Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Vegan Myth Busting

Progressive Bloggers has had an open thread this weekend on the Seal Hunt debate. One of the contributors Mark Francis has been defending veganism, the dietary ideology behind many of the hunt opponents.

As I remarked in my previous post meat eating, hunting and fishing, and later animal husbandry were essential for human evolution. However Mark in a post asserts that Vegans produce less greenhouse gases in their consupmtion of fruit and vegitables;

Of course, there's problems with animal husbandry: vegan diets are much better for the earth: 'Vegans produce 1.5 tons less greenhouse gas emissions per year'

The study failed to consider the high cost and petrochemical basis of fertilizers, soil destruction, labour intensive farming for vegitables and fruits, DDT and pesticide/herbicide use, gas comsuption by combines and other farm equipement and their emissions, etc. And they failed to consider the large scale use of water, irrigation in California for instance, and the electricity and energy associated with it.

When we do green assessments of production, all input variables have to be taken into consideration which was not done in this case.

They compared apples and oranges, pardon the pun. In criticizing the waste from massive single animal factory farms, such as the massive swine farms, they failed to compare it with the average single crop vegitable or fruit farm. And they failed to compare it to the large scale vegitable crop production in the US, such as cotton, peanuts, soy, etc. which are subsidized, and are used for oil seed production not food. They also failed to consider the input and output costs of GMO, genetically modified, crops.

True industrial farming of single animal species is problematic, espicially swine. However so is single crop production of seed products for oil or sugar beets , as the deterioration of soil conditions in Southern Alberta show's.

So when folks talk about food production as if one form of industrial production is better than another, they are frankly pissing in the wind. All industrial based farming is energy intensive, and produces waste, whether in secondary and tertiary production and transportation. To look at these costs would be to look at the real green costs of capitalist food production.

The key to the regeneration of farming is green input output organic small scale farming, not the industrial model. Regardless of crops or animals raised. And that farming has to be based on an understanding of the ecology and ecological impacts it has.

Also See:
The Truth About the Farm Crisis

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RP. said...

Huh, I was expecting your usual hate for vegans and vegetarians, but that's a pretty good analysis.

eugene plawiuk said...

Ironically I eat my fresh fruit and veggies and have a well balanced diet, being the omnivore that I am. I just have no time for food faddists and dietary moralists. Thanks for the compliment.

Adam Weissman said...

This analysis is fatally flawed, in that it ignores the double whammy of the impact of feedcrop production coupled with the impact of industrial farming of animals. Considering the inefficiency of animals as grain converters, vastly more inputs are going into raising animals than raising plants for food.

It is VERY true, though that many vegans have blinders about the destructive impacts of industrial plant agriculture.

What we need is a shift towards learning to engage in foraging the wild plants, coupled with urban greening-- rooftop gardens, etc- with a focus on veganic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegan_organic_gardening) and permaculture agricultural principles.

In the short term, "dumpster diving" or "urban foraging" are ethical responses to the vast waste and resource overconsumption of industrial capitalism. While this is no long-term solution, it has the benefit of freeing people from the pressure to engage in wage slaver in order to eat, makes corporations lose potential profits, and provides a resource that can be used to build gift economies and networks of mutual aid. (Given the ecological impact and unmet need this massive waste represents (approx 50% of food here in in the US), one could also argue that the reformist strategies of legislation and corporate boycotts and pressure campaigns also have a place in offsetting this particular crisis.)