Drink Your Milk
There are a host of really bad misconceptions about vegetarianism and phasing out animal farming. Under the best conditions some of these could get us killed. But most simply lead to a horrible and dark future where nature and man are both very dead. Here are some of the obvious problems as I see them.
1. Plant farming leads to death of animals. To most people this is the very crux of understanding this problem. On plant farms (corn, wheat, rice, etc.) there are no animals, no cows, no goats, no raccoons, no rabbits, no foraging animals of any kind including insects.. There is no need for a dog or a cat to herd the sheep or kill the mice. And both animals and insects are frequently killed or poisoned to extinction because they reduce the crop!! They are denied water because it is needed for the crop. They are systematically disposed of much as horses were when people no longer needed them for travel!! In addition those plants are then engineered to deprive animals of sustenance. Poisons, like the BT and roundup genes, are genetically added to destroy non-humans (and who is to say what a human should be genetically??). The crop is often stored in a poisonous non-oxidizing atmosphere where even the boldest mouse or rat would die instantly. Swamps and ponds are drained, who needs fish or birds?? There are no animals to drink from the pond! Fences are removed. Entire forests cut down. Who needs trees?? Trees do not enhance plant farming but they do provide shelter for animals. The ground is poisoned, sliced, poked full of holes with special carbide drills, treated with ammonia, poisoned with herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. And the seeds are treated with mercury to block rotting (grandfathered under most mercury control laws), the soil is plowed, fertilized with phosphates (and often with arsenates if the fertilizer company is a little ambitious.), nitrates, and potash. Even the worms and nematodes are dead. If the wind blows too hard, good, we can use that to aid the crop! The US has miles and miles of eco desert because of this phenomenon. In ages past it was the goats and sheep that ate the grass too close to the ground. Today, grass is the enemy of every plant farmer!! Even sheep cannot survive once the crop is removed and sprayed with herbicide. The expanding deserts of Kansas and the Great Plains during the 1930's occurred not because of farming, they came about because of plant farming. The prairie dogs and the buffalo were systematically exterminated. The Indians successfully farmed these areas for hundreds of centuries and we could too if we don't insist on plant farming..
Around here the farms have been rapidly coalescing into larger and larger areas while the native woods are being removed or being inhabited by city elves. Animal farming is being phased out. More and more farmers are setting out poisons for wildlife and using genetically added poisons. The loss of animal habitat is approaching 20% per year and any search of Google earth shows the trend. Enable the time line feature in Google earth and look at the older photos (if you have the stomach for it). In China, the need for food became so high they removed all the trees for thousands of miles. Under Mao they replanted nearly a billion trees. Nonetheless, trees in parts of China remain sparse and thousands of plant and animal species were lost forever. Of the species of trees once on Easter Island, all that remain are a few artifacts in Russian sailing museums. We seem headed down the same dark tunnel and I don't see any way to institute mandatory animal farming or mandatory population controls like China did anytime soon. As many sorrowful mothers cry over their dead children, we discover over and over again soy milk is not a substitute for the real thing. "Got Milk" is just not as funny as it was intended.
Animals in the 18th century were relegated to the woods and fence rows. Wolves, elk, bobcats, predators of all sorts.., bears, were killed off. We would like to say they were driven back into the wilderness. That is a lie! We systematically hunted them down, removed their habitat, and once exposed, exterminated them! Now we are attacking the remaining vestige of animal life by insisting on veggies. No woods (who needs shade or a wind break), no fence rows (no need to keep in the cows and hogs), no swamps (drained by stupid, stupid federal laws that allow you to drain up to 20% per year, laws passed under the guise of "saving the ecology").,
2. Perennial grasses are among the most efficient photosynthetic organisms, better than trees, better than vegetables, better than most plants. They protect the soil, provide food and cover for burrowing animals, and create topsoil. But people can't eat grass, not on a mountain, not in a desert, not in a salt marsh, not even in our back yards... but animals can. Cows and chickens can convert 4 pounds of vegetable and insect matter to one pound of meat. bringing food to the most inhospitable grassland or mountain slope. Weeds, become the other white meat, food that would be lost by any other mechanism, efficiently gathered from beneath our feet. Insects that would eat our grass are suddenly KFC.
