As people are deciding daily, there are countless good reasons to go vegan, but the core motive for me hasn’t changed since I finally saw the light 20+ years ago. I don’t eat animals because of the mindless atrocities and injustices that so many millions and billions of non-humans are subjected to each and every day of the year.
It’s true, going vegan is healthier for us and the planet, and we wouldn’t be in this runaway climate change predicament if humans weren’t such a successful, over-crowded carnivore. But even as things seem dire for the future of humans’ survival, thoughts of eating the flesh of others is as repugnant and repulsive as ever for this thinking, feeling human being.
It may not save the planet or end all suffering if I bow out of hedonistic carnivism, but it makes my conscience that much clearer each time my hunger is assuaged without resorting to causing unnecessary suffering.
Hope of saving the planet aside, part of the reason I wish our species would wake up from their self-inflicted universal nightmare and decide to stop killing and eating animals is simply the respect I could have for my fellow humans if they could collectively realize there was no future in this race to prove we are the worst blight the Earth has ever seen. No plague of locusts or termites has ever been so destructive as to cause their own ultimate demise; and no team of Tyrannosaurus could ever match runaway humans’ impact on all other life.
Whether we want to keep living or just be able to live with ourselves, it’s time for humans to lay down their arms and proclaim their love for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. The time for proving we can be the worst tyrant is over—now we should try to prove we deserve to live yet another glorious day.
To be brutally honest with you, I don’t really care what you do to yourselves. That’s not the point. On my skis is a sticker modeled after an anti-smoking slogan that reads: “Go Vegan or Die.” It’s not so much of a warning to spoil your fun as a plea for the sake of others…
The city’s reporting data tracking sightings and coyote attacks on cats and dogs also had fallen behind.
The revisions to the plan would institute a five-month active trapping season from October to March each year. Trapping also would be expanded to geographical areas where dangerous coyote behavior is reported. Currently, the strategy is more pinpointed to individual locations that have been reported.
The new measures also call for hiring a part-time, civilian coyote management staff assistant and stepping up the city’s education and outreach programs.
The goal is to have the revised plan in place by fall.
Cities throughout the nation are increasingly dealing with coyote management strategies as the animals have made new dwelling places in urban areas where food is plentiful. Many cities rely heavily or even solely on wildlife education programs for residents and include no lethal management methods. More recently, as the problems have persisted, some cities have begun instituting targeted trapping and euthanasia in neighborhoods where aggressive coyote behavior is reported.
The issue is an emotionally heated one with animal rights groups pushing against lethal methods and residents who believe cities must do more to protect people and pets as a matter of public safety.
People in rich nations will have to make big cuts to the amount of beef and lamb they eat if the world is to be able to feed 10 billion people, according to a new report. These cuts and a series of other measures are also needed to prevent catastrophic climate change, it says.
More than 50% more food will be needed by 2050, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI) report, but greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture will have to fall by two-thirds at the same time. The extra food will have to be produced without creating new farmland, it says, otherwise the world’s remaining forests face destruction. Meat and dairy production use 83% of farmland and produce 60% of agriculture’s emissions.
Increasing the amount of food produced per hectare was the most critical step, the experts said, followed by cutting meat-eating and putting a stop to the wasting of one-third of food produced.
“We have to change how we produce and consume food, not just for environmental reasons, but because this is an existential issue for humans,” said Janet Ranganathan, vice-president for science and research at the WRI.
Tim Searchinger, of the WRI and Princeton University, said: “If we tried to produce all the food needed in 2050 using today’s production systems, the world would have to convert most of its remaining forest, and agriculture alone would produce almost twice the emissions allowable from all human activities.”
The world’s science academies concluded last week that the global food system was “broken”, leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight and driving dangerous global warming. Another new reportconcluded that the global food system required “radical transformation” if climate change and development goals were to be met, including “widespread dietary change”.
After increased productivity, the WRI report focuses on meat from ruminant animals. The digestion of cattle and sheep produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Beef provided 3% of the calories in the diet of US citizens but was responsible for half the emissions, the WRI said.
The report recommends that 2 billion people across countries including the US, Russia and Brazil cut their beef and lamb consumption by 40%, limiting it to 1.5 servings a week on average. Most of the world’s citizens would continue to eat relatively little beef in the WRI scenario.
But Searchinger said: “The world’s poor people are entitled to consume at least a little more.” The 40% reduction is a smaller cut than in other studies. “We think that is a realistic goal,” he said. “In the US and Europe, beef consumption has already reduced by one-third from the 1960s until today.”
