Sunday, July 12, 2009

Domestic Animals vs Vegetarian Agriculture


Here's my take on raising animals. Pardon the esoteric tone but I know of no better way to explain it.

Mankind long ago came to an agreement with the deva or group soul of certain animal species. Let's take chickens as an example. In the wild, what is presently our domestic chicken is apparently a native of the jungles of SE Asia. It is not a common bird in the wild, and is like all animals in the wild subject to predation, drought, disease, and variations in its food supply.

So humanity makes a "deal" with the chicken deva. In exchange for some part of the population of chickens providing us with eggs, meat, feathers etc, we will provide you with shelter and protection from predators, as well as provide a secure supply of good food and clean water. In addition we will apply our intelligence toward the breeding of even better and healthier chickens that are adapted to diverse environments. We will protect you and help your kind spread across the face of the earth.

This is an agreement of mutual respect and mutual benefit to both species, and until quite recently it worked well. Chickens were nurtured by people and spread from a tiny corner of SE Asia to the whole world. The chickens fed the people, the people fed, protected, and multiplied the chickens. (multiplied isn't the word I want, but you know what I mean).

This same scenario applies to all "domestic" animals from dogs to bees to horses: Humans feed, protect, and multiply the allied animal species in exchange for the benefits the animals provide. I fail to see how the animal species loses from this arrangement. There are still wild chickens, horses, bees, dogs, and cattle. The lives of these wild members of the species are different, but are they better? The species mentioned would certainly not be as numerous without their alliance with mankind; is the continuation, spread, improvement and increase of the species not a prime directive of all living things?

What I am suggesting above is that in its pure form, humanity's relationship with domestic animals, just as with domestic plants, is symbiotic, not exploitative. The fact that certain human-appearing entities violated this agreement, e.g. factory chicken production, "puppy mills", cattle feedlots, trucking beehives around the country as pollinators for rent, does not invalidate the soundness of the original agreement.

Sadly, just as has happened with many other greed-based actions in modern society, the exploitative model has become accepted as the norm, when what it truly is is an ethical aberration and moral cesspool.

What would be the consequences of following the advice of strict vegetarians, vegans, and eliminating all forms of so-called exploitation of animals? The horse clan provides us with an example.

Up until the 1900s, the horse was the main motive power for all of mankind. Horses carried us on their backs, pulled our carts, plowed our fields, even turned our machinery. For the most part, humans cared very well for their horse allies; we needed them. We also bred them for strength, for running ability, for stamina, and we nurtured them and spread them around the world.

In the early 1900s horses began to be displaced by combustion engines. When people bought a car, they got rid of the riding and carriage horses. When farmers bought a tractor, they got rid of the plow horses. A sad note is that during the 1930s in the USA, the tractor manufacturers, in order to sell their machines to as many farmers as possible, offered a trade-in value on a new tractor to any farmer who turned in their farm workhorses. The farmer got a new tractor, and the horses were shipped off to the slaughterhouse; they were worth nothing to the tractor dealers, who were just offering the trade-in as a gimmick to sell tractors.

The loss of millions of these animals, each the result of hundreds or thousands of years of care, breeding, and nurturing, the loss of this incredible resource, diversity, and gene pool, is shocking. Thousands of years of symbiotic alliance was tossed on the trash heap overnight.

And today, how many horses are there? Is the collective spirit of the horse clan pleased with this? Is it now at peace because very few members of the species are now being "exploited" by humans? I would suggest that the spirit of the horse clan is not particularly pleased by this turn of events.

As long as the agreement, the agreement of mutual benefit, is kept, I fail to see how either species is exploiting the other. If the majority of humanity stopped eating chicken and eggs tomorrow, how many chickens would be left worldwide? How many would be kept as pets? Probably far less than the amount of horses being kept as pets these days. And what about the loss of that worldwide genetic diversity and adaptation to various niches? Throw that on the trash heap so as to avoid further "exploiting" another species?

Again, we can apply the same logic to domestic plants, can we not? Are we not "exploiting" wheat when we plant and grow it for our own benefit, just so we can eat the fertile embryos that are its seeds? Would it not be morally superior to stop this abuse, quit planting and exploiting wheat for its babies, and let things revert to their natural state? Would it not be best of all to never eat another wheat baby?

