Can the world go Vegan? A studied viewpoint regarding Vegan vs Omnivorous Farming.

Can we feasibly change our omnivorous farming practices?
A studied viewpoint regarding Vegan vs Omnivorous Farming.

— UPDATED AND EDITED – May 20, 2013 —


Preamble.

Can the world go vegan? Short answer? Yes, with an if … No, with a but.

The issues involved are far more complex than one would initially believe and thus this is not a pro- or anti- document. It is an exploration of the options. It attempts to look at the arguments and realities of what the numbers are in going towards the vegan ideal. The data is sourced from reputable organisations and cited. It does not consider morals nor makes any judgements on either side of the argument.

The answer is not black and white. This article attempts to explain why.


There is a common theme that comes up from the vegan community that goes along the the lines that it is far better for the environment (and by unstated extension, humanity) if the entire population of earth was to convert to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Any simple scan of forums and news article commentary will highlight the same set of proponents who will emphatically and empathically state the virtues of the enlightened. Arguments range from ideological to pseudoscientific. A common cry, however, is the apparent need for utilising less overall farmland than we need now.

If we were to ignore the ideologies, the arguments of morality or the many forms of vegan philosophies, we need to ask a simple question: Can the world support a vegan farming reality? Will we indeed need less overall farmland?

Arguments presented in the past have included logic such as requiring “1/1000th of the land” or “we shall be able to feed the same number of people with fewer resources” and even “it takes eighty-times less water to produce vegetables than meat”. So, I wish to explore these topics.


Water consumption.

Many pro-vegan and environmental impact organisations take into account that there are huge quantities of water required for livestock growth. There are a great many forms of livestock that utilise differing degrees of water quantity, but as the kings share is beef, it seems that all comparisons are therefore built on beef production.

So, the most common number proffered is that which is provided by the Water Footprint Network, which claim that it takes approx 15,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of beef.

This number is simultaneously correct and misinforming.

Sure, the average steer consumes about 35 litres of water a day and a 400kg lactating cow will require 60 litres a day. Therefore, a 400Kg lactating cow (and via her, the calf) consume 21,900 litres of water in one full calendar year. So where is this other 5,978,000 litres that the network claims are required derived from?

The majority of all documentation on livestock water consumption are based on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) commonly referred to as intensive feed lots or factory-farms.

They add to the overall calculation the water used to grow grain, transport the grain, wash the grain, mix the feed, distribute the feed … then they add the water used to wash down the lots, wash the cows, transport the cows, to kill the cows, wash down the abattoirs … and perhaps it is just and reasonable that it should include all of that water usage.

However, if these quantities are taken into account, I do not understand why the numbers are further padded with the rain that falls on pastures, the surrounding forests and the run off.

This “double-dipping” form of water usage calculations would not bother my sensibilities if it was a consistent measure for all farmland. I agree, to some degree, that a pasture does not exist in isolation of the rest of the environment, but neither, it seems to me, does a field of wheat. Yet in looking at the calculations of vegetables, grains or other crops, these numbers are not padded with the same standards.

Every paper I have seen takes into account the “ industrial production” as the norm for beef production, and yet always choose the “favourable climatic conditions” numbers to calculate the vegetable or cereal calculations and fail to calculate the washing, shipping, and other aspects of the growth to consumption life-cycle.

Ignoring that disparity, let’s look at what is required to produce one kilogram of common grain (i.e. wheat, rice, soy) grown under rainfed and favourable climatic conditions. About one to two cubic metres (that is 1,000 to 2,000 litres) of water is required to meet that need. However, for the same amount of grain grown in an arid country where conditions include higher temperatures and thus higher evapotranspiration rates, we will need to increase those quantities by a conservative 3000 to 5000 litres.

That said, I do concede that vegetation is usually less water intensive on a kilogram by kilogram comparison. I would like to have offered an additional analysis of that comparison on a calorie, protein, mineral or other nutritional factor ratios … but alas, I have not found any research or paper that offers such data.


All farmland is equal

Let us talk about the need for “less farmland”.

There is remarkably very little arable farmland in the world, and the number of arable farms that would be required to feed the population of earth is significant.

This is where I often am confronted with the argument that it is “not true, because a Vegan diet is more efficient you would only need about 1/1000th of the land”.

Which, unfortunately, is not a true statement of fact, but a belief.

Christian Peters informs us that “a person following a low-fat vegetarian diet, for example, will need less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce their food”

“Surprisingly, however, a vegetarian diet is not necessarily the most efficient in terms of land use” he continues

The reason is simple – fruits, vegetables and grains must be grown on high-quality arable cropland. Livestock based foods (such as meat and dairy products from ruminant animals) are supported by lower quality, and far more widely available, lands that are only capable of supporting pastures.

So, based on the last set of global census data (2008) we would require 3,068,444,911 acres of arable land. At that time, the global population was 6 billion and if a global one-child programme had been enacted, the ~3,212,369,959 of arable land that was globally available may very well have sufficed.

Not including the figures for degraded land, earth is currently losing, due to a range of factors, arable land at the conservative rate of 1% a year. Thus, a more accurate current figure is far closer to that of 3,024,382,549 acres.

However … we now have a global population that has already crossed the 7,000,000,000 mark, thus the number of arable acres required is far closer to 3,080,000,000 – or put another way, earth now has a shortfall of ~55,617,451 acres … and rising. In short, we have passed “peak land” and our growing population requires far more arable land than we currently have available to provide the nutrition required for all of those people in a vegan form.

As iterated, livestock are supported by lower quality (but far more widely available) land that can support pasture and hay. Thus, any claim that presumes we could simply remove the livestock and start growing vegetable or crop based foods on the existing farm land is flawed.

Current land use is an issue. Arable land must be saved – and not from livestock producers. A balance must be struck with conservation requirements as well. Further, mining and industrial expansion needs to be re-valued in light of the land availability.

Then there is urban expansion as well. Just as not all farmland is identical, urban developers prefer the arable lands that are easier to carve up and offer greener lawns than the arid, hilly or clay based lands that pastoralists utilise. But that is the topic of another debate.


Animal deaths still occur

It is important to understand that simply because one chooses to eat a vegetation based diet, it is not true that nothing died.

Ignoring the increasing evidence of plant sentience that is becoming available in scientific literature, the reality is that in the current scope of farming practices across the globe, not a single bite of food reaches our mouths that has not involved the killing of animals.

Aside from the plethora of insects, worms, nematodes and microfauna and ignoring the numbers of animals displaced by farm fields, it is estimated that three hundred mammals – mice, rats, moles, groundhogs – and birds are killed for the production of one acre of vegetable and grain foods.

By means of comparison, it is far more common to have only one (in the case of beef) to 200 animals (in the case of free range fowl) per acre of grass-fed livestock production … and they are all eaten. In fact, if one was to not eat the animals, and simply the byproduct of free ranging grass fed livestock such as milk from ruminants or unfertilised eggs from fowl, then no further animals are killed.

It is only the farming practice that alters these numbers. CAFOs bring the same number of “pest animal” problems and thus are just as likely to have the same control measures … and thus additional animal deaths.

The death of animals may be hidden from the list of ingredients of the organic soy burger patty, but that does not mean animal controls were not used, does not mean animal manure, or indeed, blood and bone fertiliser, was not utilised in its production. Do not, for a moment, believe that a pretty logo and an ISO certification an ethical behaviour makes.


Animal use is still required

Abolitionist vegans claim that animals are non-human sentient beings and thus should not be considered available for the benefit of man. In short, that any utilisation of animals is thus akin to slavery and should be considered as unsavoury as we would consider re-chaining any ethnic minority.

However, setting aside any arguments of speciesism, or the ideologies thereof, the argument is flawed under one very basic premise.

Agriculture is a co-developed system.

Domesticated plants and animals have altered in their evolution to support and be supported by humans and each other. It’s a partnership, and one that worked out well for all parties, at least until the dawn of factory-farming. Ironically, humans have also been affected by this symbiotic co-development and our own evolution has been determined by the amalgamation of domesticated foods at our disposal.

As Michael Pollan states in The Botany of Desire:

We automatically think of domestication as something we do to other species, but it makes just as much sense to think of it as something that certain plants and animals have done to us, a clever evolutionary strategy for advancing their own interests. The species that have spent the last ten thousand or so years figuring out how best to feed, heal, clothe, intoxicate, and otherwise delight us have made themselves some of nature’s greatest success stories

Evidence of this phenomena is everywhere in our lives, if we but stop and look. Wild canines discovered life with humans offered benefits. Humans were also able to work in packs, but unlike their canine brethren, could utilise tools to help bring down larger prey. So, the canines helped humans. The more they tracked and chased, the more prey was taken down and the more food there was for all to share.

Today, there are approximately ten-thousand wolves in the North Americas … and over fifty million domesticated dogs.

This has been the same for the few species whose futures are linked to that of the human race. Of the two million known and named species of animals on the planet,there are only forty that are categorically linked to us.

Oh. no doubt, we changed them. We needed them to be gentler, smaller, and wider, or bigger, perhaps slower or even faster … and they changed for us.

However, as iterated earlier, they changed us too.

Half of all humans now possess the gene required for lactose tolerance. Those whose ancestry did not include the biological result of being exposed to the lactations of the bovine will know the effect that drinking milk can otherwise have.

Our entire existence as human beings changed. No longer hunter gatherers, but sedentary agriculturalists and keepers of the those certain animals and plants that offered us something.

The symbiosis is a combination of soil, grasses, and animal rotation. Healthy topsoil provides for healthy plants whom feed healthy animals which in turn supply nutrients to the soil to remain in a healthy cycle. This cycle offers a natural and sustainable continuation.

Topsoil is, to me, a misnomer. It is a living biomass. Decomposing biomaterial, microfauna, fungi bacteria all exist in a microclimate that work together to produce a layer of material in which plants thrive. Soil is a magical wonderland – but that is a topic for another time.

Grasses have been the most succesful plants to domesticate humans. Wheat, Rice, Rye, Oats, Maize (corn), Buckwheat, Millet … all of these grasses have evolved and spread across the globe because of the symbiotic evolution with humans and their domesticated animals.

Many grasses (e.g. oats) have evolved to survive having their leaves eaten by livestock before sprouting a second spurt of life and shooting out the seed heads required for cropping. The animals are provided with controlled access to the oats, where they eat the fodder and deposit their nutrients onto the soil in the form of nitrogen rich urine and mineral rich fecal matter.

After cropping, the livestock are returned to the fields to once more feed on the remainder of the plants, recycling the chlorophyll rich cellulose matter into protein rich muscle.

Pre-industrial farmers would then slaughter the livestock required for meat. Everything was utilised, with the remainder of the hide, blood and bones all kept and ground to form “blood and bone” which was composted along with other carbon and nitrogen rich material and spread back out amongst the fields.

This rich mix of materials returned the trace elements into the soil, that along with rotated crops helped enrich the soil.

There are a plethora of other areas in this category as well, such as the truckloads of bees transported to pollinate orchards or the herds of goats used for weed management. Our dependence on animals for agriculture is so intertwined that the use of industrial machinery and chemicals are the only way we have removed their interaction.

In an age where we have reached a range of “peaks” – fossil fuels, land, water, phosphate – and the impacts of industrial, chemical and rock based fertilisers have brought us environmental concerns and damage beyond the desires of the farmers who first used them during the green revolution, it is perhaps best to consider that a return to the symbiotic relationship is the means forward.


IMPACT

Another argument I often hear is that “self sustaining agriculture based mostly on cereal has been around for 6000 years”, implying that somehow, a return to a paleo-centric diet is not only possible but better for the environment.

Whilst those cultures did certainly exist, it is also true that they existed in small, controlled locations with smaller populations. The reality is that meat eating was still part of their diets. Perhaps when looking at the lifestyles of many such cultures, where crops, fruits and vegetables were the mainstay and meat “happened” – not in large quantities, but not absent either – it is the better way to be.

All populations have traditionally eaten meat – only the form (herd animals, fowl or fish) may have changed. Even in countries where mammalian sources of protein were scarce or did not exist, then birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects have been consumed to make up the shortfalls in diets.

To those that wish to proffer the argument that grain is fed to animals instead of humans – I make two observations. The first is that most of the grain feed that does make its way to livestock feeds are classed as “unfit for human consumption”. The second is, that for the great majority of livestock, I agree – they should not be fed grains for it is not their natural (or even co-domesticated-evolutionary) diet.

I will for the sake of simplicity gloss over the arguments regarding affluence, localised land use, and profiteering. I shant expand upon the fact that there is far more arable land utilised for the growing of poppies, coffee, tea, chocolate and even marijuana than is used for animals or their feed. I’ll even ignore the issues of urban growth, industrialization, mining and the abuse of the use of clean fresh water supplies by industry to simply lower the cost of equipment replacement by ensure lowered part corrosion.

The reality is that all farming makes an impact. So, whilst a vegan diet may very well prove to be healthy, and indeed be more efficient than an omnivorous diet, it is a moot point.

Although, vegan diets can also cause far greater impacts than their proponents may realise. The aforementioned animal deaths required in the growing of food aside, the market forces that allow affluent consumers to take on the decision to choose the type of foods they will philosophically allow themselves to consume often affects the lifestyles and environments of less affluent regions of the world where that food is derived from.

It is a pattern repeated often with the constant renewing cycle of “miracle diets”, “ superfoods” or “green alternatives” that flood the shelves of the Organic and Vegan stalls or the so called ‘Health Food’ aisles of supermarkets.

As the hype increases, the demand for those products rise. In so doing, the impact of those crops alters. Palm oil, once espoused for being a ‘green’ product due to being re-utilised rather than being a waste product, has now become responsible for the mass clearing of jungle and rainforest to make way for the global demand. Soy consumption has increased tenfold over the last decade with usage in a range of products from cat food to chocolates. Corn has become so ubiquitous in the human food supply it is practically impossible to claim any food is now corn free. Quinoa has become so popular in the western world that the prices paid for the grain have now priced out the traditional local growers (whose staple it was) of being able to afford to consume it and thus western introduced foods (such as McDonalds) are now cheaper.