Tobias Baedeker, of the World Bank, said farmers would require a lot of support to make the changes required but that redirecting the world’s huge subsidies could be a “game-changer”. Subsidies of more than $590bn (£460bn) a year are given to farmers in 51 nations, representing two-thirds of global food output, according to the OECD. In the US, these subsidies halve the current price of beef, the WRI says.
The sophisticated marketing and behaviour-change strategies that food companies already used to influence customers could help shift diets, said Ranganathan, as could governments encouraging less meat in schools, hospitals and other public institutions.
Other changes to farming that are needed, according to the WRI, include better feed to reduce methane production from cows, limiting biofuels made from food crops, managing manure and fertiliser better and cutting energy use by farm machinery. It also said the overall demand for food could be cut, with policies to curb population growth such as “improving women’s access to education and healthcare in Africa to accelerate voluntary reductions in fertility levels”.
Just as the abolitionists had an agenda to see an end to human slavery or the suffragettes had an agenda to see that women get the right to vote and are treated as equals, there is a vegan/animal rights agenda to see that non-humans are free from exploitation and abuse.
It’s not that we expect to give animals “human rights” or the literal right to vote (people seem to have a hard enough time with those hanging chads), but their interests should be considered whenever our actions affect them. At the very least our fellow animals deserve to be free from forced insemination, mutilation, and concentration-camp-like confinement throughout life and in the cattle-cars on their way to an early, horrific death at the slaughterhouse.
To those who say “I respect your decision to eat vegan. Now it’s time for you to respect the rest of our rights to eat what we want!!!” This situation is similar to an abolitionist being told by a slave owner that he respects the right not to have slaves, so the abolitionist should respect the right to keep people enslaved.
Veganism is in no way comparable to a religion, any more than abolitionism or the women‘s rights movement were religions.
In both of those cases, as with veganism/animal rights, the proponents of those progressive causes were desperately trying to convince people that it is wrong to consider others as mere property. And as with those other movements, people involved with wanting to end the property status of animals adhere to many different religions or none at all.
Most vegans are keenly aware that we all evolved from the same animal origins and realize that we have more similarities than differences. And as far as the idea that vegans want to see everyone convert to veganism–well, ultimately that’s true, in the same way that abolitionists wanted everyone to free their slaves or suffragettes wanted everyone to see that women deserved equal rights.
Some say that we should have tolerance for those who choose to eat meat in the same way that they have tolerance for us choosing not to eat meat. But it should be obvious that there is a major difference between tolerating the consumption of food that is the result of animal suffering, and tolerating the food choices of those who do not consume sentient beings.
Intolerant is what the Japanese accused non-whaling nations of being towards them and their “right” to harpoon, butcher and eat whales and dolphins. The Koreans who literally torture dogs to death and boil cats alive in the belief that doing so makes them taste better and/or improves their medicinal value, call you intolerant when you oppose their cruel customs. Some Europeans have accused animal advocates of intolerance for working to end their practice of force-feeding geese and ducks for fois grais, or to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
In this country people like to think that the animals they buy in restaurants or in cellophane packaging have been treated well and killed humanely, because after all, this is a civilized country. Unfortunately, animals forced to live on factory farms would not think of our culture as civilized any more than dogs and cats would in Korea, or dolphins off the coast of Japan, or ducks, geese and horses in France.
The fact is you can’t house and slaughter 350,000,000 turkeys and 9,000.000.000 pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and other animals per year in a manner that would even remotely pass for humane.
No one should be expected to tolerate cruelty to animals who are capable of suffering any more than they should be expected to tolerate cruelty to humans.
Speaking about his admiration for ‘strong women’, Cameron said: “I put my faith in women to change the world. I think men approach the world in a certain way that tends to be dominative and aggressive – it’s just how men have been wired since the dawn of time and it’s expressed through our entire Western colonialization culture, that we expand through the world and we dominate nature.
“We’re going to have to change that worldview and I think we need a more female, Goddess-based perspective that we have to nurture life, we have to care for it.
“I think the great conflict of the future is going to be between the takers and the caretakers. The takers are a male energy, and the caretakers are a female energy, so I’ve always respected that and I’ve celebrated women in the films I’ve made and I’m very lucky to be married to a very powerful, strong, caretaker warrior.”
Pressure on livestock farmers is set to intensify this century as global population and income growth raises demand for meat-based products beyond the planet’s capacity to supply it.
