Sustainability Without the BS: The Real Humane Farmers Are Going Vegan-Organic

Commercial enterprises are such good distracters. Climate meltdown is the ultimate threat, the nemesis to agribusiness — and CEOs duly respond with the cleverest forms of greenwash. They promise to reduce emissions by using new kinds of animal feeds. They boast of plans to convert methane into electricity. And a significant segment of the industry claims to use animals as part of a natural ecology, touting idyllic conditions or organic methods.

What’s worse? Seeing animal and environmental advocates drawn into this dangerous game. Activists try to improve husbandry practices or promote supposedly sustainable animal farms because it’s an easier sell than the go-vegan-or-else approach; but many experienced and thoroughly practical gardeners consider dabbling in animal agribusiness reforms misguided.

In 1944, when just over two billion people occupied the planet and before the era of mass-scale industrial farming, Donald Watson and a few like-minded people founded The Vegan Society based on the opinion that the truly idyllic and sustainable animal farm didn’t exist in the early 1900s, and never will. Watson was a vegan-organic gardener — steering clear of animal manure, bonemeal and blood, and instead using compost for fertility. Why aren’t more animal and environmental advocates following this example?

In the 1970s, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (followed by Animal Factories, authored with Jim Mason in 1980) described large animal processing plants as horrifying places; but Singer has steadfastly maintained that breeding and killing can co-exist with the idea of treating animals fairly. In other words, Singer appears to believe that the animal factory, not animal farming per se, constitutes the ethical problem. Singer is often credited with propelling the animal-rights movement; but by framing advocacy as a challenge to factory farming, Singer interrupted vegan activism.

Today, major grocery chains are asking producers to be less like assembly lines and more like old times — then cashing in. Whole Foods Market claims “to assist and inspire ranchers and meat producers around the world to achieve a higher standard of animal welfare excellence while maintaining economic viability.” Peter Singer, together with an alarming number of animal-protection groups, endorsed Whole Foods’ Animal Compassion Foundation, which turned out to be quite lucrative in North America — and beyond. “Sausages made from humanely treated animals,” the Guardian Observer announced in early 2006, summing up the hype surrounding Whole Foods Market’s British debut.

Pig Business, aired on British television just this summer, is a much-heralded documentary by Tracy Worcester, who has worked on behalf of Friends of the Earth. Brimming with disturbing images (some of which were excised for the television audience), the film decries pig crates, rough handling, and cheap meat. Worcester points out that foreign pigflesh — from the US-based multinational Smithfield, for example — would fail British expectations of handling and housing standards. The film’s promoters laud small farms and local butchers. Agreeing is Zac Goldsmith, former editor of Ecologist magazine and now Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Richmond Park, London: “I think small farming in a localised economy is the answer.” Goldsmith cites Pig Business as helping to “address the unfairness of the system allowing local farmers to be out competed [sic] by cheap imports of much lower standard.”

“I think we all fundamentally like pigs, don’t we?” asks Tracy Worcester, who is married to Henry Somerset, Marquess of Worcester — heir of the Duke of Beaufort and a farmer. But is this factory-crit trend its own form of denial? Worcester will eat bacon, the Telegraph assures its readers — as long as it’s from “really, really happy pigs.”

Those pigs aren’t happy, dear readers; they’re dead. Meanwhile, all this idyllic farming of the affluent people, by the affluent people, for the affluent people pushes free-living animals out of once-thriving biocommunities to make room for the supposedly thrilled pigs. Moreover, animal agribusiness is notorious for its heavy use of fuel to transport crops and animals from place to place.

To get around that, our affluent role models give us the “locavore” trend — exhorting us to buy dairy, eggs, and animal flesh as well as vegetables from area farmers or hobby farms, and to eat roasts and quiches at restaurants with local sources. But even Forbes has run an opinion piece questioning these ideas, citing a study by Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture that connects transport to just 11% of food’s carbon footprint. “No matter how you slice it,” the comment observes, “it takes more energy to bring meat, as opposed to plants, to the table. It takes 6 pounds of grain to make a pound of chicken and 10 to 16 pounds to make a pound of beef.”

The conclusion? “If you want to make a statement, ride your bike to the farmer’s market. If you want to reduce greenhouse gases, become a vegetarian.”

The word “vegan” would have been more straightforward, because egg companies use space and feed and are significant polluters; dairy cows, who live longer than beef cattle and are overfed to stay as productive as possible, are associated with high methane emissions and feed demand. If you really want to reduce greenhouse gases, become a vegan.

And support vegan-organic growers. They’re offering a new path for the human journey. They’re cultivating respect, shielding and celebrating the freedom that’s still possible for animals who live in local ecologies. They are genuine liberators, freeing the land from grazing and fodder production, taking no more water than necessary, avoiding pollution, and returning part of the harvest to other beings and to the land. They know much of global grain harvest is fed to domesticated animals, and that feed crops are invasive — planted where rainforests once flourished. They know financially well-off regions siphon vast quantities of grain unnecessarily from others, and that animal husbandry puts enormous pressure on the world’s water. They point to a way out of these problems.

Activists who prefer to pursue humane animal agribusiness say we must do something for animals suffering in factory farms right now. Some think vegan education is just too slow, or that a vegan humanity isn’t possible anyway. They sound like realists, so they’re pretty effective at making vegans sound marginal. But are they right?

Copernicus must have felt marginal in a society that generally assumed our planet was the central fixture in the cosmos. Relatively quickly in the course of history, humanity’s perspective was radically changed; likewise, the vegan movement offers a fresh perspective, and it’s poised to make human the supremacist view obsolete. Environmentalists have discovered how incorrect that old view is. Earthworms, bees and other supposedly insignificant beings are now understood as enormously influential in the biocommunity. Meanwhile, the vegan philosophy has posited that we cannot give animals some kind of moral rank; all are entitled to live on their own terms, bees and earthworms included.

We all have the wonderful potential to accept this philosophy today. Trying to get there in increments — say, by switching to “cage-free” eggs or supporting free-range concepts — means forgetting that Earth’s space is finite, that animals are displaced by commercial landscapes, that the spread of pasture-based farming uproots free-living beings and snuffs out their lives.

When the idea of human supremacy — and its corollary, the treatment of the world as our warehouse — is understood as a destructive myth, it will be replaced by a new paradigm. By learning to cook vegan dishes or to cultivate vegan-organic gardens, many people are preparing for that shift today. The social change could become apparent relatively quickly, and that’s good. By most predictions, we have little time to spare.

Lee Hall is legal director for Friends of Animals, an animal-rights advocacy group founded in New York in 1957. Lee can be reached at: leehall@friendsofanimals.org. Follow Lee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VeganMeans. Read other articles by Lee, or visit Lee's website.

71 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Peace Is Coming For You said on September 30th, 2009 at 9:52am #

    Way to go, Lee and DV! Veganic is the way to go! Thanks!

  2. Miles Reed said on September 30th, 2009 at 10:34am #

    There is however a model for completely sustainable/ethical meat consumption, which has been successfully demonstrated by humans and non-humans alike since time immemorial: hunting. Eating the flesh of a deer is not ultimately different than eating the flesh of a carrot. Eating the flesh of ANYthing that has been raised under industrial domestication is the trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I’m vegan-friendly as could be. I just think the indigenous of the world might take issue with an absolutist “no meat ever” paradigm.

  3. Dogwood said on September 30th, 2009 at 11:29am #

    Years ago, we first-hand encountered two separate people very close to me who literally brought themselves back to health from some dire diseases by changing their life styles; and primarily by switching to a vegan organic diet. It was so dramatic that we couldn’t help but check this out.

    About the same time, the most radical and effective environmentalist we knew adamantly proclaimed that you could not be an environmentalist without be organic vegan. He stated that if you disagreed with that statement, it simply meant you didn’t have the facts – and should get them.

    We did.

    That was 16 years ago.

    Not only have we never eaten more delicious, varied food – but the freedom from the stress and angst and defensiveness of having our very meals being any part of the atrocities resulting from factory farms, deforestation, planet destruction, etc. is worth more than we could ever express.

    Highly recommended.

  4. Dashing Leech said on September 30th, 2009 at 1:03pm #

    Uh, while there are some interesting points about vegan vs animal sources of food, I don’t think this article is very objective. Organic farming by its very definition makes less efficient use of land and energy, since it is designed to be more “natural” than to make use of artificial efficiency improvements, and therefore causes more harm to the environment.

    This problem of organics is well know, e.g., the comprehense study reported here.

    Specifically quoting the report,
    “Vegetable production was also highlighted as a source of increased use of resources. Organic vine tomatoes require almost 10 times the amount of land needed for conventional tomatoes and nearly double the amount of energy.”

    Organics are hardly sustainable. Sustainability is derived from producing a given amount of human fuel with the least amount of land and energy. Vegetables as fuel certainly do that more than animals as fuel, but organics are an order of magnitude worse than modernized efficiency.

