How many times have you heard that we need to eat more vegetarian fare to curb Climate Change? Greepeace and even David Suzuki put it in their top ten actions we can take. It seems every green magazine I pick up, every green blog I read, I’m shamed for living as what my body is designed to be, an omnivore. This makes me feel very sad and a little angry. Here’s why:
- The current population of cattle in the US is only marginally more than the numbers the Native Bison (or Buffalo) enjoyed before Europeans arrived: 96 million cattle have replaced most of the estimated 60 to 100 million Bison that existed in the 19th century. How could there be too many cattle now? This is how..
The figures Suzuki and Greenpeace are working from actually reveal what industrial factory farming is using and outputting. The ancient practice of subsistence grass farming is a totally different picture. Much of the resources used for the beef industry are used in the production of grains fed to confined cattle. There is no reason for this except to boost the bottom line of ‘agricorp’ companies. No ruminant should be eating grain or soy. Industrial agriculture only does so because governments subsidise their feed.
- It is very easy to throw about grandiose, knee jerk recommendations which get headlines but it is Greenpeace’s very followers who will suffer from living by them. I live in Byron Bay, some call it a vegetarian paradise. Australia’s modern affair with vegetarianism began right here, more than 30 years ago. Looking around me, I witness first hand the ravages such a diet leaves in it’s wake. Young, idealistic 20 somethings may not notice immediately the affects of such a diet. However, coming into their 50s and 60s now, I see many long time vegetarians; exhausted, overwhelmed and caffeine addicted from years of underNourishing themselves. (BTW It takes 140 Litres of water to make enough coffee for one cup. I challenge you to find a vegetarian who isn’t caffeine addicted. I haven’t yet.)
Many lose their creativity and the naturally buoyant, positive attitude which is our birthright. Many wind up, infertile, unmotivated, ineffective and resentful without knowing why. Greenpeace needs robust, energetic, creative people to work with them toward change. Their recommendations threaten to deny them and our Earth of just this.
- Grass fed, properly managed animal foods are actually a great way to sequester many billions of metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.
To be more responsible, Greenpeace should recommend we boycott confined, grain fed animal foods and demand grass fed animal foods. Is that too complicated for our ‘dumbed down’ population?
Some Facts about Grass Fed Meat
- Grazing land comprises more than half the total land surface of the Earth.
- Soil organic carbon is the largest reservoir in interaction with the atmosphere. It contains 82% of terrestrial carbon.
- Forests can be net carbon emitters in their early stages and take many years to reach their sequestration potential
- “An acre of pasture can sequester more carbon than an acre of forest.” We can offset the nations entire emissions, simply by planting more grass either as winter crops or instead of crops. - Dr Chistine Jones of the Carbon Coalition.
- “Soil represents the largest carbon sink over which we have control. Improvements in soil carbon levels could be made in all rural areas, whereas the regions suited to carbon sequestration in plantation timber are limited.” - Dr Christine Jones
- 50% to 66% of the historic carbon loss (42 to 78 gigatons of carbon) was created by the world’s poorly managed, degraded agricultural soils and is therefore ripe to become the world’s greatest carbon sink.
Difference between carbon farming pasture (right) and ordinary pasture: courtesy of the Carbon Farmer’s of Australia Association.
- Introducing carbon credits for grass farmers who manage their grazing so they actually sequester carbon will also help improve water retention and soil erosion issues.
Raising grain-fed cattle is resource-intensive. It takes more than 35 fossil fuel calories to create one calorie of energy from grain-fed meat. A cow must consume about 8 pounds of grain (3.6kg) in order to yield one pound of meat (450gm), grain which is grown with fossil fuels and pesticides. Much of the exorbitant water use in grain feeding CAFOs is for cleaning the tonnes of waste, waste that in grass farming is a vital resource for soil fertility. Why do this when you can just let the cow go on the grass? Answer: corporate ‘bottom line’ industrial farming.
