Archive for July, 2010
Open letter to Science for Peace (SfP) …
It was earlier noted on this list that if factory farms account for 18%, then 82% percent of the global GHGs do not come from them. But please take note that livestock / factory farms, at 18%, are in fact the # 1 source of GHGs in the world, out of nine categories of sources! They therefore warrant more attention by climate change activists than has hitherto occurred.
1. Livestock = 18%
2. Industry = 15%
3. Transport = 13.5%
4. Energy = 13%
5. Residential buildings = 10%
6. Deforestation = 10%
7. Commercial buildings = 6%
8. Waste = 4%
9. Other = 4.5%
Source: the “Livestock’s Long Shadow” UN report on global emissions, referred to earlier: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
Moreover, not all GHGs are equal. Most of the methane in the total comes from the first source, and this is many times more potent than CO2 – which is perhaps why livestock ranks first.
So here is my critical question: how can ENGOs (eg. Greenpeace, Sierra Club, WWF, Pembina, etc) focus almost entirely on replacing fossil fuels with renewables when it accounts for just 13% or 4th place on the chart?
Or another way of putting it: how can they pay so little attention to factory farming, the single largest sources of GHGs out of 9 categories? I find this astounding, though not inexplicable, if we look at the hesitance of even many environmentalists to change their diets.
Given that we have a choice in diet, it could be argued that choice can be considered the most important moral choice facing us as a species at this time in history.
Let’s look at the obstacles and solutions to the issue raised by the chart, briefly.
With livestock, the issue is diet preference and the political power of the Big Meat industries; and the solution is a reduction or elimination of animal products from diet and a turn to plant-based diets.
This, I should note, is very similar to the tobacco industry, where human beings have a choice, and Big Tobacco blocked efforts to expose its evils for a long time, then governments stepped in and new policies came into effect.
With industry, the obstacles are (apparently) loss of jobs and the reticence of big industries to change what they’re doing; and the solution is green jobs and mandatory environmental regulations, and in some cases just shutting down the most egregious industries.
With transportation, the obstacle is loss of convenience in driving and flying and the power of auto makers and fossil fuel companies; and the solution is more public transportation, more bicycles, more trains, and longer travel times for all of us.
Or just cutting back on travel, as before the fossil fuel age. With all the communication technology (eg videoconfereincing) we have now, I fail to see why this should be such a problem for people.
Transportation is very similar to diet, I should add, because these are two areas where the role of individual is very important, and less blame can be placed on big corporations.
With energy, the obstacle lies with the hegemony of fossil fuel companies, as well as overuse of cheap energy by consumer and industry; and the solutions are strictly enforced energy conservation measures, and much more renewable energy infrastructure built, to replace fossil fuels and nuclear.
With residential and commercial buildings, the problem is loss of energy from poor design and the resistance of the building industry to change this, and hesitance of building owners to retrofit, due to cost; the solution is green architecture and retrofits and energy conservation, and changing building codes, and government investment and incentives for retrofits.
With deforestation, the obstacles to change include the power and influence of the logging companies, and the high demand for wood and paper products, and solutions include material recycling, mandatory conservation legislation, and more more sustainable replacements for wood and paper.
As with mining, and oil, logging is an extraction industry and legislation needs to be passed to eliminate them.
With waste, there ought to be a tax on producers of materials that become waste products, such as stronger legislation to reduce packaging, as in Europe, and also a scaling back of the consumer culture itself, i.e. less purchasing of unneeded items, and more emphasis on the 3Rs and a sea-change in the way products are produced: more cradle-to-cradle use of items and fewer disposables.
Of course this is all very much simplified. The problems and solutions are infinitely more complex, but my main point is that in all of these cases, a change in attitude and priorities is required, and a willingness of individuals to relinquish their self-interest for the collective good. But as not everyone will do so willingly, legislation is required – which means that civil society groups such as SfP play an important role in lobbying for change – change which one hopes eventually leads to these kinds of laws.
The first step, in my view, is to demand the closure of factory farms, the largest culprit on the chart. And all extraction industries – mining, logging, oil, and gas – as well. Our civilization does not need these things to survive, or even thrive. We can have a healthy, sustainable no-growth economy without them.
In fact, the survival of this civilization depends on doing away with them, once and for all. They cannot be reformed. With diet we have a choice, and with extraction materials, we can recycle the ones we already extracted. Green jobs can be created from the vacuum that these industries leave.
Science for Peace receives no government or corporate funding (that I know of) and is not beholden to any outside interests. Therefore, it is entirely possible for SfP, should its members wish, to loudly call for an end to these vile industries, for the sake of the survival of human civilization and the for the sake of the 80% of species predicted to become extinct by 2100, due to climate change.
No ENGOs that I know of has ever called for an end to factory farms or extraction industries en masse and in toto (though I hope I am mistaken in this). I think it is time civil society organizations, such as SfP, with nothing to lose, start taking a strong stand against these industries.
This may meet with some resistance from the public and pundits, but given what’s at stake – the survival of everyone, now and into the far future – I believe it is a moral imperative of the first magnitude to speak boldly on these matters, and not mince words any further.
Important responses to this article. I have removed names to protect privacy.
Not to claim that livestock aren’t important, but your “critical question: how can ENGOs (eg. Greenpeace, Sierra Club, WWF, Pembina, etc) focus almost entirely on replacing fossil fuels with renewables when it accounts for just 13…% or 4th place on the chart?” has a simple answer:
because most of the emissions in industry, residential buildings, commercial buildings and transportation also come from fossil fuels. So NGOs don’t want to replace only the “energy” sector (which is rather ambiguous as to what it includes, since all the end uses are in other categories) fossil fuels with renewables, they want to replace all fossil fuels.
My response to the 1st response:
That’s a good point. Factory farming is also reliant on fossil fuels too for the grain production and livestock transportation, I believe, so that underscores your point. However, what I have noticed – and part of why I asked that question – is that ENGOs are shy about touching the issue of factory farms. I think because it is a sensitive issue with many of their constituents and they have play politics a bit, to stay funded.
I wrote to 350.org about this recently, for example, and the reply was that diet is an individual choice and that they encouraged community farming. This is a far cry from calling for the end of factory farms, on which they have no policy, I believe.
The same critique can also be made of them visi-a-vis certain types of transportation. I have not noticed a great deal of attention paid by them to the issue of elimination flying for example. Monbiot wrote about flying in Heat, and there are transportation activists around, and the odd policy paper, but no serious campaigns by the major ENGOs on it, as there is around renewables.
The ENGOs seem to be avoiding these two issues that are critical because the public is very attached to the status quo in diet and transportation (meat and SUVs and frequent flying). I would like to see the ENGOs overcome this hesitation and come out openly against factory farms and for veg diets, as the chair of the IPCC has done.
One thing that might be helpful is a more specific accounting of the factory farming industry. What I’m getting at here is that activists opposing a given coal plant can point to it and say — this plant produces XXXXXX tonnes of cO2 equivalent every year. No such numbers exist, to my knowledge, for factory farms.
The largest players should obviously be targeted. Mom and pop operations need to be seen as allies who have been co-opted and systematically disempowered. I think the zealous nature of the AR movement could be an obstacle here. The reality is that most farmers can barely pay their bills and would benefit from a return to a diverse local/community oriented production, instead of monocropping for export. We won’t win if we paint all producers with the same brush. We need to be willing to compromise, collaborate, and get some good research published.
Moreover, the ‘viable alternative’ is unlikely to be widespread vegetarianism on this one. Rather, (a return to) permaculture, major emphasis on rebuilding local economies, urban agriculture etc seem to be the promising solutions. Again, the AR movement may be an obstacle here. See Lierre Kieth’s “The Vegetarian Myth” for a critique of meat-eating’s climate change implications. As a gross oversimplification, grain-feeding is the major problem here, not meat-eating per se. Good reading.
My response to the 2nd response:
Your thoughts on this, while appreciated, are very typically anthropocentric, and lacking a biocentric or compassionate perspective.
If the end goal is only about maintaining the power and privelage of our species over non-human nature and non-human animals, and to seek solutions that still allow for the exploitaiton of living feeling senient beings, this is exactly what ethicist Tom Regan call “environmental fascism.”
That appears to be a problem with many in ENGOs as well: the acculterated prejudice that comes with power, and which is common in our society, but can be shown to be morally wrong.
Since there is no rational justification for this privelage that can stand the test of reason, given the overwhelming evidence of the behavioral scientists that farm animals are intelligent and sentient and have rich emotional lives, speciesism must therefore be considered the moral equivalent of racism.
Conintuing to exploit animals, even at a local level, is a problem for humans too because the psychic numbing that comes from holding ourselves above other animals perpetuates the propensity in humans to murder one another.