  5. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 1:45pm #

    Yes, vegan and organic is the way to go–and it is how I grow my food and fruit trees. Organic plant-food diets that also don’t rely on so much smoke-spueing factory processing really are the way to go, for the planet and our health. Animal raising is killing the planet, and no matter how much the media and television and the political system put all their effort into maintaining the status quo, we have to fight against it, and for real change (no more presidents!)

  6. Susan said on September 30th, 2009 at 1:49pm #

    Here here!
    This is just one aspect of why I’m a vegan chef.

  7. Don Hawkins said on September 30th, 2009 at 3:30pm #

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/09/29/the-population-myth/

    In May the Sunday Times carried an article headlined “Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation”. It revealed that “some of America’s leading billionaires have met secretly” to decide which good cause they should support. “A consensus emerged that they would back a strategy in which population growth would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat.”(9) The ultra-rich, in other words, have decided that it’s the very poor who are trashing the planet. You grope for a metaphor, but it’s impossible to satirise. George Monbiot

    Read this by George Monbiot it was well done and he finds James Lovelock wrong by golly and I think he is right on this. America’s leading billionaires have met secretly.

  8. Mike B) said on September 30th, 2009 at 3:39pm #

    I think we need to organise to take over the means of production in order to have the concrete power to change the way we’re using planetary resources. As it is, an individual can feel all nice, warm and fuzzy about how morally superior they are as compared with the OTHERS by becoming a vegan. The fact is that this is NOT going to change the world very much at all. It WILL give us psychological benefits; but the Earths’ finite resources will still be burdened with the system of production for corporate owners of profitible commodities made by workers who have no choice other than to sell their skills and time to capitalists in order to make a living, including occupations in the animal husbandry industry at any sort of sized farm, big or small. The key is to get hold of the productive apparatus. When we have the power, we can really start living in harmony with the Earth. If we’re not oganising for that end, we might just as well be whistling in the dark.

  9. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 4:10pm #

    Yes, actually, you can do something good RIGHT NOW by no longer consuming or using animal products; doing so does have an effect. Making yourself feel excused because you’re holding out for a non-existent ‘takeover of the means of production’ is not a solution, and neither is falsely excusing people involved in animal slaughter/exploitation. Having the means of production will not automatically bring about equality for glbt people, veganism, environmentalism, or anything else; these have to be dealt with separately, and directly. Live in harmony with the earth NOW.

  10. Don Hawkins said on September 30th, 2009 at 4:16pm #

    Mike B you maybe right on that and let’s just look at what we see now this day. In the States most people don’t have the slightest idea what is going on. The so called leaders think they do but in reality just in control of an out of control system. This time it will get us the us being the human race. The president of the United States flying to Copenhagen the rich still being rich the media still degrading people the bank’s is where the money is, Wall Street asking for more then more, the policy makers fighting and lying like dog’s and so it goes. Goes yes but in illusion only. So far not one of the biggest problem, problems has been faced by anybody. I guess to face the problem means change. I really can’t say by anybody because a few who don’t control bank’s, policy, the media and business are trying but whistling in the dark and very dark it is. It is strange how it work’s first they tell us what is going on then how it is playing out then it play’s out and what just happened nothing, zero. This will not work out well we are at the crossroads and so far it’s the rich get to be rich the policy makers lie and fight we watch wheel of fortune as the human race goes down the drain in not such slow motion. It is strange to know and watch this. Knowledge, reason, wisdom, working together the hardest one not even close. You can’t eat money but so far there gong to gave it a try.

  11. kalidas said on September 30th, 2009 at 4:35pm #

    “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
    Pythagoras

    “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
    Tolstoy

  12. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 6:00pm #

    Pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are not ‘efficient,’ they poison the land, are very expensive, and completely unsustainable. Organic production via composting–via using the plant cycle to rejuvenate the soil, is efficient, sustainable, and productive.

  13. redcatbicycliste said on September 30th, 2009 at 6:34pm #

    You should read “The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability” by Lierre Keith.

    About the book: Part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto, this controversial examination exposes the destructive history of agriculture—causing the devastation of prairies and forests, driving countless species extinct, altering the climate, and destroying the topsoil—and asserts that, in order to save the planet, food must come from within living communities. In order for this to happen, the argument champions eating locally and sustainably and encourages those with the resources to grow their own food. Further examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of both human and environmental health, the account goes beyond health choices and discusses potential moral issues from eating—or not eating—animals. Through the deeply personal narrative of someone who practiced veganism for 20 years, this unique exploration also discusses alternatives to industrial farming, reveals the risks of a vegan diet, and explains why animals belong on ecologically sound farms.

    About the Author: Lierre Keith is a writer, a farmer, and a feminist activist. She is the author of the novels Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel. She splits her time between Northampton, Massachusetts and Humboldt, California.

    P.S. As a former vegan–thankfully, for only two years–I can attest to the fact that a vegan diet is not a healthy one for humans to eat longer than eight weeks.

  14. Jason said on September 30th, 2009 at 7:16pm #

    “Whole Foods’ Animal Compassion Foundation, which turned out to be quite lucrative in North America — and beyond.”

    Actually, the Animal Compassion Foundation quickly came to nothing. Whole Foods went back to the drawing board and now they have some new program they are rolling out in “select stores.” However, I would hardly call ACF ‘lucrative.’

  15. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 7:19pm #

    As a vegetarian since I was born, and a vegan of nine plus years in excellent health, I can attest to the FACT that a vegan diet is more than healthy and sustaining.

  16. Jason said on September 30th, 2009 at 7:25pm #

    redcatbicycliste, I’ve been vegan for eight years and I’m doing just fine. Great in fact. Maybe you were just doing it wrong? I guess maybe veganism is NOT for everyone. People who are totally incompetent and ignorant should probably stick to the USDA guidelines. They’re not perfect, but most Americans hit at least 40 or 50 before their bodies start to really break down. Best of luck to you!

  17. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 7:25pm #

    There are many successful, life-long vegans; someone who bailed after 8 weeks is proof of nothing. But yes, many feminists promote animal slaughter, glbt inequality, and bogus anthropological arguments. Oh well to them. Read The China Study and see why a vegan diet is absolutely paramount.

  18. redcatbicycliste said on September 30th, 2009 at 8:11pm #

    Jason said:
    People who are totally incompetent and ignorant should probably stick to the USDA guidelines.

    Jason, your insults were unnecessary, but they show you to be an ugly (on the inside) person.

    And, no, I was not doing it wrong. And, yes, veganism is not not for everyone–actually, it is for very few.

    The world’s oldest woman, who recently died at 115 years old, well, here favourite food was bacon, as she told an interviewer, which she liked cooked crispy.

    The vegan diet is a recent diet in human history, as is the SAD (Standard American Diet: processed foods, hydrogenated fats, sugars, pasteurised and homogenised dairy products, etc). There is no food culture on this planet that is vegan (a few vegetarian cuisines, but even those include animal products). Veganism is an American invention that is only a few decades old (maybe a century, give or take a decade or two), and it is incapable of sustaining human good health.

    Personally, I find the veganists are in better health than the SAD eaters, because the veganists tend to not partake in the other unhealthy habits that the SADers do: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, not excercising, etc. But both the SADers and veganists ruin their health by eating too many bad fats, and having an imbalance of Omega6 to Omega3 fats. Additionally, the veganists destroy, unknowingly and until it is too late, their health by consuming too many unfermented soy products. As well, the human brain needs saturated fats and cholesterol to develop properly.

    Fortunately, for me, I gave up the strict vegan diet that I followed for two years. I went back to eating real food; real food from good sources. Just like my grandmother did, who died a few years ago, at 95 years. She was in very good health, up until the last six months of her life. She ate lots of vegetables. She ate eggs and meat (with all its wonderful fat). She ate fruit. She drank no alchohol. She was not overweight. She moved her body daily. And, if it were not for smoking tobacco for seven decades, she probably would have lived to be 100-plus. So, I am glad that I have decided to put my health in the hands of age-old food wisdom and follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, so to speak, for her diet proved to be a heck of a lot better than the vegan one. How many old (I mean, really old!) vegans do you know? Me, I know of none. But, I do know quite a few old omnivores: my grandmother and her siblings.

    None of you need follow my path, for I am just an anonymous poster on a website’s comment board. Do your own research of nutrition and health; discover what will work best for you. Don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to the other commenters here–Jason or lichen. Listen to your body.

  19. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 9:32pm #

    No, actually, listen to your planet, and listen to the rights of other animals as well. Meat-producing is destroying the only planet we will ever have; it is unsustainable, extremely unhealthy, cancer-causing, and cruel. It is not a way into the future, and you can be a vegan who eats flax and purslaine and thus has enough omega 3; you can be a vegan who doesn’t eat soy at all. These are not requirements, and thankfully, I don’t look to right wing old scum who achieved supposed “longevity” when those of us organic vegans live a much better quality life regardless.

