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The Plant-Based Diet That Our Planet Urgently Needs

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/24/plant-based-diet-our-planet-urgently-needs

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The “Wet Market” story is getting old. So is that blame game.

Green is beautiful. Plants, energy, and the Party.

Good piece and on target information.

Now to get the hold outs on board. An agonizingly slow process.

Not to me. And the author mentioned slaughterhouse workers in Wales and Germany helping to spread the disease. And there will be a push back on those who want to keep the wet markets (e.g., ~https://science.thewire.in/environment/coronavirus-pandemic-wet-markets-wild-foods/) and those (me, Dr. Fauci, many others) who want to permanently ban these markets shouldn’t let up because the story is boring to some. We definitely aren’t there yet on consensus solutions that don’t involve all of us going vegan (though I wish we would, it won’t happen anytime soon and we need more protection now).

The reform movement should include wet markets (everywhere, not just China) and slaughter houses, pig farms, chicken farms, and every aspect of growing meat to reduce the zoonotic transfer (which happens in the US too - some big pandemics started here)

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Thanks for writing about this topic. Millions of people are already discovering a more healthful, sustainable way forward by removing animals from the centers of our plates. DefaultVeg, is working with trailblazing organizations and individuals to embrace plant-forward foods as the new norm. The easier it is for each of us to choose the better option, the more quickly we will see radical shifts. Together, we are building a more resilient world. We encourage all reading to get involved. Find us at @defaultveg.

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Make (veggie) lo mein

Not Whoppers

This topic needs more attention, but please don’t write that we all have the right to “perpetuate violence” on other people, because obviously we don’t, which is why you followed by saying that doing this could result in jail time, etc.

Excellent article. Facts are facts. There are over 100 actual reasons not to eat animals. Including the fact that our culture LOVES pets but treats all others as edible objects. Pets! You know, the animals that we have decided as a species, are OKAY to love. And what we dont do for them, billion dollar industry for pet toys and accessories, we make videos of them and consider them…now wait for it…FAMILY. Which is fine with me. But why?Why would “pet” a dog and then EAT A PIG?Pigs are more intelligent than dogs, and they are cute and very lovable in their own way. Why do we these things?Hypocrisy and ignorance.
Carl Sagan who warned us all about the coming disaster if the fundamentalists got into power, also called out humanity’s hypocrisy and blindness about animals. Here is his quote:
“Humans - who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals - have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and ‘animals’ is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them - without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behaviour of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.”
*Ever heard a pig scream?*Because they do that thing, when they are in pain.
Also? Lots!and Lots!of delicious, nutritious meat-free options especially now…no time for excuses, the future of our children and this planet is at stake.

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This is highly oversimplified and misleading. The largest issue is not what exact portion of our diet is animal protein, the largest issue is how we grow our food. Right now most grains and vegetables and fruits are highly dependent on petrochemical agriculture and is overusing water through wasteful monocultural practices. There is a reason for our reliance on petrochemical agriculture which many advocates of moving to a plant based diet do not understand. What we call agriculture kills living biomes, kills soil bacteria, kills soil fungi and over time has led to once fertile regions becoming deserts. When you constantly dig up soil it kills the life of the land. This loss of fertility was threatening a massive loss of food supply around a century ago when petrochemical fertilizers began to become the norm for farming operations. This is unsustainable and is part of global warming, algal blooms, the depletion of aquifers and many other environmental problems.
The good news is that there is a way to grow food that would end this catastrophic reliance on unsustainable and destructive farming methods. It is called permaculture and while it would lower meat consumption it would involve many animals and their meat eggs and milk. All truly sustainable systems of food production include a vital role for animals, both wild and domestic, for their manure, their ability to live on grass, their appetite for insects and larva.
Don’t misunderstand me; Industrial meat production is awful and too much meat in a human diet is unsustainable, but many animals would have no life at all apart from their role in the food cycle of humans. This argument over vegetarian vs meat obscures more important food issues: the reduction of plastics in food delivery, food growing systems that work within realistic water budgets, protecting water from pipelines, fracking, petrochemicals, localizing food markets, minimizing the use of tractors, ending the use of glyphosate especially on grains being eaten by children. I respect the vegetarian lifestyle but I question it as being of great moral importance. I have been a vegetarian for at least 10 of my years, but as a grower of food I know the centrality of animals to a healthy permaculture system and have decided that being a moderate omnivore is healthiest and most sustainable.

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Hi Jonabark,

I would totally agree with you about our reliance on intensive agriculture and I would also agree with you about permaculture being a great solution. Where we might differ, is the use of animals within that system. My family are actually operating a small permaculture farm at the moment. We are still in the early stages but there is no need for any animal products, fertilizer etc. Human waste makes great fertilizer, especially if you only eat plants.

When you speak of no moral importance to avoid murdering sentient beings, again, we might differ. If we don’t need to cause suffering, then as the wise species that we pertain to be, we should certainly practice benevolence as part of the description we have given ourselves.

How can we ever live in peace if we are not peaceful ourselves? Isn’t than an oxymoron? “I’m peaceful, except for the dead animal hanging out of my mouth?” It doesn’t make much sense.

