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Why giving up meat isn’t the answer

Living the Mother Nature’s Diet way, I eat an omnivores diet – I eat meat, fish, and eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. I respect vegetarians and vegans, and I respect the choices they make. I never criticise the choice not to eat animal foods, I never go online looking to enter heated discussions and I avoid arguments. However, I do find myself subject to criticism coming the other way. I have many times been ‘attacked’ online by angry vegans screaming ‘meat is murder’ and picking a fight over my lifestyle choices.

Intelligent comments on this post are welcome – aggression, insults and abuse will be deleted 🙂

A while back, a vegan friend of mine posted this image. He’s a nice guy, I like him, but this image bothers me, because it’s flat out wrong.vegan grain image

Pictures like this are heart breaking for sure, but frustratingly they are factually incorrect. Vegans tend to promote these images as some kind of proof that if we all stop eating meat in the developed world, then somehow global economic inequality will be fixed overnight and poverty will disappear, and no one will be hungry. This is just not true, not even close to true.

One of the big problems with world grain markets is that they are dominated by exported grains from the USA and other wealthy nations. In countries like the US, and EU countries, tax payers money is used to pay farmers to over-produce staples such as grains, sugar, cotton and other commodity crops. These cheap crops then flood world markets, driving down prices to artificial lows. This is a key factor in the root causes of poverty in Africa (I’m assuming that the image is from Africa) and other developing markets, because the low price of grain undermines the ability of developing world farmers to sell their own crops for a profit. Poverty will remain an issue in Africa for as long as EU and US agricultural subsidies distort international grain markets, and this has all been going on for a very long time.

While many wealthy nations still refuse to cancel all debts owed by the poorest nations, some of those same countries, and charitable foundations, flood these poor countries with grains sent free, as international aid. Aid does not help, see below. At the same time, large corporations from the rich countries continue to take African mineral resources without fairly investing in the countries those minerals are extracted from.

When our media floods with images of starvation in Africa, charities raise funds and we send aid by the boat load…while alleviating immediate suffering a tiny bit, ultimately we are adding to the long term problems, by dumping free grain into the African economy…even more farmers go broke and give up, as free is a tough price point to compete against. African farmers will never be able to sell their own produce while foreign aid dumps food into Africa for free. These aid payments are not always what they seem – in some cases, money set aside to provide food aid for Africa is actually spent buying the grains and commodity crops from US companies, and then dumped into Africa for free. This funnels charity cash back into US corporations, and undermines the livelihood of African farmers.

Feeding our billions

Poverty in Africa really has very little to do with whether or not folks in the UK, US and Europe eat meat or not. I’m sorry to my vegan readers, but the meat argument suggested in this image just doesn’t make any economic sense.

Worldwide, the human race currently cultivates enough food to feed a population of almost 11 billion people. Estimates and reports vary, but roughly a third of all that food goes to waste every year – either composted or into landfill. It’s a sad waste, and absolute travesty in fact, and it’s disgusting that we allow it to continue while 0.8 billion people worldwide are going hungry. We don’t have a food production problem, we have a food distribution problem, and the causes are entirely down to politics and economics. 

African kids and grains

As if the political and economic facts behind that silly image are not enough…let’s just look at that picture again. Emaciated children, lack of muscle mass, scrawny limbs yet distended pot bellies. So the vegan movement in all it’s intellectual wisdom think this image – children clearly suffering from kwashiorkor – makes a valid argument for us to stop feeding grains to livestock and instead feed those grains to hungry young African children.

How utterly ridiculous! Kwashiorkor is a form of protein-deficiency malnutrition that typically affects young children once they are weaned off their mother’s breast milk. The breast milk is often the only source of protein available to them, and when these children wean they move onto a typical high carbohydrate diet and develop this condition, which can be fatal if not treated.

I really don’t think feeding them grain is going to help! They would be much better off with meat!

Cows should eat grass

As another separate issue – cows should eat grass, not grain.

Growing grains to feed cows makes agriculture environmentally destructive (as does growing grains to feed humans). We should range cows on open pasture, and then eat the cows – good for the topsoil, good for the cows, good for sequestering carbon dioxide and more calorie-dense, nutritious food for humans.

Like I said, the image is factually incorrect, it’s just ‘click bait’ propaganda put out to support the vegan agenda but with no supporting understanding of the economics or science behind the argument.

Good for the cows

In the text above, you may have spotted that I wrote that living free range on open pasture is “good for the cows” and I have shared this opinion before, and again been attacked for it. Vegan friends have laughed at me – saying ‘how can it be good for the cows, if we are going to kill them and eat them!’

But think about it…how would nature dispatch animals in the wild?

  • Mauled by a predator?
  • Chased to exhaustion and them have its throat ripped out?
  • Have you ever watched videos of wild animals hunting and taking down prey? (don’t follow that link if you can’t stomach the reality of an animal being killed by another animal)

When farming is done right, the average herbivore will live a pretty good life (free range, grass fed, no drugs, healthy and low stress) up until the last 10 minutes, then it’s a stun gun to the head and it’s done in moments. If you want to see this, go to 2 minutes in on this video. Witness the cow’s distress is over in a matter of a few seconds, literally 10 seconds and it’s all done. This is how farming should be.