    I know plenty of really old vegans, and there are no “cultures” who have adopted this yet because those cultures are more interested in right-wing, hatefull, traditional things that are unhealthy and do not recognize human or animal rights. I’m sure such people also put themselves in the age-old wisdom of beating children, human sacrifice, ritual scarring, and other “traditional culture” practices. Thankfully we can have something new, and much better than before.

  20. lichen said on September 30th, 2009 at 9:33pm #

    Activists, who actually put their life into worthwhile causes, don’t always live to 115, but they do something valuable, as opposed to apolitical fools who sit around killing animals and contributing to every other bad cause for all of their years.

  21. Sue said on September 30th, 2009 at 9:42pm #

    “In 1944, when just over two billion people occupied the planet and before the era of mass-scale industrial farming, Donald Watson and a few like-minded people founded The Vegan Society based on the opinion that the truly idyllic and sustainable animal farm didn’t exist in the early 1900s, and never will. Watson was a vegan-organic gardener — steering clear of animal manure, bonemeal and blood, and instead using compost for fertility. Why aren’t more animal and environmental advocates following this example?”

    I suspect vegans aren’t, because they never heard of veganic gardening. And there are very few veganic farmers in this country. And it’s not available in the grocery stores. It takes articles like this, and accidentally finding information on the Internet about veganic gardening to give people the idea and the information they would need, if they are able to have their own garden. In the meantime, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I would like to see organic farmers go stock-free, and advertised it, because they’d have a ready-made niche market that other farmers wouldn’t have.

    I have a veganic “Victory Garden”. But it isn’t enough to get me through the year. So I have my choice at the grocery store between buying food raised with chemicals or food raised with slaughterhouse waste. And except for the “Dirty Dozen”, I’m opting for food grown with chemicals. Nice choice.

    As for environmentalists, I’m growing old waiting for them to get on board with the UN’s FAO’s report from 3 years ago, and start getting animal agriculture out in the open when talking about Global Warming.

  22. KD said on September 30th, 2009 at 9:50pm #

    @redcatbicycliste,

    Veganism is much more than a diet. It is a matter of life, and of death, to the animals that are spared from my dinner plate. Their lives matter. The health benefits I get from being vegan are secondary to my compassion towards intelligent sentient non-human animals.

    It appears that you missed that point in your vegan journey. I can only hope that you are able to connect, truly connect, with the non-human animals we share this planet with. They can bring you joy and enlightenment, if you let them.

  23. Bea Elliott said on October 1st, 2009 at 12:09am #

    I am 55 and have been vegan for 2 years… vegetarian for 7 years before that – I feel wonderful. We do not “need” nor do we have the “right” to take the lives of innocent sentient beings. It’s not like we don’t have thousands of other healthy choices instead of murdered slaughterhouse refuse.

    With all the factors added – the environment and human health – It is long ago time that we evolve. – Go vegan

  24. Rob said on October 1st, 2009 at 1:37am #

    Some links for y’all!

    http://www.veganorganic.net/
    http://www.goveganic.net/
    http://www.stockfreeorganic.net/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegan_organic_gardening

  25. Allison said on October 1st, 2009 at 2:36am #

    @redcatbicycliste

    I know an 87 year old vegan, not a life-long vegan, but vegan for, I believe, the last 37 years (the only health problems she has are those related to a mugging a couple of years ago in which her front teeth were smashed and her knee severely damaged, something that has limited her mobility, but she’s still quite active). You might want to do some research about vegan diets in history; your information about food cultures is lacking (sounds like you’ve fallen prey to the woefully inaccurate Weston A. Price Foundation’s misinformation). There was a group that was wiped out about 2000 years ago (because of being extreme pacifists) that had generations of healthy vegans. Interestingly, the community also encouraged small families with one to two children if any at all – a real forward-thinking group!

    Your dietary generalizations have already been addressed (although I would add algae oil to the omega-3 sources). It’s true that just being vegan won’t automatically make one healthy, but like any diet that is going to be healthy, it will require some research since most come to vegan living after the standard diet. The only cholesterol the human brain needs for development is that which comes from human breast milk over the first few years of life (ideally, the first 5-7 years). Saturated fats can be found easily in plant foods.

    @Mike B)

    You’re right that FEELING morally superior isn’t going to change the world. Demonstrating how we live and explaining why will go a long way to make a difference, and I see this often enough. Just yesterday, I met with a relatively new friend, who made several comments showing me that she’s observed how I live (I bicycled to the meeting; she told me that her husband had commented that she was going to pull up in a gas-guzzling German car – but she expressed an interest in bicycling; she noticed that I use handkerchiefs, so she didn’t bring any tissues with her; she also asked some questions about being vegan). I’ve had a number of my newer friends ask about things – mostly bicycling-related since that’s the most visible thing I do, but also dietary things and more. Add some outreach to this, and it’s one powerful way to make change!

    @ Miles Reed
    “There is however a model for completely sustainable/ethical meat consumption, which has been successfully demonstrated by humans and non-humans alike since time immemorial: hunting. Eating the flesh of a deer is not ultimately different than eating the flesh of a carrot. Eating the flesh of ANYthing that has been raised under industrial domestication is the trouble.”

    For humans, the concept of eating animals (initially from scavenging while gathering) only started 20,000 years ago. Prior to that, we were just gatherers living our herbivorous lives. While hunting is fine for other species, it is not meant for humans. I do agree that the industrial system, and any farm, for that matter, is a problem. I don’t see any farm as being natural, but in facing current issues of feeding ourselves, we’re stuck with them. Veganic farming offers the best possibility for providing food with the least damage. This is how we garden in our small yard and community garden plot. There are animals as part of our biocommunity – free-living animals like the frogs in the tiny pond that help to control the bugs. In areas where gardening isn’t possible, we have other plantings to encourage wildlife, items like winterberries to provide food to the birds in December. I’m all for encouraging wild-harvesting in natural areas and have done this myself, but we’re not at a stage where this can feed the planet.

    @ Dashing Leech
    I assure you my vine-ripened tomatoes used none of those resources (since they came from my yard). ;-) One can always find a worst-case scenario like the tomatoes that are shipping during the off-season, but that doesn’t mean we scrap vegan-organic; that means we need to become more aware of other food issues.

    There are so many tangents on which this article could have gone off to address the different issues people have brought up on this list and more, but the reality is that the article focused on the most important points. If it had tried to tackle everything, it wouldn’t have been a very good read!

  26. redcatbicycliste said on October 1st, 2009 at 2:40am #

    Many of the commentors here think that veganism and “vegan farming” is the answer that will save the environment. From the comments posted here, it seems that the majority have no knowledge of history, of the Euro-American destructive methods of land management (if one can indeed manage the earth) which advocates the, perhaps, silly notion that one can farm vegan, and you think that the [white] European way of controlling and dominating the land is good and will prove to be beneficial for the future. Open your minds:

    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/09/white-quotation-of-week-shannon.html

    From white America’s perspective, given that Native Americans did not know how to or lazily refused to work the land properly, it was appropriate that white Americans took it over. Such appropriation was not seen as theft, and not only because the United States sometimes paid for the land. More importantly, it was not theft because the lands were seen as vacant. Utilizing the environment by regularly moving from one place to another, Native American agricultural methods were not sedentary and were not recognized by Euro-Americans as signs of Indian occupancy of land.

    With the rhetoric of vacuum domicilium, Euro-Americans declared these supposedly unoccupied, vacant lands as available for settlement. If Native Americans would not properly settle the land, nothing prevented white Americans from doing so. Morever, the Christian God, who was on the side of progress and civilization, required that Euro-Americans conquer the wilderness if Native Americans would not or could not do so. …

    On the one hand, white Americans often impatiently dismissed Native Americans’ claims that the land was their kin and it should not be sold or farmed in Euro-American ways. As General Oliver Otis Howard responded to the Nez Perce chief Toohoolhoolzote while in negotiations with him, “Twenty times you repeat that the earth is your mother. . . . Let us hear it no more, but come to business at once.” Native American kinship with the land was seen as irrelevant to the question of how and by whom the land would be used. …”

    For those of you interested, you can read the entire piece at the link posted above.

    Cheers! And, I am out of here. I shan’t be commenting here any more.

  27. redcatbicycliste said on October 1st, 2009 at 2:43am #

    Sorry, my previous comment had formatting problems. Perhaps, the site’s owner can delete my comment [directly] above this one. Thanks.

    Many of the commentors here think that veganism and “vegan farming” is the answer that will save the environment. From the comments posted here, it seems that the majority have no knowledge of history, of the Euro-American destructive methods of land management (if one can indeed manage the earth) which advocates the, perhaps, silly notion that one can farm vegan, and you think that the [white] European way of controlling and dominating the land is good and will prove to be beneficial for the future. Open your minds:

    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/09/white-quotation-of-week-shannon.html

    From white America’s perspective, given that Native Americans did not know how to or lazily refused to work the land properly, it was appropriate that white Americans took it over. Such appropriation was not seen as theft, and not only because the United States sometimes paid for the land. More importantly, it was not theft because the lands were seen as vacant. Utilizing the environment by regularly moving from one place to another, Native American agricultural methods were not sedentary and were not recognized by Euro-Americans as signs of Indian occupancy of land.