The impacts are far greater and further widespread than the survival of a few animals, the need of water or of land use. What is the true global impact of each decision? Is there no room to add the impact of these effects to the LCA of our dietary choices?


Market Forces

The eternal faith in the free market system often pokes its head up and espouses “if growing crops was the only way to make money, people would find a way”. Somehow presuming that a farmer, given the choice between low margin livestock and high margin crops would still choose the former.

I offer, by means of argument a very personal example.

I own the title to a piece of non-arable land. 132 acres of basaltic clay. It is riddled with bluestone. It is waterlogged in winter. It is a cracked parchment as hard as concrete in summer. The ability to grow grass is, in itself, often difficult enough. Growing crops is simply not an option.

There is however an experiment that I have performed on a small scale and do believe is possible on the larger scale. I believe I can alter the structure of the soil. I can make it arable.

The process would require I rock-rake the property to clear the loose stone litter. Following on the heels of the rake, importing and adding tonnage of organic matter will provide a basis for humous and topsoil to be built. Adding a mix of plant and animal based fertilisers, soil conditioners and some clever land forming methods, and it is quite feasible that the land could support some medium quality crops.

In fact, I seriously looked at the options to do this. I have calculation models across numerous spreadsheets. The price tag for this little agricultural miracle? A nice conservative round number of $15,000 per acre.

Assuming that I had such funds available to me, I would then need to find a range of locals who would then be willing to pay me three times more than market rates for my medium quality goods. If All goes well, I can hit a return on my investment in a mere decade.

Yet, herein lies the truth of the free market. While people will sign a petition, argue fervently on forums and may even protest … they vote with their wallet, and their wallets say “give me commodotised food”. Their wallets quite happily remain blind to the farming methods and the fossil fuels and the unrecorded deaths of small creatures.

The reality is that world population is growing. With that growth is an ever increasing commuting middle class. That brings with it the requirement for protein and energy that is far greater than traditional diets may have required. To provide for that requires specific types of food.

In greater quantities.

For cheaper amounts.


So, is it all for nothing?

Of course not. We need people to be passionate about animal welfare. We need people to keep corporations and the dubious honest.

We should all work for the elimination of confinement animal facilities and farming practices that cause desecration of the environment.

However, this is far more likely to be readily accomplished by millions of meat eaters opting for grass-fed animal products than by the smaller numbers of “vegos” boycotting meat.

We are far more likely to make a greater impact on the environemnt by returning to nose to tail utilisation of animals. Dropping the petro-chemical alternatives and returning to using the remains of the slaughtered animals to obtain those components used in soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, plastics, pharmaceuticals, waxes (as in candles and crayons), modern building materials and even hydraulic fluids.

Our ancestors would not have survived without using animal products like fur to keep warm, leather to make footwear, belts, straps and shelter, and bones for tools. In fact, the entire interactive network of life on earth, from the jellyfish to the judge, is based on the sacrifice of animals and the use of animal foods.

There’s no escape from dependence on slaughtered animals, not even for really good vegan folks


But maybe we can still try! What would be required?

The question itself is flawed as the greatest thing affecting the planet is of course the human population and will always be our limiting factor.

In todays world, veganism is a lofty goal and one reserved for the affluent. The reality is the additional cost of the logistics required to ship vegan only dietary stocks across the globe have and would continue to increase carbon equivalency, environmental impacts and if we were to become a vegan world – due to the tight requirement of population and arable land – any crop failures would cause mass outbreaks of famine.

So, ignoring population control and socialised food distribution controls, then to even think about getting close to achieving a greater market saturation of vegetarian based diets, new methods – like multi tiered hydroponic sheds and GMO based superfoods – will by necessity become a requirement.

The most nutritiously dense food (currently) known to man is Algea (i.e. spirulina and chlorella) is also quite likely the least appealing to most palates – even to hard core vegans, because, quite frankly, it has the least appealing texture, scent and flavour.

However, perhaps if humans could get over those things, then, yes, vertical farms can be built anywhere and nutrition can be grown for all.

However, that is a long call from an argument regarding food … or it’s enjoyment beyond nutrition.

Advancements in technology could address that though. 3D printing, and protein sequencing could become the future saviour of food, with spirulina and chlorella becoming the raw material required to ‘print’ food. However, until the age of the Star Trek inspired food replicator or a food printer, we are in fact limited to the reality of a decreasing land availability.

If natural farming methods are to be part of the solution, then it is neither a realistic nor achievable goal to consider a vegan world without being ready to undertake the social issues required.


Some notes:

I chose Christian Peters (who is a Cornell University researcher who has completed a number of research papers on this very topic) because he is actually a pro-vegetarian researcher.

I think it’s great that people are vegetarians or vegans, I am a strong supporter of philosophical based consumerism. However, I also am a strong believer in understanding the full story. I am an ex-vego and my journey to understanding has led me to become and agvocate. I am now an omnivorous consumer (and a part time farmer) I continue to seek to understand multiple arguments and explore other thoughts and perceptions.

When considering the overall moral imperatives, choices must be made. What has a greater moral value? Human survival? Animal Sentience? Plant Sentience? Environmental impacts? The choices are yours to make, after all morality is a mental illusion. However, remember that your moral choices are not for everybody. If you do decide that Animal sentience is a greater moral imperative to the environment or human survival, forcing others to choose your point of view is akin to a christian enforcing their beliefs onto a muslim.

If you have an opinion, that’s great, but unless you can back it up with a citation, please do not respond, because quite frankly, there are a hundred ways to make yourself heard and believed, but there’s also a hundred ways that do not make you right. Beliefs do not facts make.

If you have any research that clarifies or alters anything I have written, please do point it out to me.

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59 thoughts on “Can the world go Vegan? A studied viewpoint regarding Vegan vs Omnivorous Farming.

  1. <p>There’s no discussion here on the effects of methane emissions, nitrification of water sources from animal effluent, the impacts on soil (compaction, altered hydrology as you see in N. Australian wetlands). I don’t believe global exclusive vegetarianism/veganism is the answer – and to expect people in the world who already live hand to mouth to forgo essential protein is arrogant in the extreme. However, a significant reduction in meat consumption to the point that the intensive industrial processes is no longer necessary should be a goal. Westerners eat far too much meat, we sure as hell don’t need it on a daily basis with the food abundance we’ve already got. <p>’meat eating in large quantities is not limited to a modern US based population of the last few hundred years’ (using older European cultures as an example) – yes this is true but this was also in the days before refrigeration, and in the days before we had year round accessibility to fruits and vegetables from foreign lands. Have you ever thought about the fruit and veg that was available to the average European (and for how long) before explorers started checking out other corners of the globe? A seasonal glut in spring/ summer but not much else for the rest of the year. Something as exotic as an orange was still a delicacy when my mother was a child. Anyway, I don’t disagree with the statement per se but I also don’t think the writer has considered enough of the circumstances and variables either

  2. Nath,
    True – there are a lot of things I have not put into that piece – as is, speaking on VERY high level as I was, of just those minor aspects of the food cycle produced such a lengthy entry.
    I also am the first to admit there very well may be a level of bias confirmation within this entry, which along with a the many factors that I could not confirm or lock down, means this is still a studied point of view, not a peer reviewed article.
    That all said – the point is that there are far greater factors involved than just one random fact or another.
    The reason there is no discussion here on the effects of methane emissions, nitrification of water sources or the impacts on soil is because, in all fairness, those issues are in all forms of farming. Crop, fruit or Vegetable have the same issues. The difference is not whether it does, but where and when as much as how – but that is yet another thirty page dissertation in and of itself.
    Look, the reality is that ALL farming needs to get better. Pointing out the few "worst" is a common fallacy of argument which does not assist in properly exploring the options for the future.??
    Farm management – which must by definition include land management – is the answer. The other side of this as well, is that many of the facts, figures and examples provided are from the US where high-intensity farming is??practised. Even a true cursory view of Australian farming practices will show that this is a common ethos and we lead the world in the charge to improve resource usage and land management.
    If we are going to argue about a sure fire way to improve things, then there is only one thing for it – cull the human population and limit the impact they have.
    But I do not see this being a policy any political party is willing to put on the agenda.??
    So … I guess that means we need to keep looking at what the options are and the realities of those options – without emotive, idealistic or utopian ideals.
    What I am trying to say is, there are a great many shades of green and red and if it was that easy, we would have done it already.

  3. Thank you so much for putting the time into thorough research and writing such a logical, well thought out blog piece. I will be referring others to it.I’m exasperated by the vast numbers of people swallowing whole ‘Meat Free Monday’ & ‘Save the planet – eat less meat’ campaign propaganda. Research figures are cherrypicked, trotted out in isolation without explanation, and accepted as immutable facts not just by the general public, but by unquestioning journalists.One thing that puzzles me greatly. Take one cow grazing on native pasture in northern Australia (never feedlot fed). When that cow is loaded onto a truck and removed from the cattle station, surely the water used to create this beast could be no more than the weight of the animal, given that the only other water used is by the people working on the station – who’d require water regardless of where they lived; and cattle excrete (recycle) large amounts of water, they don’t store everything they drink?

  4. Fiona,


    This is one of the many factors that needs to be, for want of a better term, standardised. I fail to see how it is fair to calculate the water that falls on an entire property as a determination of usage for meat, but not for vegetable or cereal growth. As you point out, both should only have the "exported from property" value …??

    I’d like to hear from more certified and studied people on this topic.
  5. Pingback: My Goodrock Park Blog … | xntrek

  6. Quite an interesting read, thanks!

    However I’m a bit disappointed that you claim to leave out the moral argument and then (almost) in the next paragraph you emphasize that animal deaths are also caused by crop production. Either you should’ve discussed this issue, which would’ve lead you to unroll the entire ethical argument, or you should leave that part out of the discussion entirely. The way it is, this excellent post to me feels a bit tainted by that one-sidedness.

    • Hey Mac,

      Thanks for reading and replying.

      I did indeed mention ( Sorry, I had to count 🙂 after a mere 3 sections and 20-odd paragraphs later) that animal deaths occurred.

      Deaths occur in all forms of production. Plants die. Animals die. I make no judgement on this. The issue of whether the ethical argument is there to be unrolled by such a commentary is, I feel, not there. It purely is a matter of fact.

      My perception of ethics and morals are that they are an empathy based mental illusion that is also a necessary element of the human experience. I believe that there are a handful of core elements of behaviours that all of humanity share. These were sociologically coevolutionary behaviours and values that assisted in the process of human special survival.

      I mention all of this to state that any argument on a moral or ethical platform is fraught with error. Are the extended moral frameworks of Buddhists any more valid than those of Islamists? Do the moral standings of Christians trump those of Zoroastrians? Should the ethics of vegans trump those of aboriginals?

      All food involves death. There is no such thing as a guiltless meal. Simply because death occurs, does not mean a moral judgement must be made.

      Personally, if I was to argue the moral or ethical nature of food, I am more likely to argue that the constant surge for seasonally independent, mass produced, globally trafficked, aesthetically consistent and heavily commoditised food is a far greater ethical issue. Before I even consider the ethics of the food type I would argue that food wastage numbers, strock dumping from subsidy based farming, non egalitarian food distribution and corporate ownership of genes all trump that argument.

      The questions of morals is therefore a murky marshland of bogs and booby traps and is not triggered by a mere utterance of fact.

      • When you say, “My perception of ethics and morals are that they are an empathy based mental illusion” have you not just cut the rug out from underneath you for any ‘oughtness’ based on empirical observation? If empathy is but an illusion, what about efficiency, corporate ownership of genes, food wastage?

        It seems to me that your overly empirical and practical approach gets a ‘wink’ even as you broadly condemn what you consider ‘the moralist’. Pragmaticism too is an ethical structure, and it needs defense no less than Zorastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Veganism, Transcendentalists and the like.

      • Have I effectively pulled the rug out from under myself by stating my view of morality and ethics up front? Well, perhaps. I can see why you could take that view, however, as I perceive that it is extremely difficult to talk about this topic without the issue of these logical biases coming into the equation.

        If these conversations are always laced with the arguments based around the logical bias of one version of “oughtness” over another, then admitting my own logical bias in this regard seems the only intellectually honest thing to do and to call it out upfront and early.

        I tried, with various levels of success and failure to present material without relying on the logical fallacy of claiming justification for any argument on a claim based on ethical or moral grounds. If you wish to state that pragmatism is a logical fallacy, then that will be an interesting discussion in and of itself – though previous conversations of this ilk have led to debating nihilism and thus the meaning of any such argument being superfluous.

        Perhaps the rules of morality are not vaporous but can not only be defined, but systematically tested? Perhaps morals may be a mental illusion – but various versions of them are something that all humans share … and perhaps, therefore, it is our imperative to ensure we continue to foster those values that offer the social, anthropological and even evolutionary benefit to the species?

        This is part of a larger conversation and one I am happy to pursue, perhaps we can continue it in another entry where I tried to address it?

      • Your attempt at discrediting ethics puts an extreme negative bias towards veganism that needs to be addressed. My short reply is that vegan ethics involves empathy. Lack of empathy is considered pschopathic.
        Water consumption of livestock exponentially outweighs that of plants. Visit http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts. The water consumption figures do not include rainfall that would otherwise occur.
        The arable land used to grow feed for livestock could most certainly grow crops for people. A large majority of rainforest degredation is due to animal agriculture and would be unnecessary in a vegan world.
        Will check in later for more comments.

      • @nancy p. Thanks for your comment. I’d like to jump straight in and provide a response.