By the way, I’m not against animals being in the system, I’m just a proponent of having healthy ecosystems that can function without human interference. As an example, couldn’t we bring back apex predators to control herbivores that are used within the permaculture food system you mentioned?

We have done so much damage on this planet, and I agree with you that industrial farming has to go, but shouldn’t we also try to bring back flourishing ecosystems as well?

“This is highly oversimplified and misleading. The largest issue is not what exact portion of our diet is animal protein, the largest issue is how we grow our food.”
As much as I hate factory farming, and as much as I love permaculture, the biggest issue really IS how much meat and dairy people eat–especially how much beef, lamb, and goat meat they eat. The math of the problem is staggering: A vegan diet only uses 20% of the land of an isocaloric omnivorous one, so if everyone in the world switched to a vegan diet tomorrow, we suddenly don’t need to be farming up to 80% of the land we are currently farming. We could reforest an area the size of the US. With demand for meat evaporated or almost evaporated, most deforestation in the Amazon would cease (70+% percent has been motivated by worldwide demand for beef). But lets say most people go almost vegan and still eat a few pieces of fish, egg of meat a month, so we are reducing global farmland by 70%. That immediately eliminates most factory farming on Earth at the same time, and then we can go to work on eliminating the rest. But if per capita global meat consumption does not drop dramatically, there is simply no way to find the land we need to plant a trillion trees, no way out to save the Amazon, and no way to save much of the Earth’s biodiversity (meat consumption is the #1 cause of loss of biodiversity). Quite simply, saving the Earth requires–among other things–that global meat consumption drop sharply. The math doesn’t work any other way.

Here’s media coverage of two major studies published in 2018 on the issue:
Google The Guardian, avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

and Google Common Dreams, To Save the Planet From Climate Catastrophe, New Study Says Put Down the Damn Meat

This is a very Western and international economy-oriented piece that makes some points, but badly misses points as well.

Most Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and some other people would make a fine contribution by not eating meat because they currently purchase meat produced by a destructive factory farm system. Part of the reason for this is that factory farms use human-usable food as animal feed, thereby destroying more habitat to feed the animals to feed the humans than they would need to just feed the humans. However, not everyone who eats meat, eggs, and dairy products does that.

You can feed a human on less land using animals in the food process than the same humans would require without the animals. That is because whatever your sense of ethics, you cannot derive much food value out of a lot of plant fibers. Some non-human animals can–rabbits, goats, sheep, and cattle, among others. Their waste and bodies, like our own, can and should be returned to the ground–so that the plants can eat us in turn, though that oversimplifies the process a bit, since we and the plants are all mostly using microbes for all this.

So let’s admit that animals are sentient, at least in significant measure. But if you do eat, not eating animals raised within an ecologically sound system means that you are destroying other animals to raise what you do eat. Of course, if you are buying from someone who destroys more area to feed cattle than you need to feed yourself, that is all the more damage.

But things can be done well, and even humans are capable of being involved. Animals can be raised along with the plants. The carnivores can eat meat, the omnivores can eat many things, and the herbivores can eat plants, and the system can work much as it has the last billion years or so.

I don’t buy that eating meat makes you a murderer. Is a lion, or coyote a murderer? There are many roles in a healthy ecosystem and your moral judgements may or may not be handed down from on high. You claim to know, I am skeptical. I am an anti-war activist my whole life, and a food grower, and contemplative artist mystic. But I don’t become any more aggressive when I eat meat than when I don’t. The vegetarian Hindus of India have a murderous political history that makes their abstinence look as phony as Calvinism or settler colonialism. Indigenous people are almost entirely omnivores with those further north eating more meat. I have a hard time with those from our planet-destroying civilization condemning them. The problems on the earth are not from indigenous omnivorous lifestyles and I regard the moral condemnation of vegans who jet set around the globe to be far more disgusting than taking the life of a fish or deer or domestic animal who has had a good life. For thousands of years west coast Indians ate salmon and shellfish and deer and those species thrived in almost unbelievable abundance. It is dams and canned fish and huge factory fishing boats and global warming that decimated and are now destroying these things, not harvesting reasonably from nature’s abundance. Our self restraint and honor of the limits of our particular biome needs to be something shared in our local culture, our ceremonies, our local observations.
Yes we need a lot of wild land and many places would provide for human needs in a mostly or entirely wild state but people will not stop hunting or fishing or eating insects or eggs and those things are not what is endangering all life forms. The idea that all our problems are from meat eating is wrong. It is the shift to growing grains that engendered the diseases of civilization with its wars, mining, empires, deforestation and endless acquisitiveness and wastefulness.Tilling the soil is unsustainable. There is no way to grow the amount of grains, fruits and vegetables needed in this Vegan diet without petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides and no way to convert industrial capitalism away from its violent greed. No one is qualified to steer this planet or make decisions from some lofty theory. Those ideas of the perfect ‘ism’ have proven to be diseased and self destructive, and the sooner the whole sick dream of civilization( cities deriving their abundance from the labor and resources of others) ends, the better.

