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  • Posted November 15th, 2020
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    Are squirrels or pigeons ‘food’, and should we reintroduce pine martens?

    Are squirrels or pigeons ‘food’, and should we reintroduce pine martens?

    OK, so this isn’t really about squirrels or pigeons – it’s about any animal; we’re back to the veganism vs meat-eating discussion. But just focusing on squirrels and pigeons for the moment, I guess everyone accepts that they are of course food for other animals. They’re in a food chain, after all. Pine martens don’t need to wrestle with this question – squirrels are most definitely food for them. And sparrow hawks don’t need to ask about pigeons – or squirrels either, for that matter. It’s about whether they’re acceptable food for humans. You can make up your own mind when it comes to you. You can decide that you’re never going to eat squirrels or pigeons – but do you have the right to dictate to others that they shouldn’t eat them either?

    I keep coming back to the meat-eating question, as it obviously troubles me. It wouldn’t take much for me to become vegan. My diet is mostly plants; my partner and I buy oat milk because we haven’t been able to source ‘cow-calf’ milk (where calves aren’t taken from their mothers until they’re weaned). We’re not into cruelty, and we only eat meat from organic farms where we know the animals can roam outside freely; and we don’t eat meat often – maybe once every two weeks on average.

    I’d like to discuss these questions with vegans – but please don’t comment unless you’ve read the article. Every time we blog about this, there are comments from people whose points have been covered in the article – indicating that they haven’t read it. I think vegans make some valid points, and that at some time in the future, humans may not eat meat, or at least only ‘meat’ that hasn’t involved the killing of an animal. But right now, the vast majority of the world’s human population eats meat.

    I think there’s a philosophical discussion to be had around the suffering of animals, and whether they suffer more at the hands (or claws, teeth and beaks) of other animals, or from a hunter’s bullet, or on a free-range, organic smallholding.

    A squirrel just came and sat near me in my garden, which prompted me to write this. When it spotted me, it climbed the fence and ran along the top, away from me. I called it in a friendly way – ‘come on, it’s OK’ in a sing-song voice and made some soft tutting noises. It stopped, turned around and looked at me. It came back towards me and sat on the fence looking at me. I continued making calming noises. It realised that I didn’t pose any danger, and sat there for about a minute, looking at me curiously, before turning around and hopping away. It was such a beautiful creature – really athletic, with a big bushy tail and a cute face.

    When I looked into this beautiful animal’s eyes, I thought ‘do I want to cause this creature harm?’ Definitely not. If I don’t have to shoot and eat squirrels to live, I’d rather not (of course, if society falls over and food distribution chains fall with it, then all bets are off).

    There are lots of pigeons around too. They roost on our roof and at first, their cooing disturbed us, but now we’re used to it, and it’s actually soothing. They seem to survive very well in the city, and we’re happy to live with them. Now, some people shoot and eat pigeons and squirrels. Is that OK, morally speaking?

    I thought about it in a different way. I’d be happy to reintroduce pine martens into England and sparrow hawks into London, for greater ecological diversity, and to keep herbivore numbers in check. But grey squirrels would suffer much more if pine martens were reintroduced than if humans shot them. Pine martens would terrify them, chase them to exhaustion and tear them apart (and eat their babies) – and it wouldn’t necessarily be quick, because pine martens aren’t much bigger than squirrels.

    So I’m not sure that grey squirrels would be overjoyed about the reintroduction of pine martens. However, pine martens can help bring back the red squirrel. Reds have evolved with them, and are much better at escaping them than greys are. So areas with pine martens will slowly get more reds at the expense of greys, who will become meals for pine martens much more often than reds.

    How the reintroduction of pine martens into England could help bring back the native red squirrel.

    As for pigeons – when I was living at Redfield community, I chased a pigeon out of a loft, as I was fixing broken windows, and it would have been trapped, and starved to death; so I spent a long time trying to save its life. I eventually shooed the fluttering bird out of an open window, and immediately a sparrow hawk swooped down and grabbed it, in a mini-explosion of feathers. It flew behind a bush to devour its prey, and I crawled closer to watch. The pigeon was alive for 20 minutes as the hawk held it in its talons, and tore chunks from its body with its beak. The pigeon was obviously in agony – they have a fully-formed central nervous system, after all. Would it have been better for the bird if I’d bashed its brains in rather than guiding it to the window?

    So I guess the question I’m asking is: would it really be worse for squirrels and pigeons for some of them to be shot by humans than for some of them to be predated by pine martens and sparrow hawks? I don’t know if it would (as long as the human is a good shot – and if you’re not a good enough shot to make a clean kill, then you shouldn’t be shooting at anything).

    Which brings me to animals kept on smallholdings – an organic smallholder will have enough conscience to keep animals humanely. In fact, animals on smallholdings live in maximum comfort – outdoor space, fresh food, sex, parenthood, no worries about predators, medical treatment if necessary, shelter from wind, cold and rain. Of course, they’re going to die – but aren’t we all? And aren’t the deaths of animals kept on smallholdings less painful and horrific than the deaths they face in the wild – either torn apart by predators or eventual starvation? Plus they live longer on average. Most wild herbivores die in infanthood. Pine martens would pick off most squirrels when they were younger, weaker, slower and inexperienced at escaping from pine martens.

    [Another example: wild boar – maximum lifespan, c. 12 years; but few live past 5 years. Females reach maturity at 1, average litter size is 5. So a sow with a lifespan of 5 years will have around 20-25 piglets in her lifetime. In a healthy ecosystem, wild boar numbers will remain relatively stable, so of those 20-25 piglets, on average, 2 will reach breeding age (one for each parent). Over 90% of wild boar piglets die before the age of 1. This percentage is even larger for rodents.]

    So, is it morally acceptable to eat squirrels? If you think not, then what about reintroducing pine martens? This would require human action to make it happen. So if we shouldn’t kill squirrels and eat them, should we also not reintroduce pine martens, because pine martens will probably cause even more suffering for squirrels? But then again pine martens were driven out by humans in the first place, so we’d only be righting an ecological wrong. I’m genuinely curious as to what you think. I think I know what I think, but I’m not 100% sure.

    [NB: in the comments section, I worked out exactly what question I’m asking here. It’s this: Herbivores are part of a food chain, in which they are food for other animals. Humans are animals. Could / should we be in this food chain, as long as we participate sustainably and without cruelty? And if not, why not?]


    Dave DarbyAbout the author: Dave Darby lived at Redfield community from 1996 to 2009. Working on development projects in Romania, he realised they saw Western countries as role models, so decided to try to bring about change in the UK instead. He founded Lowimpact.org in 2001, spent 3 years on the board of the Ecological Land Co-op and was a founder of NonCorporate.org. and the Open Credit Network.


    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    86 Comments

    • 1Wendy Haslam November 15th, 2020

      We cannot control the intricate web of life, every time we try we mess it up. Even today, with greater knowledge, our own growing numbers will greatly effect the outcome. All we can do is do as little harm as possible and the greatest good within our power. Maybe each of us will come to a different decision about how to do that but we cannot have every animal on some sort of farm to protect it from predators. We would then have to deny the pedators their instinct to kill and is that cruel? I am myself a vegetarian who eats free range eggs. The farming of hens includes the killing of millions of unwanted cockerels but my health problems make using alternatives difficult. We are all full of quandary and contradiction.

    • 2lin scrannage November 15th, 2020

      Dear Dave
      You will go on forever asking this question…………..at the beginning you ask whether we have the right to dictate to others what we should and shouldn’t do. I don’t think that we have that ”right” at all – the best we can do is stay in our own truth and live with our conscience, abiding by the basic common law of ‘do no harm” The ”others” will probably always be there, but we don’t have to give our energy to trying to change their point of view. Probably best to keep focussing on the positive things that we can do to bring in the change that is so desperately needed right now (and, by the way, I am most definately not trying to change your point of view!! Thanks for all you do x)

    • 3Dave Darby November 15th, 2020

      Wendy
      “We are all full of quandary and contradiction.”
      – we certainly are

      “we cannot have every animal on some sort of farm to protect it from predators”
      – not suggesting that. just suggesting that life and death for animals on an organic smallholding might not be classified as ‘cruel’ compared the suffering they go through in the wild.

      lin
      – amen to all that. it’s the ‘focusing on the positive things’ that’s the issue for me. we include information about vegetarianism, veganism and growing plants, but also keeping animals (but only in certain ways), and we’ve been criticised for that. I’m trying to understand that position more clearly, and am confused by it.

    • 4Mike Eaton November 15th, 2020

      Bottom line I think is our own conscious towards such matters – from my point of view I believe it depends on the situation at the time. As you said about midway through – if society fails in some way then all bets are off when it comes to the consumption of animals as a food stuff. Luckily I’m not over fond of eating meat – it’s the taste – it wasn’t always that way. Back in the 60’s I tried to eat only vegetables, but at the time the place I was at just didn’t cater for such strange ideas so after some two weeks I went back to a mainly meat diet – not much choice. The one thing I do feel heavily about is that whoever wishes to eat meat should be willing and able to kill and process the animal concerned humanely and, most importantly use the entire animal (not just choice cuts – but everything, somehow) thus restricting the use of such ‘meat’ to a minimum

    • 5Jan Wilmot November 15th, 2020

      Agreed Mike and I think a lot of people would eat a lot less meat.

      Dave it think you are perhaps anthropomorphising a bit too much? The squirrel was probably wondering what that strange human was making that noise for ? which brings me on to quality of life and death. Both are I believe important although I’m not sure that animals are as conscious of their situation as humans. That said very few humans have any say in the manner of their death, beyond it probably not being overly physically painful. I would argue that for humans the physiological element makes it a different experience.

    • 6Theresa Munson November 15th, 2020

      It’s a huge conundrum. Both vegan and meat eating sides have valid points but in reality it’s the scale of animal domestication that is the real problem and there are too many humans to live on culled wildlife. However, I wonder how many vegans are 100% intent on what they are putting in their mouths, eg palm oil and soya both the cause of habitat loss in different parts of the world. And do meat eaters ever consider why food is the centre of celebrations such as Christmas or weddings, or even just a Sunday roast? The fact being that meat used to be a rare(ish) luxury and not something that was taken for granted and eaten in quantity for 2-3 meals a day. The whole of the modern world has every aspect of anything to do with food wholly out of proportion, as far as I can see.

    • 7asimong November 16th, 2020

      It’s been good talking this one over with you, Dave. I have no problems with your position. Personally, I’d enjoy it if people (not you) moved away from the theoretical and focused on the question of which ‘battle’ is really worth the struggle, worth their time, attention, energy. And where that energy comes from… I suspect for many people questions involving animal suffering have strong resonances in their own (mainly early) lives. Deal with any personal traumas first — try to withdraw the projections onto animals.

      For me, like you I suspect, the issue of animal suffering is more salient than animal death. But it’s not to do with other animals causing animals to suffer. It’s more like, if you, a human, willingly cause animal suffering, doesn’t that diminish you in some way — doesn’t that deaden your sensitivity to the suffering of others more generally, including humans? OK, so most people are somewhere there, but the next step is to take on board the effects of what you choose to do (e.g. to buy), in terms of animal suffering. And along with that, taking into account the effects of what you do/buy on the environment, the ecosystem, the whole world.

      None of us are perfect, to be sure. We all cause inadvertent damage in various ways. But raising our awareness and making deliberate choices to minimise that damage; to be deliberately restorative, and to play our part in (re)creating a generative/regenerative world — that’s what we can be doing, and what would be good for us and for the common good. And doing things just because others exhort us to do them isn’t deliberate.

    • 8asimong November 16th, 2020

      Oh, and, yes, I hope pine martens are re-introduced to England!

    • 9Dave Darby November 16th, 2020

      Theresa, Jan, Mike

      – yes, our position is against industrial agriculture and for a reduction in the amount of meat consumed. But the question here is for those who believe that humans should not eat animals at all (in this case, squirrels). And the question for them (if they’re happy for pine martens to be reintroduced) is why not, if pine martens will cause more suffering to squirrels as their predators than humans?

      asimong

      “if you, a human, willingly cause animal suffering, doesn’t that diminish you in some way”

      – I’ve tried to boil it down, in conversation with vegans, and this is where it often comes to. Humans eating animals is bad in some way for humans, rather than bad for animal welfare, and we can’t move on (spiritually) until we stop. It’s difficult to provide any evidence for this position, but I’m sympathetic to it. Others continue to insist that their arguments are about animal suffering – even though herbivores are born into a food chain, and almost always die horribly in the wild.

      But you’re specifically talking about causing animal suffering, on which everyone except psychopaths would agree I guess. I’m asking about eating animals at all. My (tentative) position is that keeping free-range animals without taking their young away from them until weaned, or harvesting animals from the wild – and in both cases giving them a quick death – does not increase overall animal suffering, compared to the lives and deaths of animals in the wild. Our partipation in the food chain can reduce animal suffering (as long as we close down industrial agriculture).

    • 10spacesocialism November 16th, 2020

      This is why we need to get to space socialism so we can eat lab grown meat and futuristic vegan burgers that blow your mind. Then we can try to get rid of monocultures we have created farming and allow biodiversity to take hold. This is going to be impossible in the completely debased nature we will inherit from capitalism unless we overthrow it soon. It’s going to be very difficult to rewild with extreme temperature and climate fluctuation.

    • 11Mike Eaton November 16th, 2020

      David – Yes, to a certain extent I agree with you in that the problem in eating meat is up to everybodys individual take on it, but it can be seen that the consumption of meat is generally, bad for people. However as both you and I alluded to this there are times when ‘meat’ may be the only foodstuff available, then the simple survival instinct takes over and all higher thoughts are left on the “cutting room floor”; in all creatures the survival of the individual and their close companions (family) is paramount. It is I presume these times when our resolve must be made to ignore the survival instinct and suffer accordingly – even to the point of death? I will admit it would take a stronger person than I to overcome that problem having been trained to survive as well as the next person if not better. Signs of a wasted life maybe, maybe not.

      With this in mind and wondering aloud why is it that “commercial enterprises” market vegetables as meat representation – i.e. Vegan Bacon? Nut Cutlets (meat shaped items) etc. surely in this day and age many vegans and vegetarians feel offended at this and if so (I’m sure many do) why have they not complained or at least stopped buying such items – that surely would tell the sellers that they are “onto a bad thing”. I would be extremely grateful for any help that can be offered towards understanding this problem, as I’m sure many on here have a better idea why – thank you very much for your help everybody.

    • 12asimong November 16th, 2020

      Dave, I fear that you extracting a quote from me out of context tends to misrepresent. Did you miss that I have no problems with your position? My point is that most people would agree that directly causing animals to suffer is not what they see as right. The question is just how you extend that, through market forces. And yes, I’m agreeing with you that if you take suffering as a metric — a kind of inverse animal utilitarianism — smallholding practices involving meat are pretty innocuous. Yes, I was talking about animal suffering, not eating meat per se. Right with you on closing down industrial agriculture — the animal part is usually barbaric, and the vegetable part depletes the soil and pollutes. Instead of cheap food, give people the resources to grow or buy good food.

    • 13Dave Darby November 16th, 2020

      asimong – yes, I got that you weren’t disagreeing with me. I was just picking up on something – that vegans often start from an animal welfare position, but then when they understand how much animals suffer in the wild (and I’ve had discussions on this blog and in person with vegans who don’t accept that – who think that life in the wild for animals is a sort of paradise, and life on farms involves ‘suffering’) – but when they get it, the argument then turns to the effect that eating animals has on humans. I think this is a really interesting area – and one I don’t have answers for.

    • 14asimong November 16th, 2020

      Dave — yes — I would distinguish between the effect of animal cruelty and the effect of eating meat. I suspect the psychology is often different. I can imagine that it’s not unusual for vegans to develop a “disgust” reaction to eating meat, gradually extending to seeing others eating meat, etc. The emotions I imagine around contemplating animal cruelty are more like sadness, compassion, and anger motivating people to protect animals. Of course, people may have both. Personally, I don’t have a disgust reaction to eating meat; I have a compassion reaction when reflecting on any cruelty that may be involved — incidentally, including calves and cockerels. What’s your experience of talking with vegans? Either or both? Does which affect the way the conversation goes?

    • 15Annie Leymarie November 16th, 2020

      Hi Dave!
      1) We don’t need to eat meat, dairy, eggs, or fish. Many studies have shown that whole food plant-based diets tend to bring major health benefits in countries such as the UK (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/28/healthy-diet-means-a-healthy-planet-study-shows), helping people enjoy longer, heathier lives. Thus replacing animal proteins with plant proteins has consistently been shown to decrease the risk of many chronic diseases and mortality (e.g. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2412, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2768358, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27479196/, etc). Seven times F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, World No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic and many other vegan athletes show that plant-based diets can lead to optimal health levels.

      2) Our consumption of animal-based food is the leading factor behind the increased risks of further pandemics, as confirmed by UNEP, among others (https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32860/ZPKMEN.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y)

      3) Livestock farming is the leading cause of antimicrobial resistance (predicted to kill 10 million people/year by 2050 https://www.fairr.org/article/industry-infected/), with three quarters of antibiotics being administered to farm animals globally (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_use_in_livestock#United_Kingdom). It’s less in the UK but, unlike the EU, the UK has not agreed to ban routine antibiotic use in 2022 and “we are on course to have some of the weakest regulations for farm antibiotic use in Western Europe” (https://www.saveourantibiotics.org/news/news/blog-alarm-bells-from-the-agriculture-bill-will-we-legislate-to-protect-our-antibiotics/)

      4) Wild animals represent 1% (as of 2011, so less now) of the total mass of vertebrate land animals, versus 67% farm animals and 32% humans (https://populationmatters.org/biodiversity). The calculations are by Vaclav Smil who explains: “The aggregate mass of cattle and humans is crushingly larger than the total mass of all wild vertebrates, and it clearly leaves too little space for the multitude of other species. Cows and men occupy much of the available land, consume much of its photosynthetic product, and generate an increasing amount of greenhouse gas. No wonder we are in the midst of mass-scale species extinction, with no readily acceptable and effective relief in sight”. http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/planet-of-the-cows

      5) The lives and lifespans of wild animals are affected by human pressure everywhere. You write that “most herbivores die in infanthood”, without providing any evidence for your claim. Indeed herbivores and other animals are practically always killed as juveniles… when they are farmed – and often when they are hunted. But in the wild, it’s a myth. Listen to 5 experts: “That senescence is rarely, if ever, observed in natural populations is an oft-quoted fallacy. The recent emergence of long-term field studies presents irrefutable evidence that senescence is commonly detected in nature. We found such evidence in 175 different animal species from 340 separate studies, with the bulk of this evidence relating to birds and mammals”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4246505/. One paper contains a table showing the proportion of animals from a given species which have been shown to have reached “old age” (senescence) – e.g. Alpine Sheep 69.5%, African Buffalo 71%, Elk 57.2% (as well as squirrel 9.5% and rabbit 9.7%). (https://joshmitteldorf.scienceblog.com/2016/05/16/no-animal-dies-of-old-age-in-the-wild/). It helps to be a big animal to live long, though you are then even more a target for humans – and what is undeniable is that wild herbivores are almost everywhere in competition with livestock for all resources. So you write that farm animals “live longer on average” – but that’s clearly not shown to be true (https://www.four-paws.org.uk/campaigns-topics/topics/farm-animals/age-of-farm-animals).

      6) You also write that “90% of wild boar piglets die before the age of 1” – providing, as evidence, a link to a text… which says nothing of the sort! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_boar#Social_behaviour_and_life_cycle). Was that a mistake? What it does stress is how much wild boars, like all other wild animals, are under pressure from humans: E.g.: “Giant boars are rare in modern times, due to past overhunting preventing animals from attaining their full growth. In recent centuries, the range of wild boar has changed dramatically, largely due to hunting by humans. Boar hunting has taken place for millennia”, etc.

