Gene Logsdon and Friends

Yes, I Care For Animals And Then I Eat Them

In Gene's Weekly Posts on March 21, 2008 at 8:05 am

lonesheep.jpg

From Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

I am often asked how I can raise an animal with tender care and then kill and eat it. My answer is another question: how can a person work hard to develop a healthy body with good hygiene, good exercise, good living habits and a good diet, and then hide that beautiful bunch of flesh and bone under clothes?

We are the result of our cultural and biological environment. A person properly situated could quit wearing clothes, I suppose. It might even be healthier to do so. But neither our environment nor our mystifying American culture will tolerate public nudity (although observing cheerleaders at pro-football games, it looks to me like we are nearing a — may I use the word — breakthrough in the latter case).

In the culture I belong to, for better or for worse, going without meat is as unthinkable as going without clothes. Killing animals for food is nasty, sad work but we think someone has to do it. I grew up in a society generally not wealthy enough to eat meat regularly unless we butchered what we raised. And lest the main point be overlooked, homegrown, home-cooked meat is so very, very tasty.

As children we felt the natural revulsion that comes from killing the farm animals we cared for, especially when a favorite one was involved. But we got over it, or at least did not make companion pets of the animals destined for market or table. Very few people are hardhearted enough to kill and eat an orphan lamb brought into the house, fed from a bottle, diapered like a baby, and allowed to sleep in one’s lap while they watch television — as we have done. Butchering and eating our own meat taught us the hardest lesson of life: death is inevitable for everything. Accepting that fact is part of the wisdom that rural culture teaches. Not accepting it leads to what our urbanized society often does today: hitches a dying human up to the machine so as to prolong the pain and suffering a little longer. There will come a day when the good part of the old rural ethic asserts itself again and that practice will be regarded as barbaric.

Jews and Muslims use a sort of prayerful ritual when slaughtering animals to make the killing seem less repugnant. With us, families get together for a butchering day and make of it a kind of party, that is spread the repugnance out over a larger group of people. I think it is ironical that some of the same people who find our habit of killing animals for food repulsive, casually accept, even vote for, governments that bomb and kill people by the thousands.

Neither going without clothes nor going without meat is particularly practical. You won’t last long without clothes where I live. And many if not most vegetarians do eat some animal products like cheese and eggs, because getting the proper amount of all the necessary amino acids for good health is easier that way. Meat contains all the amino acids a human needs, whereas getting them from non-animal sources is tricky, requiring an array of foods properly balanced. Also, you can’t make up the absence of some amino acids in a non-meat lunch by eating them at dinner later. They have to be consumed at the same time. Says so right here in this vegetarian cookbook I am reading (The Forget-About-Meat Cookbook, by Karen Brooks).

So let us say that I decided to be a vegetarian (I have often been tempted because, as a vegetarian friend of mine likes to say, it is so much easier to raise and eat plants than animals). I would have to (or someone would have to) keep cows, goats or sheep for cheese and chickens for eggs. What am I supposed to do with the surplus animal babies, especially the bull calves and rooster chicks? What am I supposed to do with the cows and chickens when they get too old to produce milk and eggs? Is killing and feeding them to the buzzards and maggots, or waiting for them to die a slow, painful death, somehow better than killing and eating them?

There is a severe disconnect between our society today and the realities of the food chain. Many people no longer understand that nature is a magnificent banquet table around which sit all forms of life killing and eating each other. Culturally separated from that reality, people take on habits of thought that can become very problematical. First of all, it takes a fairly wealthy society to have the luxury of picking and choosing what it will eat. Poor people will eat anything edible they can get their hands on. Humans are, after all, genetically programmed to be omnivores and as such, probably would have otherwise become extinct because we are among the slowest and weakest of animals, with the least developed senses of seeing, hearing and smelling. We have survived and risen to the top of the food chain (actually the food chain does not have a top any more than a log chain does) because we can and will eat anything, plants, animals, bugs, worms, fungi, even dirt. I had an aunt who was a missionary in China in the 1930s when that country was already starving from overpopulation. She said people would pound rocks to dust and eat the dust for its mineral value.

