Greenwashed

It’s hard to be on the streets of Asheville for more than a few minutes without seeing a “local food” bumper sticker. But how, exactly, does one define “local food”?

A recent Xpress article noted that the Asheville Tourists now sell hot dogs made from animals raised in Buncombe County and sent to Pennsylvania for butchering. But do foods that travel 1,350 miles round trip for processing still qualify as local? And how do we account for the food brought in from afar and fed to animals raised here? It takes about 6 pounds of crops to produce a pound of pork, and not much feed is grown in the mountains. Does a barbecue sandwich count as local if six times its weight in food was shipped to Western North Carolina from Iowa?

Specifics aside, however, is all the attention focused on how far food travels to reach our plates (“food miles”) even warranted? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University don’t think so, at least in terms of carbon footprint. Their study “Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States” found that “greenhouse gas emissions associated with food are dominated by the production phase.” Surprisingly, they noted, “Final delivery from producer to retailer contributes only 4 percent” of the life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions.

Accordingly, they suggest that consumers modify their diets by eating foods that require less energy to produce in the first place. Eating an all-local diet, they found, saves the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,000 fewer miles each year, while eating a vegetarian diet one day per week is equivalent to driving 1,160 fewer miles per year. Quite simply, this is because feeding food to animals and then eating the animals is an extremely inefficient use of resources. More than half the grain grown in America is fed to animals who, like humans, expend most of the calories consumed living their lives.

The above-cited study may be the first to quantitatively compare the environmental implications of “food miles” vs. food choices. But it’s only the latest in a long series of articles in prestigious scientific journals and studies from top universities concluding that eating animal products contributes greatly to climate change.

According to the United Nations’ 390-page report “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, trains, buses, ships and airplanes in the world combined. Scientists at the University of Chicago calculated that switching from the standard American diet to a plant-based diet does more to combat global warming than switching from a gas-guzzler to a Toyota Prius. And the official companion handbook for Live Earth, the global-warming concerts co-organized by Al Gore, calls “refusing meat” the “single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.” Even the most conservative environmental organizations are now discussing the need to consume less meat or none at all (see “The Low-Carbon Diet,” January 2009 Audubon magazine).

But let’s get back to local farms, specifically those that raise animals. Compared with factory farms, family farms do employ some environmentally beneficial practices. Yet in some ways they’re actually less eco-friendly.

Animals allowed to move around expend more calories and thus consume more resources than those crammed into tiny crates and cages. Chickens not pumped full of antibiotics and genetically manipulated to reach optimal slaughter weight at 6-1/2 weeks take longer to raise — and consume more food in the process. Cows raised on pasture produce more methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide) than those crammed into feedlots.

Supporting a meat-based diet requires five times as much land as a plant-based diet, and smaller farms use even more land per animal. Additional demand for these products means deforestation, which leads to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The amount of land needed to produce all the meat Americans now consume by so-called “sustainable” methods would be astronomical — and it simply isn’t available. So if the answer lies in a shift from factory to family farms, much less meat will be produced.

But what about those who can’t afford or don’t have access to “elite meat”? Must they become vegetarians so that those better-off can continue their habits guilt-free? And how can something that uses so much land and other resources ever really merit the “sustainable” label?

There are definitely good reasons to support local farms. It’s great to do business with our neighbors, keep more money and jobs in our community, minimize “food miles,” eat fresher and tastier food, preserve local farmland and avoid supporting corporate agribusiness. And local farms are generally far less cruel than their industrial counterparts when it comes to raising animals.

But let’s not serve up their products with a side of greenwash. Plant-based agriculture is clearly much healthier for the earth, and thinking locally is only part of the equation: We also need to act globally. Nostalgic calls for a return to the perceived quaintness of days gone by are unrealistic, given the population explosion we’ve experienced.

Twenty-first century solutions require that we look forward, not backward. It’s time for well-intentioned environmentalists to stop looking for loopholes and embrace the necessity of a paradigm shift toward a plant-based diet.
Asheville resident Stewart David, a retired CPA, spent most of his life eating animal products at every meal. In the late ’80s, concerns about animal protection, the environment, hunger and social justice led him to adopt a vegan diet.

How can something that uses so much land and other resources ever really merit the “sustainable” label?

