Individuals and groups representing vegetarians and vegans up and down the country have been responding to a recent article in New Scientist magazine.
VON (Vegan-Organic Network) welcomes Bob Holmes’ article “Veggieworld: Why Eating Greens Won’t Save The Planet” (issue 2769 14 July 2010) as part of the increasing debate about the future of food but was disappointed by its muddled logic and several omissions.
Holmes gives figures for the greenhouse gas emissions of beef, chicken and pork but omits plant protein from his comparison. He quotes a 21% reduction in land use if the world went vegan, yet later talks about marginal land as if it could not be re-forested, used for energy crops etc. He omits to mention the environmental damage caused by the tanning of leather, avoiding the comparison with a pair of shoes made from a renewable crop such as hemp.
He posits that the wealth=meat scenario will continue, with intensive rearing of animals being the least environmentally damaging solution. However, if the U.S. and Europe were to go vegan, given that the rest of the world frequently follows the West’s lead, particularly in dietary matters, a reversal of the paradigm could happen very easily.
“And that says nothing of animal welfare issues” says Holmes. In our more enlightened times, when evidence of animals’ intelligence and sensitivity is piling up and healthy vegans abound, animal welfare can and should no longer be ignored. Vegans commonly do not suggest that the world should go vegan overnight, but point out that there is a wealth of difference between the careful rearing of one or two “family” animals in a third world country and the cruelty of the industrialised model.
Holmes seems to accept that an increase in meat production would be environmentally disastrous without any mention of the alternative: stockfree organic agriculture, a proven, clean, green, efficient and cruelty-free method of food production.
Manure may be less important to farmers due to the current availability of artificial fertilisers, but Holmes does not look forward to the fast-approaching post-oil era where green manures, mulching, composting and crop rotation will be the norm.
Farmers, growers and gardeners all around the world are turning to stockfree organic methods: food grown for local consumption without animal inputs. The time has come to stop quibbling over which animal foods are least harmful, to accept that eating animals is not sustainable and instead to grow and eat the plants directly ourselves.