The notion that we can live in an environment where we interact with only part of the food chain leads to a clouded vision of nature. For example, if I have learned anything in farming it is that there is more food security and all-around efficiency on a farm where both animals and plants are kept than on farms raising only one or the other. Why? Because that’s the way nature works. Plants and animals depend on each other. Plants are more at risk from uncontrollable weather than animals. Frost, drought, flood, hail, and a zillion fungal and insect pests can damage or wipe out the current year’s crops, but seldom the livestock.

There are of course environmental risks to raising animals too, but not nearly as crucial. A cow killed by lightning can still be “harvested” for meat, or turned into valuable fertilizer, tallow, glue, pet food, and a host of other products important to our so-called civilization. The farmer who produces both crops and livestock “secures” much of his vegetative crops by “storing” them more or less safely in his animals. Then the animals, in the process of turning vegetation into food humans are genetically capable of utilizing, also produce manure for fertilizer. As any organic dairy farmer will attest, animal manure is the main reason that a small-scale dairy farm can be profitable especially now that chemical fertilizer prices have soared into the ionosphere.

Secondly, the notion that land freed up from livestock production will remain lovely, edenic natural space, like a park, totally benign to human society and available to grow vegetative food for huge increases in human population, is unfortunately not true. Nature still abhors a vacuum. When you take domestic animals off the land, it will fill up with wild animals and sooner or later you will have to deal with them. In my youth, the land in my neighborhood was fully stocked with farm animals. I had an uncle who bragged that his farm was so efficient that there was not even a rabbit on it to hunt. There was not a deer to be seen in the whole county. Now deer and many other wild animals proliferate. For awhile we enjoyed their presence and their beauty. Then they don’t stay in their lovely wild garden of Eden. They come after our crops, our gardens, our ornamental plantings, our lawns, our parks, our golf courses and even our woodland, eating every tree seedling and wild flower that comes up because they are half starved. And if they have not come after yours yet, believe me, they soon will. Deer (and wild turkeys and Canada geese, among others), are invading even towns and cities, crashing through windows and killing themselves and humans in auto accidents. To keep deer in their wild Eden would require a fence ten feet tall and thousands of miles long, an impossibly expensive solution to the problem. Then if their populations were not kept in check, they would start starving to death penned inside their Eden.

Nature has a way of handling overpopulation. A disease is killing white-tailed deer in some areas, for example. Distemper decimates raccoon populations periodically. But such measures are too few and far between to solve the problem and that’s not the point here. Rather, ask yourself: which is more “humane:” killing animals for food or letting them overpopulate, destroy vegetation needed by other forms of life, and then starve or die of some disease anyway. Or averting that, after the deer get too old to run fast, they get pulled down and their guts ripped out by dogs whose owners while often berating those of us who kill and eat meat, won’t keep them restrained on their own property.
~
See also Jesse’s Grass-Fed Lamb Burgers With Caramelized Shallots Recipe
~~
Gene and Carol Logsdon have a small-scale experimental farm in Wyandot County, Ohio.
Gene is author of
The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse (Culture of the Land),
The Last of the Husbandmen: A Novel of Farming Life, and All Flesh Is Grass: Pleasures & Promises Of Pasture Farming
Images Credit: © Firea | Dreamstime.com
OrganicToBe.org OrganicToGo.com
Gene’s Posts

[Permanent Link][Top]

  1. Dear Gene,
    A wonderful writer you intoduced us to, Wendell Berry, has a beautiful phrase in his book THE UNSETTLING OF AMERICA. He calls it “living responsibly free.” We love that line, hold it dear to our heart and try to live up to it daily. (Though you and Carol would get some great belly-laughs watching, yesiree!)

    With our growing chicken population, unfortunately we have more roosters than the hens need. Two must go. But we will eat our own chickens, nothing will be wasted, and the bones will go into a pot for stock to make even more meals.

    The folks who find this distasteful are the same folks that have no trouble throwing away half-eaten chicken Mcnuggets. And that, we believe is truly repulsive.

    Changing the subject, like a fine bottle of wine, your writing just gets better and better. THE LAST OF THE HUSBANDMEN is a fascinating novel. We celebrated Nat with a little “fruit juice” ourselves.(LOL)

    If you don’t sell five million copies, there is something really wrong with this world. And that’s the truth.

    Thanks for your constant inspiration.

