alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)
[personal profile] alexandra_thorn
This piece is good. I read the first half, and skimmed the rest. I do have a bit of a quibble with the author, which I explain below, but I still recommend this article:

My response:

As far as I can see, there is one glaring issue that she does not address, however, and this is the issue of trophic levels. In my opinion there is a satisfying answer to that issue, but it isn't the path taken even by most humane animal farms.

Here's the issue: at every step of the food chain (i.e. at every trophic level), 90% of biomass is lost. Since there are general rules for how much vegetation can be grown on an acre of land, that means that it takes ten times as much land to produce the food contained in a pound of meat as it takes to produce the food contained in a pound of beans. So if you're killing and displacing animals in the process of clearing land to grow either human food or animal food, ten times as many animals will be killed and displaced. So, while it is true that all food kills, meat-based food kills more.

What's my satisfying solution? Natural rangeland used to graze livestock is *good* for the land, especially compared to intensive row crops. Real biodiversity can be tolerated and rangeland is habitat for a great deal of wildlife. The same does not apply to a field of soybeans. So if you eat animal products from critters that *exclusively* get their food from forage, in a certain light, you can be seen as *protecting* 10 acres while your tofu patty is *destroying* 1 acre.

Unfortunately, there is *very* little meat grown in our society that exclusively (or even primarily) gets its food from natural rangeland and similar landscapes. E.g. backyard chicken farmers almost invariably buy large quantities of feed made of corn and other grains grown as row crops. Hay is sort of a middle ground between natural landscapes and row crops, and I think a case might be made that cattle raised primarily on hay and forage (alfalfa) is a good thing for the land. However, it's amazingly difficult to find (even grass-fed pastured) beef that hasn't been finished on corn in a feed lot.
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alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)

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