That is why the animal rights philosophy – which calls for a more compassionate world – actually represents a viable solution to the climate crisis, if you understand that the climate crisis is caused not by lack of solutions to the problem, but lack of compassion, lack of concern for others. Many in this generation care not for the future generations and are serve themselves first, at the expense of those in the future. Therein lies the probem. The solution is compassion, altruism.
Caring more for our fellow Earthings – getting outside ourselves – will help us overcome the single greatest barrier to progress on climate change: our indfference to the fate of others (developing world, future generations, endangered species). Humans tend to bracket off and exclude other humans and other animals as expendable.
Environmental fascism and climate injustice go together: as long as men kill animals they will kill one another. If we are brutes towards cows, we are more likely to be brutes to each other. Animal cruelty and dehumanization go hand in hand. Kant made this point three centuries ago, and it is still true. See Charles Patterson’s “The Eternal Treblinka” which shows the historical and psychological link between the Holocaust and factory farms.
Environmentalism that accepts the slavery and murder of other sentient beings as permissable lacks compassion. It is morally lacking. We need to enlarge our compassion footprints while at the same time reducing our carbong footprints (behavioral scientist Marc Bekoff).
As for the charge of extremism: is it extremism to say that slavery or murder is morally wrong? Black people were enslaved in the U.S. prior to the civil war. Abolitionists opposed it then. They were called extremists for doing so. Todays abolitionsts, for animals, oppose their slavery on the same moral grounds and they are call extremists.
When Rachel Carson was active, environmentalists were call extremists (and still are by some). This is because “All great movements, it is written, go through three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption.” (Tom Regan)
Animal rights activists feel it is wrong to exploit another sentient feeling being, and cannot understand how someone can say he or she “cares” for the environment but does not care for the sentient beings who are part of it. This seems morally inconsistent, and certainly insensitive and self-serving. Especially when there is a lot of scientific evidence to back up the fact that farm animals are very worth of our consideration:
“They (farm animals) are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help.” (Dr. Jane Goodall)
Any solution to the climate crisis which does not take them into account is as unjust as the solutions proposed by technophiles, which sacrifice local populations and ecosystems – such as biofuels, nuclear energy, geo-engineering, carbon sequestration, and so on.
It would be the moral equivalent of white supremacists taking over the Earth because “to animals all men are Nazis” (Isaac Bashevis Singer). I don’t think a human society that acts in such a depraved manner is that one that I want to be a part of.
I am shocked and dissapointed that some environmentalists think this way, which actually goes against a well-documented historical connection of animal rights and environmentalism.
The perspective which views either humans or non-human mammals and birds (individual whom Regan calls “subjects of a life”) as expendable is wrong.
The world must not only be sustainable, it must also be just. As long as some beings murder other beings it will not be. There is nothing natural about it, for we are not naturally carnivores and our technology is not natural.
We have created a non-natural world, so we should not imagine that raising and killing cows or chickens is somehow part of nature. It is not. We don’t need meat to survive. It is done gratuitously, not of necessity. Indigenous people hunted from necessity, to survive. Today we do not need to hurt other animals to survive.
The grass-fed “happy cow” myth is pure greenwash. Veganism is the most ethically responsible diet under the circumstances.
For those reading this, it turns out that the 1st response – which is from a climate expert – is right, about fossil fuels spread across many sectors in the pie, not just energy. Still, I tink my critique of ENGOs’ neglect of factory farming is valid, as stated above. But it’s important to point out that my initial analysis was mistaken on the issue that fossil fuel apply just to the energy sector of 13%.
More responses and replies to them …
From Shelly Harrison, orginator of Cruelty-free.org
Question: does the “Transport” number include all the transportation of ill-fated animals (to factory farms) and their dead bodies (to grocery stores, restaurants, etc)? If so, that percentage should be ta…ken out of the “Transport” and added to “Livestock” to more accurately reflect the real number.
Even though the death industries already top the charts for environmental pollution, many of the current estimates (the U.N. report is from 2006) of their real impact put the figure much higher than 18%.
For instance, this study from 2009 put the number at an amazing 51%: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294
Paul AndBaby York Ⓥ [this is my Facebook name for those reading this wish to 'friend' me]
Good question Shelley. I am not sure about that exactly. If it does, then as you correctly note – and as World Watch Institute stated – the the number is much higher than 18%.
This figure also includes the methane, which is 20x more potent than CO2. So the real number is somehwere between 18% and 51%. Whatever it is, it is the biggest single wedge on the chart. And yet the ENGOs and our society in general do not address it adequately.
The fact that fossil fuels are part of most of the wedges in the chart does not get ENGOs off the hook in terms of mentioning the factory farm wedge however.
As I explain, they avoid that because the the political status quo in a meat-eating culture; but as Dan Matthews of PETA (who spoke with Greenpeace about it) recently said, that status quo is changing, as more and more folks convert to veganism.
So even if the ENGOs are politically driven, they’ll have to come to terms with factory farms. Big Meat knows this and they are working frantically to cash in on the “happy cow” grass-fed beef idea.
Setting aside the question of the rights of the cow to not be murdered, this is still not even environmentally sounds because the standards are voluntary, as pointed out here:
“… the beef industry was stamping the “grass-fed” label on cattle that had actually been fed grain nearly their entire lives (all cows start off eating grass, but if they’re sent to industrial feedlots, they spend the last few months of their lives being finished on grain). Some producers were even feeding feedlot-confined animals with hay and corn stalks and other agricultural leftovers, then labeling them as “grass-fed.” The new standard is voluntary …”
And anyone who knows about the whole “mandatory not voluntary” argument that applies to open-pit mining knows that voluntary standards will not be enforced, which means that all the “grass-fed beef” you can expect to see in grocery stores in coming years will not only cost more but won’t even be grass-fed, just as the “free-range” eggs currently are not free-range:
“Free-Range and Organic Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Products: Conning Consumers?” http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=96
I should add that if you are reading this and you are a meat-eating environmentalist (something of an oxymoron, but nonetheless), and you are concened about climate change, then you will have to travel to the farm and see for yourself if th.e cows actually are grass-feed.
Keep in mind, of course, that they still produce methane (20x more powerful than CO2 and a major driver of climate change) even though they are less problematic than grain-fed factory farm cows environmentally.
But of course it’s just far easier and far better to make the transition to vegetarianism by buying fake meats (which are often cheaper, healthier, and taste virtually the same, in my experience) or simply getting used to a new range of foods – all of which are healthier for you too (see http://GoVeg.com/).
The final step is veganism, which in my experience and that of many others is not a hard step to take, and is very fulfilling personally. I eat very well, very healthy, feel great, lift weights (can still benchpress 300 lbs), get enough protein everyday, I know I am doing something for Mother Earth. I wish I had done this decades ago!
I also feel a spiritual kinship with the poor innocent beasts I have refrained from eating. I reccommend it everyone, except for actual carnivores such as cats or lions or wolves, who require animal protein to exist. We do not.
We have been given a moral choice in the matter. We have power, because of our technology, and with power comes responsibility. If we do not act responsibily towards our fellow Earthlings, we don’t deserve to have that power.
A few good links. If you have more you’d like to see here, especially on the intersection of environment and animal rights, send them to me at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and I’ll add them.
Global warming and factory farms
UK Guardian: UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet, 2010
Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world
from the worst impacts of climate change, UN report says
BBC: Shun meat, says UN climate chief, 2008
People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global
warming, says the UN’s top climate scientist.
A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking
Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our
Typical objections and responses
Response to issue of milk and children
PETA claims that cow’s milk is not neccesary for kids to be healthy.
Response to sentient plant objection
The main argument is that even if plants are sentient or feel pain (which is not certain), one kills fewer of them through a plant-based diet than a meat-based diet, since animals consume much more of it to feed humans than if humans eat plants directly. Another argument is that the science on this, not being certain, should not be used as an excuse for causing harm to animals, where the science is certain that they do feel pain and are sentient.
Podcast: “Free range [beef] is not the answer
In a nutshell, grass-fed cows still cause environmental damage, but on a smaller scale than factory farm cows. The general sentiment is that if you are going to eat meat, reduce it and purchase this kind, but it is better to cut it out altogether. From an animal rights point of view, there is not such thing as “humane slaughter.”