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42 thoughts on “Greenwashed

  1. getreal

    Right on, Mehgan! The defensiveness of these meatheads speaks volumes. It seems but a waste of time to try and reason with those whose minds are truly closed or to attempt to touch the heartstrings of those whose hearts are, sadly, quite calloused. We aren’t the first to be ridiculed by the masses for advocating peace and harmlessness.

    For more info on hunting, check out the excellent book, “The American Hunting Myth.” And also be sure to go to http://www.HumaneMyth.org for more info about so-called “humane slaughter,” “free-range,” etc.

    While it remains true that Stewart is known for his abrasive style, this doesn’t in the least negate the message and the Truth of the facts herein presented.

    Peace out!

  2. Becci

    Fantastic article. A study at Carnegie Melon proved that one DAY of eating vegan is better for the environment than a WEEK of eating local, so there you go!

  3. Piffy!

    [b]Right on, Mehgan! The defensiveness of these meatheads speaks volumes. [/b]

    so sayeth the sock puppet to himself.

  4. Piffy!

    Ah, yes. The number-twisting vegetarian moralists.

    [i]Myth: A significant portion of soybeans grown worldwide goes to feed cattle – and would be much more effectively used if fed to people instead.[/i]

    [b]The primary products derived from soybeans are soy protein products and oil. Soy protein products are made with the flakes that remain when beans are crushed to extract soy oil. The extracted soybean oil is used for human food and industrial products, with 100 percent of 2002 domestic soybean oil being used or consumed by humans. The flakes, which cannot be used for human food, are made into meal, which is primarily used for animal feed, or other soy protein products. Although 90 percent of the soybean meal is consumed by animals only 11 percent of soybean meal is consumed by beef cattle (2002 USDA and U.S. Census Bureau data). But regardless, the use of soybean meal as livestock feed is an efficient and effective use of this soy protein product and does not impact human consumption of soybean oil.[/b]

    [i]Myth: Number of people who could be fed by the grain saved if Americans reduced their meat intake by 10%: 60 million.[/i]
    [b]This is an old quote from Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute. It should be noted that Brown has been predicting food security crises for more than 20 years and has yet to be correct in any prediction. Further, in the 1990 Current Issues in Food Production: A Perspective on Beef as a Component in Diets for Americans, Dr. Harry Kunkel, professor of human nutrition at Texas A&M University, noted that this claim is based on a simplistic arithmetic exercise. If one accepts the figure quoted by activists of 12 million tons of grain ‘saved’, this would work out to about a pound of (unprocessed) grain per day for about 60 million people. But this ignores logic and reality. First, the grain in question is feed grain, not the higher quality food grain consumed by humans. Second, if there were no market for this grain as livestock feed, it simply would not be grown. Farmers are not going to grow grain and give it away. Unless, someone was willing to buy this lower quality grain and ship it to third world countries, it would not even be produced.[/b]

  5. Stewart David

    PFKaP,

    You keep spreading myths and ignoring science. Here’s what Greenpeace has to say about soy production:

    “Deforestation, slavery, use of toxic chemicals, land theft, illegal farming and the extinction of rare species are a recipe for disaster in the Amazon rainforest, but they are ingredients in KFC’s quest for cheap animal feed,” said Greenpeace International Forest Campaign Coordinator Gavin Edwards. “Fast food companies like KFC must take Amazon deforestation off their menu before it is too late for the world’s greatest rainforest.”

    “Soya, which is mainly grown to feed animals, is a leading cause of this destruction.”

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/kfc-exposed-for-trashing-the-a

  6. Piffy!

    Oh, i see. An unattributed quote beats actual numbers based on verifiable evidence.

    “Science”, indeed, stewie.

  7. Leslie

    Such a strange, convoluted discussion. And through it all, what we forgot, and left out completely, is the ethics of slaughtering billions of sentient, living beings who have souls. Given the choice between continuing to sacrifice animals on the altar of our preference or realizing their sentience and moving away from this mass killing (which might just have some compassionate ramifications for our fellow humans, as well) which do you suppose will help us reach an more enlightened state?

    I would not be as worried about our bodies, the continuation of our physical selves through ecological sense as I would be regarding the state of our souls, quite frankly. Where are the animals in all of this dicussion? Nothing more than the choice between a rock and a stick, I suppose, but those of us who have taken the time to know all sorts of animals, not just typical “pet” animals, know that if we were the ones being discussed as “food”, our perspective would be mightily different.

