Ethical and environmental arguments against Veganism.
It’s hard to find fault with the ethical case for becoming vegan but I will anyway.
Picture a cow in a field, it’s eating grass. Around the cow fly swarms of flies. These flies depend upon the cow for their existence. Birds swoop down and catch the flies. they return them to their nests and place them in the mouths of their hungry offspring. The meadow in which the cow lives is bordered by hedgerows teeming with life. Insects feed on wildflowers, rodents feed on the seeds that fall from the trees. Hundreds of vertebrate and thousands of invertebrate lives depend upon the cows which in turn depend upon people wanting to eat them for their existence. The cow exists for the greater good. Not a concept that I subscribe to but it seems to be popular among the philosophically challenged.
My children last week enjoying the fringe benefits of carnivory. The cows were on the other side of the hedge to the left waiting to get to the lush grass.
When the cow is slaughtered (in my opinion this should be done in situ with a high powered rifle to avoid as much suffering as possible) it yields a carcass of 354kg.
63% of this goes to meat. That’s 223kg.
That meat is on average 26% protein.
Total protein yield 58kg.
At this point it is worth noting that people like me also cook and eat the protein and goodies stored in the bones and organs. All of this for one life taken and very little or no pesticides being used.
The meat contains a bunch of other goodies too…Conjugated linoleic acid being one of them; The wonders of CLA
It’s also worth noting that much of the grazing land in the UK is not suitable for growing arable crops.
Compare this with a vegan staple, beans. A good yield in the UK is 5 tonnes/Hectare. This is hydrated weight. Sky high values for protein in beans come from the dehydrated version. Of those 5000kg about 5-6% is protein. If we assume a midway figure of 5.5% we get 275 kg of protein. Great. All good so far, that’s almost 5 times the protein that we could have had from the cow.
Not all protein is created equal and the amino acid composition is crucial. Meat is a complete source, plant proteins require more variety to ensure your body gets the right amount of all the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein)
Notably beans contain lower amounts of essential amino acids.
Back to the ethical issues…how many animals’ lives were supported by the bean crop? None. Quite the contrary, mono culture provides very few biological niches. The few it does provide such as weeds growing in between rows and insects feeding on the plants are eliminated in order to increase yield.
The few hardy animals that can eke out an existence have their biology wrecked by the pesticides sprayed on the beans.
Pasture land doesn’t require ploughing which is fundamentally disruptive and kills millions of invertebrates either directly or by exposing them to predators such as gulls.
Photo by by Matt Dale of Restronguet Barton in Cornwall.
In cattle farming only one animal is harmed in the harvest. Contrast this with arable harvests. In one study of Woodmice, 50% were killed by predators directly after harvest and another 30% had either emigrated from the area or died from other causes. Woodmouse study
I am aware that there are lots of holes in my arguments but it is an interesting take on the issue and a position that can be defended without too much sophistry. I am not for a minute defending the barbarism of factory farming and I have cherry picked my example..sure.
What about Muh Climate change?
Supposing you swallowed the whole governments can control the weather nonsense you might put forward the argument that eating bloated, flatulent cow meat is destroying the planet. I posit that responsible and well managed grazing is very good for the environment both in terms of niche creation and habitat preservation.
Every year, near my home the cattle are put out to graze on the hills in order to conserve the unique upland meadows. When converted into beef these meadows are delicious.
In some parts of the world cattle grazing is reversing desertification. Warning, this video will cause cognitive dissonance seizures in those with entrenched positions.