My own quick response to common objection that we because we are omnivores we ought to eat meat, which I wrote because I could not find an adequate on online: This objection is an example of the “naturalistic fallacy” – the idea that because we evolved in a certain way, we therefore ought to continue it. But the fact that we have a moral choice (since meat is not needed to survive or even be healthy) suggests otherwise, given the overwhelming environmental and ethical arguments against it. We are no longer hunter-gatherers, needing to hunt to survive. We live in an industrial culture. That place new responsibilities on us, to behave in a way that lessens the harm caused by our society to the minimum possible. We do not commit infanticide or cannibalism or rape any longer (at least legally); these archaisms have been dispensed with as unnecesary and barbaric. So too should the consumption of animals for food, since it is not necessary or morally defensible or environmentally sustainable for seven billion people (soon to be 9 billion). Only a vegetarian or vegan diet will be sustainable for that number. There are immense cultural barriers to acheiving this, but as it is necessary and unavoidable, we must still therefore try. As noted in the previous email, there is nobility in trying, regardless of the outcome.
Animal rights books and links
- Marc Bekoff, “The Emotional Lives of Animals
- Jonathan Balcombe, “The Pleasurable Kingdom”
- Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights
- Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
- James Rachels, Created from Animals
Tom Regan, for an animal bill of rights (8 minutes)
Regan is one of the leading ethicists for animal rights.
Oxfore Centre for Animal Ethics
David Szybel, ethiciist
Negotiation is Over
This represents the more militant side of the animal rights, in favour of direct action
Steve Best is a leading proponent of that view
Gary Francione, Abolitionist approach
Francione represents the pacificst non-militant perspective, opposed to direct action
Earthlings, an extremely influential documentary film
This film is credited with convincing thousands of people to “go veg”
Veg food links
Both sites below have a lot of ideas and reciples and resources
Toronto Vegetarian Association: the Veggie Challenge
http://www.goveg.com/vegetarian101.asp<Photo 0><Photo 2>
The environmental case against factory farming is unequivocal and overwhelming. It has been disputed seriously only once that I know of, by a study cited some months ago on this board, which as I pointed out at the time, was financed by the Big Meat industry, to raise objections to the IPCC submitted study (”Livestock’s Long Shadow”), and was therefore highly suspect. It reminded me very much of Exxon Mobil’s financing of climate change denial. The biased comments by the lead scientist for the meat industry financed study further confirmed this point.
But ultimately, industrial agriculture will be not be viable either, due to the increasing price of oil, and the enormous water it consumes. Therefore, as Leslie Jermyn shared in her paper last year, with SfP, local agriculture is necessary to replace industrial agriculture, for humanity to survive. However, I differed with her on the issue of the necessity of animals in local agriculture, for ethical reasons, and belive that human beings are capable of growing enough plant-based protein to satisfy the bodily need for protein. I myself am vegan, as are many people I know, and we do not have ill health effects. In fact, quite the opposite: veganism, if properly done, restores one’s health immensely, while animal products destroy health:
“The major killers of Americans—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—have a dramatically lower incidence among people consuming primarily plant-based diets. Weight problems—a contributor to a host of health
problems—can also be brought under control by following the New Four Food Group recommendations.” – Physicans Committee for Responsible Medicine. http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vsk/food_groups.html
The viability of sufficient protein production from local non-industrial agriculture is an important point to debate, so it is fortunate that there is a group with real experience in local agriculture, which is prepared to debate it. They are the authors of the letter below.
As the letter below also states – in response to the New Scientist article posted earlier in this thread – there are new developments in behavioral science which point to the emotional depth and complexity and intelligence of non-human animals, not previously known or considered by human beings (except anecdotally). I am hoping that as scientists you all will take the work of your fellow scientists seriously enough to set aside whatever personal prejudices you may have about animals, to consider the results and the moral implications arising from them.
The results, as philosophers such as James Rachels and Tom Regan contend, lead us into new ethical territory, as human beings (and the timing, as we face the climate crisis, is strangely appropriate). Where before we had only intuitions regarding the moral wrongness of using animals for food, now there is a great deal of emperical evidence, from the behavioral scientists, to back it up. This is, I would add, akin to the contention by abolitionists in 18th and 19th centuries that black-skinned people are human beings and should be afforded basic rights – which is to say respected and not used instrumentally as slaves. The analogy is an apt one, since human beings are a type of animal, and our notions of our superiority, without any scientific basis to substantiate them, can be seen to arise soley from an unthinking and acculturated prejudice (see James Rachels’ Created from Animals for a good treatement of this issue: http://www.jamesrachels.org/CFA.htm).
Basically, the science is on the side of the animals (see scientific articles by Marc Bekoff and Jonathan Balcombe, for example), but the power is still held by their human captors. The science butresses the already strong moral case for animal rights as morally consistent with human rights, against the arbitrary abuse of power by humans against their fellow Earthlings. A practical result of this is that if we do not require animal products to live healthy and productive lives, then the morally enlightened and socially responsibe thing to do, in that case, is to abstain from them. We lose nothing by doing so, and in fact gain much, in terms of improved health.
I am glad that SfP is discussing the issue because the concept of social justice should include justice for everyone who can feel that an injustice is being done to him or her, regardless of race, gender, class or species. And taking this step is better for humanity as well, for mitigating climate change, for reducing the risk of pandemics (which are borne in factory farms), and for reducing unnecessary water and arable land consumption, as well as the pollution caused by enormous tailing ponds adjacent to factory farms.
And as I argued in a previous post, it will also render us more psychologically predisposed to care for our fellow human beings at a time when the greatest barrier to action on climate change is indifference to the fate of future generations and those in developing nations who are at present more vulnerbale. As Bekoff has stated, we need to “increase our compassion fooprint.” The single easiest thing within our power, at this time, for doing so, is a change in diet.
Letter in response to New Scientest article
Individuals and groups representing vegetarians and vegans up and down the country have been responding to a recent article in New Scientist magazine.
VON (Vegan-Organic Network) welcomes Bob Holmes’ article “Veggieworld: Why Eating Greens Won’t Save The Planet” (issue 2769 14 July 2010) as part of the increasing debate about the future of food but was disappointed by its muddled logic and several omissions.
Holmes gives figures for the greenhouse gas emissions of beef, chicken and pork but omits plant protein from his comparison. He quotes a 21% reduction in land use if the world went vegan, yet later talks about marginal land as if it could not be re-forested, used for energy crops etc. He omits to mention the environmental damage caused by the tanning of leather, avoiding the comparison with a pair of shoes made from a renewable crop such as hemp.
He posits that the wealth=meat scenario will continue, with intensive rearing of animals being the least environmentally damaging solution. However, if the U.S. and Europe were to go vegan, given that the rest of the world frequently follows the West’s lead, particularly in dietary matters, a reversal of the paradigm could happen very easily.
“And that says nothing of animal welfare issues” says Holmes. In our more enlightened times, when evidence of animals’ intelligence and sensitivity is piling up and healthy vegans abound, animal welfare can and should no longer be ignored. Vegans commonly do not suggest that the world should go vegan overnight, but point out that there is a wealth of difference between the careful rearing of one or two “family” animals in a third world country and the cruelty of the industrialised model.
Holmes seems to accept that an increase in meat production would be environmentally disastrous without any mention of the alternative: stockfree organic agriculture, a proven, clean, green, efficient and cruelty-free method of food production.
Manure may be less important to farmers due to the current availability of artificial fertilisers, but Holmes does not look forward to the fast-approaching post-oil era where green manures, mulching, composting and crop rotation will be the norm.
Farmers, growers and gardeners all around the world are turning to stockfree organic methods: food grown for local consumption without animal inputs. The time has come to stop quibbling over which animal foods are least harmful, to accept that eating animals is not sustainable and instead to grow and eat the plants directly ourselves.
For information about stockfree organic farming, see www.stockfreeorganic.net and www.veganorganic.net
Notes to Editor
(1) Founded in 1996, the Vegan-Organic Network is an ambitious charity with an international network of active supporters. It aims to research and promote vegan-organic (stockfree) methods of agriculture and horticulture so that clean, green, cruelty-free, food becomes widely available. It publishes a magazine “Growing Green International” and advice leaflets. There is also a free advice service for members of the public, home growers, smallholders and farmers. The Network organises farm walks, allotment and garden visits and volunteer placements on stockfree holdings.
(2)VON’s stockfree organic standards inspected by the Soil Association are available for farmers and growers who wish to grow produce in the most ethical and environmentally-friendly way. The stockfree organic symbol is the consumer’s guarantee of “organic plus” food.
Additionally, see Livestock’s long shadow – seminal U.N. report http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm
and this short summary of the environmental issues online:
Environmental effects of meat production
According to a 2006 report by the Livestock, Environment And Development Initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern
practices of raising animals for food contributes on a “massive scale” to air and water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. The initiative concluded that “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” In 2006 FAO estimated that meat industry contributes 18% of all emissions of greenhouse gasses. This figure was revised in 2009 by two World Bank scientists and estimated at 51% minimum.
Animals fed on grain need more water than grain crops.. In tracking food animal production from the feed through to the dinner table, the inefficiencies of meat, milk and egg production range from a 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up to 54:1. The result is that producing animal-based food is typically much less efficient than the harvesting of grains, vegetables, legumes, seeds and fruits for direct human consumption.
