Vegan Zealots And ‘Meat Kills The Planet’ Nonsense

When I wrote a recent post disputing Dr. Dean Ornish’s cherry-picked evidence that meat will kill you, I ignored his closing paragraph.  That’s because I wanted to focus on the Meat Kills! nonsense.

Here’s how Ornish finished his essay:

In addition, what’s good for you is good for our planet. Livestock production causes more disruption of the climate than all forms of transportation combined. And because it takes as much as 10 times more grain to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, eating a plant-based diet could free up resources for the hungry.

This has become the latest weapon in the arsenal of The Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet.  They’ve tried convincing us that meat causes heart disease and cancer, but fewer and fewer people are buying that line — because it’s nonsense.  So the thinking seems to be Well, that didn’t work.  Let’s scare them away from meat by insisting that livestock are ruining the planet.  I give it maybe five years before The Anointed float the idea of requiring meatless days in school lunches.

What, you think I’m being paranoid?  Don’t forget who decides which foods can be served in schools.  And they’re apparently on board with the Meat Kills The Planet idea:

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel of nutritionists created in 1983, decided for the first time this year to factor in environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They include a finding that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said sustainability is an issue that falls outside the scope of the guidelines.  But members of the committee say they had free reign to discuss food supply in recommending what people should and shouldn’t be eating.
 
“The scope is ours to fully define,” said Barbara Millen, chairwoman of the advisory committee and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Translation:  We’re The Anointed.  We can tell you what to do even when it’s not our official mission.  After all, given the wild success of our dietary advice in making Americans leaner and healthier, it’s only natural we should expand our focus and save the worldwide environment too.

This is, of course, exactly the kind of theory The Anointed absolutely love.  The mission is HUGE — after all, what’s more important than saving the entire planet? – which means it will require a Grand Plan, which makes The Anointed feel So Very Important.  Given the opportunity, they will feel justified in imposing the Grand Plan on all of us – for our own sake, of course.  Remember, they’re trying to save the planet!  Just where the heck do you selfish meat-eaters think you’ll live after your livestock causes global warming – uh, I mean climate change – and renders the planet too hot … or too cold … or flooded because of the torrential rains … or barren because of the lack of rain?

Best of all, as with any Grand Plan, there’s no real way to prove The Anointed wrong.  They want us to give up meat so the planet doesn’t boil (or freeze) in 50 years or so.  If the planet isn’t boiling (or freezing) in 50 years, The Anointed who are still alive and remember the Grand Plan can claim it succeeded.  However, if the planet is boiling (or freezing), they can say we didn’t do enough to stop it.  The Grand Plan should have been bigger.

Lierre Keith dealt with the notion that a vegan diet will save the planet in her outstanding book The Vegetarian Myth.  Keep in mind she was a committed vegan for 20 years and used to believe all that stuff.  But then she educated herself.  Here’s an excerpt from my review of the book:

As Keith explains in section two, Political Vegetarians, eating soy burgers won’t save the planet, either.  All those goofy vegetarian arguments about how many more people we could feed per acre if we all ate the crops instead of the animals who eat the crops are based on a flawed idea: that the animals who provide our meat are supposed to eat corn.  They’re not.  They’re supposed to eat grass.  Keith recalculates the calories-per-acre figures assuming we were smart enough to raise our animals on their natural food, and not surprisingly, the disparity shrinks to nearly zero.

And feeding the masses is only part of the equation.  When you raise animals in a pasture, you create topsoil — you literally can’t create topsoil without animals.  But when you raise corn, you destroy topsoil.  It’s mono-crop agriculture that uses extraordinary amounts of water and creates soil runoff.  Then, of course, there’s all that fossil fuel required to keep the crops growing as the topsoil disappears.  (Imagine the fun of explaining to your wild-eyed vegan friends that their “sustainable lifestyle” is enriching the oil industry.)

Since vegans are pushing the idea that going meatless will somehow prevent global warm– er, climate change – I re-read portions of The Vegetarian Myth today.  Here are some quotes:

The vegetarians aren’t looking for truth about sustainability or justice.  They’re looking for the small slice of facts that will shore up their ideology, their identities.  This is where politics becomes religion, psychologically speaking, where the seeker is looking for reaffirmation of her beliefs rather than active knowledge of the world.  I was one such believer.

After quoting one of the vegan zealots who was yammering on (like Ornish) about how many more people we could feed if we didn’t waste grain on cattle, Keith writes:

Yes, it is a waste, but not for the reasons he thinks.  As we have seen in abundance, growing that grain will require the felling of forests, the plowing of prairies, the draining of wetlands and the destruction of topsoil.  In most places on earth, it will never be sustainable, and where it might just possibly be, it will require rotation with animals on pasture.  And it’s ridiculous to the point of insanity to take that world-destroying grain and feed it to a ruminant who could have happily subsisted on those now extinct forests, grasslands and wetlands of our planet, while building topsoil and species diversity.