      7) Since you feel the killing of farm animals compares favorably with death by natural causes, might you not advocate for the “culling” of vulnerable humans, likely to face much suffering through chronic diseases and viruses, for instance? As of 2014 (most recent figures, probably worse now as life expectancy is falling), 45% of UK citizens of pension age had a disability. Since this usually involves plenty of suffering, shall we propose a “humane” cull? Similarly, if you have a cat or dog, I hope you have considered killing him/her (humanely, of course) to provide for your biweekly meat dish, thus sparing the poor animal the suffering that comes with ageing and potential accidents.

      8) Ethical considerations for dietary choices include far more than just the immediate suffering of wild versus farm animals. The two biggest threats to humanity and all life on Earth are climate chaos and biodiversity losses. The consumption of animal-based food is often the single most crucial individual action affecting the climate (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth. As for biodiversity, it is well evidenced that “Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss”, with hunting also playing a big part (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969715303697. Livestock farming also plays a major role in air pollution (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/17/farming-is-single-biggest-cause-of-worst-air-pollution-in-europe) and water pollution https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2017-08-21/farming-pollution-fish-uk. Our food choices also have a huge impact on social justice, and much else. For a decent debate on livestock farming, we need to consider, at the very least, methane and nitrous oxide emissions as well as land use or “carbon opportunity costs”: i.e. what else could be done with the land to address the climate and biodiversity crisis (rewild/reforest: https://www.inverse.com/science/changing-our-diet-in-these-key-ways-could-fundamentally-alter-climate-change).

      9) You ask if some of us “have the right to dictate to others that they shouldn’t eat meat”. But who is dictating what? Have you, or anyone else, been stopped from eating meat, or has any obstacle been put in your way? So what are you referring to? In contrast, I haven’t eaten any animal-based food in nearly 37 years but my taxes are paying for a large chunk of livestock farms in the UK: practically the entire livestock sector in Wales is propped up by public money (Figure 1B in https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/statistics-and-research/2019-12/farm-incomes-april-2018-march-2019-209.pdf). The UK government recently funded 50% of a £1m publicity campaign to boost sagging dairy sales (https://ahdb.org.uk/farmer-support-milk-your-moments) and the European Commission is funding 80% of a €4.5m campaign to boost beef sales (https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/11/04/Become-a-Beefatarian-Commission-backs-campaign-promoting-balanced-diet-without-deficiencies), despite all the negative impacts on human health, planetary health and the economy (only looking at air pollution and nothing else, the societal cost of livestock farming in the US is far greater than any financial benefits https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2020/12/30/animal-agriculture-costs-more-in-health-damage-than-it-contributes-to-the-economy). Presumably you use the same arguments of “personal freedom” to seek to reverse actions taken to safeguard public health by regulating tobacco use? Overall, meat consumption has far greater impacts, on both human and planetary health, than tobacco use has.

      10) As with tobacco, the biggest problem around the meat topic, in my view, is the scale of disinformation being peddled by a very powerful industry. George Monbiot was recently tweeting about “the tremendous cultural power that farmers wield. This cultural power seems to be even greater than the economic power of many corporate sectors” https://twitter.com/GeorgeMonbiot/status/1310494778694475781. I am currently reading the popular ‘Sacred Cow’ book (companion to the film): it is packed with half-truths, distortions, crucial omissions and outright lies that get spread all over social media…

      11) I rarely call myself a vegan, except for expediency, because I don’t stick to a fixed position. Yes, I could kill and eat a pigeon or a squirrel, given the right circumstances. But 7.7 billion of us would wipe out all wild animals within a few days if we all went hunting for our food supply. And yes, eating meat in small quantities might be fine in some respects but it’s absolutely not necessary: eating lower on the food chain will always be better for the planet, overall, and there is a huge rebalancing act to be done – in terms of psychology, if nothing else. Yesterday, leaked recordings were published showing the high level of criminality linked to hunting in the UK – involving someone sitting in the House of Lords and several ex senior police officers (https://www.huntsabs.org.uk/mass-criminality-in-hunting-community-revealed-through-leaked-webinars/#).

      12) You’ve painted a very rosy picture of farm animals’ lives in smallholdings. The reality is mostly very different. This response is getting too long to list evidence, so I’ll stick to just one tweet seen today, posted by very nice French smallholders, about the inevitable need to castrate male pigs, and how best to reduce their pain, since it’s not financially viable nor practical to adopt the measures taken for a pet in a vet’s surgery (so basically there’s no way of doing without great pain – just as docking tails in pigs and sheep, and all the other various forms of torture we inflicts on dairy cows and most other ‘livestock’ (https://twitter.com/kereonnec/status/1326954060633796608). We are mostly in denial about such practices, but social media are allowing videos to show the true realities.

      13) I’ll let Damian Carrington take over with more arguments: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/19/why-you-should-go-animal-free-arguments-in-favour-of-meat-eating-debunked-plant-based

      14) I will just add a final quote: “Eating meat, it seems, is a socially acceptable form of science denial”. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/16/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-food-animals and an article, published today: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/16/opinion/coronavirus-minks-wildlife-environment.html.

      Oh and yes, more pine martens, please, and lynx, and wolves and bears – though livestock farmers (thus also, if indirectly, meat eaters) will ferociously fight against the latter reintroductions…

    • 16Dave Darby November 16th, 2020

      Annie
      I’ll come back to this, because I’m just going into a zoom meeting.
      None of your numbered points answers the question I’m asking here, apart from point 11. So you’re just as happy for humans to eat squirrels – as long as not too many of us do it – as pine martens? And I guess you’re not making an exception for grey squirrels. So it’s ok for humans to kill and eat animals, as long as they do it sustainably, and not too many of us do it regularly, so that it doesn’t affect wild populations. Is that fair?

    • 17Dave Darby November 16th, 2020

      Annie

      1. not asking whether we NEED to do something. We don’t need to drive cars, or fly, or eat bananas either, but we do. Most of the world eats meat, whether they need to or not. In fact, most of the things that humans do – including participating in this online discussion – we don’t need to do.

      2. – 4. yes, we’re advocating a reduction in meat-eating.

      5. You’re talking as though wild animals die in their beds. Their deaths will be perhaps even more gruesome if they live until old age – maybe starvation because of loss of teeth etc. The idea that more than a tiny percentage of predators live until old age is absurd – how will they catch their prey? I can see herbivores living longer if their predators are removed (as is the case with squirrels), but their deaths won’t be pretty, or quick.

      6. “You also write that “90% of wild boar piglets die before the age of 1” – providing, as evidence, a link to a text… which says nothing of the sort!” – it certainly does – as I mention in the text. There is no population boom in wild boar in a balanced ecosystem / a 5-year old sow will have had on average, 5 piglets per year / only 2 (on average) will make it to adulthood (or there will be a population boom) / 2/25 = 8% will make it to adulthood / So 92% won’t.

      7. comparison with humans is invalid, because humans don’t get torn apart by predators ‘in the wild’, so farming / culling them doesn’t represent an improvement in their circumstances.

      8-10. again, this is about the scale of meat-eating. we advocate reducing it.
      Plus I was asking whether you would support legislation to ban the eating of meat.

      11. see 1. Plus not supporting anything illegal, so agreed.

      12. any form of cruely I would definitely oppose. I lived on a smallholding where we kept sheep and chickens. No cruelty. They lived lives free from pain, from predators, always with food and water, with medical treatment and shelter from bad weather – none of which they are guaranteed in the wild. It can be done without cruelty. I’d oppose any other kind.

      13. would agree with a lot of that, but don’t have time to go through it all. plus it’s not focusing on the question I’m asking here.

      14. I think this is, again, about scale, and we’re advocating a reduction in meat-eating.

    • 18Dave Darby November 16th, 2020

      But none of the above relates to the question I’m asking in the article. Another way of putting this question is:

      Herbivores are part of a food chain, in which they are food for other animals. Humans are animals. Could / should we be in this food chain, as long as we participate sustainably and without cruelty? And if not, why not?

    • 19annieleymarie November 16th, 2020

      Dave, I’m re-posting your answers, with my own responses below:

      1.“not asking whether we NEED to do something. We don’t need to drive cars, or fly, or eat bananas either, but we do. Most of the world eats meat, whether they need to or not. In fact, most of the things that humans do – including participating in this online discussion – we don’t need to do”.

      Isn’t it important to show, on a website dedicated to shrinking people’s impact, which actions are both very high impact and totally unecessary, in fact harmful to our own wellbeing?

      2. – 4. yes, we’re advocating a reduction in meat-eating.

      Why only a reduction?

      5. You’re talking as though wild animals die in their beds. Their deaths will be perhaps even more gruesome if they live until old age – maybe starvation because of loss of teeth etc. The idea that more than a tiny percentage of predators live until old age is absurd – how will they catch their prey? I can see herbivores living longer if their predators are removed (as is the case with squirrels), but their deaths won’t be pretty, or quick.

      That’s your opinion, not mine. And you had written before about herbivores (“most dying in infanthood”) but are now responding about predators. In any case, give me, any day, the life of a wild boar over that of a farmed pig. Watch for instance the video of this female wild sow, healing herself from a very bad injury: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JONz5Ask2YQ&feature=emb_logo. The boar lives in an area with has wolves and bears. By the way, I’m very familiar with wild boars and took part in many wild boar hunts during the four years I lived in Algeria. I had fallen in love with a guy who hunted and went along to the hunts, for a few years, refusing to shoot and staying with the dogs. I totally hated the experience of harming and killing but loved being in the wild and seeing the boars (as well as wolves, occasionally) so close. Boars are wonderful! No doubt I am now atoning for past actions!

      6. “You also write that “90% of wild boar piglets die before the age of 1” – providing, as evidence, a link to a text… which says nothing of the sort!” – it certainly does – as I mention in the text. There is no population boom in wild boar in a balanced ecosystem / a 5-year old sow will have had on average, 5 piglets per year / only 2 (on average) will make it to adulthood (or there will be a population boom) / 2/25 = 8% will make it to adulthood / So 92% won’t.

      I still fail to see in the text you cited anything like what what you write. Please show me the exact extract! What I read is this: “The average litter consists of 4–6 piglets, with the maximum being 10–12. The piglets are whelped in a nest constructed from twigs, grasses and leaves. Should the mother die prematurely, the piglets are adopted by the other sows in the sounder”. Nothing, that I can see, about 92% of them getting killed or dying from other causes. You also haven’t acknowledged the two papers I cited with their evidence about senescence in wild animals, which refutes your thesis!

      7. comparison with humans is invalid, because humans don’t get torn apart by predators ‘in the wild’, so farming / culling them doesn’t represent an improvement in their circumstances.

      We do have predators who tear us apart, SARS-CoV-2 is one! https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02017/full And in some debates on Covid-19, it has been pretty clearly suggested to “cull” some older, more vulnerable humans in order to help the rest – even if any such brutal terminology was avoided. If you had ever lived in Malaria countries, as I have, you’d know that our predators might be as small as a mosquito or much smaller still, and nonetheless be capable of inflicting terrible suffering and painful deaths.

      8-10. again, this is about the scale of meat-eating. we advocate reducing it.
      Plus I was asking whether you would support legislation to ban the eating of meat.

      You asked whether I would support legislation to ban the eating of meat? Where? Please show me where you did this! This is becoming rather frustrating: I’ve again carefully re-read your post and what I see are these three questions: A) “I guess the question I’m asking is: would it really be worse for squirrels and pigeons for some of them to be shot by humans than for some of them to be predated by pine martens and sparrow hawks?” and B) “So, is it morally acceptable to eat squirrels? If you think not, then what about reintroducing pine martens?” and C) “Herbivores are part of a food chain, in which they are food for other animals. Humans are animals. Could / should we be in this food chain, as long as we participate sustainably and without cruelty? And if not, why not?” – Nothing about banning meat.

      My answers: A) Yes, unless a clear need for the shooting is established. B) Not in my book, unless a clear need for it is established. It’s extremely desirable to reintroduce pine martens. For the sake of all life on Earth, we urgently need to recover richer biodiversity. I’d love to see lynx, wolves and bears back in the UK (and many others. Delighted by the return of the beavers and various eagles). C) I find it impossible to answer this: firstly, humans are part of the food chain, whether we like it or not. It’s not a choice! The points I’ve made, backed by evidence, is that it’s best for both our own health and the health of everything else for us to eat lowest on the food chain, i.e. plants, at least in countries like the UK. Secondly, expressions like “sustainably” and “without cruelty” are misleading, or at least very ambiguous. I believe taking another sentient being’s life when there is no need for it is cruel – that’s why I can’t kill your dog or your nephew, even if I want to. And I’ve provided evidence about the lack of sustainability of our meat-eating habits. Here’s climate expert Chris Goodall: “Moving towards a diet dominated by plants is a vital part of the fight against the climate crisis. We’ll probably never get a stable climate until meat has almost disappeared”. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/a-nine-point-plan-for-the-uk-to-achieve-net-zero-carbon-emissions I could quote many others (and already have).

      11. see 1. Plus not supporting anything illegal, so agreed.

      12. any form of cruely I would definitely oppose. I lived on a smallholding where we kept sheep and chickens. No cruelty. They lived lives free from pain, from predators, always with food and water, with medical treatment and shelter from bad weather – none of which they are guaranteed in the wild. It can be done without cruelty. I’d oppose any other kind.

      Our views on cruelty differ. I consider it cruel to have engineered birds, who would normally lay nor more than about a dozen eggs a year, to lay hundreds a year. It’s a huge toll on their bodies. I consider it cruel not to allow them to fly, as they would do in the wild. I consider it cruel to then take their eggs away daily for ourselves and to usually keep the hens without a cockerel, not to allow them full freedom, etc. I consider it cruel to enclose sheep and to kill them in their youth. Presumably you would not do that to your cat or dog. Why do it to a sheep, when you don’t have to? When I lived in Totnes and was active in the Transition Town movement, I decided to take part in an animal husbandry educational project, with best practices taught by an organic smallholder. I volunteered to help with the sheep. I was offered a choice between castrating lambs or docking their tails (so cutting off their testicles/their tail with a knife, or placing a tight rubber band so that they would eventually drop off. (I declined). There are plenty of other standard practices I consider cruel.

      13. would agree with a lot of that, but don’t have time to go through it all. plus it’s not focusing on the question I’m asking here.

      14. I think this is, again, about scale, and we’re advocating a reduction in meat-eating.

      Undoubtedly a little meat is better than much meat, for both human and planetary health, but at least for the latter, none is much better still. So why insist on any when you are an educational organisation, trying to shift trends for the better? What is the justification: Traditions? (They evolve) Taste? (This too evolves, very quickly in fact) Economy? (You know things must change). Anything else? Why not call yourselves Low Impactish.org?

    • 20Dave Darby November 17th, 2020

      Annie
      You’ve done this many times, so I guess I should have expected it. Answering all those points would take all day, so I can’t do it I’m afraid (although many of them have been tackled before, and we can tackle them again). The article is about one question, which I’ve now summarised at the end:

      “Herbivores are part of a food chain, in which they are food for other animals. Humans are animals. Could / should we be in this food chain, as long as we participate sustainably and without cruelty? And if not, why not?”

      Your response to this question was:

      “I find it impossible to answer this: firstly, humans are part of the food chain, whether we like it or not. It’s not a choice! The points I’ve made, backed by evidence, is that it’s best for both our own health and the health of everything else for us to eat lowest on the food chain, i.e. plants, at least in countries like the UK. Secondly, expressions like “sustainably” and “without cruelty” are misleading, or at least very ambiguous. I believe taking another sentient being’s life when there is no need for it is cruel – that’s why I can’t kill your dog or your nephew, even if I want to. And I’ve provided evidence about the lack of sustainability of our meat-eating habits.”

      – Not ‘the food chain’, but this specific food chain, which involves herbivores being eaten. You don’t believe that we should be in a food chain that involves our eating herbivores. But why? Why would you be happy for them to be eaten by any other species than humans? (whether we ‘need’ to or not is irrelevant to the animal being eaten).

      – I guess if we disagree on the definition of cruel or sustainable, it’s going to be very difficutlt for us to discuss this. but…

      – Yes, I agree that our current meat-eating habits are unsustainable, as I’ve said every time you post links. I’m only talking about a reduced level of meat-eating that is sustainable – so that would mean keeping animals at levels that don’t exceed the impact of the wild animals that used to inhabit the land before it was turned over to agriculture, plus the harvesting of wild fish, mammal and bird species that are not threatened.

      – “I believe taking another sentient being’s life when there is no need for it is cruel” – I hear you but I disagree. If we don’t take the life of farm animals, then those farm animals won’t be bred, so they won’t exist any more (apart from a tiny percentage as pets); and not taking the life of wild herbivores means that they will be predated by another species or die much more slowly in old age. (I hear you about my nephew though – he can be a pain in the arse sometimes).

      [So, for example, if you’d been with me, watching the sparrow hawk eat a live pigeon for half an hour before it died, would your attitude have been ‘isn’t nature wonderful’, but if I’d have killed and eaten the same pigeon, it would have been wrong / cruel?]

      OK, two more things I will say:

      I’ve just read ‘Small Farm Future’ by Chris Smaje. It reinforced my belief that the future of agriculture should be based on organic smallholdings – for political reasons, not just because of sustainability. To prevent them from raising animals and selling meat would make that impossible, imo. We have to dismantle industrial agriculture, and we’re not going to do that by putting hurdles in the way of smallholders. [plus I know that I didn’t use those words, but I want to know if you’d ban the killing and eating of animals if you have the power. In other words, do you believe that people should have the right to decide whether to eat meat or not?]

      Let’s just nail this thing about wild boars, and what percentage of them reach adulthood. Tell me at which point you have a problem:

      1. “The average litter consists of 4–6 piglets.” So let’s say 5. OK?
      2. “The maximum lifespan in the wild is 10–14 years, though few specimens survive past 4–5 years” (what do you think happens to most of them, btw?)
      3. So let’s say an average sow, if she reaches breeding age, lives 5 years. Actually, I’ve just realised that I made a mistake – she can’t breed in the first year, so that’s 4 breeding years – that’s 20 piglets.
      4. Now all those 20 piglets can’t reach breeding age, or there would be a population explosion (from a breeding couple, after 2 generations there would be 20×20 = 400 piglets, and that doesn’t happen)
      5. For a stable population, only 2 will live to breed. Still OK (it’s just maths)?
      6. So 2/20 = 1/10 = 10%
      7. Only around 10% of wild boars live to breeding age. 90% of them die in infanthood.
      8. As rodents have bigger broods than wild boars, the percentage is higher in rodents.

      So not lowimpact-ish, because harvesting (say) grey squirrels from the wild, or fishing with a rod, or grazing sheep under orchard trees, or keeping free-range chickens on smallholdings is a more sustainable way to get nutrition than from beans grown in a field that used to be a forest (and, of course, definitely than from plant-based foods grown on the other side of the world, on land that used to be tropical rainforest).

    • 21Mike Eaton November 17th, 2020

      Following on from the meanderings above may I throw a couple of curved balls into the equation?

      So if we must eat those on the “food chain” then eating anything from that food chain that causes pain is surely wrong by Annies Definition – but it has been proved that plants feel pain in various experiments so by deffinition is this not cruel – are vegans just as cruel as the rest of us? The main difference to me seems that some have to work for their supper whilst others are just so lazy they grabbed the foodstuff tat cannot run away!

      Secondly it would appear that to get nice strong well grown vegetables they need to be fed frequently, most of this is done by using fertilisers (we won’t go into the use of chemicals as feriliser) such as manure. However and considering that catching fish is painful to them it would appear that fish fertiliser is considered some of the best plant food going – so quality fish wo suffer pain are caught, mangled and fed to your plants!