I submit that the problem lies with those who have violated the original partnership, those who have introduced factory farming of animals and now genetic modification and extreme hybridization of plants, all in the name of greed. Previous to this time, when mankind selected plants or animals to multiply, the selection was based on criteria that benefited both species. Factory farming of animals does not benefit the animals in any way, nor does extreme hybridization or genetic modification of plants benefit the plants. THAT is exploitation. The original agreement is a partnership.

Another point: The argument is often made that much of the cropland, in the US at least, is devoted to growing grain to feed to animals, and that if this practice were stopped there would be plenty of grain to feed all of the hungry people of the world. Putting aside the questions of whether we want to feed all of the hungry people of the world so they can have another population explosion and whether or not it's possible for humans to live on grain and vegetables alone, there is one very valid point: Why are we devoting such a large percentage of cropland to growing food for animals?

Much of this could be eliminated by ending the feeding of grain to cattle, the extremity of which is the feedlot where eighteen month old steers and heifers are fattened for a few months before slaughter. Complicated subject, but in essence cattle are not meant to be nor well adapted to being grain eaters. It is unhealthy for them and their meat and milk becomes unhealthy for those consuming it as the fatty acid profile is altered (see CLA). What has happened since WWII is that some people figured out that they could cheaply buy yearlings from the ranchers who raised them on grass, then feed them cheap grain in a confined situation for a few months, thereby greatly increasing the weight of the cattle and making a quick buck. Again, greed, and again, violating the agreement.

Going back a hundred and fifty years, even in prosperous agricultural communities, little grain was raised to feed domestic animals. Chickens ranged free eating bugs and worms and plants; hogs ranged free in the woods and towns, digging up and finding the majority of their own food. In the Foxfire books someone writes about how hogs were raised in the old days in Appalachia. The piglets were free-range from the time they left their mothers. Household food scraps would of course be given to them, but they learned to forage in the woods as spring led into summer. When early fall came, the acorns and other nuts dropped from the trees and the pigs grew fat gorging on them. In late fall the hogs were rounded up from the forest and the outskirts of the village. Selected ones were butchered and made into ham, bacon, sausage. Their hides were taken and tanned; the scraps and bones were food for the dogs, with the bones eventually providing Calcium and Phosphate to enrich garden soil. The best of the breed were kept, fed and sheltered over the winter, in order to start the cycle again next spring. Pigs ranged free, as did chickens and other domestic fowl. Not only did they provide much of their own food, but their meat and eggs were healthier.

The strongest argument for raising domestic animals as food, however, is that very little of the Earth's surface is suitable for the growing of crops. Only flatland with a slope of less than 2% is really suitable if one is to avoid serious erosion, and in addition not that much land, even if it is flat, is of sufficient fertility to make the growing of crops worthwhile, nor is the soil deep enough, nor is the rainfall sufficient, nor is it likely to be free enough of rocks to even contemplate cultivation. What it is suitable for is for grazing and foraging. Take a look at the various peoples of the world who have lived healthy and abundant lives for millenia as herdsmen on land that is completely unsuitable for row crops or cultivation at all. Their animals are healthy and content, and grazing, well managed, only increases the fertility of the land.

Interested in real sustainable agriculture? read Chapter 1 of The Ideal Soil

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

At first, I thought your reasoning was all clucked up.......sorry, couldn't resist.

Take it a step further, or back a step and look at what has happened with humans--in general--

We used to be in much better shape because we worked the fields, hunted, hauled, split logs--we worked--we depended on the seasons and our bodies retained the good nutrients of what was in season because we didn't have raw sugar, bleached flour, flouridated/chlorinated water, chemtrails, herbicides, pesticides
etc. We eat junk and we show the results of profit over all. It appears to be time for a culling of sorts--when the oil runs out, where are the horses for transportation, and plowing of the fields, where are the non-GMO seeds--
It took more of us to produce what sustained us--then industrialization, then technology---even less doing anything but shuffling papers--add to that, more government, and keeping less and less of what you did earn and more in the form of taxes--
Now, we sit in chairs and eat the slop that comes off the grocery store shelves--our offspring are soft, fat and lazy--we are making ourselves extinct--guess what goes around......
Glad to see you back in action...
Great lettuce crop, beets, garlic this year here!!!!!!! Tomatoes will be canned like crazy as well. Even got some taters in--heading over to the amish produce lady tom'w to get more for canning--Mrs. Jj is a whirlwind in the kitchen these days with the stove cranking out many quarts of jam as well--

Best to you

Your friend,
Jj

m_astera said...