I can vouch for animals creating topsoil.  The soil in our chicken yards is rich and alive, thanks to all that chicken poop.  For a couple of years now, Chareva has been scooping poop-laden straw from the hen-houses and adding it to her compost pile.  The compost has been going into the garden, because it’s great for growing plants.

Later in her book, Keith writes about the “green revolution” – a misnomer if there ever was one.  There’s nothing green about it, at least not if we’re using green to mean good for the environment:

Between 1963 and 1997, worldwide crop yields doubled.  This doubling came at a cost: fertilizer use increased by 645 percent … the practice of repeatedly plowing the fields, removing the covering of grasses and poisoning the bugs and the weeds robs the soil of its most life-giving characteristics.
 
We’ve already seen how these crops demand more water from dying rivers, sinking water tables, emptied aquifers, how irrigation creates a wasteland of salt-caked desert.  My point here is that this abundance of grain is no true abundance.  When the vegetarians claim, for instance, that Britain could support a population of 250 million on an all-vegetable diet, they are basing those numbers on the over-inflated production only made possible by fertilizer from fossil fuel.

Anyone who believes eating soybeans and whole grains will somehow save the planet is blissfully ignorant or deluded.  To quote Keith again:

To eat the supposedly earth-friendly diet Motavalli is suggesting would mean that everyone in a cold, hot, wet or dry climate would have to be dependent on the American Midwest, with its devastated prairies and its ever-shrinking soil, rivers and aquifers.  It also means dependence on coal or oil to ship that grain two thousand miles.  So you’re an environmentalist; why are you still eating outside your bioregion?

The logic of the land tells us to eat the animals that can eat the tough cellulose that survives there.  But the logic of vegans leads us away from the local, our only chance of being sustainable, back to the desperate Mississippi and her dying wetlands, her eroding delta.  Yes, eating grain directly is less water-intensive than eating grain-fed beef.  But why eat either?  Animals integrated into appropriate polyculture destroy nothing.
 
That is the point the political vegetarians need to understand.  In the end, all our calculations don’t matter.  Who cares if more food can be produced by farming when farming is destroying the world?

But .. but … it’s a plant-based diet!!

Keith argues in the book (and I agree) that none of this is sustainable long-term.  Barring some breakthrough in food production (one that doesn’t require even more pollutants), at some point we’ll probably blow through the resources we’re now using to feed 8 billion people.  If anything will destroy the planet, it’s overpopulation.  But I don’t see anyone – vegans included – offering to commit mass suicide to save the environment.

If you want to save the planet, buy grass-fed beef.  Better yet, raise a cow on grass.  Raise chickens in a pasture.  That soy-burger – grown with fossil-fuel fertilizer and shipped halfway across the country — won’t do diddly to help.

I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth seeing again.  Here’s how properly-raised livestock could perhaps save the planet:

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189 thoughts on “Vegan Zealots And ‘Meat Kills The Planet’ Nonsense

  1. Owen

    Am I right in saying that grass feeding takes up way less space than grain feeding, if you factor in the space needed to produce the grains? If this is the case how did grain feeding even happen? Thats amazing and concerning.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Grains are subsidized. It’s cheaper to ship in grains than to buy or rent the land for pastures.

      Reply
  2. Elenor

    Hey Tom, noty for posting unless you want to (not germane) but:

    http://dailysignal.com/2015/03/22/what-the-dominos-ceo-would-change-on-taxes-obamacare/

    starts:

    Here’s a question that has been puzzling Patrick Doyle, the CEO of Domino’s, for months, as he puts it: “How do we list the calorie content of our pizzas on a menu when we have 34 million different variations of pizza?” The new menu labeling law, a creation of the Affordable Care Act, could require his company to do just that.

    It’s a textbook case of a mindless and arcane regulation, of Washington bureaucrats imposing on businesses costs that will have no effect on public health. “We’ve been voluntarily doing menu labeling for over a decade,” Doyle says. “We even have an online calorie calculator we call the ‘Calo-Meter’ for every possible pizza order, and it tells customers what happens if they substitute, say, sausage for mushrooms, because we strive to be very nutrition-conscious.”

    That isn’t good enough for the feds. The Food and Drug Administration is now insisting that every one of the chain’s 5,000 stores post menu boards on the wall with calorie counts. “It’s crazy and it doesn’t help consumers,” Doyle says, because “90 percent of Domino’s orders arrive by phone or Internet and are for delivery, so fewer than one of 10 customers will ever see these signs.” The signs will cost about $2,000 at every store, and each change of menu will require new ones. That is about $10 million of extraneous costs nationwide for Domino’s. Thank you, Washington.
    ….