      In the above cases who is the worst abuser of animal rights? The hunter/gatherer who chases and catches animals causing them pain to use as food or those who grow captive plants that cannot get away, feed them with the remains of animals caught especially to feed those plants – two cruel deaths rather than one in fact for the same ending. So who pray is wrong – for me I wouldn’t accuse either as the death of another to maintain life in your species and family/tribe? But it would appear there are those who would – why?

    • 22asimong November 17th, 2020

      I’m curious about people’s motives in this conversation. I imagine we all agree that there is little point simply rehearsing one’s position, given that the other parties are not likely to change theirs simply by reading yours. My interest, if any, here, is to hear and to understand the position of people whose views differ from mine; and (if they wish) to lay out my own views in such a way as my views can best be understood by others. It is no surprise to me that serial comment posts do not easily achieve what I would like to see — it would need a lot of work and good will — though it’s not impossible. I’ve seen some courteous and respectful “letter” exchanges which do seem to get somewhere. Let me restate that I’ve seen a lot of this kind of ‘discussion’ or ‘debate’ (not conversation) right up close so I’m attuned to the sensibilities on both sides.

      My question is then, what attitudes would we need to bring to make this into a fruitful conversation — either here, or if that is not possible, then which other kind of communication would work? Private video call with a lot of reflective listening? Mediated video call? Fishbowl even?

      Thanks for any leads here.

    • 23Mike Eaton November 17th, 2020

      Interesting thought but to my mind so far mainly one sided, we have a collection of people with different views on the consumption of meat which of course includes the seen cruelty to the various animals involved and how they are dealt with to produce that food. Sadly we only have those from the basically meat free side of the equation – OK some do eat a small amount of meat – but as yet we do not have the dyed in the wool pure meat eaters who would wish to see (and often do) some 90% or more of their plates containing nothing but meat (shudder), may be a few chips on the side of the plate as an after thought. Before we can truly get this kind of thing into a “fruitful conversation” we need to get the “bears” out of the woods and sat down at the table with us – that I fear will be a long time coming, but it is possible!

      Take Dave’s unique way of introducing into this forum the simple way of discussing a couple of small fairly easily available animals (they still need skill to take) only has made this into an easily understandable forum – we now need to build on this even more – this brings forward the old saying “softly softly catchee monkee” (not to be taken seriously but it explains the problem) – the one thing we must not do is attempt to rush the job, that will simply scare the bears away, so to my mind changing what we are doing is sometime in future. I hope this may help asimong, posibly not but it is the way I see the problem at the moment.

    • 24Dave Darby November 17th, 2020

      I’ll try to state my motives. There are two that I’ll try to put into simple terms (because they’re both enormous, and maybe insoluble issues that would need much bigger discussion to do them justice).

      1. I’ve always had a gnawing feeling that killing animals does humans harm – spiritually? I don’t know. It’s a feeling I get when I come into close contact with animals – like the squirrel in my garden. I wouldn’t want to harm such a beautiful creature. And yet – I know that squirrels will kill baby birds, and I’d like to see pine martens reintroduced. As would many vegans. And I also know that pine martens would bring torment to the squirrel population. Nature is extremely cruel, but it’s only the animal suffering caused by humans that concerns vegans – which, if the reason is animal welfare, makes no sense to me. Of course I’d like to see the back of industrial farming, but after that, any ‘suffering’ that animals receive at the hands of humans (humane smallholdings and quick-kill hunting) pales into insignificance compared to the horrors dished out to animals in the wild. So I’m stuck – I can’t provide any evidence that killing animals harms humans, and there’s general slaughter all around us in the wild. I’ve had conversations on here about the removal of predators of mammals from the wild, and herbivore numbers kept in check by hunting (a bullet in the brain being less cruel than being chased and torn apart, often slowly). Humans can eat wild meat instead of farmed meat – it would mean herds of bison back on the prairies instead of cattle, and culling the enormous herds of wildebeeste, zebra etc. in Africa. It would mean more wilderness, less farmland and less overall suffering. The culled meat can be fed to the predators in safari parks. Many vegans condemn this line of thinking, because it means humans ‘meddling with nature’, as if that’s not what we’ve been doing for the last 10,000 years. But if vegans are content with the suffering of wild animals, their concern for the welfare of hunted animals or animals kept hmanely on smallholdings doesn’t ring true to me. It’s the damage it does to humans (possibly) that concerns me. I’m hoping to have enlightening conversations about this, or that someone might say something that makes a penny drop for me.

      2. We’ll never have a sustainable human society as long as we have an economy that has to grow perpetually. This system can’t be overthrown imo, as the military is too strong. And it can’t be voted away because states have been bought. All we can do is to build a new kind of economy from the grassroots. My work is in the mutual credit field, and I feel that a replacement for the current financial system is essential, or nothing else we do will work. Around this ‘new money’ core can be built a new economy of small-scale, community-based institutions, from housing co-ops and community energy to community-supported agriculture and community land trusts – plus all the other initiatives in the economy section (see home page). Part of this transition will be the replacement of industrial agriculture with small farms. The ELC are doing a splendid job, but currently, subsidies only go to farms over 5 hectares, putting the small farm sector at a massive disadvantage. As the vast majority of people in the world eat meat, if Lowimpact comes out against meat-eating altogether, it cuts off a huge source of income for organic smallholders especially, who will lose the animal manures for the soil, plus the income from meat, dairy, eggs, honey, hides, etc.
      That’s about as succinctly as I can state this position, but it’s a huge subject, that would require a book to fully explore. I’d recommend Chris Smaje’s recently published ‘Small Farm Future’ for a start.
      I’d like to engage vegans about this. We encourage veganism, because meat consumption is way too high – but I don’t believe that the case has been made that banning the keeping of animals or the eating of meat would lead to a better society / economy. It would put huge barriers in the way of organic smallholders, and disadvantage them in trying to wrest agriculture away from its current industrial / GMO / corporate manifestation. Again, I’m open to being convinced, but no-one has come close yet.

      I have to say though, that my experience with debating vegans here is that the majority are courteous and respectful (only one has ever been insulting, as I recall, and it was a long time ago, and they haven’t come back, thankfully) and I try to be the same. Airing differences doesn’t have to mean hostility. I think that vegans are on the whole intelligent, compassionate and honest, and usually it’s the only thing we disagree about.

    • 25darkhorse November 17th, 2020

      Hi Dave, I too am perplexed by the issues around humans killing animals, so here’s my twopennorth. Traditional hunter gatherer people have a worldview in which they see themselves as part of what we call nature. They eat animals and sometimes animals eat them. There’s no separation of humans from the world of plants, animals and spirits. When they kill animals they offer thanks to it’s spirit for feeding them and they use the whole animal: meat, organs, fur, teeth and so on. All life on this planet evolved to eat other life (whether animal or plant) and humans are part of that cycle. I eat meat in similar vein to you: organic, not often etc. I don’t have an issue with animals dying, I have an issue with animals suffering for human gain. It’s the soul deadening effect on human workers in industrial farming units and slaughterhouses that allows us to treat animals as units of production which is part of the evil of such a system. We’ve lost the connection between a piece of bloodless plastic wrapped meat and the creature that died to provide it. I’ve killed animals to eat: it’s a powerful thing to take a life, to see breath cease, to feel an animating energy leave a body. It must be taken seriously, done with respect and fear. Otherwise it is a sin.

    • 26annieleymarie November 17th, 2020

      Dave, again, quoting you and replying below

      “Answering all those points would take all day”
      I was answering your points. You had asked for vegan arguments and wanted a debate!

      “The article is about one question”

      You posted three different questions (and I responded), then more recently added one.

      “You don’t believe that we should be in a food chain that involves our eating herbivores. But why?”

      I have already responded! Because “We’ll probably never get a stable climate until meat has almost disappeared” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/a-nine-point-plan-for-the-uk-to-achieve-net-zero-carbon-emissions). Because the UN was already urging “a global move to meat and dairy-free diets” 10 years ago (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet) and is of course still advising this (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/15/reduce-meat-consumption-save-plant-animal-world-un-warns/ and https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/improved-climate-action-food-systems-can-deliver-20-percent-global). Because “vegan diets could remove 16 years of human fossil fuel CO2 emissions” (https://sustainabilitycommunity.springernature.com/posts/mapping-where-animal-agriculture-competes-with-carbon-dioxide-removal). Because “The choice between restricting meat consumption and running the risk of more frequent pandemics and climate change catastrophes should not be a tough one”. (https://newrepublic.com/article/158700/inconvenient-lesson-pandemic-stop-eating-meat). Because “the evidence is crystal clear that consuming less meat and more plants is very good for both our health and the planet” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/19/why-you-should-go-animal-free-arguments-in-favour-of-meat-eating-debunked-plant-based). I could go on and on, but do you consider evidence?

      “– I guess if we disagree on the definition of cruel or sustainable, it’s going to be very difficutlt for us to discuss this”.

      You wrote: “I think there’s a philosophical discussion to be had around the suffering of animals”. I engaged with that.

      “I’m only talking about a reduced level of meat-eating that is sustainable – so that would mean keeping animals at levels that don’t exceed the impact of the wild animals that used to inhabit the land before it was turned over to agriculture, plus the harvesting of wild fish, mammal and bird species that are not threatened”.

      Every single industry, including coal and oil, state that they can operate “at sustainable levels”. Never mind what happened in the past, we’re facing urgent existential threats and the situation couldn’t be clearer: the less animal food we eat, the more and the faster we can help humanity and the planet heal, by using fewer resources.

      “If we don’t take the life of farm animals, then those farm animals won’t be bred, so they won’t exist any more (apart from a tiny percentage as pets); and not taking the life of wild herbivores means that they will be predated by another species or die much more slowly in old age”.

      These are the daftest arguments I ever get to read. You yourself have stopped consuming milk because you disapprove of what it involves, it seems. I would be extremely happy to never ever see again the grotesque shapes of a modern dairy cow, limping with aches in her overworked body, with her protruding back bones and gigantic udders, likely suffering from mastitis and so much else. Similarly with the shapes of human-engineered fast growing chicken and hens who can’t stand on their legs and have atrophied wings, and limping sheep full of maggots on their dirty woolly bums with docked tails, etc. These very few human-engineered farm breeds, that have displaced an infinitely wider diversity of wild breeds, taking away their habitats and food resources, currently have an annual population growth rate of 2.8% (versus 1.05% for human population) and thus “keep augmenting their already crushing dominance on Earth” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/planet-of-the-cows).

      And have you not heard of sanctuaries? They are mostly excellent and we could clearly create more. We can also of course keep domestic animals to graze our orchards, for instance, without killing them. We could thus leave their carcasses to be eaten by other animals or bury them to enrich the soil (we can’t do that if they’re in the food chain). Keeping an animal through its full life rather than forever replacing juveniles with other young ones is far more sustainable, requiring less feed, creating less waste, producing less greenhouse gases. And we can choose non-ruminants, such as donkeys, to avoid the methane emissions.

      As to “dying slowly in old age”, I don’t see any problem with that. Nothing wrong, in my book with Alagba the tortoise dying after a short illness at 344 years of age (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-49934583). A study of senescence in turtles explains that it’s human interference that stops them dying of old age (https://www.pnas.org/content/113/23/6502). But you always insist on your unproven “always red in tooth and claw” version of things. Thus:

      “if you’d been with me, watching the sparrow hawk eat a live pigeon for half an hour before it died, would your attitude have been ‘isn’t nature wonderful?’”

      Ask your nephew: take him to watch a hawk kill a pigeon, then take him inside a slaughterhouse (though you won’t be allowed) and ask him which was more stressful. Nature films such as Attenborough’s, which show plenty of kills by predators, are widely watched by families the world over. In contrast, TVs are not allowed to show what happens in abattoirs – those “meat plants” where tens of dozens of workers caught covid-19, with hundreds of them dying of it, because the conditions are so stressful and atrocious – and that’s the human workers, so just imagine the animal victims.

      “I’ve just read ‘Small Farm Future’ by Chris Smaje. It reinforced my belief that the future of agriculture should be based on organic smallholdings. To prevent them from raising animals and selling meat would make that impossible, imo.”

      I’ve got Chris’s book and will read it as soon as I’ve finished “Rebirding” by Benedict Macdonald. Pages 178-183, he describes the ludicrous situation of dairy farmers in the South West, who are stressed out and financially bankrupt, despite huge public money inputs (such as £10,000 per farm https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/markets-and-trends/dairy-markets/dairy-farms-to-get-up-to-10000-to-offset-coronavirus-cost given by the government, on top of much else), selling a product that is unhealthy for most people and making rewilding impossible. Then he describes the Somerset Levels in 2060, once most farmers have been paid to quit and the land has rewilded, with an abundance of wildlife, including reintroduced beavers and pelicans, and rich mosaic landscapes. But my own dream goes even further than his, as I would imagine large predators reintroduced. Benedict Macdonald is too afraid of livestock farmers to dare mention that…

      Two weeks ago I went to visit Tolly’s farm in Oxfordshire (www.tolhurstorganics.co.uk). This, to me, is agricultural paradise – despite the obvious hard work that goes into horticulture. Tolly started on very poor stony soil; he hasn’t used any manure or any other external animal input, nor synthetic fertilisers nor any other chemical of any sort in over three decades – yet he gets excellent yields, manages to be carbon negative most years (http://farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/case_study_-_tolhurst_organics_v3.pdf) and has amazing biodiversity throughout the farm. All this with zero subsidies, unlike livestock farmers. The contrast with the neighbouring hills, overgrazed by livestock from other farms and looking so barren, is striking. The farm is clearly highly appreciated by the community (it has a 24 hour self-service shop with an honesty box for payment and on the day I was there, it saw a constant stream of customers). Tolly’s techniques could be adopted by arable farmers too and prove that there is no need for livestock – which Tolly feel would actually be a burden.

      There is a webinar this Friday on stockfree organic agriculture and Tolly is one of the speakers: https://www.facebook.com/events/1826866530821423. I suggest anyone seriously interested in this discussion could watch this.

      “I want to know if you’d ban the killing and eating of animals if you have the power. In other words, do you believe that people should have the right to decide whether to eat meat or not?”

      The killing and eating of animals is already banned, in various circumstances, if only because humans are also animals. In the UK I can (“humanely”!) kill and eat my dog, but I cannot sell dog meat. (Why?) In the US I can’t legally eat dog meat. When I arrived in the UK in the 1960s, I was shocked to see people here objecting to horse meat (very common in France) since it’s likely a horse would have had a longer and happier life than a cow or pig and people said they cared about animal welfare… Recently, a young man was arrested for eating a squirrel (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6869871/Sickening-moment-protester-stuns-onlookers-eating-raw-SQUIRREL-vegan-market-London.html) and the hypocrisy of the outrage expressed by some is quite amazing, since the squirrel is likely to have had a decent life, with no big impact on the planet, unlike the methane-emitting, land-greedy antibiotic-laden cow that turns into a hamburger.

      But no, I wouldn’t ban – though out of context it’s not a very useful theoretical exercise. I would not ban but I would regulate. I would stop perverse subsidies and replace them with subsidies for farmers to shift to producing healthier food with lower impacts, to rewild/reforest the land – or to move to other occupations. I would treat agricultural emissions as they are treated in other industries: with obligation to report, taxes and ceilings. Thus cheap diesel for farmers, etc. would go. I would have environmental impacts labelled on food. I would make plant-based options the default in public services (government offices, schools, hospitals, etc). I would do the sort of things that were finally done to regulate the equally very powerful tobacco industry, starting with fighting the vastly prevailing disinformation and providing accurate information, including to medical practitioners (who mostly have no training in nutrition).

      “Let’s just nail this thing about wild boars”

      I’m not interested in this discussion because I don’t believe we have reliable data about what truly happens to wild boars outside of any human pressure. Boars are hunted by humans everywhere – and if not hunted, certainly affected by human impacts (and, admittedly, in many countries they’ve also lost many of their non-human predators). So we just don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate.

      “Harvesting (say) grey squirrels from the wild, or fishing with a rod, or grazing sheep under orchard trees, or keeping free-range chickens on smallholdings is a more sustainable way to get nutrition than from beans grown in a field that used to be a forest”

      If we shifted to vegan diets in the UK, we could become self-sufficient in food (rather than import over 50% of our food, as well as feed for livestock, as is currently the case), whilst creating huge reforested areas – capable of sequestering 9 to 12 years of national greenhouse emissions at current rates, as well as vastly boosting biodiversity. 55% of arable fields are used to grow feed for livestock (and, on top of that, most of the soya imported is as feed for livestock; it’s always genetically modified and comes from newly deforested Amazonian land, unlike the far, far smaller amount of soya for humans which comes from Europe – or the UK -, is often organic and certainly never GM). Not only is there absolutely no need for beans to be grown “in fields that used to be a forest”, but the option I promote helps to recreate vast amounts of forests. See the study: https://animal.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/Eating-Away-at-Climate-Change-with-Negative-Emissions%E2%80%93%E2%80%93Harwatt-Hayek.pdf. Also this one: “Plant protein foods—like lentils, beans, and nuts—can provide vital nutrients using a small fraction of the land required to produce meat and dairy. By shifting to these foods, much of the remaining land could support ecosystems that absorb CO2” https://phys.org/news/2020-09-offset-years-climate-warming-emissions-analysis.html. The free-range chickens on your smallholding are very likely to be getting feed containing soya from freshly deforested Amazon, as is most chicken (https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/resources/winging-it-chicken-soya-climate-change/). You could forget the chicken and get instead your proteins from UK tofu, made from UK soya: far lower impact (http://tofurei.co.uk/tofu-factory/).

      I will let Damian Carrington conclude:

      “Michael Pollan foreshadowed the planetary health diet with a simple seven-word rule: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ But if you want to have the maximum impact on fighting the climate and wildlife crisis [i.e. be truly low impact], it’s going to be all plants”. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/19/why-you-should-go-animal-free-arguments-in-favour-of-meat-eating-debunked-plant-based)

    • 27Annie Leymarie November 18th, 2020

      Mike,

      Regarding the suffering of plants versus animals, I suggest an experiment: give a toddler a carrot and a bunny. See which one the baby chooses to stroke and which one he or she chooses to eat.

      Regarding growing vegs, see my response to Dave, where I mention my recent visit to Tolly’s farm, where no external animal inputs nor synthetic fertilisers or any other chemicals of any kind have been used in nearly four decades. And you could attend the webinar where he will be speaking this Friday https://www.facebook.com/events/1826866530821423

      PS I don’t mention suffering and cruelty very much unless I’m prompted to, even though they are very important aspects. But I do mention a lot climate change, biodiversity losses and species extinctions, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, eutrophication, soil erosion, water resources, land use and carbon opportunity costs, pandemics and furter pandemic risks, antibiotic resistance, chronic diseases, social justice, etc.

    • 28Annie Leymarie November 18th, 2020

      Hi Asimong,
      Anyone on this forum is likely to agree that humanity needs to change its ways in many respects. I believe different people are moved to evolve by different types of arguments – perhaps at different stages in their lives. For me, solid scientific evidence is key for all matters for which science plays a big part – as is the case for climate change, biodiversity, pandemics, chronic diseases – i.e. our biggest challenges – and our food choices play a big part in all four. I have often changed my mind and my behaviour according to new evidence. So I tend to do to others what I like done to me: show evidence to back my claims. Too bad if it doesn’t reach anyone, it feels ethically the best I can do – provide correct information, in an age where disinformation is particularly widespread.

    • 29Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Annie, this is an absurd way of debating. There are 19 links in your post. To even begin to assess what each one is saying in would take at least 15 minutes for each one. That’s about 5 hours, just to digest your links – so you don’t seriously expect anyone to do that, do you?