  8. Stewart David

    PFKaP,

    The science showing that plant-based diets are better for the environment is overwhelming. In fact, it is now common knowledge in the scientific community. I’ve given many references to good, peer-reviewed science, and you’ve ingored them all. So it’s useless to give you any more. You won’t discuss the facts because they clearly don’t add up in your favor, so instead you make silly statements that obfuscate the issue and shoot the messenger. How very mature. I can’t call you a silly name, of course, since I don’t know your name. You conveniently hide behind a moniker and refused my invitation to have an intelligent discussion on the topic.

  9. Stewart David

    Leslie,

    Well said. If you’ve read my previous letters to the editor, you know I am an ethical vegetarian. As someone who has been an environmentalist for decades, I wrote my commentary in an attempt to motivate people who may care about the planet but show no kindness or concern for animals. I raised the ethical issue early on the forum, but PFKaP and others mocked my words and exhibited their total lack of compassion for other living beings, so I gave up. Thanks for expressing it so well. Too many people believe “might makes right” and support the senseless slaughter of animals. I truly think many of them suffer from EDD (Empathy Deficit Disorder).
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/12/24/ST2007122401220.html

    There are so many reasons that people should stop eating animals. I tried presenting the science fo those who might give a darn about the environment. I suppose I could post some links to the overwhelming science showing that animals suffer in ways similar to humans. But I don’t think people with EDD would care.

    Thanks for your commeent and for using your real name and not hiding behind a moniker.

    And now, let me share a quote that I think you will appreciate:

    “The denial of rights to other animals by humans (speciesism) is analogous to the denial of rights to lesbians and gay men by heterosexuals (heterosexism). Both these forms of oppression derive from a prejudiced and chauvinistic mentality which devalues ‘difference’ and ‘otherness.’ Likewise, animals deserve rights for much the same reason that lesbians and gay men deserve rights. All human and non-human animals have a shared capacity for feelings. This recognition gives society the moral obligation to confer the right to be spared physical and psychological suffering on all animals, irrespective of their species, race, sex, class, disability or sexual orientation.” Peter Tatchell, cofounder of ACT-UP London and OutRage

  10. joeinmadco

    The ethical aspect of vegan philosophy is, contrary to popular dogma, exceedingly anthropocentric. Veganism actually seeks to set humans apart from their historical, natural community by ignoring the tens of thousands of years of relationship building that has taken place among animals, humans, and our environment.

    While we could potentially release domesticated farm animals to be slaughtered brutally and sometimes incompletely in the wild or by the bumper of a car, there are some of us out there who care enough to recognize our co-dependence with animals and seek to give them the best possible life until we need to kill them; and then, we use the best means available to us to make that death as quick and as painless as possible. While we humans get soil fertility and sustenance out of the deal, animals that grow up on most small family farms live relatively carefree lives wandering around pasture doing what animals do, and the best of them often pass on their genes to the next generation, securing their species’ survival, strength, and evolution.

    I was vegetarian for 10 years. I eat hardly any meat. I understand where you folks are coming from. But when you nail all human omnivores into the same box and scream at us for being ethically bankrupt, you lose your voice and lots of potential support. You should be railing against the folks who run CAFOs and giant chickenslums, people who only see animals as commodities or things. Instead, you see it all as so black and white: all animal agriculture is bad; either we’re with you or we’re against you. If you wanna be that way, well that’s fine–you’ve got plenty of people who will agree with you before you’ve even said a word; just don’t expect to win any independent-thinking converts that way.

  11. Piffy!

    If you people spent even a fraction of the time working on a farm as you do cutting and pasting disinformation from PETA websites you might actually have some knowledge about how the “environment” actually works, not mention where your food comers from.

    Until then, you will continue to be ungrounded zealots with no bearing on the real world. good luck!

  12. joeinmadco

    Stewart, you continue to push your “scientific” studies while ignoring the holes we’ve pointed out where they concern local food systems. Then you dramatically state “our” position as “might makes right,” which is completely bush league and right out of the vegan extremist slogan book.

    I know you want to make it simple, but it’s not. And you make your fellow vegans and vegetarians look bad when you fail to take a thoughtful look at this issue, instead relying mostly on dogma and a superficial understanding of local, small-scale agriculture to back up your arguments.