    With the rhetoric of vacuum domicilium, Euro-Americans declared these supposedly unoccupied, vacant lands as available for settlement. If Native Americans would not properly settle the land, nothing prevented white Americans from doing so. Morever, the Christian God, who was on the side of progress and civilization, required that Euro-Americans conquer the wilderness if Native Americans would not or could not do so. …

    On the one hand, white Americans often impatiently dismissed Native Americans’ claims that the land was their kin and it should not be sold or farmed in Euro-American ways. As General Oliver Otis Howard responded to the Nez Perce chief Toohoolhoolzote while in negotiations with him, “Twenty times you repeat that the earth is your mother. . . . Let us hear it no more, but come to business at once.” Native American kinship with the land was seen as irrelevant to the question of how and by whom the land would be used. …”

    For those of you interested, you can read the entire piece at the link posted above.

    Cheers! And, I am out of here. I shan’t be commenting here any more.

  28. Don Hawkins said on October 1st, 2009 at 4:50am #

    Peter H. Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute, is a member of the American National Academy of Sciences.

    As the science and actual observations of climate change have become indisputable, climate deniers have been marginalized as extremists. But the debate about climate change isn’t over – it has entered a new, more difficult phase.

    We need to think more deeply about adapting to the climate changes we cannot do anything about.
    What should we, the world community, actually do about climate change? This debate has been narrowly focused on the issue of mitigation: that is, how to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases to slow the rate and reduce the severity of climate change. The coming meeting in Copenhagen is aimed at this goal. Yet as the recent extreme droughts and dust storms and agricultural challenges in Australia show so clearly, we had better think far more deeply about the issue of adaptation as well: how do we deal with those climate changes we will not be able to avoid, no matter what happens this year in Copenhagen.
    In other words, we need to do two things simultaneously: both “avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable.” Reducing greenhouse gases will help us avoid impacts from climate change we simply will not be able to manage. But we must also plan to manage the impacts of climate change that are now unavoidable because of changes we’ve already wrought.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————
    But year by year, the average temperature gets warmer around the world, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps going up. We are building our “greenhouse” nice and strong, so that eventually we will make ourselves an irreversible mess, and our grandchildren will live in the hot new world as best they can. If we are still around, we will tell them stories of the way it used to be, rowing on the pond in the cool mornings, and they won’t believe us.

    This is the picture to keep in mind when you hear world leaders telling us that yes, they will reduce their carbon emissions after they have caught up with industrial development in the first world. Or when you hear our own legislators explain how they like the idea of cap and trade, but let’s not do such a radical thing right now. Theodora J. Kalikow

    Last night on CNBC a Senator with a slight smile on his face said cap and trade is as dead as a door nail. Have the courage to do nothing I guess and so far that’s it a big nothing, zero. My children will tell there children stories of the way it used to be, rowing on the pond in the cool mornings, and they won’t believe us. It looks like not only is cap and trade the best they can do but they can’t even do that. So again they do have the courage to do nothing. The talk very soon will be let’s not do such a radical thing right now what kind of a future will we leaving our kid’s with a slight smile on there face. The deciders it appears are in there sixties or more and old thinkers weak minded there is no courage and done with that slight smile on there face. So cap and trade is as dead as a door nail well forget meat but grain and water and millions then billions of people and other life forms in survival mode on the third one from the Sun. Get ready the good the bad and the ugly will meet in dreamland, clowntown USA with the courage to do nothing and just an illusion just an illusion. It will be strange to see on the off chance you know.

  29. Jason said on October 1st, 2009 at 5:06am #

    Redcatb,

    1) I’m sure if I insisted that the only way for me to be healthy was to murder and eat your friends, you’d have some choice insults for me as well – aside from “ugly,” which sure seems like an insult to me. Wow, you’re so above it all.

    2) If veganism was only healthy for “a very few,” we could expect to see a lot of vegans failing and going back to an omnivorous diet as you did. And yet, while I personally know dozens of long-time vegans, I have never met ONE that eventually had to give it up. All the vegans I know are at least as healthy as the average omnivore, and most are in better shape. I’ve only heard of a few people such as yourself, who claim that it “didn’t work for them.” So if anything, those who “can’t” survive on a vegan diet are the minority. And I have seen no scientific evidence to suggest that such a minority actually exists. All the nutrients that are needed for human health can be found in a wide variety of plant sources. If one source doesn’t work for your body, there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of others. The fact that you keep insisting that veganism is not compatible with good health is quite obviously refuted by the happy existence of millions of healthy vegans, many of whom have been vegan for years or decades. Having a good Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio is perfectly possible with a vegan diet, and there is no need to over-consume unfermented soy products – is that what you did wrong? So you are either ignorant or you lack the ability to form rational conclusions based on the evidence presented.

    3) I don’t think anyone here has disputed that a human can be healthy and still include small amounts of animal products in their diet. Humans, like many scavenger species, can survive on a variety of diets. But unlike other animals, humans are the only species that generally have what philosophers call “moral agency” – the ability to make ethical decisions. And while eating SMALL amounts of meat won’t kill you (or the environment), it is nevertheless unethical to kill another sentient being for the mere satisfaction of your taste buds.

  30. Allen said on October 1st, 2009 at 6:06am #

    Its always frustrating trying to have an intelligent conversation with someone who is so easily convinced by such easily debunked ideas as those presented in the Vegetarian Myth book. Having read that book I feel confident that only people who can barely form a thought would take it seriously.

    Redcatb, the Jains are a society of vegans who have thrived for thousands of years. Look them up. Hemp, the oldest cultivated plant, provides all essential amino acids and the exact right ratio of omega fatty acids needed to sustain human health. The American Dietetic Association says that 100% plant-based diets are appropriate for all stages of human life and provide tremendous health benefits. I recommend you stop reading books by people who don’t have any nutritional education or historical knowledge. It will lead you down a dangerously wrong-headed path.

    Jason, I agree with most of what you are saying, but I would like to point out that other animals are capable of making ethical decisions. Elephants have been known to go out of their way to step on fencing to free gazelles from their enclosures. In one study, Rhesus monkeys were trained to pull a chain to receive food. Then the chain was hooked up so that it would painfully shock another, restrained monkey. Researchers discovered that nearly all of the monkeys refused to shock another monkey even if it meant going without food. One monkey went 12 days without food rather than hurt another monkey – demonstrating that while many animals are exhibit “moral agency,” many human researchers do not. Prof. Mark Bekoff’s book The Moral Lives of Animals has plenty of other examples.

    Peace.

  31. mary said on October 1st, 2009 at 7:18am #

    Jason (I guess that you are Jason Miller of Tom Paine’s Corner?) it is good to see you here. Every word true.

  32. Bill & Linda said on October 1st, 2009 at 8:20am #

    Ms. Hall,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful article!

    As vegetarians since 1962 (Linda) and 1969 (Bill), vegans since 1975, and veganic farmers since 2001, we are thrilled with your article and believe it will influence many people who have been teetering on the fence regarding the “humane meat” issue.

    Thanks for speaking up for the animals–and our Earth!

    Sincerely,

    Bill & Linda
    Unexpected Farm
    Watkins Glen, NY
    USA

  33. Edita said on October 1st, 2009 at 8:24am #

    Those lamenting that they’ve never heard of vegans who’ve lived a long life must not be aware that the person who Lee Hall mentions as the founder of the Vegan Society in 1944 , Donald Waston, born in 1910, lived to the age of 95, and was active until the end (2005), climbing peaks and hiking well into his 90′s. Watson lived as a vegetarian for over 80 years, starting at age 14, and followed a vegan diet for over 60 years.

  34. b99 said on October 1st, 2009 at 10:02am #

    Great stuff – I buy it all, with two caveats. 1) It should be understood that almost all other primates eat meat to some degree (or get it while ingesting leaves) – and we are, after all, primates, and 2) in and of itself, meat-eating is not a moral issue.

  35. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 10:36am #

    Distinctions of “sentience” are a very human, and furthermore, very western/modern notion. The word really only means “resembling human consciousness”, and is in this sense quite anthropocentric. Where veganism allegedly demonstrates more empathy for animal live, it necessarily degrades the value of plant life. Do carrots not think, or do you just not think like a carrot? Regardless, one should be respectful and thankful of any food put into one’s body. You are not an enemy of the animals just because you consume animal flesh. Lest you label the indigenous enemies of the animals… which would be unforgivably preposterous.

    I agree that the ethical/environmental argument for veganism is valid in the context of industrial civilization. But industrial civilization is THE problem (not people’s diets… which are a symptom of the problem).

    Who’s living the more ethically sound life:

    The hermit living up in the mountains in a hand-built shanty who gets by collecting wild onions and hunting local quail?
    or
    The upperclass vegans on my college campus who otherwise constantly engage in a system that causes immeasurably more harm to animal life?

