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Environment

Land use | Travel | Survival

 

LAND USE

 

70. Traffic, factory waste, forest clearing, bush-fires and oil spills affect the environment. Now vegans say that milk, of all things, is bad for the environment. They’re kidding!

Milk production is certainly bad for the environment.

Water supply is already reduced by meat-eaters, who use 5000 litres of water a day compared with the 1000-2000 by vegetarians. Around 2700 litres is needed for production of a hamburger compared with 70 for an apple. Milk is no kinder. Your one litre of milk costs 1000 litres of water.

If you’re concerned about the environment, do you consider your taste? Meat and dairy generate as much greenhouse gas as all transport.’ The CSIRO/University of Sydney 2011 report said that animal agriculture ‘is responsible for more that 30 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions’ and that we should move towards a plant-based diet.

We are healthier,land is healthier and water is healthier if we don’t drink milk. ‘It takes a great deal of grain and other foodstuffs cycled through cows to produce a small amount of milk.And not only is milk a waste of energy and water,the production of milk is also a disastrous source of water pollu-tion.A dairy cow produces 55 kilograms of waste daily – equal to that of 24 people,but with no toilets,sewers or treatment plants.’ It just runs downhill into water courses.

Milk production is bad for the environment. No kidding.

 

71. We have to cull to keep the [kangaroo] population down. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough food for sheep and cattle. They’d starve.

Kangaroos prefer different grasses from sheep and cattle, so that limits their competition. Competition is between shooters. As the kangaroo industry grows, so does need for killing.

Major killing areas support only 10 per cent of sheep and cattle. Sydney University of Technology research group founder Dror Ben-Ami says ‘kangaroos rarely compete for food with livestock.’ Australian Museum head, Michael Archer, adds that ‘farmers can get filthy stinking rich killing kangaroos.’ Thus a major motivation is money. Kangaroos are hunted for skins, which become shoes, and for meat.

Joeys depend on their mothers for milk, warmth, protection from predators and emotional support for 14 months. If they escape when their mothers are killed, they usually die in a few days from predators, starvation, hypothermia or accident.

Combined devastation from sport and profit kills millions of young kangaroos annually. For each one entering the meat trade, two die agonizing, slow deaths. Should you not feel that there is significant cruelty,ask to join a kangaroo shoot.If ‘culling’ is ‘humane’, you wouldn’t be denied permission, would you? Yet French Public Television ‘had to put pressure for months to film one night of kangaroo harvesting.’ Presumably the industry chose their best shooter. However, his aim wasn’t always successful. Filming was terminated when the crew was seen ‘filming “dead” kangaroos still kicking.’

Sheep,cattle and kangaroos can share Australia,if allowed.

 

72. Kangaroos degrade and destroy the environment.

Our species is hardly the one to accuse another of degrading and destroying the environment.

Degradation starts with our destructive agricultural practices. Then there’s harm from a kangaroo shooter’s vehicle. Yet the annual quota for killing of kangaroos is in the millions. That’s a lot of four-wheel driving over fragile environment.

The presence of kangaroos can have the reverse effect: their soft feet and long tails help regenerate native grasses.

Kangaroos are killed in the belief that they cause destruction and compete with the pastoral industry.This is disputed by a former Federal Bureau of Animal Health deputy director, who says that ‘every attempt to demonstrate this scientifically has failed.In the “harvesting” large males are favoured for their skins and pet meat ... Four million kangaroos are killed each year of which probably a million or more are breeding females. In this population most have an in-pouch joey.’ These joeys are bashed to death. Hundreds of thousands of older ones escape each year to face a lingering death.

We should be wary when the kangaroo, rather than land mismanagement, is blamed for the state of outback terrain.The kangaroo industry ‘is worth $270 million per year and directly employs 4000 people.’ With all that profit at stake,there is incentive to disregard joeys’ suffering and damage from shooters’ vehicles. Also ignored is the average age of red kangaroos reaching processing plants: only two years instead of the 25 that they could otherwise live.