3. Most people need a high protein diet with some fat. In ages past hunters would get rabbit disease from eating too many wild rabbits in their diet. Wild rabbits have little fat and what they do have is often not suitable for building tissue. But he same often happens with vegetarians. Some of the most unhealthy foods, a type two diabetic's dream, come from vegetable sources, the empty calories of sugars and carbohydrates. Fish oil often contains essential oils and vitamin D but it is often only available from animal sources. The notion that vegetables are healthier is only partially true and getting enough protein from vegetables is difficult. While society publicly endorses the notion that animal fat is bad because of the high calorie content, it is precisely that content that makes it a most efficient way to take on a daily calorie load quickly (hint: the name "fast food"). This is particularly true in desert and arctic conditions where you could easily and quickly starve to death by eating plants. Similarly, to rebuild tissue protein, a high protein source like meat is often more digestible than beans or a comparable plant protein source. Note, the proper amino acids are already present and do not need to be synthesized. High lysine corn is an attempt to get around this problem but at what price, the rain forests of South America and Africa?? In Africa for the first time in history, wildlife is the enemy, lions and other animals are being poisoned, not taken for food, poisoned to death to make way for corn and soybeans! Watusi tribesmen that have herded animals for hundreds of thousands of years have watched their farms disappear under modern farming methods. Masai tribesmen that walked alongside the great animals of the earth, now grovel for a Monsanto corn nugget while poisoning animals.
4. If we sit at the top of the food chain we can allow other plants and animals to exist but select for more efficient or interesting ecosystems. If we sit at the bottom of the food chain, we limit production to the plants and to just to those that we can eat. Any other plant or animal is the enemy.
One suggestion that I strongly endorse is to set aside a vast acreage for nature, only for nature. Set aside perhaps 20% of all taxes to procure and maintain natural lands. And set aside perhaps 50% of all land for this purpose. This would help maintain diversity of plant and animal life despite some of the whims of agriculture and governments. Note this does not obviate or solve any of the previously made observations. And it won't happen, probably not. In California and Indiana, where money has been set aside for this purpose, the funds and lands have been raided for state profit! This is like asking congress for term limits or income caps. The outcome, total destruction of the earth, is merely delayed in my opinion. Private foundations on the other hand are fragile also. Groups like Sierra Club really can't do this sort of thing well. Here is one of my favorites, but understand it too has had serious growing pains and is now threatened with death by property taxation. http://www.acreslandtrust.org/templates/System/default.asp?id=44551
Over ninety eight percent of all migratory animal species are already extinct or in captivity. More than 90% of the land is or has been recently turned over, plowed for agricultural uses. The major impact has occurred and the exponential decay of species in my opinion is irrevocable. It is like pouring water over a bunch of ladybugs, just because they keep moving for a while you may tend to forget what the final outcome is. The nature preserve idea would not solve this problem unless roads can be torn out and the tracts made contiguous and unmanned. For example the upper peninsula of Michigan is full of bear hunters, no bears but tones of bear hunters. The problem is convincing Joe Public that he is getting something for his money.... a tough sell at best. Vegetarianism just makes the equation totally unsolvable!! Tractors that can till over 10,000 acres and systems that are not economic with a smaller acreage make this even worse.
Can we see where we are headed.... yes. Iran is a good example. Like Bangladesh, it was originally a lush garden area. Tens of thousands of small dams caused large areas of the country to silt in and fill with salts. Over farming for vegetable crops eliminated most animal life. And final foraging by nomadic tribes, goats and camels, pretty much finished the job. Thousands and thousands of miles of desert now remain. Only the satellite picture outlines of what was once a beautiful land remain.
China has dropped many of their population controls. Purdue University originally estimated China would run out of food in 2020. To help (curious definition), they started a double cropping genetic program in conjunction with the UN, breeding rice twice a year. Within 3 years they developed a rice variety with as much as 6 times the yield of normal rice, with improved disease resistance, and with roundup resistance that would breed true, generation after generation. This has extended the time to as far as year 2035. 50,000 tons were then shipped to India and China, a very impressive effort by any estimate, but to what end? In many parts of the world, organic simply means by hand. I suspect we have exceeded the tipping point in this country for by-hand farming and are now in a situation where either we starve people or continue to use petroleum based methods. http://www.gunstar1.com/humob/horses.htm As for my own experiments in organic farming, I am the master of allelopathy, I have found myriad ways to kill plants by planting one species with another. That old indian notion of planting corn and beans together doesn't work in my hands.
I have an Algonquin Indian friend in Maine that swears it should work. But not in my garden. Surprise, deer and rabbits, no problem!