    We’re all using computers to read these very words – we all have blood on our hands. We can all zoom in on specific things, and compartmentalize our lives to death… the big picture is what matters.

    I was a vegetarian for some years – then I worked at a restaurant and saw nearly 1/2 the meat we prepared go into the trash. If you’re going to live in this god forsaken culture, what’s worse: to at least make use of the animal’s body in providing calories for yourself which you then use as you see fit, or to send it senselessly to a landfill?

    Veganism is a great idea, but it is not the answer to our fundamental problems, nor is it absolutely necessary for a sustainable equitable world.

  36. kalidas said on October 1st, 2009 at 10:51am #

    George Bernard Shaw.

  37. lichen said on October 1st, 2009 at 1:02pm #

    Indigenous people and hermits, bursting with migration and overpopulation, forced animals into extinction through slaughter long before industrial society came along, radically upsetting and destroying ecosystems along the way; and if everyone tried to switch to their way now, things would be even worse. And no matter which way you put it, there are not enough resources on the planet to sustain animal agriculture–especially because meat eating is something of the western rich, while peasants more easily access rice, beans, seasonal vegetables… So yes, the vegan college students are correct, and are doing something more than a society dropout in the mountains.

  38. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 1:33pm #

    There is substantial debate concerning the causes of the megafaunal extinction: http://www.trussel.com/prehist/news275.htm

    If North America was overpopulated prior to European colonization, then what pray-tell is it now? Claiming that the indigenous “radically upset and destroyed ecosystems” in relation to what’s going on at the hands of modern civilization is a flat out lie. I’m trying to see how you might not mean to imply this, but it seems you blatantly are.

    I agree that there are not enough resources on the planet to allow 7 billion of us to live as hunter-gatherers. This is what’s known as overshoot, and will be corrected for in the coming century no matter what you or I eat. Once there’s a sane number of humans on the planet again, the rules will different.

    The vegan college students are killing far more animals than the drop-out in the mountains. Sure, they put tofu instead of chicken into their mouths… but how many animals die or suffer because they take part in civilization (using a cell phone, for instance, means you’re killing just as many animals as eating meat)? If you genuinely believe it is more effective to live as an industrial vegan as opposed to a pre-industrial omnivore then you aren’t seeing the big picture. We probably don’t have a lot more to say to each other about this.

    I appreciate the conversation though, and I do admire your choice to be vegan. peace

  39. lichen said on October 1st, 2009 at 1:43pm #

    No, it is not a flat-out lie. Pre-industrial civilizations EVERYWHERE, whether we want to call them “indigenous” or not did force animals and plant species into extinction, drive deforestation, radically upset and destroy ecosystems, and help set the pages for where we are now. I don’t buy into the right wing ‘primitivism’ that wishes to excuse and idealize the entire structure of indigenous populations (which yes, were harmful in their overpopulation and migration.) Megafauna were murdered by humans, of that I am sure, along with many other species.

    There is no pre-industrialization anymore, there is no isolation; since that isn’t a choice we shouldn’t pretend it exists on the philosophical plane. Hermits on mountains better come back to society and try to stop global warming via things like ending animal agriculture and fossil fuels if they want themselves and their habitat to survive the coming decades. Vegan college students are at least being dissidents to the system, and most of the ones I know aren’t into cellphones or lots of chemical things, either.

  40. Annie Ladysmith said on October 1st, 2009 at 2:04pm #

    PEOPLE DO NOT FEAR OVERPOPULATION AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ECOSYSTEM! The New World Order under the charge of the global Kingpin Rothchild the Great will be decreasing the population on the planet down to 1/2 a million.

    Working hard at bringing made-in-the-lab lethal diseases, vaccines that work on destroying immunity, and of coarse, the old standby wars and rumors of wars, to your house and mine.

    Read the 10 Great Commandments of the “Georgia Guidestones” to be assured that quick, or slow, death is coming to 2/3 of the worlds population. There now, does that make you feel better?

    The world will quickly heal itself to optimun shape in no time at all, with only one half million super Elite to enjoy it. O! and the advances (top secret) made in genetics means that these god-like super Elite will live much longer to secure the garden of Eden for all time for themselves.

    DULCE

  41. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 2:12pm #

    The most useful dissent of any system is complete abandonment of it, and the purposeful actualization of new (non)systems. Reform of the fundamentally corrupt is futile. The indigenous were not perfect, but the way they did things worked better than the way we do things. Industrialization is a blink of an eye in human history, and is not a given for our future.

    we have effectively hijacked this article

  42. lichen said on October 1st, 2009 at 4:20pm #

    Thankfully, many indigenous groups have seen that simply living with their personal politics of being ‘outside the system’ is not enough–they have to force national policies to destroy fossil fuels/nuclear, deforestation, chemical agriculture, and etc. Because otherwise, they will be wiped out by climate change even if their contribution wasn’t the highest. Certainly those that were flooded off the first island nation realize that living on an island and being ‘outside of the system’ where vegan college students allegedly are wasn’t enough; many mountains are being blown up for coal mining. Everyone is inside the system,so refusing to actively fight against it means you are allowing it to happen, and to your own great peril.

  43. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 4:57pm #

    I do agree that actions need to be taken to apprehend the damage that’s being done (and those responsible for it). This will not occur through national policies. Since you frequent this website, you must know this. Radical education and direct action (of the saboteur variety) are called for. But developing alternative modes of existence that are quite outside the current system is just as called for. To you, this means veganism. To me this means hunting-gathering. Obviously there is good argument for and against each of these routes. The future will likely require a variety of strategies if humanity is to survive. I find it unlikely that veganism will be completely practical or attractive once things start getting gritty.

    We’re getting more and more general with each post here. Thanks for talking though.

  44. B99 said on October 1st, 2009 at 5:16pm #

    I don’t think it was so much the rightwingers who believed the indigenous could not be guilty of megafaunal extinction. That was the consensus of anthropologists and other social scientists for many decades. It was apparently a naive consensus as the thinking now is that the introduction of a new hunter – or can we say, mega-hunter – that is, the arrival of humans in the Americas over the land bridge, proved quite a surprise for many species, especially larger ones. The larger animals had no instinctual preparation in all their million plus years of evolution for a very well-organized carnivore in their midst. It was curtains for a number of species. That does not make the injuns bad. Doesn’t mean they lacked spirituality. It just means that production and reproduction of humans can be an exacting process on the environment in the absence of checks and balances.

  45. lichen said on October 1st, 2009 at 5:19pm #

    Oh yes, murdering/foraging in the forests that are gone, driving into extinction the last of the remaining native animal species; what an environmental solution! But my point was that we need to force the change over national policy as well; it needs to be illegal to pollute, not a voluntary lifestyle; same thing with agricultural policy, where raising/murdering animals takes up ton of good land and vegan food, thus causing people to starve to death.

  46. lichen said on October 1st, 2009 at 5:30pm #

    b99, I’m not concerned with ‘good or bad’ and definitely not ‘spirituality,’ but my point was that the ideology some people get wrapped up in of idealizing and uncritically venerating indigenous societies and talk of ‘going back’ is often tied up in many really reactionary social prejudices. I’m more interested in modern modes (such as cooperatives where everyone is equal, as opposed to the rigid hierarchical/religious/gender structures of many indigenous societies.)

  47. B99 said on October 1st, 2009 at 6:53pm #

    Lichen – That part was not a criticism of your point – just the tone of other comments here and elsewhere about indigenous people. I, for one, don’t think they do the damage that modern societies do, because indigenous people don’t have the numbers. When they get the numbers they give up band society – hunting and gathering and turn to farming for sustenance. So we have to distinguish between band societies and agricultural societies.

    You are right that we are not going ‘back’ to such societies. Band societies ended in much of the world as far back as 10,000 years ago, likely due to population pressure. I would say that women had more power and respect in most of these societies than they do today because women provided more of the daily food intake. This is still true today in the few remaining band societies. However, it’s all downhill with agriculture. Women were largely removed from the production of food and relegated to the ‘kitchen.’

    Similar relationships hold for other members of band societies – if anything, these societies are the least hierarchical of all – the chief is chief among relative equals, and loses respect and position if he (she?) is a demagogue. It’s when tribes become agricultural that chiefs become kings, god-descended kings (and queens) at that, and emperors – and religion becomes a method of exacting tribute from subjects. These is the origin of slavery, in farming cultures, not hunter/gatherers. This is what happened in African agricultural societies, rendering them fair game for Islam when it arrived with a doctrine of equality before god. It was the ostracized and the down-trodden that converted first.

    But yes, environmental change – to be effective – needs law, much more than it needs individuals making change. (We can recycle all we want, but that just makes the production of bottles for Coke cheaper – meanwhile they step up production anyway – providing us with ever more bottles to recycle.) But more to the point, people will go back to buying big cars when gas is cheap, unless big cars are made illegal. People will continue to buy gas guzzlers unless much higher gas mileage is made mandatory. Firms will continue to dump on the environment unless scrubbers, etc. are made the law. No cap and trade – just strict upper limits on toxic releases.