Rather than kangaroos’ being a problem for us, it’s an introduced species, sheep, in an unsuitable environment that disadvantages the kangaroo. We disadvantage the sheep by breeding them in the wrong climate and by eating them.

 

73. If we don’t kill dingoes or wild cats, they kill native animals and birds.

This is true, but how much human intervention is desirable or counter-productive is a much debated issue. Feral cats, for example, have been killed in expensive removal programs even though the claimed damage from them was unproven.It’s also suggested that when they are removed,they are simply replaced by more of the young, like traffic expanding to fill new road space. Largely ignored are the main offenders in the killing of animals, such as land clearance and sheep and cattle grazing.

In the case of dingoes, though, they are rapidly declining without needing further encouragement from us.A University of New England researcher, Gisela Kaplan, says that those who work with dingoes know this, even if the rest of us don’t. Professor Kaplan also commented that they are frequently blamed for attacks on livestock by domesticated dogs gone feral or hybrids. Dingoes ‘kill to feed, not to play.’

Preventing land devastation and reducing the fertility of animals rather than killing them appear the most promising, and clearly less cruel, solutions. The latter is successful in the United States on free populations of horses, deer and goats and on captive zoo animals.

The question of human intervention in the animal kingdom isn’t easily resolved, but one thing is certain: our activity, either directly through slaughter or indirectly through loss of habitat, is by far the primary cause of animal suffering and death. Our intervention almost always results in animals’ being worse off.

 

74. If we didn’t eat meat there wouldn’t be enough room for all the animals. We are doing them a service.

A glimpse of factory animal production shows that they don’t have much room now. But if we didn’t eat meat,there’d be more room for all the animals and more food for them and us.

Our insatiable meat appetite causes animals to be artificially inseminated and factory-bred. ‘Enough room’ means that pigs spend their lives unable to turn or take more than one step. Picture your dog imprisoned for years like that.

Another problem is that each extra animal needs extra food. If half as much land again is required to produce meat as is needed to produce vegan food, that’s a substantial waste of land. Twice as much would appal. Yet 10 times extra land is required to provide a meat-based diet than to feed one vegan. Bacon requires 10 times as much crop land (in the form of feed grains) as bacon analogue from soy beans.

Grain that could feed humans is fed to animals uneconomically.The grain eaten by United States cattle could feed 800 million people. Regarding that, London’s The Guardian said that ‘it now seems plain that [veganism] is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue.’ Environmentalist David Suzuki says we’d make a significant contribution to the welfare of our planet if we had one meat-free day each week. How much greater would be our contribution if we had seven meat-free days.

As population continues to rise, abstaining from meat might well be forced on us to avoid global famine.

So supporting meat-eating by claiming that this provides sufficient room for other creatures doesn’t ‘hold water’.Nor does it if we eat fish. They have sufficient spare space left, or would have if we weren’t intensively rearing them as well.

 

75. I know that mass production of meat causes environmental damage. But without it meat would cost much more.

Yes to both. Meat causes more environmental damage than any other food. Without mass production, it would cost more, but that could be avoided by changing to a non-meat diet. Then it wouldn’t cost more; you’d pay less.

A study of 36,000 people showed that omnivores use 810 more litres of water weekly than vegetarians. Another by the United Nations showed that we can do as much to prevent global-warming through a plant-based diet as by not using cars. Cattle-rearing is a ‘major source’ of land and water degradation.Producing a kilogram of beef requires 16,000 litres of water compared with 3000 for rice and 1350 for wheat. The CSIRO says up to 50,000 litres for beef .5

Climate activist Al Gore says that ‘growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis - not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed.’ Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, two Chicago University researchers,compared fossil fuel for food cultivation and processing and factored emissions from cows,sheep and manure treatment. They saw that typical American diets, 28 per cent from animals,‘generate the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories.’