Hey Jj-

Good to hear your garden is going well. Got any brix numbers you want to brag about?

All those things you listed, the labor saving devices, machinery, technology, convenience foods-- all of them put together don't add up to the damage done by passive entertainment, in my humble opinion.

And don't forget you promised to eat a tomato for me....

nina said...

I read this where it originally appeared and love reading it again today. Words of agreement and praise fail me just now, there are so many externals going on here begging my attention. But reading this and seeing how you read what others say to you, I see you are a true mystic acting as if you were just a regular guy so we'd talk to you instead of revere you.

chickory said...

i followed you here from ninas excellent blog. as a chicken wrangler myself i cannot agree more with what you have written here.

when i am behind a big tractor trailer of chickens i consider that, if given the chance to live well and free range and be cared for, each one will have distinct personalities, just as my flock of peggy, easter, wren vera and edith have. what a sociable inquisitive creature - a valuable team member in the garden, a delightful guest at the porch gathering and a bringer of daily protein.

im on my first food garden. i am amazed at how much food i have received from the good earth. in her infinite wisdom, she has blessed and encouraged me though many mistakes were made.

m_astera said...

Hi Chickory-

Chickens should have the right to their 'chicken-ness', as all animals should have the right to live their expression.

It's perhaps worth pointing out that the same industrialized conformity has been programmed into modern humanity, turning them from humans into consuming units. The fact that in doing so they have lost touch with their souls is why things like animal factories are not viewed with the horror they deserve.

Glad to hear about your abundant garden adventure. Mother Nature is so good to us when we love and honor her.

Michael

m_astera said...

nina, I thought of you when I worte this piece, wondering what your reaction would be as a vegetarian. I'm glad you were not offended.

As to being a mystic, I plead guilty as charged, but is it OK to just be a 'regular' mystic and we'll save the revere stuff for paul?

Love you lots

Michael

nina said...

A regular mystic. Heh. Okay. I'm not a reverer anyway, but if I was to do a painting of you, I'd put in all sorts of auras and planets.

I was on the water yesterday looking at the surrounding peaks horribly fire-scarred because ... you know why. Where there should have been grazers, there were burnt limbs.

nina said...

It was a 360 degree visual panorama of the destruction of the pact.

m_astera said...

A friend did a crayon or colored pencil drawing of me once titled Michael at the Controls of His Starship. It shows me from the back, long robe and ponytail (that was then :-). The viewscreen is full of stars and planets. A fun drawing. I still have it around somewhere.

I've seen a lot of damage from overgrazing on pastures, but when the right amount animals are rotated through and the pastures have a chance to rest between grazings the symbiosis works fine. I read a while back that milk leaking from lactating cows while they are grazing is a powerful growth and health stimulant for pastures as well.

The hooves of grazing animals break up crusts on the soil, shove seeds in deep and stimulate sprouting, do some aeration and mixing of soils too. The full ecology requires dung beetles to ball up the manure and roll it into the tunnels and burrows they have dug; this gets the manure down at the plant roots, instead of lying on top smothering things.

In the Serengeti the dung beetles make all of the manure from a herd of wildebeest disappear within a day. There is some ongoing work with dung beetles in the USA, good advanced work, but it hasn't hit mainstream.

I'd think that herds of woods buffalo roaming through the forests around where you live might work. Would require stout fencing around gardens. And orchards.

Keeva said...

Well, I'm a vegetarian (ovo-lacto -- not a vegan), but I can agree with you. In fact, I often tell my friends and family that, although I personally choose not to eat meat, I'm not against eating meat so much as I am against factory farming.

Factory farming is unnatural. But where most carnivores these days (present company excepted, of course) make their mistake is that they tend to think of the issue in terms of animal rights. Yes, the way the animal is treated is cruel, unnecessary, unnatural, etc. But even if you don't care at all about an animal's rights -- you should care about the quality of the food that you put into your body. Factory farming (whether livestock or crops) leads to food contaminated with dangerous chemicals and food with less nutrients. We actually need to eat more vegetables today than our grandparents did because the vegetables have less vitamins and minerals than the ones eaten by our grandparents. So, we get inferior and contaminated products at a higher cost and we must consume more of them to boot.

I can't for the life of me understand why even the meat lovers out there aren't railing against Factory farming.