      Most of your arguments, and your links, as far as I can see, are against the scale and practices of industrial agriculture – and I agree with you, but I guess you know I’m not talking about that.

      You talk about wild nature as if carnivores don’t eat herbivores, and they all live happily into old age, when they die in their sleep, not from starvation. It’s really bizarre. Tortoises – sure – they have a hard shell to retreat into. But not many other species manage it – even old lions are often killed by younger rivals or ejected from the pride to starve to death.

      You also think that being torn apart alive for half an hour is better than being stunned and then killed instantly in an abbatoir. We’ll have to disagree about that one too. I know which one I’d choose for myself if it came to it – and I’m pretty sure you’d choose the same thing, if you stop and think about it carefully. Nature is cruel – much more so than life on an organic smallholding. That’s my opinion, and I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, because we can’t ask the animals involved.

      Subsidising loss-making overgrazing on Welsh hills? I’m with you – let’s reforest.

      You talk about keeping herbivores to graze under orchard trees, but not eating them – meaning that we would have to use more land, to grow more plants to feed people because we’re wasting meat that we’ve raised. That’s the opposite of sustainable.

      And as I’ve said before, I don’t drink milk because I can’t source it from a cow-calf farm. I share your dislike of the industrial dairy industry, but not this kind of dairying – https://www.lowimpact.org/taking-calves-away-mothers-cruel-want-practice-stopped-prepared-pay-milk/.

      “currently have an annual population growth rate of 2.8%” is not an argument against anything I’ve said. I’d like to see a reduction in meat-eating.

      You don’t have to speculate about wild boars – if they have 5 piglets each year for an average breeding lifetime of 4 years, then they’ll have 20 piglets, and they did so long before humans evolved. It means that around 10% make it to breeding age – which is why they have so many piglets.

      And we can be self-sufficient in food with meat in our diets too – read Chris Smaje and let me know if you think he’s gone wrong.

      Then you went into more criticism of unsustainable agriculture, which I’m not advocating, and I didn’t understand your point about the beans. If we harvest some of the grey squirrels, rabbits, roe deer and fish from the wild, we don’t need as much land (that used to be forest) to grow crops. How can you grow food without using cleared land?

      Thanks for answering the question about whether you’d ban meat-eating. I’m glad to hear that you wouldn’t, and I largely agree with your policy suggestions too.

      So let’s just focus on the main question – but please, not a huge list of links – just answer the question, so that we can actually have a discussion.

      I said: Herbivores are part of a food chain, in which they are food for other animals. Humans are animals. Could / should we be in this food chain, as long as we participate sustainably and without cruelty? And if not, why not?

      Are you saying that it’s impossible for humans to eat meat sustainably, under any circumstances, at any scale? If you agree that it’s not impossible (and you not wanting to ban meat-eating, and your relative acceptance of the guy eating the squirrel might indicate that you do), our positions may not be that far apart.

    • 30Mike Eaton November 18th, 2020

      Annie – in your latest monotalogue you stated –

      I have already responded! Because “We’ll probably never get a stable climate until meat has almost disappeared” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/a-nine-point-plan-for-the-uk-to-achieve-net-zero-carbon-emissions). Because the UN was already urging “a global move to meat and dairy-free diets” 10 years ago (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet) and is of course still advising this (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/15/reduce-meat-consumption-save-plant-animal-world-un-warns/ and https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/improved-climate-action-food-systems-can-deliver-20-percent-global). Because “vegan diets could remove 16 years of human fossil fuel CO2 emissions” (https://sustainabilitycommunity.springernature.com/posts/mapping-where-animal-agriculture-competes-with-carbon-dioxide-removal). Because “The choice between restricting meat consumption and running the risk of more frequent pandemics and climate change catastrophes should not be a tough one”. (https://newrepublic.com/article/158700/inconvenient-lesson-pandemic-stop-eating-meat). Because “the evidence is crystal clear that consuming less meat and more plants is very good for both our health and the planet” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/19/why-you-should-go-animal-free-arguments-in-favour-of-meat-eating-debunked-plant-based). I could go on and on, but do you consider evidence?

      It seems to me then that the way forward on climate change according to youe idea is to cull (gentle word for murder) all animals in the world (this of course includes ‘umans because they too are “animals”) – problem solved! OK we have a dead planet, but thats OK, eventally the world could start again, maybe. Interesting but hardly practicable isn’t it? I’m sure if there was a vote on this with every living thing being able to vote that system would fail miserably. Oh and by the way I did not read any of your so called support, surely this is about what you think not about wht others think! I’m sure you have some valuable points to give us but can we please reduce it to something sensible? I and many others have other things to do in our lives, thank you for your input.

    • 31Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Mike – I don’t think that’s fair. She’s talking about the scale and practices of corporate, industrial agriculture, and I completely agree with her. (but yes, slightly too many links to consume).

    • 32Mike Eaton November 18th, 2020

      Dave, Annie, Appoligies, mainly born out of frustration I’m afraid, I find long winded meanderings tend to lose both the effect of what the person is trying to say and the listener (reader) tends to lose interest and thus loses interest in the proceddings – a great pity because what has been said so far is extremely interesting.

      On the same note I have found over the years (and I’ve had a few of those) that producing reports etc. if it can’t be said in the first page it will simply get ignored and this tends to happen to all walks of life – I read everything because for years it was what I did! Short sharp and sweet tends to keep the discussion going – actually I’m amazed this has gone on for so long, it shows that there is a lot of interest in the subject.

    • 33asimong November 18th, 2020

      Hello again all. This, to me, is the really important stage of the conversation. We’ve said things about the styles of contribution, how they suit or don’t suit us; how they fit in with our values or trigger feelings of frustration. I would invite people to own those feelings and live with them. Note that we are talking about two things independently — yes, on the surface it’s veganism v. vegetarianism or limited meat-eating; but I’m pointing to the way in which we converse.

      Dave — as you know, but for the benefit of others — we’ve talked about this a lot one-to-one; broadly speaking I respect your position; on the other hand I can’t quite get what you’re trying to achieve in this dialogue. I take issue with you saying to Annie “this is an absurd way of debating” — I don’t think that is at all helpful towards mutual respect and positive outcomes from this dialogue. What I hear you saying I would reframe as something like “Personally, I don’t have the energy to follow up the scientific evidence, because for me, though it may be correct in itself, it doesn’t touch on the issues that mean a lot to me. I have a vision for a post-capitalist future and the way I see that, smallholding with a few animal which are eaten makes sense, and I really can’t see any convincing arguments why that would not be a good idea.” But, given that you can’t see any convincing arguments to the contrary, what are you debating about? In fact, if it’s a debate, what is the motion? Generally speaking, the people I have come to mix with most recently value dialogue over debate. Winning and losing at a debate is such an old-school thing, oppositional, and to my mind rather too much biased towards a masculine mindset.

      Annie — I don’t think I’ve met you, but personally I respect your position, and have no problems with marshalling the science and the reason to back up your case for plant-based human nutrition. I hear you as saying something like “All the evidence I have seen suggests that everyone would be better off if humans ate a plant-based diet. I do that myself, and believe it is the best thing to do. There are several negative aspects of eating animal products, and I would like to help people recognise these. I hope that after considering the evidence, people would be able to move beyond their habitual preferences for eating animal products.” Perhaps I’m generalising to many other vegans that I have talked with. Apologies if I misrepresent your position in any way — that is only what I imagine your position to be. Generally I am grateful for vegans marshalling and presenting evidence for that position. What I’m not sure of — and I don’t see this as applying to you, Annie, but to other vegans that I have known — is an argumentative stance that eating animal products is “wrong”.

      Mike — I hear your frustration that led you to use the derogatory word “monotalogue”, and also your apology for doing so. Can we take this back to the level of what we are trying to do and how we are trying to do it? Can we, on the one hand, recognise that we are all really quite close in values and opinion, and that argument just weakens all of us? But if something really upsets someone, let’s own that, and try to build common ground around what we do share rather than focusing on the points of disagreement — about the dialogue/discussion style, more than about veganism.

      @darkhorse — thank you for your two penn’orth, I resonate with that.

    • 34Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      DarkHorse

      I missed your comment – asimong just brought it to my attention. Yes, totally agree.

      asimong

      Sorry, yes, you’re right. Absurd isn’t a word that should be used in a debate, and I retract. Annie and I have had ding-dongs in the past, and I’ve asked her not to reply to posts with a string of links (19 in the last one), but she doesn’t seem to want to stop doing it, so it’s a bit frustrating.

      “I would reframe as something like “Personally, I don’t have the energy to follow up the scientific evidence, because for me, though it may be correct in itself, it doesn’t touch on the issues that mean a lot to me”

      – that’s not quite it. The scientific evidence presented is always (unless I’ve missed some, because there are so many) about large-scale, industrial agriculture – in which case, I agree. But I’m not advocating that kind of agriculture.

      “I have a vision for a post-capitalist future and the way I see that, smallholding with a few animal which are eaten makes sense, and I really can’t see any convincing arguments why that would not be a good idea.”

      – exactly, yes

      “But, given that you can’t see any convincing arguments to the contrary, what are you debating about?”

      – generally, I’m not. What happens is that vegans tend to contact us via email / or on the blog, to tell us that we shouldn’t be called Lowimpact, because we have an ‘animals’ category of topics, and that eating meat can’t ever be low-impact. Annie’s said that clearly. I try to point out that there are sustainable ways to eat meat or fish, but they don’t tend to engage with that, but instead say things like ‘we don’t need to eat meat’ – well sure, but almost everything we do, we don’t ‘need’ to. People don’t ‘need’ computers, but we have them, so let’s use them as sustainably as possible. Same with meat-eating – people do it, so let’s do it as sustainably as possible. Or – they point to the horrors of industrial agriculture – the very thing that we’d like to replace with sustainable, organic smallholdings.

      I agree that dialogue is a better approach than debate, but we get attacked for providing information about keeping livestock, fishing etc. by people who have no interest in dialogue. They throw a few insults, and then state that they’re never coming back to the site, as though that’s a bad thing. Annie’s not one of those people by the way – she’s happy to engage in robust debate (I mean dialogue).

      “on the other hand I can’t quite get what you’re trying to achieve in this dialogue”

      – my comment (no. 24) above didn’t make sense?

      Lowimpact is pushing for a post-capitalist world of community-based enterprises, including sole traders and co-ops – goods and services that require larger-scale institutions can be sourced from the least extractive and least hierarchical sources possible. Those sources will emerge – there’s no blueprint. Organic, mixed smallholdings are part of that vision, imo. There are good people, working hard on smallholding with some livestock, and others who are getting a small part of their nutrition from non-threatened animal species, including fish, harvested from the wild. I absolutely refuse to condemn these people – they’re doing something positive in my opinion.

      “Can we, on the one hand, recognise that we are all really quite close in values and opinion”

      – I agree. I’m guessing that Annie and I (for example) would agree on most things – but not this. But let’s agree that large-scale industrial agriculture is wrong, and that we eat way too much meat. Let’s move in the right direction. If humanity ends up vegan in a couple of generations, great – but in the meantime let’s not demonise people who produce, harvest or eat sustainably-sourced meat. And there are sustainable sources of meat.

    • 35Annie Leymarie November 18th, 2020

      Dave,

      It’s 1720 and the Low Impact Society is promoting “less but better slavery”. It says industrial large-scale slavery should stop, but slaves kept humanely in friendly small households actually have much better lives than in the African jungle where women typically give birth to 14 children, with 3 or fewer surviving the very harsh conditions there. By contrast in England they can “live in maximum comfort – outdoor space, fresh food, sex, parenthood, no worries about predatory African men marrying them at 12, together with another ten wives, medical treatment if necessary, shelter from wind, cold and rain” and they are not even killed at a young age! Since slavery is widespread the world over, people still love slavery and all economies rely heavily on it, we can’t just abolish it – too many livelihoods would be lost and many poor Africans would suffer – so less but better is the way forward and guarantees slaves a good life.

      It’s 1950 and the Low Impact Society is promoting “less but better smoking”. The majority of people smoke, it’s crucial for their wellbeing and the economy, and the only real problem is how much and what they smoke: too many high nicotine cigarettes and cigars produced by inhumane large corporations. Because the Society can’t possibly consider impacting on people’s freedom, it promotes only the best types of tobacco – the cottage industry, lower nicotine, roll-your-own types – used in moderate quantities, to keep both tobacco farmers and consumers healthy and happy. That way people won’t have serious respiratory diseases and cancers. The society adopts the slogan: “It’s not the smoke, it’s the choke”.

      Can you see why it made sense then, as it does now, to be more ambitious about the level of individual and societal change required?
      I’ve chosen not to fly anymore, even though a little flying wouldn’t do much harm, in the wider scheme of things. But there’s a major difference with my plant-based choice: if I woke up tomorrow and climate change had disappeared, I’d happily fly again. But I wouldn’t want to return to an omnivore’s diet because I’m so much healthier on plants alone. So it has been, over the past 37 years, a win-win-win decision. I can happily look at squirrels (who regularly come into my house and feed from my hands) and not agonise about what it would be like to kill them, or pigeons, or anyone else.

      As I wrote before, in quite a number of low-income countries the situation is, at least for now, different, with a small amount of animal proteins being important for many since fruit, vegs and nuts are too expensive, there are no fridges, etc. But this doesn’t apply to middle/high income countries (and with climate change impacting livestock even more than crops in many areas, there are urgent calls to review policies, promote more perennial crops/agroforestry, in both poorer and richer countries, etc)

      You write that most of my arguments “are against the scale and practices of industrial agriculture”. No, they’re not! Factory farming is cruel but extremely efficient (and below I mention the land sparing versus sharing continuum, where consistently land sparing – intensifying agriculture to free more land – tends to prove the winner overall). My two strongest arguments are about climate chaos and the unravelling of nature (biodiversity losses). Listen to Monbiot:
      “[Through intensive livestock farming] we inflict brutal deprivations on billions of animals. The answer, we are told by celebrity chefs and food writers, is to keep livestock outdoors: eat free range beef or lamb, not battery pork. But all this does is to swap one disaster – mass cruelty – for another: mass destruction. Almost all forms of animal farming cause environmental damage, but none more so than keeping them outdoors. The reason is inefficiency. Grazing is not just slightly inefficient; it is stupendously wasteful. Roughly twice as much of the world’s surface is used for grazing as for growing crops, yet animals fed entirely on pasture produce just 1 gram out of the 81 g of protein consumed per person per day. A paper in Science of the Total Environment reports that “livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss”. Grazing livestock are a fully automated system for ecological destruction: you need only release them onto the land and they do the rest, browsing out tree seedlings, simplifying complex ecosystems. Their keepers augment this assault by slaughtering large predators. (…)”

      It is also well evidenced that methane emissions are highest from ruminants bred extensively (grass-fed). As for the high risk of further pandemics, intensive farming is bad, but so is hunting.

      You write: “You talk about wild nature as if carnivores don’t eat herbivores, and they all live happily into old age”.
      I am trying to redress the balance from your vision of all wild lives being short and full of suffering. When we last discussed this, I presented a long list of wild animals, including herbivores, who live very long lives (as I did here, but this time confirmed by scientists who have studied this at length) but you’re not acknowledging this.

      I am hoping my old friend Wisdom the albatross, who, like me, should be turning 70 soon, is still alive. She became a mother again in 2019 (https://news.mongabay.com/2019/02/wisdom-worlds-oldest-known-wild-bird-is-a-mother-again-at-68/). But, as is so often the case, the biggest risk for her and other sea birds is humans: here’s the grim story of how they get mutilated, tortured and killed by fishermen: https://phys.org/news/2020-11-endangered-seabirds-caught-fishermen-intentionally.html. This wouldn’t happen if we went plant-based.

      Re abattoirs: Why do you think families are encouraged to watch nature films, showing plenty of killings in the wild, but are not allowed to see what happens inside abattoirs, not even on film?

      Re subsidising loss-making overgrazing on Welsh hills: It’s not just there. I strongly recommend reading “Rebirding” where Benedict Macdonald demolishes the dairy industry and its high reliance on public money, whilst contributing to the destruction of nature (and he’s clearly not a vegan!).

      You then write: “You talk about keeping herbivores to graze under orchard trees, but not eating them – meaning that we would have to use more land, to grow more plants to feed people because we’re wasting meat that we’ve raised. That’s the opposite of sustainable”.

      No it’s not, and I started explaining why: there is no loss to the ecosystem (it’s not an extractive operation, neither flesh nor carcass need to leave the ecosystem). You could have one donkey living for 30 years in your orchard, with no methane emissions, instead of perhaps 90 sheep being constantly replaced over the same period, with the whole animal removed, emitting much methane, grazing and browsing more vegetation because they’re all juveniles and bred to get big. The donkey could replace a carnivorous pet and its footrpint – a dog for instance – because kids can cuddle it and get fully attached to it since it won’t get slaughtered. The donkey can also get trained to do some simple tasks like carrying some stuff for the orchard. Since the orchard owners have gone vegan, their own footprint has shrunk and they’re healthier, reducing the additional impacts from medical care.

      For a long time, I followed on Twitter Calf at Foot dairy (and perhaps Smiling Tree Farm/Chrstine Page too? – can’t remember). But then I got too depressed seeing, as in the book “Sacred Cow” I’ve just read, so many half-truths and lies being peddled by Allan Savory and others, about methane, soil carbon and so much else. The level of misinformation is frightening. Besides being uneconomical and unscalable, a cow-calf farm will have a much bigger footprint than a conventional dairy farm, due to the laws of physics.

      You write: “If we harvest some of the grey squirrels, rabbits, roe deer and fish from the wild, we don’t need as much land (that used to be forest) to grow crops.”
      We’ve barely got any “wild” left in the world. The situation is catastrophic everywhere, but especially in the UK, and you would like 7.7 billion people to contribute even more to the onslaught? Whichever way you look at it, if you eat lower on the food chain – i.e. plants instead of animals who eat the plants – you reduce your impact. Astrophysicist Oliver Zahn explains that “Instead of eating plants, we funnel them through the extremely complicated machine that is an animal. It’s such a wasteful process”( https://grist.org/fix/how-one-mans-philosophy-of-data-and-food-science-could-help-save-the-planet/)
      Go foraging instead of hunting, if you want – but don’t tell everyone or there will be nothing left.

      Back to the the land sparing versus land sharing debate: are you following it? This paper, for instance, shows that the best agricultural scenario to boost bird populations in the UK consists in “Combining land sparing [i.e. producing food intensively] with demand management measures: reducing food waste and the consumption of animal products” https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13362

      I have asked before but you haven’t responded: why do you want to eat meat, eggs, fish and perhaps some dairy? I’m curious to know your reasons (and forgive me if I don’t respond fast, I’m busy in the next few days).

    • 36Mike Eaton November 18th, 2020

      Asimong, I hear you and agree to a certain extent – unfortunately it has become my style to go straight into replies – sort of “talking on your feet” to rephrase a style – lifes like that and we go by past actions both good and bad. I am what I am and have become. A lot of the time I do not mean to be impolite and would appoligise in advance if that is taken. Am I a bad person for being that way? I don’t think so, rude, crude and rough around the edges but there are times when that may be the only way to go

    • 37Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Annie

      My position is that slavery is wrong, but eating meat is not, so that analogy doesn’t work for me.

      Smoking – fine, smoke if you want (I have the occasional ciggy). If people smoke, and smallholders can make a living growing and selling a bit of tobacco – fine.

      Imagine if you could have a conversation with a squirrel:
      “Hello Mr. Squirrel. Welcome to my garden. I’m a vegan and I won’t hurt you”
      “Hello Annie, great to be here. I just love vegans.”
      “Oh by the way, I support the reintroduction of pine martens into England.”
      “Wait – what??!!”