    Jeannie & John

  2. Thank you for the post, which was carried by The Energy Bulletin, where I came across it.

    A few generatins ago, all of what you say was the understood and unspoken norm, but seems novel in today’s world, since this understanding was lost in the (?)advance of “civilization”.

    But if you are acquainted with the crowd that haunts/infests sites like The Energy Bulletin, The Oll Drum, Cluster**** Nation, The Archdruid Report, Ridhard Heinberg’s website, etc, you are probably aware thet it is the opinion of the denizens of that region (of cyberspace) that the permanent decline of today’s “civilization” is imminent.

    while a return to the exact past is unlikely, what you say may be a guide to create a new haromony with our envirionment, based on the experisnce of the past.

    Robin

  3. To Jeannie and John: We have not tried it ourselves, but a great chef we know says that a good way to deal with the tough meat of an old rooster or hen is to make coq au vin out of them, which old Nat the husbandman would surely have done had he known about such refinements. Gene Logsdon

    Robin Datta: A day of reckoning is coming, I fear. America has been spending beyond its means. Oh heck, I don’t really fear it. Just what we need. My grandfather told me that, yes, people didn’t have any money during the Great Depression, but that in many ways, life was still great. People learned how to have a good time without money. Gene Logsdon

  4. The theory of combining proteins in one meal to achieve proper vegan nutrition was first put forth by Frances Moore Lappé in her book, Diet for a Small Planet (1971). The concept was later found to be incorrect, of course some vegans already assumed this at the time from direct personal experience. Lappé has corrected the mistaken information in subsequent reprints of her book long ago and any other vegetarian nutrition literature printed in the last twenty years reflects this.

    Read a current book on vegetarian nutrition, something not from the 1970s. Current addtional reading into other topics would clear up your other erroneous assumptions as well. If you don’t want to pick up a new book, the Internet is that way —->

    You once recognized the “natural revulsion that comes from killing the farm animals” before you became “hardhearted.” Your analogy is quite apt. Just like being naked, not eating animals is a natural condition, a state of being that we all once held during our innocence of childhood, “it might even be healthier to do so.” But societal pressure asserts that “going without meat is as unthinkable as going without clothes.”

    “It looks to me like we are nearing a — may I use the word — breakthrough.”

    Indeed, you may.

  5. I’ve copied a post from my farm blog. Thought it was relivant. You can see more at http://robertsroost-alan.blogspot.com

    A Meat-headed Farmboy’s Thoughts On Vegetarianism

    There has been a lot of talk about the benefits of eating lower on the food chain. There are health reasons, environmental reasons, and ethical reasons that are put forward to show the rightness of choosing such a lifestyle. The health arguments can be spun either way. Mostly they come down to balance and moderation, not vegetable vs. meat. Ethics is only an argument because we hold ourselves separate from the natural world. No one judges the carnivore evil and the herbivore good. A lion is a lion, Eating meat is what it does. A lamb is a lamb. Eating grass is what it does. There is no ethical issue there. Only we have ethical problems with what we because we see our selves as somehow not subject to the laws of nature. The environmental argument makes even less sense. Changing what we eat will not change the destructive nature of our agricultural methods or the needs of an exponentially expanding human population.
    I think the real problem (and there for the real answer) lies in our idea of a food chain.
    In nature everything is food for something. In nature there isn’t a food chain, there is a resource loop. It’s circular. The buffalo eats the grass that grows from the bones of the buffalo. There are many more members in the loop, all using resources from the same pool and returning them to that pool . The buffalo is the grass, the grass is the buffalo. Everything in that community is a different manifestation of the pool of resources found there. The cycle continues forever each member of the community being a real part of every other member. It’s beautiful, magical, perfect.
    We took ourselves out of the loop. We are still an expression of what we eat, it just is no longer an expression of where we are, the community of life we are a part of. We take resources from all over the world, use them, and then instead of returning them to the communities we took them from we concentrate them into toxic mountains of sludge and waste we must struggle to dispose of.
    The answer to the problems vegetarianism tries to address is not to eat more vegetables, it is to reinstate ourselves in the community of life. Draw the resources we need to live from the pool of resources in our community and return those resources to that community to maintain the circle.
    If I eat my chickens, I eat the grass they lived on. I return my waste (processed by various worms, microbes, plants, etc) back to the soil to feed the grass that feeds the chickens. Someday when I die, I hope we will be sensible enough to allow my body to be returned to that same cycle. If we are not that advanced, then I hope to be cremated and have my remains sprinkled on the pastures and gardens from which I drew life.