  13. Stewart David

    By the ridiculous things you two are saying, it’s obvious that neither of you even bothered to read my commentary. So I give up, this is a waste of time. If you ever want to have an conversation, get in touch.

  14. Stewart David

    Okay, Joe, I’ve found a few minutes. I’m not ducking the issue. You are the one who refuses to have an actual phone conversation or meet in person.

    My commentary acknowledged that animals raised on small farmers lead better lives than those on factory farms. Factory farms are horrific, and I’m all for animals having less miserable lives. I’ve said before that we agree more than we disagree. I’d gladly work side by side with you to shut down factory farms.

    But when you say “there are some of us out there who care enough to recognize our co-dependence with animals and seek to give them the best possible life until we need to kill them; and then, we use the best means available to us to make that death as quick and as painless as possible,” you are spinning the story. First, we don’t need to kill them. Second, when you raise animals for a profit, profit motives often trump “humane” treatment. Small farmers generally castrate pigs without the use of anesthesia. They also remove their needle teeth without anesthesia. They defend these practices by saying the procedures are quick, etc. But imagine getting dental work done without the benefit of Novocain or having your testicles cut off while you are fully awake. Vets use anesthesia when they do surgery on dogs and cats, and I don’t think you would argue that pigs, who are smarter than dogs and cats, don’t feel pain in a similar way.

    Almost all local chicken farmers order their birds from commercial hatcheries. Half of the birds born at these places (males) are unable to lay eggs. They also aren’t useful for meat production since they don’t yield the quantity of flesh of the “broilers” genetically manipulated to grow to optimum slaughter weight in six and a half weeks. So these “byproducts” are killed the day they are born. Common methods include being ground up alive and suffocation in plastic bags. So there is complicity with egregious suffering and killing.

    Almost all egg producers “dispose” of their flocks annually. As you know, this practice isn’t limited to factory farms, where hens spend their entire lives crammed into feces-encrusted cages, unable to spread a wing. Local, “free range” farms do the same. That’s because, although hens lay for many years, production diminishes slightly when they become a year old. Businesses are about maximizing profits, so cost/benefit ratios mandate replacement (death) at an early age.

    Many animals raised on small farms go to commercial slaughterhouses. The Humane Slaughter Act doesn’t apply to birds, who often have their throats slit while fully conscious and may be boiled alive. The Humane Slaughter Act does apply to pigs, but it is rarely enforced. Line speeds are so fast that even well trained killers (not all killers are skilled) cannot consistently render the pigs unconscious before they are dumped into scalding water tanks for hair removal. It is common for pigs to be boiled alive. So much for quick and painless deaths.

    Despite the continual assertions to the contrary, I know a good bit about farming. And I don’t sit in front of the TV all day watching Bambi while eating Kiwi fruit. I eat a lot of local food and have never watched the Discovery Channel. I don’t have silly anthropomorphic ideas about animals. I just don’t think we should be killing them to satisfy our taste for flesh, our desire to be entertained, etc. Not only do we not need animal protein, it’s the cause of many degenerative diseases.

    Yes, I don’t believe that “might makes right.” I believe in the Golden Rule, and think it should apply across the species barrier. I understand that it’s not always that simple, but I think when we can act with compassion, we should do so. Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.

    Your reference to releasing farm animals into the wild is silly. You know that. We just need to stop breeding them.

  15. xvelouria

    I’m surprised it took him this long to give up. Sometimes having a conversation on this site is like talking to a brick wall… or a robot.

  16. Piffy!

    again, if anyone wants to come work on our farm, so they can learn about how food is actually produced, contact myself via PM.

    warning-we use bone meal on our kale and broccoli.
    -dave

  17. Leslie

    Yes, it’s difficult if not impossible to have a non-judgmental conversation on this kind of topic. I guess everybody decides for themselves. And what they decide is, essentially, in the end, when it’s all over for us because we’re as mortal as the faceless animals we discuss, is a simple choice. Do we wish to add to the already overwhelming violence in the world or do we instead want to find a way to add our voices to the side of compassion, empathy and kindness. That’s all it really boils down to.

    It has to do with legacy, and where we feel we belong in this world. Of course I will be attacked for being anthromorphic, or a million other names, but I don’t care. My short, pathetic life on this earth does not give me the right to exploit and abuse other beings, period.
    As far as I am able, as far as my awareness goes. It is not necessary and therefore, since I have a choice, I choose kindness.