Relatedly, the production and consumption of meat and other animal products is associated with the clearing of rainforests, resource depletion, air and water pollution, land and economic inefficiency, species extinction, and other environmental harms.
References and rest of this article at:
The professor in reply:
I don’t see any resolution of the timing issue in these excerpts . My concern is not that there is limited time to prevent the collapse of the global ecosytem, but whether there is time for his solution, a vegan world, to work before the ecosystem collapses.
My reply to him re: timing issue
Dear Prof. ________,
You are right to some degree about the “timing” issue, but it is certainly ironic that you mention it, because one of the major arguments for meat-reduction and/or veganism as one of the solutions to the climate crisis is precisely because it is so potentially immediate.
Unlike the years of time and enormous up-front expense of building a new renewable energy infrastructure or renovating buildings en masse or building low-emission trains and expanding public transit to replace cars, a change in one’s diet is immediate and costs nothing and can be done by individuals in their homes. If enough people change, it can have immense results. The trick is persuading them.
My own hopes for this lie in China, working with a group there dedicated to changing attitudes regarding diet and environment. They send me their literature and I share it with people here, to build a bridge between movements. Their efforts are truly noble and they take great risks.
This is particularly important because China is where the biggest chicken factory farms are, and as the per capita wealth grows, meat consumption grows as well. But it is also a society of conformity, and if the general direction is towards compassion and conservation, not overconsumption and growth – as it is now – there is hope. Perhaps the most practical hope is that cheap oil runs out, factory farms will have to cease or downsize operations, and people will have to return to more local food solutions, as Leslie Jermyn’s paper spoke about:
[although as noted in an ealier post I disagree with Jermyn when she says "the future is not vegan", because I question whether she says it descriptively (in which case it is true, probably) or prescriptively, in which case she prescribes wrongly - but that question is worthy of another post]
The real barriers to change are cultural. and in terms of attitude, and that is where your critique is, unfortunately, correct. Cultures and attitutes can change, through education, through the media, through art and religion and science, but it takes time to do this.
Attitudes in America changed as a result of the civil rights movement, but it took many years and great efforts. Attitudes can change on this front as well, but they will take time it seems. The results will be not immediate, but what’s frustrating for someone like me is to see that that they could be immediate, since the only barriers are attitudinal, not structural, and attitudes, unlike power plants or transit systems, _can_ change overnight. But this is not to say they will.
In fact, it seems to me that attitudes won’t change in time to stop much of the destruction caused by climate change. It is well known that we are likely to exceed the so-called “tipping point” of 2 degrees Celsius. We have gone too far to avoid catastrophe, but Danny Harvey once said – and he is correct in this – that although much has been lost, there is also much that can be saved. What can be saved must be saved.
Moreover – and this is important – there is nobility in trying, even though one’s efforts might not bear fruit. This is the non-consequentialst or deontological ethical perspective, which could be compared to the soldier who refuses to shoot another man on the battlefield even though by doing so, he fails to stop the war. His individual action still has merit.
It is the same perspective that convinces a person to live a life dedicated to goodness and justice, whatever the rest of the world may choose to do, because there is virtue and meaning in doing so. I maintain that there is virtue in such a diet change for the reason articulated by Dr. Jane Goodall:
“They (the farm animals) are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our
respect. And our help. Who will plead for them if we are silent?”
Often, one does what is right because it is right, not because it may or may result in some end. If the end is a better world, we can acheive that right now. As Gandhi said: “I would say means are after all everything. As the means, so the end. If we take care of the means we are bound of reach the end sooner or later.”
These are weighty issues. I truly appreciate that you have engaged with them, and with me in conversation about them. Your points are well-taken. Thank you.
The follow is taken from an actual public debate online with a dairy farm worker. I have changed some of the names, to make it clear who is speaking, and also to protect identities, though as it might be clear to some, I am the 2nd animal rights activist in the debate.
Strictly speaking it has little to do with environment issues directly, but I am posting it nonetheless, to showcase the words of Harold Brown whose own personal transformation, is very instructive for how we as a society need to personally transform.
Brown is now a leading voice for farm animals, and provides a good example for other farmers who feel conflicted over the fact that they treat the animals they love as production machines, to satisfy the inhumane demands and standards of industrial farming. Here is his site: http://www.farmkind.org/
Farm worker: The protest against dairy farming is wrong.
Animal rights activist: Dairy cow farming is a murder and unhealthy food for humans.
Farmer: we murder nothing. All our food is healthy.
Farm worer’s friend: That is funny! You know nothing.
1st Animal rights activist: I have complete clarity. You meat eaters are the worst humans in history and your time is up.
2nd Animal rights activist: Dairy farming is murder, no two ways about it (see sites below). And defending it is complicity in murder, either from ignorance of what happens to dairy cows or lack of compassion for them. See http://www.goveg.com/factoryFarming_cows_dairy.asp
Calves are torn away from their mothers and shortly thereafter killed. This causes immense despair and emotional stress for both mother and child. Imagine have your child ripped away from you. Yes, they feel deep emotions – behavioral scientists have confirmed this.
The cows themselves, after a few years of disgusting torture, being hooked up to machines, which give them severe infections (the result: pus and blood in milk), are then killed also. Millions of them every year.
They are sentient, feeling, emotive, highly evolved beings. It is a crime. To them we must seem like Nazis. What they endure is a holocaust that never ends.
That is why those are compassionate and big-hearted enough to care, are offended by those who defend the dairy industry, knowing the great harm it causes – especially when humans don’t even need milk to be healthy (there are many vegan children who are quite healthy without it). See http://veganhealth.org/articles/realveganchildren Also: http://www.milksucks.com/index2.asp
Farmer: Come to my farm and neighbouring farms. No murder, no ignorence, no lack of compassion, no stress, no torture, no infection, no puss or blood, no crime, no holocaust. And we care for your stock better and more than you could ever.
2nd ARA: Do you mean to say that the cows in your care are never sent to a slaughterhouse at the end of their lives? That they are allowed to live out their days in a field, eating grass? And their young are not taken from them and sold and made into veal? If that is so, then I applaud you. But if these things happen, then criticism stands. Please advise.
Farmer: I am sorry you find what I said hard to fully understand. You seem confused as to the concept of farming, food producion and feeding your fellow man. Your questions are always welcomed, to help you understand and learn. What I have just stated rings true. There is no murder, no ignorence, no lack of compassion, no stress, no torture, no infection, no puss or blood, no crime, no holocaust, and we care for our stock better and more than you could ever (none of this is a poke in the chest… only fact).
No where in that statement was there any mention or hinting that my stock do not go forward to be processed at an abattoir. They are allowed to live their days (and nights) out in the field, if they see fit, but they also have 24 hour access to sheds littered with clean straw, as well as a feeder of fresh silage and or hay. You are correct that I currently do not produce any veal on my farm. I thank you for your applause.
3rd ARA: Dairy farming is barbaric. The “products” derived therefrom are extremely bad for human consumption, and those that support the industry and profit from it have no empathy or compassion. They are slave traders. Listen to the language used: “stock.” Sentient being are not “stock.” They have a right to exist in their own right, not to be exploited and profited from. I welcome the day when the ignorant are extinct, which shouldn’t be too long given their vile and dangerous eating habits.
Farm worker’s friend: Shut the [deleted] up. I’m trying to enjoy my burger and milk. Many thanks you [deleted]!
2nd ARA: [to farmer supporter] You are actually giving blood and pus bovine lactation to your family? Why can’t you be civil and have a debate? Consuming cow’s milk is the cause for so many human diseases. It is outrageous that farmers still want to profit from it.
Farm worker: No milk in this area contain any blood or puss. And milk around here defends against diseases … fact.
1st ARA: Wrong wrong and wrong again. I would really like to send you a pdf [on milk contamination] if you are game.
Farm worker: No, I don’t have the time … but promise you that this is fact for the milk from this area [that it is healthy].
1st ARA: See http://www.notmilk.com/ Read “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, if you really value your industry and what it is doing to humanity.
2nd ARA: [to farm worker] You seem like a decent person, so I hope this message finds you well. The words of Harold Brown might help with this dialogue. He was a farmer, like you. He says that in killing the animals he “bro…ke a sacred trust.”
He appears in a great documentary, Peaceable Kingdom, which is what woke me up about the lives of farm animals, a few years ago:
There is a trailer on this site you can open.
Brown now has an educational website: http://www.farmkind.org/AR.htm
A change in diet, for health reasons, caused him to think about the animals themselves, what they wanted. He started seeing things from their point of view, and the compassionate nature he’d always had – he had always loved animals – was awakened him.