Although I'd like to convert everyone to vegetarians, lol, I would be more than willing to compromise with returning to the system of people providing food, shelter, medical care and a relatively normal existence in exchange for "harvesting" the animals later. But, it needs to be as humane a slaughter as possible -- no kosher methods, please.

Reader said...

In essence, all of us are just recycled sunlight. Since all living things have to eat other living things, we all owe a great debt. Growing food sustainably and humanely, or searching for and purchasing such food, goes a good long way toward making that debt even.

Anonymous said...

Our animals in the factory farms are not only miserable because they have to live eating the same nasty goo and unknown feed full of strange things that will make them sick but they are deprived of the sun which plays a major role in their health! Yes we are children of the sun! All sentient beings on this planet earth must have the sun in order to be healthy. However, our choice to be removed from nature has led us to a very dangerous territory where many are now sick including and especially our animals getting stressed out which we agree to eat with all their stresses. Also since they miss all the vital nutrients necessary for their survival, we simply mirror them. Today, we are facing a nutrient depleted society facing many dis-eases that no matter how much medications we may pump through our systems, we only do a little to address the depth of our problems.

moof

m_astera said...

Hi moof-

Your point is very well put. Would we want to live in an enclosed shed, having no choice but the goo we were fed, never seeing the sun? This is not good. Those who would treat other living beings that way are not good.

When a farmer stops treating his animals as fellow living beings, and begins treating them solely as a source of money.....no. That farmer should no longer be trusted.

Your point about us all being children of the sun is very well stated. Give us sun.

Anonymous said...

In the Western World, the Sun is taken out of our daily life equation and yet all of our mammals vital functions like plants depend on it. Say a person is "coop-ed" up like the chickens without any sunlight for the day, as we have seen with the factory raised chickens, the level of stress is very high making the person very depressed and / or aggressive. Are we surprised of why there are so much prescription for depression today? What about the level of cancer? Didn't the sun help any beings synthesize their Vitamins D3 necessary for the reading or our daily genetic codes? So when any animals and plants are deprived of the sun, many vital bodily functions slowly break down.

So if our society lacks the sun why is it not addressed but to that we already know the answer. Money has replaced what is vital to our survival. This is another tax form that we have to pay in order to order to live in fancy lifestyle. So "They" took the sun away during our waking time by making people work and not stay out for a few hours daily! In the final equation, we are losing because we did not balance our nutrients with time and our lifestyles. Money is simply the differential that tends to grow exponentially in lieu of what matters in life. Well...

moof

Anonymous said...

Excellent essay! Two points: 1) Hitler was a vegan, apparently envisioning a world in which people and animals did not interact. Perhaps he thought we learned too much from them. 2)People don't eat grass, but much of the temperate climes are covered with it. Eating the animals that eat the grass and employing them wisely to manage weeds and thicken grass stands is a practical part of earth care and probably necessary to feed existing human population levels. No need for fuel. We can cut grass for hay with a good scythe. (scytheconnection.com)

m_astera said...

"Hitler was a vegan, apparently envisioning a world in which people and animals did not interact. Perhaps he thought we learned too much from them."

Good one. LOL!

Note to Keeva-

Sorry I didn't see your comment earlier. Blogger is a bit inefficient at passing them on sometimes. Your points are very well taken. I would have no problem being a lacto-ovo vegetarian. The vegan stuff makes people crazy though, in many ways from fixation on cleansing themselves to judgment of others to vitamin B12 deficiency which destroys the nerves and really makes them crazy. Could be what happened to Hitler.

I've known a lot of vegans and have yet to meet one that was truly healthy in mind or body, not long term anyway.

Keeva wrote:

"We actually need to eat more vegetables today than our grandparents did because the vegetables have less vitamins and minerals than the ones eaten by our grandparents."

Please see my website www.soilminerals.com for some important answers to the dilemma of nutrient depleted food.

Dogpatch said...

Hello! Raising animals on grass is a wonderful, complex, difficult task. People who devote to raising grassfed animals give themselves different names...one is grazier, another is grass farmer, and another is solar farmer. Not cattleman or shepherd usually not rancher. Basic animal husbandry skills are of course necessary, but you have never lived until you have learned how to herd microbes and grass plants!

m_astera said...

I'm reading a fascinating book, Weeds, Guardians of the Soil by Joseph A. Cocannouer. I've seen references to it for years, but just found out it's available free online at http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library.