The paper’s co-author, Professor Allan Buckwell, endorses a Greenpeace call for halving meat and dairy production by 2050, and his report’s broadside is squarely aimed at the heart of the EU’s policy establishment.
Launching the report, the EU’s former environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said: “Unless policymakers face up to this now, livestock farmers will pay the price of their inactivity. ‘Protecting the status quo’ is providing a disservice to the sector.”
The study calls for the European commission to urgently set up a formal inquiry mandated to propose measures – including taxes and subsidies – that “discourage livestock products harmful to health, climate or the environment”.
Europeans already eat more than twice as much meat as national dietary authorities recommend – far beyond a “safe operating space” within environmental limits, says the Rise foundation study.
As a result, huge sectoral “adjustments” will be needed by 2050 to rebalance the sector, including a 74% drop in greenhouse gas emissions and a 60% cut in nitrate-based fertiliser use, it finds.
Long before then, policymakers, farmers and society as a whole face “deeply uncomfortable choices”, according to Buckwell.
“We’re talking about fewer meat meals, less meat portions and moving to flexitarian diets without being dogmatic about it,” he said. “There is a role for softer public health messaging but harder messages are necessary too.”
Such a transformation “won’t happen spontaneously”, he added. “It requires strong signals from government so the policy proposal must include measures to discourage consumption of livestock products harmful to public health and the environment.”
Buckwell called for targeted taxes on harmful practices, with subsidised meat for low-income consumers, and a realignment of funding regimes to advise, retrain and hire more farmers for work in rural landscape management and animal welfare.
The hope is that consumers will eventually pay more for high quality meat produced in environmentally safe conditions, where countryside protection and animal welfare have been guaranteed.
Addressing the launch in a video message, the EU’s agriculture commissioner, Phil Hogan – who dismissed the sector’s emissions footprint earlier this year – said that he too wanted it to become “smarter, greener and cleaner, and do so fast”.
But his claim that more farm efficiency was the answer was slammed as “inherently contradictory” by BirdLife Europe’s policy chief, Ariel Brunner. The most sustainable farms are often less “efficient” in narrow terms of profit and loss, he argued, unless broader questions of energy and nutritionare considered.
One of the largest barriers to this sustainable food vision is Europe’s farmers themselves, still reeling from the financial blow dealt by this year’s drought.
Liam MacHale, the secretary-general of the Irish Farmers’ Association, told the Guardian that farmers were “an easy target” for environmentalists.
“Don’t single out our sector,” he warned the report’s authors. “Look at greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is blamed but look at consumer behaviour in the transport sector. They need to fly abroad to relax [despite] the emissions associated with that. The airlines are not being closed down, yet you’re talking about possibly eliminating the livestock sector.”
Buckwell told the Guardian he envisaged a contraction of the sector of between 40%-50%. “We have to contract consumption by roughly half to come within the safe operating space – a big change, in other words.”
A&W offering of Beyond Burger exceeded expectations, CEO says
More consumers seeking alternatives for health, environment
After more than 60 years of dishing out beef burgers, a Canadian fast-food chain has found new success in an unexpected product: a patty made from peas, mung beans and beets.
A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., the country’s second-largest hamburger chain, is tapping into growing demand for plant-based protein by becoming the first national burger chain to offer California-based Beyond Meat’s burger on its menu in July.
The Beyond Meat burgers sold out nationwide in a matter of weeks, said Chief Executive Officer Susan Senecal. The veggie burgers will be back in stock across Canada Oct. 1.
“It became even more popular than we had expected,” Senecal said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Plant-based protein has gained in popularity and it really is something people are very interested in.”
A&W is the latest meat-focused company that sees growing opportunities in plants as some consumers turn away from traditional protein amid concerns about environmental impact, animal welfare and maintaining a healthy diet. Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat producer, in 2016 acquired 5 percent of Beyond Meat, which has also gotten the backing of billionaire investor Bill Gates. Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Canada’s largest packaged meat company, is now stocking shelves with plant-based imitators after acquiring vegetarian producer Lightlife Foods.
Five years ago, A&W started to home in on growing consumer demand for more information and transparency about their food, said Senecal, noting the chain now offers beef raised without any added hormones or steroids and chicken raised without antibiotics. The plant-based burger builds on consumer desire for more natural foods and the company is constantly monitoring how the trend develops, she said.
Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, laureate professor at the University of Melbourne and founder of the non-profit organization The Life You Can Save. His books include Animal Liberation, The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (with Jim Mason) and The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically.