Farmers learn to shut down their emotions, when the animals they loved and cared for, go off to slaughter. He had repressed these emotions since childhood.
It seems to me that you have inherited or fallen into a job that has these huge moral implications.
I myself used to work on a pig farm, and back then saw them only as unthinking dumb “animals” – but since then have become aware that all mammals are like us (because we also are mammals) and they somebodies, not somethings. They have the capacity for love. They dream, as we do. They feel pain and fear, especially in the abattoir. They don’t want to die.
Check out this video. In it the cow definitely knows what’s ahead and is trying to avoid it, but he is trapped
The compassionate farmer is someone who is split inside, because he loves the animals, but sends them off to slaughter, to make foods they don’t really need because it is proven beyond a doubt that people can live healthy happy lives as vegans.
And you might treat the animals in your care relatively well, but you should be aware that the abattoirs are often much worse than we imagine: “because each second means money, although it’s law to stun an animal before you start slitting it up, if the stunning gun misses, which it often does, then they start slicing up the live animals. This has been shown again and again.” Source: http://www.democracynow.org/2005/11/24/a_conversation_with_the_chimpanzee_lady
All the best to you. I hope my words here may be of value to you.
Farm worker: Why can none of you or your friends see that yes cows are beings, but an inferior race? Their intelligence is no where near ours and so treatment shouldnt be equal to ours. And with the whole love thing … love means you would die for someone to save them. I’ve never loved an animal and never will. They dont have the understanding of life as we do. All animas have is hunger and fear, not many other emotions. All they want to do is eat and live. They are always afraid they are going to die but never know they are.
1st ARA: The dairy industry creates a product that 75% of the world is allergic to, cause innumerable human diseases, and is quickly using up the earths resources-topsoil, forests, natural gas, petroleum, water.
It is systematic enslavement, torture and murder of cows. They don’t want to be in your farm or your property. How egotistical the human mind is to think that because our frontal lobe is bigger that we are superior! Because we are smarter should make us wake up and evolve already.
We don’t need no stinking cows milk, so we shouldn’t be enslaving them to drink their babies’ milk. No other animal on planet earth drinks another species babies milk. No other adult would drink milk once they aren’t a BABY.
2nd ARA: [to farm worker] Your view of animals is understandable, as that’s what you’ve been told about them, and you are in a situation where those views get reinforced because of the imbalance of power between you and the cows.
But in fact there is a lot of scientific evidence pointing to the rich emotional lives of cows and pigs (see works by scientists Jonathan Balcombe – the book is The Pleasurable Kingdom – and also Marc Bekoff -he wrote several books on this):
They are also far more intelligent that we usually imagine, and this has been proved, but intelligence is not a proper basis for determing the moral worth of a person or an animal. An important moral question that philosophers Peter Singer and Tom Regan ask – and no one has yet been able to refute this effictively btw – is this:
Would be morally okay to kill or confine in a cage a retarded human being whose intelligence was equal to or less than that of a cow or dog or pig? All people (except for Nazis perhaps) would answer that it is not morally okay to do this to a less intelligent human. So can intelligence really be the criteria for judging moral worth?
If intelligence cannot be used to discern superiority or inferirority, then can appearance? Let’s take the colour of skin: black people were regarded as “an inferior race” for a long time because they looked different. So were Jews, because they had their own culture.
We call this racism, and generally consider it morally wrong to discriminate on that basis. Speciesism is morally the same as racism.
If you think it’s wrong to enslave another human because he looks different, then you must logically also be against enslaving another animal (we are animals too) because he or she looks different.
Like us they feel, dream, love, hope, fear … their inner lives are far more rich than we humans often imagine. We see it in some species more than others, but that does not mean it’s not there.
You have power over them, so it’s easy to dismiss them, because their enslavement is tied to your self-interest, but ask yourself if you’d like to be in their situation?
Farm worker: What do they hope for then? And what proof is there they have talen those hopes and made it true?
My view of animals is what I have discovered, what I experience, what I have experienced first hand. All I have ever been told is to take this beast there, treat that one, get that one ready. From working with cattle, I know quite a lot about their phsycology.
2nd ARA: Just as Jews in the death camps hoped for better lives and to be with their loved ones and to not be killed or hurt, so too do cows. The world of both the human and animal prisoner and the attitude of the prison guards is remarkable similar:
The prisoners are reduced to dumb suffering, out of fear, and fall into a routine – so we don’t see them often express a desire for more – their souls are crushed by endless miseries – and prison guards learn psychic numbing, and do not regard them as anything more than mere objects, dumb things to be manipulated, and when they don’t move fast enough, they are yelled at, sometimes beaten for not cooperating enough.
But meanwhile, as the behavioral scientists have proven, they do have rich inner lives. There is prove of their hopes and dreams. Read Balcomb’s and Bekoff’s books if you don’t believe me. These guys have done the research. We have not.
It is convenient to ignore their feelings, to dismiss them – as the Japanese prison guards dismissed their prisoners in Manchuria by calling them “pieces of wood” (we do the same by calling them “animals” in a negative sense – even technically we are animals too – in a neutral sense).
But the truth is that they go through hell when their babies are taken away, and the babies go through hell too, and they don’t want to be hooked up to machines, and they don’t want to have their throats slit – any more than you do.
We can debate it all day. I won’t get into it further. I just hope that you will take the time to watch The Peacable Kingdom, ’cause it features three farmers – like yourself – who had a change of heart. After you see this film, I hope we can resume the conversation. I am interested to see what you think of it. Send me your address, and I’ll send you my copy, express mail.
Another ARA: We should respect animals because they can feel pain and fear, not because there intelligent or pretty
2nd ARA: “Respect” is the right word Cetassez. We really do need to respect everyone, human and non-human. This would greatly improve the world. Human slaves were not given respect. Thankfully that was corrected in the U.S. But animal slaves still exist; I don’t know if humanity will ever be enlightened enough to respect their fellow Earthlings, but I hope so. Thanks for the thought!
Harold Brown: Since my name has been thrown around here I guess I have to put in my two cents.
[to farm worker] I think I’m a bit older than you and have been around the barn a few more times. I spent over half of my life in the cattle business and worked for thr…ee years in the dairy business. What I experienced and learned in that part of my life didn’t lead me to where I am today. Seems odd, huh? Well it took a serious health issue to set me on the path understanding the cause and effect of what I was doing to myself and my heart disease. By the way, I have totally reversed my heart disease while all of my family, save my brother, are dead from it.
The journey I took required two things, emotional courage and moral imagination. The hardest part was the emotional courage. We, as men, are not necessarily taught to be emotionally honest. I remember when I was a kid and I watched the adults castrate calves I was feel squeamish. The day came when I was expected to do the cutting while the men restrained the calves. I cried and said I didn’t want to do it. My uncle said that if I didn’t they would send me up to the house with the women. In short I was shamed into doing it. I was 10 years old. As the years passed I felt less and less squeamish.
You and I were indoctrinated into this story. I assume you live in Canada, I lived in Michigan. But I don’t think the process is much different. My world view of animals was first taught to me by my parents, then my extended family, then my farming community, then my church, then 4-H, then FFA, then a land-grant college (ag school, Michigan State University). But the biggest validator of my story was TV. Every time I turned on the TV and at every commercial break there was at least one commercial pushing animal products. I told myself that I was doing good work and feeding a hungry planet. This played right into my belief that there was a preordained hierarchy, a hierarchy that could not be wrong. I have since learned that this is wrong. Not all the stories we are told are true.
Our differences don’t necessarily entitle us to domination. Through the process of emotional reflection and the courage it required I realized that when it came to bovine there were things I observed but didn’t allow myself to seriously consider. For instance, have you noticed that when cows and calves are out on open pasture (this may not be the case if you run a dairy, free stall?) almost daily the calves are all put together while one or more cows stay with them to baby sit while all the rest of the cows go off to graze? Have you noticed that there is always a patriarch that looks out for the herd? A herd of cattle have a social structure, a community. Ian Duncan from Guelph and Temple Grandin from Colorado have studied and documented herd social structures and communities.
But our interests always trumps the interest of the non-human animal. This is the hierarchy I was talking about. You may think that cows are not as “evolved” as we are but I admire them for the things that they can do better than I. They can hear up to five miles, their sense of smell is many time greater than ours, they have better night vision than us, they are stronger. And they are kinder than humans.