Chapter 8 is Weeds and Pasture Improvement. He is saying that grass has a very hard time colonizing bare soil, and that the best way to restore a worn out and barren pasture is to plant deep-rooted annual weeds like pigweed and ragweed. They will send roots down to the subsoil, bringing up nutrients and water, and as they die their roots "fiberize" the soil and provide channels for grass roots to go deep. The grass will come in and take over from the weeds as the soil becomes conditioned to their liking.

jeremy said...

I am a vegan, and admit it has taken many years looking for a proper combination of foods and supplements to achieve sustainability, but I continue to abstain from eating animals because of one main principle: If one has an alternative to violence, or a path of lesser violence, it should be exercised. Your arguments are justified in historical terms, but are we to continue this violence when technology renders it unnecessary? Are we to go into space with this practice?
Hindus don't eat meat, and you can't throw a stick in India without hitting a cow. They don't need any deals with meateaters to survive. Try talking a wild horse into coming home with you to plow the field. Good luck.
The economies of self interest do not override the law against unwarranted infliction of harm.
I suggest you reconsider some of your premises, especially vis a vis human destiny and its relationship with violence. We have the technological means to be more.

ps Hitler ate meat on occasion. Pythagoras, Da Vinci and Plato are truer examples of vegetarians.

m_astera said...

Hello Jeremy-

What it seems you don't get is that the human/animal partnership is a symbiosis, or is supposed to be and has been through much of history.

As noted in the essay, animals are subject to predation. Lions eat gazelles. Mostly the lions eat the internal organs of their prey, leaving the rest for jackals, hyenas,vultures, and on down the food chain to flies and maggots. The bones and blood return to the earth, giving back the minerals to the soil they came from.

Would you change this? Would you eliminate all predators, so that herbivorous animals would never again suffer violence?

You have never lived on a farm or raised animals. If you had perhaps been around a flock of chickens on a traditional farm, you would know that they need plenty of care, starting with food, water, and shelter. Humans provide that, along with protection. In exchange, the chickens provide eggs, meat, feathers, manure, and bones for fertilizer.

Where is the violence in this? When a chicken is killed to provide meat, it is not terrorized. It is quickly and calmly captured and its head is chopped off. Too violent for you? Compare it to what the chicken experiences when being hunted and killed by a fox, or a weasel. Did you know that a weasel that manages to get into a henhouse will kill every single chicken, lick up a little blood, and then leave?

I think you have a problem with the way nature works.

Also as pointed out above, how many chickens, pigs, cattle, sheep, or goats would be left on the planet if all possible agricultural land were converted to growing plants to feed vegans? Very few. And what would be used to fertilize these plants if animal manure were not available because there were no domestic animals?

The Hindus of India are not vegans, for the most part. The cattle are not merely ornamental; they provide milk, and manure to fertilize fields and plaster houses. They provide labor to pull the plows and to gather the hay with which they are fed. When they die they are utilized fully, horns, hair, hide, bones, and flesh.

There are NO vegan animals. If you had ever been in a hayfield or pasture, you would be aware of the huge amount of insects grazing animals eat. Is that violence?

And why is it OK to raise carrots? How many living things die when the field is tilled? Do plants have less rights to live and reproduce than animals do?

Finally, there is no evidence in the history of the world of a healthy and reproducing population of vegan humans. Ever. Weston A Price traveled the world in the 1920s and 1930s searching for just such a population and found none. The historical records show none.

I have known a lot of vegans over the years, and I know what happens to their bodies after a time, sometimes as long as 25 or 30 years, but the wasting occurs inevitably. Strong intelligent children with the ability to reproduce cannot be raised on a vegan diet, nor were you or you wouldn't have enough intelligence to write your comment, or likely have lived long enough to do so.

What would you do with those northern peoples whose diet is almost exclusively carnivorous, some Siberians and the Inuit for instance? Their bodies have evolved to live on a carnivorous diet. Would you suggest moving them all to warmer climates and forcing them to become vegans? Or perhaps outlawing the killing of animals and eating of flesh, while supplying them with vegetables exported from warmer climes?

I could go on much longer with the arguments against veganism and exclusively vegetarian agriculture, but I suspect your veganism is faith-based and not amenable to reason. You are also behaving as a tyrant by presuming to dictate your beliefs and morality on those who think differently than you do.

If you care to reply to this, make sure that your facts are solid and referenced. I will not bother to reply to cut and paste or unproven assertions taken from vegan websites.