I acknowledge that we live in an imperfect world and it is not always done the way it should be, but here in the EU we have some of the highest animal husbandry standards in the world, we are trying to encourage all farmers to meet these high standards. If you shop the way I teach here at Mother Nature’s Diet, shopping for labels like ‘grass fed’ and ‘pasture raised’ and ‘organic’, seeking labels such as the stamp of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association or the Soil Association, you can be assured you are buying, and hence supporting, the best possible standards in animal welfare in modern farming.

I spend considerable amounts of my time and energy visiting farms around the country learning how animal agriculture should be done. I meet farmers who care for their animals, both dairy farmers and beef farmers, who want happy, healthy livestock – this makes for increased productivity, increased yield, and increased profit. Happy healthy animals, profitable farms, healthier end products going into our food supply – it’s a win:win for everyone in the food chain.

IMG_8332
I took this picture while I was visiting the wonderful Woodland Valley Farm in Cornwall, working for a few days and learning from 3rd generation farmer Chris Jones, a long-standing member of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association and all-round good guy. These 100% grass-fed cows are healthy, happy, organic and free range; there’s no cruelty in this beef.

I am yet to meet a farmer who hates his or her animals and wants them unhappy, unhealthy or in pain. It makes no economic sense and does not benefit anyone.

IMG_2366
I took this picture while visiting the wonderful Smiling Tree Farm in Shropshire, for an afternoon learning about small-scale, high-welfare, organic dairy farming from the font of knowledge that is Christine Page. She loves these cows like best friends, they receive the highest level of care possible and they live many years healthy and at peace in these beautiful Shropshire hills.

Animal welfare in the wild

We’ve seen that animals dying as the prey of other animals suffer a pretty nasty death some times, and we’ve seen that high-welfare done properly means animals can live a good life on the farm and then slaughter can be pretty quick and humane if it’s done the way it should be. How else do animals die in the wild?

  • Die of malnutrition?
  • Starvation?

I was hiking on some remote and quiet mountains far up in the Northwest Scottish Highlands a few years back, when I came upon two Park Rangers and several large deer they had culled. I asked them why they had to shoot these animals. They explained that if they didn’t, the deer would breed so prolifically (no natural predators left in the UK to keep their numbers down, the European grey wolf is long gone) that they would strip the land of suitable food, and then nature would cull them – death by starvation.

This is not nice for the deer, as starving to death if a slow and nasty way to go. And it’s not good for Scottish tourism, because tourists who hike in the Highlands don’t like dead rotting deer carcasses strewn across barren land stripped of all edible vegetation. And it’s not good for the land, because it will kill off plants that deer eat, and leave the land bare, increasing soil erosion. So for several months each year, Rangers stalk deer and take a few out each day. Organic free range meat goes into the local food chain, and the deer population is kept in check, in balance with the landbase and available food supply.

This is ecologically intelligent land management.

To my vegan friends who don’t like to see prime organic wild game going into local butchers…I ask how would you propose we do it differently?

  • Eliminate deer from Scotland completely?
  • Or eliminate humans, and reintroduce the European grey wolf, and let the deer and the wolves find their balance?

Serious question.

You see, behind mindless Internet memes that ‘play for clicks’ and social media ‘likes’, we need to do some intelligent joined-up thinking. Sustainability should be our goal.
High-welfare farmed animals are a boon to the land. Most farmland in the UK is totally unsuitable for growing crops. Many of the staples of a vegetarian diet, such as rice and avocados, pineapples and olives, quinoa and chickpeas, oranges and lemons…these things cannot be grown in the UK.

A majority of UK farmland is most perfectly suites to livestock – namely sheep, and cows.
When farmed responsibly, the livestock have a good life right up until the last ten minutes. It’s a more peaceful, safer life than they would live in the wild, and a quicker, less painful end.

Farmed sustainably, they build topsoil depth and fertility, adding to soil organic matter, that is sequestering carbon, not emitting it, as with fruit, vegetable and rice imports from foreign countries…there is a hefty carbon footprint attached to food imported from the tropics. As sheep and cows poop on our grasslands, they are adding to soil fertility and sequestering carbon.

75% of fisheries worldwide are depleted.
Agricultural soils will run out in 60 to 100 years around the world.
So when we have no fish, and we can’t plough or plant crops any more, literally what on Earth do these people think 10 billion humans are going to eat?

Sustainable agriculture is the only answer.
Grass-fed, free-range livestock.
Grass-fed, free-range dairy.
Low-till and no-till regenerative agriculture grown crops and vegetables.
Fruit.
Nuts.
Permaculture.
Small scale, local food webs.
Grow your own.
Sustainable caught fish – pole and line, no drag nets and no trawlers.
There is no other way.

The Mother Nature’s Diet way is the only sustainable future for the human race. It’s going to require immense change to dismantle industrial scale farming worldwide and reintroduce local food webs, and sustainable farming practices. To use livestock to bring marginal lands back into productivity, to shift away from mass scale grain agriculture and to reduce the use of chemicals in farming. It’s all going to require massive consumer and political will. But if we don’t…what’s the alternative of carrying on as we are? Unsustainable behaviour only leads to one inevitable conclusion.

 

 

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