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  • Posted December 7th, 2017

    It can’t possibly be a bad thing to live in the wild and to harvest both plants and animals for food – can it?

    It can’t possibly be a bad thing to live in the wild and to harvest both plants and animals for food – can it?

    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


    • Tim 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.

    • Mike 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!

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

    • veganollie 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        December 7th, 2017

        Hi Ollie,
        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?

    • Annie 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!

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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.

    • Mike Eaton December 7th, 2017

      Is this a private argument or can anybody join in?

      • John Harrison - Allotment Gardening - replied

        December 7th, 2017

        Lord knows! I’m dying of extreme boredom 🙂

    • Maker 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

    • janefoxwilding 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        December 7th, 2017

        Hi Jane,
        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.

      • Siobhan - replied

        December 10th, 2017

        Thankyou Jane, for articulating so clearly everything I wanted to add to this debate.

      • Annie Leymarie - replied

        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’).

    • Rosewood 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.

      • Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose - replied

        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.

    • Chris 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.

    • Mike Eaton December 7th, 2017


    • Dani December 7th, 2017

      Aboriginal wild hunting caused the extinction of Australia’s megafauna thousands of years ago. It does change the environment.

      • Annie Leymarie - replied

        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.”

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

    • Bluebell 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.

    • Greg 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

    • Gerard 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

    • Dave 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?

      • Amanda - replied

        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…..

    • Amanda 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!

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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?

      • Greg - replied

        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.

    • Bluebell 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.

      • Rosewood Farm's Rob - replied

        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.

    • Mike 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.

    • Mike 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!

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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.

    • Dave 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?

      • Annie Leymarie - replied

        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!

      • Annie Leymarie - replied

        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?

    • Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose December 8th, 2017

      Annie wrote;

      ““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.

      • Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose - replied

        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.

      • Annie Leymarie - replied

        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!

    • Sam December 8th, 2017

      Hi Dave,

      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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        December 9th, 2017

        That’s pretty much exactly my position.

    • Dani 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        December 9th, 2017

        1. and 3. – agreed. Why is 2. N/A?

    • Annie 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?

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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.

    • Charlie 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’.

      • Rosewood Farm's Rob - replied

        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.

    • Theresa 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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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.

    • Dani December 14th, 2017

      Hey Dave.

      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.

      • Dave Darby - replied

        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.

    • Alex 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).


      • Rosewood Farm's Robert Rose - replied

        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.”

      • Amanda Holley - replied

        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!

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