      You said that your arguments are not about large-scale industrial agriculture, but then in the same paragraph say: “Roughly twice as much of the world’s surface is used for grazing as for growing crops” and “brutal deprivations on billions of animals”

      – Then let’s reduce that area, and the number of animals (and eliminate the brutality).

      Plus I’d still go for stunning and immediate death in an abbatoir over having chunks of my flesh removed for half an hour before I died. Wouldn’t you?

      Re: sheep in orchards. I’m not talking about a scale at which methane emissions are unsustainable – i.e. no more than the wild herbivores that lived in the habitat before agriculture. And if we don’t eat the sheep, we’d have to eat something else. And wouldn’t that something else be grown on land that can’t then be wild habitat?

      Not following the land intensification debate I’m afraid, although completely agree that we should reduce food waste and the scale of animal agriculture. I’ll try to look into it.

      No, I don’t want 7.7 billion people to hunt wild game. And they won’t. And I’ve said this before, many times. It’s about scale. Some people will, and every animal (from an abundant species) harvested from the wild means a little less food needs to be produced on land that used to be wild habitat. Foraging – sure – but your argument that not everybody can do it still applies. But if you go foraging and come back with nuts, berries and a couple of rabbits, how is it that the nuts and berries are sustainably sourced, but the rabbits aren’t?

      I did ask you a question – “Are you saying that it’s impossible for humans to eat meat sustainably, under any circumstances, at any scale?”

    • 38Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Annie

      In answer to your question:
      “why do you want to eat meat, eggs, fish and perhaps some dairy?”

      – I might as well respond by asking why you want to eat specific plant species. I don’t see anything wrong with eating sustainably-sourced meat or eggs (dairy’s a problem at the moment).

      And as I posted above, to support smallholders. Yes, they could just raise plants, but that would require much more work for much less reward, and as people are not going to stop eating meat, I don’t want to put them at a disadvantage against industrial ag. Plus the animals will be raised much more humanely.

      But just to reiterate:

      “We’ll never have a sustainable human society as long as we have an economy that has to grow perpetually. This system can’t be overthrown imo, as the military is too strong. And it can’t be voted away because states have been bought. All we can do is to build a new kind of economy from the grassroots. My work is in the mutual credit field, and I feel that a replacement for the current financial system is essential, or nothing else we do will work. Around this ‘new money’ core can be built a new economy of small-scale, community-based institutions, from housing co-ops and community energy to community-supported agriculture and community land trusts – plus all the other initiatives in the economy section (see home page). Part of this transition will be the replacement of industrial agriculture with small farms. The ELC are doing a splendid job, but currently, subsidies only go to farms over 5 hectares, putting the small farm sector at a massive disadvantage. As the vast majority of people in the world eat meat, if Lowimpact comes out against meat-eating altogether, it cuts off a huge source of income for organic smallholders especially, who will lose the animal manures for the soil, plus the income from meat, dairy, eggs, honey, hides, etc.
      That’s about as succinctly as I can state this position, but it’s a huge subject, that would require a book to fully explore. I’d recommend Chris Smaje’s recently published ‘Small Farm Future’ for a start.
      I’d like to engage vegans about this. We encourage veganism, because meat consumption is way too high – but I don’t believe that the case has been made that banning the keeping of animals or the eating of meat would lead to a better society / economy. It would put huge barriers in the way of organic smallholders, and disadvantage them in trying to wrest agriculture away from its current industrial / GMO / corporate manifestation. Again, I’m open to being convinced, but no-one has come close yet.”

    • 39asimong November 18th, 2020

      Dave, you say “My position is that slavery is wrong, but eating meat is not, so that analogy doesn’t work for me.”

      Which is a reasonable expression of a personal moral position. To continue Annie’s analogy, what if you came across people who sincerely believed slavery was not absolutely wrong? (As long as you treated your slaves well. By the way, if I recall correctly, this was the position expressed by the New Testament Paul — but that’s another story.) Because in my experience, there are many vegans who believe, as a personal value and ethic, that eating animals is absolutely wrong. And some religions that, I believe, agree as well. Or FGM, to take another “ouch!” example?

      Maybe the “answer” to slavery is that the slaves don’t agree, and they are people as well. To which I have heard vegans add, all the evidence suggests that the animals don’t agree, and they are sentient beings as well. I see two ways to resolve these kinds of diverse ethics: first, through politics and law; and second, by persistent moral persuasion and example. I see no evidence that blunt condemnation has ever worked, by the way.

      So, I don’t think this is a fruitful topic for this thread.

      A more fruitful topic might be to focus on exactly the particular matter that you want to support, Dave, and ask Annie for arguments / evidence specifically directed towards the kind of smallholding that you and Chris Smaje advocate, and which explicitly leave out the moral generalities. If it is a moral generality then the argument is going nowhere fast. No one will “win”. If Annie wants to stick with the general moral principles, and not engage with the specifics, that’s her choice to respect, but again, no point in debate, because Lowimpact would be seen indeed as promoting “less, and kinder slavery” or “less harmful smoking”.

      Another way of avoiding direct conflict over the moral absolutes would be to talk about politics. What is the best way, in our society, to achieve the political ends that we are aiming at? What actually works in the battle for hearts and minds? I tend not to go there too much, as to me it is a hideously complex tangled web of issues. But I respect people who peacefully but steadfastly campaign for what they believe is right. And to my mind, we can demonstrate the overriding values of peacefulness, tolerance, respect here in a comment stream.

      Politically expedient alliances exist. We can ally with people who want to promote political change that reduces meat consumption. And capitalism. And soil degradation. And loss of biodiversity. And global warming. And…

      So my best answer is to avoid hypocrisy at all costs; live up to the values we promote; be good examples; and be politically expedient when it comes to politics. And accept and respect others who are doing the same.

    • 40asimong November 18th, 2020

      Oh, and I’m often amazed at how nice coincidences happen, like this article turning up in my inbox today… https://psyche.co/guides/use-mediation-techniques-to-overcome-the-muck-of-blame-and-anger

    • 41Mike Eaton November 18th, 2020

      Asimong – very interesting if a bit long for one sitting and yes I did actually read this one, more out of curiosity than anything else and also a little bit of self interest – as in why is this guy chucking more wood on the fire so to speak? I’ll certainly be looking at it again before making further comments, er. . . . thanks for adding it – re my comment on wood, this is an extremely useful piece!

    • 42annieleymarie November 18th, 2020

      Dave,

      Firstly, about the links I posted: if this was a court case about meat consumption, would the judge claim that 19 pieces of evidence is “absurd, how to even begin to assess what each one is saying?”. In each case I summarised what the point was. I never asked anyone to read all!

      George Monbiot has won many prices as a top journalist. He has also published passionate, evidence-based articles about animal food. Please don’t open the links, unless you don’t trust me, or you’re interested in learning more, but see:

      here he includes 22 links https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/08/lab-grown-food-destroy-farming-save-planet.
      Here 24 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/08/save-planet-meat-dairy-livestock-food-free-range-steak
      here 17 (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/05/think-dairy-farming-is-benign-our-rivers-tell-a-different-story,
      here 18 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/20/insectageddon-farming-catastrophe-climate-breakdown-insect-populations,
      here 22 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/09/seas-stop-eating-fish-fishing-industry-government,
      here 8 https://www.monbiot.com/2019/08/13/spectre-at-the-feast/
      here 22 https://www.monbiot.com/2017/10/06/the-meat-of-the-matter/
      here 13 https://www.monbiot.com/2017/01/11/explanation-of-the-figures-in-grim-reaping/
      here 26 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/livestock-farming-artificial-meat-industry-animals
      here 14 https://www.monbiot.com/2015/12/22/sacrifice/
      here 25 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/19/population-crisis-farm-animals-laying-waste-to-planet
      here 16 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/12/government-britains-rivers-uk-waterways-farming-water-companies
      here 24 https://www.monbiot.com/2017/07/13/the-lie-of-the-land/

      Do you get the idea? That’s some 250 links, mostly making some of the points I’m making. And that’s great journalism, by my standards!

      Of course I don’t write good stories as George does, but scientific evidence is key. I’m frustrated that a lack of interest in – or worse, denial of – it is to a large extent why we’re in the mess we’re in.

      I’ve asked one of my local squirrels: he told me he had no problem whatsoever with the reintroduction of pine martens, but he was terribly worried about his friends the minks, farmed for fur https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-54867653.

      “Let’s reduce the grazing area”: How about zero, for minimal impact? https://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2020/09/returning-pastures-to-nature-could-roll-back-16-years-of-global-emissions/

      No, thank you – I definitely would not want to be farmed and slaughtered in an abattoir. Thanks for asking! As for the other risks, I’ve already taken them gladly: I’ve swam in seas with sharks, walked in mountains with bears, boars and wolves. I mentioned boar hunting in Algeria. The lead hunter, a nice guy in his fourties, was gored to death by a male boar. He had killed hundreds of boars in his lifetime. It felt, to all of us, like fair karma.

      Over the next decade, methane emissions are causing more warming than CO2. No anthropogenic methane emission is “sustainable”. All experts agree: “Every bit of methane emitted keeps the world warmer than it would be without that methane. That’s unambiguously true” https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/11/28/339612/whats-the-beef-with-methane

      Before agriculture there was no man-made climate chaos, nor 7.7 billion humans nor such rapid mass extinctions. Can you please drop the idea of going back to past levels that have no relevance to our present or future?

      “If we don’t eat the sheep, we’d have to eat something else. And wouldn’t that something else be grown on land that can’t then be wild habitat?” Oh dear, Dave. I wish so much you would look at some of the evidence I’ve posted, since you’ve clearly not understood basics here. 100 g of protein from lamb requires 840 times more land than 100g of protein from tofu (whilst being far less healthy – in fact Class 2 carcinogen). You’ve read right: 840 times. See https://ourworldindata.org/agricultural-land-by-global-diets

      The land sharing versus land sparing debate is very important and key to the points you make. There are lots of studies on the topic. (Ask me nicely and I’ll gladly post some links! ? )

      “How is it that the nuts and berries are sustainably sourced, but the rabbits aren’t?”
      It has to do with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Whenever energy is transformed, there is a loss of energy. This occurs when energy is transferred between trophic levels, as in a food web. When one animal feeds off another, there is a loss of energy (thus life-sustaining resources) in the process.

      By the way, you use it a lot, but I rarely use the word “sustainable”, because it’s a spectrum and the word is used ad nauseam in greenwash. Yes, nuts and berries have a foodprint, but a smaller one than a rabbit.

      I’ll cite Damian Carrington again (who has also won many prices as top environmental journalist, including one last week):

      “If you want to have the maximum impact on fighting the climate and wildlife crisis, eat only plants”.

    • 43Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Annie & Simon

      (Simon, please help me to say this in a sensitive way). I don’t want to be rude to anyone, but Annie, your responses are not logical to me. (Simon, honestly, are they to you?)

      The first couple of links I clicked on were critical of large-scale agriculture (animal farming takes up 83% of the world’s agriculture; the domesticated animal population explosion etc. etc.) And for the zillionth time, I’m advocating small-scale, organic smallholding, with a massive reduction in meat-eating.

      Another example: “No, thank you – I definitely would not want to be farmed and slaughtered in an abattoir.” – which is absolutely not what I asked. I asked whether you’d prefer to be killed instantly in an abbattoir, or have pieces of your flesh torn off until you died, which is the fate of pigeons caught by sparrow hawks. You talk as though life in the wild for herbivores is a delight, and I’m saying that organic smallholdings are not as cruel as the wild.

      And another: I asked, if someone goes foraging, “How is it that the nuts and berries are sustainably sourced, but the rabbits aren’t?” Annie’s response: “It has to do with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Whenever energy is transformed, there is a loss of energy. This occurs when energy is transferred between trophic levels, as in a food web. When one animal feeds off another, there is a loss of energy (thus life-sustaining resources) in the process.” – this has nothing at all to do with the sustainability of taking home a couple of rabbits. They’re from the wild! Will there be more rabbits to harvest next time you go foraging? Of course there will.

      And methane levels: I’m trying to say that if the methane emissions of domesticated animals – say sheep grazing under orchard trees – are no more than the methane emissions from wild herbivores that would exist if the agricultural land were allowed to revert to wild habitat, then they can’t be considered unsustainable, can they? Otherwise, if we reforest a lot of our grazing land, we’d have to prevent any wild ruminants from migrating there. But I can’t get Annie to understand this point, no matter how I make it.

      Annie’s purported lack of understanding of the word ‘sustainable’: sustainable means ‘can be sustained’ – so for example, can perpetual GDP growth be sustained? No, it can’t. Can harvesting rabbits from the wild be sustained? Of course it can, as long as we don’t take too many.

      Annie – I answered your question. Please answer mine: Are you saying that it’s impossible for humans to eat meat sustainably, under any circumstances, at any scale?

      And Annie – if your local squirrel had no problem with the reintroduction of pine martens, why would he have a problem with any other predator species? (say, humans, for example). You may think this is a frivolous question, but actually it goes right to the heart of what we’re discussing here – in terms of sustainability or cruelty, why is the predator species relevant?

    • 44Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Simon

      Political expediency – sure. But how do we counter the criticism of mixed smallholders or people who harvest meat or fish (from non-threatened species) – or of Lowimpact.org, for providing information on such activities – in a non-confrontational, collaborative way?

    • 45Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Plus Simon

      I missed this one – (from Annie): “If we don’t eat the sheep, we’d have to eat something else. And wouldn’t that something else be grown on land that can’t then be wild habitat?” Oh dear, Dave. I wish so much you would look at some of the evidence I’ve posted, since you’ve clearly not understood basics here. 100 g of protein from lamb requires 840 times more land than 100g of protein from tofu (whilst being far less healthy – in fact Class 2 carcinogen). You’ve read right: 840 times. See https://ourworldindata.org/agricultural-land-by-global-diets

      – Simon, you don’t think that’s slightly insulting / patronising? (although I’m not complaining – it’s all part of the rough-and-tumble of debate / discussion, and I don’t think there’s a problem with that, really, although you might). But it’s completely irrelevant how much land is required – and I know from experience that Annie is not going to understand this – because Annie is talking about using sheep to keep the grass down underneath orchard trees, but then not eating them. So the sheep will already have used the land / grass to produce the protein, but then no human is eating it. So then the people who would have eaten that meat will have to eat something else, which will require land to grow (regardless of how much land it requires to produce 100g of protein – it will require some land).

    • 46Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Simon – how about a facilitated discussion, with you in the middle?

    • 47Mike Eaton November 18th, 2020

      Please sir – sheeps have far more use as wool bearing animals than as food. Or so I think. Cows are very good draught animals (slow and ploding but strong) pigs are great for digging up the land (far better than ‘umans) goats are brilliant at clearing scrub land to turn into farms . . . . . snakes taste good, rabbits are terrific and very sustainable, squirrels steal nuts but by heck they make a nice stew – even worms are nutritious in an omelette. Sorry folks but somebody has to stick up for the little animals in the world – even rats have their uses both as scavengers and as food! so back to the original idea – is it morally acceptable to eat animals?

    • 48annieleymarie November 18th, 2020

      Dave

      I too have problem with your logic! It’s OK, we know we’re both trying our best. If we come across as rude, I wouldn’t worry – we know deep down that neither of us is nasty.

      You think that the fact that “animal farming takes up 83% of the world’s agriculture” relates only to large-scale agriculture, but it doesn’t! The problem is that this 83% land use provides less than 18% of the calories consumed. The issue is the huge inefficiency of all meat production, at any scale, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions, again at any scale (though small scale production is actually worse in terms of relative emissions because factory farming benefits from economies of scale, among other factors).

      “For the zillionth time, you’re advocating small-scale, organic smallholding, with a massive reduction in meat-eating.” And for the zillionth time I’m responding that zero livestock is best for low impact living – in terms of climate, biodiversity, air/water pollution, chronic diseases, pandemic risks, antibiotic resistance and much else. And it’s not just me saying it! Do you think Damian Carrington and George Monbiot, for instance, are utter idiots?

      Re abattoir vs death by sparrow hawk, I thought my response made it pretty obvious. I’d much rather be killed by a hawk, or, like my friend, by a wild boar, or a bear, or a shark. You think that organic smallholdings are not as cruel as the wild. I disagree, hence the story about slaves: the thinking then was that back in Africa slaves would have a much worse life, with higher mortality and much tougher conditions… but slaves wanted their freedom, they wanted to have the choice to decide what their life would be. They cared about their traditions, their environments, their favourite foods, their families and communities. They hadn’t asked to be uprooted, they hadn’t asked for protection, it was imposed on them. They hadn’t asked to be tortured and killed. It’s exactly the same for non-human animals!

      And my stories about slaves and tobacco were mostly to show that ethical positions evolve. What would have seemed heretic then is now seen as an accepted norm.

      Here is Monbiot again:
      “What will future generations, looking back on our age, see as its monstrosities? We think of slavery, the subjugation of women, judicial torture, the murder of heretics, imperial conquest and genocide, the First World War and the rise of fascism, and ask ourselves how people could have failed to see the horror of what they did. What madness of our times will revolt our descendants?
      There are plenty to choose from. But one of them, I believe, will be the mass incarceration of animals, to enable us to eat their flesh or eggs or drink their milk. While we call ourselves animal lovers, and lavish kindness on our dogs and cats, we inflict brutal deprivations on billions of animals, that are just as capable of suffering. The hypocrisy is so rank that future generations will marvel at how we could have failed to see it”.

      The Second Law of Thermodynamics has everything to do with the sustainability of taking home a couple of rabbits – as well as social justice. I’m sorry you don’t get it! There are 7.7 billion of us; if everyone ate like the average British person, we would need 4 planets to supply the food required. https://phys.org/news/2020-07-g20-carbon-food-print-highest-meat-loving.amp. Eating lower on the food chain – thus plants instead of meat – is the best way of shrinking our impact. And since historically the UK has had one of the highest impacts on the climate and biodiversity of any nation, we have a lot to do to reduce our historical impacts too, which are now affecting the poorest so badly.

      As for methane, what bit of “every molecule of methane contributes to heating the planet and impacts all life on Earth” do you not understand? You keep repeating a meme, popular in meat-loving circles, but pointless. It really doesn’t matter what happened pre-agriculture. We are in 2020, and “Livestock emissions are a big part of the climate problem. They must decline significantly if we are to have any chance of meeting both the UN Paris Agreement targets and the UK’s own net zero target by 2050”. https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/186/2/71. Also: “We’ll probably never get a stable climate until meat has almost disappeared” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/a-nine-point-plan-for-the-uk-to-achieve-net-zero-carbon-emissions. The lower the methane emissions, the more we have a chance of keeping a livable planet.

      If I post many links, it’s because these are not my opinions, but those of experts who spend their whole life looking at these issues and coming up with these conclusions.

      Re sustainable rabbits: Do you agree with sustainable coal (as long as we don’t use too much) https://www.worldcoal.org/%E2%80%9C-surprisingly-sustainable-case-coal%E2%80%9D? Sustainable SUVs (as long as we don’t all drive one) https://www.autotrainingcentre.com/blog/top-5-environmentally-friendly-suvs/ ? Sustainable flying (as long we don’t all take too many long flights, just a few of us)?

      In my own lifetime, human population has more than trebled whilst wildlife populations have declined by perhaps 80% (by three quarters in the past 50 years). It matters enormously what we choose to eat.

      You ask once again if I feel “it’s impossible for humans to eat meat sustainably, under any circumstances, at any scale?” I’ve responded at length already. I’ve stated that in low income countries a small amount of animal protein is important for many, for the time being. I’ve expressed my dislike of the word “sustainably” – because sustainability depends on a myriad different factors. And I’ve made it clear, as have others I’ve quoted, that the most sustainable, thus the ideal level to aim for by all those who care passionately about reducing their planetary impact (and improving their own health in the bargain), is zero meat in countries such as the UK.