  6. Kudos to Alan Roberts, too! I am a vegetarian by choice because a)I don’t trust our meat supply to be safe and b)I’m too lazy to raise my own meat and slaughter it. It’s just easier for me to raise all my own food via the gardens and purchase of a few extraneous things like rice and such. But this is because I have removed myself from the “chain” as Roberts says. I do it by choice and I do it with my head slightly hung. A farm really should include animals. Ours does not (the too lazy thing….) I think one who eats meat needs to be very aware of where that meat comes from. I always encourage people to buy local meat from a producer that you know how it has been raised. That, at least brings you closer to “home.” For all the money and driving that people do for nothing more than entertainment, it wouldn’t take much for even a city person to drive somewhere where meat is raised, butchered and processed; pick up your supply (for a month or a year) and head back home. We take such care in choosing our clothes, our schools, our coffee, our vacations, our sports … but too few people think once, let alone twice, about where their food comes from and how it was raised. Until we take responsibility for what we consume, it won’t matter a squat how much we recycle our plastic or if we turn down our heat a couple of degrees. I think it’s far more ethical to raise or hunt your own meat supply and butcher it or have it butchered than it is to be a vegetarian who takes no responsibility for where and how their food is raised. Food is food. Meat may not be necessary, but it is a choice.

  7. This article is so full of false arguments that I do not even know where to start (and was very tempted not to start at all). Here are a few remarks:

    Yes, there are problems with being vegetarian. That is why a lot of vegetarians who think about this become vegans. I have been a vegan for 20 years and there are few people in as good a shape as I am. That does not prove much, but it proves that you can be healthy on a long term vegan diet without ever looking for protein replacements, which is the case for me.

    Saying that we are omnivores is a little simplistic. As a trained evolutionary biologist I have not been able to think of any other vertebrate mammals that eat vertebrate meat without extended canines, like humans do. Our length of the intestines, compared to our stomach content is also drastically different from other mammalian vertebrate meat eaters. Also, supposedly humans can’t break down large quantities of vitamin A in the liver, like other vertebrate meat eaters. The only meat we are supposed to eat are grubs, insects and some eggs, because those are the only animals we can capture without tools (tool use is not part of our biological make up, but allows us to move away from that). We are vertebrate meat eaters out of habit, not out of biological necessity.

    Stating that all the space that becomes available when we don’t raise animals leaves us to deal with dealing with the wild animals, is the most ridiculous argument I have ever come across. What are we supposed to do: change all the nature to animal husbandry land, so we do not have to deal with the wild animals? Also, population sizes of most large herbivores are regulated through starvation, not through predation. We might think that is really sad and we need to kill all those poor wild animals that are starving, but it is just part of normal natural processes. Humans interfering in those is never a good idea.

    There are many more comments to make, but I already spent more time on this than I should have done.

  8. Hooray to all three last respondents. To Dean Kernsop, I appreciate knowing that the 1970s nutritionists had it wrong. Are you sure you have it right now? Alan Roberts, I admire your courage in risking the venom that might come your way from some vegetarians. To Jan: now here’s a vegetarian after my own heart. You keep talking that way, and I might “convert” one of these days. Gene Logsdon

  9. Another great common sense post Gene. Our family hasn’t bought grocery store meat in years – we have 2 cows, a steer, a dozen chickens, and assorted geese, turkeys and a pig every once in a while. The butchering is done here. I can’t think of a better way to raise our kids – even though they bellyache about chores (and I’d like to take more vacations), at least they’ll be able to feed their families.
    If you get over here to Crawford County – stop in for coffee – I’d like to consult with you about my pastures………..

