Yesterday I posted a great article on my Instagram feed by The Guardian about how veganism isn’t the answer to saving the world. I’m really excited this concept is getting more mainstream attention!
A vegan blogger decided to troll my feed:
…and since she blocked me on instagram, I’d like to follow up with a detailed reply here.
- First, I’m a dietitian and feel that meat is a healthy food. If you don’t want to eat it, that’s cool, but it’s just basic scientific truth that when compared to plant-based proteins, meat is superior. More on that here.
- I also address the water argument very well here, citing that avocados, rice and walnuts require the same water as typical beef, and grass-fed beef is even better.
- In this post, I analyzed the feed it takes to produce a pound of beef. It’s not as inefficient as many like to make it out to be. It’s also important to understand that we can’t grow crops everywhere. The majority of the Earth’s surface is only suitable for grazing, due to water scarcity, topography, poor soil, etc. Cattle and other ruminants can convert food we can’t eat (grass) on land we can’t grow crops on to nutrient-dense human food (beef) while having a beneficial impact.
I want to dedicate the rest of this post to the “Hmm Ethics.” comment, which particularly irritates me. It takes a lot of balls to go troll someone else’s feed and declare your moral superiority just because you have no idea how food is grown. I’ve lived on a working organic vegetable farm for the last 16 years and can assure you, there is no possible way to grow food without causing death. It’s impossible.
First, you need to make a field. Crop fields aren’t “natural”. When you fly over the United States and look down at all of the squares and circles down there, that’s not “nature,” that’s man. Lots of things had to die to make way for that perfect square of only one crop to be there.
Step two, once all trees are cut down and life is removed, it’s time to plow up the soil. This releases carbon and further kills lots of life living close to the surface. Small critters that had their dens underground are decapitated and chopped up.
Next, time to plant and don’t forget, you need to fertilize. How should the fertilizing be done? There are chemical methods, but I’m sure my blogger friend only eats organic vegetables 100% of the time, right? Ok. How do organic farmers feed their soil? On our farm, we use compost (a mix of dead animals and plants) and other organic tools like blood meal, bone meal, and fish emulsion. There are “veganic” options that use algae, but the production of this has it’s own issues. Life cycle studies of the production of algae for fertilizer shows that they’re not as “green” as many assume, requiring lots of energy to make and and producing greenhouse gasses and other waste. Plus, you then have to transport this to a farm with… algae biofuels?
Another problem that happens when we strip away an ecosystem to plant grains and vegetables is that we’re removing the natural cover that animals like field mice have, making it much easier for a hawk to swoop down and pluck it’s lunch. Exposing that mouse was the result of human interventions.
If we know a death will happen as a result of our actions, but we didn’t directly intend for that death to occur, is the death still our fault?
Are fish, insects and birds less significant life forms than mammals? Are animals that look closest to humans more important? Is it only important not to kill animals that are considered sentient? Is sentience the only value a being can have? Does death harm some beings more than others?
We need to take responsibility for both intended deaths and unintended deaths due to our impact on the land.
A new paper looking at the number of animal deaths caused by plant agriculture looked at deaths per hectare per year from various different angles. Depending on what you consider “valuable life” and how the animals were counted, deaths could either range from 35-250 mouse deaths per acre to 7.3 billion animals killed every year from plant agriculture if you count birds killed by pesticides, fish deaths from fertilizer runoff, plus reptiles and amphibians poisonings from eating toxic insects. Whether or not you agree with their math is not the issue. I think the issue is, if death happened for your food, then are you morally better than me because you didn’t drink milk or eat a steak?
Finally, I take huge issue with the statement, “I don’t feel someone can be spiritual and eat slaughtered animals.”
This is basically insulting every human on the planet. The place of privilege that this comes from is incredible. Are you more “woke” than Ghandi, the Dali Lama, and all the people whose traditional food culture includes large amounts of animal products like the Maasai in Kenya or the Inuit, or any First Nations People? Is it your right to tell cultures that have historically eaten animal products that you have deeper spiritual life because you eat highly processed Beyond Burgers at A&W with your root beer? Should all people give up eating meat and instead bend the knee to the vegan way of life to obtain your moral approval? We’ve already imposed our Western diet on the world, how’s that working out for those cultures who have abandoned their traditional food ways?
When you say you “love and respect all” does that really mean you only love and respect all sexual orientations and not honor individual choice and traditional culture in food? As you sit in your perfect white room looking pensively out the window, do you meditate on how much better you are than 99% of the rest of the world? How wabi sabi is that of you?
I’d even take this a step further and say it’s racist to claim spiritual superiority over others by pushing away nutrient dense meat, especially when animals may be the only food their land can sustainably support. Is it ok to live in Canada and tell me that your diet including imported, water-hogging avocados likely harvested in Mexico by someone in poverty is morally superior to me growing and eating my own animals? Who was kidnapped and trafficked so that you can eat your vegan, gluten free, chocolate donut? Is all chocolate vegan because only human children are exploited, no direct animal deaths? Where is your forbidden rice bowl from, and how much water and fossil fuels did it take to bring you some much needed, post yoga “me time”?
The fact is, we have about 60 years of harvest left at the rate we’re going, and cattle are one of our best solutions to regenerate our soils. And just because grass-fed beef is a small percentage of the meat consumed, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for more production. Organic vegetables used to be a fringe food too, and have never been more popular. We must consider regenerative agriculture practices which include ruminants in order to save our future. So while you’re instagramming about how your personality traits line up with a typical Aries, and telling others how much better you are than them, I’ll be over here helping people recover their health with foods like bone broth and meat, regenerating soil and trying to save the planet.
Read the original post in the Guardian, “If you want to save the world, veganism is not the answer”
- I want to make it clear that I think vegans and those of us interested in regenerative agriculture have much more in common than many assume. Clearly animals being abused or raised in large CAFO operations is wrong, but I think regenerative agriculture practices need to get more mainstream attention. I feel it’s fine to avoid eating animals, but even those who don’t want to eat them should care about how they’re raised because the world will not stop eating animals tomorrow – we should all be fighting TOGETHER for better animal management. I wrote more on the concept of sentience here, and in this post I write about why I feel eating animals can be an important part of living a sustainable life. I recorded this podcast with Matthew Engelhart, founder of the vegan restaurants Cafe Graditude and Gracias Madre on how he transitioned from vegan to omnivore after learning about regenerative farming.
For an interesting conversation surrounding the moral defense of a plant-based diet, listen to my podcast with Dr. Andrew Smith, philosophy professor at Drexel University who wrote, “A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism.” I also recorded a podcast with Lierre Keith, author of “The Vegetarian Myth.”
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