowledge that I don’t live up to my own ideals.
4. Introduce their predators. As humans we run a very hierarchical system so some hairy mammals e.g. polar bears and dogs are more important to us than others and birds and mammals seem to be more important than e.g. fish and reptiles. I don’t really understand this.
218Bluebell December 11th, 2017
Annie you can use all the facts you want but until you come up with a better measure that is widely accepted economic value is the driver of all food production. When you do please let me know because one of my pet subjects is green economics and how we could achieve a transition to a value other than money.
As has been said many see your stance as extreme and that in itself will prevent them listening to your message. At the end of the day our ethics are part of our belief system and it takes much more than mere fact to change that.
219Annie Leymarie December 11th, 2017
I have explained and shown many times that I believe the majority of people who eat meat are misinformed, so that their ethical decisions do not have valid foundations. There is also widespread societal cognitive dissonance around this, so it’s deemed ethical to shoot a healthy squirrel but not a healthy dog or cat.
I was struck when I arrived in the UK to see Brits shocked by the idea of eating horse meat. I would explain to them that horses were far more likely to have a had a much better, healthier and freer life than cows (especially since 80% of beef meat in Europe comes from the dairy herd) and that horse meat was leaner and healthier for us – but still, decades later, this cognitive dissonance persists. Our food habits are riddled with such cognitive dissonance.
It is perfectly legal in the UK to kill another human and it is indeed deemed highly ethical by most. You get medals and rewards for it, you are encouraged to learn to do it. This is under certain circumstances such as war. Would you thus extrapolate that killing humans generally is legal and ethical?
You are trying to get one instance of killing an animal ethically ‘approved’ so that you can extrapolate and justify the unnecessary killing of animals.
But at least in the case of a war or similar there is a strong justification for the killing. In the case of the squirrel, you have provided no valid justification. So no, it’s not ethical!
I am sad to see you compare a mammal and a carrot since you know very well about nervous central systems and much else and of course lead your own life according to this knowledge – which is clearly not just intellectual knowledge.
Re pine martens: it was a suggestion. I prefer nature to make decisions rather than us humans interfering, since we’ve done far too much of this already. There are plenty of reasons to protect grey squirrels (https://www.viva.org.uk/resources/campaign-materials/fact-sheets/squirrel-fact-sheet) and the urge to kill them is, in my book, something to be rather ashamed of (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/02/kill-them-the-volunteer-army-plotting-to-wipe-out-britains-grey-squirrels).
And oversimplification goes further: You said your act of killing the squirrel would have no climate impact, but the whole manufacture of the gun has climate and environmental impacts with the mining of metals, resource and energy use. The use of guns has other health repercussions such as the big problem of lead pollution (e.g http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/shooting-government-set-to-ignore-calls-to-ban-lead-shot-over-health-fears-a6886616.html and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/nov/10/ducks-lead-shot).
And I answer yes to the last questions you asked.
Dave, I’m now leaving the debate. I wish you well and once again thank you for making such conversations possible. May correct and important information prevail, for the benefits of all being!
220Annie Leymarie December 11th, 2017
Time and time again major cultural shifts have been started by people who were deemed extreme.
Of course facts are not enough but I once again refer to Yuval Noah Harari who stresses that in our century they are crucial.
I am very happy to read you are interested in green economics. I am now leaving this debate as I have much else to do (and getting an operation done on my foot tomorrow, following an accident) but you could of course read suggestions by people such as George Monbiot, whom I have quoted many times, the New Economic Foundation (https://www.vegansociety.com/take-action/campaigns/grow-green) and various researchers (https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=foodbrexitreport-langmillstonemarsden-july2017pdf.pdf&site=25) . Since subsidies are the mainstay of UK livestock farming, we could start by changing these, and Brexit can offer a great opportunity.
Here are some of Monbiot’s thoughts on the matter:
“I can think of two legitimate purposes for subsidies. The first is a rural hardship fund. But there is no obvious reason why farmers should be the main recipients. In England, they account for 0.3% of the general population and 1.4% of the rural population. While many farmers suffer from low incomes, they tend to have greater capital, skills and opportunities than most other people with small earnings. There is no more reason to favour their profession with public charity than there is to provide a fund for distressed solicitors or plumbers. Money should be disbursed according to need, not occupation.
The other purpose is an environmental protection fund, that pays exclusively for wildlife and habitats to be restored, floods to be prevented and children and adults to be brought back into contact with nature. I would have no objection to farmers living off such subsidies. In this case, we would be paying for public services, rather than public harm.
I would not, however, favour an extension of certain current conservation practices. Just as there is something odd about the pattern of land use in this country, there has long been (though this is beginning to change) something odd about our conservation ethos. Whereas British conservationists campaign against the cutting, grazing and burning of natural habitats in other parts of the world, in this country some of them regard these practices as essential conservation tools. They appear to have lost the ability to distinguish between protection and destruction.
The great majority of species require cover for their survival, to hide from predators, ambush prey and escape the extremes of temperature and humidity. But traditional conservation in this country has often focused on the tiny handful that can survive in open habitats, and has managed the land to favour those species, at the expense of the richer and more diverse ecosystems that would otherwise develop. A study in the Cairngorms found that wooded upland habitats are 11 times richer in nationally important species than grassland, and 13 times richer than moorland (…).
Thanks for the conversation and best wishes!
221Annie Leymarie December 11th, 2017
My very last comment before I “sign off” from this debate: Another example of cognitive dissonance is when I hear that grass-fed beef is essential to preserve ecologically important grazed habitats – despite their methane and nitrous oxide emissions – whereas rabbits (who are of course non-ruminants and do not add to the climate crisis) should be hunted down because they dare graze our land!
222Rosewood Farm's Rob December 11th, 2017
What an incredibly rude attitude. I guess I’ll never get to see these ‘much larger populations’ of wildlife that she reckons to be protecting.