I am not telling you how to live your life. Don't presume to tell me or others how to live ours.

Michael

Anonymous said...

The old, tiring omnivor vs. vegetarian feud has reared its ugly head. The ad-hominum attack by "anonymous" linking Hitler with Veganism was not very well thought out.

A person could use the same tactic and say that Stalin ate meat. None of this is relevant.

Jeremy was correct in saying that Hitler consumed meat sometimes...sausage and wurst were his favorites.

If we can keep from being scolds, we can all learn something here. I'm a vegetarian and find this blog to be useful and I think it has much merit. But when things get radical and preachy, I don't want to stick around.

JJ

Gregory F. Fegel said...

Your theory that various species of animals 'agree' to serve as edible livestock for humans is comparable to the primitive hunter's theory that prey species 'offer' themselves to the hunter. It's just a rationalizaion that allows the hunters or the livestock keepers to feel good about what they are doing.

The same rationalization is used by slave owners -- "I keep these people as slaves for their own good. I house them, feed them, and protect them. Their slavery benefits them as much as it does me." This exploitative, predatory attitude is known as 'paternalism'.

Many self-righteous meat eaters argue that vegetarians killing plants for food is no different than meat-eaters killing animals for food. But most meat eaters would refuse to eat human meat -- which proves that the meat eaters actually do have scruples about which species they will eat.

Ethical vegetarians refuse to eat meat because they do not want to harm higher life forms unnecessarily. This is the vegetarian credo in a nutshell: since eating meat is not needed to sustain human health, why do it?

m_astera said...

Gregory, do you live in a mechanical universe, one without a Creator, one without spirit and soul?

If you do, then the following won't make any sense to you.

As a matter of fact, animals do offer themselves to the hunter, if the hunter has pure intent. And domesticated livestock do agree to the contract; a good animal husbandman loves and cares for his animals very well, they have a good life and even return the affection.

As is the case with most all of those who presume to preach about vegetarian moral superiority, I can only assume that you have never been a hunter or raised livestock.

Those who raise livestock conscientiously know that it is a symbiotic relationship. A good farmer spends his days caring for his charges, be they animals or plants. The farmer benefits and so do the animals and plants.

Your moral arguments are specious, unless you propose that all humans move to a tropical or subtropical climate, reduce the population of presently domesticated animals by say 95% and the human population as well.

I would suggest that you try your argument with the Inuit people or the native peoples of Siberia, Australia, southern Africa and America, all of whom live in climates where vegetarianism is impossible.

I would also suggest that you eliminate everything from your life that is not necessary for human survival, because if it's not necessary for survival, why do it?

Michael A

Jeremy Lynesw said...

What's right or wrong depends on the circumstances. If you have to kill to survive then that act of violence is acceptable. (limited to the degree necessary) If you have alternatives but do not exercise them for selfish reasons, you violate any so called contract with the world. We are not animals, we have options they do not and cannot therefore justify our behavior by conparison to theirs. Of course, that includes the option to feign obtuse arguments for the sake of a good steak.
PS Recent info covered in the NY Times reveals Hitler was actually quite a meat eater...so stated the cook at the Waldorf in Berlin that prepared his meals.

Gregory F. Fegel said...

m_astera said...
"As a matter of fact, animals do offer themselves to the hunter, if the hunter has pure intent."

Ergo, the rape victim wants to be raped, and the child wants to be molested by the pedophile. There is no innocence, and never any victim, because all victims want to be victimized.

batcave911 said...

i have a deal for you.
you and your children come live with me.
i will provide for you and keep you safe.
i will force 1 or 2 to be raped to pro-create the species
while i harvest the rest for food.

sounds mutually beneficial to me ?

batcave911 said...

One-third of the planet's arable land is occupied by livestock feed
U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists
The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population.
U.S. agriculture accounts for 87 percent of all the fresh water consumed each year. Livestock directly use only 1.3 percent of that water. But when the water required for forage and grain production is included, livestock's water usage rises dramatically. Every kilogram of beef produced takes 100,000 liters of water. Some 900 liters of water go into producing a kilogram of wheat. Potatoes are even less "thirsty," at 500 liters per kilogram.
About 90 percent of U.S. cropland is losing soil -- to wind and water erosion -- at 13 times above the sustainable rate. Soil loss is most severe in some of the richest farming areas; Iowa loses topsoil at 30 times the rate of soil formation. Iowa has lost one-half its topsoil in only 150 years of farming -- soil that took thousands of years to form.