        I made no such attempt to discredit ethics, nor place an “extreme negative bias towards veganism”. I do, on the other hand, attempt to discredit bad arguments and place an extreme negative towards bias. Let me be clear: feel free to be a vegan. Feel free to walk into a bar and stand next to the Texan and the Atheist in telling everyone that you are what you are. Own it and be proud of that fact.

        As for your premise that “that vegan ethics involves empathy. Lack of empathy is considered ps[y]chopathic.” allow me to correct you on the logical errors of the statement by examining “empathy” and thus “psychopathy”.

        The term empathy refers to sensitivity to, and understanding of, the mental states of others.

        What is interesting, is that there are effectively two forms of empathy described when asking people to describe it. There are those that may say that “the ability to see the world, including one’s own behaviour, from another person’s point of view is to display empathy.” whilst others regarded empathy as “an emotional response that stems from another’s emotional state or condition and that is congruent with the other’s emotional state or situation.”

        Thus, the term empathy has been used to refer to two related human abilities: mental perspective taking, let’s call this cognitive empathy, and the vicarious sharing of emotion or emotional empathy.

        Empathy seems to play a central role in human behavior and is often associated and credited with prosocial behavior – but it has also been associated in the opposite behaviour where the connection of aggression with empathy may result in antisocial consequences and in fact, in phylogeny, the emergence of empathy was noted at the same time as the emergence of intentional cruelty and sadism.

        Now, people with antisocial personality disorders have been widely described as lacking empathy and being insensitive to the emotions of others, thus leading them to be categorised as psychopaths, however, it is a misnomer and true psychopaths have been found to have empathy – often able to be far more charming and relatable than even those often referred to as charismatic – however they have an empathic center that is not in a default state of “on” as most people’s are and often the behaviours attributed to psychopathic criminals, is oft due to a flattened response curve for certain emotions that would otherwise curtail the activities of most others – namely fear and distress.

        Thus it is false to put forth the aforementioned stated claim. The continued insinuated claim, in the proposed logical error of the statement, is to provide the unspoken association that if one does not experience the same level of sympathetic emotional empathy towards an animal under the vegan moral philosophy, one is therefore deficient in empathy – and thus a psychopath – is ludicrous.

        Indeed, the empathy of humans has been found to be something that can be turned on and off by sheer will. If one was to be utilising these arguments willy nilly than it is indeed a fact that many emotional empathy based activists – vegans included – from around the world have shown the aforementioned connection of aggression with empathy to turn off their empathy towards other humans to allow them to perform antisocial or psychopathic actions. This has been shown with ecoterrorists who cut brake lines on logging trucks to “pro-life” anti-abortionists who have shot doctors, and even Daniel Andreas San Diego who under the banner of Veganism, tried to kill lab workers and the first responders who would arrive on the scene with two bombs just last decade.

        Even without resorting to actual murders, the poster children for Veganism and Animal Liberation have been PETA have been indicated in promoting the idea of violent actions to extremists in their fold, though no charges have ever been laid, yet they as an organisation repeatedly utilise antisocial psychopathic behaviour as part of their activism – from showing videos of a woman being stripped and beaten to death, to making the rampant murder of transgender people a joke, from dressing up as the KKK to stealing from the Holocaust museum and the constant showing of women as half-naked murdered meat on the street and in cages …

        So, as you can see, the argument is never that black and white. However, I will not insult all vegans by claiming that this level of psychopathic behaviour is endemic to all emotional empathy based liberationists. I think I’ve covered enough on that particular topic.

        Back to the facts. Water consumption is indeed heavier for animal use than for plant use. Of course it is. In fact, humans use a lot for ourselves. It doesn’t mean that I do not have issues with some of the calculations utilised to determine the stated numbers, but that is beside the point. The issue with many of these “point form” arguments is that it can obfuscate the entire story.

        Most consumption figures and the related obfuscation around animal based food production is based on bias-affirming research. From both sides of the coin. No one has, to my knowledge, yet performed a truly objective study that looks at the overall system and made determinations from the collated view. The water quality, the land and the feed being used are all the conversion of resources we, as humans, would not otherwise be able to convert or consume in another fashion.

        For example, you state that “the arable land used to grow feed for livestock could most certainly grow crops for people” and there is no way I’d disagree with you there. However, there is yet another logical error made in the presumption that farmers given the choice would grow corn for the production of cattle feed ($1.75 – $2.20 per bushel) over Human Consumption Grade ($3.50 – $4.20 per bushel) is either misguided or based on some next level conspiracy theory I am unaware of.

        As I have repeatedly highlighted, no farmer in their respective right mind would choose to grow 40 head of cattle on 132 Acres of land if the option of growing human consumption grade corn was available. To put that in perspective, based on average market prices, that’s a sale price of $48,000 versus $184,800 respectively. Would you choose livestock under that situation?

        Finally, you state “A large majority of rainforest degredation is due to animal agriculture and would be unnecessary in a vegan world.” let’s break this down.

        Firstly, throughout history, large swathes of land clearing have been undertaken for the purposes of establishing sedentary settlements which, as a result, required the cultivation of our own food rather than the gathering and hunting of the nomadic lifestyle. Thus, all land clearing was undertaken for all forms of agriculture – this was not exclusively done for animal agriculture. This therefore does not follow that if we were to grow nothing but crops and vegetables that it somehow “would be unnecessary in a vegan world.” if the demand for food exceeded the availability of land available.

        Secondly, the issue of rainforest clearing is a major global issue – and in places like the Amazon it is devastating. The land is being cleared for the dual income of logging and the subsequent use of the land to either grow food (and yes, this is initially often livestock) or, depending on your frame of reference, worse, it is used for mining. However, the real underlying issue in locations like the Amazon Basin is that the region is impoverished and the clearings, the logging, the burnings, the bad farming practices and the dangerous mining are all due to that underlying social issue, not because some guy decided he wanted beef instead of carrots.

        As stated previously, the issues are far more complex and convoluted than may seem obvious at first glance. The argument that vegans are somehow more ethical, have more empathy and are somewhat on a higher moral plane than those who are not is as ludicrous as baptists claiming they are filled with greater quantities of the holy spirit than protestants.

        There are a lot of farmers who have copious quantities of empathy, and the simple truth is that most of the video footage that firms like Animals Australia utilised in a recent feel-good social media campaign about how loving cows are was all sourced from the very farmers who are being told are psychopaths for not being vegans.

        So, returning to the first line of your response – it is the failure of the vegan community and the overall mix of utilising bad arguments, logical errors, one-sided confirmation bias and a refusal to discredit organisations like PETA and the actions of those who perform illegal actions because they are somehow moral warriors – that is what places “an extreme negative bias towards veganism”.

        However, this was never actually intended to be anti-vegan.

        The article was originally written at the end of a particular time in my life which was the amalgamation of my purchasing a farm, and the completion of taking on diplomas in agricultural and agronomic studies. The amount of study, from the schooling and a great number of books and whitepapers (many of which have been referenced in earlier comments), to which I also performed a number of on-farm studies across the Australian Eastern states as well virtual tours with farms in Scotland, the UK, Italy and France.

        The study, the tours and the books were all actually aimed at the view of how to convert “low quality” land into arable land. The farmers I spoke to and visited were all those who had either commenced or undertaken similar projects. In the end, the analysis was always the same. The assumption by many is that those who farm are somehow heartless and stupid, yet I use less mathematics, science and chemistry in my white collar office job than I do on the farm.

        There are those of us who try and work hard and try to change farming practices – and I return to previous commentary where I have stated that I have worked with and studied under Alan Savoury, Joel Salatin, Peter Brinkley, Temple Grandin and others who have all made efforts to change the way we look after the land and the lives for which we have taken custody on top of it. To me, the plants and the animals both need custodianship and I do not differentiate between the lives of either. From where I stand, my empathy, ethics and morals embrace a greater arena than those of the animal liberationists, it is just that mine allow for greater utilitarianism borne from a different mix of understanding and practice.

        Thanks for your interaction and I look forward to further discussion of the topics.

  7. This article seems incredibly biased to me. How can you honestly claim that “veganism is for the affluent”?

    At my local supermarket a tin of chickpeas costs 47p (or 79p for organic) and chicken breasts cost £4.50 (for non-ethical, or between £7 and £9 for the equivalent weight in free range/organic). Both can be put in with identical ingredient to make a tasty curry. Chicken breast protein is 17%, chickpeas are 15%.

    I would be grateful if you would acknowledge that this statement is patently false.

    • Not at all. Your view is based on a false premise.

      From a global perspective, your affluence allows you to choose to purchase one or the other.

      Further, your premise fails to indicate whether both products are of an identical nature. Considering that there is a global trend for canned goods to be produced in super factories and shipped across the world, it proves your affluent nation position. Further it would indicate that your chicken would by its very nature be within a localised market arena and that you are not comparing the goods with locally grown fresh chicken peas that I would dare imagine would cost far more than the canned variety.

      Your reading and perceptions are limited and need to undergo re evaluation.

      The statement holds.

    • Where you live maybe, not here… Chickpeas are as expensive as organic chicken here.
      If you want to make falafel, it will set you back about €2,65 per ball (provided you make a huge batch and buy the ingredients in bulk; it’s more expensive if you buy smaller quantities of course). You easily eat 5-6 balls for dinner, besides the veggies or bread or whatever. That’s €15. While a chicken breast costs about €3 for a portion. 5x cheaper.

  8. “your premise fails to indicate whether both products are of an identical nature”. How identical do they need to be? The reason I used chickpeas in the argument was because I was attempting to provide something with an equivalent protein level which could be used in place of meat.

    I agree that we should all be looking for locally produced fare when possible, and could have pointed to any one of dozens of vegetables which are grown locally that could be used in a curry, all of which are cheaper than all but the cheapest of meats.

    If veganism is for the affluent. Please could you explain why one of the poorest nations in the world, India, has the largest proportion of vegetarians and vegans? And why China, now becoming more affluent, is consuming more meat year on year?

    Can you name one country on Earth where the cost of a meat based diet is cheaper than a plant based one?

    • When referring to an identical nature, I meant not just on one factor (like protein values) but also on a local equivalent. Comparing a canned good that is statistically likely to be cheaper due to labour costs and relaxed agribusiness restrictions versus a highly regulated local animal industry is a cheat.

      Meanwhile, I cannot decide if you are trolling me with this pseudo racist ignorant statements regarding India and China. Your premises of poverty and diet are, however, still incorrect. Whilst the amount of animal based protein is lower in the median diet, the variables are not because of a simple correlation based causation. Nor was it as such in China.

      Insects, fish, fowl, goats and pigs have all been parts of the diets of various aspects of both cultures. In fact, your examples are the very point of the argument, as poor people are not choosing what to eat but in fact eating whatever is available to them. Their diet may indeed be vegetarian, but it will hardly be vegan without religious interference. The fact that given affluence they. Do not stick to that diet tells us what? Something? Nothing?

      However, the choice to consume a diet based on a philosophy that is not based on a religious doctrine but on a set of arbitrary lines that are personalised as morals is a choice that only one who lives in an affluent society can make.

      Dumbing down the argument to individual consumable costs is insane.

      I presume you have made a philosophical choice to eat based on an ethical or moral stance that you have identified with. Well, congratulations and all the power to you. It is a choice you have available to you. However, if tomorrow you found yourself on a poverty based wage subsistence and were hungry, would you still choose the same foods? Would you still afford to meet your entire nutritional needs as a vegan, or would you “stoop” to being a vegetarian until you could afford to avoid those cheaper forms of protein?

      This is like my arguing that your cost of food is far greater than mine because you fail to grow your own staples. If my chickens provide me with eggs, my house cow with milk and butter and my goats with cheese, should I argue that my costs of food and production are less that your ability to purchase them, thus we should all return to small hold farming as a means of justifying a dietary base?

      Now, is there any other aspect of the article you wish to debate or shall we continue to debate the fine purchasing and profit margin based costs of foods sold at your local supermarket?

      • Apologies if my comments on the populations of India and China came across as racist, this was not my intention. I agree that many of those in India whose diet is largely plant based may not be ideologically vegan or vegetarian, and will eat what is available to them; but aside from that they do have a very large percentage of veg*ns, including both their President and the Prime Minister.

        You argued (previously) that my point was based on a false premise, in that I am fortunate enough to live in a country with supermarkets and am, therefore, affluent. Yet at the same time, you appear to be arguing a case built on a position of cow, chicken, goat and land ownership. Surely this too can be regarded as an affluent position, and one that is far less viable for the >50% (and growing) of the world’s population that live in cities?

        I guess this is the crux of the argument, the definition of ‘affluent’. If you consider more than 50% of the planet’s population to be affluent then the statement holds some weight. If like me, you consider the word to mean ‘wealthy’ then it does not.

    • Thank you for the link and article, new information is always welcomed. I will review the article and associated peer material once I get a moment. With moving this weekend, farm fencing, volunteer duties and employment overheads it may be a while, but at least the article is here for there to access until I can respond to it.

  9. Unfortunately, the author failed to know of the Jains of northern India and the Essenes dating back at least to Enoch: each avoided all animal products. The Jains still do; note a Jain city just outlawed the consumption of any animal products in their city!

    • It’s true, I did not know about the Jains at the time of writing. That said, in having bridged that gap of ignorance, it did not alter the main thrust of the article – namely that as the world stands today – overpopulated, with a lack of arable land and the now certain threat of climate change based issues – the lifestyle of a small population subset does not a global model make. The issue, as I see it, is complex:

      1. Can the world, as it is today, support a 7 billion strong (and growing by 2 million a day!) population?
      2. Can we enforce a dietary restriction on the entire planet?
      3. Should that dietary restriction be enforced based on a moral imperative that is also enforced on the entire planet?
      4. Presuming we say yes to the previous three questions, can that population even feasibly be supported on such a [Vegan] diet?