Even if changing to a plant-based diet were to cost us more rather than less financially, it would be a significant saving environmentally.But we save both ways.

Our list of reasons for avoiding meat continues to grow: health, ethics, environment and economy.

 

TRAVEL Back to top

 

76. You’ve got it easy being a vegan here. You wouldn’t be able to follow your peculiar ideas if you travelled or lived overseas.

Some travel, especially in undeveloped countries, can be inconvenient for us as vegans. We miss meals occasionally or have fewer choices. That’s unlikely to do us much harm. We gain deeper understanding of the hunger felt daily by millions, and whose hunger is for life, not just the few weeks of a holiday. As well as not doing us harm, it probably does some good. Vegans, like most others, can eat too much, too often and too luxuriously.

In the Sahara or above the Arctic Circle, thanks to modern transport, vegan food is found. Even Eskimos have no excuse.

Vegans can travel through and live in the poorest countries Ethiopia, Mozambique, Senegal, The Gambia without a problem. There’s no shortage of desert, but you can find ample fruit, bread and tinned vegetables in desert settlements.

Some travel guides list vegetarian outlets where such exist; these are usually capable of providing vegan meals. Vegan phrases and questions in virtually any language are available.

The larger the airline, the greater the chance for meal requests to be honoured. United Airlines, for example, serves 200,000 vegan meals annually. But if we can’t cope with missing an occasional meal on smaller airlines, we may not be suited to travelling anyway.

Surprisingly, vegans often find an advantage when travelling, especially in parts of Asia and Africa. Some meat-eaters opt for vegan food as they consider it minimises the risk of travel illness. It’s then the non-vegans who are ‘disadvantaged’.

 

77. Eskimos have to eat meat. If they didn’t catch seals or polar bears they’d have nothing to eat because where they live you can’t grow anything. Since it’s impossible for them, it shows that vegetarian beliefs are wrong because they only work for some places and some people.

Greenland’s Cape Den, a typical Eskimo village, is one of the most isolated settlements on earth. There’s no road access. Access is by water when icebergs permit, otherwise by small plane. Yes, they catch seals and polar bears who have become stranded on ice that’s broken away and, unfortunately for the polar bears, drifted into range of the Cape Den Eskimos.

Seals and polar bears are far from ‘nothing [else] to eat’, even in tiny Cape Den. Fortunately it has a general store that sells limited fresh fruit and vegetables but a large range of packaged and tinned food. Supplies are flown or shipped in.

By contrast, residents of Matmata, in the Tunisian Sahara, live underground. It’s so hot and barren that little grows.If they didn’t eat their goats and camels (they do), would they have nothing to eat? No. Their range is almost as good as in cities – bread, fruit, vegetables and packaged and tinned food.

Not much is grown in Antarctica, but people there eat food that arrived in Antarctica the same way that they did, and they don’t have to limit themselves to eating seals or penguins.

Even if those in Greenland, Tunisia and Antarctica had to eat meat, that would still not excuse our adding to animal suffering when we have no such need.

We are nearer the mark if we alter your wording to ‘vegetarian beliefs ... work for all places and all people.’

 

SURVIVAL Back to top

 

78. Zoos save animals from extinction.

The existence of zoos, with their close confinement of animals who are accustomed to roaming over large territories, is claimed to be necessary to preserve particular species until their numbers are increased for return to their natural habitat. There are some problems with this argument.