Annie, if you’re still reading this people don’t listen to you because you make inconsistent statements and then reply with ‘evidence’ that doesn’t relate to your statements. If you think a rabbit has the same effect as cattle grazing then you have an awful lot to learn about ecology. I wanted to show you the realities but your rejection of anything that doesn’t fit your opinion makes it very difficult to have a discussion with you based upon facts.
223Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
‘1. Agricultural methods other than forest gardens would be legal, but there would be a greater diversity of crops intermingled with forest gardens and woodland rather than swathes of grazing land or monoculture crops (UK). I acknowledge that unintentional death occurs all the time.’
But to clear land for agriculture (apart from forest gardens), requires animals to be kept out, because they would eat the crops. This turning of wild habitat into farmland allows fewer animals to be able to live – which is intentional, or at least you’d only have to think about it for a while to know it was true. But you’re saying that hunting a squirrel should be illegal, but not clearing land, which will mean the removal of lots of animals. That seems inconsisent.
‘2. No dispensation. Sheep farmers in Wales wouldn’t get dispensation so why should anyone else?’
Wow. I’ll say one thing – you haven’t skirted any issues, like others here. So you’d end the ancient cultures of the Inuit and Kalahari Bushmen if you had the power to do so?
‘3. I would neither condemn nor support you in that area. I appreciate Low Impact’s existence and acknowledge that I don’t live up to my own ideals.’
‘4. Introduce their predators. ‘
New Zealanders are not trying to replace their fragile, rare ecosystem with another one, which will make their native fauna extinct (which means extinct globally, as they don’t live anywhere else) – they are trying to eliminate the invasive species altogether, to maintain their unique ecosystem.
However, again, you are being consistent where others aren’t – in that you said that you believe that killing animals is bad for humans. Introducing their predators is no consolation for the prey animals at all, so it can’t possibly be for their welfare.
‘As humans we run a very hierarchical system so some hairy mammals e.g. polar bears and dogs are more important to us than others and birds and mammals seem to be more important than e.g. fish and reptiles. I don’t really understand this.’
Really though? You’d be just as concerned about the killing of a fish as you would about the killing of a baby chimpanzee?
224Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
I’m going to collate all the (ethical) arguments here and put together another article highlighting the best arguments for and against killing and eating animals. For me, the effect it has on humans is a powerful argument.
225Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
‘You are trying to get one instance of killing an animal ethically ‘approved’ so that you can extrapolate and justify the unnecessary killing of animals.’
I’m doing nothing of the sort. I’m trying to understand the ethical arguments against doing something that is already widespread, legal and needs no justification.
‘I am sad to see you compare a mammal and a carrot since you know very well about nervous central systems and much else and of course lead your own life according to this knowledge – which is clearly not just intellectual knowledge.’
Again, you don’t seem to understand the ethical argument I’m making. I’m not talking about the sentience of a carrot vs a squirrel. You said that killing the squirrel was unnecessary, and I said that eating carrots was unnecessary. No particular food is necessary. Why should we refuse any particular food – plant or animal? Whether a particular food is ‘necessary’ or not isn’t a good argument against eating it.
‘Re pine martens: it was a suggestion. I prefer nature to make decisions rather than us humans interfering’
Yes – it was a suggestion that indicates that your opinion on humans not killing animals is nothing to do with animal welfare, because the pine marten will do the squirrel a lot of very painful harm. The ‘rather than us humans interfering’ part was interesting. It indicates that your argument has more (everything, in fact) to do with the killing’s effect on humans, rather than on the squirrel. This I find a much more coherent argument.
‘You said your act of killing the squirrel would have no climate impact, but the whole manufacture of the gun has climate and environmental impacts with the mining of metals, resource and energy use. ‘
This is nonsensical. The same can be said of tractors and combine harvesters, as well as the fuel that goes into them, the clearing of land for crops, trucks to get food to the shops, plus supermarkets, ovens, cooking implements etc.
226Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
I get the sustainability issues, but I’d say the same as I’ve said to Annie many times. I’d like to keep the ethical and the sustainable separate for now. And they really are separate issues – for example, killing a billion people certainly isn’t ethical, but in terms of sustainability, it would probably be a good thing for there to be a billion fewer of us.
I’m going to collate many of the (frankly, fascinating) ethical arguments posted here, and write a new article summarising, evaluating and comparig them, and what that might mean for Lowimpact.
227Rosewood Farm's Rob December 11th, 2017
Well, ethically speaking my desire to not kill anything (aside from being an unachieveable aim) was selfish & focussed only on the individual, not the species as a whole or other species. As a species we are the only ones (as far as we know) that appreciate our impact so the only one not benefitting from my not eating meat was me.
228Theresa Munson December 11th, 2017
It’s certainly easier to listen to heated debate than read it!!
However, doesn’t the opening question need to be reviewed? Surely “wild” would be mostly relying on what our body is already equipped with – teeth, hands, physical strength, speed, wits, instinct, etc, wouldn’t it? How much would humans be able to kill with their bare hands and their wits, or were they scavengers as well? How many of those skills/attributes does a modern human still posess? Isn’t the development and use of tools/weapons from prehistory the beginning of the ugly end we find ourselves at now? So maybe wild is inappropriate. The ethics question is difficult and always will be until we are faced with the reality of true wilderness and/or real hunger, for the rest of our lives.
But the question is wholly academic. The systems are not in place to allow the majority of people the luxury of being in control of where they get their food or how it’s produced. It certainly seems that it is getting harder.
229Dave Darby December 11th, 2017
Hi – the question is just about the ethics surrounding the killing of an animal. By wild I meant in nature, and the method of killing isn’t relevant – just the killing itself. Yes, the question is entirely academic – about the ethics of killing, irrespective of how many people could get their food that way.
230Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 13th, 2017
It may be what you want, but if you we want to tackle climate change we need;
“It surprised me that meadows actually store a lot more carbon than shrubs. The carbon in meadows is stored mostly below the ground, next to the roots,”
As this recent study has found;
231Amanda James December 13th, 2017
1. I see the animals as moving to other areas in the process. Yes competition will limit numbers. I think that it is better not to have lived than to have lived and been killed.
2. I don’t wish to be a dictator, I just continue in my default way gradually changing my habits to what I perceive as something better. I am just following my thought process through. Why is an ancient culture necessarily ‘better’ or more deserving of being preserved than a more recent one?
4. Humans caused the problem and are now making their solution be the killing of other animals. My point is that killing seems to be the ultimate default option in so many scenarios be they human wars or non-native fauna control. There are options which don’t involve killing.
We seem only to rate the great apes as important because they are like us (I think we consider things important either because of their similarity to us or because they are rare?). This is very hierarchical with humans at the top. But where do you draw the line and exactly who goes where?
There is ongoing fighting in human society over religion, ethnic background, gender, disability . . . and it is all about hierarchy. What about equity?
Yes I am just as concerned about the fish as the baby chimpanzee (or the baby fish and the baby chimp). To me it is the same as putting me in a prison and telling me that I am going to be raped and have my throat cut or one of the following people will be killed in my place: a baby, an old person, an eight year old child, a white person, a disabled person, a black person, a Jew . . .
232Rosewood Farm's Rob December 13th, 2017
“1. I see the animals as moving to other areas in the process. Yes competition will limit numbers. I think that it is better not to have lived than to have lived and been killed.”
Whilst I recognise that this is your personal opinion I am of the opposite opinion because it would eliminate the vast majority of life on Earth (if it were possible). As a conservationist I enjoy having lots of wildlife around me. I work to encourage favourable habitat for voles and I know that most of them will end up as food for Barn Owls and Kestrels, and in fact I enjoy watching the birds hunt, even though the voles are being killed.
On the flip side, if the owls didn’t hunt the voles they would die from starvation. But the voles would also die when their numbers began to exceed the available habitat. On balance I think it would be better to be killed quickly by an owl than by starving or fighting with other voles.
233Annie Leymarie December 13th, 2017
Hi Dave, I thought I had ‘unsubscribed’ from all comments but I’m receiving one from you, and as I see that my own last comment here has mysteriously ‘vanished’ (as my first one on ethics also had), I’ll take the opportunity to wish you well for Christmas and New Year.
I had a foot operation done yesterday and am enjoying the rest- I had a virus in the past weeks and was kept so busy I felt exhausted. So I want to say I am sorry that some of my comments may have seemed like attacks on you. I never intended to fight the messenger – only the messages. As I wrote before, I have no doubt you are doing the best job you can with the information you are surrounded by.
My aim has been to stress how much misinformation prevails, how critical humanity’s situation is and how urgent it is for us all to adopt radically new ways. I understand that the info I have posted has been very unwelcomed by you and other livestock keepers and I am sorry for that. But I also feel that, especially with Brexit and huge changes needing to take place anyway, there are tremendous opportunities arising.
I’ll now respond to your last point and re-add my last input. But before I leave on what might seem like yet more harsh words, I want to again wish you well for the festivities and the new year. …And I won’t tick the box to receive replies or comments as I really need to switch off now.
Re the study you mentioned: I am not surprised that it showed that the shrubs stored relatively little carbon, since they were on a land grazed by livestock. I lived many years on Dartmoor where I used to see how unrepresentative of healthy vegetation the shrubs were there, since sheep, cattle and ponies eat up everything other than a tiny minority of very unique perennial plants! It would be a very different story to compare meadows with shrubs on an area fenced off from sheep –as indeed is recognised in the article, which says that the author “will also look at what happens to the carbon budget when an enclosure is set up around plants so that sheep and other grazing animals aren’t able to eat the vegetation”.
Of course shrubs are also a relatively short temporary succession state in the dynamics of ecological recovery towards climax habitats – i.e. mostly woodlands. And of course the methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the livestock were not taken into consideration in the ‘carbon budget’ looked at in the study.
I was really surprised that Dave didn’t know the well-established science that forests store far more carbon, and for far longer, than pastures. It is usually accepted that the difference is around a factor of 10 or so. One recent study, among many others, makes that very clear: Griscom B W et al (2017) Natural climate solutions. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/10/11/1710465114.full
One Monday I had posted extracts from three articles published in The Guardian on that date. Here they are again:.
(1) ‘Meat industry heading towards “sin tax” along lines of tobacco’ – by Damian Carrington, Environment editor
‘“Sin taxes” on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable.
The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.
“If policymakers are to cover the true cost of human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, and livestock epidemics like avian flu, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidisation to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable”
The first global analysis of meat taxes done in 2016 found levies of 40% on beef, 20% on dairy products and 8.5% on chicken would save half a million lives a year and slash climate warming emissions. Proposals in Denmark suggested a tax of $2.70 per kilogram of meat’.
(2) We can’t go on eating like this – by George Monbiot
“Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind: The Earth will soon be unable to provide enough food, and livestock farming is the biggest culprit.
The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a 100-fold difference.
It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other life forms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify.
Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.
When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.
There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal- to a plant-based diet. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.
The next green revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or DO WE – THE RICHER PEOPLE NOW CONSUMING THE LIVING PLANET – FIND MASS DEATH EASIER TO CONTEMPLATE THAN CHANGING OUR DIET?”
(3) A page-long ‘Digested Read’, by John Crace, of the book ‘The Secret Life of Cows’ by beef farmer Rosamund Young.
