by George Monbiot
September 8, 2010
AlterNet

I used to think being a vegan was the only ethical way to eat. But an important new book suggests we can change our food system to allow for healthy meat consumption.

Carracci - The Butchers Shop - 1583


This will not be an easy column to write. I am about to put down 1,200 words in support of a book that starts by attacking me and often returns to this sport. But it has persuaded me that I was wrong. More to the point, it has opened my eyes to some fascinating complexities in what seemed to be a black and white case.

In the Guardian in 2002 I discussed the sharp rise in the number of the world's livestock, and the connection between their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. After reviewing the figures, I concluded that veganism "is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue". I still believe that the diversion of ever wider tracts of arable land from feeding people to feeding livestock is iniquitous and grotesque. So does the book I'm about to discuss. I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.

In Meat: A Benign Extravagance, Simon Fairlie pays handsome tribute to vegans for opening up the debate. He then subjects their case to the first treatment I've read that is both objective and forensic. His book is an abattoir for misleading claims and dodgy figures, on both sides of the argument.

There's no doubt that the livestock system has gone horribly wrong. Fairlie describes the feedlot beef industry (in which animals are kept in pens) in the US as "one of the biggest ecological cock-ups in modern history". It pumps grain and forage from irrigated pastures into the farm animal species least able to process them efficiently, to produce beef fatty enough for hamburger production. Cattle are excellent converters of grass but terrible converters of concentrated feed. The feed would have been much better used to make pork.

Pigs, in the meantime, have been forbidden in many parts of the rich world from doing what they do best: converting waste into meat. Until the early 1990s, only 33% of compound pig feed in the UK consisted of grains fit for human consumption: the rest was made up of crop residues and food waste. Since then the proportion of sound grain in pig feed has doubled. There are several reasons: the rules set by supermarkets; the domination of the feed industry by large corporations, which can't handle waste from many different sources; but most important the panicked over-reaction to the BSE and foot-and-mouth crises.

Feeding meat and bone meal to cows was insane. Feeding it to pigs, whose natural diet incorporates a fair bit of meat, makes sense, as long as it is rendered properly. The same goes for swill. Giving sterilized scraps to pigs solves two problems at once: waste disposal and the diversion of grain. Instead we now dump or incinerate millions of tons of possible pig food and replace it with soya whose production trashes the Amazon. Waste food in the UK, Fairlie calculates, could make 800,000 tonnes of pork, or one sixth of our total meat consumption.

But these idiocies, Fairlie shows, are not arguments against all meat eating, but arguments against the current farming model. He demonstrates that we've been using the wrong comparison to judge the efficiency of meat production. Instead of citing a simple conversion rate of feed into meat, we should be comparing the amount of land required to grow meat with the land needed to grow plant products of the same nutritional value to humans. The results are radically different.

Continue Reading Page 2 HERE:


Check Out This Book Review:

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, by Lierre Keith
* Posted by Dallas Gaytheist on September 8, 2010 in the Read Atheist group.



http://www.alternet.org/story/148098/ok%2C_i_take_it_back_--_we_don...


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Replies to This Discussion

Huh?  By that logic, we shouldn't kill newly conceived fetuses because they have a high probability of some day developing full self-awareness.  Are you secretly Catholic? And, again, what about the severely mentally retarded, severely mentally ill, demented, etc.?  They don't have the potential of which you speak, yet we grant them rights.  The basis of human rights, at least in the view of just about everybody I've ever met besides you, is not the fact that humans have current or potential self-awareness; otherwise, we wouldn't grant rights to individuals who belong to the above groups.

I am theoretically anti-abortion, if that is what you are asking.

The same rational argument for life of an animal can be used for the life of a cabbage though.

 

So what is your criteria for determining what lifeforms on earth get rights?

 

If you can comprehend that there is a difference between a cabbage and a human then you should also be able to comprehend that there is a difference between a cabbage and a cow. 

I can and i can also differentiate between a cow and a human.

 

Your ability to differentiate is what is in question here.

I used human in the terms of species which is what we are discussing... not individual illnesses and exceptions. But if you want to eat the mentally ill go for it.

By that logic, Stephen, babies and severely mentally retarded people should have no rights because they "are unable to reason to the point of identifying rights."  Do you really not understand how absurd this logic is?

maybe some people on here who have very harsh views against vegans should give their own bodies a closer look instead. 

So, you're too sexy to eat meat?  I'll take a look at Olympic Athletes as the form most widely considered appealing, and as I do I notice that fewer than a fraction of a percent of gold medalists have ever been vegan.

maybe u should give up, to look sexy like me

That truly inspires me to go buy a porterhouse steak.
portbella would be a better choice

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