This is The ChangeUnderground for the 18th of October 2021.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
Meat is Bad, Okay?
As we covered back in episode 272: Methane, the arguments against the continuation of certain agricultural practices may be based in opinions rather than a critical analysis of the science. And if we get it wrong, we could be driving towards a hell on earth. And that destination is not in my satnav. What a quaint word, satnav. I’ve never used one and maps, Apple or Google does what those horrendously expensive toys used to do. They have gone the way of the pager, the fax and the typewriter. Are we to stand by and watch the cow, the sheep and all the other ruminants follow them into the dustbin of history?
The Economist podcast: To A Lesser Degree published on the 5th of October started from the position that beef is bad, ok, and the best way to overcome this “evil” is to grow beef in a bucket. Well they called them biodigesters but you get the picture. The second option offered was a plant based meat. Now ignoring the obvious oxymoron, meat as nature grows it is plant based but I’m just being pernickety now.
Let’s interrogate these claims.
The underlying premises of the anti beef in particular and anti meat in general arguments come down to three principles:
- Methane as covered in episode 272,
- Meat is murder, I’ll get to this, and;
- Food fed to animals is wasted and should be fed directly to hungry humans.
Meat is Murder?
Let’s face the big one: Meat is murder. This is the summary, the longer version goes like this: I won’t eat anything with a face or a mother. This position is the end point of a line of thinking that separates humanity from Nature. That places us above and outside the workings of a system that’s evolved over the last 3.7 billion years, give or take a week. The vegetarian/vegan line of thought travels in a straightish line from nasty, brutish and short lives through the growing “civilisation” of humanity to the alleged end of human slavery to the emancipation of humanity from the animal kingdom, for the good of the animals and the virtue of the humans too.
This is not the place for an esoteric discussion on the nature of time and its seeming one way flow but suffice it to say the arrow of time has been applied to natural/biological systems with little ill effect until there is. The idea that evolution has been heading towards humanity and that as humans we now above that process is what led to eugenics, the master race in 1930s Germany and the forced sterilisation of the disabled across the “civilised” world. From this line of thinking, as I see it, we are a special species, outside of and more important than Nature. So we have responsibilities based upon the Abrahamic religions to apply the commandments to ourselves and then, strangely, to the animals over which we hold dominion.
This leads to bizarre consequences. I can see an individual’s decision to not eat meat. It is when that individual then decides their dog or cat doesn’t need to eat meat and can also go “vegan” that I begin to see animal cruelty. In listening to “The Vegetarian Myth” I discovered the concept of removing all carnivores to produce a heaven on earth. The idea, proposed in a chat group, for the division of the Serengetti into two halves with herbivores on one side and carnivores on the other to end the killing based upon the “fact” that carnivores on’t actually need meat because one poster in the forum had seen their dog “eating” grass. I’ll be generous and assume this is just a lunatic fringe but that the idea could be considered bothers me.
I am, as I assume my longer term listeners would have concluded, of the “we are part of Nature” school of thought. Not better nor worse than other parts just capable of reflecting upon our actions. Now things like CAFOs I think are clearly not a part of Nature. For that matter no part of agriculture is but the extent to which we diverge from the originally evolved systems determines the level of blowback we’ll end up wearing for our actions as a species.
This blowback is not a direct cause and effect system. Those of us in the developed world who’s nations are mostly responsible, historically, for the increased CO2 in the atmosphere are the least likely to suffer from the initial consequences. It is places like the low lying islands in the Pacific already being drowned by sea level rises, the once self sufficient small farmers of the developing world who are unable to withstand prolonged droughts and the poor in the developed world who are killed off by heat waves and cold snaps.
Food or Feed?
Now to the “food fed to animals could, nay should, be fed to humans and all the domesticated beasts allowed to die out, naturally” argument.
Where to start?
My go to starting point is, as ever, biomimicry. If we take the premise that agriculture is an inherently flawed process from the biomimicry standpoint so far, we need to find a balance between animal and plant systems. In the wild, animals maintain certain ecological types. For instance, Yellowstone Park is a good example. Wolves were reintroduced in 1995. The deer had previously been feeding wherever they wanted. After the wolves arrived they tended to stay away from the waterways and these regrew tree cover. This stabilised banks and cleaned the waterways. Other areas now had higher deer pressure and this led to healthier grassland areas as the deer were forced to higher concentrations and more movement, just like regenerative agriculture. The correct balance of animal to plant resources maintains a healthy landscape. By replacing wolves with electric fences and deer with any stock of choice, we can mimic the biological systems proven to work on this planet through billions of years for evolutionary testing. That plants benefit from animals is, I think, a proven point. I have been wracking my brain and googling like a madman to find a natural ecosystem that does not include animals. By animals I mean things we humans can see, the microbiota are an accepted background noise.
The growing of plants without animals is a slow process unless huge amounts of chemical additives are factored in. Growing organically, probably 85% of what’s grown needs to be composted and returned to the soil. Compare this to grazing, or using a couple of pigs to do the same job. “Compost”, well manure, in 24 hours versus weeks or months for the actual compost.
We can move onto large areas of Argentina, Australia and South Africa, along with the steppe grasslands of Eurasia and these landforms will turn grasslands into proteins using animals. Putting them to the plough was done and still is to some extent but the soil loss taken to extreme leads to dust bowls and collapsed civilisations.
We are going to hear some really interesting ideas from COP26 Glasgow and we are also going to hear a load of claptrap from politicalized vegans and their useful fools who would not know a food garden if they stood in the middle of it. There will be manure loads of virtue signalling around meat with little understanding that CAFOs are not the only, the best or even the most used system of meat production. Gently point your friends, coworkers and acquaintances to the rational, the biomimicking and the best way we have to Decarbonise the air and Recarbonise the soil.
And if you’re ready to make the leap into growing your own food in an integrated animal supporting/supported way go to the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/ and you can obtain a free copy of The ChangeUnderground No-Dig Gardening System.
I’m also back as far as episode 154 in republishing the transcripts since the “great website crash”of earlier this year. Hopefully I’ll have all the transcripts up by the end of 2021.
And don’t forget the Facebook Group: ChangeUndergound Podcast Group
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course:
FREE eBook: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1546564598887681
Bubugo Conservation Trust
Episode 272: https://worldorganicnews.com/episode272/
The Vegetarian Myth
Climate change means Australia may have to abandon much of its farming