The ‘methane cattle fart’ statistic we hear all the time is taken from the writings of Dr Andrew Moxey, a widely respected economist who exposed modern agriculture’s contribution to emissions. He says “methane from livestock accounts for 20 per cent of green house gas emissions”, but reading just a little further, you’ll find he also says: “nitrous oxide from fertilizer adds up to 26 per cent [and] carbon dioxide from ploughing up grassland is the major contributor…45 per cent“.
What is on the agenda of people who continually misquote Moxey?
What environmentalists are saying is we should eat the grains instead of the cattle. What they don’t realise is neither we nor the cattle need the grains. They don’t realise this because they’ve been indoctrinated into the idea that we can (and should) eat a grain based diet. No mind that our ancestors never did. No mind that following a grain based diet has brought us to the point where 8% of the western population suffer diabetes (this is expected to quadruple by 2050). No mind that by 2020, 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese. 37% of American Children are already overweight and the CDC predict that figure will be 50% by 2020. It also predicts that the generation of children who are currently under 10 years old are unlikely to outlive their parents.
Even so the USDA still recommends we continue with the sudden diet change that they initiated post world war II. (Please note the USDA food pyramid is created by the US Department of Agriculture - not the US department of Nutrition nor the US department of Health.) Before their self serving dietary recommendations, humans had never tried to consume 6 servings of grain foods. That’s three sandwiches a day. We couldn’t grow, harvest and process that much grain by hand. Only with the advent of the petrol driven harvest combine and industrial processing (dollars for the new manufacturing giants of the 50s) could we even consider eating this much grain, let alone feed it to our livestock. So why is it now the only other option to vegetarianism?
Why are we so easily hoodwinked?
We’re given two options:
- Eat animals who eat grains
- Eat grains.
Why do we fall for this trick? Why are even the most intelligent and highly educated of us lead to believe these are our only choices? Here’s what I see:
It is very difficult to imagine a lifestyle other than one that is part of and supported by the industrial complex. Industrial agriculture and, sadly, feminism has ushered in a completely new perspective on money, farming and Nourishing our family. A perspective we find it hard to veer from. Building a life around dignified farming, a life where the labour of over half the tribal group - that of the women and to some degree the children - is not quantified by money, is beyond our comprehension. What used to be the asset and province of the family is now quantified by money. Today, we outsource feeding our family, maintaining our health and the even caring for our children. Meanwhile, grandparents are idle or busy entertaining themselves, alone - a phenomenon, never before witnessed by our kind.
Never before have we been so separated from the realities of our condition - so separated, we believe we can subsist in a purely vegetarian system delivered to us by an industrial food chain. We can easily swap messy meat and milk for soy and grain products, conveniently processed, packaged and stored at our local supermarket.
I find it intriguing that environmentalists don’t mention grass farming at all. Don’t they know about it? If non-organic agriculture makes more greenhouse gases than industrial animal farming, why are we not told to go completely organic and eat grass fed animals? Why instead are we fed messages of guilt and denial?
I believe we are seeing Christianity in it’s most obtuse manifestation: a generation of martyrs, suffering the ravages of vegetarianism. Saviours of our innocent Earth, putting her before themselves. Pity it doesn’t work that way. Our new martyrs are only weakening their bodies and their progeny, separating themselves further from agriculture and the land for yet another false doctrine. Martyrs they are but not to the environment, to the soy industry and to grain barons.
We Need Farm Animals
Ask any organic or bio dynamic farmer if they can maintain soil fertility without animal manure.. lots of it. They’ll tell you no. As Mark Purdey, farmer and BSE expert puts it, “If the vegetarian vision is to gain precedence over our global agricultural systems, then chemical and biotech agriculture would boom to make good the shortfall of fertility lost once our livestock were annihilated.”
“The preservation of fertility is the first duty of all that live by the land. Leave the land in a better state than when you took it over.” - George Henderson.