As for cows milk being a food…it is not. Period. The National Dairy Counsel in the US knows it isn’t and I can prove it. I first was woke up to this by the state inspectors that visited the plant I worked at in Michigan. In the US were have what are called food disparagement law, in other words a person cannot say something against a food product, whether it is true or not. With this legal tool the industry has tried to silence people who have exposed the practices of the cattle industry that may be spreading BSE and other TSE’s. But in the case of dairy, the industry knows that if it pushed its hand the resulting discovery process would show that they are selling a product (especially cheese) that causes an immune response in humans, is know by the American Medical Association to be the number one allergen in the US, and is addictive. The addiction is caused by a component of casein know as casomorphine. The dairy industry has known this since the late 1930’s. The dairy industry knows that if they took a disparagement case to Federal Court it would be more devastating than the tobacco lawsuits. Why? Because unlike the tobacco companies, the dairy industry targets children who cannot make an informed decision. Honestly, someday humans are going to have to ween themselves.
Boy, this is getting long winded but I want to share one more thing. The indoctrination and story that you and I have grown up with speaks to a deeper psychology that runs through our culture. We are the product of 10,000 years of herding culture. That is why it is so darn hard to see past it. But we have collectively built a story on this history that says, “Nature is chaos, and our obligation and responsibility as agriculturalists is to bend nature to our will, to bring nature to heel.” I have posed this statement to Ag professors all over North America and they all agree. This is the deep psychology that permeates our culture and society. And it is accelerating with the advent of biotech sciences. There comes a time when we either choose to get honest with ourselves and objectively look at what we are doing in this world…or not. There are consequences either way, some good, some bad. After applying a lot of introspection, critical thinking and objective observation I have some to see that our species can no longer live outside the natural order and survive.
I hope you found some of this useful.
3rd ARA:ⓋBless you Harold ♥
2nd ARA: Harold, yours is an incredible tale. I want to share it with every farmer in North America! Thank you so much for sharing. I am deeply moved by your words.
Note: as of this writing, there was no repsonse by the farm worker or his friend.
This post is a response to an excellent article (given below, and originally posted to the Science for Peace listserve). The author mentions nature but does not mention animals specifically. So I felt it necessary to draft a response, for my own edification – one that mentions animals specifically. It’s worth pointing out that much environmental concern and concern for climate justice for humanity manages somehow to omit concern for farm animals, who are caught inbetween the natural and man-made worlds. This response tries to address that gap.
I appreciated the article a great deal, but as a history lesson it neglects to mention an important point. Along with the creation of private property and agriculture 10,000 years ago also came a double subjugation that both psychologically and historically continues to this day: the relegation of women and animals to the status of property and their objectification by men as mere things, not as feeling subjects.
Subjugation of women and animals a root cause of indifference
This double subjugation is (it could be argued) the root cause of the psychic numbing that renders so many indifferent to the fate of humanity and future generations, in this era of unfolding catastrophic climate change, despite their knowledge of what’s happening. In what follows I am going to address the animal issue. The issue of the subjugation of women and how this relates to the climate crisis is an important one – one which some authors such as Rosemary Radford Reuther shed light one. I will address that another time. What follows below, on animals, is – I feel - a key to understanding the climate crisis.
My argument, in summary, is that if we can learn to care more for non-human animals, whose suffering by the hand of man is very great, from this we can also learn to care for our fellow humans more. Our acculturated tendency to objectify animals predisposes us to be indifferent to human beings in other countries where they are more vulnerable to climate change, and to future generations. The one is tied to the other, and as long as we enslave animals, we will not (as a culture) be predisposed to care very much for the fate of future human beings or those in Bangladesh.
This is because the subjugation of human and non-human animals is related, as Kant and others noted in their own way: Kant said that a man who abused a animal was more likely to abuse a human being. We now have empirical evidence of this: there is a higher incidence of domestic abuse among slaughterhouse employees than among the general populace.
Our thinking, from which that psychic split occurred, has resulted in a great deal of misery over the ages that need not have happened, since humanity had enough food from agriculture to live by, but it was not until industrialization within the last 200 years that it was amplified to a point that endangers all life on Earth, because it is changes the very conditions which make life possible on this planet.
Death-camps and slaughterhouses
The problem can seen in many industrial operations, but I will put my attention here briefly on the Holocaust and on factory farms and slaughterhouses to make my point. The death-camps of WWII in Poland are similar to slaughterhouses for farm animals they warrant examination, to help us understand this current problem.
Both the death camps and factory farming use the same industrial methods – e.g. herding into cattle cars and corralling into death chambers and the use of what are essentially factory workers to do this dirty work – and importantly both require the relegation of sentient beings to the status of objects, to be killed in the manner of a production line. Also similar is that the psychic splitting of racism and speciesim in both occur in the same way in the thinking of the oppressors.
Charles Patterson in “The Eternal Treblinka” make this case thoroughly. The quote “eternal Treblinka” in the title of his book is from the Jewish fiction writer Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story in which the fate of animals under the heel of man is called an “eternal Treblinka” such that to “animals all humans are Nazis.”
Jewish sociologist Zygmut Baumun in “Modernity and the Holocaust” doesn’t go into the issue of animals in the same way, but he does note that the conditions that made the Holocaust possible – namely industrialization – continue into the present time. The Holocaust must not be views as unique in history, he argues, but as the product of conditions that continue to this day. Industrial methods, to repeat, create a kind of thinking whereby whatever is being processed (cars, animals, humans) is relegated to an inferior status as mere things.
In drawing a lesson from the Holocaust, from Singer’s writing and Patterson’s and Bauman’s books, I run the risk of being thought to be irreverent to the victims and survivors. That is not at all my intention, and please forgive me if it seems that way, for my intention is quite the opposite. One could only be offended if one already viewed non-human animals as inferior, but ironically that is precisely the very prejudice I wish to contest by suggesting that we
are all first and foremost fellow Earthlings: not to lower victims of the Holocaust to the level of “animals” (deliberately pejorative innuendo used here), but rather to raise animals to the level of human beings in our estimation, and by doing so recognize the infinite worth of both, on the basis of which basic rights must be afforded to both.
The subjugation and murder of one is as morally offensive as the subjugation and murder of another, in my view. Racism and speciesim issue from the same root, and until we address that root cause of looking at others feeling thinking beings in this way, things like the Holocaust will continue. Indeed, they are continuing, in another form, through climate change: industrialization causes the climate change, which endangers all life on Earth.
And not coincidentally, industrialization subjugates human beings in factories, and as consumers, and it subjugates animals too, by reducing them to things consumed. We are all – human and non-human alike – reduced by industrialization. The value of human life is reduced in the same way that all life is reduced on Earth. To correct this, we cannot selectively lift up one, and continue to the degrade the other. We must all be lifted up together. All life must be considered sacred.
Dismissing the fate of those in developing nations, future generations, and animals
Among the most vulnerable to climate change are those in developing nations, animals, and future generations. There is a tragic tendency to dismiss their fate as not our own, and thus unimportant – just as many (though not all) Germans did in the 1930s and 1940s, which allowed anti-Semetic policies to come into being. The mantra “never again” must be heeded seriously, to honour past victims, just as Elie Weisel has argued when trying to prevent similar tragedies in Rawanda and Bosnia. Today, with climate change, as we are facing the possibility of the murder of billions of people and trillions of animals, I feel that that the lessons of history represent an important part of the answer.
The connection of all this to climate change has to be re-stated emphatically. It is not merely that factory farms create 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (conservative estimate, UN report 2007), and they use up water and arable land unsustainably, but more more importantly that the relegation of nature and animals to the status of objects to be used instrumentally, through the ideology of capitalism, is intimately connected to the propensity of decision-makers to sacrifice a great portion of humanity to oblivion, in the current day and age.
Simply put, if we learn to care for animals and grant them a higher position in our sphere of concern, we will also learn how to care for our fellow human beings – who after, are animals like ourselves. The difference between human and non-human animals, as Darwin and behavioral scientists such as Marc Bekoff have showed, is not one of type but of degree. They are intelligent, but not in the same we are, for example.
And is different intelligence and appearance really the reason to use another sentient being instrumentally? That sort of thinking underlies racism. Racism, it could be argued, is behind a great deal of the indifference to inhabitants of Africa nations or Bangladesh – all of whom are the first major victims of climate change. Essentially, they are all “other” so their fate doesn’t count, is the thinking that underlies so much of Harper and Bush policies. In the same way there is widespread indifference to factory farm animals and wild animals. Racism, it has been argued forcefully by many ethicists (notably Tom Regan) is the moral equivalent of speciesism.
Paradgim shift from assigning instrumental worth to intrinsic worth
To make this shift will require a great turning of the mind and soul – a paradigm shift – which no longer sees animals and nature instrumentally, but rather grants them intrinsic worth. Another way of putting this: cultivating our concern for human rights universally will lead to concern for animal rights and the right of nature (and vice-versa). The author Thomas Berry wrote about this in his books, and it is something of a truism now, but it should be pointed out that even the majority of environmentalists have still not take this fundamental lesson to heart, and many (most) still eat meat and view animals as objects.