    Stewart, always remember: “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle.”

  18. Piffy!

    Stewart-Pm is a “Private message” and you can send me one through the MX system via this link:

    http://www.mountainx.com/forums/member/4657/

    (click on “PM”)

    [b]Leslie[/b],

    Your implication that those who disagree with you on this subject are ignorant, and ‘in the dark’ is the exact kind of self-righteous comments that you decry earlier in your post.

    I know plenty of vegetarians who choose to not eat meat for their own, personal reasons. I myself was vegan for many years, and vegetarian for a few years prior to that. What I find annoying are those such as yourself who go out of their way to claim they are somehow more “moral” because they dont eat meat. Not eating meat is a personal, dietery choice. You are aware that even “vegan” food must be harvested mechanically, which kills animals, and must be transported, which kills more animals and contributes to a high energy footprint?

    Again, this whole discussion began around the concept of “sustainability”, and didnt degenerate into the completely subjective concept of “morality” until the actual facts of local animal husbandry were brought up in contrast to stewart’s cut-and-paste PETA proaganda.

    Do yourself a favor, Leslie, and visit area farms and discuss with them their methods for animal husbandry, instead of blindly accepting information promoted by a for-profit business like PETA. You may be very surprised to learn that very few farms in our area are “Factory Farms”. One of our many farmer’s market would be an excellent place to start.

  19. Piffy!

    [b]““Soya, which is mainly grown to feed animals, is a leading cause of this destruction.””[/b]

    Not true. The majority of Soy fed to animals on massive feed lots is a waste byproduct of soy that is processed b=for human consumption.

    Check your facts, stewie.

  20. Piffy!

    hey Joe, Stewart, etal.

    Any of you folks ever read [b]The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability[/b] By Lierre Keith?

    it’s good. Derrick Jensen claims reading it “saved my life”.

    I’d be curious to know what you all think/thought of it.

  21. Stewart David

    PFKaP,

    I have, indeed, checked my facts regarding soy, and I disagree with your conclusion. But, really, do you need to be so nasty and call me names because we don’t agree? Get a grip. Yes, I know that vegan food involves harvesting and transportation. Duh. I think we can make better choices, but I know there are no perfect choices, and everything we do has an impact. You agree with making conscious choices that minimize your impact on the earth, which is why you are against factory farming. So, again, we agree more than we disagree. But rather than try to find common ground, you mock my conscious choices and continually put words in my mouth. You act like I am an idiot, but I’d be willing to bet you a few dollars that my I.Q. compares favorably to yours.

    I did scan “The Vegetarian Myth,” and heard Keith on the radio recently. She was pretty much incoherent. She calls herself an environmentalist but commutes between the East and West coasts, pretty funny stuff. But I digress. Her “solution” is to go back to hunter-gatherer mode and raise a few animals. What’s funny is that people call animal activists misanthropes, yet we deal with the reality of having almost 7 billion people on the planet that need to be fed. Ms. Keith wants to end all industrialized agriculture tomorrow and readily admits that for this to happen most of the people on the planet would need to die from starvation. And she clearly doesn’t care. She is privileged to have 2 homes and land, so she can survive, so damn everyone else! I agree that overpopulation is at the root of all problems, but I don’t advocate mass death, I seek solutions. And I’m the misanthrope?

    She seems to have written her book to appeal to and profit off of the people who want an excuse to eat meat. She refers to the research of the Weston Price Foundation, yet most of it was done 70 years ago and has been debunked over and over. Dr. Price was a well-intentioned dentist, but a lot of research methodologies from the 1930′s have failed the test of time. She also references Dr. Atkins, a man who died of heart disease and was obese at the time. He became wealthy telling people what they wanted to hear, namely, that they should eat a LOT of meat. If you are open to reading criticism of the Weston Price Foundation, see http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/fuhrman_dietary_myths.htm
    Atkins has been so thoroughly debunked I won’t even bother including any info.

    As noted previously, Science Daily recently reported the following: “The American Dietetic Association has released an updated position paper on vegetarian diets that concludes such diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for adults, infants, children and adolescents and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090701103002.htm

    But Ms. Keith doesn’t seem to care about science when it gets in the way of selling her book.