Most urban Westerners have little understanding of the realities of farming. And this is the grain baron’s biggest asset. They now nod smugly at ‘environmental’ messages that scare us into eating more of their product. Heart Disease, Obesity, Cancer and now Global Warming is caused by meat eating? What Tripe. Truth is, the more grass fed meat from small, local farms we eat, the less money they make.
In following USDAs recommendations and indeed Greenpeace’s call to go vego, we can remain separated from the muck and mess of mixed farming. We can continue our sterile food mythology; purity through denial, from the dirty truth that animals must die for our sustenance. And most importantly for grain cartels and their government buddies, we can continue to work a 40 hour week so we can afford to buy their ‘healthy’ breads, tofu and soy yoghurt.. So we can afford to pay rising medical costs which inevitably line the pockets of Big Pharma. The very medical costs which are caused by eating from the industrial food chain.
We are lost in a maze of propaganda, designed to confuse and disempower us, purely for the economic benefit of the few. Unfortunately, environmentalists who recommend vegetarianism are just another group of well meaning individuals who’ve lost connection to the land and a physical experience of balance with her. Lacking this connection and living only in the mind, they have unwittingly become the mouth pieces of selfish agribusiness.
What’s the Alternative?
The internet is our best ally and our courage, faith and strong bodies our best tools. Some expectations, personal politics and even some laws are still in our way, but no blockage we can’t remove, together with vision and resolve.
You live in an urban environment where culture and agriculture have equal value. We’ve redesigned our cities into many small, walled villages so we can reconnect with our community, sharing sunny plazas with our fellow villagers where:
- children play under the watchful eye of the whole community,
- teens hang in semi-private enclaves,
- elders live on the plaza with access to family and carers and large open windows they can watch the village life go by,
- community gardens are shared among villagers
- food preparation, handicrafts, music and art workshops happen every other day, and
- no cars are allowed!
Imagine now, that every member of your village is part of a shared farming arrangement. You own your own animals and employ a farming family to care for your animals; paying them for the next season’s meat (and any other crops) in advance. Your farmer brings your food to you every week or to the marketplace along with other little tidbits you can buy for cash to spice up your larder. There’s no waste and no separation. Taking an active part in ensuring the quality, quantity and price of your food remains stable, you know your animals are treated humanely and cared for in a way that supports and does not degrade the environment. (Farmers who are paid a living wage are unlikely to harm their farmland or their animals and cutting out the many, many middle men in the current system will give them and their animals the standard of living they deserve.)
How much less fossil fuels, pesticides, fertilizers and plastic packaging could we spare our delicate ecology? Is localised, community supported mixed farming an answer to our climate woes? Can we create such a system?
Thanks to online technology, this is completely possible for an inner city community to achieve. Your farm may be hundreds of miles away, but there is no reason you can’t have a cosy relationship with your farmer. Angelic Organics CSA is an excellent example of this. Farmer John communicates with his thousands of subscribers weekly. They even come to the farm on weekends to visit their vegies.
This scenario seems to me way more Nourishing for people and the planet than simply going to the store and buying some Tofu on the way to my job at the car factory.
Reconnecting with farms, busting the nuclear family and relocalising services is possible. But government can’t do it for us. We’ve got to create it ourselves.
If you want to begin creating this reality, have hope, there are others, many others who want it too.
Check out the second in the Zeitgeist series.
To specifically access grass fed animals through CSAs, subscriber to Herdshare.com and please don’t become vegetarian to save on greenhouse emissions, there are so many other, much better ways.
About the Author...
A Super Hero and one of many who have realised their true calling as saviors of humanity, healers of our connection with Nature and creators of Heaven on Earth. The Nourisher's gift is the re-spiritualisation of the 'process of recreation' we call eating. Mother of three Super Heroes in training and wife to her God incarnate, The Nourisher hails from the place of feminine healing, Byron Bay, Australia. She gathers together Life Creators from all over the globe at NourishedMagazine.com.au