The last paragraph (it’s the author/farmer ‘speaking’):
“A well-bred cow who has been treated well will usually be unfailingly polite. Most are charming at their moment of departure and make a point of saying goodbye and thank you for all that I have done for them. Though you do get the odd one who kicks up a stink when you take him to the abattoir and starts mooing: “Why are you going to put a bolt through my head, you sadistic, two-faced motherfucker?”
234Rosewood Farm's Rob December 13th, 2017
I’m not Dave but hope you’re recovering well – I guess it’s the painkillers meaning you’re not feeling so good.
Frankly I find your anti-livestock stance amazing – I’ve never met anyone so intent on ecological destruction to meet their ideals. Even George Monbiot doesn’t think we should let the remaining 3% of our wildflower meadows slip into scrubland.
You seem now to be saying that grazing animals reduce the ability of shrubs to store carbon. It will be interesting to see if removing grazing livestock from the pasture switches the balance and for what it’s worth I think it will too. Grasslands aren’t actively growing when you remove livestock as the top cover prevents them from continually sequestering carbon in their roots. They need the action of being grazed periodically to keep the plants growing and this cycle allows light to reach the more vulunerable wildflowers that tend to be drowned out by both grass and taller ground cover alike.
You have mentioned throughout this debate how beef production uses a lot of land but you are actually arguing for an even more restricted use of land yourself here. The beauty of grassfed beef is that the land has multiple simultaneous uses, including carbon sequestration, food production and excellent wildlife habitat.
235Dave Darby December 13th, 2017
‘I think that it is better not to have lived than to have lived and been killed.’
But most herbivores are killed before they’re even adults. Either that or starvation, which is probably worse. And the ones that survive to maturity have a window where they’re too fast and strong to bother with, then there’s the decline in old age that will ensure that they’re going to be eaten at some point. That’s their role in the food chain. There are even videos out there of old lions being killed by hyenas. Predators are not going to sit around watching hebivores die of old age, surrounded by their families. And it’s good for their gene pool. Only the strongest make it to maturity to pass on their genes. As I said in the main article, some animals protect family members from predators, so that possibly most elephants, gorillas or whales die of old age.
I find it difficult to believe that you’d prefer them not to have been born. And in fact, if they hadn’t been born, their species, as well as the predator species, would have become extinct by now.
‘Why is an ancient culture necessarily ‘better’ or more deserving of being preserved than a more recent one?’
I didn’t say it was better – it’s just their culture. You’d prefer for them to be forced off the land (you said you’d prefer that killing animals was illegal, and they couldn’t stay on that land without eating animals), but without saving the life of one animal. Any animal not killed by Kalahari bushmen or Inuit would be killed by lions or polar bears, who would step in to take our place.
So if no animals are going to be saved, I could never agree with the ethics of removing a culture from its ancient lands, having the decision imposed on them by us – people who have no understanding of those lands, who could only impose our will on them because we are wealthier and militarily stronger. And what would they do when they come off the land? Work in factories or on plantations?
‘There are options which don’t involve killing.’
That’s true and I concede the point. They could be caught and shipped back to their country of origin. For me though, that would involve an inordinate amount of resource use and waste, and therefore be unsustainable, which is far less ethical than eating them or allowing them to go back to nature.
‘Yes I am just as concerned about the fish as the baby chimpanzee (or the baby fish and the baby chimp). To me it is the same as putting me in a prison and telling me that I am going to be raped and have my throat cut or one of the following people will be killed in my place: a baby, an old person, an eight year old child, a white person, a disabled person, a black person, a Jew . . .’
So for consistency, if species as far apart as chimpanzees and fish are in the same category for you in that they’re not to be eaten, then it must be the same for fish and shellfish, and from there to vegetables – no? For consistency, you’d have to be fruitarian? Is that right? I’ve often thought that this might be the best diet for humans – it includes hard fruit, soft fruit, nuts, sweetcorn, pumpkins, beans, seeds, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and avocadoes. Nothing has to die, and it sounds quite healthy but I don’t know how many essential elements would be missing.
Also, I’ve got to ask you. Do you mean that if you had to save a human or a member of another species, it would be a tough call for you?
I believe that industrial capitalism is going to crash and burn. It’s all very fragile. It would only need the internet to go down for a couple of weeks and most people would be dead. Most of us live in cities and the internet going down would mean no food deliveries and no way to obtain it. And anyway, we’re headed for ecological collapse even with 7 billion people, let alone 10. I think that a lot of people would prefer to live much simpler lives in village amongst people they know, doing useful work and eating local, organic food. That kind of life would be impossible without animals I think – or at least too difficult to work well. I think people wanting to live a simpler life, build their own home, have a smallholding etc. should be encouraged and helped to do so. In that case, I think we should not condemn them for having animals, or harvesting them from the wild.
But you’ve already said that you wouldn’t condemn them. I’m not questioning your ethical argument to try to persuade you to eat meat. I have zero interest in doing that. I’d be happy to encourage most people to eat less, in fact. I’m questioning your ethical arguments because some people would condemn people who keep animals – and I don’t think that their arguments are strong, philosophically.
My position would be:
1. Let’s dismantle industrial animal agriculture
2. Let’s eat less meat
3. Let’s not condemn people who keep animals sustainably and as close to their natural conditions as possible, don’t take babies away from mothers; and kill them quickly and unexpectedly; or people who eat meat produced that way; or people who harvest wild animals sustainably, but not by trapping.
236Dave Darby December 13th, 2017
I don’t know what happened to your posts, but I didn’t feel any bad vibes from you and I wasn’t sending any your way. You’re entitled to your opinions, and I’m entitled to have different ones. The latter part, I’m not you’re quite on board with. I felt judged personally by you several times, and you made false assumptions a couple of times too. I’m not judging your decisions, I’m only questioning your logic. I’m quite annoyed with you for continuing to derail the discussion by copying and pasting huge amounts of text about the meat industry, instead of engaging with the question, which is not about the meat industry. I agree with you about the meat industry. That’s not what I’m asking.
237Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 13th, 2017
Dave, I have just one query about your point 3. – you’ve stated the case for treating animals animals naturally regarding death but then you’ve specified not taking babies away from their mothers – I’m just wondering why that is important to you?
I ask because in the wild mothers would be used to their babies being taken by predators so it can’t be for the mothers welfare. Meanwhile, assuming the baby is taken and reared by people, it’s welfare should also be taken care of (or at least to a better degree than had it been killed). We assume that mothers don’t like their babies taken from them, but then how much is that survival instinct? At the Kostroma Moose Farm babies are taken from their mothers and the mothers are allowed to go free, returning only to be milked and fed. The Moose-mother is under no obligation to return to the farm or give birth there, so she must have an element of choice that suggests it isn’t so bad for a moose.
Of course moose are not cattle, but as an allo-suckling species cattle are used to fostering other calves – a herd strategy to ensure that calves survive if a mother is lost/has too little milk. Our preferred option as herdspeople is to foster a calf rather than hand rear it but if we have to we will bottle feed a calf rather than let it die. This is, of course, only possible due to the dairy industry existing and enabling us to buy calf milk replacer.
238Dani December 14th, 2017
Re question 2. “If there’s no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear in the woods, but there is an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed in the same woods by a human hunter, then the ethical problem can’t possibly be about animal welfare. In that case, what’s the issue, in terms of ethics?”
I wrote not applicable because I didn’t agree that there is no ethical problem for a deer to be killed by a bear, but an ethical problem for the same deer to be killed by a human hunter. They’re the same to me, especially if both for food.
Re. Aboriginal extinction of mega fauna, that was in response to your statement below.
“I put it to you that it can’t possibly be a bad thing to go into the wilds, or to live in the wilds, and to kill and eat wild mammals, birds, fish or even reptiles and insects. No natural habitat is changed.”
Aboriginal extinction shows that even traditional hunting can possibly be a bad thing and can change natural habitats.
Interesting discussions overall but finding the comments layout quite overwhelming.
239Dave Darby December 14th, 2017
I see it as a deal, albeit one that, for the animals, is ‘an offer they can’t refuse’. The deal is (arguments about sustainability aside – I’ll come to that in later articles): humans will keep you captive and consume your meat / milk / eggs, plus associated products like leather, wool etc., and in return, we’ll make sure that certain terrible things that happen to you in the wild will not happen to you – for example, diseases and injuries will be treated, you will always be fed and watered, your babies won’t be taken from you, you’ll live outdoors, in conditions similar to that which you would experience in the wild, but you won’t have to constantly look out for predators, and you’ll have shelter if you want it, and you will have a quick, unexpected death.
So, I’d say that it’s not ethical to remove babies from mothers because it’s cruel. You could argue that it’s not, but I lived next door to a farm where they did it every year, and the mothers were frantic. I think I can recognise suffering when I see it, and they were suffering.
We’re blogging a series of articles on dairying without taking calves from mothers. The first one’s here – https://www.lowimpact.org/taking-calves-away-mothers-cruel-want-practice-stopped-prepared-pay-milk/
240Dave Darby December 14th, 2017
Agree with all that. I should have qualified what I said by adding that the hunted animal is not endangered, and it’s on a small scale (in fact I was really talking about just one animal).
The comments layout is a difficult one. We’re talking about ways we might change it, but it might mean losing all existing comments on the site. We’re still looking into it.
241Rosewood Farm's Rob December 14th, 2017
Thanks – I’ve read the blog and your comments but I’m still a little unsure as to what you are saying. Taking the calves away is a part of any farming system, even calf at foot. Cattle build their bond with their calves as they do in a natural environment so is it really worse, ethically speaking, to do it immediately rather than building that bond and weaning at a point when, instinctively, the cow has invested so much more of her own resources into the calf? Weaning beef calves is, arguably, more frantic, as the calf has also developed a bond with it’s mother – at birth the only thing calves are bothered about is being fed, which is why you can foster them onto another cow or rear them artificially. Of course we must wean older calves otherwise they will either mate with their mothers or fathers, which is a different ethical issue in itself but must be traded off against the weaning one.
Research shows that older calves are more stressed because they have the double withdrawal of both mothers milk and the breaking of the bond, which has led to some innovative techniques to delay feeding-weaning from separation-weaning such as ‘QuietWean’.
I appear to be making a case for not keeping cattle in domestication at all here but I’m actually just interested in exploring the ethical arguments. It’s obviously an important issue to some consumers of dairy but as a beef producer I have never had an ethical enquiry about weaning.
I think we are in danger of anthropomorphising but even so, human mothers know how hard it can be to be separated from their children when they go away to college…
242Alex Ugur December 14th, 2017
Firstly, one cannot argue with beliefs or belief systems, be they wedded to dogma, principles, ethics, or even in a dogmatic approach to science. All one can do is offer alternative ways of seeing things.
As to the main questions, they are, in a way, looking for absolutist answers, operating, as they do, within the dualistic paradigms of right or wrong, and within notions of measurable and therefore pre-determinable.
However, such an approach becomes moot, when viewed from a different way of being and doing.
Subject to feedback loops and circular reasoning, Western philosophical and ethical thought is more than likely limited and framed by Western civilisation, and, as are most civilisations past and present, bedded in the development of agriculture, land ownership, power hierarchies, organised belief systems, and hierarchical thinking; all of these were once new and untried ways of being that probably set seed some ten to twelve thousand years ago in Göbekli Tepe in the Northern Levant and maybe in a few other places around the globe.