Should it be any wonder then that the majority of human look upon their fellow humans in the same way? I am convinced, from my studies on this topic and my own personal transformation as a human being and climate change activist over the last two years, that we cannot hope to address the climate crisis with any hope of success unless we learn to address the spiritual and psychological crisis that has led to the relegation of women, animals and nature to the status of objects to be used.
This historical violence continues today in the failure of world leaders to address climate change. Any solution to the climate crisis which does not take into account human rights and animal rights and the rights of nature will be partial and for that reason ineffective in the long run.
I was writing something on this for Science for Peace (and my own edification) but this article below provided the reason for sharing it today. Thank you for reading this, if you’ve got this far. I welcome any debate or discussion on this, as my thinking on it is still far from complete.
> Science for Peace and the Centre for Global Change Science are bringing
> James Hansen to Toronto to speak on “Climate Reality”, Sept 14th and
> Sept 15th. We will send further details about these public talks.
> Published on Monday, July 19, 2010 by TruthDig.com
> *Calling All Future-Eaters*
> by Chris Hedges
> The human species during its brief time on Earth has exhibited a
> remarkable capacity to kill itself off. The Cro-Magnons dispatched the
> gentler Neanderthals. The conquistadors, with the help of smallpox,
> decimated the native populations in the Americas. Modern industrial
> warfare in the 20th century took at least 100 million lives, most of
> them civilians. And now we sit passive and dumb as corporations and the
> leaders of industrialized nations ensure that climate change will
> accelerate to levels that could mean the extinction of our species.
> /Homo sapiens/, as the biologist Tim Flannery
> out, are the “future-eaters.”
> In the past when civilizations went belly up through greed,
> mismanagement and the exhaustion of natural resources, human beings
> migrated somewhere else to pillage anew. But this time the game is over.
> There is nowhere else to go. The industrialized nations spent the last
> century seizing half the planet and dominating most of the other half.
> We giddily exhausted our natural capital, especially fossil fuel, to
> engage in an orgy of consumption and waste that poisoned the Earth and
> attacked the ecosystem on which human life depends. It was quite a party
> if you were a member of the industrialized elite. But it was pretty stupid.
> Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together.
> And there is no way out. The 10,000-year experiment of settled life is
> about to come to a crashing halt. And humankind, which thought it was
> given dominion over the Earth and all living things, will be taught a
> painful lesson in the necessity of balance, restraint and humility.
> There is no human monument or city ruin that is more than 5,000 years
> old. Civilization, Ronald Wright
> notes in “A Short History of
> Progress,” “occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million
> years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone.” Bye-bye, Paris.
> Bye-bye, New York. Bye-bye, Tokyo. Welcome to the new experience of
> human existence, in which rooting around for grubs on islands in
> northern latitudes is the prerequisite for survival.
> We view ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like
> sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies,
> chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry,
> arms manufacturers and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did
> in Copenhagen, take us to mass extinction? It is too late to prevent
> profound climate change. But why add fuel to the fire? Why allow our
> ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death
> spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?
> The news is grim. The accelerating disintegration of Arctic Sea ice
> means that summer ice will probably disappear within the next decade.
> The open water will absorb more solar radiation, significantly
> increasing the rate of global warming. The Siberian permafrost will
> disappear, sending up plumes of methane gas from underground. The
> Greenland ice sheet and the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers will melt. Jay
> , a
> NASA climate scientist, declared in December 2007: “The Arctic is often
> cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now, as a sign
> of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out
> of the coal mines.”
> But reality is rarely an impediment to human folly. The world’s
> greenhouse gases have continued to grow since Zwally’s statement. Global
> emissions of carbon dioxide (CO_2 2) from burning fossil fuels since
> 2000 have increased by 3 per cent a year. At that rate annual emissions
> will double every 25 years. James Hansen
> , the head of NASA’s
> Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s foremost
> climate experts, has warned that if we keep warming the planet it will
> be “a recipe for global disaster.” The safe level of CO_2 2 in the
> atmosphere, Hansen estimates, is no more than 350 parts per million
> (ppm). The current level of CO_2 2 is 385 ppm and climbing. This already
> guarantees terrible consequences even if we act immediately to cut
> carbon emissions.
> The natural carbon cycle for 3 million years has ensured that the
> atmosphere contained less than 300 ppm of CO_2 2, which sustained the
> wide variety of life on the planet. The idea now championed by our
> corporate elite, at least those in contact with the reality of global
> warming, is that we will intentionally overshoot 350 ppm and then return
> to a safer climate through rapid and dramatic emission cuts. This, of
> course, is a theory designed to absolve the elite from doing anything
> now. But as Clive Hamilton
> in his book “Requiem for
> a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” writes, even
> “if carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm, after which emissions
> fell to zero, the global temperatures would continue to rise for at
> least another century.”
> Copenhagen was perhaps the last chance to save ourselves. Barack Obama
> and the other leaders of the industrialized nations blew it. Radical
> climate change is certain. It is only a question now of how bad it will
> become. The engines of climate change will, climate scientists have
> warned, soon create a domino effect that could thrust the Earth into a
> chaotic state for thousands of years before it regains equilibrium.
> “Whether human beings would still be a force on the planet, or even
> survive, is a moot point,” Hamilton writes. “One thing is certain: there
> will be far fewer of us.”
> We have fallen prey to the illusion that we can modify and control our
> environment, that human ingenuity ensures the inevitability of human
> progress and that our secular god of science will save us. The
> “intoxicating belief that we can conquer all has come up against a
> greater force, the Earth itself,” Hamilton writes. “The prospect of
> runaway climate change challenges our technological hubris, our
> Enlightenment faith in reason and the whole modernist project. The Earth
> may soon demonstrate that, ultimately, it cannot be tamed and that the
> human urge to master nature has only roused a slumbering beast.”
> We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act
> with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem.
> Decisions about the fate of the planet and human civilization are in the
> hands of moral and intellectual trolls such as BP’s Tony Hayward. These
> political and corporate masters are driven by a craven desire to
> accumulate wealth at the expense of human life. They do this in the Gulf
> of Mexico. They do this in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong,
> where the export-oriented industry is booming. China’s transformation
> into totalitarian capitalism, done so world markets can be flooded with
> cheap consumer goods, is contributing to a dramatic rise in carbon
> dioxide emissions, which in China are expected to more than double by
> 2030, from a little over 5 billion metric tons to just under 12 billion.
> This degradation of the planet by corporations is accompanied by a
> degradation of human beings. In the factories in Guangdong we see the
> face of our adversaries. The sociologist Ching Kwan Lee
> found “satanic mills”
> in China’s industrial southeast that run “at such a nerve-racking pace
> that worker’s physical limits and bodily strength are put to the test on
> a daily basis.” Some employees put in workdays of 14 to 16 hours with no
> rest day during the month until payday. In these factories it is normal
> for an employee to work 400 hours or more a month, especially those in
> garment industry. Most workers, Lee found, endure unpaid wages, illegal
> deductions and substandard wage rates. They are often physically abused
> at work and do not receive compensation if they are injured on the job.
> Every year a dozen or more workers die from overwork in the city of
> Shenzhen alone. In Lee’s words the working conditions “go beyond the
> Marxist notions of exploitation and alienation.” A survey published in
> 2003 by the official China News Agency, cited in Lee’s book “Against the
> Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt,” found that three
> in four migrant workers had trouble collecting their pay. Each year
> scores of workers threaten to commit suicide, Lee writes, by jumping off
> high-rises or setting themselves on fire over unpaid wages. “If getting
> paid for one’s labor is a fundamental feature of capitalist employment
> relations, strictly speaking many Chinese workers are not yet laborers,”
> Lee writes.
> The leaders of these corporations now determine our fate. They are not
> endowed with human decency or compassion. Yet their lobbyists make the
> laws. Their public relations firms craft the propaganda and trivia
> pumped out through systems of mass communication. Their money determines
> elections. Their greed turns workers into global serfs and our planet
> into a wasteland.
> As climate change advances we will face a choice between obeying the
> rules put in place by corporations or rebellion. Those who work human
> beings to death in overcrowded factories in China and turn the Gulf of
> Mexico into a dead zone are the enemy. They serve systems of death. They
> cannot be reformed or trusted.
> The climate crisis is a political crisis. We will either defy the
> corporate elite, which will mean civil disobedience, a rejection of
> traditional politics for a new radicalism and the systematic breaking of
> laws, or see ourselves consumed. Time is not on our side. The longer we
> wait, the more assured our destruction becomes. The future, if we remain
> passive, will be wrested from us by events. Our moral obligation is not
> to structures of power, but life.