      My squirrel is very wise and, like the whole of Gaia itself, it is yearning for a rebalancing of energies so that life can flourish again. So he kknows that humans are currently a huge problem, whereas pine martens are not (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis).

      “Why is the predator species relevant?”
      Sigh…  Because of climate, biodiversity loss, species extinctions, air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, deforestation, eutrophication, overuse of water, soil erosion, etc, that are threatening all of life but caused by only one species, who needs to wake up fast!

    • 49asimong November 18th, 2020

      @Dave 46: If I facilitated a conversation, please understand that it would not be about the ethics of eating meat. It would be about how you converse with each other!

      @Dave 45: I decline to be a judge for other people of what is patronizing — if I see something that seems to me objectionable I might (or might not) choose to call it out, if I think that is helpful. If you’re not complaining, then my guess is that Annie has reasonably understood that aspect of your preference, though apparently not your preference for short replies with very few links! As I said before, the only part of this discussion at ground level (about eating meat) that I think might be productive is the one that is very clearly and precisely demarcated to the conditions that you are proposing. Bur the more you venture into the territory of generalised ethics, or about pine martens etc. etc., I suspect the further away you are from this core.

      @Dave 44: “But how do we counter the criticism of …” I see that as being in debate mode, which to me doesn’t appear fruitful. To me, you don’t counter it, you listen to it, you try to understand where it is coming from, and once you have dug down and *agreed* with your interlocutor that you disagree on some basic assumption, then you can do that — you can agree to disagree, but at least you know where you disagree. I don’t think that countering arguments helps you to understand exactly where it is you disagree.

      @Dave 43: How about trying to substitute “Annie, your responses are not logical to me.” with something more like “I don’t understand exactly what you mean by…” Whether something is seen as “logical” usually in my experience depends on unspoken assumptions. I would try to uncover those assumptions. It is, of course, possible that Annie misread or misunderstood you — and of course vice versa. In which case, I would focus on checking what the misunderstanding might have been — like “when I wrote …. did you understand …. ?” Easier in direct dialogue of course.

      When you write “But I can’t get Annie to understand this point, no matter how I make it.” I don’t get the sense that the conversation is likely to be fruitful. What *can* Annie understand? I would check that, before concluding what she can’t understand of your position. Good idea as you have done, to restate yourself in different words. But assume understanding as expected, and be curious and open-minded about why understanding is not happening.

    • 50asimong November 18th, 2020

      @Annie 48: I salute your approach to recognising that you’re both trying your best! From my point of view, it still looks like you’re talking past each other — the assumptions you are working on are not out in the open for you do disagree on cleanly.

      You write “The issue is the huge inefficiency of all meat production, at any scale,…” but honestly, with my science and philosophy of science background, I would say that is a step beyond the evidence. I’m not for a minute disputing your right to your own value judgement — that 100% plant-based human nutrition is best in principle — but that is a value judgement and not something that is liable to scientific proof or disproof. The problem is in the word “best” in your phrase “zero livestock is best”. If you wrote, “In my opinion, the best solution is to have zero livestock” no one could disagree with you. But if you want to make that science, you would need to replace the word “best” with something quantifiable, and then you and Dave could disagree about whether that quantity actually represented the measure that you each regarded as most important.

      I think that’s the line that might help here. What is it that you, and what is it that Dave, are trying to maximise or minimise, and why? While you go back to the science, you’re not playing in a ball park that will reveal genuine differences of opinion.

    • 51annieleymarie November 18th, 2020

      Dave,

      Re your comment to Simon about the sheep in the orchard

      I have suggested, to do the same job over the same period of time in the orchard, one donkey who remains in the ecosystem until and after his death, instead of (approx) 90 sheep (maybe less, but a lot). The sheep are all removed from the ecosystem as they are killed for meat at the average age of 7-12 months, with carcasses also removed (thus extracting many resources that will need replacing in the ecosystem). Plus the donkey might replace a dog as well. This provides a huge environmental benefit and very clearly a better foodprint that eating the sheep. And there’s no killing involved.

    • 52Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Annie

      “we know we’re both trying our best. If we come across as rude, I wouldn’t worry – we know deep down that neither of us is nasty.”

      – sure – I’ve never met a nasty vegan. I don’t think nastiness goes with that territory. Plus I don’t mind a robust debate at all, as long as it isn’t abusive.

      “zero livestock is best for low impact living”

      – so is zero cars, zero computers, zero power stations, zero ball-point pens, zero anything that doesn’t grow in this country, etc. (I didn’t say zero flights because I know that neither of us flies).

      “ “Why is the predator species relevant?”
      Sigh…  Because of climate, biodiversity loss, species extinctions, air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, deforestation, eutrophication, overuse of water, soil erosion, etc, that are threatening all of life but caused by only one species, who needs to wake up fast!”

      – Sigh ? – that has nothing to do with our squirrel – a human eating the squirrel rather than a pine marten causes none of those things. You’re talking about other human actions, like industrial livestock farming.

      “In my own lifetime, human population has more than trebled whilst wildlife populations have declined by perhaps 80% (by three quarters in the past 50 years). It matters enormously what we choose to eat.”

      – indeed it does – and choosing to eat a rabbit from the wild instead of farmed vegetables grown on land that is no longer wild is (to me at least) obviously the more sustainable option.

      “The issue is the huge inefficiency of all meat production, at any scale, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions, again at any scale (though small scale production is actually worse in terms of relative emissions because factory farming benefits from economies of scale, among other factors).”

      – but you’re happy to keep sheep (or donkeys) under orchard trees, but not use their meat. That’s not logical Annie.

      Oops, I dropped the ‘L’ bomb.

      OK, looking through the rest of your points, the problem is really that we’ve had the same conversations over and over again. And I find your points illogical. That’s not meant to be confrontational – it’s just the truth.

      Simon

      I think that Annie and I are easily robust enough for a debate, and we respect each other enough not to be abusive. But where we’ve got to now is comparing the sustainability of taking a rabbit from the wild to burning coal, driving an SUV or flying. I just don’t know how to reply to that. It’s not that I need to say ‘I don’t know what you mean by…..’ – because I do know what she means.

      So anyway, I’ve had my question answered by Annie – she doesn’t believe that eating meat can be sustainable at any scale. So if I go foraging and come back with a rabbit, or if I keep one sheep in an orchard, that’s not sustainable; but if I keep a donkey in an orchard, or a sheep but don’t eat it, or if I get nutrition from farmed vegetables rather than wild rabbits, that’s sustainable.

      So, as you say, this is where we must agree to disagree. I absolutely salute you Annie for never allowing your passionate beliefs to overflow into anger or abuse (well, you might have been angry, but it didn’t translate into abuse), but I think we’ve covered this question from every conceivable angle now (in this article and many others) – and we haven’t moved each other one little bit. I guess we’ve provided food for thought for other people though, and maybe helped them make up their own minds.

    • 53annieleymarie November 18th, 2020

      Hi @asimong / SImon 50 and Dave

      Thanks for your comments! You tell me that when I write about “the huge inefficiency of all meat production, at any scale” this is a step beyond the evidence, and just my own value judgement.

      So below is a small sample of evidence about the inefficiency of meat. Frankly, my objective here is not to convince Dave, nor you, but to lay down a few well established facts in case another reader wanders here and is interested. Then they can make up their own mind, but hopefully based on some hard facts.

      1) “Livestock production is an extremely inefficient way of delivering food to humans because the calories provided by plants have to first pass through an approximately 10% efficient heterotroph [68]. Furthermore, more than 30% of global crop production is used to feed livestock, rather than people directly [69]. It is not surprising, therefore, that the greenhouse gas footprint of livestock products is approximately 100 times greater than of plant-based foods [70]” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879630/ (PS Pete Smith has been a convening lead author and lead author for the IPCC since 1996, and still is. He is highly knowledgeable on this topic, having co-authored all the IPCC reports and report chapters dealing with it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Smith_(biologist) )

      2) “Human health, climate change, natural resource, and animal welfare implications of using animals for meat: we can simultaneously tackle all these concerns by simply changing the protein source for meat from animals to plants…. Meat is just so inefficient!” https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/tackling-worlds-most-urgent-problem-meat (From the United Nations Environment Programme)

      3) “Calorie for calorie, nutrient for nutrient, beef is one of the most inefficient and ecologically destructive foods on the planet” https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/08/21/the-global-food-crisis-is-here/

      4) “Meat is ecologically inefficient because it effectively means eating one step higher on the food chain. The inefficiency is particularly high for beef, which uses about three-fifths of the world’s agricultural land yet produces less than 5% of its protein and less than 2% of its calories” https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/grade-choice

      5) “One key insight from this analysis is that all livestock products are inefficient; a second insight is that beef and other ruminant meats are particularly inefficient”. https://wrr-food.wri.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/WRR_Food_Full_Report_0.pdf

      6) “The leakiness of animal systems and thus the inefficiency with which they convert atmospheric nitrogen into the protein N that we eat, is central to environmental criticisms of meat eating”. https://fcrn.org.uk/sites/default/files/fcrn_lmgo.pdf (From a whole report on the topic of efficiency – and sustainability – published by the Food Climate Research Network)

      7) “Grazing animals produce at most a quarter of the calories per acre typical plant-based production systems do. Given biodiversity declines due to dwindling, fragmented, wilderness, allocating all this land to inefficiently producing needless calories is foolhardy. Grass-feeding produces unnecessary low-quality calories at ostentatious environmental costs while displacing threatened wildlife”. http://blogs.reuters.com/environment/2010/04/08/grass-fed-beef-packs-a-punch-to-environment/

      8) “Meat is the most inefficient way of feeding the human race” https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2015/04/27/Jeremy-Rifkin-Meat-is-the-most-inefficient-way-of-feeding-the-human-race

      9) “Red meat is especially inefficient. Producing 50 grams of beef protein yields 17.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide on average. For tofu, beans, and nuts, it’s 1.0, .4, and .1 kilograms, respectively. If eating red meat were clearly healthy, nutrition scientists might face a predicament. But in Frank Hu’s view, red meat—and processed red meat in particular—isn’t”. https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2020/03/feature-healthy-plate-planet

      10) “Given the innate inefficiency of biological processes involved and the leakiness of livestock production, the over-consumption of animal protein, which is simply burned for energy, represents a grossly wasteful and damaging use of scarce resources. I cannot be overlooked that animals are inefficient and leaky nutrient managers”. https://risefoundation.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2018_RISE_Livestock_Full.pdf

      11) “85% of the UK land footprint used to produce animal products contributes only about 32% to total calorie supply. This illustrates the inefficiency of producing livestock products” https://sci-hub.se/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959378017301176

      12) “Meat is undoubtedly an environmentally expensive food. Large animals have inherently low efficiency of converting feed to muscle”. https://fs.blog/2013/08/should-humans-eat-meat/

      13) “The problem with grass as a crop is that humans have to jump a trophic level in order to be able to consume it as beef, lamb etc. and – as the likes of George Monbiot tirelessly, and correctly, remind us – this is pretty inefficient energetically. The contribution of rangeland beef to global food intake is minimal.” https://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/2018/03/waiting-on-amber-a-note-on-regenerative-agriculture-and-carbon-farming/ (By Chris Smaje, whom Dave has been praising)

      14) “We estimate that wasting 1 kg of boneless beef has ~24 times the effect on available calories as wasting 1 kg of wheat, because of inefficiencies in converting feed to animal calories and protein” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25035492

      15) “The cow – one of the oldest, largest, and most inefficient food production systems in the world – is now experiencing its final disruption.” https://www.rethinkx.com/food-and-agriculture https://www.rethinkx.com/press-release/2019/9/16/new-report-major-disruption-in-food-and-agriculture-in-next-decade

    • 54Dave Darby November 18th, 2020

      Ha! That’ll teach you Simon. Just scanning, I’m guessing that I’d agree with most of that, if not all of it; but if I had time to read all of them, I’m not sure I’d find anything related to the article.

    • 55annieleymarie November 18th, 2020

      Hey Dave,
      In the Guardian today: why I’d much rather get killed by a hawk than in a slaughterhouse
      https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/nov/18/some-of-the-darkest-places-in-the-world-joaquin-phoenix-on-a-photobook-about-slaughterhouses

    • 56saileshrao November 19th, 2020

      Hi Dave,

      I think you are being led astray by the fact that a dead world has ZERO suffering. If we stick with our domination paradigm and assume that the purpose of compassionate humans is to minimize suffering in the world around us, then the optimum solution might seem that we should wipe out biodiversity and raise docile animals who are treated nicely and then killed as painlessly as possible. Unfortunately, such an “optimum” solution may not be feasible as a global ecosystem with just humans and such docile animals may not be stable as the ongoing climate destabilization on the planet is signaling.

      It’s only when reject the domination paradigm and begin to treat all life as sacred that we will work towards a thriving world where the totality and diversity of life is maximized even though there will be tremendous suffering in such a world.

      I trust that helps.

      Sailesh.

    • 57asimong November 19th, 2020

      @Annie 53: I think we’re probably coming to the expected inconclusive end… thank you for your companionship on the journey … If we are checking out at this stage, I would just like to repeat that personally I appreciate all of the science and the articles you quote, and in general find them sound and convincing. I would personally be happy with a vegan diet. I know others in a community I lived amongst (with several vegans) who for health reasons found it prohibitively difficult (and health threatening) to exclude all animal products from their diet.

      I do believe there is room for something other than an absolutist position. I have heard good arguments in favour of eating e.g. mussels. When wild animals need to be culled (humanely of course) for the benefit of managing a healthy ecosystem, I don’t see why people shouldn’t eat their meat, if it tastes good, that is! And other edge cases. All of us in this conversation seem to be pretty much agreed that industrial livestock farming doesn’t fit with our values, and let’s bear that agreement in mind.

      From a positive point of view, I think humanity now has sufficient knowledge to start actively designing ecosystems with a lot of diversity, and I don’t want to rule out the possibility that some good, regenerative ecosystem design could involve humans eating (small quantities of) animal products or even meat. Ecosystems design is to say the least complex, and to the best of my understanding can’t be captured in the kind of articles you are citing, valuable though they are — and I totally agree that the information contained needs to be taken in and understood by all that haven’t yet.

      I think my position is something of a combination of “(the insistence on) the best is the enemy of the good”, “keep an open mind”, “never say never” and I suppose ultimately, let’s try to understand the genuine needs of all people, and the best interests of animals, and continue to work out ways in which we can do our best to meet those needs. It will never be simple — but if it were simple, wouldn’t life be boring!

      Simon

    • 58Anthony Hay November 19th, 2020

      The most chilling words I’ve read here: “I think humanity now has sufficient knowledge to start actively designing ecosystems with a lot of diversity.”

    • 59asimong November 19th, 2020

      @Anthony, 58: Sorry, I didn’t mean to come across as chilling. Perhaps you could be so kind as to spell out what it is that you find “most chilling”, as my guess is that what you fear is not at all related to what I had in mind. Here’s another example of constructive conversation… if you leave it as saying that what I wrote was “most chilling” you’re not inviting mutual understanding, and perhaps you are projecting onto me views or attitudes which I don’t have. How can you know if you don’t ask?

      If you like, focus on my word “start”, that’s where my emphasis was in my mind when I wrote that. And also please recognise that in my imagination we start by understanding the ecosystems that we have inherited (and too often, ruined). With something like rewilding — an idea that has passed into general conversation — we have the options of simply “hands off”, which seems to be to be abrogating our responsibilities; or continuing to manage the rewilded ecosystem. Because obviously rewilding itself needs some kind of design — which species are you going to put back? So aren’t we already deliberately designing the restored ecosystem? What’s the difference, except that if we mess around we can just ruin ecosystems, while if we are actively engaged there is a chance of restoring and regenerating?

      Some people might come to this from the position of “we’ve made such a mess of it that all we can do is take our hands off and let nature do it’s thing”. I don’t know whether or not that’s your position. To me, the conclusion would be that we reduce the world’s population by some 99% or so (how?) and return to a hunter-gatherer existence… But if we don’t take that position, we are playing with ecosystems in any case, so do we do it as well as we can or do we just follow our noses?

    • 60asimong November 19th, 2020

      Perhaps I can clarify a little more. I understand that people are rightly cautious about an attitude where we we assume we have all the knowledge necessary to “control” whatever it is. That would be an engineering approach, which is fine in its own context, but I would strongly doubt suitable to genuinely complex systems such as ecosystems. But to me, design — and particularly, iterative design — doesn’t necessarily fall into that trap. We can make the best guess as to what interventions are going to lead to the best outcomes, try it out, monitor what happens … while all the time being aware that complex systems often respond in unexpected ways — that’s the nature of complexity. When the natural system responds in a way we didn’t expect, it’s time for some humility and some more learning.

      That’s what I meant by “start”. It’s starting an iterative, and humble, learning process, by acting as best we know and being sensitive to what happens. And “as best we know” is an interesting point in itself. People are, again, rightly suspicious of “expert”-led knowledge, particularly if it comes sponsored by powers that be that have a vested interest in the status quo. What I mean by “as best we know” is through a process that is as inclusive as possible — for example, by listening very carefully to indigenous knowledge — and absolutely not starting from the assumption that there is some research institute that knows best.

      And — at the risk of repetition, sorry — everything we do has consequences. When I say “intervention”, it’s not as if we have the luxury of not intervening at all, except in the very few natural preserves that have not been subject to intervention so far. (And with them, yes, please don’t intervene, except to protect from destruction!) To me, intervention is what I would call any conscious and deliberate changing of our behaviour. Going vegan is an intervention in that sense. Designing a vegan human lifestyle is an intervention.

      I think I read somewhere that biodiversity in some — e.g. indigenous — human societies is higher than in purely wild landscapes. That seems to me a good intervention. Likewise with the kind of interventions suggested by Dave (and in turn, Chris Smaje) I see a full-on smallholding approach as at least half way, or more, towards ecosystem design. My (limited) understanding of permaculture is exactly related to ecosystem design, working with nature.

      Maybe that’s my main point here, at last? I would like my words “actively designing ecosystems” to be heard and understood in the context of permaculture, and to me there is nothing chilling about permaculture — in fact to me permaculture is seriously heart-warming!

    • 61Dave Darby November 19th, 2020

      Yes, I guess every farm is a designed ecosystem – and the more diversity in them, the better.

    • 62asimong November 19th, 2020

      Please indulge my curiosity. After reading my explanations in 59 and 60, does anyone else find my words that Anthony quoted in 58 chilling? If so I would be interested to know, as I’m not intending to be chilling about restorative and regenerative ecosystem design. There are many chilling things around of course, like the destruction of ecosystems, and business-as-usual responses to climate emergency, but I’d rather not be lumped in a category with them!

    • 63asimong November 19th, 2020

      And, while we’re at it, why not remind people of the lowimpact article on Permaculture — https://www.lowimpact.org/lowimpact-topic/permaculture/ — and ask if anyone finds that chilling? Talks about design a lot…

    • 64Anthony Hay November 19th, 2020

      Simon, I’m sorry for the drive-by comment that I now regret. I saw us arrogantly clearing the Amazon so that we could install our beautifully designed ecosystems. I now realise that is not what you are suggesting. Sorry.

      Dave’s questions:

      “You can decide that you’re never going to eat squirrels or pigeons – but do you have the right to dictate to others that they shouldn’t eat them either?”

      No. I don’t personally have the right to dictate to others what they may not eat, but society, through the law, does. If enough of us agree we shouldn’t eat squirrels we could get the law changed. As far as I know it is not currently against the law to eat a squirrel. It is against the law to kill and eat another person. If the person wanted to be killed and eaten we would assume he was mentally ill and should be cared for, not eaten. But I’m pretty sure the squirrel doesn’t want to be eaten by anyone/anything. Anyway, we can’t ask him and not enough people care either way to get the law changed.