      A follow on question and I have not tried to respond or address as yet is:
      5. Would the process of growing, distributing and feeding the population on [chosen dietary decision] cause greater harm to the overall planet?

      The Jains, unfortunately, are not the model of a sustainable solution in light of those questions.

  10. One of the major things you omitted was the toxic waste created by animals as well as the diseases created by factory farms. I will concede that these points MAY be more about how we are raising animals but they are important to understand. Particularly when it seems like the point of this article is to disprove the idea that a vegan world is sustainable and therefore should be the goal.

    I question your intentions. Are you simply trying to poke a whole in the argument for a vegan world? Why? And what are you offering as an alternative. All you seem to be succeeding in doing is discrediting something that regardless of its actual sustainability is FAR MORE sustainable than what we have now. But, or course you left that part out.

    I recommend reading Eating Animals by Jonathon Saffron Foer. It is a meticulously researched discussion and brings out many of the points you do not. He certainly did not set out to write this book with an agenda and it is hard to say it doesn’t come off with an opinion, but I think the facts stand for themselves.

    I also recommend River of Waste, which is a documentary that discusses the contamination caused by animals agriculture as well as the new documentary Cowspiracy. These are not about the ethics of animal farms which you so conveniently omitted in your discrediting of veganism.

    For the record, I am not a pure vegan (if there even is such a thing). But, I never consume anything from an animal that I do not know personally. And I choose to not kill for food unless I had to. If you want to critique the vegan argument, offer some alternatives. Don’t just criticize. Otherwise, I am pretty sure that makes YOU a troll.

    • Let me start by stating that the point of this article was not to disprove the idea that a vegan world is (un)sustainable – but to make people think beyond their own bias-confirmations and pre-designated moral convictions.

      I wrote this two years ago. I wrote it as a response to a growing online activism against anyone who even had the word “farming” and “livestock” in their online profiles and thus were being attacked (and I do not exaggerate that) daily across blogs, twitter and facebook. PETA, Animals Australia and similar bodies started a mass media flood of propaganda – and whilst everyone has a right to do so, I wanted to try and address some of the many misconceptions being thrown around. The fact is, that whether one argues a moral imperative, such as the aforementioned groups, or claims that moving to vegan practices “is FAR MORE sustainable than what we have now” is fraught with as much logical fallacy as claiming that humans cannot possibly survive without animal proteins.

      I do not, in fact, have all the answers. I wish I did. I am just trying to flesh out (if you’ll excuse the pun) the material and determine if there are further elements to consider. As per the previous response, I will continue to learn more as time passes. If an alement is indeed a “game-changer” to the process of discussion I have set out, then I will gladly modify my arguments and address them. That said, let me now try and respond to your comments and points.

      I did not, in fact, omit “the toxic waste created by animals ” argument, I simply glazed over the topic, because to dwell into that arena would also require me to dwell on the toxic waste created by any form of factory (or as it is prefered to be called in the horticultural world – “mono crop”) farming is effectively identical. In fact, the farming practices of post world war two western world, post-green-revolution farmers is a double edged sword of productivity and destruction.

      I agree with you that these points ARE more about how we practice farming – and it is extremely important to understand all sides of the story. So, if I was to choose to argue the hypothesis that “we can feed the world on a pure vegan diet” I could address a number of elements including creation of giant vertical violet warehouses, community based shipping container for salad and herb growth, integrated vertical farms and multi-story hydroponic climate controlled growth factories. I may include elements of new GM research that could help provide additional vitamins, minerals and immune boosting trace elements … but then I would also have to talk about the mechanisation, industrialisation and the impacts on a sociological, economic and environmental factors. I’d have to discuss the legal ramifications of removing the ability to grow food on arable land and to allow corporations to maintain a patent stranglehold on elements of life, and once a corporation “owns” food, what can come next but a dystopian reality?

      I’m sure, in all of that you probably found at least two areas to argue with me against such a view. However, it highlights my initial point – this is not a black and white issue. It is /extremely/ complicated. I reiterate my questions I placed in the previous reply above:

      1. Can the world, as it is today, support a 7 billion strong (and growing by 2 million a day!) population?
      2. Can we enforce a dietary restriction on the entire planet?
      3. Should that dietary restriction be enforced based on a moral imperative that is also enforced on the entire planet?
      4. Presuming we say yes to the previous three questions, can that population even feasibly be supported on such a [Vegan] diet?
      5. Would the process of growing, distributing and feeding the population on [chosen dietary decision] cause greater harm to the overall planet and its combined populations of flora and fauna?

      In the case of a vegan world view – wherein we take that world view to exclude the use of all animals for any purpose – that means we are completely reliant on petrochemical or synthetic fertilisers and industrial practices. Neither of which are any more or less sustainable than the (primarily north american but now increasingly western world) practices of factory farming.

      If natural farming methods are to be part of the solution, then it is neither a realistic nor achievable goal to consider any form of solution without being ready to undertake the social issues required. Fact of the matter is, neither globally nor locally, are we willing to face such issues. The aforementioned Jains are a statistical anomaly and should be considered not on the argument of diet, but the fact that it is a Theocratic city. It is not unlike stating that the world can live without pork because Saudi Arabia has banned it there, nor that the Hindus of North India have shown that we can live without beef …

      The arguments are true in fact, but false in premise.

      To answer all of these and many other points, I too, would have to consider writing a treatise and publishing it – but as I am already under a great deal of duress in my day to day life, I simply do not have the time or fiscal ability to make it.

      We have the knowledge and can transform non-arable land to arable land. The issues are both economic and environmental. Even if a group of dedicated philosophical buyers got together to support a CSA based on such a concept, it would fail as soon as they saw the prices required to sustain the practice in the first ten years. However, if such a group existed and was willing to proffer up the fiscal support required, then it could show the commercial world that it would be feasible.

      But alas, I digress, the reality is that all of this is intellectual hot air as we are debating a point of reference and not a holistic solution taking into account population growth, environmental factors, global climate change, capitalistic versus socialistic agendas,amongst a host of so many other factors.

      My personal philosophy, for the record and as a by the way, is to follow a nose-to-tail and leaf-to-root utilisation of any life I take. I personally believe that all life is precious – and as such, to kill a life form and not utilise all it has to offer is a greater immoral action than the arbitrary line of choosing one life form to have a greater moral imperative to survive over another. I grow as much of my own food as possible, and I utilise as much as I can from what I have harvested. Food, compost, fertiliser, insecticide, herbacide, glue, soap, it’s all available from the elements of what we use. Admittedly, it may be time and energy consuming to do many of these things ourselves, but thats where co-ops can come in handy.

      Penultimately, I have not critiqued any argument without an alternative – in fact the post is littered with examples throughout, and if you are going to call the kettle black, I would caution you do so whilst being aware you do so as the pot. However, I hope I have addressed your concerns, and thank you for your patronage to my writing.

      Whilst on the discussion of reading, let me provide you with the return favour of pointing out some additional reading material for your own benefit:

      eating is inherently unethical — Consider this: The act of eating, by simple definition, is the incorporation into the eater of the autonomy of the eaten.
      →https://medium.com/the-ingredients-2/a3819dd0259e

      A Movable Feast — In the last twenty-five years alone, the range of fruits and vegetables, even grains, that is available at most local markets has changed…
      →http://books.google.com.au/books?id=XWbcrS9SV-sC

      Lierre Keith : The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability — We’ve been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. But, is it true?
      →http://www.lierrekeith.com/work/#veg

      Cows Save the Planet by Judith D. Schwartz — Journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz ….
      →http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/cows_save_the_planet/

      The Botany of Desire — In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed reciprocal relationships …
      →http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-botany-of-desire/

      Where do Camels Belong? — Thompson drives home the point that ecosystems are dynamic and never fixed. Species have always shifted their range and distribution across the globe in response to environmental change, and today is no different. Our view of what is native, or not, and thereby “good” or “bad”, is often based more on cultural …
      →http://books.google.com.au/books?id=DxslAwAAQBAJ&dq=where+do+camels+belong&source=gbs_navlinks_s

      In Defense of Food — Food. There’s plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it? Because most of what we’re consumin…
      →http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/

      Healthy Soils, Healthy People: the Legacy of William Albrecht — Abstract: William Albrecht was not only a distinguished scientist and brilliant scholar; he was also a true visionary and committed human…
      →http://is.gd/uorytl

      The Coming Famine — ”In The Coming Famine, Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of impending planetary crisis–a global food shortage that threatens to hit …
      →http://books.google.com.au/books?id=Tv0zXxbQ7toC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI&output=embed&redir_esc=y#%7B%7D

      Environmental Ethics and Land Management – Timothy C. Weiskel — Our environmental circumstances pose problems of value and choice for each of us and challenge us to reconsider the way we act individually and collectively in an ever changing ecosystem. Whether we like it or not there is no escaping the fact that ethical values are embedded in the premises and assumptions of all decisions we make concerning land and resource use.
      →http://www.ecoethics.net/2011-ENVRE120/

      Michael Marder Online — Michael Marder is Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz and has written extensively on plant ethics.
      →http://www.michaelmarder.org

      Water consumption Statistics – Worldometers — Water consumed this year (billion of liters) Water consumption – sources and methods The data on water consumption in the world is provid…
      →http://www.worldometers.info

      MEET THE NEXUS — HOW FOOD, WATER AND ENERGY ARE CONNECTED
      When a Prince talks farming, you listen. This is nothing new for the GRACE food program folks, but as the “water guy,” that’s all I could…
      →http://www.gracelinks.org

      The Water Footprint Assessment Manual — The book offers a complete and up-to-date overview of the global standard on water footprint assessment as developed by the Water Footprint Network
      →http://www.hydrology.nl

  11. WTF? Are you trying to win or prove something? Have you read all of that stuff? Do you really think that is how to engage in a discussion? Whether you want to admit it or not, and whether you intended to do it or not, all you are doing is building a case against eating a plant based diet.

    The idea that monocropping has the same environmental impact as factory animal farming is delusional. Again, please watch “River of Waste”. Monocropping is of course terrible, but who the heck is advocating that? Vegans? Pshaw. Monocropping is bad for other reasons as well as documented in “End of Poverty”.

    Please don’t forget that your gorilla math leaves out the part about 10 units of food to create 1 unit of meat. Here are some resources http://www.sustainabletable.org/982/agriculture-energy-climate-change

    “To answer all of these and many other points, I too, would have to consider writing a treatise and publishing it – but as I am already under a great deal of duress in my day to day life, I simply do not have the time or fiscal ability to make it.”–Then save your breathe and read some books by people who have.

    Now I will answer some of your questions.
    1. Can the world, as it is today, support a 7 billion strong (and growing by 2 million a day!) population?
    I don’t know the answer to this. But I can say without a doubt that it is far more sustainable if we eliminated meat consumption.

    2. Can we enforce a dietary restriction on the entire planet?
    We could. Who is saying that should be the case? Not me. So, argue with someone else about that. As if enforcement is even the issue.

    3. Should that dietary restriction be enforced based on a moral imperative that is also enforced on the entire planet?
    Huh?

    4. Presuming we say yes to the previous three questions, can that population even feasibly be supported on such a [Vegan] diet?
    Yes. Without question.

    5. Would the process of growing, distributing and feeding the population on [chosen dietary decision] cause greater harm to the overall planet and its combined populations of flora and fauna?
    This is where I lose respect for your ability to do research and understand data. And I will again refer you to any of the information I have already forwarded you.

    I have been working on a piece called “Activism vs. Criticism” It is about the difference between people who are speaking out for change and the people who’s sole mission seems to discredit those people’s ideas. Which one are you? And what do you really want? Other then your voice being heard?

    • Really!?

      I am neither trying to win, nor prove anything. You have done naught but criticise every remark or response I have made – even when I have tried to clarify it. Further you are determined in your admonition oi my premises, self-assured that your response is automatically correct without a single iota of evidence to back it up.

      “I don’t know the answer to this. But I can say without a doubt that it is far more sustainable if we eliminated meat consumption.”

      How? Because you *know*? How? Because one book said so? Because *all* meat farming is the same? But not all cropping endeavours are? What a fucking waste of time that response was.So, let me make this clear, as you are clearly trolling, you offer nothing to further this conversation.

      You have automatically premised all meat based farming in one category, but upon trying to discuss the same premises on the other side of the spectrum, you assume it is an attack on veganism and not the farming practices? I did not attack vegans – I attacked the concept that the current global status and current farming practices could actually feed the entire world on a vegan diet. I have categorically stated that there are a number of changes that need to be made for that to occur – sociological, economical and political on the one hand and extensive re-creation of farming practices on the other – for a vegan world to occur. I have clearly stated that on numerous occasions. If one is to argue that veganism is the answer, then we need to define how that can be achieved, and frankly, the use of the current (ever-dwindling) arable farmland is not sufficient. Utilising that reserve of farmland with non-factory processes (i.e. dropping monocropping and instead utilising food-forests, biodynamics, permaculture or other “friendlier” practices) will not produce the same amount of food and thus, whilst indeed better, will actually exasperate the issue of being able to feed a vegan world.

      I have made each of these observations numerous times. However, yet again, I am made to feel that explaining myself further is obviously going to fall on the dead eardrums of a troll.

      To answer your final question: _You_ are the activism based criticiser. _You_ have offered no evidence other than pushing two bias affirming pieces of literature that whilst compelling only tell one small element of the overall story.How can I say so? Because I have read them. They are important books to read. However, they are not the definitives. They are not globally inclusive. They do not take all aspects into account, and nor should they. I also read Peter Singer’s works, as I have a variety of material on feedlot operations (both pro and con), read all of Temple Grandin’s works, invested in completing a diploma of Agriculture and Agronomy, I invested my time in seeking out and subsequently spent time with a variety of subject matter experts when time and talking tours coincided and volunteered to gain more insights. I have done all this because reading two books is not enough. I have offered you an additional reading list that covers many more elements, all of which are sitting on my bookshelves with well worn pages and I am happy to lend you if you wished to travel to my end of the world. However, that is not your intent is it? After all, if you were truly interested in what was being said, you wouldn’t be so selective in your interpretation of the material.