  22. Piffy!

    ah, i see, you ‘scanned’ the book in question.

    Is that how you get all your info? by skimming through things until you find something that fits your predetermined conclusions and dogmas?

    Like madisoncoJoe, I was Vegan/veggie for years, and i currently only eat a very small amount of meat or dairy, nearly all from my own farm or other local sources. I am all for people who choose to be veggie for their own health, but get very annoyed when they folks such as yourself and others in this thread attempt to inject relative moral values into a discussion about environmental sustainability.

    Of course, this has been said repeatedly, and all you do is attempt to twist words and create enemies where you should be creating alliances with local farmers who share your dislike and mistrust of Industrial Agriculture in all its manifestations.

  23. Stewart David

    PFKaP,

    I listened to an hour interview with Ms. Keith and I spent an hour reading excerpts from her book. You think I should have read every word, so you mock me for it, even though you obviously still haven’t read my commentary. If I recommended a book and you didn’t read every word, I wouldn’t mock you. You are a nasty individual, unable to write one post in a civil tone.

  24. Stewart David

    Joe,

    The average American eats over 200 pounds of flesh every year, and the point of my commentary is that people who care about the environment shouldn’t use local meat as an excuse to continue to do so. Since you (and PK, but he’s incapable of carrying on a civil conversation) both eat so little meat, you probably agree. Again, we agree more than we disagree.

    I think I laid out a pretty clear case in my commentary for the environmental reasons to eat a plant-based diet based on the best science available. Not a vegan diet, a plant-based diet. I don’t expect environmentalists to necessarily become vegans, but I think they need to eat less meat rather than deluding themselves with feel-good “alternatives,” like pasture-raised local animals. That’s not a solution for the masses. If we shut down CAFO’s tomorrow, either everyone would need to eat a lot less meat or only those who can afford it could eat meat. That sounds a lot like a NIMBY attitude. Or a YBTV attitude…you be the vegetarian, I can afford meat. As someone dedicated to social justice, that rubs me the wrong way. Since I was born the US population has doubled and world population has almost tripled. I’m sure you’ve also done the math and know that there isn’t enough “free range” for everyone to eat over 200 pounds of flesh annually. Again, the very point of my article, and something on which we probably agree.

    Yes, I understand that certain parcels of land can’t be farmed but can be grazed, so in specific instances raising meat makes sense from an environmental perspective. But we need to act globally, and promoting pasture raised-meats gives people the loophole they are looking for rather than face the facts and consume less meat. I think we all win when people take a closer look at their consumption patterns. That’s why I am encouraging people see to Food, Inc., even though they don’t mention vegetarian diets, let alone vegan diets, and perpetuate the myths and greenwash we have been discussing.

    Speaking of the movie, Evergreen school recently held a benefit showing of the movie, and had a panel discussion of ‘food experts” after the show that included someone from a local natural foods grocery store and someone from the farm that sends their “local meat” on a 1350 mile round-trip for processing.

    The grocery store had a full-page back cover ad in the same Mountain Xpress issue as my commentary that promoted a “grillout sampling” event made up exclusively of animal products, including tuna and shrimp. I hope the people they buy seafood from use methods other than trawling, or in the case of some shrimpers, bottom-scraping dragnets that haul up 10 pounds of life for every pound of shrimp caught. Most of the by-catch is discarded, it’s a lot like gathering wild mushrooms with a bulldozer. But even if they use better methods, not only are these foods not local, the very idea that there is such a thing as sustainable seafood is the epitome of greenwash, considering how humans have decimated aquatic populations. And factory-farmed fishing is another environmental disaster. Couldn’t they have promote at least one plant-based item to put on the grill? Or is this mostly about money for them, not the environment?

    When we hold up merchants as experts on sustainability, isn’t that a lot like letting the military-industrial complex dictate foreign policy? Eisenhower’s famous 1961 speech made dire warnings about this, and it’s only gotten worse. Including these folks as experts and never discussing eating less meat and not giving an advocate of plant-based diets a seat at the table leads me to believe that some people just aren’t very open to thinking outside of the box.

    I think you will probably agree with that, too.

  25. Stewart David

    PF,

    We all make moral judgments. I’m a proponent of universal health care, and I think it’s immoral that American’s die because they can’t afford to see a doctor or get the treatment they need. That doesn’t mean that I don’t work with others for more moderate measures, too. But I have an opinion, based on my values. We all do. Get over it.