      “Some people shoot and eat pigeons and squirrels. Is that OK, morally speaking?”

      No. See below for my arguments, for what they’re worth.

      “Would it have been better for the bird if I’d bashed its brains in rather than guiding it to the window?”

      Yes. But I don’t think you could have foretold that. It was chance that it died right then. You can’t know that the animal isn’t going to live a long life and have many offspring. It would be wrong to assume that any wild creature you come upon is about to suffer an inhumane death and so would be better to have its brains bashed out immediately.

      “So I guess the question I’m asking is: would it really be worse for squirrels and pigeons for some of them to be shot by humans than for some of them to be predated by pine martens and sparrow hawks?”

      No. Not much of a choice, both lead to death! But it isn’t worse to be shot because it is a more humane death. (Assuming good shots, closed seasons to avoid starving babies left behind, etc.) But how far should we go? If we humanely killed all wild animals we could reduce animal suffering to zero. Should we do this? No. What level of animal suffering should we allow? Is that our call?

      “And aren’t the deaths of animals kept on smallholdings less painful and horrific than the deaths they face in the wild – either torn apart by predators or eventual starvation?”

      Yes. Humane killing is better than inhumane killing. But from the animal’s point of view I would think that preferable to both would be not being killed.

      You say it’s possible to farm animals without any level of cruelty. Other folk disagree. Either way, the animals are still being exploited. People generally agree it’s immoral to exploit other people, even (especially?) if the exploited are unaware they are being exploited or are in some way vulnerable. Vegans say we should extend this protection to all sentient species. This might be the right thing to do because it makes the world a kinder and therefore better place, which is a desirable outcome.

      “So, is it morally acceptable to eat squirrels?”

      No. It’s unkind.

      “If you think not, then what about reintroducing pine martens? This would require human action to make it happen. So if we shouldn’t kill squirrels and eat them, should we also not reintroduce pine martens, because pine martens will probably cause even more suffering for squirrels?”

      If experts agreed that pine martens should be reintroduced to an area in an attempt to fix some earlier human ecological vandalism I would support it, regardless of whether I thought it was morally acceptable to eat squirrels or not.

      How do you know it will cause more suffering? Pine martens will reduce the squirrel population and the result may be less suffering. But, as above, I don’t think that’s our call. (Arguing against this: if it was ethnic cleansing of people in another state we might step in to try to prevent it. Though not always.)

      “Herbivores are part of a food chain, in which they are food for other animals. Humans are animals. Could / should we be in this food chain, as long as we participate sustainably and without cruelty? And if not, why not?”

      People are part of nature, but people are not wild animals and we don’t base our morality on what wild animals do or don’t do.

      Yes, we could be in (at the very top) of this food chain. No, we shouldn’t be in this food chain because it’s unkind to kill a fellow creature.

      I read every word of your article, but I didn’t read every word of the comments. Sorry if I sound abrupt and rude, I’m just trying to be concise. This has been a really interesting thread to read. Thank you. All my answers sound certain because I’m trying to be clear, but really they are tentative. I’m not sure that avoiding being unkind is going to cut it with you.

    • 65Dave Darby November 19th, 2020

      Anthony

      Don’t worry, you can be as abrupt as you like. It’s only abusive comments that get deleted.

      “If enough of us agree we shouldn’t eat squirrels we could get the law changed.”

      – exactly. I can’t see that happening for several generations, if ever, so the debate is more about persuading people to eat less meat (which includes some people becoming vegetarian or vegan) – in which case we’d be on the same side.

      “I don’t think you could have foretold that”

      – sure – I meant ‘with the benefit of hindsight’

      “Assuming good shots, closed seasons to avoid starving babies left behind, etc.”

      – absolutely

      “If we humanely killed all wild animals”

      – no – just a relatively small proportion of non-endangered species, and only for food.

      “from the animal’s point of view I would think that preferable to both would be not being killed.”

      – sure, but they’re part of a food chain, so it’s not their call. I’m wondering what the difference is to the animal which other species it’s killed by. I guess the species that kills them as close to instantly as possible, maybe?

      “Vegans say we should extend this protection to all sentient species. ”

      This is my main point. I’m saying they don’t do that. They only want to protect animals from humans, not from other species. This is a really important point, in terms of animal welfare. Vegans do not want to protect (e.g.) deer from (e.g.) bears – only from humans. This is no protection at all for a deer about to be torn apart by a bear, and that deer would not believe for a second that the world is a kinder place because one particular species is not going to kill it, but others still are.

      I get the impression that it’s more about absolving ourselves of responsibility (or squeamishness, or genuine concern for what killing does to humans – rather than to the prey animal), rather than kindness; because being content with bears eating deer in the most horrible way imaginable – as bears do (don’t make me show you the video) just doesn’t seem kind to me (and it’s nothing to do with the fact that ‘the bear can’t help it’ – because that does nothing to alleviate the deer’s suffering).

    • 66Dave Darby November 19th, 2020

      Love the term ‘drive-by comment’ btw

    • 67Anthony Hay November 21st, 2020

      Dave, I thought a bit more about your question “would it really be worse for squirrels and pigeons for some of them to be shot by humans than for some of them to be predated by pine martens and sparrow hawks?” and would add this:

      No. However, if you humanely kill the pigeon the result is one dead pigeon and one hungry sparrow hawk. The sparrow hawk either starves to death or it finds some other prey. The result is one humanely killed by you pigeon and at least one animal, sparrow hawk or prey, that dies inhumanely. Your intervention doesn’t seem to have prevented global suffering. You have only changed the death of one particular pigeon.

      To your point about protecting animals from humans but not from other animals. I did touch on this when I suggested we kill all wild animals humanely to reduce animal suffering to zero. The Wikipedia article on veganism mentions people who argue that predation should be eliminated from the wild. We kill all bears and manage deer populations by fertility controls. What could possibly go wrong? This sounds like the sort of chilling and arrogant intervention I wrongly accused Simon of. But it’s a more consistent position than mine and a thought-provoking idea.

      Yes, bears cause suffering. Bears need to kill to live. We could kill all bears, or just keep a few in cages and feed them humanely killed animals, to reduce animal suffering. I do not believe we have the right to make such an enormous intervention.

      Yes, animals suffer in the wild. It is not our place to stop that.

      Yes, we could kill wild animals humanely for food. We don’t need to do it but some people enjoy the sport and/or taste. I think it makes the world a worse place than it needs to be. We can’t ask bears to kill humanely. We do ask people to kill humanely. We could ask people not to kill for sport or food.

      You focused on killing wild animals. I’m guessing you also don’t accept the point that farming animals is exploiting them and exploiting them is wrong.

    • 68Dave Darby November 21st, 2020

      Anthony

      Yes, I had exactly the same realisation – it wouldn’t have been better for me to have killed the pigeon humanely (with hindsight), because the sparrow hawk would then have killed another pigeon – so it may as well have killed the first one (horribly).

      “To your point about protecting animals from humans but not from other animals. I did touch on this when I suggested we kill all wild animals humanely to reduce animal suffering to zero.”

      – but that’s going to make global ecology fall over, which is probably a bad idea (sarcasm emoji – does one exist?).

      “Yes, bears cause suffering. Bears need to kill to live. We could kill all bears, or just keep a few in cages and feed them humanely killed animals, to reduce animal suffering. I do not believe we have the right to make such an enormous intervention.”

      – yes, I’ve had this conversation in the comments on previous articles. I’ve seen that there are philosophers talking about it seriously. For me it’s not that we don’t have the ‘right’ to intervene – if that’s what humans decided to do, no other species could stop us – it’s that we don’t have the wisdom to do it without making ecology collapse. Maybe at some point in the future, we’ll decide we don’t want to live on a planet with so much animal suffering, and remove all large predators to parks (predators of large mammals at least), and then pick off the weakest herbivores humanely to feed to the carnivores. I’m not advocating this, by the way – just saying that it’s a way to minimise animal suffering.

      “Yes, we could kill wild animals humanely for food. We don’t need to do it but some people enjoy the sport and/or taste. I think it makes the world a worse place than it needs to be.”

      – why do you say that? what’s your definition of worse? What about sustainability? Isn’t it much more sustainable to harvest some non-endangered animals from wild habitat than to remove wild habitat to grow crops?

      Arguments against humans eating meat on grounds of cruelty don’t work for me as long as we’re content for other species to tear animals apart. Those arguments can’t possibly be about animal welfare, can they, really? And arguments against humans eating meat on grounds of sustainability don’t work for me either, because of course there’s a level of meat-eating that’s sustainable (not the current level, obviously) – the above example of harvesting non-endangered animals, for example – or keeping ruminants (say in North America) at much lower numbers than, and that emit less methane than, the herds of bison that don’t exist any more – and so on.

      But the argument that interests me most is that killing animals is bad for humans. It’s difficult to provide evidence, but it certainly chimes with me. Would a vegan humanity be more or less likely to wage war and inflict violence on each other? I’d guess less.

    • 69asimong November 21st, 2020

      @Dave, you ask “what’s your definition of worse?” I think that’s the whole point I was trying to get at earlier. If you can trace back to your basic values, and others can as well, then at least the disagreement becomes clearer. Or, more likely, we have all worked out in our own ways what would make the world a better place, and to be honest it’s quite hard to do that consistently, so if anyone questions our own way we are liable to see them as not wanting to make the world a better place, whereas it may be just that they have worked out their own way. Quite sad really.

      Like I’ve said, I respect your position, it seems to be pretty well thought through; I respect the position of vegans, it is also well thought through. Personally I’m flexible. I would be happy to be vegan, but the people I’m living with aren’t, so at present I’m contenting myself with being mostly vegetarian. None of us can fight on all fronts at once. Getting on with others has value as well.

      By the way, @Anthony, thanks for your apology, accepted. I see how you were imagining what I was thinking, and that is indeed chilling! Hearing “What could possibly go wrong?” — imagine me adopting a very pained expression, and maybe saying “Nooooooooooo!”

      I think most of us have less stable values than we think. I know that, on inessentials, I am swayed by the company I keep, and by my desire not to impose my values on others. But if we use these discussion well, I do think it can help us recognise our own values more clearly, as well as those of others. At the end of the day, you and Dave might make a different choice on what to do in the same situation. All I’m saying is that, to me, it seems helpful to dig down and find out what motivates those different choices of action, and to bring that into the conversation. I do think that everyone here is pretty good at the civilized, respectful position of recognising that someone else can still be a good person even though they choose a different course of action in some situations.

    • 70Anthony Hay November 23rd, 2020

      Simon, thank you for accepting my apology and I’m sorry I didn’t read your posts more carefully. Yes, I’ve got to know people who I liked and thought very highly of who’ve had, for example, different political views to me. Sometimes I learn from them and change my views. Sometimes we might agree to disagree. But it doesn’t feel right that killing an elephant or chimpanzee for sport or food should be a matter of personal preference, of no more import than a taste for Marmite. It feels wrong but I’m failing to express why. Maybe it’s just sentimentality and that is an insufficient reason.

      Dave, you’ve got other things on your plate with the book (congratulations), but I wanted to say a little more. I feel we’re circling round something and not moving on, but I’m not sure where we are.

      I think where I am is this: I think it’s unnecessary and unkind to kill sentient creatures for food just because we can, just because they are not our own species, just because people have done it for a long time. Killing wild animals for food has caused extinction and pandemics and might brutalize people. I don’t like it but I accept that wild animals need to kill wild animals to survive because nature is sometimes cruel. I don’t see wild animals killing wild animals as a justification for people to do the same, because people are not wild animals. (Like the occasions Lions and sharks hunt, kill and eat people is not a justification for people to kill people for food either.) I wish I had the wit to express this clearer or understand why I’m wrong. Can such a brutal and unnecessary act really be just a personal preference?

      Farmed animals are a separate case that we’ve stopped talking about.

    • 71Dave Darby November 23rd, 2020

      Anthony

      Thank you! (the book)

      Yeah, I think we might have got stuck. You’ve mentioned the kind / compassionate approach before, but I don’t know what you mean. When I shooed the pigeon out of the window, it was caught by a hawk and suffered the most agonising death you could imagine. Was it ‘kind’ for me to watch the hawk do what it did? What would you have done? If you’d have just watched it without trying to stop it (and why wouldn’t you – things like that happen millions of times every day?) – then what does ‘kindness’ mean? It can’t have anything to do with animal welfare, can it? How can refusing to shoot a pigeon, but being content to watch a hawk give it a brutal death be ‘kind’, or anything – at all – to do with the welfare of the pigeon, and therefore animal welfare in general? (nb ‘but we’re not like other animals’ or ‘it’s not necessary for us to kill animals’ etc. is irrelevant to this question).

      Like I said, if you think that killing animals is bad for us as a species, that’s interesting, but not because of concern for animal welfare, when there’s so much brutality in the wild.

      By the way, you mentioned two species – elephants and chimpanzees. They’re not prey species (unless individuals are really unlucky), and therefore if we didn’t harvest them, they wouldn’t be killed by any other species, unlike deer, for example. So I don’t think they should be considered food – in the same way that dolphins or humans shouldn’t.

    • 72annieleymarie November 23rd, 2020

      Dave (and anyone else interested!)

      My concluding comment here: For me, the hypothetical suffering of squirrels under different scenarios, together with other similar questions you have raised on this forum, might be important but remain decidedly side issues in our current predicament.

      LowImpactLiving.org claims to be “Probably the world’s best sustainable living resource”. The biggest threats to humanity, and all of life, are Climate change; The 6th biodiversity extinction; Various forms of pollution; Resource overuse. Humanity faces a number of extra threats, among which key ones are: The current and future pandemics; Obesity and chronic diseases; Antimicrobial resistance; Social injustice and inequality, leading to unrest, migrations and wars.

      The production and consumption of animal-based food is either the leading cause or a key factor for all these threats. Thus there is abundant scientific evidence showing that a plant-based diet is the most sustainable diet option, both for our own health and the planet’s.

      The research director of Project Drawdown (https://drawdown.org/) confirms that eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/opinion/coronavirus-meat-vegetarianism.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes

      The lead author of the largest study ever conducted on the environmental impacts of farming explains that “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth – not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification [air pollution, which kills millions every year], eutrophication [water pollution, which kills both human and aquatic life], land use and water use”. Thus, he continues:

      “Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy”
      (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth).

      There are other huge impacts besides environmental ones: Covid 19 is one of the many zoonoses affecting society, with outbreaks of highly virulent bird flu currently hitting UK poultry farmers and the fur industry getting destroyed following the spread of the coronavirus. Such zoonoses increase the already very high risk of antimicrobial resistance, due in a large part to livestock receiving globally three quarters of antibiotics, with tens of millions of deaths predicted unless we change our ways fast. And there are of course plenty more public health issues with meat/dairy. For instance your website tells people how to produce and buy sausages and other processed meat but they are Category 1 carcinogens, together with tobacco and asbestos. Is that responsible?

      Meat/dairy is an extremely powerful industry: $1 million is spent each minute in the world to subsidise farming, and the vast majority of this goes to livestock farming (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/16/1m-a-minute-the-farming-subsidies-destroying-the-world). In the UK, only 1% of agricultural subsidies go to the production of fruit, vegetables and nuts – the foods we most need to eat (and only 16% is grown here – in ‘Feeding Britain’, by Tim Lang).

      So with OECD countries spending $318 billion/year on agricultural subsidies that overwhelmingly go to meat/dairy (+ biofuels), but virtually none to fruits and vegetables, one scientist concludes that “the power and freedom of choice attributed to consumers are questionable”. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jonathan_Latham2/publication/344943680_The_Myth_of_a_Food_Crisis/links/5f9a04f8458515b7cfa72b97/The-Myth-of-a-Food-Crisis.pdf?origin=publication_detail

      This powerful livestock industry keeps spreading misinformation, paying scientists and journalists to distort facts. So it’s no wonder that the vast majority of people don’t have a clue about the true impacts of their diet, as studies consistently find. A recent one found that people surveyed in 7 countries, including the UK, thought that turning the tap off whilst brushing one’s teeth had a more beneficial impact on climate than avoiding meat. But the authors confirm that, in fact, “As an increasing number of studies show, eating a plant based diet is one of the most impactful behaviours that individuals can take. Going vegan can reduce emissions from food by up to 90%”. https://climateoutreach.org/reports/mainstreaming-low-carbon-lifestyles/ – and food emissions amount to some 30% of all emissions. Thus Joseph Poore worked out that a global shift to plant-based diets could wipe out 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6429/eaaw9908). And this is just the climate impact – there are all the other environmental, social and health costs to consider.

      Anna Lappé is the daughter of the author of the 1971 ‘Diet for a Small Planet’, which was already telling us to go plant-based to make human life on Earth sustainable (and I did, then). Michael Clark is the lead author of a recent study which confirms that we cannot reach Paris Agreement greenhouse gas levels without drastic reductions in meat and dairy consumption. He tells Anna: “Plant-rich diets are associated with pretty large increases in health outcomes. While for this paper we focused on climate, plant-rich diets have enormous co-benefits.” Indeed, study upon study has shown that the more plants and the fewer animal-based foods are produced and consumed, the more co-benefits are accrued. So: “Don’t we need animal protein? No. We can live longer, healthier lives without it”. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/opinion/coronavirus-meat-vegetarianism.html

      Thus I find it utterly shocking that LowImpact.org publishes information on health provided by the meat industry, which of course fails to mention the long list of scientific evidence showing the benefits of replacing meat and dairy with plant foods. A few recent ones are https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/eat-more-plant-based-proteins-to-boost-longevity and https://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/lipids-metabolic/food-red-meat-sugary-drinks-risk-heart-disease-stroke and https://www.healio.com/news/cardiology/20200305/plantbased-foods-confer-mortality-chd-benefits – but there are many hundreds of others!

      Instead of posting meat industry propaganda, I would expect LowImpact.org to post resources such as this WWF calculator, which helps people see the environmental impacts of their current diet, how it can be improved and how this might bring health cobenefits: https://planetbaseddiets.panda.org/impacts-action-calculator/uk. The associated report on “the restorative power of planet-based diets” contains plenty of useful info https://wwfeu.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/bending_the_curve__the_restorative_power_of_planet_based_diets_full_report_final_pdf.pdf).

      The former government Chief Scientist, prof David King, who set up the Independent Sage group of scientists to provide information on Covid, has just announced that the group’s mission will be expanded to cover issues such as “climate change, which is the greatest threat to humanity” https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/nov/21/independent-sage-scientists-to-join-climate-crisis-battle. Prof King recently stated that “we have a moral imperative to ditch red meat” https://news.sky.com/story/we-must-ditch-red-meat-to-save-planet-top-scientist-warns-11720791. Knowing, as we do now, that many of the increased risk factors for Covid are morbidities associated with the consumption of animal-based food (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, etc), as well as all the virus risks associated with meat production and meat plants, this moral imperative is now even more compelling.

      Dave, you have stated that you feel smallholders need to include livestock to survive. Yet there is plenty of evidence that this is not the case, even with the current perverse subsidies propping up livestock (to the tune, for instance of some £25,000 per dairy farm on average, pre Covid, so more now still with extra funding, plus tax breaks). I had flagged an online event this week which featured stockfree farmer Iain Tolhurst, recipient of many awards, including ‘Soil Farmer of the Year’, when he “impressed the judges with his impressive knowledge and understanding of how to maximise soil biodiversity and his innovative use of composts and green manures within his rotation, as well as his agroforestry system. Whilst the business has been established over 40 years, it continues to innovate, push boundaries and educate others” https://organicgrowersalliance.co.uk/winner-of-the-soil-farmer-of-the-year-announced/. Such a farm, which can be carbon negative whilst producing healthy food feeding far more people per hectare than any mixed farm could achieve, whilst boosting biodiversity, should surely be an inspiration for a LowImpact site? And there is an increasing amount of information available on stockfree farming (e.g. https://veganorganic.net/2019/03/veganic-the-super-organic-way-of-growing-and-eating/ ), as well as various resources to help farmers transition (e.g. https://www.vegansociety.com/take-action/campaigns/grow-green, https://www.milkthisisyourmoment.org/ , https://thetransfarmationproject.org/, https://uniseco-project.eu/case-study/sweden, https://rancheradvocacy.org/ etc.