I’ll start by sharing this fifteen page interview with Jeannette Armstrong, who describes her people, the Okanagan Syilx living in the west of Canada, as being a co-creative part of the environment (not unlike the way we view bees, but much more involved), to the extent, that when her peoples were removed from certain environments and forced onto reservations, those environments suffered huge loss of biodiversity and general life support as a result. The most remarkable thing about her story is that in order to make it understandable to the western mind, she must put us in a place where we must suspend belief or disbelief in order to take on completely different paradigms, that to us are new and totally unaccustomed.
The crux of what I am trying to express is this:
As a society, we are still stuck in Newtonian cause and effect thinking. However, just as quantum physics (r)evolutionised the way we look at science, our social awareness also needs to move on and develop ways of being and doing that work synergistically with the largely intangible world of possibility and probability. In my search for answers (and questions), hers was the most influential article I have yet come across and it has long been a guiding light for me, both consciously and subconsciously, cognitively and intuitively: her description of her ancient society fulfils all the requirements, dealing synergistically with a largely intangible world of possibility and probability, and even more remarkably, if one thinks it through, it does so in a way that in its pragmatic daily approach does not exclude insights provided by science or rational thought, but makes them part of the decision making process (a decision making process that is actually in tune with what we know about how our brains work neurologically).
243Annie Leymarie December 14th, 2017
Hi Dave (and in case Rob is reading, very sorry for getting your names mixed up in a previous comment!)
It’s the season of good will so please accept my apologies if I made any criticism that might have seemed ad hominem and let’s just agree to disagree on some important issues! Just like you, I have felt frustrated by what seemed like derailing strategy, when new enquiries were started, or the discussion criteria changed, rather than specific points being responded to when I was quoting experts, thus well-established science, about major issues.
I don’t know how you define “the meat industry”. Any ruminant farm animal emits much methane and nitrous oxide (and non-ruminants also have significant emissions), whether on a smallholding or a big farm – in fact methane emissions are most likely to be higher on a smallholding. These emissions have been rising lately, with livestock farming a major, if not the main cause of these increases. Methane is over two decades some 86 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (and nitrous oxide far more still).
Climate change, together with other environmental crises, is threatening all life on Earth within a very short time scale. The only place I found climate change mentioned on the Low Impact Living website was in the contributed sections on veganism and vegetarianism. It said on the latter that “the easiest way to make sure that you’re not contributing to cruel, intensive animal farming is to not eat meat”. But dairy products are given the green light there, despite the fact that a UK dairy cow emits in a year far more methane than a beef cow and that dairy products are among the most carbon-intensive food items, together with beef and lamb.
Cheese is also listed elsewhere among the healthy low-impact food items, yet if one considers the multiple impacts of high greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution and health consequences (as well as the cruelty involved and much else) – cheese might in fact be the worst of all food. Many experts rank the consumption of cheese as a key factor in our epidemics of non-communicable diseases, despite persistent misinformation around this. For instance your site states that cheese provides useful calcium but this has been widely debunked as a myth promoted by the livestock industry. It’s been clearly shown that in fact the less dairy one consumes, the better our bone health and calcium is widely available in most vegetables in a much more digestible form.
Similarly, Low Impact Living is promoting sausage making without mentioning that all processed meat, from a small farm or a big factory, is placed in the top category of carcinogenic substances, together with tobacco. The huge health issues linked to the consumption of animal-based food just cannot be ignored, for many obvious reasons including their carbon impact. There is widespread agreement that food issues require multi-criteria frameworks.
So I was disappointed not to find anything of importance on the site about land use either. We’re told that “cattle are big animals and therefore need space” – but there is no mention of the many reasons “space” is so important and how it can best be used for planetary and human health.
On many other topics Low Impact Living does a great job! I congratulate you for that but since you are an educational and enabling organisation, it seems to me crucial that you provide accurate and relevant information for wise decisions to be made regarding the production and consumption of food, and that you stress the urgency of changes required to tackle the gigantic crises we face.
Especially with Brexit looming, there is a huge need for the UK to grow more (and consume far more) fruit and vegetables, since we are importing such big quantities. As priorities, we could and should be creating fruit and nut orchards, including various berry bushes, growing all kinds of vegs including salads, root vegs, legumes, mushroom and perennials such as artichokes, as well as grains and pseudo-grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, rye, oats, millet, barley, etc.
Plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, such a pea protein for instance, are now attracting huge interest and investment funds throughout the world. Farmers are highly adaptable, given the right information and incentives. Food habits can and do change very fast (as I have witnessed in the decades since I first arrived in Britain). Shifting away from animal-based food has been shown by countless scientists to be the most significant step one can take at any time to reduce one’s impact, because it is such a win-win option. Much else is needed of course, but with diet shifts there are no drawbacks to the consumers other than changing social habits – and by increasing the demand we are already helping farmers to transition. There are huge opportunities to grasp and I feel that Low Impact Living should have the vision to lead rather than resist the trend.
Finally, on the ‘ethical’ issue (though for me all the other aspects mentioned have a strong ethical dimension), I too would much prefer not to be born rather than be made a slave to humans, only to be killed whilst probably still an adolescent.
That’s it! I’m really leaving now and wish you wonderful festivities and New Year. All the best and thank you again for allowing debates.
244Amanda James December 14th, 2017
Both you and Rob have misunderstood me on the first point. Intra and interspecific competition and predator prey relationships would go on as usual in non-human animals. I was just acknowledging that if humans take up space and fence out other animals, those animals will have less space (because humans have more) and will therefore be fewer in number; this is better than having more space and being hunted. I.e. better not to have lived (because there is less space to live) than to have lived and be hunted. (in response to what you said Dave)
How you bring something into reality is another matter. There is certainly no military imposition in my world and no violence of any sort. I take Ollie’s view that I would like people to come to the realisation themselves, but the reality is that it hasn’t happened with human animals, so isn’t likely to happen with non-human animals. I think that human domination is unhealthy for both us and the planet and everything on it. I just question why in a peaceful, democratic society we draw a distinction between killing humans and all non-human animals.