      So, let me tell you about the “difference between people who are speaking out for change and the people who’s sole mission seems to discredit … people’s ideas”. Want to talk about which one you are? Are you willing to come down and till an acre? Help set up a permaculture forest? Heck, help me put up a fence? Perhaps throw some of that infinite wisdom you seem to have in troves beyond my own measure?

      I have sunk my savings and upended my life in an attempt to be the change I want to see in the world. I uprooted my partner from the city and we moved to the country. We are over a million dollars in debt to a banking institution so we could buy 132 Acres of land to make the changes. Six years later, I have a mortgage, a debt and a piece of grassland that refuse to become arable. I had to decide whether I could afford to continue down that path and decided that it was not feasible to pump $20,000 per acre in an attempt to build the soil to a point where a vegetable matter could be grown. I am probably now going to have to work until I am 70 to cover those costs- and I will never make a profit, but I will keep trying to improve the land and I will keep trying to improve the farming practices and I will keep making an effort to educate as I go. I do not regret my decision, it was mine to make after all, but I did far more than troll the internet and attack those whose views differed from my own. See, that what true _act_ivism is about, trying to make an actual change through _implementing_ change and trying to pass on the learnings and insights I have gained.

      I am sick and tired of trying to be polite, respectful and objective to every single individual who finds this article, chooses not to read the entire thing, chooses to ignore the previous discussions and with a self-assured, biased, moral-cry-baby attitude that is convinced that every article is about attacking them and their enlightened world-view and comes charging in on their high horse to find a way to attack or discredit my findings rather than trying to see if there is a real solution – all epitomised by that response “I don’t know the answer to this. But I can say without a doubt that …”

      Give me $20K, and in two years, I will have an acre’s worth of lettuce, potatoes and beans for you. With ten other varieties of vegetable matter the year after that. Otherwise, I simply do not see anyone paying me $12/head of cos lettuce to recover costs. No, I already know that you will never do anything like that, because that will take an actual effort to put your actual money, your actual being behind what you believe – that would require far more activity than your activism and comfort allows.

      Here is the reality, you and those like you are not actually willing to do anything other than discredit those who do not align with your view, trolling the internet and resorting to Ad Hominem attacks all whilst complaining of the immorality and the prices down at your local supermarket.

      So, if I have it wrong, correct me – but if that’s your game, then just go away.

  12. It’s interesting that on your tumblr blog that you wrote:

    “there are no excuses – every single life matters and every single injustice is worthy of despair for our humanity and the decrying of its existence. All Bigotry must be highlighted and shoved into the light. All of it. It should be examined. It should be dissected. It should end.”

    Since this entire page is a shrine to your speciesism and vegan bigotry, doe this mean you will be examining it and correcting your behaviour?

    • MsKale, have you considered that perhaps, just maybe, that the moral stance by which you judge me against is not the epitome of the moral scale upon which one can stand and that therefore, my own moral compass has me looking beyond a single moral stance you have chosen to champion and that it may take into consideration the greater moral obligations to all life on this planet?

      Perhaps you, like others before you, will tell me that I have fallen and that choosing to stop being a vego and returning to being an omnivore means that I am now worse than the rest of the population who practice passive speciesism.

      Yet, here’s the kicker – from my point of view – many Vegans, and in the posing of this question, I presume you do as well, suffer from a worse kind of bigotry defined by an arbitrarily defined moral line in the sand. Namely a line is drawn in choosing to consciously be guilty of the same accusation – speciesism.

      Vegans often choose to define plant life as not being worthy of the same respect for life because “it has no brain or rudimentary nervous system and thus cannot feel pain”. Just because the physiology of plants is not the same as those of the animal kingdom, does not make that statement true. Otherwise it must apply to all species, regardless of where it sits in the tree of life, right?

      Take the oyster, a wonderful little engineering feat of nature. It has no brain, nor a rudimentary nervous system. By the definition of the arbitrary drawn line of speciesism, it does not count in the harming of a living being “as it cannot feel pain”

      We do have, by the by, ample scientific evidence that demonstrates that plants do feel. They may not feel joy or some form of maternal instincts, but we know they play, we know they react more positively in certain communities, and we know they feel pain.

      They react to stimuli and warn other plants of imminent danger. They scream through the release of VOCs and they curl up, release toxins, and even release chemicals to influence insect allies in an attempt to react to the danger and avoid being eaten. If I could demonstrate all of this, in video, with electrodes and streams of data – will this stop you eating Kale?

      Thus, if all eating is inherently unethical, what is the choice for an omnivorous mammal? Do we try and become breatharians? Do we attempt to rapidly evolve into photosynthesising beings? Or do we re-examine our place in the world, and consider the total and overall impact our choices are making?

      Personally, I believe that all life is sacred. This does not mean I do not kill, nor does it mean I do not eat meat. However, it does mean that if and when I do, it must serve a purpose. If I take a leaf from my plants, I take those from the outside, where it plans to drop them, to allow it to quickly heal and pour it’s energy into it’s younger leaves. If I take a plant out of the ground, then I utilise all of it – from flower, to leaf to root – to ensure it’s life gives so others can.

      I do the same with my animals. Chickens are left to brood, but abandoned eggs are gathered. If an animal is killed, then all of it – from nose to tail – is utilised. The fat is rendered for cooking or soap and candles. Bones are baked, ground up and utilised as compost booster. Blood is mixed in with the compost tea to boost fertilisation. Rabbit hides are turned into glue. Whatever can be utilised, should be. Every element of that life should be treated with reverence and utilised to promote the life around it.

      To me, the wasting of food – throwing out that wilted spinach or the slightly too soft banana – is far more of a moral outrage than the choice to eat an egg.

      To me, the choice of utilising petro-chemical fertilisers over an animal manure based compost is far more outrageous.

      To me, you are failing to look beyond your own bias affirming realm of material and taking into consideration the great many moral ambiguities you need to cross, deal with or ignore, for being part of this world, and that is far more bigoted than you can possibly imagine.

      So, you know, let’s agree to disagree. If you choose to open your mind, then I am more than happy to point you to a plethora of books that go beyond Peter Singer’s retro-religious diatribe and beyond the door of the omnivore’s dilemma. I can point you to research, I can even get you in touch with the farmers and researchers who are breaking new ground in a variety of fields. With each, however, a new academic question arises, a new philosophical quandary and perhaps even, a further moral dilemma.

      Should we, for example, take on the brave new world of the vertical farms as proposed by Dickson Despommier? Should we ramp up the biotechnology research to modify plants for a blade runner-esque world of ultra-high density urbanisation? Should Genetic Modification of plant life continue to enhance vegetal life with the requirements of human survival? Will the lessons and warnings of the factors leading to collapse of societies through overpopulation relative to the practicable (as opposed to the ideal theoretical) carrying capacity of the environment that is detailed in Jared Diamond’s 2005 book ‘Collapse’? Do we ignore the dangerous confluence of shortages – of water, land, energy, technology, and knowledge – combined with an increased demand created by population and economic growth that threatens to provide an impending planetary crisis – not in some mythical future but a very real global food shortage within this very mid-century that is described by Julian Cribb in his 2010 book, ‘The Coming Famine’?

      Where do we draw this line? Which is more “right”?

      In the meantime, I shall continue to practice my own moral path. This means looking after the area in my care and under my influence as best I can. This means that the huntsman spiders are allowed to fearlessly live in my space. That I will humanely look after the various fauna and flora under my care. That I will endeavour to leave this place in a better state than I found it. That I will continue to strive to learn and to educate. Most of all, though, I will continue to try and improve the practices of farming, the knowledge of life and the engagement of people back to the land and the life they consume.

      You are free to disagree, to call me names and to stalk all of my social media presences. I only ask that perhaps you consider that your view is not the only one that is right and that there may be a bigger picture to consider.

      Be safe, stay well, think free.

  13. You really went to the depths in this one. It was a wonderful read, so were the comments and your replies.
    As a young adult who does have and love poultry, fish and dairy based products, and looking at the possibilities to turn vegan sometime due to the ‘ethical’ reasons, this really helped.
    It looks to me that the way forward is not the whole world turning vegan, but poultry/livestock raised in far better conditions, adopting less painful methods to kill them and improvements generally in that direction.

    On a side note, aren’t pesticides, insecticides used in farming as well? And if the whole world turns vegan, won’t there be more chemicals used for their increased production, which can hurt us as much as the antibiotics in livestock, if not more?

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m glad someone found it worthwhile. I wonder sometimes if I did anything more than create a honeypot – and in more than one response I can see I lost my objectivity to frustration – so thank you for kindly ignoring those.

      That said, I really do hope that no one reads this page and says “oh, good, that’s it then” because I really do want people to think and decide for themselves. Your third paragraph is, essentially, the conclusion I came to a few years back. Namely that we need to improve the systems – not revolutionise them. But more on that later.

      To answer your side note – yes for one given value of doing so, no for another. I know, I never give straight answers, but that’s because it is never that simple. So, let’s try the first scenario.

      Depending on your part of the world, the answer to your question can either be simple or complicated. The way farming is done is (un)fortunately not identical in all locations. In Australia, Hormone additives in chicken farming have been illegal for 40 years whilst in cattle, they have tight regulations around usage and withholding times aimed towards assisting breeding rather than market ready production.

      Similarly, there are regulations around the use of pesticides and herbicides within cropping.

      In either case, will there be people in any industry willing to bend, tilt or shift the rules – whether out of maliciousness, greed, ignorance or stupidity? Always.

      Can the whole world go Vegan? Yes.
      Can the whole world go vegan using land based farming methods only? Not with the current amount of arable land and the growing population.
      Can the world go vegan if we controlled the population (i.e. capped at 10billion) and used sanding or claying methods to increase the arable land? Possibly.
      Can we produce enough vegan fare in a natural and sustainable way? Depending on your definition of “natural” or “sustainable” – no.

      As one example: Fertiliser.

      So, those giant guano reserves from bat and bird caves were depleted by the turn of the century so we are now reliant on mining rock phosphate for fertiliser needs. Even if we ignore the “peak phosphorus” argument – it starts to become a matter of arguing the semantics – namely whether you believe it is more or less ethical to utilise mineral based fertilisers over animal based fertilisers.

      On one hand we mine minerals, ship them around the world, spread them across the land and have up to fifty percent of that material washed away or end up in the water tables before it is broken down in a plant-usable form or absorbed by the soil.

      If, on the other hand, we do not simply consider animal based fertilisers as just manure but go to the full extreme of saying that all of the world’s fertilisers would be based on the utilisation of the blood, bones and non-edible components of an animal carcass to create blood and bone – even if the fertiliser is now in a far more organically available form, will the fact that we utilise animals in this way make the question of the ethics easier for you to answer?

      Whilst you ponder that, let us consider the scenario where we can go vegan and not worry about the *icide use and ramifications. Impossible? Not if we build massive ultra-violet climate controlled environmental hothouses that allow us to literally control the very environment the plants are grown within, including the fact that they can be hygienically sealed away from those “undesirable” elements we would normally utilise such chemicals for. These can be built into the very apartment buildings, made into multi-story high rise buildings of their own. We can offset arguments of power by utilising solar, wind and possibly even the very convection process inside the building itself to generate power in a 24 hour cycle so we can even remove the need for the batteries themselves.

      However, we still need fertiliser.

      Does this come from maintaining giant fishtanks so we can utilise the waste in the water as feed for the plants and filter the water back after it has passed through the plant roots and soil?

      Do we add rock minerals still?

      The arguments around any such discussions are neither black nor white. Nor are they “right” or “wrong”. There are shades of right and shades of wrong.

      Even when we try to remove the argument of what our food is, and even when we talk about moving our food out of the traditional soils and into super factories – the one issue that still remains is that we and our food are all part of a system.

      So, I return to my own thinking which is if we return to the local food initiative and return to mixed farming methods, there is no reason why we cannot aim towards a better managed farming ecosystem that provides a better balanced overall ethical stance – one that is not just built on whether it is ethical to eat animals or plants – but one that is built on how we treat them both – as well as the soil they reside in and on. The reduction of waste and the re-utilisation of all that we have to better everything else.

      I do not believe in sustainability. Nothing is sustainable. However, I do believe in systems. I believe that with the right management, it can be possible to achieve a range of benefits. I believe with the right management of systems, a form of sustainable existence can be achieved. But those systems are far greater than just the choice of food – it requires us to remember we are part of the system. Looking at the picture without considering it all is erroneous.

      We need to consider the impact of mining and petrochemicals – not just because of its impact on fertilisation and transport, but the fact that we replaced those animal based byproducts with those controlled in a chemistry lab. Whether it was the shoes made from vinyl or other polymers instead of leftover hides or the paraffin candles that were once made from beeswax or tallow. The impact is not just what and how we grow our food, it is about the very way we live and what we utilise.

      The choice of ethics here is, to me, not about is it “right” or “wrong” to eat an oyster, a chicken or a cow. It is about the very impact my life makes on the earth by my lifestyle.

      Is veganism an answer? Possibly. Though I do note that none of the “blue zone” or “centenarian societies” are vegan though – they seem to all choose a minimum of a 70-30 split of plant based versus animal based dietary intake instead – and perhaps the answer is not that.

      But that is your own personal choice too.

      Are our globally collective farming practices designed for an ethical and (managed) sustainable society? No.
      Can we produce food that utilises less chemicals? Yes.
      Can we raise livestock in far better conditions? Yes.
      Can we adopt more humane methods in managing them? Yes.
      Can we use more humane methods in killing them? Yes.
      Can (and should) we work towards changing our farming system them for the better? Yes.

