Here’s the Beef

Lierre Keith’s Mother Earth News article “The Truth about Vegetarianism” brings up several points worth considering, most importantly this one:

The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us.

Keith doesn’t mention William Ruddiman’s theory that our current global climate change started when man discovered slash and burn agriculture, but what she says certainly fits right in with Ruddiman’s conclusions. People have intensified their food production and with that their numbers. Like all living things, the nutrients we need limit our lives. By nature, we are omnivores. That’s a fact. Whether or not we eat meat however is quite a complicated issue, morally, ecologically, and economically.

I grew up hearing about how much grain was wasted by feeding it to livestock, but I agree with Keith that the answer isn’t going vegan. As she suggests, the answer is even simpler: Stop feeding grain to food animals. Cows eat grass. Chickens chase down grasshoppers. As he, a former vegan says, the answer isn’t getting rid of all the food animals and going vegan. For some parts of the country, the local populations could, in fact, add to ecological destruction by going vegan.

Eating cattle raised on land naturally suited for grass may well be ecologically sounder than eating organic vegetables and fruits raised on grassland made suitable for vegetables and trees through the use of intensive irrigation provided by humans rerouting or pumping water.

Much of western America is basically unsuited for growing vegetables. The west was–and a great deal still is–rangeland, sparsely populated by deer, antelope, and such, along with a few people and their cattle. (I’ll refrain from comment about grazing permits for now.) But over much of America, grain crops now rule where cattle and buffalo once roamed.

Wells, then pivot sprinkler systems, allowed the mass production of grain crops, and then with surplus grain came modern industrial farming, one of the worst abominations invented by mankind. Not only do factory animals suffer unspeakably, but it’s also becoming more and more clear that, overall, this capstone of supposed efficiency embodies all disruptions and dangers inherent in human agriculture.

Ironically, even when we operate from the best intentions, human efforts to improve our lot, corrupt, and even destroy efficient and highly functional ecosystems.



One Response to “Here’s the Beef”

  1. babz Says:

    I don’t buy red meat anymore. There’s a freezer full of deer and elk. Nice to not be trapped in the big metropolis.

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