Vegans are suddenly everywhere. Restaurants that serve meals completely free of all animal products have opened all over New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and in Britain, the number of vegans more than tripled in the decade from 2006 to 2016. But most surprisingly, Germany – where not so long ago, meat-heavy cuisine made the country a hostile terrain even for vegetarians – has Berlin showcasing itself as the European center of vegan fine dining.
Canadian consumption of beef and pork peaked in the 1980s, and has dropped sharply since. For a time, this drop seemed to indicate nothing more dramatic than a preference for chicken, but Canadian consumption of all meats has been falling since 2007. Today, restaurants that fail to offer animal-free meals risk losing millennials as customers.
The business pages, too, signal that meatless is the future: Canada’s biggest meat producer, Maple Leaf Foods, has bought plant-based food company Field Roast, known for its vegan sausages and vegan cheeses, for $120-million. Investors are flocking to startups developing plant-based alternatives to meat and other animal products. Fast-food restaurant A&W is aggressively pushing its plant-based burger, struggling to keep up with intense Canadian demand. Other companies are putting money into cellular agriculture, which produces cultured meat, fish, dairy and other animal products, all grown from animal cells but not involving the raising and slaughtering of a living animal.
With celebrities such as Beyoncé, Oprah and Pink, all singing the praises of reducing or eliminating meat consumption, veganism is undoubtedly having a moment.
There are two distinct threats that could indicate that yes, meat is on the way out. One is that a continuation of present trends against consuming meat will make it socially unacceptable for a large segment of society, as tobacco is today. The other is that a technological revolution will make producers of live cattle, pigs and chickens as irrelevant as Kodak became when the once-dominant camera and film manufacturer failed to embrace the digital revolution.
Meat – or at least meat as we have known it – may be cooked.
Total meat consumption in Canada
kg per capita (eviscerated and carcass weight)
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGRICULTURE AND AGRI-FOOD CANADA (INCLUDES CHICKEN, BEEF, PORK, FISH, FOWL, TURKEY, LAMB AND MUTTON)
If large-scale, commercial raising of animals for food is on the way out, that will be a very good thing for our climate and for our environment more generally. Livestock’s Long Shadow, a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, found that livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector – all the cars, trucks, planes and ships put together – and second only to the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity.
Modern meat production typically involves growing grains or soybeans – crops that we could eat directly – and feeding them to animals. The animals then need to burn much of this food energy simply in order to live and keep their bodies warm. The proportion of the nutritional value of the crops that we get back from eating the animals, or their eggs and milk, varies with the food and the species of animal. For beef, it is less than one-10th, but even for the more efficient food converters, such as laying hens and dairy cows, it is no more than one-third.
Loss of the energy from plant food is the most basic reason why meat creates more emissions per unit of food energy than plant-based foods, but the methane produced by cattle and sheep is another significant factor. Methane is a greenhouse gas that, tonne for tonne, warms the planet about 30 times as much as carbon dioxide. Ruminant animals produce it as part of their digestive process. Moreover, the idea that grass-fed beef is more sustainable than beef from animals fattened in a feedlot is a myth – in fact, as far as climate change is concerned, grass-fed beef is the worst meat you can eat. That’s because cattle fed on a rich diet of grains and soybeans put on weight faster than cattle fed on grass, and so do less digesting per kilogram of meat produced.
Global emissions by livestock species
In megatonnes of C02 equivalent
Other poultrySmall ruminantsBuffaloChickensPigsCattle825967667908195,02482
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FAO,GLOBAL LIVESTOCK ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT MODEL
Some people believe that eating locally produced food is the best way to make their diet sustainable. If they are eating meat, it isn’t. One study found that the average American would do more for the planet by going vegetarian just one day a week than they would by eating an entirely local diet.
Another study compared the climate impacts of what we drive with those of what we eat. It found that by switching from a standard North American car, such as a Toyota Camry, to a fuel efficient hybrid, such as a Toyota Prius, the average American driver would save about one ton of carbon emissions a year. But anyone changing from the average American diet to a vegan diet would, over a year, save about 1.5 tons of carbon equivalent. Moreover, that change needs no new technology and, in contrast to buying a new car, installing solar panels, or building wind farms, it has no upfront costs. On the contrary, plant foods such as dried beans and lentils are, per unit of protein, cheaper than meat. It is something we could all do, now.
