Thursday, February 07, 2013

Vegetarians Hate Animals

"The ethics of eating red meat have been grilled recently by critics who question its consequences for environmental health and animal welfare. But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do...Agriculture to produce wheat, rice and pulses requires clear-felling native vegetation...Grazing occurs on primarily native ecosystems. These have and maintain far higher levels of native biodiversity than croplands...Anyone who has sat on a ploughing tractor knows the predatory birds that follow you all day are not there because they have nothing better to do. Ploughing and harvesting kill small mammals, snakes, lizards and other animals in vast numbers. In addition, millions of mice are poisoned in grain storage facilities every year." [Mike Archer, The Conversation]

Nod to Kevin Lewis


Stuart said...

What percentage of farmed animals "graze"? And where does the food for the rest of them come from?

Squarely Rooted said...

This is all well and good, because apparently:

"In Australia 70% of the beef produced for human consumption comes from animals raised on grazing lands with very little or no grain supplements. At any time, only 2% of Australia’s national herd of cattle are eating grains in feed lots; the other 98% are raised on and feeding on grass. Two-thirds of cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture."

Yet here in the US:

"Today, the vast majority of cattle spend anywhere from 60-120 days in feedlots being fattened with grain before being slaughtered. Unless the consumer deliberately chooses grass-finished or "free-range" meat, the beef bought at the grocery store will be of the corn-finished variety."

And maybe even some chocolate?

"Kansas dairy farmer Orville Miller says he's replacing about 5 percent of his cow feed with chocolate. "Cows love chocolate," Miller says. "When I feed the cows they go nosing through their total mixed ration trying to find pieces of chocolate and they'll eat those out first."

Miller also feeds his cows taco shell rejects. Ki Fanning at Great Plains Livestock Consulting in Nebraska says others are substituting cereal, french fries, ice cream sprinkles, marshmallows, cookies and even gummy worms. "Cattle can utilize gummy worms just the same way we can," says Fanning. "They put on a lot of weight with those products because they're high in sugar."

Where does all the cheap starchy sugar come from? Bran Dill works for a company that sells candy "salvage" to farmers and ranchers. He says companies want to get rid of product that has been broken or spoiled in some way. Dill says prices for broken chocolate have more than doubled from $60-$80 a ton to about $200 a ton because of the demand but it's still cheaper than corn, for now.

Other "salvage" food that farmers and ranchers are buying is cereal that's accidentally oversugared, says Ki Fanning.

Some farmers are sticking with more traditional substitutes, like straw that's normally used for animal bedding, distillers' grain and damaged potatoes. Wisconsin dairy agent Nolan Andersen says cows find raw potato rather bland so some farmers add molasses to sweeten it up."

So while Australia (which has 7% of the population of the United States) may be eating meat more friendly to the environment, most American beef is fed using grains and other...stuff. So first we have to incur all the costs of making that stuff, and instead of eating, we feed it to cattle and incur all those extra costs.

TimmyD said...

May God have mercy on the poor soul tasked with taking away my bacon wrapped cheese-burger...

Zachary said...

Munger, I know you enjoy this kind of stuff - but you also know better. It takes more grain to feed the US cow than it does to feed a US person. Eating cows increases the total amount of grain consumed and farmed.

We can talk about what cows SHOULD be eating. But that is a different conversation from what they ARE eating.

From you, posts like this are unbecoming...

Anonymous said...

The Conversation is a really hit and miss affair however rest assured the blurb advises it "curated by professional editors". Lots of lightweight articles by academics not likely to be published elsewhere.

Aussie Anon

Anonymous said...

We have to think of all the cows that never would have been born if not to feed humans. I believe the saying is "better to have lived a short corn-fed life than never to have lived at all".

Stuart said...

Given the title of the post I think Mike is just trolling his vegetarian/vegan readers.

"better to have lived a short corn-fed life than never to have lived at all"

Surely there is life terrible enough that you'll admit this isn't true. Factory farmed animals generally do have *terrible* lives. How on earth can you be confident theirs lives are worth living.

I have seen this argument hashed out before, I hope the clincher isn't that the animals don't actively try to commit suicide. Though it does go nicely with the cute saying.

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