  48. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 6:55pm #

    You know, neither our hoped for futures are very likely.
    People will never abandon industrial society.
    People will never all go vegan.
    We could argue all day.
    Oh well.

  49. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 7:05pm #

    B99, what you say is spot on about agriculture and pre-agriculture. If agriculture is to blame then shouldn’t we ultimately be shooting for a future without it?

    Our governments have never served the interests of the environment and never will. We should count on this.

  50. lichen said on October 1st, 2009 at 7:39pm #

    Miles, yes, you are right; neither option is even remotely likely.

    B99, From my perspective, what I often see in indigenous societies is how the males end up so compartmentalized–being militarized by force and having to go through terrible coming of age rituals–scarrification, genital mutilation, etc; never having any choice over their destiny outside that narrow role. Some people that idealize indigenous culture are obsessed with violence and painting males in some mystical ‘warrior’ role which really sickens me. Also, the sort of ‘elders council’ that we see in Native American society up to today, obviously proves itself again and again as just an anti-democratic institution that benefits primarily the people who have power. So yeah, I think we can come up with something better according to more up to date political analysis if we were trying for some sort of social groups… It is not my opinion, ultimately, that the further we go back in time the better social conditions we find.

    As for agriculture, I’m not convinced it’s most definitely something to be thrown out. I think that for example agroforestry (‘food forests) that follow the patterns of the forest and achieve a natural balance through stories (top story tall fruit/nut trees/date palms, and then getting lower with other edibles and medicinals) can achieve a permanent, living fixture and not one that needs to constantly be torn out and burned or some other destructive method. We could potentially construct living, balanced, sustainable forests filled with food that is edible for us just like our primate relatives tend to live in jungles full of fruit and edible leaves (but surely, that is a good point–why we may talk about agriculture as bad, it’s most crude form, spreading seeds for fruit trees here and there, is natural.)

  51. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 7:59pm #

    I’m all about edible forests. Cultivation of such edens very much blurs the lines between agriculture (which, by definition, is removed from nature) and foraging. Hell, if you put me in a forest with everything I need to eat in plant form – I will very happily go vegan the rest of my days.

  52. Ellie Maldonado said on October 1st, 2009 at 9:08pm #

    Miles Reed: “There is however a model for completely sustainable/ethical meat consumption, which has been successfully demonstrated by humans and non-humans alike since time immemorial: hunting. Eating the flesh of a deer is not ultimately different than eating the flesh of a carrot……… Distinctions of “sentience” are a very human, and furthermore, very western/modern notion. The word really only means “resembling human consciousness”, and is in this sense quite anthropocentric. Where veganism allegedly demonstrates more empathy for animal live, it necessarily degrades the value of plant life. Do carrots not think, or do you just not think like a carrot? …… You are not an enemy of the animals just because you consume animal flesh. Lest you label the indigenous enemies of the animals… which would be unforgivably preposterous.”

    The word “sentient” comes from the Latin “sentire”, which means “to feel”. It’s not always anthropocentric to describe other animals through our own experiences. Humans are able “to feel” and we understand nonhumans can too. Indeed, many nonhumans understand us through their own experiences as well.

    Do you really not see the difference between carrots and conscious living beings who experience thought, physical sensation, and emotions? To claim plants and animals are the same would require us to dilute the meaning of these experiences until they define anything or nothing.

    Re: meat eating, the essential ethic concerns whether it is necessary to kill nonhumans for our health — not whether they are farmed or hunted. With the exception of remote cultures (that may not have enough nutritious plant foods), it is clearly unecessary for most humans to eat other animals — to knowingly cause unnecessary harm to others is wrong, regardless of treadition and culture.

    Also, while I don’t think (or understand how) indigenous Americans wiped out whole ecosystems, they hunted the horse to extinction, just as the earliest hunter-gatherers caused the extinction of many animals in Africa.

    If your intention was to highjack this article (?), you haven’t succeeded.

  53. Miles Reed said on October 1st, 2009 at 10:09pm #

    There are of course very obvious difference between plants and animals; and when it comes to taking their lives, it is definitely physically and personally easier to harvest plants. In my own little spiritual paradigm, plants have consciousnesses of their own which are merely utterly different though no less extensive than those of animals . What I meant to argue was that plants and animals are equally sacred and worthy of respect, and that one can eat either while maintaining this respect. Sentience may indeed be a convenient word to make a distinction, but I didn’t mean to squabble over semantics.

    I hate to bring cliche arguments to the table: but the fact that other animals eat other animals means that it is a natural and therefore by my definition, ethical. Its over-consumption and habitat destruction (i.e. civilization) that are unethical.

    Look, I really didn’t mean to start an argument against veganism. The guy sleeping 10 feet from me right now is a vegan. The idea makes a lot of sense to me. I was just trying to submit the fact that the cultures which have been historically more sustainable and generally happier than our own have not been vegan. I think I’ve made my point, and this is therefore my last post for real this time.

    (I certainly did not intend to hijack the article. I had only meant that my conversation with lichen had become more about the possible futures available to us and how we may/may not get there than about veganism. Chill out.)

    peace

  54. Maryanne Appel said on October 2nd, 2009 at 2:22am #

    While I may be somewhat of a latecomer among those posting comments here, I have enjoyed reading the discussions, and although a few postings are disturbing, I have found almost all to be respectful and to demonstrate a great deal of serious thought.

    It seems, however, that some postings, have little to do with Lee Hall’s underlying philosophy, which strikes, although gently, at the very heart of veganism.

    Ethical veganism is more than avoiding the consumption of animal flesh and reproductive tissues; it is rejecting the notion proclaimed by many religious institutions and school officials, and entrenched in governmental policy (all spawned from a feeling of self-importance), that other species are here for our convenience, our enjoyment, and what we perceive to be our emotional and physical needs.

    It will not happen in my lifetime, but I believe there will come a time when veganism will be a way of life for our human species. Our planet cannot sustain the breeding of vast numbers of animals to satisfy the appetites (not the needs) of 7 billion humans, most of them eating from both land and aquatic animals.

    Aside from the crimes against the natural world that will inevitably occur, consider what human existence will be like when (unless we control our numbers, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon) we are 8 billion, and perhaps even 9 billion, surrounded by domesticated, enslaved animals, with free-lviing species wiped out, and the remaining free spaces destroyed to raise ever-increasing amounts of soy and grains to feed farm animals. And what will happen to our oceans and waterways and the creatures that inhabit them?

    I believe our planet, which has withstood so many insults already, will become nothing more than a toxic wasteland under such an assault. It is difficult to imagine such a world. It would be more difficult, if not impossible, to live in it.

  55. Dave Shishkoff said on October 2nd, 2009 at 12:57pm #

    Thank you for another wonderful article, Lee!

    While there are indeed few vegan-organic farmers (so far!!), i believe part of Lee’s intent with this is that if any of us are doing any growing, we too should be vegan-organic – i’ve been helping a neighborhood friend in her garden! =)

    @redcatbicycliste sure did post a lot of nonsense. One interesting fact is that people and regions have, indeed, been eating entirely plant-based (vegan) diets for thousands of years. (This isn’t ‘new’.)

    One need look no further than the Jains of India. While i’m an anti-theist and no fan of religion, Jains deserve credit for demonstrating that humans can get along just fine without eating animal products. Period.

    And as a vegan cyclist and racer, i’d love to challenge @redcatbicycliste to a bike race. Hopefully their riding ability is better than their fact-checking. ;)

  56. Sam said on October 2nd, 2009 at 2:45pm #

    Oh this topic… it’s as bad as talking about religion. Few people will agree on anything.

    All I have to say is that hospitals, medical centers, doctor’s offices and medical clinics are not full of vegans or vegetarians. They are full of people who eat dead animals and call it “meat.” That ought to tell thinking people something. But then again…

  57. Ellie Maldonado said on October 3rd, 2009 at 8:00pm #

    I’ve noticed in these discussions that former vegans, those who’ve resumed meat eating, often claim a diet of plant foods is unhealthy to avoid personal responsibility.

    Also, bloggers often contend that what is “natural is moral” ( eg, (nonhuman) animals eat other animals in nature, so meat eating is moral) — this is recognized as a fallacy:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

  58. calico said on October 7th, 2009 at 8:34pm #

    Good article. But the problem is that of human nature: in order for a human to make a big shift in their views, it needs to be done a little at a time. It’s challenging much of what they were taught and what the media, advertisers, and food companies tell them. In other words, we cannot expect people to go vegan overnight.