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/1997/08/us-could-feed-800-million-people-grain-livestock-eat

m_astera said...

batcave911-

You are making a lot of unwarranted assumptions here. Grazing animals should not be fed grain; it is very unhealthy for them and makes for unhealthy meat. Another point is that a very large percentage of corn (maize) being grown in the US today is being turned into alcohol for vehicle fuel.

"In the monthly WASDE report released on November 8, the USDA's World Agricultural Outlook Board estimated that 4.648 billion bushels of corn were used to produce ethanol and co-products during the 2012-13 marketing year."
http://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2013/11/corn-used-ethanol-production.html

How many people could be fed with 4.682 billion bushels (260 billion pounds) of corn? But this is supposedly green renewable agriculture. Worth noting as well that 100% of the corn grown for alcohol is GMO and sprayed with herbicides. Would you eat that?

Let's say we did use that to feed people. There is no demand for more corn for human food in the US, so where where would it go? It would have to be exported to poor countries, which destroys their native small farm agriculture base, as the small farmers cannot compete with cheap subsidized imports. It also causes a population boom, all of whom are dependent on this cheap subsidized grain, so in twenty years the population doubles and still can't feed itself, leading to another round of mass starvation. How about we leave other countries alone and let them work out their own problems? Maybe give them some help in better farming practices and stop there?

This is all poor quality food. The New Agriculture is about growing the highest quality nutrient dense food via soil mineralization and mineral balancing. If Ideal Soil practices are followed, two or more times as many nutrients can be grown on the same acreage. If we eliminated grain for animal feed and ethanol, probably only half of the current acreage would need to be farmed at all and there would be no need for more farmland.

Finally: Grazing animals can be fed from pastures that are not suitable for plowing and planting, or they can graze fallow fields that are planted to cover crops in a rotation. There is no need to feed ruminants grain.

Michael Astera
http://soilminerals.com

Kris Johnson said...

You make many good points, Michael. I would also point out that animals raised and finished on properly managed pasture are very beneficial for the environment – think of the wonderful prairie soils that developed with millions of bison roaming them. Only recently have environmentalists and ranchers begun to understand how proper management leads to healthier soils rather than degraded soils from over grazing or raising corn and soy conventionally. “Cows Save The Planet” http://www.chelseagreen.com/cows-save-the-planet does a wonderful job of explaining all this. The challenge is convincing farmers that there is a better way to be productive.

m_astera said...

Good points, Kris. I agree completely. When I was growing up in South Dakota if there were sixty acres of pasture, the cattle were turned loose on the whole area. The result was the pasture being high graded by the cattle and grazed all over constantly. It never had a chance to recover and generally went downhill year after year. From what I saw on my last visit to SD in 2015, nothing has changed there; rotational grazing has not caught on. Maybe it's just too much effort.

Michael Astera
http://soilminerals.com

Cairncrest Farm said...

batcave911

You should read my brother's movie review - http://cairncrestfarm.com/movie-review-cowspiracy/. Claiming that all the rain that falls on an acre of ground is "used" by a steer grazing said acre is patently absurd, but that is how the authors of your "facts" arrive at their crazy-high numbers of gallons/lb of meat.

DG Green said...

Worth noting as well that 100% of the corn grown for alcohol is GMO and sprayed with herbicides. Would you eat that?

Unless you are eating organic or non-GMO certified food, you are eating that since +90% of corn grown for industrial food aka supermarket food is GMO corn.

m_astera said...

D G Green:

"Unless you are eating organic or non-GMO certified food, you are eating that since +90% of corn grown for industrial food aka supermarket food is GMO corn."

Agreed, at least as far as foods made with corn meal and corn flour go, though I have read that there are few if any GMO white corn varieties. Also, I don't know how extensively the new GMO sweet corn is planted.

Even if it is organic and supposedly non-GMO, I recall an interview with an organic inspector in Acres USA around a dozen years ago where he claimed that most of the organic corn was already contaminated by wind pollination with GMO way back then. I just stay away from corn as much as possible.

Could there be a greater sin than to knowingly and deliberately contaminate and poison the staff of life of the Americas? Those promoting this are very sick and evil entities, and I cut no slack whatsoever for the farmers willingly growing it in willful ignorance.

Michael Astera
http://soilminerals.com