If, however, we maintain our current levels of meat consumption while people in newly prosperous countries in Asia continue to narrow the gap between their lower levels of meat consumption and ours, we can abandon all hope of meeting the climate goals set at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. Changing Climate, Changing Diets, a report from the highly respected London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs summarized the situation this way: “Even with best efforts to reduce the emissions footprint of livestock production, the sector will consume a growing share of the remaining carbon budget. This will make it extremely difficult to realize the goal of limiting the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
That goal, remember, was considered necessary to implement what every major country, including the United States, pledged to do at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro: to stabilize greenhouse gases at a level low enough to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Some scientists, as well as the leaders of low-lying Pacific island nations, argued at the Paris conference that a temperature rise of 2 C was already too high. The conference resolved to seek to limit temperature rises to as close as possible to 1.5 C. There is general agreement that a rise exceeding 2 C could lead to feedback loops such as the release of additional large quantities of methane from the thawing Siberian permafrost. That will cause still more warming and release yet more methane. Global warming will then be beyond human control and unpredictably dangerous to the future of humanity and the other beings with whom we share this planet.
Climate change is the greatest environmental harm for which meat consumption must bear a significant share of responsibility, but there are many others. The concentrated manure of tens of thousands of intensively farmed animals pollutes rivers. People living near factory farms suffer from odours and flies. Crops fed to cattle compete for water with crops eaten directly by humans, and the need for water for cattle, for drinking, cleaning and other uses, has led to the severe depletion of underground aquifers that took millennia to accumulate.
The eminent Canadian scientist Vaclav Smil has written that for everyone in the world to eat as much meat as people in the affluent world now eat would require 67 per cent more agricultural land than the world possesses. It is difficult to justify a wasteful diet that demands so much agricultural land and water that it necessarily denies the majority of the world’s population the opportunity to eat a diet that is anywhere close to what we are eating.
When I became a vegetarian in 1970, I was a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Oxford, with a particular interest in ethics. But I had never thought that, by eating meat, I might be complicit in a moral atrocity on a gigantic scale. Today, such ignorance may seem culpable, but it was shared by almost everyone. The term animal rights did not exist, and very few would have known what vegan meant. There were so few ethical vegetarians that I had never met one until that fateful day when I chanced to have lunch with a Canadian graduate student in philosophy, Richard Keshen. As we entered Balliol College dining hall, Richard asked the person presenting the food if the sauce on the spaghetti had meat in it. When told that it did, he took a salad plate. I took the spaghetti, and later asked Richard why he was avoiding meat. He answered that he didn’t think we ought to be treating animals in the way that the animal whose flesh I was now eating had been treated.
That simple response, along with some things Richard told me about the development of intensive animal raising, or factory farming, led me to consider, for the first time, the moral status that we should accord to animals, and whether the various uses we make of them, including raising them for food, are defensible. I decided that I ought to stop eating meat, at least from animals raised in the usual commercial systems, and before long, I became a vegetarian.
In Animal Liberation, published five years later, I set out the basis for this decision. The boundary of ethical concern, I argued, ought not to determined by the boundary of our species, any more than it ought to be determined by the boundary of our race or sex. There are, of course, differences between humans and members of other species, especially in the capacity of normal humans beyond infancy to reason and to use a complex language. But a being does not have to be capable of reasoning to be able to suffer, as anyone who has spent time with an infant knows. There is good evidence that cows, pigs, chickens and fish are all capable of suffering, and so, most probably, are some invertebrates, such as the octopus.
Factory farming inflicts severe suffering on a staggering number of animals. The United States alone produces more than nine billion factory-farmed animals each year. Professor John Webster, formerly head of the school of veterinary science at the University of Bristol and a towering figure in animal-welfare science, has described the industrial raising of chickens as “the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animal.”
There are many grounds for this dire judgment. To anyone entering a chicken shed, the overcrowding is obvious, as is the polluted air, which contains enough ammonia from the accumulated bird droppings to sting the eyes and burn the throat. Only a more expert eye would know, however, that these birds have been bred to grow so fast that their immature legs cannot support their grotesquely large bodies, with the result that, Mr. Webster says, a third of them show signs of arthritis-like pain for the final weeks of their lives. They cannot sit down on the litter that covers the floor, however, because it contains so much ammonia that it burns their thighs. Some birds suffer the still-worse fate of having their legs collapse under them. Then, unable to move to water, they slowly die from thirst. (The birds are not worth enough to justify the extra cost of hiring sufficient staff to pay attention to individual birds.)