    What we can do is whittle away at their resistance. If we can get them to simply think about where the pork chop came from, that is planting a seed. And every step you do to improve meat quality, sustainability, and ethical standards raises the average price of meat. People do buy on price. If we could just get the US government to stop spending tax dollars on meat & livestock food, prices would rise. If we stopped shipping in cheap meat from mexico or asia, prices would rise. This hits those with no conscience where it does matter: in the wallet. And as even they cut back on meat consumption, the American diet must surely change. Eventually meat could become something just eaten occasionally, and it wouldn’t take much at that point to stamp out that last little bit of cruelty/murder.

    Re: sustainability of hunting – This is incorrect. For something to be sustainable, it means the animal population would have to continue in healthy numbers and the ecosystem not be unduly stressed by the removal of those animals. Imagine 300 million americans turning to wild venision to make up their big greasy 1/4lb burgers they eat at every meal. There is simply not enough open ground to sustain those herds, even if we took cattle off the public lands. In my semi-rural area (Maryland) deer hunting is popular to the point where herds are down to only 3-4 deer and some places you don’t see deer at all for years. It’s also ignoring the ethics of killing (deer aren’t guarenteed to die instantly or with a single shot) and the pollution/mess of butchering enough deer to satisfy millions of meat-hungry people.

    Re: “natural is moral” is a false argument. In nature, animals commit infanticide, rape, and murder. Some species survive by the males repeatedly raping the female until enough of their sperm overwhelm the other rapists’ sperm — yes, let’s go back to doing things the way animals do! We can throw poo at each other and run around naked, too. And the other thing we should keep in mind is that we’re better than animals; we have morals. We don’t have to kill animals to survive. We’ve got a flexible digestive system and a smart brain, allowing us to get more than enough nutrition from plant sources.

    The bigger picture humankind needs to face is that of its own survival. The whole planet cannot eat the way the average American eats; there aren’t enough resources to produce those number of livestock. The bigger the world population, the less we can afford to throw away food & farmland to feed pigs and cows. And as crowding increases, we really need to think long and hard about disease: most of our infectious diseases have their roots in humans killing animals for meat. Anthrax, smallpox, and TB are believed to be due to our domestication of animals for food. We’re currently dealing with a H1N1 strain of influenza, believed to be shared back and forth with the high density pig farms and humans. How many more diseases will we inadvertently cultivate with peoples’ ongoing love for cheap meat? Will we see a modern version of a plague, killing off half the population, if we keep incubating & mixing germs back and forth with livestock?

  59. Ellie Maldonado said on October 8th, 2009 at 2:02pm #

    Humans are animals, bi-pedal primates to be exact. We’ve evolved in human society just as other species have in theirs — the difference doesn’t make us superior. Morality evolved too. We’re not the only species capable of empathy and that has morals.

    As Lee explained, we need to let go of the destructive myth of human supremacy. Both humans and nonhumans are personal beings, each with an interest in living on our own terms, each worthy of respect.

    Focusing on the price, quality, or “sustainability” of animal products perpetuates the system that makes conscious living beings into things. Prices especially will fluctuate. If consumers don’t buy meat beause it’s too expensive, what will happen when the price goes down? Chances are good they’ll buy meat again, The change in price won’t change the notion that humans are entitled to kill other animals because they happen to like the taste of their flesh.

  60. B99 said on October 8th, 2009 at 5:08pm #

    Ellie – We have to be superior in SOME ways otherwise we won’t be able to let go of our destructive myths. Yet if we are not superior, we are entitled to eat meat as much as any other omnivore.

    That does not mean meat should be a large part of our diet, nor does it mean we should be doing factory farming, nor should we treat animals as inanimate chattel. But we have been eating meat since before we were human. It’s just that the whole idea of animals as products for humans has to be rethought.

  61. Ellie Maldonado said on October 9th, 2009 at 9:03am #

    B99 — What we deem “superior” is merely a reflection of what we value in our species and environment, yet may be completely useless in other species and environments. Superiority itself is a myth, as are the hierarchies humans have constructed.

    Carnivores and omnivores are not entitled to eat other animals, anymore than herbivores exist to be their food. They simply interact in the struggle to survive, in a world that most humans no longer belong to. When we rethink the idea of humans eating other animals, I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

  62. b99 said on October 9th, 2009 at 11:28am #

    I agree that it is not about entitlement.

    But to note that other animals ‘simply interact in the struggle to survive’ – and we don’t – is also to acknowledge that humans have long operated at a different level. If there was a time when humans *behaved like animals’* it may have been 6 million years ago – at the time of the chimpanzee/hominid split. It was back then that this small, slow creature of little strength, no claws, and small teeth figured out how to harvest a sufficient number of animals through its collective brain power. That this ability has morphed over the eons into something grotesque does not mean we can yet again be *of the animals.*

    Because human behavior may be ‘useless in other environments’ the human effort has long been to control the environment – to bend it to human needs (or more specifically, the band’s needs or the village’s needs). Thus humans – at least in settled areas – went from hunting and gathering to farming and animal husbandry. Virtually everywhere on earth humans set about domesticating both plants and animals. It is neither a scarce nor haphazard human custom.

    I say this knowing the present mode of food production is a dead end. It is a product of capitalist economics. It is the root cause of the death and near-starvation of billions – to say nothing of its inherent cruelty to its animal victims. It must be overhauled. But for families that get to eat a home-grown chicken once in a while I’m not about to tell them that meat is murder.

  63. b99 said on October 9th, 2009 at 11:41am #

    I might also add that it is virtually (completely?) impossible to obtain Vitamin B-12 in a vegan/vegetarian diet without supplements. B12 functions in the production of red blood cells – and we can’t do without that function. To understand that is to understand that the original condition of hominids and other primates renders animal consumption – however occasional – necessary.

  64. Ellie Maldonado said on October 9th, 2009 at 5:25pm #

    There are areas in Africa and Australia where there was no domestication of plants or animals, since the environment didn’t favor it. Under different conditions the same humans might have farmed, but I don’t think the domestication of plants and animals was a necessary step in human evolution.

    Similarly, I don’t think humans have a “hunting instinct”. We might never have hunted if we had a steady abundance of plant foods. (I write more about B12 below.) The socialization that spurred our evolution was more likely built around protecting ourselves from being eaten by other animals — not the acquisition of meat, as anthropologists had once claimed.

    Early humans may have been a lot more like the bonobo than the larger chimpanzee that occassionally hunts. And can we really be sure that larger chimpanzees hunted at the time hominds split? After all, chimpanzees evolved just like we did. A new fossil find may be cause for modifying our therory:
    http://www.b12partners.net/wp/2009/10/01/fossils-shed-new-light-on-human-origins/

    In any case, early humans scavenged for eons from the remains of animals killed by carnivores. I’m not sure what you mean about humans not being “of the animals”?

    Vitamin B12 is synthesized by bacteria, not by plants or animals. If domesticated mammals don’t obtain enough cobalt from the soil, or from adding it to their feed, they become anemic. Until humans devel0ped a penchant for cleanliness, we obtained B12 from the bacteria in our environment, including but not limited to unwashed vegetables. That some nonhuman primates eat no meat, and others eat very little meat, suggests they may well have obtained B12 from the bacteria in their environment, as humans did.

    I don’t refer to eating meat as murder either, but for most humans it causes unnecessary harm and thrives on violence that isn’t justified.

  65. B99 said on October 10th, 2009 at 7:02am #

    Ellie – It’s an old theory, but still a question, (see Esther Boserup) as to whether population pressure induced people to settle down and begin farming and animal husbandry, or did settling down and farming/husbandry enable the population to increase dramatically. These are likely mutually reinforcing scenarios. In any case, you can’t hunt and gather with large populations. It is very energy intensive to move large numbers of people around – and they always run the risk of running into competing populations. So when you have large numbers of people – you basically are guaranteed an agricultural society. Band societies – of hunter/gatherers – are often about 50 people, more or less. When they get many more people the resource area required to feed everyone becomes too big. So a splinter group leaves the main group and moves elsewhere. However, eventually population pressure causes groups to settle down and farm (or the reverse).

    All or most primates will eat meat (especially those most related to humans) – not as the main course, but opportunistically. Chimpanzees actually hunt monkeys (as I see you’ve noted) and other small creatures. Bonobos will snatch small animals and invertebrates – and a small forest antelope – the duiker. Orangs will eat invertebrates, bird’s eggs, etc. Similar for gorillas. Monkeys will catch rodents for consumption, though not as an organized endeavor. Baboons will eat meat as well when the situation presents itself. As often as not, the prey is a bug of sorts – nonetheless, insectivorism is still carnivorism. (Regarding chimps, it may be that organized hunting forays evolved only recently in response to disturbed habitats – nonetheless, it is a behavior humans have in common with that close relative.)

    I think it is safe to say the humans were very likely unexceptional in this regard. They almost assuredly evolved out of a hunting tradition. Hunting provides a large dose of protein in one setting. Certainly humans were afraid of being eaten, so are leopards when a lion is in the vicinity. That does not preclude leopards from hunting. It would not be a stretch for humans to understand both prey and predator concepts.