      How do we do that – well, that is still a matter of much debate 🙂

      • WTF? After all of the stuff on your page where all you are doing is building a case against eating a plant based diet and saying the world cannot go vegan, you come out and say it is actually possible for the world to do so and integrate it into our cities!? How do we not see you as a troll if you spent all this energy to prove the world can not go vegan but in your last reply not only admit that we can but do so at a local level!!

      • VGP: Really? That’s the message you took out of my last reply?

        OK, fine – you’re right. Simply put – the world can go vegan, as long as we acknowledge that the overall impact, in the holistic view of the planet and all that we do to it, would be to create greater damage to the environment. At which point, does it matter if we do not utilise animals if we are destroying their world anyway?

  14. You mentioned in one of the comments earlier that

    “All food involves death. There is no such thing as a guiltless meal. Simply because death occurs, does not mean a moral judgement must be made.”

    For most vegans, myself included, the key issue in the ethics of eating animals is the treatment of animals during their life time until they are killed. Animals, unlike plants, have central nervous systems and thus are sentient beings capable of feeling pain, just like as humans. Because in a world of factory farming one simply cannot know how an animal was treated before it got to your plate, I cannot not care blind-folded. So, yes, it is not difficult to make a moral conclusion on the ethics of animal welfare extending from the birth to death of an animal. Here is the difference between plants and animals. And end cannot be justified by any means.

    • I understand your position, but for the very same reasons, must also reject it. Let me explain …

      As you are probably aware, in considering (especially Western) attitudes toward plants, there is an hierarchical ordering based upon the construction of exclusionary, “oppositional value dualisms” which is predominant. This is also evident in the philosophy of vegans.

      I find that a lack of knowledge of plants – due to a general similarity of plant surfaces and textures, the fact that they seemingly lack autonomous movement, and possibly due to the fact that plants do not prey on humans at all – are possible reasons for the phenomenon of plant blindness that is rife in the human experience and thus espoused through the construct of the logic put forward in your justification of the zoological centric speciesism of your statement.

      Most places on Earth which contain life are visibly plantscapes. Whether you walk in human transformed habitats or in wilderness, human beings are far more likely to encounter plants than any other type of living being. In fact, the bulk of the visible biomass on this planet is comprised of plants.

      From Charles Darwin’s early experimental work on the sensitive plant Mimosa pudica L., over a century of scientific observations contradict the notion that plants are passive, insensitive beings. Through nastic movements and tropic growth responses, plants have been shown for decades to display sensitive, purposeful, volitional behavior. Darwin’s most important work On the Origin of Species also implicitly contains the idea that humans and plants are indeed related by descent.

      Plants are of course acknowledged as being different from human beings. They have different ways of going about their lives and have different needs from human beings. They deserve their own taxonomic category. However, there is no radical ontological schism between plants, animals, or humans. Plants are not zoocentrically dualised as inferior and are not placed at the bottom of a natural value-ordered hierarchy.

      Further, it is both exciting and enlightening to have recent developments in contemporary scientific research providing us with an ever increasing accrual of evidence demonstrating that plants have the physiology to support sophisticated mental activity.

      As Darwin first discovered, there is increasing evidence that this intelligent behavior is directed by a multitude of brain like entities known as meristems. The work of František Baluška, Stefano Mancuso, and others in the nascent field of plant neurobiology is putting forward the notion that plants have sophisticated, decentralized neurosensory systems.

      Buried within contemporary plant science literature is a growing awareness that plant behavior has many of the hallmarks of mentality. Such pioneering scientific work in many ways echoes the recognition of the attributes of sentience and personhood that have long been pinpointed in Indian religious thought and Indigenous knowledge systems.

      The sceptic can of course ignore this accumulated knowledge and continue to exclude plants from moral consideration, but this option comes loaded with environmental consequences. Moreover, with an awareness that plants are autonomous subjects, continued instrumental exclusion must be viewed as deliberate disrespect at the very least.

      By distancing ourselves from plants and denying their autonomy, we jeopardize a true sense of human identity, situatedness, and responsibility with nature and all life in general. The risk we run by ignoring the personhood of plants is losing sight of the knowledge that we humans are dependent ecological beings. We risk the complete severance of our connections with the other beings in the natural world — a process which only serves to strengthen and deepen our capacity for destructive ecological behavior.

      To me, this is humanity’s worst type of violence and thus greatest ethical and moral imperative.

      We return, again, to the concept that all food involves death. All life has a form of awareness and thus are sentient beings capable of feeling pain, and therefore is unable to be left as a blind-folded and guiltless meal.

      Thus, knowing this, what will you do? Will you choose to form a full life in the form of the Janais? Jain philosophy echoes the general approach of Hindu scriptures and is a practical example of the systematic application of the philosophy of nonviolence in all dealings with the plant world. Jain philosophy is particularly significant for its prominent inclusion of nonhuman interest within the sphere of human consideration. Jainism actively seeks affinity with plants. Significantly it allows plants space to flourish as plants without the same-said practices of farming, and thus fostering a nonviolence relationship with them.

      I, for one, am not likely to go to that extent. I do believe that plant life is sentient, I do believe that it is a form of violence to take any life and that it is therefore important to reiterate the very comment you made “the key issue in the ethics of eating animals is the treatment of animals all life during its lifetime.”

      Personally, I believe that all life is sacred. This does not mean I do not kill, nor does it mean I do not eat meat. However, it does mean that if and when I do, it must serve a purpose. If I take a leaf from my plants, I take those from the outside, where it plans to drop them, to allow it to quickly heal and pour it’s energy into it’s younger leaves. If I take a plant out of the ground, then I utilise all of it – from flower, to leaf to root – to ensure it’s life gives so others can.

      I do the same with my animals. Chickens are left to brood, but abandoned eggs are gathered. If an animal is killed, then all of it – from nose to tail – is utilised. The fat is rendered for cooking or soap and candles. Bones are baked, ground up and utilised as compost booster. Blood is mixed in with the compost tea to boost fertilisation. Rabbit hides are turned into glue. Whatever can be utilised, should be. Every element of that life should be treated with reverence and utilised to promote the life around it.

      To me, the wasting of food – throwing out that wilted spinach or the slightly too soft banana – is far more of a moral outrage than the choice to eat an egg. In short my philosophical belief is in the system, not the individual, regardless of it’s biological makeup.

      All of that said, does it make any difference to you? Will it make any difference to the rest of the world’s population? Do we take the Jain and make them rulers of us all and reshape society around that philosophical core? These are all the real world questions that need to be answered if we are to make these sort of global reaching goals viable. Whether we choose to take on a philosophy of one kind or another, the reality is that under the terms of current farming (and wastage) practices, we cannot support a population of the current size (and growing) on earth – let alone to try and convert them all to a vegan diet. We simply cannot do it today. We definitely cannot support a global movement to Jainism either.

      Does this mean you should throw out your vegan belief and just chomp down on a McFactory Burger? Heck no.

      It means we need to find better ways. Better ways to farm. Better the welfare of the life in our care. Better the way we treat food. Better the way we understand the role of the cycle. Better the way we minimise wastage. Better the way we treat the system of nature we are involved in.

      The entire point is, today, right now, the world cannot go vegan – and arguing a point of philosophy is not going to change that. We need to make a lot of changes to ourselves as a species, as a society and to our roles as caretakers before we get to that point.

      To paraphrase your last line, there is no difference between plants and animals, thus our ends and means must be justified as part of a holistic stance.

      • Your view and knowledge is great, thank you for sharing with us. I am always see there is no need of any ‘us’ vs ‘them’ on all the world movements seems to rather to utilize these to certain extend. I am not sure why vegans thinks you are attacking them, while you open the ideas of looking the great extends from humans, animals, plants, and environmental factors.
        Love seeing the idea of Jain philosophy, although I probably too used to living comfortably in big town to practices it.

  15. To say this article isn’t leaning to one side of the argument is a bit silly. It’s not as biased as it could be, but it’s not as objective as it could be either.

    “That said, I do concede that vegetation is usually less water intensive on a kilogram by kilogram comparison. I would like to have offered an additional analysis of that comparison on a calorie, protein, mineral or other nutritional factor ratios … but alas, I have not found any research or paper that offers such data.”

    It’s great to be objective and have scientific reference, but are you actually considering that it may be more efficient as a principle to eat animals than plants? When vegans say it’s more efficient to eat plants than animals, it’s not a vegan propaganda thing, it’s a law of the universe thing. A law of entropy, a law of ecology. It doesn’t matter if all of the animal is used. There is still going to be energy loss, this is how nature works when going up the energy pyramid. Carbon dioxide expiration, energy lost as heat during metabolism etc.. This shouldn’t be a debating point for anyone who understands basic facts of ecology & biology which is apparently a lot of people.

    “There is remarkably very little arable farmland in the world, and the number of arable farms that would be required to feed the population of earth is significant.”

    What’s the argument? There isn’t enough arable farmland to support a vegan world yet there is somehow enough to support billions and billions of animals, many hundreds of millions being fed grain. How does that work?

    “The reason is simple — fruits, vegetables and grains must be grown on high-quality arable cropland. Livestock based foods (such as meat and dairy products from ruminant animals) are supported by lower quality, and far more widely available, lands that are only capable of supporting pastures.”

    There is nothing unique about the human diet or human energy requirements that would somehow mean that there is land that can support cows and sheep but not humans. If we can get sustenance from these animals, and their sustenance comes from the land, and we know that there is energy loss as secondary consumers, then it simply does not logically follow that this land does not have the nutrients to support plants that can feed humans. The nutrients may be sparse and the water may be sparse, but it has to be there if it can support these animals.

    This is a very unsophisticated and traditional view of agriculture that many people had and unfortunately still have wile we were still working out how plants grow, how soil works, how micro organisms interact and so on.

    Talking about arable or unarable land is not being specific. Why is the land arable? why is the land not arable? There are many reasons and factors. no source of fresh water; too hot (desert); too cold (Arctic); too rocky; too mountainous; too salty; too rainy; too snowy; too polluted; or too nutrient poor

    If we are talking simply about poor nutrients and loss of arable land. Where are the nutrients going? are they poofing out of existence or going into outerspace? It doesn’t take a genius to work out that unsustainable farming practices will eventually deplete the land, but this is obviously doesn’t have to be the case, and it doesn’t mean that there has to be less and less arable land all the time, there could be more and more. And like I said, it’s also quite obvious that there is enough

    “It is important to understand that simply because one chooses to eat a vegetation based diet, it is not true that nothing died.”

    “The death of animals may be hidden from the list of ingredients of the organic soy burger patty, but that does not mean animal controls were not used, does not mean animal manure, or indeed, blood and bone fertiliser, was not utilised in its production. Do not, for a moment, believe that a pretty logo and an ISO certification an ethical behaviour makes.”

    So much for what you said at the beginning:

    “The data is sourced from reputable organisations and cited. It does not consider morals nor makes any judgements on either side of the argument.”

    Do you really want to open this can of worms? I thought based on the first paragraph you didn’t yet you still want to get in a cheap shot. So animals unintentionally die as a result of us simply existing. We might step outside and walk on an ant or a snail. What is the argument?

    We also unintentionally hurt people as a result of us existing. We sometimes say and do things that are hurtful to other people. Follow the logical implications of what you’re saying. Is it now okay to be a rapist, a murderer (of humans) etc?

    “Animal use is still required”

    No it isn’t. Animal interaction is required. But no we do not need to ‘use’ animals to do agriculture beyond using ourselves and animals acting in mutual self interest which is very different to obvious exploitation.

    To say animals have been successful under our stewardship, oh look how many there are! is to say that an animal is successful simply for being numerous. This is taking quantity of life to be more important than quality of life.

    At what cost? How much biodiversity has been lost so that we can mass produce a few species of animals we like to eat? We mass produce grains as well no doubt but that is often to feed domesticated animals. Most human beings like a varied diet and so even within that there is far more variety in the different kinds of plants we cultivate, to the few animal species we mass produce. Most vegans I know support organic, polyculture and permaculture.

    “The reality is that all farming makes an impact. So, whilst a vegan diet may very well prove to be healthy, and indeed be more efficient than an omnivorous diet, it is a moot point.”

    That’s crazy logic. It doesn’t matter to you have an abundance either way. If you were one of the hundreds of millions of people who would no longer be starving due to an increase in efficiency of agriculture, maybe you wouldn’t think it was a moot point.

    “Although, vegan diets can also cause far greater impacts than their proponents may realise”

    Meat and dairy diets cause far greater impacts than their proponents realize. Yeah not all vegans are completely aware of the costs and processed involved in a full product lifestyle, but in general they are having less of a negative impact.

    “However, this is far more likely to be readily accomplished by millions of meat eaters opting for grass-fed animal products than by the smaller numbers of “vegos” boycotting meat.”

    What a joke. Grass fed myth. I’m from Australia where pretty much all cattle is grass fed. For some reason ignorant Americans think it’s some utopian idea. 92% of all land degradation in my country is because of animal agriculture. With the vast majority of land clearing also being because of animal agriculture. Grass fed wile being more humane is in some ways worse for the Environment than intensive animal agriculture.

    “Our ancestors would not have survived without using animal products like fur to keep warm, leather to make footwear, belts, straps and shelter, and bones for tools. In fact, the entire interactive network of life on earth, from the jellyfish to the judge, is based on the sacrifice of animals and the use of animal foods.”

    Our ancestors also didn’t have a problem with slavery of other human beings. Our ancestors did a lot of crazy shit and if starving would have eaten anything from scavenged meat to dirt to shit. ‘our ancestors did it’ Is not a sophisticated argument.

    “veganism is a lofty goal and one reserved for the affluent.”