I could describe equally bad conditions for other industrially raised animals, but you can find plenty of videos on the websites of animal-advocacy organizations. It is no wonder, then, that one powerful motive for going vegan is the desire to cease supporting the factory farming of animals. One could decide instead to be an “ethical omnivore,” eating animal products only when one has adequate assurance that they were raised under conditions that gave them good lives. There are also fish: They, if not raised in confined aquaculture tanks or nets, lead natural lives until they are caught. Horrible as their deaths usually are, that might be a lesser evil than a lifetime of miserable confinement. But many of those who become aware of our ruthless exploitation of animals find it simpler and better to make a clean break with all animal exploitation.
It is a sad but true commentary on human nature that if the vegan movement were driven solely by ethical considerations, it would not be as large as it is today. When Bill Clinton appeared on television in 2010, looking trimmer and fitter than he had for years, and attributed the change to going vegan, people paid attention. Beyoncé recently invited her 112 million Instagram followers to join her in going vegan for 44 days as she prepared for the Coachella festival. Oprah Winfrey isn’t vegan, but has pledged to observe Meatless Mondays and urges her tens of millions of followers to do the same. In the sports world, too, proof of veganism’s health effects are rampant: Novak Djokovic, winner of this year’s men’s Wimbledon championship, is vegan, except for some occasional fish. Venus Williams went vegan after she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and Serena joined her in sisterly support and has since become passionate about vegan eating. English footballer Jermain Defoe says his vegan diet has helped him keep his career going at 35, when most other footballers have retired.
When movie stars, actors and pop singers talk about how great they feel on a vegan diet, and vegan athletes win tennis championships, boxing titles and long-distance races, many more people are motivated to cut out animal products.
Once people appreciate that they don’t need to eat animal products, and that they feel better without them, they will be more receptive to the ethical arguments against eating meat. Scientists told some subjects that they were about to be given a consumer test that required them to eat beef, while other students were told that the test required them to eat an apple. Both before and after they were given this information, all the subjects were asked to rate the mental capacities of cows. Those who had been told that they would be eating beef rated the mental capacities of the cows lower after they received this information than they had rated them before receiving it. Subjects who were told they were about to eat an apple did not change their rating of the mental capacities of cows. In other words, it’s easier to see cows for the sensitive beings they are when you are not about to eat one of them. And the same goes, I expect, for seeing the strength of an ethical argument against eating cows.
So will meat go the way of tobacco? If you associate a vegan diet with activism for animals or for the environment, you may think that drawing an analogy between meat and tobacco is a stretch. After all, the campaign against smoking was based on the truth that smoking sharply increases the risk of dying from lung cancer or other smoking-related diseases. Although the consumption of processed meat and red meat is associated with higher levels of colorectal cancer, this does not apply to all forms of meat, and the health risk appears to be lower than it is with smoking. If, however, people find that they feel good on a vegan diet, the ethical arguments will be more widely accepted, and it could become unacceptable, at least in some circumstances, to eat animals.
In 2015, Charles Krauthammer, the conservative Washington Post columnist who died earlier this year, asked, in one of his columns, what present practice, universally engaged in and accepted by people of great intelligence and moral sensitivity, will be seen by future generations as abominable, in the way that we now see slavery as abominable? Mr. Krauthammer’s answer was: our treatment of animals. “I’m convinced,” he wrote, “that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale – for the eating.”
Perhaps it won’t take three generations for people to see the industrial raising of animals as an abomination. That day may be closer than we think.
By Ucilia WangA new lawsuit in Germany could provide lessons for cutting emissions from agriculture, which has largely escaped air quality regulations or climate lawsuits in the United States despite its large greenhouse gas footprint.
Environmental Action Germany, an advocacy group that filed the lawsuit last month, is taking on the German government for failing to lower the amount of nitrates seeping into the surface and groundwater, mostly from large-scale farming operations.
While the lawsuit aims to force the government to tighten its nitrate regulations, it comes with a larger goal to limit factory farming, said Remo Klinger, an attorney at Geulen & Klinger, which is representing Environmental Action Germany in the case. This would in turn combat climate change because those large agricultural operations emit large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
“A reduction in animals is one of the main elements of reducing nitrates,” said Klinger, who noted that farmers, as in the U.S., wield tremendous political influence in Germany. “The high number of animals is linked to climate change because of their methane emissions.”
Nitrate pollution has a direct link to methane emissions. High nitrate levels in ground and surface water typically comes from excessive use of fertilizers and poor management of animal manure, especially at giant, industrialized farms that raise hundreds or thousands of animals in a confined space and require giant holding ponds to store the manure.