  10. Gene,

    I think what resonated most with me from this entry is the way that modern Americans have become disconnected from our food supply. A few years ago, my aunt (who is in her 80s) wrote for her children about her life growing up (near you in Seneca county, in fact, where I grew up as well), and one of the things she talked about was everyone getting together to butcher the hogs and how they “used everything but the oink.” From the other side of my family, my mother talked about how her mother would go out to the back yard to kill a chicken for Sunday dinner. Meanwhile, kids growing up today largely haven’t seen a pig or chicken or any other farm animal except on TV or neatly packaged as a cut of meat, and even adults have only the vaguest idea of how food our food gets from there to here, though this seems to be changing with the recent popularity of such books as Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

    I, too, wandered over from The Energy Bulletin.

    –John

  11. John,

    I was lucky enough to grow up with some of these experiences. Now that we have our little farm, I am amazed at the response from people coming to visit. Even a lot of rural kids have never gathered an egg or seen where milk comes from. This separation from the natural world is at the core of most of our environmental and social problems. We think we are exempt from the rules that govern life on this planet. The truth is we are just adaptable enough and stupid enough to keep barely surviving while breaking the rules. We are quickly reaching the limits of that way of living and need to find a new way.

  12. Response to Polly, I am embarrassed. I am evidently supposed to know you or where you live, but my old brain just isn’t coming up with it. But thanks for you kind words.
    To John Scherk, And the best part was fresh sausage and tenderloin on hog butchering day. Pork never tastes as good as when it is just butchered and cooled in the open air. Oh my.
    John, Yes “quickly reaching the limits.” Rice and wheat stocks are at all time modern lows. That will get people to thinking as nothing else will. Gene

  13. Gene Logsdon has written numerous books and articles dealing with farm-related issues. I think he’s a man of great wisdom about and passion for the rural ethic that is at risk of being made obsolete by our increasingly urban, industrialized, high-tech society. Recently, I read his above article titled “Yes, I Care for Animals, And Then I Eat Them.” Since I am a devout lover of animals and have been a vegetarian for the past twenty years, I was eager to see what Logsdon had to say in his article.

    I have to admit that any time I hear someone advancing an argument to defend eating animals, I want very quickly to challenge and confront them, and to prove they are just wrong. As I read Logsdon’s article I had that impulse. But I sat with it for a few days because I knew there was something else going on inside of me that I needed to understand. While Logsdon made many points that were factually inaccurate and logically unsound with respect to vegetarianism, and while I disagree with his ultimate conclusion that eating animals is natural and necessary for our health and balance with nature, nonetheless there was something about his position, something implied in between the lines of his text that I connected with. But what was it?

    At one point Logsdon drew attention to the lack of awareness that most people have about the reality of food saying: “There is a severe disconnect between our society today and the realities of the food chain. Many people no longer understand that nature is a magnificent banquet table around which sit all forms of life killing and eating each other. Culturally separated from that reality, people take on habits of thought that can become very problematical.” Generally speaking, I agree. Generations ago people were more directly connected to producing their own food and to the land that supported food production. Today most people derive their food from an advanced industrial agricultural complex that spews out genetically engineered, chemically treated food. Not only are most Americans disconnected from producing their own food, they are unaware of the rather terrifying realities associated with the agri-business industry that manufactures the food they eat. They also are unaware of the vast cruelties that are perpetrated by this industry against the billions of animals who are enslaved by it and raised to become food.

    As someone who is committed to the rural ethic and to small, local, organic food-to-table farming, not to mention as someone who says he cares about animals, it seems to me that Logsdon and I must share a similar revulsion toward and concern about the agri-business industry. Not only is this industry patently unnatural and contributes to the generalized disconnection most people have from the earth and the food we eat, the industry also inflicts horrific suffering on the animals it uses to become food. Yet Logsdon never once mentioned the agri-business industry and that disappointed me. He attempted to make his choice of actions right by making vegetarianism wrong. He did this by arguing that eating animals is the way of nature, necessary for our health (even if it may be hard to do) and then he went on to suggest that vegetarianism is impractical and unsound from a health perspective. He also alleged that if society converted to vegetarianism it would result in the overpopulation of wild animals which would have grave consequences for both the animals and humans. Unfortunately, he made a number of factually inaccurate assertions. If Logsdon was looking for an angle to justify his practice of raising, killing and eating animals, rather than trying to do so by discrediting the merits of vegetarianism I think he would have strengthened his position by targeting the real enemy of his way of life, the agri-business industry.