Industrial meat is feeding the appetites of an industrial consumerist world. Will people stop building that world because they eat a Vegan diet? I want a survey of energy consumption by european and US vegans that demonstrates that. Will they stop using dams and fossil fuels and nuclear poison to power their computers and tvs and stoves and factories and lights and air conditioners and oversized houses?
The question is how are we going to live? and not in some theoretical socialist paradise of vegan moralists but as global warming wreaks havoc how are we going to
grow food and shelter ourselves and build a new world from local materials wherever we are? Because that is the likeliest future if there is one.
If you build a global movement of peace loving vegans that is ready to beat the missiles into soup kettles, and stop poisoning our precious earth mother I will with deepest joy join you and never again eat meat.

I am for zero industrial meat. ZERO. That will not stop global resource demands by the wealthy, will not stop global warming, will not stop petrochemical agriculture, will not stop plastic will not restore the oceans. And an article in the Guardian will not convince me that there is any single thing that will address the disaster we are in. The question is not what do we stop doing; the question is what do we do.

Thanks for your reply. For over a decade, I have been researching and writing a book about what we need to do to heal society and the planet, so I am well aware there are a whole set of problems that threaten our continued existence as a species. However, if we want to have any shot at solving those problems, there are multiple non-negotiables that must occur, including addressing plastics, pollution, and capitalism itself. The two massive studies that are linked in those two articles I steered you too are from Nature and Science, two of the premier scientific journals in the world, and what those studies and other research makes clear is that regardless of sourcing, sharply reducing meat consumption is the most beneficial action an individual can take for helping to save the planet. And grass-fed beef actually appears to have a worse environmental impact because it uses land for longer to produce calories and nutrients. Because meat is such a terribly inefficient way to get calories and nutrients in terms of land use, meat consumption is the #1 cause of loss of animal habitat, #1 cause of loss of biodiversity, and #1 cause of deforestation of the Amazon. We can complain about Bolsonaro all day, but the Amazon has primarily been chopped down and burned down so Americans, and the Chinese, and others people could eat steaks and burgers.

No, meat alone won’t solve it: The pickle we put ourselves into requires that we throw everything and the kitchen sink at our Earth Emergency. But unless global meat consumption drops dramatically–or people eat lab-grown meat (although I am uncertain of its footprint)–we don’t have any shot at healing the Earth. For a sense of the scale of the problem, 47% of the “mainland” U.S. is used just to raise livestock. Livestock only produce 13% of our calories and 37% percentage of our nutrients, but use up 83% of agricultural land. On a planet with almost 8 billion people, significant meat consumption is simply a luxury the planet can no longer sustain.

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Is a lion, or coyote a murderer? No, because they don’t have a choice of whether to kill or not. As I said, humans have given themselves the moniker ‘homo sapiens’ which means ‘the wise one’. Lions don’t go around imprisoning other creatures and justifying it by saying they are wise and intelligent and other animals are below them. If we are to live up to our name, then being peaceful should be a pre-requisite. We cannot be peaceful to just a single species and violent to all others and then say we are peaceful. That is nonsensical and extremely shallow. Next, you go on to state that you don’t get more aggressive when you eat meat. You are missing the point. I didn’t mention that at all. I simply said that if we want to be peaceful, then actually being peaceful has to (obviously) be part of that. Of course someone could abstain from using animals for your benefit and then commit a horrendously violent crime. Technically if that crime was violent against an animal (including humans) you would no longer be vegan. But, let’s not mess around, a vegan world, whilst reducing suffering massively, would not surely eliminate violence completely.

With regard to indigenous people, of course no one in their right mind is going to impress a vegan world on them. But, let’s also be truthful, because of our diets, it is highly likely there will be no indigenous people left very soon due to rampant deforestation for grazing cows and growing their feed.

amazonwatch brazils-indigenous-tribes-are-being-hunted-by-murderous-cattle-ranchers

I completely agree with you about civilization. I don’t see things ending well, hence my family have just moved to a farm to begin growing our own food and not tilling the soil.

You say there is no way to grow the kind of food we need for a vegan diet without petrochemicals. I have seen no evidence to support this claim. Most scientific reports state that we would free up a ridiculous amount of land. An example is this study that states we would free up land equivalent to America, China, Australia and the EU combined. That land could be reforested. And the food we currently feed to animals also uses petrochemicals, does it not?

truthordrought.land-use-and-deforestation

I do share your not so unrealistic vision of our future. What i don’t share is your optimism that wild animal populations will last longer than a month when water runs out and food is unavailable. They will be hunted to extinction by humans almost immediately. Then, we will be left with a choice of eating food ourselves or feeding it to animals and fattening them up to eat. The original article points out the absurdity of someone choosing to do that.

One final article is about organic free range chicken farms killing the river Wye in the UK.

herefordtimes. .river-wye-turns-green-amid-chicken-farm-manure-claims/

Whatever way you slice and dice it, a vegan world (through choice for the masses who can choose) is just way more sustainable.

Also, Jonabark, please take a look at the book Project Drawdown. I think you would like it. The solutions are really interesting. You would certainly agree with some of them which do include using animals in some small ways in areas that are suited to them.