    As soon as a group of proto-humans realized that they could scare off (as chimps and baboons do) large predators using numbers and weapons (branches, probably) they also then realized that they could corner and kill animals as well. Basically, I think able-bodied people hunted together to bring down old or sick or injured animals – or the young in an unguarded nest. Scavenging is surely an old habit, carnivores will engage in that too. For hominids, it’s unlikely a cognitive stretch to imagine creating a carcass rather than merely finding one.

    It seems the best way to get B-12 from vegetation is if it has fecal matter in it – or perhaps if it is sufficiently bug-infested. That may be how leaf-eating monkeys obtain B-12. But as for humans, I don’t think we want to go back to unwashed food – it carries more dangerous and immediate threats. I would think most vegetarians and vegans get their B-12 from supplements. But that’s not a moral argument against meat eating, merely a dietary argument.

  66. B99 said on October 10th, 2009 at 7:05am #

    It is safe to say, people in the developed world have been taught to eat far too much animal protein. In these quantities it’s deleterious to human health and only encourages a monstrous industry.

  67. Ellie Maldonado said on October 10th, 2009 at 3:36pm #

    B99 — The moral argument against eating meat is that it’s wrong to use and kill other living beings when their flesh, eggs, and milk are not needed for our health. This argument stands whether or not early humans hunted, and/or nonhuman primates eat other animals, and no matter what eating meat is called.

    I think it’s clear by now that vegans of any age can be perfectly healthy, so unless sufficient plant nutrition is not available, there isn’t moral justification for eating animal products.

    That said, I think we could probably continue to debate human evolution, since there are anthropologists who think ‘man the hunter’ is a myth, and I think they’re correct. See a review of “Man the Hunted by Robert Sussman and Dona Hart”: http://www.physorg.com/news138462747.html Still, however humans evolved doesn’t change the moral reasons for being vegan.

  68. B99 said on October 11th, 2009 at 9:40am #

    I think, if the review correctly portrays the book’s thesis, that there is somewhat of a strawman here – that is, the depiction of humans as “Man the Hunter.” This strawman is more easily attacked (as it were) than the notion of ‘Homo Sapiens, the opportunistic meat eater.” It is clear that ALL primates get the overwhelming majority of their calories and other nutrition from plant material – a phenomenon that undoubtedly goes back to an ancestor of all primates. And this includes hominids. However, all primates also consume animal matter, whether inadvertently (perhaps on some level the need for meat is understood by those primates), opportunistically (that is, without intending to hunt), or via organized hunts (an evolved skill). Nonetheless, meat-eating is firmly in our history – a notion confirmed by Sussman and Hart (or at least, by the reviewer’s understanding of the book) both in the notion of opportunistic hunting and through scavenging, and both of these were likely aided by natural fires and ultimately, by human-created fire.

    Basically, there are three ways that the planet’s biota receive energy and nutrients – thru sun and soil as most plants do, by consumption of these plants as do herbivores, or by carnivorism – the last to evolve in the line of energy sequestration tactics. Still, such meat-eating goes back a long way, whether it is one single-celled creature enveloping another with its plasma, or T-Rex removing chunks from a brontosaurus. Or for that matter, an early hominid coming upon beetles, bird’s eggs, or a small rodent. So while I would agree with Sussman and Hart that there was no ‘man the hunter’ and that hominids were indeed far more likely to be prey – they (nor anyone else) can make a strong case for strict vegetarianism – whether we look at our fellow primates or our fellow human in tropical rainforests today.

    Just perhaps our distant ancestors could somehow absorb B-12 from plant matter – and this capability was lost along the way. Nonetheless, meat-eating is apparently the way all primates presently (and for a long time back) get B-12. So too humans. So it begs the question – how is meat not needed for our health, inasmuch as B-12 is absolutely essential for survival? If we argue that B-12 can be gotten by supplements, we are just conceding to a modern convenience (and one surely not available worldwide). Taking B-12 supplements certainly obviates the need for doing violence to animals, but it does not mean, in and of itself, that meat-eating is immoral. We are animals, and that is common behavior among animals. That is, unless you want to posit that we are superior to other animals and should thus place ourselves apart from them. Now, we can choose not to do such violence to animals – but we have to understand that animal eating long predates primates, and in and of itself is neither moral nor immoral – but merely a method of nutrient and energy concentration.

    That we would choose not to eat meat is an evolved human trait, one that sets us apart from other sentient beings (as is the ‘choice’ of factory farming an evolved human trait – a rather malignant one).

    I think we’ll likely have to disagree on the morality of meat-eating, though I would likely NOT disagree with you on the grotesquerie is has become.

  69. Ellie Maldonado said on October 12th, 2009 at 9:49am #

    I don’t think we need to posit we’re superior to other animals, because it’s choice that governs the morality or immorality of meat eating.

    If humans and other animals truly lack a viable choice, I think meat eating is neither moral or immoral — but in the 21st century, this is not true for most humans in developed countries. We do indeed have a choice, and we’re responsible for how our choice affects others.

    Because humans, like many animals, are capable of empathy, there is, I think, a universal moral code that prohibits gratuitous harm and violence. It’s inherent in human society, just as surely as our physical evolution, which is more similar to herbivores than to either omnivores or carnivores. One could say meat eating is natural for humans because we need B12 ( though that assumes we couldn’t obtain it from other sources), and it’s certainly part of our history, but what’s natural or historical may not be moral.

    Looking back, we can see that in order to believe we were *entitled* to domesticate, exploit, and kill nonhumans, we needed to believe they were inferior to us, and that they couldn’t think, feeling, or experience emotions. Now we know better.

    No wonder this myth is losing believers. and that so many of us include other animals in our universal moral code, applying it what we eat, wear, use, and beyond that to how we live. Focusing on the evils of factory farming is, I think, a way of side-stepping our responsibility — for even small family farms violate their most basic personal interests. And as Lee explained, such farms still use resources that could feed hungry humans, destroy the habitat of free living animals, and harm the environment we all depend on.

  70. Anonymous said on October 16th, 2009 at 8:53pm #

    Some questions and comments.

    1. Does Lee Hall herself maintain a vegan organic garden?

    2. I’ve heard and read many vegans attribute their conversion to veganism to Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation,” so Hall’s argument that Singer interrupted vegan activism is not terribly convincing.

    3. Hall ridicules the locavore trend, yet purposely fails to mention how purchasing eggs from a local farm that raises chickens that are free to roam is a far better choice than buying eggs from a factory farm. Eggs should be more expensive — get rid of the cheap factory farmed eggs and people will have no choice but to buy fewer eggs. Hey, it worked for cigarettes.

    4. Now this is where it gets weird. Hall claims, “Activists who prefer to pursue humane animal agribusiness say we must do something for animals suffering in factory farms right now. ” (these activists really are crazy!)

    Hall argues that true activists shouldn’t do anything right now except go vegan. Yes, animals are being tortured in factory farms, but that’s OK according to Hall. The shift is coming! Oh ye of little faith!

    She further says, “Some think vegan education is just too slow, or that a vegan humanity isn’t possible anyway.”

    What exactly have abolitionists accomplished? Some write books and make a name for themselves, many write articles and blogs online, but what do they actually “do” within the greater community? How are the abolitionists reaching and influencing the average non-vegan?

    5. Hall: “They sound like realists, so they’re pretty effective at making vegans sound marginal. But are they right?”

    Sadly, this seems to be the most important point for abolitionists, that they be proven right.
    Let’s get this straight: Hall is arguing abolitionist vegans are *not* marginal? Does Hall really believe the goal of activists who campaign to end factory farming is to discredit/marginalize abolitionists? If anything, it’s the other way around. Honestly, all one has to do beyond reading Hall’s article here is google abolitionist vegan and you’ll find page after page of articles/blogs written by abolitionists targeting so called “welfarists” and “vegetarians.” Where are all the articles and books written for the average non-vegan? Shouldn’t abolitionists focus more on vegan education?

    6. Hall: “When the idea of human supremacy — and its corollary, the treatment of the world as our warehouse — is understood as a destructive myth, it will be replaced by a new paradigm.”

    And the lion will lay down with the lamb. When does Hall envisage this shift happening? 5 years? 10 years? 100 years?

    In the meantime, Hall argues activists should stop campaigning to end factory farming, go vegan, and pray for the Second Coming, I mean paradigm shift. Sounds like a plan.

  71. Ellie Maldonado said on October 17th, 2009 at 5:52pm #

    Campaigns to end factory farms reduce the perception of nonhuman experience to how much space they need to occupy — in failing to support (or even acknowlege) the most essential nonhuman interests, these campaigns tacitly promote the consumption of “compassionate” or “sustainable” animal products — and enforce the myth of human supremacy. Local animal farms are no exception.

    Acknowledging the integrity of nonhuman interests obliges animal advocates to recognize that husbandry reforms cannot make a meaningful difference. Beyond that, they are a farce. Cage-free eggs? See http://www.humanemyth.org

    Does Peter Singer, who is not a vegan and accepts so-called improvements in animal farming, know that?