Dairy and cattle farms in particular are a rich source of methane. Animals burp methane while digesting food, and their manure also releases methane as it decomposes. Methane excels at trapping heat and accelerates global warming more quickly than carbon dioxide. In the U.S., raising livestock is the largest source of methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Worldwide, agriculture is estimated to produce 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
Environmental Action Germany wants to tackle the problem by forcing the government to lower nitrate levels by placing a lower cap on the amount of manure that each farm can accommodate per hectare of land each year, Klinger said. Shrinking these farms would lower their methane emissions.
Germany’s level of nitrate pollution is the second highest in the European Union, trailing only Malta. A government study in 2016 showed that 28 percent of the nitrate monitoring stations showed nitrate levels in groundwater exceeding the EU limit of 50 milligrams per liter.
The European Commission sued Germany in 2016 over the high nitrate levels and won a ruling from the European Court of Justice in June. Germany, which amended its nitrate regulations in 2017, said its new rules now help it comply with the EU limit. But critics, such as Environmental Action Germany, said loopholes in the new regulations make them ineffective.
The U.S. is also lax when it comes to minimizing the environmental impacts of industrial farms, said Jonathan Lovvorn, chief counsel of the Humane Society of the United States and a lecturer at Harvard Law School. Only farms that reach a certain size are subject to the federal Clean Water Act, and they mostly escape oversight under the Clean Air Act.
A few recent victories include a $473.5 million judgment against a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods last week. The company lost a federal nuisance lawsuit in which the neighbors of its three giant hog farms in North Carolina said they couldn’t stand the stench and flies from open pits of animal waste or the rumbling of company trucks that pick up hogs for slaughter in the middle of the night.
Few suits have attempted to challenge these farms’ methane emissions and climate impacts.
“Agricultural emissions are completely unaddressed by federal statutes,” Lovvorn said. “It’s a ticking time bomb for the animal agricultural industry. Sooner or later they will be called into reckoning for the fact that they put a substantial amount of emissions into the atmosphere.”
Lovvorn says the ongoing lawsuits filed by cities in the U.S. against fossil fuel companies could also offer lessons for battling large agriculture companies’ climate footprint.
“My suspicion is people are watching the cities’ climate cases in the energy sector closely and likely thinking about to what extent any favorable rulings could provide a footing to do something about agricultural climate emissions,” he said.
As is the case in Germany, the agriculture industry holds a lot of political clout, making it difficult to pass regulations to change farming practices. That influence stems from an idealized view of farmers as wholesome, self-reliant owners of small plots, even though family-owned farms are disappearing and giving way to industrialized farms, Lovvorn said.
California, the largest dairy-producing state in the country, was the first state to create programs to cut methane emissions from farms, part of its larger effort to address climate change. Last year, New York announced a methane reduction plan that require state agencies to evaluate and develop programs to cut methane in agriculture.
California’s program provides money to buy digesters that convert methane into biogas. It also supports a smaller program that finances better manure management practices at industrial farms, from changing how manure is collected and processed to taking animals out of confinement and letting them roam in a pasture.
These two programs are voluntary because the state won’t start regulating methane emissions from dairy and other livestock farms until 2024. The state aims to reduce methane emissions by 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.
The larger focus on promoting digesters has its critics. Tara Ritter, senior program associate for climate and rural communities at the Institute for Minnesota-based Agricultural Trade and Policy, said the effort would still allow factory farms to operate and doesn’t adequately address the water and air quality problems that come from raising so many animals in a confined space.
“California is trying to be a leader on climate change, yet it just slaps a lot of digesters on farms,” Ritter said.
Animal rights vegan activist and parent, JoAnn Farb, has written a
article, including her own experience relating to why some ethical vegans
not comfortable with their ethics in the company of people who are not or
not yet vegan. Why, she asks, do “some vegans join the oppressive class and
throw vegan *activists* under the bus”? Should we make a point of “not
values,” or is this more about social anxiety than a gesture of civility?
*JoAnn Farb is a former microbiologist, national speaker, and publisher of
*FEAST Lawrence Newsletter. She uses big picture holistic thinking to
*social justice with environmental sustainability and health. She is
*her third book, “GLUTEN – The Science that Explains the REAL Reason Paleo
*Popular.” She and her husband live in Kansas and have two grown life-long
This is a statement that I have heard a few times recently.
As veganism has become more popular, it has triggered pushback. When I began
doing vegan activism in the 1990s, vegans weren’t seen as a threat to animal
agriculture or to people’s coveted family or religious traditions. Grocery
stores, hospitals, and local TV news welcomed me and repeatedly provided
for me to criticize animal exploitation while encouraging people to give
veganism a try. Some were inspired or motivated to change as a result of
Those who didn’t “get” my message or disagreed, ignored me and moved on.
vegans were so rare, this message was a curiosity not a threat.
