The Vegetarian Myth
Food, Justice, and SustainabilityBook - 2009
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There is no place left for the buffalo to roam. There’s only corn, wheat, and soy. About the only animals that escaped the biotic cleansing of the agriculturalists are small animals like mice and rabbits, and billions of them are killed by the harvesting equipment every year. Unless you’re out there with a scythe, don’t forget to add them to the death toll of your vegetarian meal. They count, and they died for your dinner…
So here are the questions you should ask, a new form of grace to say over your food. Does this food build or destroy topsoil? Does it use only ambient sun and rainfall, or does it require fossil soil, fossil fuel, fossil water, and drained wetlands, damaged rivers? Could you walk to where it grows or does it come to you on a path slick with petroleum?
Omega- 3s are almost absent from the US American diet. According to Jo Robinson, “twenty percent of Americans have levels so low that they defy detection.” The best sources should be eggs, fish, meat, and dairy, but they no longer are. Why? Because factory farming stuffs animals full of grain, which changes the composition of their body fat. Yes, grain again. Grain is desperately low in omega-3s and high in omega-6s.
The first myth of nutritional vegetarians – that we aren’t meant for meat – is another fairy tale filled with inedible apples. I try to remember what I believed when I was a vegan. There was a mythic golden age, long ago, when we lived in harmony with the world … and … ate what? Prehistoric paintings of humans hunting left me confused and defensive, nut I was unclear on the timeline anyway. Maybe all that hunting happened before the peaceful vegetarian Goddess culture. Or maybe it was after the fall of the peaceful vegetarian…?
“Enjoy vegetables, beans and grains in your diet.” And if those things don’t grow where I live? How does my consumption of strawberries from Chile, snap peas fron China, or corn from Iowa build anything more than more exploitation and destruction? What if I want to preserve, say, biodiversity, rivers, topsoil, self-sufficient human communities around the globe? What that poster should say is “Know your own land and your water, your local farmers and their animals. Eat what grows sustainably in your foodshed.”
Yes, eating grain directly is less water intensive than eating grain-fed beef. But why eat either? Animals integrated into appropriate polycultures destroy nothing.
“According to the British group VegFram, a 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn and only two producing cattle,” Motavalli continues. And he believes them? Set aside the fact that a diet of soy, wheat or corn will result in massive malnutrition – along with fun stuff like kwashiorkor, pellagra, retardation, blindness – and ultimately death. The figures of two cattle might be true if you assume grain feeding, though I can’t make the math come out right. By contrast, a ten acre farm of perennial polyculture in a mid-Atlantic climate could produce:
80 stewing hens
2,000 pounds of beef
2,500 pounds of pork
It is my conviction that growing annual grains is an activity that cannot be redeemed. It requires the wholesale extermination of ecosystems – the land has to be cleared of all life. It destroys the soil because the soil is bared – and has to be bared to grow annuals. In areas with inadequate rainfall, agriculture demands irrigation, which drains rivers to death and salinizes the soil
In Nebraska, 98 percent of the native tallgrass prairie is gone. There is no place left for the buffalo to roam. There’s only corn, wheat and soy. About the only animals that escaped the biotic cleansing of the agriculturalists are small animals like mice and rabbits, and billions of them are killed by the harvesting equipment every year. Unless you’re out there with a scythe, don’t forget to add them to the death toll of your vegetarian meal. They count and they died for your dinner, along with all the animals that have dwindled past the point of genetic feasibility. “You can look a cow in the eye,” reads an ad for soy burgers. What about a buffalo? (p 41) Five percent of a species is needed to ensure enough diversity for long-term survival, and less than 1 percent of the buffalo are left.”
Of 422,000 plant species, only a tiny percentage are domesticates. But some of those have literally taken over the globe. Plants produce millions of chemicals to attract, repel, immobilize or kill animals. It’s how some of them reproduce. And it’s how they fight back: nature, red in phytochemicals. Just because they can’t locomote doesn’t mean they’re passive. And every so often in the evolutionary crapshoot, one of them throws the gene dice and beats the house, producing a perfect match with the pleasure centres in the human brain. Annual grasses hit paydirt with their opiods. We ate them and we couldn’t stop
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