    For me personally, my major concern with eating meat or the products derived from animals is not based on a concern about killing per say. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating killing and I personally could never do it and don’t want to eat someone else’s dirty work. But I recognize that death is a part of life and so it killing for survival. My concern is with enslavement and systematic torture. The modern agricultural machine operates based on volume and efficiency. The goal is to produce as much of the consumable product as possible in the shortest amount of time at the least cost. As such, animals are seen as a means to an end and to facilitate its utilitarian agenda, the agri-business machine does something that is profoundly unnatural, something that no other species on the planet does; it enslaves other beings to maximize the opportunity to exploit them to the fullest extent. The food that is rendered by the agri-business machine has little in common with the food rendered by a small farm-to-table farmer like Logsdon. The pig flesh that Logsdon eats that he derived from a pig who he tenderly raised, who was free to roam, rut, lie in the sun, roll in the dirt and play with other pigs, and one day was killed by a quick bullet to the head rendering an instant death is quite different from the pig flesh derived from an individual who was warehoused in a factory farm and forced to live in a cramped, dirty, dark, cold concrete stall, injected with hormones and antibiotics, forcibly transported on a harrowing truck journey to a slaughterhouse only to be hung from a hind quarter while screaming, and then cut and bled to death into a pit.

    I personally choose to never eat any animals, but I want to be clear that I see the distinction between these two approaches to producing animal flesh for consumption, and I think it is a difference that makes a difference. My greatest concern lies with the agri-business industry and the unbearable horrors it inflicts upon billions of farm animals every year. On this point, I would have expected Logsdon and I to agree. I would have expected him to be as concerned as I am about how deeply unnatural, environmentally damaging and patently cruel factory farms are. I also would had more respect for his defense of raising, killing and eating his animals because the way he approaches this practice does not result in cruelty toward animals who live normal lives that end with a quick and painless death. While it would never by my personal choice, I could have heard that argument and respected it enough. But instead he defended his practice by trying to undermine the practicality, healthfulness and legitimacy of vegetarianism. In so doing he made a number of incorrect points about vegetarianism that I would like to address.

    1. Eating meat is natural and healthy. We’re carnivores, like wolves and lions, and no one is complaining about them killing and eating other animals.

    It’s true wolves and lions kill other animals and eat them, but if you want that’s your rationale for eating meat, you’d better be prepared to approach flesh eating the way that genuine carnivores do. Like the wolf and the lion, you’d better be willing to hunt down your prey with your sense of smell, attack with your bare hands, ripping apart the flesh of your prey with your nails and teeth and consuming it raw. Second, humans really are not true carnivores. Unlike species who are true carnivores, humans lack the biological components to effectively track down, attack, kill and eat the flesh of other animals without the assistance of various tools we have crafted. However natural many people think it is for humans to be carnivorous, without cultural interventions, it’s actually quite impractical. Moreover, humans have long intestinal tracks, unlike true carnivores who have short intestinal tracks that are far better suited to efficiently digesting flesh.

    2. Humans must eat meat, or products derived from animals (e.g., eggs and cheese) to get a proper balance of amino acids and nutrients.

    It was once thought that protein derived from vegetable sources was lacking in one or more essential amino acids, hence it was assumed that vegetarians needed to combine foods to balance amino acids. Since has since disproven this belief. Western vegetarians rarely manifest protein deficiencies or deficiencies in essential amino acids. Scientists now understand that we require less essential amino acids than once thought. Moreover, protein deficiencies rarely occur in people who consume enough calories overall.

    3. Even if you don’t eat meat, you still need food derived from animals (eggs, cheese).

    Vegans are people who consume no products derived in anyway from animals and the science shows they are the healthiest of all. Like meat, eggs and dairy products contain absolutely no fiber or complex carbohydrates, and they are packed with saturated fat and cholesterol. Animal-derived foods are strongly correlated with higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, several types of cancer, diabetes and strokes.

    4. If we don’t eat farm animals what will we do with them, especially when they’re old and/or sick?

    Hopefully over time a critical mass of people will abstain from meat-eating and as this happens, of course the demand for animal flesh will decrease. Correspondingly, fewer animals will be bred. As for farm animals who are old and/or sick, well one day I will be old and possibly sick. While I hope for a painless and merciful death, I hope I will not find myself surrounded by people who will be plotting to kill me under the guise of “mercy” but really just because they can’t wait to feast on my flesh. Yuck.

