What Role Does Livestock Play in our Environment?

Do vegans and climate hysterics call for a countryside without domesticated animals? Wolf and Rodgers suggest yes. If you think about it, they’re correct. After all, cow-farting is supposedly destroying the planet according to Gretchen and her ilk. If they had their way, these animals would be gone.

Clearly the Root of All Evil

But what would that mean for our environment? Short answer: it would be bad.

The problem with most people, climate hysterics included, is that they want simple solutions to complex problems. Just for a moment, let’s pretend they are correct about anthropomorphic global warming. Eliminate cows, sheep, goats, etc., replace them with wheat and vegetables and one problem is solved. Right?

Well no. Because our authors point out that ecosystems evolved with “plants and animals.” Eliminate one and you find yourself with all kinds of problems. Ultimately, Wolf and Rodgers make the case for ecosystem complexity. The more robust the ecosystem, the healthier and more resilient it is. They point out that animals are essential to soil health. Without them, there are few if any soil microbes, “If we completely eliminated ruminants [herbivorous mammals], hillsides would no longer have the nutrients they need, we’d see more landslides from soil degradation, and valleys would no longer be as fertile as they once were.”

But the Vegans Still Have the Moral High Ground?

No they don’t. Because the world they want means more wheat, more corn and certainly more soy (Soy Boys!). What can we say about the North American environment presently, where we see thousands of miles of intensely farmed monocrops?

“All the birds, frogs, rabbits and other life that once lived there is eliminated. We need lots of chemical inputs to fertilize the soil because there’s no animal manure to do so. We also need tons of chemical pesticides and fungicides to kill what will want to take over this crop. In the process, we kill more insects and birds, we destroy the soil, these chemicals run off into rivers, killing fish and the animals that depend on the fish. Industrial monocropping, though it can temporarily feed a lot of people some cheap [and empty] calories, is a horror show to nature.”

So what do we have then? Ecosystems that were once complex, vibrant and healthy due to having plants and animals are now plant-only, eco-disasters. Our authors also make the case that this kind of intense farming is killing the soil.

I’m sure there are vegans out there who don’t believe in industrial style, “chem-grow” agriculture either. But what is their argument if they really believe animals and meat eating is destroying the planet? Eliminating animals from the equation will make things far worse than they currently are.

Poor, Simple Leo DiCaprio

Great Actor, But Wrong on Beef

Our authors end the chapter with a story about the well meaning but ill-informed actor Leo DiCaprio. His documentary Before the Flood was a big thing when it came out. Leo wheeled out some climate professor and then told us all to eat more chicken and less beef. The problem is that chickens are absolutely horrible for soil health and the environment. Chickens don’t graze. They destroy. Moreover, chickens don’t eat grass mainly, they eat everything: worms, bugs, grass, rodents, you name it. But what they really eat in our modern world is grain and soybean meal. So chickens are another reason the prairies are filled with wheat, corn and soy. In contrast, cows eat grass, or they would if given the chance. With good husbandry, which our authors are going to explain in later chapters, cows can help maintain a healthy ecosystem by eating what they were meant to eat.

Conclusions

Having debunked the whole meat is unhealthy and veganism is good for you myth in preceding chapters. We are now moving on to the next refutation: meat is bad for the environment. Wolf and Rodgers have got us off to a good start. I had no idea about soil health and the essential role ruminants play in maintaining it. Moreover, it never occurred to me that the billions of chickens the Western world intensely rears are actually bad for the environment. I have a feeling that the rest of this book is going to be an essential read for anyone who wants to defend meat eating against the environmental totalitarians.

You can’t fight something with nothing.

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