But now, almost everyone in America knows there are millions of vegans.
is a viable lifestyle AND growing in popularity! Vegans are setting athletic
records, running successful companies, and birthing and raising healthy
families. This changes everything. Conscious of it or not, those who are
vegan live with the continuous discomfort that they are participating in
*unnecessary* violence against other beings. Unlike the 1990s, now simply
“I am vegan” reminds non-vegans that they are not living consistent with
their own values – in fact a widely held value. Most of us agree: *It is
*unnecessarily harm animals.* Just BEING vegan around some people feels to
like they are being attacked, because it’s reminding them of this painful
But those who DO embrace veganism struggle with a different discord –
like an outcast from their tribe, family, or social group. Any choice that
us apart from our group can expose us to “change back.” Pressure.
In order to help you understand why saying “*I am not that kind of vegan*”
problematic, I will share with you what happened to me as a child.
I grew up next door to the best grade school in one of the top rated school
districts in the entire country. Most all of us who went to that school had
parents who grew up poor during the depression. The combination of
higher education along with an expanding job market is what allowed my
and other parents in their neighborhood to do so well economically that they
seem rich when compared to how they grew up.
The children in my neighborhood wore the trendiest clothes and enjoyed the
latest, greatest toys and gadgets provided in mind-numbing abundance at
twice each year. Their pantries were stocked with an array of seductive junk
But that was not how it was at my house.
My parents were frugal, and didn’t even try to keep up with the neighbors.
made fitting in hard for me. But I had an even bigger obstacle socially: I
one of the only two fat kids in my entire grade. Though my parents weren’t
really status conscious, they were fat-phobic and tried hard to make me lose
weight. Sugary treats were kept under lock and key at my house, though I had
access to cheese wheels, meat and eggs. I remember being ecstatic when I
to fry hamburgers in butter on the stove, and make omelets that oozed with
Grade school was hell for me. I was taunted for being fat and for not
fashionably. “Highwaters!” my classmates shrieked as they pointed at my
too-short jeans before running away. Everyone knew I was part of a small
of outcasts. We were the “untouchables” of our grade. Included with me was
other heavy girl, a thin shy girl with terrible acne, a white-haired, poorly
coordinated boy, and a scary boy who hit and never followed directions. Just
above us in the hierarchy were a handful of students who although not as
shunned were still avoided. The hierarchy was made visible and reinforced
through the act of picking teammates or partners for activities.
You might think those lower down in this hierarchy, experiencing this
would be the first to challenge it or at least not do the very same thing to
others. But in fact the opposite happened. The more oppressed one of us
the more intensely we distanced ourselves from anyone with low status. We
more oppression if associated with any of the other victims.
My observations are consistent with what’s been documented in other cases of
oppressed groups. Time and again, those concerned with their own inclusion
contribute to the victimization of others – be it the class system of India,
oppressed US minorities trying to better their own lot (and being called
“uppity” by others likewise oppressed), or some women struggling for
male dominated arenas.
One common way this pressure can be managed is to distance ourselves from
the dominant group find *most* problematic. Supporting the oppressor’s
– even just in a tiny way, can ease some of the pressure by aligning us, at
least in part, with those who hold the power. In other words, some vegans
the oppressive class and throw vegan *activists* under the bus, to help
themselves from the “change back” pressure of the dominant paradigm.
This is what is happening when you hear someone say, “I’m not THAT kind of
vegan.” Though this may make it easier for the person expressing this
to comfortably mingle with and feel more accepted by those who are still
enabling the oppression, it works against our cause. We NEED people willing
speak out about injustice. When vegans say to others, “I am not THAT kind of
vegan,” it is a clear expression of judgment against people speaking out. It
isolates activists. It makes other vegans contemplating speaking up feel
into silence. It supports and empowers the oppressive mindset. If *our*
that is, those choosing to abstain from intentional violence against other
beings – think we are wrong for daring to raise awareness of violence
animals, that plays right into and reinforces the oppressive paradigm. It
provides additional justification for non-vegans to disregard veganism
Can you think of a single example of progress made on any social justice
that was NOT the result of someone trying to push their values? That is why
continue to speak out and raise awareness however I can.
I will not apologize for speaking up when I see injustice, and the more
who join me in this, the better I believe our world will be.