    No, meat eating is reserved for the affluent, and historically it always has been. You’d be consider a criminal poacher for hunting in the kings forests, you’d be subsisting on a plant based diet most of your life unless you were a king and queen which were the only people of old with kings and queens diseases of obesity atherosclerosis gout etc.

    • @JoshuaPickett — Thanks for your reply.

      ** To say this article isn’t leaning to one side of the argument is a bit silly. It’s not as biased as it could be, but it’s not as objective as it could be either. **

      I’ll grant you that, after all, humans, by our very nature are filled with bias and I did try and remain as objective as possible, but as per your own biased responses, that isn’t always easy.

      ** “but are you actually considering that it may be more efficient as a principle to eat animals than plants?” **

      No, not in and of itself. I would like to have a full comparison of the type of nutrients that the two offer and perhaps there are certain advantages and efficiencies in what we JUDICIALLY eat backed by scientific data. Unfortunately, the issue is that much of the research is biased based on who commisioned it, and that is true on all sides.

      ** What’s the argument? There isn’t enough arable farmland to support a vegan world yet there is somehow enough to support billions and billions of animals, many hundreds of millions being fed grain. How does that work? **

      1. Arable land. Derived from arabilis, “able to be plowed” — i.e. land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. This is contrasted with pasturable lands — which could be used for rearing animals. It is not synonymous with farmland. There is a very distinct differentiator.
      Pasture land is far more available or converted than arable land. This is not however the same land. Further we can argue whether the billions and billions should be grown, or whether forests and heaths should be converted to pastures to allow them to be grown — but that is a separate argument.
      2. There is nothing unique about the human diet or human energy requirements that would somehow mean that there is land that can support cows and sheep but not humans.
      Incorrect. Ruminants can convert cellulose into energy whilst at best humans can utilise it to promote bowl movements. So, in Australia, for example, we have large swathes of land across the wimmera, the outbacks of South and Western Australia and the Northern Territory that would otherwise be called a desert, but can support enough grass to support cattle herds but not crop & vegetable production

      ** it simply does not logically follow that this land does not have the nutrients to support plants that can feed humans. **

      I never claimed that the LAND did not have the nutrients. In fact, clay often has higher nutrients than loam — but the ability for those nutrients to be extracted is another matter. Further if you read the entire article, I mentioned it was both scientifically and mechanically possible to convert the land into arable land — but that the economics of doing so are unviable for most.

      ** The nutrients may be sparse and the water may be sparse, but it has to be there if it can support these animals. **

      I presume you do not have the education on biological sciences to realise the inaccuracy of this sentence. It’s not a criticism, because frankly most do not and I myself thought like you years earlier. What grass needs to grow is different to what brassicas require. What can eat one doesn’t necissitate it can eat the other. Just because Koalas can survive on Gum leaves does not follow that we can.

      ** This is a very unsophisticated and traditional view of agriculture that many people had and unfortunately still have wile we were still working out how plants grow, how soil works, how micro organisms interact and so on. **

      Actually, I must disagree, having undergone 3 years of study to learn this, I can say that there is a lot more we do understand than do not. In fact, if you like I can assist you with reading material and course work. It is both remarkably complicated and efficiently simple, but never in the way you’d expect.

      Talking about arable or unarable land is not being specific. Why is the land arable? why is the land not arable? There are many reasons and factors.
      Granted, but how many topics can one fully and qualifiably cover in a simple article?

      It doesn’t take a genius to work out that unsustainable farming practices will eventually deplete the land
      A completely different topic. Obviously related, but one is not due to the other. There are multiple aspects to this entire story and I am on record in this article and others that farming practices do need to change.

      ** And like I said, it’s also quite obvious that there is enough **

      No, it is not obvious that there is enough. It is possible to convert, and make land arable. It is possible to do a great many things. This does not mean it is viable or likely. Again, all mentioned later in the same article and in the additional reading material provided.

      ** We also unintentionally hurt people as a result of us existing. We sometimes say and do things that are hurtful to other people. Follow the logical implications of what you’re saying. Is it now okay to be a rapist, a murderer (of humans) etc? **

      Sorry, were you just making cheap rhetorical shots or did you truly want a response here on the five different logical fallacies implemented to write this?

      ** “Animal use is still required”
      No it isn’t. Animal interaction is required. But no we do not need to ‘use’ animals to do agriculture beyond using ourselves and animals acting in mutual self interest which is very different to obvious exploitation. **

      Ok, fine, we want to argue semantics rather than intended meaning. You are right, but to reach an agreed set of definitions of ‘right’, ‘use’, ‘interaction’ and ‘exploitation’ are going to take some time and make communication problematic until then, isn’t it?

      ** To say animals have been successful under our stewardship, oh look how many there are! is to say that an animal is successful simply for being numerous. This is taking quantity of life to be more important than quality of life. **

      This is a very interesting argument to state that there is no quality of life. However, I have also stated for the record that QoL should be one of the biggest factors we need to consider in changing our farming practices and why I preach utilisation of the Grandin methods amongst other minimum requirements.

      ** At what cost? How much biodiversity has been lost so that we can mass produce a few species of animals we like to eat? **

      This is a moot point as the argument is true for all forms of agriculture.

      ** That’s crazy logic. It doesn’t matter to you have an abundance either way. If you were one of the hundreds of millions of people who would no longer be starving due to an increase in efficiency of agriculture, maybe you wouldn’t think it was a moot point. **

      Looking at food production today, it is calculated that we have enough food based on quantity, quality and calorifically to feed the entire planet. That is not the limiting factor. Logistics, waste and greed are the biggest factors. There is a whole tome of books I could spout on that topic alone. As I stated in the original article, based on the current socio-political global lay of the land, these are the facts I have.

      ** 92% of all land degradation in my country is because of animal agriculture. **

      Mate, as an Australian, I will not only dispute this but call you out and say it’s utter bullshit. Yes, we have a lot of land degradation that is due to agriculture — all of it — not just animals. True also, the majority of damage was done during the colonial days of land clearing to stake out the squatters rights. But the majority of our _arable_ land is gone due to Urban sprawl and growth.

      ** Grass fed wile being more humane is in some ways worse for the Environment than intensive animal agriculture. **

      There’s some elements of truth there. Grass fed is also far better for humans (Omega 6 fat is actually in GFB) but can be worse from the methane belching, depending on the grass consumed. However, CSIRO are doing great work in identifying those grasses that are the worst offenders and when you consider good land management practices and thus the head limitations that imposes, it is actually better overall than any CAFO.

      ** Our ancestors did a lot of crazy shit and if starving would have eaten anything from scavenged meat to dirt to shit. ‘our ancestors did it’ Is not a sophisticated argument. **

      I don’t think that was the intention of my comment. Further, the extension of the logic is that by removing these items, what are you replacing them with? Not just meat to grains, but the reality is that much of the current pollution and carbon issues are based on a heavier reliance on petrochemical production used to make synthetic versions of things we used to make from the remnants of our food.

      ** No, meat eating is reserved for the affluent, and historically it always has been. You’d be consider a criminal poacher for hunting in the kings forests, you’d be subsisting on a plant based diet most of your life unless you were a king and queen **

      Let’s be clear (and I mentioned this in the article) — most people had a mostly plant based diet — and the best materials on the subject still state that we should have a diet based on 70–80% plant and 20–30% animal based. Now, animal base can equal eggs, milk, etc and not necessarily meat. This is not “vegan” but a well balanced omnivorous diet.

      Veganism is an extreme and is thus reserved for the affluent who can afford to make such deliberate and specific choices. Just like it is an extreme for people to be able to afford to purchase and eat huge quantities of meat. In most places around the world, meat happens more than it is cultivated, but that does not mean that because someone is poor they didn’t have it or they subsisted on roots.
      ———

      So, to recap, I hope I answered your queries and retorts from your reply. . Your reply didn’t seem to offer any new information, no additional insight, nor new research that may have provided me with a new view or appreciation of your side of the argument — which, by the by, I was confused about what that was. After all, this entire reply seems to only really be saying nothing other than I was somehow wrong for a bunch of reasons that weren’t, in retrospect, all too clear or, in fact, correct.

      A number of comments about this article have been made in this blog entry and my many responses (yes, even the ones where I lost my patience and objectivity) are all here to be read — because it is, at the end of the day, a bunch of humans deliberating and, in the case of this particular one, trying to sort out a lot of information about a very complex topic with many factors into something that makes more sense. I invite you to join me in a search for better understanding, if that is your desire, or to ignore me from now on if I am just a long winded bagpipe of non compliance with your world view.

      Either way, thanks for the interaction.

  16. Thank you for this article. After reading all the comments, I just think some people are so stupid, ignorant and so stuck with their own beliefs that not even most convincing argument would change their beliefs! They just want to believe they are better and adminting they might actually not be better than others might deeply hurt their pathetic egos!
    I was a vegetarian for more than 10 years, solely for ethical reasons due to our inhumane meat markets, up until very recently when I started to research if vegetarianism or veganism is really kinder for animals and environment. Now I realize and admit I was so ignorant in my views. I never forced my opinions or choices on other people and my family because I always believed we each have a right to make our own decisions! I never thought about mice, worms, birds, snakes, gophers, etc., as the ones being killed. I always, for some very ignorant reason, thought about cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc! I feel so guilty that I never thought deeper about it. I thought as long as I don’t consume bacon, poultry, beef, lamb, etc., then I am not causing animal suffering and death! It was such a “duh” moment for me to realize that all these little live creatures that live in the fields are being killed, poisoned and displaced during the production of soy, grains, etc. Alson, what about fertilizers that are being used in organic farming! Even if it is organically derived, it does not mean it is any safer for us, animals and environment! Of course, I will still choose to buy from small local organic farmers as oppose to big conventional companies as I still believe that organic practices are safer. I was so delusional in believing that my vegetarian practices were more ethical than 100% grass -fed, truly range and feedlock – free cattle farming! Don’t get me wrong, I still refuse to support these inhumane huge meat farms and I will not buy any meat from the stores. I did my research and found couple family owned farms that raise 100% grass fed, wild cattle and treat their animals with most respect from the day they are born to the minute they are slaughtered. There is hardly any animal suffering and the animal dies an immediate death during the slaughtering process. I also see nothing wrong with free range chickens (true free range) and eating eggs. Hens are meant to lay eggs and unless you want to waste that prescious egg, you choose to not eat it.
    Thank you for this information that convinces me even more on how wrong I was. And these people who are so disrespectful of other opinions can be compared to religious fanatics who do not hear the other side of the argument, have no guts to admit that they possible might be a bit off with their beliefs and have no respect to other people. Not worth your time to even argue with them!

    • Hi there
      One thing you may not have considered is the impact on indigenous species when land is cleared for farming. A vast amount of land is needed for meat production (vs horticulture), so when the forests are cut down there is a huge loss of life to insects, birds and mammals through habitat destruction. The Amazon rainforest is still being chopped down at an alarming rate to make space for more cows and soy plantations to feed those cows.

  17. Thought you might be interested in this article recently published in the conversation

    Part of the article states the following :

    Replacing red meat with grain products leads to many more sentient animal deaths, far greater animal suffering and significantly more environmental degradation. Protein obtained from grazing livestock costs far fewer lives per kilogram: it is a more humane, ethical and environmentally-friendly dietary option.

    So, what does a hungry human do? Our teeth and digestive system are adapted for omnivory. But we are now challenged to think about philosophical issues. We worry about the ethics involved in killing grazing animals and wonder if there are other more humane ways of obtaining adequate nutrients.

    Relying on grains and pulses brings destruction of native ecosystems, significant threats to native species and at least 25 times more deaths of sentient animals per kilogram of food. Most of these animals sing love songs to each other, until we inhumanely mass-slaughter them.

    […]

    The challenge for the ethical eater is to choose the diet that causes the least deaths and environmental damage. There would appear to be far more ethical support for an omnivorous diet that includes rangeland-grown red meat and even more support for one that includes sustainably wild-harvested kangaroo.

    • The article to which you linked, Conversation Starter, is problematic for a number of reasons. See the response, also at The Conservation, by Patrick Moriarty, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Australia’s Monash University. A brief excerpt:

      “Professor Archer, in his widely-read article, is right to stress the environmental consequences of grain production (including mice deaths) but the body count is higher for a meat than a vegetarian diet.”