I just choose to separate plants from animals and not kill animals. On the mollusc side consider the intelligence of octopuses and squids. I don’t eat shellfish.
It is just my belief that killing animals is wrong. I don’t believe it is good for humanity to kill. Flip the perspective the other way, why do we consider killing humans morally wrong? Why don’t we all just live the way the rest of the non-human animals live and fight and kill to survive; we are part of nature after all? Why do we deserve to live and have the culture of killing other animals but not kill each other?
I thought this debate was about the philosophy of eating meat or not rather than sustainability?
What is the distinction between vegetables and fruit?
No, I am saying if you ask me to choose between killing or saving a fish or chimp I would kill neither and save both. I equate this to asking you to choose between saving a little boy or a little girl. What sort of choice is that?
The other half is for someone else.
245Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 14th, 2017
There’s a clear distinction between killing a human and killing a non-human animal in the same way that a lapwing kills various different species of invertebrates to eat but doesn’t kill a member of it’s own species.
And while you choose not to kill large animals for food it is wrong to say that you don’t kill any animals, unless you are a fruitarian, as there is with any cultivation and growing of plant foods an intentional harm caused to many species that would otherwise wish to live. Personally I think it’s worse to destroy a habitat for other species than it is to share a habitat and kill some animals within it. The former represents dominance over nature whereas the latter is living within it.
I think it’s important to leave space for wild animals but dividing the countryside up into ‘human’ and ‘non-human’ domains is wasteful for all species concerned when we can quite happily inhabit the same space. It’s a akin to human society – it’s important that we all have our own private ‘nests’ within it but it would be wasteful to divide shared resources such as shops and hospital to each individual family on a per head/area basis.
246Dave Darby December 15th, 2017
Rob – I don’t think there’s any comparison between a child going away to college and a baby being taken from its mother. We could ask mothers which would be the most painful. Taking babies from mothers before weaning seems like the epitome of wrong to me. Why would you do it?
247Amanda Holley December 15th, 2017
Tks for the thoroughness of your input Annie (if you’re there!). I have found your expertise in this area to be exemplary, informative and encouraging. And here is an interesting article on another livestock farmer gone vegan … it’s great to hear of this level of honesty in a livestock farmer and it’s bexomjng more frequent https://www.facebook.com/amanda.holley.144/posts/10215273296485004
248Dave Darby December 15th, 2017
Annie – I guess I’m going to have to accept that you don’t understand what I’m saying. This was the only ethical point you made about killing animals (the rest was about the meat industry):
‘I too would much prefer not to be born rather than be made a slave to humans, only to be killed whilst probably still an adolescent.’
So how is it possible to extrapolate your personal preference to influence everyone else’s behaviour? Or are you just stating your preferences, and you don’t care what anybody else does?
‘So I was disappointed not to find anything of importance on the site about land use either.’
249Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 15th, 2017
Thank you for your post Alex, it has expressed how I feel in a much better way than I could ever say. In particular the following extract resonates with how our local landscape has developed and depends upon us as pastoralists;
“I’ll start by sharing this fifteen page interview with Jeannette Armstrong, who describes her people, the Okanagan Syilx living in the west of Canada, as being a co-creative part of the environment (not unlike the way we view bees, but much more involved), to the extent, that when her peoples were removed from certain environments and forced onto reservations, those environments suffered huge loss of biodiversity and general life support as a result.”
250Amanda Holley December 15th, 2017
Many tks for this Alex ;-), have downloaded it to read later. I like your comments here too, great perspective which interests me … I can’t add anything yet!
251Dave Darby December 15th, 2017
‘Both you and Rob have misunderstood me on the first point. Intra and interspecific competition and predator prey relationships would go on as usual in non-human animals. I was just acknowledging that if humans take up space and fence out other animals, those animals will have less space (because humans have more) and will therefore be fewer in number; this is better than having more space and being hunted. I.e. better not to have lived (because there is less space to live) than to have lived and be hunted. (in response to what you said Dave)’
I’m not sure how I’ve misunderstood. If it’s better for animals not to have space to live than to have plenty of space but to be hunted, then it follows that it’s better for prey animals to be extinct (doesn’t it?), because they’re always going to be hunted.
I think we consider killing humans wrong because we’re humans and we don’t want to be killed.
‘I don’t believe it is good for humanity to kill.’
I think you’re the only person to have come out and said this, and I think it’s a really interesting point. The animal welfare arguments just don’t work for me (because of the ‘killed by a bear – OK / killed by a human – not OK’ situation).
‘I thought this debate was about the philosophy of eating meat or not rather than sustainability?’
You’re right – I concede.
‘What is the distinction between vegetables and fruit?’
Fruit is given by the plant without the need to kill the plant. Every carrot represents the death of a plant. Every apple, pumpkin, nut or bean doesn’t. If you find it impossible to draw a line, why kill a plant (and maybe a fruitarian diet is ultimately the best one for humans)?
Would you be OK with killing malaria-carrying mosquitoes?
‘No, I am saying if you ask me to choose between killing or saving a fish or chimp I would kill neither and save both. I equate this to asking you to choose between saving a little boy or a little girl. What sort of choice is that?’
What if you could only save one? And what if you had to choose between a cow and a human (and you really had to choose – you couldn’t save both)? Are you really saying that the line doesn’t exist – even for humans?
252Rosewood Farm's Rob December 15th, 2017
Why would you do it? There are many reasons – some mothers (fathers are often absent) are not in a position to rear a child, either financially, mentally or socially, it’s not uncommon that children may be adopted, fostered or brought up by grandparents. I’m sure it’s not an easy decision to make in that situation, but equally I can see that the pressures society places upon mothers make this much, much harder to deal with. I’m not sure that cattle have similar expectations of eachother so I don’t think you can compare like-for-like.