    5. If we cease eating animals the land once devoted to raising animals for food will soon “become filled up with wild animals” who because of their overpopulation will intrude in our wondering through our gardens and lawns, eating our plants and flowers, and “invading even towns and cities, crashing through windows and killing themselves and humans in auto accidents.”

    If indeed land once devoted to raising animals for food were no longer used for this purpose, it would most likely be converted to some other human use with minimal risk of it becoming an incubator for unchecked wild animal population explosions. Moreover, while it is true that unfortunate encounters increasingly occur between humans and wild animals on highways and residential neighborhoods, these are the consequence of rapid habitat loss which leaves wild animals with less and less space to live and survive. Why is it that whenever humans and animals cross paths in unfortunate ways, we blame the animals rather than recognizing the role that our rapid invasion into almost last vestige of wild land has on the problem? Finally, most overpopulation of specific species is the result of human manipulation or mismanagement of habitats. For example, deer have biological mechanisms that prevent them from reproducing beyond the availability of habitat capable of supporting their numbers. Hence deer “overpopulation” is usually the planned consequence of wildlife management officials who manipulate habitats to trick deer into overproducing and can then justify the sale of hunting licenses.

    I do appreciate Logsdon’s commitment to rural, farm-to-table living, and I acknowledge a qualitative distinction between tenderly raising an animal who lives a natural life and then is quickly killed to become food, versus those raised in factory farms and executed in slaughterhouses. Yet for a variety of reasons I remain committed to vegetarianism. Even if I could be assured that the animals I was eating had lived normal, healthy lives and had a quick painless death, I still would choose to not eat them because I have so many better options available…more humane and healthier options. The human body is not designed for meat consumption, and we suffer an array of ill effects when we insist on eating it. So in the spirit of living with nature, vegetarianism wins hands down.

  14. As long as people eat milk and cheese (which I know some people choose not to do) there will always be bull calves to deal with. Same with eggs and chickens. There will always be those devilish male offspring. So … the only choice is to be a vegan if you don’t want to be involved with any killing of animals. I can’t do that; so guess I’ll live with obtaining my milk, cheese, and egg products from producers who raise and kill their animals humanely. If everyone made a “conscious” choice of where ANY of their food comes from, this would be a better (and healthier) world.

  15. Tracy,

    Maybe there is another way to look at it. Everything is food for something. The issue is whether the resources are returned to the community or washed on down to the sea. (see my earlier comment for more on this.) Vegetarianism, that imports resources from all over the globe to meet its basic needs is no better than carnivorism in the current system.

  16. To all the above. Maybe enough said. But somebody has to make one more point and it might as well be me since the vegans are already convinced that I am wrong. I might as well risk be wronger still. What is a right diet and a wrong diet is something not proven one way or another until such a diet has been followed for a fairly long period of time, seems to me. Also, it is certainly true that scientific debate about diet changes regularly, and one generation’s holy diet religion becomes the next generation’s anathema. As far as I have been able to read and study, the only really long test of veganism has been the Jaines of India, and many nutritionists say their health has deterioriated when their strict diet was maintained over many generations. I also read that vegans cheat a lot. Is that true? They go on occasional “holiday” where they gorge on things like ice cream. True? Even if that is just evil gossip against them, I have to call on history here. Where can I find DOCUMENTED four generations of strict vegans who don’t have health problems in the succeeding generations? If you can show me an historical case, and can prove that none of these people have eaten animal food products including worms and grubs, I will gladly accept your argument. I know plenty of very healthy vegetarians and plenty of healthy human ominivores. The difference is that ominvores have been eating animal products for about a zillion centuries or so. Show me a human society that has evolved without eating animal products. So it is legitimate for me to wonder if the current opinion among vegans that their diet is healthful will hold true as more evidence is uncovered. Until then you can’t say I’m inaccurate or the nutrionists I quote are inaccurate any more than you can say that critics of the popular cholesterol theory are inaccurate. There are findings, new ones every year now, that the cholesterol theory— that animal fats cause heart attacks— is not quite as correct as the AMA thought twenty years ago. Time will tell I suppose.
    Gene Logsdon