    • G’day ReBal, more than happy to share as much as I can – I did originally do my best to document the sources used when I originally placed this on another platform, but alas it died and so did my endnotes, however I do have a number of the materials I used both directly and indirectly – though I wish I had time to re-link them, I’ll have to apologise and simply offer you the dumped list:

      • http://www.gracelinks.org/blog/1143/beef-the-king-of-the-big-water-footprints The number quoted is based on CAFOs as the source is US based and aimed at US based audiences
      • A consensus around a definitive, average water footprint of beef statistics are in flux for a number of reasons – since there are no standards (other than those being developed by the WFN – see “The water footprint assessment manual” ISBN 978-1-84971-279-8) there is thus a significant difference in research methods; and there are multiple variables in producing beef (e.g. grass vs grains, etc)
      • http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2007/10/diet-little-meat-more-efficient-many-vegetarian-diets
        Christian Peters, M.S. ‘02, Ph.D. ‘07, a Cornell postdoctoral associate in crop and soil sciences
      • DEGRADED LAND: See FAO Stats; Worldbank; WorldStats
        Today, a quarter of the world’s farmland is degraded. (FAO 2008) Further, we lose ~750 tonnes of topsoil every second.
      • Re: 1% A YEAR farmland figure: A recent satellite study found that the world is losing one per cent of its farmland every year. FAOstatistics show that the area of land farmed worldwide has diminished in 9 out of the last 10 years – despite the stimulus of high commodity prices. We may already have passed peak land. SRC: The Coming Famine (ISBN:9780520260719)
      • 3D Printed Food: http://qz.com/86685/the-audacious-plan-to-end-hunger-with-3-d-printed-food/
      • eating is inherently unethical — Consider this: The act of eating, by simple definition, is the incorporation into the eater of the autonomy of the eaten
        →https://medium.com/the-ingredients-2/a3819dd0259e
      • A Movable Feast — In the last twenty-five years alone, the range of fruits and vegetables, even grains, that is available at most local markets has changed…
        →http://books.google.com.au/books?id=XWbcrS9SV-sC
      • Lierre Keith : The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability — We’ve been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. But, is it true?
        →http://www.lierrekeith.com/work/#veg
      • Cows Save the Planet by Judith D. Schwartz — Journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz ….
        →http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/cows_save_the_planet/
      • The Botany of Desire — In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed reciprocal relationships …
        →http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-botany-of-desire/
      • Where do Camels Belong? — Thompson drives home the point that ecosystems are dynamic and never fixed. Species have always shifted their range and distribution across the globe in response to environmental change, and today is no different. Our view of what is native, or not, and thereby “good” or “bad”, is often based more on cultural …
        →http://books.google.com.au/books?id=DxslAwAAQBAJ&dq=where+do+camels+belong&source=gbs_navlinks_s
      • In Defense of Food — Food. There’s plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it? Because most of what we’re consumin…
        →http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/
      • Healthy Soils, Healthy People: the Legacy of William Albrecht — Abstract: William Albrecht was not only a distinguished scientist and brilliant scholar; he was also a true visionary and committed human…
        →http://is.gd/uorytl
      • The Coming Famine — ”In The Coming Famine, Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of impending planetary crisis–a global food shortage that threatens to hit …
        →http://books.google.com.au/books?id=Tv0zXxbQ7toC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI&output=embed&redir_esc=y#%7B%7D
      • Environmental Ethics and Land Management – Timothy C. Weiskel — Our environmental circumstances pose problems of value and choice for each of us and challenge us to reconsider the way we act individually and collectively in an ever changing ecosystem. Whether we like it or not there is no escaping the fact that ethical values are embedded in the premises and assumptions of all decisions we make concerning land and resource use.
        →http://www.ecoethics.net/2011-ENVRE120/
      • Michael Marder Online — Michael Marder is Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz and has written extensively on plant ethics.
        →http://www.michaelmarder.org
      • Water consumption Statistics – Worldometers — Water consumed this year (billion of liters) Water consumption – sources and methods The data on water consumption in the world is provid…
        →http://www.worldometers.info
      • MEET THE NEXUS — HOW FOOD, WATER AND ENERGY ARE CONNECTED
        When a Prince talks farming, you listen. This is nothing new for the GRACE food program folks, but as the “water guy,” that’s all I could…
        →http://www.gracelinks.org
      • The Water Footprint Assessment Manual — The book offers a complete and up-to-date overview of the global standard on water footprint assessment as developed by the Water Footprint Network
        →http://www.hydrology.nl

      I hope these are of some use, but do reach out if there are any queries.

  18. Would like to know why you only selectively chose parts of the Christian Peters research as this was an incredibly poor portrayal of the actual research and seemed to be a key part to your arguments (i.e. your land use argument is massively flawed). You accurately portray that “A person following a low-fat vegetarian diet, for example, will need less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce their food” and that “Surprisingly, however, a vegetarian diet is not necessarily the most efficient in terms of land use”. But you seem to have left out some quite crucial context:

    “A high-fat diet with a lot of meat, on the other hand, needs 2.11 acres”

    and

    “although vegetarian diets in New York state may require less land per person, they use more high-valued land. It appears that while meat increases land-use requirements, diets including modest amounts of meat can feed more people than some higher fat vegetarian diets”.

    Considering “modest” is not defined and that in our current society it is hard to believe that 2 times a day, 7 days a week meat consumption could ever be called modest then the most logical comparison is to use the high fat meat diet @ 2.11 acres as a proxy for our society today. Hence using your own calculation on 7bn people with 3.08bn acres of arable land we are presently at a deficit of just under 11.7bn acres. Perhaps this massive deficit explains why oceans are being pillaged, whole species are disappearing at an alarming rate, forests are disappearing rapidly and being replaced with genetically modified crops to sustain the ever growing needs of animal agriculture industry, and that so many people are facing terrible hunger and deprivation of the most basic of needs.

    Here is the full article for all the readers out there:
    http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2007/10/diet-little-meat-more-efficient-many-vegetarian-diets

    Conclusion – seems as though the best options are a “modest” amount of meat consumption or none at all, hence as a species shouldn’t we all do our best for this place we call home and significantly cut down or cease the meat consumption?

  19. Hi there
    I suggest you have a look at the research being done by Dr Seona Candy (and others) at the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at Melbourne Uni. Seona is an engineer who uses an enormous computational model developed by CSIRO to model different scenarios for Australia’s future food security. Their peer-reviewed, scientific research is showing that for Australia to be able to feed itself into the future, it’s important for Australians to reduce meat consumption. They have some papers coming out soon – if you don’t have access to scientific journals, contact Seona directly, I’m sure she would be happy to send them to you.

  20. Thank you so much for this article! I personally am currently doing as much research as I can to determine whether changing to a Vegan lifestyle would indeed be beneficial to me. However I have found the sheer majority of research online is very emotionally biased towards being vegan (and slandering those who consume animal products) instead of objectively presenting facts to let me make the decision. I’m taking your article on board, and doing more research but thank you so much! One of the most well researched articles there!

  21. I spent the late-late night reading your post. I believe it was worth it. You took a great deal of effort to express this point of vew and thoughtfuly reply to some undeserving comments. Well done and Bravo!

  22. I think something’s wrong with your stats. According to the FAO 2012 there is 1.6 billion ha (3.9 billion acres) of land currently used in the cultivation of crops. That’s a lot less than your 3.1 bn for a vegan diet land use projection you cite . http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i1688e/i1688e.pdf (pg 21). And what’s more rather than decreasing, arable land is set to increase by 0.1% pa ( again according to the FAO http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/ap106e/ap106e.pdf

    More importantly rather than trying to do all these rough estimates, scientists have actually made models of how different diets affect land use across the world, along with how estimating different qualities of cropped land with different yields would have an affect of land use on different dies. A vegan diet uses the least land and has the least risk of requiring further deforestation.
    http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160419/ncomms11382/full/ncomms11382.html

    • Thanks for your commentary. The numbers aren’t that far off, and your citations whilst published in 2012 were using data that was already old by the time the report was collated. Also, the “arable land is set to increase by 0.1% pa” is based on the wholesale destruction of existing savannahs and rainforests for the conversion to said arable land.

      The arguments either of us could utilise will see u flinging data around, but the reality is this is not a black or white issue. There are many, many, many shades of grey involved. This includes the questions of whether we, as a species, are willing to continue to destroy swathes of pristine environment for the arable land required for growing crops? Are we willing to limit the use of certain farming practices? Should we return to evidence based research – reassessing the impacts of food and all materials? What is the overall planetary footprint of utilising petrochemical based alternatives to other organic derived products?

      All of these questions are just as important.

      To your final point, yes, scientists have derived many models. If I was one, or undertaking to write a peer-reviewed research paper, I would have been far more diligent in undertaking,quantifying, referencing and qualifying all of my data – but I suspect two things – one, for some it wouldn’t suffice because it still conflicts with their cognitive bias, and two – someone could always ind something to contradict it because this is the nature of science,m there are no truths, just deductions based on the avilable and known data at the time. So, as the link you provided claims vegan diets as the one that uses the least land – there are others that prove the opposite. See the scientific paper “Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios” linked within my other comment on this subkject.

  23. Insightful read, as well as the comments. This is an old post, and I could probably find and read the sources myself, but I was wondering, what exact plant do studies use when comparing how much it takes to produce plant foods instead of meat? You mentioned that statistics would change greatly depending on pig, cow, or chicken – how much would they change if we are talking celery (which you cannot eat enough to survive on) to a potato or grain? From a sustainability standpoint, many vegetables would be practically useless to grow because they simply don’t produce the calories needed.

  24. Hello xntrek,

    First of all I would like to thank you for this article. I think out of all the articles I have read this is the most considered one I have read, one that argues both sides of the coin.

    I may be influenced the more I educate myself on this matter but at the moment I think I am going to try my best to adopt a lifestyle much like you have suggested. A diet consisting mainly of plants but supplemented with sustainable meat / dairy where there exists no other alternative for the land use other than grazing.

    At the moment I live in Scotland and a couple of examples I can think of being places such as the isle of Skye (many sheep roam the isle) where the majority of the land is non-arable and venison which due to lack of predators (yes this was caused by human influence but that is the situation we are in) are over populated. My problem being that how do I know that the meat I purchase originates from these sources?

    I am also horrified by some of the practices adopted by slaughterhouses, however most of the documentaries I have watched however illustrate farming practices in the USA, I am not sure what the typical UK practices are like but how could someone wanting to purchase meat killed as humanely as possible go about doing this?

    Also not sure if you are knowledgeable about fishing but a lot of information I receive is that there is basically no sustainable fishing left in our oceans. I have no doubt that overfishing occurs but is the local fisherman that catches salmon on the banks of a river still contributing to the depletion of the ocean?

    I Look forward to your response however you have already provided such a thought provoking so I thank you for that.

  25. Hi and thanks for this article. I am Australian based. I was born a farmer but sadly agribusiness has replaced farming. A farm was a balanced system with animals poultry and crops working with nature as you could not work against it. A lot of wildlife lived in and on a farm. Today because people want cheaper and cheaper food that is blemish free we have agribusiness, this means more and more monoculture. I work on a small property (800 acres) we grow only rockmelon and honeydew, we use chemical fertiliser and sprays. There is very little diversity here, over the boundary fence is a beef cattle property with massive diversity, trees wildlife and cattle. To turn this into cropping land would be very expensive and destructive ( remove the trees and wildlife) and your vegetables would no longer be cheep. If we move to a totally vegetarian lifestyle we will lose what is a productive and biologically diverse area. If you want more food for a growing world then stop throwing it away. 30% of the food we grow here is not picked as it has minor blemishes. The packing shed rejects another 10% for the same reason. That doesn’t include supermarkets or other outlets.
    We grow plenty of food, far more than we need we are just very wasteful. As for killing animals for food or otherwise killing is killing animal plant or microorganism, do we stop trying to cure diseases for this same reason.
    Again thank you for this article, its very thought provoking.

  26. Have you updated your research at all since writing this article? A few thoughts I had while reading this…I don’t think any intelligent person has ever suggested that the ‘entire world’ go vegan overnight. This would be a statement that doesn’t make sense on many levels, some of which you touch upon.

    Adopting a plant based diet has been proven by science to be the healthiest, most environment friendly diet a human can consume at any stage of life.
    http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(16)31192-3/abstract

    WATER CONSUMPTION – You admit in the article that a plant based diet uses less water.
    FARM LAND – many studies combined in this video & linked in description.

    ANIMAL DEATH/PLANT SENTIENCE – This is a moral/ethical issue you claimed would not be considered. Also, plants don’t have brains/nervous systems. If you punch a plant, it’s not going to show fear and try and run away.
    ANIMAL USE – I lean towards the argument that animals will always be used in some way so I’m not going to fully disagree with you here. There are veganic farming practices though.
    IMPACT – “The reality is that all farming makes an impact. So, whilst a vegan diet may very well prove to be healthy, and indeed be more efficient than an omnivorous diet, it is a moot point.” Why is it a moot point? You just admitted a vegan diet is better than an omnivorous one. It’s 2017 and not the past. Humans did many things in the past that they have learned were not the best way to do things and have evolved. We don’t have to eat like our ancestors did. Also, to suggest that only ‘affluent’ people can make vegan choices is absurd. When the ‘affluent’ go out to eat, they are not eating beans/rice/potatoes. They are eating animal flesh. The poorest places on earth consume vegan food.
    MARKET FORCES – So your shitty piece of land is an example for the entire planet? Come on now. This was a weak argument. Billions of animals are fed massive amounts of grain(corn/soy/oat) EVERY DAY that could be fed to humans. Plant based milks are an example of how market forces DO work. Huge increases in sales while dairy from cows is on a steep decline.

    Science isn’t even needed to figure out which is a better option, plant based diets or omni. Animals need massive amounts of land, feed, water & produce massive amounts of waste. Plants need less water/land and produce no waste(not including pesticides/fertilizer because it’s also needed to feed animals). Animals can suffer, plants cannot. Healthy diets are the ones with the most plants included. No one is recommended to limit fruit/veg/legumes & consume large amount of dairy/meat/eggs. More and more science is coming out against meat/dairy/eggs and the detrimental health effects on humans.

    I think the below article written by a molecular scientist is all that is needed to push you in the right direction.

    http://www.eatplantsdrinkbeer.com/readup/2016/03/10/do-you-really-fucking-love-science-animal-agriculture-and-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    • Using biophysical simulation models to compare 10 eating patterns, researchers found that eating fewer animal products will increase the number of people that can be supported by existing farmland. But as it turns out, eliminating animal products altogether isn’t the best way to maximize sustainable land use. Their work was published in Elementa, a journal on the science of the anthropocene.
      The researchers considered the vegan diet, two vegetarian diets (one that includes dairy, the other dairy and eggs), four omnivorous diets (with varying degrees of vegetarian influence), one low in fats and sugars, and one akin to the modern American dietary pattern.
      Based on their models, the vegan diet would feed fewer people than two of the vegetarian and two of the four omnivorous diets studied. The bottom line: Going cold turkey on animal-based products may not actually be the most sustainable long choice for humanity in the long term.

      — Source

      The full scientific journal article is available directly: Peters CJ, Picardy J, Darrouzet-Nardi AF, Wilkins JL, Griffin TS, Fick GW. Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios. Elem Sci Anth. 2016;4:116. DOI: http://doi.org/10.12952/journal.elementa.000116

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