      IPCC lead author Prof Julia Steinberger (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Steinberger ), co-author of a great recent study on how humanity can maintain a good quality of life without damaging the planet (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378020307512#b0050) was tweeting on Friday:
      “I don’t know anyone sensible who doesn’t understand that moving to plant based diets is necessary both for biodiversity and climate.” https://twitter.com/JKSteinberger/status/1330065152583077888
      …with a key obstacle being “the people who can’t be bothered to do the work to change (mostly rich and white) people’s diets, including their own”.

      I was going to stop here but have just started reading Chris Smaje’s book. I consider Chris a wise man in many respects but feel sad that he has repeated some of the distorting memes found on the sites where Chris tends to publish articles: The Land, Resilience, The Sustainable Food Trust – all founded and run by livestock farmers (like Chris), who have vested interests. So Chris writes that “livestock-based methane emissions are not climate forcing unless the herd size grows”, but this is misleading. All methane emissions are climate forcing in that they push us towards tipping points. They contribute to the current warming “that has already fundamentally transformed our planet and its natural systems, with consequences including heatwaves, drought-induced forest fires, flooding from increased precipitation and sea-level rise, and bleaching of coral reefs, resulting in considerable economic and livelihood impacts across the globe. And while methane is characterised as a short-lived greenhouse gas in terms of its atmospheric lifetime (on average 12 years), the climate impacts of methane emissions are far from short-lived: it takes over 700 years for the temperature change effect of a pulse emission of a tonne of CO2 to rival that of a pulse emission of a tonne of methane”. https://fcrn.org.uk/fcrn-blogs/gwp-methane-metrics-and-confounding-science-and-policy.

      Even the scientists that Chris refers to explain that “Long-term methane emitters have a warming legacy [especially so in the UK], and their continued emissions sustain elevated temperatures. It could thus be argued that, despite being able to achieve no additional warming through relatively small mitigations, continued methane emitters still have a responsibility to decrease emissions and mitigate climate change as much as possible” https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab6d7e.

      Chris also devotes a few pages to the land sparing/sharing debate (which you wrote you hadn’t heard about??) and concludes that “the ecological literature is quietly ditching the sparing-sharing framework”. Hmmmm! It may not be all black-and-white but the conclusion reached by most studies, including a host of very recent ones, is that overall land sparing wins for biodiversity – which is inconvenient for Chris’s thesis and livestock farmers promoting grazing. Thus for birds in the UK, overall “Combining land sparing with demand management measures (reducing food waste and the consumption of animal products) leads to more positive population changes” (https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13362 ). Anyway, I look forward to reading the whole book and I’ll stop here. I’ve rested my case!

    • 73Dave Darby November 23rd, 2020

      Annie

      I went to your first link. “ … the Smithfield pork plant, which produces some 5 percent of the country’s pork … ”

      And the second one: “ … takes up 83% of farmland … ”

      and so on.

      It’s all about industrial agriculture, which we oppose. It’s all irrelevant to the points I’m making in the article.

      And the article is about the ethics of eating squirrels or reintroducing pine martens, not about human health; but those arguments don’t work either – not for people eating meat, say, once a fortnight. Many of our topics involve using sharp tools, electricity, chainsaws, scythes, blacksmithing. Then there’s bushcraft, various building techniques, installing renewables, hiking, sailing, cycling, canoeing, wild swimming – and picking wild mushrooms! So many health risks! If we were over-concerned about health & safety, we’d have to remove a lot of topics. Plus biodiesel, car-sharing, hitch-hiking, electric vehicles. Cars kill 1.3 million people globally every year. We’d have to remove those topics too. Plus natural soaps contain lye, lime dust is corrosive to lungs, compost toilets can harbour pathogens, wood stoves can burn your house down. And consuming home-made alcohol! On reflection, we’d have to close the site.

      I repeat the main points that I made above:

      – Arguments against humans eating meat on grounds of cruelty don’t work for me as long as we’re content for other species to brutally kill animals. If vegans are happy for a deer to be eaten by a bear, a wolf, a python – any species except humans, then their concern can’t possibly be about the welfare of the deer, can it?

      And arguments against humans eating (any) meat on grounds of sustainability don’t work either, because of course there’s a level of meat-eating that’s sustainable (not the current level, obviously) – the above example of harvesting non-endangered species from the wild without having to remove habitat to grow crops, for example; or keeping ruminants (say in North America) at much lower numbers (and emitting less methane) than the herds of wild bison and deer that don’t exist any more – and so on.

      But the argument that interests me most is that killing animals is bad for humans. It’s difficult to provide evidence, but it certainly chimes with me. Would a vegan humanity be more or less likely to wage war and inflict violence on each other? I’d guess less.

    • 74Mike Eaton November 23rd, 2020

      Sadly a lot of this seems theoretical as far as the majority of the world knows or in fact cares – so how do we convince the world that they must become Vegan to save the world or else? Certainly not the way Annie tells it – the majority will sadly just ignore it, mutter that well known quote from Dad’s Army from way back “We’re all doomed, Doomed Mr Mannering!” then sit back and wait for the government to save them whilst they go happily onwards in their destructive manner. Too much apathy in the world I’m afraid, plus of course most of the world still thinks along the lines of a third world existence – survival NOW is far more important than what might happen – eventually – maybe!

      Remember Y2K and many other so called “doomed” situations – nothing happened and so it follows that there’s a good chance that nothing will happen anyway – except of course “is it ethical to kill and eat squirrels or pigeons” The main point of this lengthy thread. Here it seems that this ended up too deep for many and apart from the few involved (three to four people) it will be quickly ignored and forgotten – another chance lost to produce something of meaning – each chance lost is another nail in the worlds coffin! Thanks to everyone for their input but . . . . .

      Incidentally as Dave asked – Is it ethical to kill and eat those animals? That question does not seem to have been answered except in the individuals cases which are generally the same as they were before this thread was started!

    • 75annieleymarie November 23rd, 2020

      Dave

      “I went to your first link. “
      No you didn’t.

      My first link was Project Drawdown, which out of 82 solutions to fight climate change ranks “Plant-rich diets” in 4th position, almost ex aequo with “Reduced food waste” (3rd) and the latter is linked with the former:
      “The most important source of food waste is not uneaten portions that end up in the trash (…). The biggest issue is animal-based food products” https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/food-waste-its-not-what-you-think .
      And: “meat and dairy are the worst food to waste https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/19/meat-dairy-waste
      And: “As expected. animal products are the highest contributors to metabolic food waste” (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00126/full.
      If Drawdown considered “plant-based” rather than “plant-rich” (i.e. flexitarian) diets, this would likely be No 1 in the list.

      The “argument that interests you more” is a convenient diversion from facing squarely unsustainable lifestyles and the win-win solutions that work best. I feel it is a dereliction of duty to post information on health provided by the meat industry – and then claim that health matters are not important to you. They are very obviously not! Talk about ethics!…

      As the wonderful prof Julia Steinberger (currently working hard on the upcoming IPCC report) wrote: sensible people understand well that “moving to plant based diets is necessary both for biodiversity and climate”.

      The arguments on sustainability don’t work for you because you are not interested in looking at the evidence. Your site has too much vested interests.

    • 76Dave Darby November 24th, 2020

      That’s enough Annie. I’ll debate with anyone, but not if they’re accusing us of having vested interests. You’re blocked from commenting in future. Your comments are incoherent, endlessly linking to sites criticising industrial livestock farming, which has no relevance to our position. You’re now insulting Chris Smaje, The Land magazine, Resilience and the Sustainable Food Trust – all excellent promoters of local, non-corporate economies and land reform – as are we. How dare you slander these people, due to your inability or unwillingness to debate in good faith and your obsession with humans (but not other species) eating meat.

    • 77asimong November 24th, 2020

      @Dave — I will admit to disappointment here. Annie’s position is tough, yes, but to me seems completely rational and coherent in its own terms. I’m not hearing her as saying that you have vested interests, but that some of the material on the site is linked to people with vested interests. Banning / blocking people closes the way to finding common ground, and although it may be occasionally necessary for emotional sanity, in my opinion this is not appropriate here.

      For example, you could give Annie the benefit of any doubt, and say “did you mean, that in your opinion some of the materials quoted or referred to on the site represent vested interests?” My guess is that would be a position you could both perhaps agree on (or some variant), and that you could justify, or you could look deeper into what a vested interest is, or… (that’s the benefit of continuing dialogue). Or you could give Annie a chance to come back and modify her statement. Blocking doesn’t achieve that.

    • 78Mike Eaton November 24th, 2020

      How sad – Annie gets banned for being too vocal; Dave I can appreciate your frustration with Annie and the stance she takes – the trouble is she believes so vehemently in her cause to the exculsion of all others such that she tries to say so much in one statement when less would do a better job – as for insulting several people, as maybe in a gentle way but not aggressively so – an aggressive insult would certainly give rise to an imediate banning. But she does have a right to put forward her view (even if it tends to be rather hard at times) that is the British way and please remember that many have died (and worse) in various conflicts throughout the world so that people have that right.

      I also fear that in banning her you may be handing her a pyrrhic victory, in her mind at least.

      Finally Dave may I thank you for all your efforts in running this thread but please note the above.

    • 79Dave Darby November 24th, 2020

      Simon / Mike

      I can understand where you’re coming from, but I’ll try to get anyone’s genuine queries answered, or debate anyone (and it is a debate – “to engage in argument by discussing opposing points.”), as long as they’re debating in good faith and are not insulting. Annie fails on both counts.

      My main points are:

      1. If someone is content for a deer to be eaten by a bear, a wolf, a python – any species except humans, then their concern can’t possibly be about the welfare of the deer, can it?

      – it’s a simple, clear philosophical point that Annie steadfastly refuses to address – instead she’ll post a long list of links about the cruelty of industrial agriculture, which we oppose.

      2. There’s a level of meat-eating that’s sustainable (not the current level, obviously) – the harvesting of non-endangered species from the wild without having to remove habitat to grow crops, for example; or keeping ruminants (say in North America) at much lower numbers (and emitting less methane) than the herds of wild bison and deer that don’t exist any more – and so on.

      – to which Annie will post a long list of links to sites pointing out the unsustainable nature of industrial agriculture. In Annie’s world, keeping just one ruminant is unsustainable, unless it’s not going to be killed or milked, when it suddenly is.

      I always try to respond to anyone who posts a query, or to find someone to answer it for them – or to anyone who debates reasonably. Annie takes a lot of time to respond to, and is wasting my time in not responding to points in good faith, and linking to irrelevant information. It’s frustrating – ‘emotional sanity’ is right. It really isn’t rational or coherent, Simon. The kind of approach you’re suggesting I’ve tried many, many times, as have others, but it doesn’t work (she’s done the same thing on many other posts, for a long time).

      But she’s now insulting Lowimpact and me personally – that I’m not interested in evidence (when she doesn’t post relevant evidence); that we shouldn’t be called Lowimpact etc. Now she claims that we have vested interests (we have none) – and that so do superb organisations that we link to, like The Land magazine, the Sustainable Food Trust and Resilience.org – all campaigning, like us, for a non-corporate, democratic, sustainable future. She also says that they publish ‘distorting memes’ – and of course she’ll be saying the same thing about us. Chris Smaje is on the board of the Ecological Land Co-op (he joined when I left), who help prospective small farmers get on the land and build a house. Superb organisation, who would also be insulted by Annie, as some of their smallholders keep livestock.

      She can contact me – dave at lowimpact.org – if she wants to comment here again, which is fine as long as she indicates that she understand the above, and commits not to do it.

    • 80Mike Eaton November 24th, 2020

      Dave, fair comment and thank you for allowing us to defend her such as it is. My complaint was not so much about the content of her posts but more her right to make them. Having said that I also agree that the one thing that Low Impact does not have (and i’ve read a lot of your stuff quietly in the background) is vested interest in anything other than getting information out to everybody with the view to letting them decide how they will deal with the particular subject on the table at the time. Now I will really shut up . . . . . hopefully, as i do not think any further comments from me will assist anyone involved here! Especially Squirrels or Pigeons.

    • 81darkhorse99 December 2nd, 2020

      A thought: how does all this apply to indigenous peoples who hunt animals for food and who farm animals in a traditional way? Many indigenous peoples are fighting for their survival and their right to follow their ancient ways. Such peoples often have a strong spiritual connection to the animals they hunt and by honouring the creatures’ spirit, often seeing it as a ‘relative’ they avoid spiritual harm themselves. I mean in the sense of give and take: the animals give their lives and this is accepted as a gift – if the animals did not give their lives, humans would not be able to catch them; an agreement is implied. Maybe this is a way that humans justify the taking of life, but it is a widespread and fundamental belief among many indigenous peoples. How do we fit this into our western moral framework?

    • 82Dave Darby December 2nd, 2020

      darkhorse

      It depends on your perspective. For me, I think it’s important to try to preserve areas of the world where ancient indigenous lifestyles can continue. If your perspective is that animals should never be killed by humans under any circumstances, (although we should of course stand aside to let other species do it, because that’s nature, which humans are somehow separate from), then your position might be that these cultures have run their course, and it’s time to introduce the Inuit and Aborigines (for example) to portakabins, government payouts and whisky. I’ve discussed this on previous blog articles, with someone who subscribed to that, and really, for those who believe that humans should never eat meat, it’s the only consistent position.

    • 83Darkhorse99 December 7th, 2020

      Thanks Dave. My feeling is that we in the western world don’t have the right to interfere with other cultures (cf colonialism etc); also that, we have got into the habit of seeing humans as separate from “nature” when we are just as much part of it as the clouds and the bacteria. So if predator animals are to be allowed to kill & eat other creatures, why not humans? Do we classify ourselves as predators? Technically we are omnivores, and omnivores do hunt and kill. So where does that leave us? It seems to me that we’re good at projecting our feelings and opinions onto others: we seem to have a need to eradicate suffering from the earth. But this is impossible, being alive means that at some times we will experience suffering. How do we disentangle our human fear of death and pain from the objective observation of what animals do to each other? So, is suffering something that we need to experience in order to learn how to transcend it? But we can’t expect animals to see it that way. These are all parts of the conundrum of how far humans should go in trying to control things. So I boil it down to: my personal responsibility is to avoid creating suffering whenever possible and to do my bit to prevent “ unnecessary” suffering eg that which humans selfishly cause for our own gain.

    • 84Anthony Hay December 17th, 2020

      Dave, I hope you will allow this long delayed comment.

      I read that baby elephants are predated by lions, and chimpanzees are predated by leopards. I assumed that means they are part of food chains. But I still don’t understand why the abstract human construct of a food chain is so significant. I cannot believe being predated is a vocation.

      I think you agree that it is unnecessary for people to kill wild animals for food as we could get adequate nourishment elsewhere. (We could feed many more people on existing farmland if we ate crops instead of feeding them to animals and then eating the animals.) You believe there is no ethical reason why wild animals should not be humanely killed and eaten and in some cultures it is an important and ancient way of life. You are content to live in a world where killing wild animals for food is acceptable.

      I, on the other hand, would prefer to live in a world where it was not acceptable to kill wild animals for food. Unfortunately for me, I cannot think of any principle to support my preference over yours. I can only resort to a concept I learned at my mother’s knee: “it’s not nice,” which I guess just means “we don’t do that sort of thing here,” which in turn is just an arbitrary cultural norm, in this case one not shared by you, or most other people.

      I believe the principle some vegans might use to argue against killing wild animals for food is that they believe all sentient animals are of equal value and should be treated with equal respect. I do not accept this principle. If a cat and a human child were trapped in a burning building and there was time to rescue only one of them, I believe it would never be right to choose the cat. But again, I have no explanation as to why. It just seems obvious to care more for the child than the cat. Perhaps buried deep down in my subconscious it’s only the consequences: saying to the child’s parents’ “yes, but I saved your cat.” (I hope not.) Or maybe it’s that the child might grow up and find a cure for cancer, whereas the cat will remain a cat. (But who’s to judge the value of a person?) If I value people over other animals it doesn’t mean I see animals as mere objects, but it does mean I can’t use this principle to support my case.

      So you support killing wild animals for food and I haven’t found a reason why you shouldn’t. But neither have you given me a reason why I should support it.

    • 85Dave Darby December 18th, 2020

      Anthony

      “I, on the other hand, would prefer to live in a world where it was not acceptable to kill wild animals for food.”

      I have to question you on that. I think what you mean is that you’d prefer to live in a world where it was not acceptable FOR HUMANS (and only humans) to kill wild animals for food.

      Is that right? And if so, why?

      The answer I usually get to this question is that ‘bears/foxes/weasels can’t help it’, or ‘it’s nature’ or ‘carnivorous animals don’t have any other option’ etc.

      But my response is always the same, and I’ve never received a satisfactory answer – what difference does that make to the animal being killed and eaten? If you were in the woods with a rifle, and you could kill a pigeon (instantly) and take it home and eat it, but you refrained from doing so because of compassion for the pigeon – but then a hawk grabbed the pigeon and started to tear chunks out of it alive, would you shoot the hawk? If not, what has just happened to your compassion for the pigeon? If it’s not ‘nice’ to shoot the pigeon, how on earth is it ‘nice’ to watch it die slowly and in agony? If that happened, and the pigeon could talk, I’m not sure it would thank you for your compassion.

      I’m glad you’d save the human rather than the cat. Watch this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUnWk4s4_js&t=9s. The guy in the headscarf says at one point that if he had a relationship with a non-human animal, he’d save that animal before a human he didn’t know. If he saved an animal when he could have saved a human, who died, I think he should go to jail for life – and if that person was someone I loved, I think I’d attempt to kill him. And I would have told him that if I’d been there. I think he got off lightly.

      “So you support killing wild animals for food and I haven’t found a reason why you shouldn’t. But neither have you given me a reason why I should support it.”

      I’m not asking you to support it, just to be able to have philosophical discussions about it in good faith – which you are. But if someone goes into the woods once a week, gathers some edible plants and shoots a pigeon, and takes it home and eats it, that’s one meal per week that doesn’t require any cropland at all, doesn’t require any removal of or damage to habitat, and doesn’t threaten pigeon numbers overall. You don’t support that?

    • 86Mike Eaton December 18th, 2020

      Dave

      With reference to your comments on saving a “non human animal” rather than saving a human first it must be remembered that some – nay many – people consider any creature that they are having a “relationship” with (pets mostly) are part of the “family” – there are many cases of this from dog handlers (both police and military) and/or others with pets (or work dogs – so called Blind dogs) – especially the old and lonely who put “their” friend and companion before any mere human passing by that they do not know. This I’m sure includes man so called pigeon fanciers especially in the North East of England that I’m sure put their pigeons above and beyond other pigeons that they do not know – what are the ethics to them of killing the unknown pigeons that are “interfering” with their own friends – the pigeons in their roosts?

      This certainly seems to change the entire ethics situation all round. I’d be very interested in th views of the rest of the forum, personally I would support the person who chose to go that way, but having said that like in all things it is as much the situation at the time as much as or opposed to theoretical situations – what you would actually do if in that situation rather than sat around your own fireside discussing it?

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