> © 2010 TruthDig.com
> /Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com
> . Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity
> School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The
> New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A
> Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.
> His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the
> Triumph of Spe
> Sfpnotices mailing list
More and more we hear the view that “pets” (we would call them “animal companions”) are emitting large amounts of C02, and contributing to global warming. A dog emits as much as a normal sized car and a cat a small car, apparently.
It has to do with their meat consumption, so clearly this would not apply to a vegan animal. But assuming that most animal companions are not vegans, what do we make of this?
I wrote a response to it today because a friend brought it to my attention. Here is his email:
“Here is an interesting article on the eco-footprint of “pets”- a cat has an eco-footprint of almost as bad as a volkswagen golf. According to this you maintain a small fleet of vehicles!”
He says this because I have four animal companions. Here was my response:
Animal rights activists do not wish dogs and cats to even exist. Did you know that? That is why every one is for spaying and neutering, to prevent future generations from existing.
I don’t have these four animals for my own selfish desires — they are not what climate ethicists call a “luxury emission”. This is because they are rescue animals. Their emissions are emissions of necessity, not luxury. That’s because they are living beings.
Now, if I had bought them from a breeder and had them because I simply liked them for myself, for my own selfish ends, then you could easily raise that criticism. It would be valid. They would have been brought into the world to serve human desires. That is wrong.
But if they are rescues and taking them in is done to be humane (to give them a place to live) then there can be no criticism of it.
To imply they are a luxury emission is like saying that a poor human being on the street should be killed because he emits GHGs. Maybe some people think that he should die, but it is contrary to the principle of justice, which says that no one is expendable, that everyone counts no matter what he or she looks like.
Dogs and cats look different that humans but they count just as much; we are all feeling, thinking creatures. Their lives matter.
To reduce a sentient being to “polluting pets” – as though they represent luxury emissions – is to reduce the animal’s life to the fuction it serves for the so-called “owner.” If that’s all an animal is – an object, a posession – they perhaps they should be killed, yes.
But we both know they are more than this. They feel, they love, they have thoughts and dreams. They are somebodys not somethings. No one can look at Baby or Midnight and think this creature is a thing, an possession, an object.
I should add that they have a right to live, but they do not have a right to reproduce. Nor do you or I, in this day and age. Nor does any person, in my opinion – not when human civilization is on the brink of collapse and soon to enter into a kind of chaos that no human or animal should be born into.
Moreoever, each person or animals, beyond their own suffering, contributes to the suffering of the world, because of their emissions. That is a problem also. No one should be killed to reduce emissions, but I think it hurts no one to choose not to bring them into the world.
It is only if one think of domestic animals as objects or as possessions that one might get into that thinking in which their lives are expendable. Before we kill animals or each other, to reduce GHGs, we should get rid of cars and planes and coal plants. And stop eating meat …
Funny that a person would critize an animal’s emissions that come from meat-eating, when the animal is a carnivore by nature – and in the case of cats, must eat meat to survive – and the human is an omnivore and has the moral choice to not eat meat.
I bet the people who complain about dogs and cats all have massive carbon footprints from meat and flying and they breed and bring kids into the world too. It is a very speciest point of view. It is like saying “black people emit GHGs, so let’s killl them all.” I guess some people actually think things like this, but clearly it is wrong.
I should mention also that all the animals in factory farms must stop breeding immediately and factory farms shut down. Then, if that happened (hypothetically) what to do with all the animals that are still alive? Some people will say we ought to kill and eat them.
No, the best thing is that they should all go onto farm sanctuaries for the duration of their lives, to live in peace. They will be the last of their kind, in a perfect world, because THERE WILL BE NO DOMESTIC ANIMALS AT ALL: no cats, dogs, cows, chickens, goats, pigs.
Humans will eat the food they grow locally, and animals can live beyond the towns and cities in the wilderness, as they have always done. Human will have to control their population, once they get down to less than one billion (ideally), so as to prevent this from happening again.
But the main point is that all existing animals must be allowed to live out their days.
And all breeding must stop, human and animal. And no more domestic animals, no more animal products or use of animals for entertainment or clothing. That is the most humane solution to the world’s problem.
Yes, I know it won’t happen, but it was an important principle that Kant expressed that we must always act as though the entire world depended on our actions. This he called “the moral law” and it is at the heart of true environmentalism.
It means we must always act in such a way that every action counts, that by our actions alone we can change everything, even if we can’t.
This view is called “non-consequentialism” because the value of the action does not depend on the consequences, as much as one intent of the action.
Imagine a scene in which you are the last man standing up for truth in a world gone mad. Is there still value in your action, though it changes nothing? Clearly there is.
That is why this ethic is important: your actions matter, regardless of their results. And every life matters, as well.
I state all this now because I fear a time when cats and dogs will mass murdered, as they are in China and Brazil and different places in the world. If they were killed for environmental reasons, this would be called “environmental fascism.”‘ That is something that should not happen, ever.
We need to speak up now for them, before it gets to the point where all dogs and cats are marked for death.
The climate change mitigation movement is struggling with questions of social justice, racism and classism. To this we may also incude speciesism.
Food justice for the poor
There are now two documentary films showing the destruction of plot of land used for community gardening – the South Central Farm – which fed 300 families, in Los Angeles, and which had been farmed by poor people as a community project. The City councilors in LA were corrupt and handed it over to developers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Central_Farm
More community gardens needed!
Turning empty plots into community gardnes for the use of all is an important and even vital step towards food independance in cities, in a way that does not discriminate against based on income, ethnicity, class, etc. People can eat good food inexpensively, reduce greenhouse gases from factory farming, and it is psychologically beneficial to sit in a garden – as emperical studies from the field of eco-psychology attest.
Less meat, eggs and dairy
Another area where there could be much more improvement among climate activists, vis-a-vis food justice, is is to discourage meat consumption. As most environmentalist know – or should know – about 18% of global greenhouse gases come from factory farming (United Nations report, 2007). The factory farms (or CAFOs) are also used up a lot of water and arable land (through grain production) that could be far better used.
Factory farms and disease
Additionally, factory farms are responsible for pandemic diseases. H1N1 came out of a factory farm for pigs in North Carolina. The World Health Organization and many medical associations worldwide oppose factory farms for this reason. Factory farm products are themselves very unhealthy, with all the antibiotics and steroids and pesticides in the feed given to animals.
ENGOs need to address meat consumption
ENGOs (environmental NGOs) have been sorely remiss in their duty in promoting a meat and dairy and egg free diet – although the Suzuki Foundation, to be fair, promotes a reduction in meat consumption. Part of the reason is the fear of a backlash against their message from donors. But more and more the idea is catching on and ENGOs are having to acknowledge the necessity of addressing diet.
Veganism is healthy
Veganism is entirely healthy and millions of people are vegans without adverse health problems, when they do it properly. This requires proper education. Vegans who switch back to meat and dairy because their health suffered have not approached it correctly.
Meat is Not Green
The animal rights groups, such as PETA, have been promoting this for some time, with their “Meat is Not Green” campaign.
At this stage, the ENGOs should start working on this. It is hypocritical not to do so, give the large amount of GHGs produced by factory farms, and the fact that it is the easiest way for the general public to reduce their GHGs, aside from not flying or driving SUVs (transportation accounts for 13% of GHGs globally).
What about local organic meat?
There has been a movement towards local organic dairy and egg and even grass-fed meat production, which is supposed to be the solution to the problem factory farms (as seen, for example, in the film Food Inc). However, it presents the same problem mentioned in the article above: it can become expensive and exclusionary.
Moreoever, the animals are still enslaved and killed, raising serious ethical issues regarding the violation of their basic rights. That animals are considered property and not persons in this society has been compared to the enslavement of human beings in previous centuries. The environmental and ethical issues cannot easily be separated (which is perhaps why the ENGOs have hesitated to address the issue?)
Environmental justice must include animal rights, as well as human rights
I will make that case here that there is a certain value in bringing human rights and animal rights into environmentalism: by doing so, we can begin to recongize the importance of all sentient beings, which is important for building a more sustainable world that is also more just at the same time. Sustainability without justice runs the risk of becoming “environmental fascism.”
Include all sentient beings
And in a world of finite resources and environmental destruction, there can be no justice withtout sustainability. Our environmentalism needs to include everyone, people from all backgrounds, and ultimately all sentient beings.
The move towards vegetarianism and veganism, as a part of environmental justice, must also be inclusive and must make efforts not to become elitist. The legacy of racism and elitism has dogged both environmentalism and animal rights for some time now.
Racism is wrong, and so is speciesim. To be radically inclusive, everyone’s welfare must be considered: all humans, all animals. We are all fellow Earthlings. Shutting down factory farms is a first step in that direction. Local farming and a reduction in meat consumption are both major steps.