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Hey, as far as the politicians are concerned, if it makes them feel as if they’re DOING SOMETHING, then never mind the cost to businesses … or the fact that it won’t accomplish anything.

      Reply
  3. Kristin

    Excellent article. I am so glad I figured out that my meat eating (the local sustainable kind) was actually the more sustainable way to eat. And I no longer feel the slightest guilty about not eating grains or munch in the way of rooty things. My only concern now is that the poor of the planet (most of us) can’t afford decent food due to the way our agricultural system has developed over the last few millennia. They can only afford grain and plants. If Alan Savoy’s work could get some traction people could be eating goats and sheep and their milk and cheese.

    And I no longer think that we have any chance of destroying our planet. Plenty of evidence in previous ages of extreme devastation that the Earth just recovers given time. We are fouling our own nest though. It is us that we are destroying.

    Reply
  4. Kristin

    Excellent article. I am so glad I figured out that my meat eating (the local sustainable kind) was actually the more sustainable way to eat. And I no longer feel the slightest guilty about not eating grains or munch in the way of rooty things. My only concern now is that the poor of the planet (most of us) can’t afford decent food due to the way our agricultural system has developed over the last few millennia. They can only afford grain and plants. If Alan Savoy’s work could get some traction people could be eating goats and sheep and their milk and cheese.

    And I no longer think that we have any chance of destroying our planet. Plenty of evidence in previous ages of extreme devastation that the Earth just recovers given time. We are fouling our own nest though. It is us that we are destroying.

    Reply
  5. McDougaller

    I’m perfectly happy on a starch-based, vegan diet. I’m saving money, saving the planet, saving my HEALTH and am happily full every day.

    I suggest that meat eaters visit a slaughter house to volunteer one day on the line. Maybe a dairy to scoop poop or cut the throat of an animal. Clean the animal and process the meat yourself. Most say they couldn’t do it.

    ‘Your just asking the question’?/ Your driving a wedge in the science. Your diet of meat, cheese and dairy is fine for you.. but Dr McDougall has changed thousands of lives for the better, SAVED many many lives and is not destroying the planet.

    Reply
  6. McDougaller

    I’m perfectly happy on a starch-based, vegan diet. I’m saving money, saving the planet, saving my HEALTH and am happily full every day.

    I suggest that meat eaters visit a slaughter house to volunteer one day on the line. Maybe a dairy to scoop poop or cut the throat of an animal. Clean the animal and process the meat yourself. Most say they couldn’t do it.

    ‘Your just asking the question’?/ Your driving a wedge in the science. Your diet of meat, cheese and dairy is fine for you.. but Dr McDougall has changed thousands of lives for the better, SAVED many many lives and is not destroying the planet.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If you think your diet isn’t destroying the planet, that only proves you’re a complete ignoramus when it comes to agriculture. Raising your soybeans, corn and wheat causes far, far more environmental destruction that raising animals on grass. In fact, raising animals on grass produces topsoil. Your soybeans and corn deplete topsoil and require fossil-fuel fertilizers and tons of lovely chemicals to grow.

      And by the way, ignoramus, I’ve scooped plenty of poop and processed the meat from animals I personally killed for food.

      Reply
      1. MacNAUGHTON

        Nice how you resort to name-calling when it’s a vegan you are addressing. You actually informed another respondent above in this thread that cattle are mostly grain fed because it’s subsidized and cheaper than the real estate for grazing on grasses. You’re such a jerk.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’ll stop calling vegans names when they stop showing up here getting all self-righteous and preaching at us. I don’t visit vegan blogs and websites and try to convert them — because I’m not a jerk.

          Yes, grains are subsidized (as are the soybeans that go in veggie burgers) and that’s the problem, not the fact that humans eat meat.

          Reply
  7. Erika

    Please watch the following documentaries:
    •Cowspiracy.com
    •Earthlings.com
    •ForksOverKnives.com

    Also, read these books:
    •The China Study
    •Animal Liberation

    I could include so many more, but these are straight-forward and full of unbiased information. Whether or not you’re vegan or omnivorous, we should all be striving to protect our one planet, live as conscientious in our daily lives and help each other overcome lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obstructed arteries. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Erika

    Please watch the following documentaries:
    •Cowspiracy.com
    •Earthlings.com
    •ForksOverKnives.com

    Also, read these books:
    •The China Study
    •Animal Liberation

    I could include so many more, but these are straight-forward and full of unbiased information. Whether or not you’re vegan or omnivorous, we should all be striving to protect our one planet, live as conscientious in our daily lives and help each other overcome lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obstructed arteries. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      “… straight-forward and full of unbiased information.”

      HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!

      Thanks for one of the biggest laughs I’ve enjoyed in some time.

      Reply

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