  17. I just want to say that I appreciate this spirited debate. To Alan specifically I want to say that I agree “everything is food for something” which means in a way, no organic matter is ever really “wasted” (despite how my parents used to try and guilt me if I didn’t finish all the food on my plate). For me, the most pressing issue is the damage that is caused by HOW we acquire some kinds of food. So sure, vegetarianism that relies on global imports or genetically engeineered produce is highly problematic AND meat derived from agri-business via factory farms is highly problematic, not just for the environmental damage BUT becuase of CRUELTY TO ANIMALS.
    To Gene I would say that it may be true that science updates its conclusions all the time, but there is a solid body of research that confirms that when compared side to side, vegetarians (and I am not even saying vegans) have LOWER rates of all major illnesses that meat-eaters. Of course, maybe this overall conclusion will somehow be disproven one day, but in the meantine, the science is pretty clear AND more importantly to me, since I do care about animals, if I can live a healthy life without contributing to suffering of animals (cause I am not in a position to raise my own for consumption), then I feel like I have a moral responsibility to do that.

  18. Tracy,

    You have to follow your heart! For me, I am the meat I eat. I am the grass that the cow, who’s milk I drink, eats. If you live locally, as part of a local community of life, sharing the resources with others living in the community and returning them when you are done then you have no worries. If you do not, then in the long run you are evolutionarly nonviable, and you will be eliminated from the system. The issue for us is that our system falls in the latter category, not the former.

  19. On this hot June day, I am looking out over my steep pasture where all and sundry animals are grazing or else finding some shade in the trees. And I mean the pasture is steep! This is the north-eastern most tip of Tennessee and non-steep land is at a premium. It is too steep to plow or dig and were it not animal pasture it would revert to scrub then forest.

    The chickens wander through the grass picking apart the cow pies and horse apples and eat some of the grass. They then go into the forest and dig up insects and mushrooms. The goats nibble off the goldenrod that grows from the bare shale and eat the nettles that grow among the rocks by the creek.

    In fact the animals get very little to eat beyond what they can find for themselves.

    Likewise the rabbits are fed mainly from the yellow dock, lambs quarters, dandelions, and plantain that is weeded out of the gardens and cornfields.

    The meat we eat (and milk and eggs) comes from resources of which we could make no use whatever if it weren’t for keeping animals there.

    So the argument that a pound of meat robs the human food supply of X pounds of vegetarian fare is not necessarily so.

    Also the animals fix so much nitrogen that I can grow the rest of our diet on an amazingly small plot of land.

    For the subsistence farmer vegetarianism is an unafordable luxury.

    —————

    By the bye, Gene, I know having your own writings quoted to you must be annoying enough, but a blogger reported that at a conference he had mentioned the idea of keeping goats for milk and eating the surplus chevon to which he says you replied, to wit, that everyone plans on that but you’d not known anyone who actually does it.

    We are the ones who actually do that. We ate four goats this winter and we have six more grazing on the aforementioned pasture with names like Barbeque, To-Be-Tacos, Pot Pie, and Hot Sauce.

  20. My every instinct tells me not to get into this one, and not to try to swim in the same water with the smarter people here. I have read the post and the above comments, and will probably have to reread a few times to make sure any future comments I make are relevant and on the smart side. But a few things about the discussion above really bother me. 1.) Why can’t people who eat meat seem to resist getting into it with vegans, and vice versa? 2.) The above discussion ended, the way it did, months ago and was not continued.
    Here’s something that doesn’t bother me but I would just like to say: The last comment contained “For the subsistence farmer vegetarianism is an unaffordable luxury”. In the world, many subsistence farmers, the kind of people who either have to succeed at producing their food OR STARVE, do often rely on plant source foods for a lot of their needs, often for long periods. For these people it’s meat and animal products that are a luxury and not the center of their diet. They will often forego slaughtering the family pigs and the family cow. They will barter or sell their livestock and animal products rather than eat them at home when there is economic need to do so. For these people, vegetarianism is not a luxury but the way to get by when a farm animal is to valuable to slaughter or worth more on someone else’s table. It’s the fortunate among these people who have meat on the table at most times. Here in the states where a family can be subsistence farmers by choice, perhaps vegetarianism – a life without animal products in the diet – could be a luxury and an impractical lifestyle choice.

Comments are closed.