You also have to remember how we do treat children in human society – we *do* separate them at birth – most people put children in a different room to sleep, rather than in their own bed, sharing our motherly warmth (as is natural), we wean them early, we send them off to nursery from an early age, then school. We also don’t live in a matriarchal society, even though it is our natural state, with mothers and grandmothers helping to rear the young as cattle in a herd situation do.
We’re supposed to be discussing a purely theoretical, ethical point here so it’s important not to view cattle as people any more than we would regard people like cattle. It’s difficult to explain this, I think it is something you have to experience to be able to separate from the anthrocentric viewpoint.
I’ve been around cattle all my life and I’ve been in close proximity to both beef and dairy cattle at weaning yet I’ve experienced the exact opposite of how you describe the weaning process – dairy cattle are definitely less vocal when at weaned immediately after birth than when they are separated at 8 months.
That’s not to say that I am disagreeing with calf at foot dairying – quite the opposite, but having done it I recognise that it is more for the benefit of the human, spiritually, not to take a calf away than it is for the animal.
253Rosewood Farm's Rob December 15th, 2017
Hi Amanda, Your link doesn’t work due to Facebook privacy settings but we appear to have a mutual friend in Rita ?
254Dave Darby December 15th, 2017
Rob – no, I meant why would you do it with beef cattle?
255Rosewood Farm's Rob December 15th, 2017
Oh, I see, well you might take a calf away to save a cow. If theyt’re not physically up to rearing a calf, basically the same as for humans, when you put it that way. But you’ve got to wean them at some point and it’s always a stressful time, it’s a farmers job to try and minimise that stress though because stress = cost.
256Malcolm Ramsay December 15th, 2017
“I just question why in a peaceful, democratic society we draw a distinction between killing humans and all non-human animals”
It could be because drawing that distinction was necessary for the development of a peaceful, democratic society. My impression is that laws against killing other humans were originally introduced for primarily pragmatic reasons, rather than as an expression of an underlying morality, because killing humans led to feuds which tore communities apart and made everyone more vulnerable. Whether there is an intrinsic distinction between right and wrong, I wouldn’t like to say – I think it’s quite possible that it’s wholly cultural, that it emerged from rules whose origins were purely practical.
257Amanda December 15th, 2017
I have now read the link provided by Alex – an interview with Jeannette Armstrong and it says it all … including how we are addressing the problem right here! Its a brilliant interview …. I am not sure how we define ‘in the wild’ since we could consider that we are all part of nature …. including ourselves … in which case yes, its possible to do harm … because thats what we are doing …. because we are severely disconnected and separated from our environment … we have put ourselves above it … Jeannette expresses it brilliantly and very simply because she has integrity … here its got very confused because we have none!!! We are all in the soup!!!
258Dave Darby December 16th, 2017
Ah, so it’s not standard practice with beef herds?
259Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 16th, 2017
Not at birth, no, it’s usually 6-8 months.
260Dave Darby December 18th, 2017
It had to happen at some point, but I’m in complete agreement with you.
261Amanda James December 20th, 2017
Not sure whether I understand, Dave, but I am distinguishing between other animals hunting prey – that’s ok because they can’t survive any other way – and human animals hunting prey or predators – not ok.
Good point about the fruit compared with veg – I hadn’t thought about a step beyond veganism.
I prefer the making mosquitoes infertile option, but otherwise yes I would kill them.
I would choose to save the human over the cow because I am a human.
262Amanda James December 20th, 2017
An interesting thought which I hadn’t considered. A long with Dave’s question about whether hunter-gatherer/pre-industrial societies were less spiritually developed because there were no vegans.
263Amanda James December 20th, 2017
Yes but non-human intraspecies killing does occur e.g. in lions, chimps, ants, dolphins . . .
We don’t share though e.g. UK uplands are all grazed by sheep for our benefit, we don’t allow wolves in the UK because they could kill humans and would kill our farmed animals, upland heath is as it is because of grouse shooting. But this is another debate.
264Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 21st, 2017
We’re talking about killing other animals for food though, and it’s also true to say that humans kill other humans both directly in the case of murder and manslaughter but also indirectly through other actions such as pollution and importing food that out competes locals in some parts of the world. It’s already been made the case in this thread (not by you, but it’s out there) that we’d be better off (in terms of emissions) importing food from other countries rather than growing food ourselves from grasslands. Other species tend to kill for competition but very few kill each other for food but a very large number do kill other animals for food. Some species are incapable of surviving without killing, so true carnivores might be excluded from this but (I think) most predators are omnivores, like us, capable of gaining their nutrition from plants.
It’s not right to say that we ‘don’t share’ though – you’re talking to someone who devotes his life to maintaining and restoring habitat for wild species. You can always pick a species that doesn’t exist within a habitat and say that we are not sharing with *that* species but it’s unreasonable to expect all species to inhabit the same habitat. You choose sheep and wolf as an example but to use a different analogy there are 250 species of insect that feed on cattle dung and that wouldn’t exist without it. This, in turn, provides food for countless birds that feed on the insects by converting the standing grass into both food (via cattle and insect digestion – both of which have been branded ‘inefficient’ in this debate) and the habitat created by turning a tall vegetation into a grazed, trampled mat on which ground nesting birds feel able to live & nest on. I needn’t do any of this for my own well being, in fact I’d be financially better off not doing this work but I do it because I care about these habitats and species and want to see them thrive in the future. I am sharing my, human, resources with animals that are of no tangible benefit to me – the fact that we’re even discussing sustainability is an indication that we are a sharing species, we don’t just compete with others but actively do things that benefit them.