  • The number of animals required to maintain a viable gene pool is high; if it’s too small, inbreeding can result in susceptibility to disease, birth defects and mutations so that it wouldn’t be viable to return them to the wild.
  • Some species (for example, pandas, marine mammals and birds) are extremely difficult to breed in captivity, resulting in a net drain in wild populations.
  • In most cases, loss of natural habitat, chemical contamination and poaching are the causes of the threatened extinction. Returning the zoo animals to the wild becomes less of a possibility as controlling these threats continues to fail rather than succeed.
  • The longer animals are contained in zoos, the less competent they will be for seeking food and water, building dens, etc., and thus the less able to fend for themselves when released.
  • Most zoo species aren’t endangered anyway.Large wildlife reserves, such as those in Africa,are infinitely more successful with saving animals, providing they can control poaching.Most opt for minimal human interference.some development is essential for tourism, as it provides not only the money for operating reserves, but also for the African countries’ improving economies. The more tourists who are attracted by the wildlife reserves, the more determined the countries are to ensure preservation of their wildlife in natural surroundings.

 

79. Animals live longer in zoos.

Some do, some don’t. Some live for considerably longer than they might have survived in the wild; others have their lives significantly shortened by a zoo’s artificial, cramped surround-ings and boredom as compared with their natural habitat.

A 2008 study of more than 4500 elephants showed that those in zoos have only a third to a half of the median life expectancy of elephants who are free.

For those who live longer, we must question whether the important factor for them is quantity or quality. For the veal calf or battery hen, the answer is clear: their short life spent entirely in hell would readily be exchanged for an even shorter life in farmyard bliss.

At least zoo animals can expect to have more room than the unfortunate veal calves and battery hens. Yet even if they had extra years in captivity compared with fewer years roaming the plains, as you claim, would they be better off? Would we prefer a life of 60 years in a foreign prison to one of 30 years of freedom?

 

80. What if you were marooned on a desert island with nothing to eat but a sheep? I’ll bet you’d kill and eat it.

What if both of us were marooned on that desert island and there were no sheep? Would you kill and eat me?

It would be more sensible for one of us to survive than neither, but how would we decide? Would we play rock, scissors, paper? Should the decision be made on the basis of age, fitness or intelligence? If we couldn’t agree, would it be on strength?

If you win by whatever method, or if I volunteer to be killed by you, are you confident that you could eat my flesh? Once dead, I’d have no problem if you did; it would be no use to me any longer. Indeed, it would be pleasing if my flesh kept you alive until rescued.

If you don’t think you could kill and eat me, perhaps you can understand why I’m confident that I would choose not to kill or eat another living creature, and that therefore you’d lose the bet. Although I understand that we can’t be sure what we’d do in extreme circumstances, I don’t believe that I could kill the sheep. Even if I could bring myself to do that, I have grave doubts that I could stomach sheep’s flesh after so many years without meat.

Stomachs aside, if the sheep were killed in a fall from a cliff on the island, I’d have no ethical objection to eating the body, and if I died of starvation before you in my example, you would, I assume, have no ethical objection to eating mine.

A case similar to this occurred in Argentina’s Andes Mountains following a plane crash. Surviving rugby players ate the bodies of their less fortunate team members. How often does this happen? What are my chances of being marooned on a desert island? One in billions? Is it really worth spending time debating ‘what ifs’ as unlikely as this?

 

81. If we didn’t eat meat these animals wouldn’t exist. We are giving them the greatest thing we can give anyone – life.

If we were to give factory-produced animals (photos 1,2) the greatest thing we can, it would be to leave them ‘non-existing’. It would mean a lot less suffering for them and no loss of pleasure.

But we have a philosophical absurdity, as the most prominent philosopher in this area explains. ‘On whom do we confer the favour of existence? ... There are no such entities as nonexistent beings, waiting around in limbo for someone to bring them into existence ... If to bring a being into existence is to benefit it, then presumably to decide not to bring a being into existence is to harm it. But there is no ‘it’ to be harmed by the decision ... If it were good to bring beings into existence then, other things being equal, we ought to bring as many humans into existence too, and if to this we add the view that human lives are more important than the lives of animals – a view the flesh-eater seems sure to accept – then, ... since more humans may be fed if we do not feed our grain to livestock, the upshot of the argument is, after all, that we ought to become vegetarians!’*