  26. Stewart David

    Joe,

    Bobby Kennedy recently interviewed Nicolette Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop, Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. You can listen at http://www.ringoffireradio.com.

    The interview was a scathing indictment of factory farms, and made a great case that they should be outlawed immediately. I’m sure we agree.

    When asked what the industry had to say about small-scale, free-range meat, Niman’s attempted to rebut what she said are their two most common criticisms:

    1) factory farms provide less-expensive food
    2) factory farms provide quantities that cannot be matched by farmers

    In response to #1, she noted that TRUE COST of factory-farmed foods is higher than those produced by small farmers. Yes, of course, when you consider the environmental costs, take subsidies into account, etc. that’s correct. But I don’t see that happening soon considering the power of big agriculture. In the meantime, to the poor family struggling to put food on the table, paying the premium price of Niman pork instead of buying cheap Smithfield pork is virtually out of the question. Isn’t there more to the discussion?

    Regarding the industry claim that family farms could never match the volume of production of factory farms, Ms. Niman’s counter argument is that we raised as many pigs on family farms at the turn of the 20th century as we do on today’s factory farms. But it’s not a valid comparison, because US population has quadrupled in that time, and today’s genetically-altered pigs grow bigger and faster.

    One answer she completely ignored is eating less meat I think raising this point shouldn’t threaten small farmers, and it would actually help their case. Unless and until demand for meat products drops precipitously, family-farmed meats will never be able to produce the quantities desired, and it will be more difficult to relegate factory farms to the history books. We need to take away this argument from big agriculture. I wish more small farmers would bring this up; it would give them more credibility. Again, that was the point I was making on my commentary. I’m guessing that you’ll agree with me on this, too.

  27. Piffy!

    [b]I listened to an hour interview with Ms. Keith and I spent an hour reading excerpts from her book. You think I should have read every word, so you mock me for it, even though you obviously still haven’t read my commentary.[/b]

    So, when you dismiss the book you merely ‘skimmed’, you think I should take that as some kind of informed stance?

    As for your original entry, I have indeed read it, and have references specific parts of it in this thread. You, though, have already taken the conversation way beyond the initial debate of “Environmental Sustainability” with most of your preceding posts.

    [b]If I recommended a book and you didn’t read every word, I wouldn’t mock you. You are a nasty individual, unable to write one post in a civil tone. [/b]

    If you recommend a book, I would refrain from critiquing it until I had actually [i]read[/i] it. “Skimming” or basing an opinion of a book based on an interview with the author that may or may not have covered all the issues the book does
    not really count as a reliable refutation of the Book itself.

    As for being “Nasty”, I really dont see where you get that from, unless you choose to avoid tangible issues in favor of character assassination. After all, i have repeatedly invited you to my home to discuss the issues and speak with my housemates chickens to discuss their enslavement. That hardly seems rude to me.

    I look forward to the day when you can live on oxygen alone, so as to not contribute to any kind of ‘death’ in any way. Until, good luck…

  28. Piffy!

    [b]Bobby Kennedy recently interviewed Nicolette Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop, Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. You can listen at http://www.ringoffireradio.com.

    The interview was a scathing indictment of factory farms, and made a great case that they should be outlawed immediately.
    [/b]

    Again, who here has defended “Factory Farms”? Nobody, from what I can tell.

    It sounds like you desperately want to have an argument with someone defending Factory Farms and can not fathom that there may be some logic found in a middle ground where people are free to choose sustainable, local alternatives to these factory farms.

    What alwasy strikes me about you, Stewart, and other PETA-aligned folks is that you seem to subvert your own cause with your close-minded militancy. If your real goal is to fight Factory Farms”, I would think aligning yourself with local farmers who provide a tangible alternative those companies would certainly be in your political intrest.

    But since it appears your real “Cause” is to declare animal husbandry completely “Immoral”, you do not chose this path of co-operation. This is highly evident in how quickly you abandon your original thesis of “Sustainability” in favor of your own sense of “Morality”.

    Despite whatever skewed national and global statistics you post, the FACT remains that small family farms remain the only real option for a Secure food system for the future. And your original latter bashes local farms for working within the system to make changes that will move us, as a region, closer to that kind of sustainability.

  29. joeinmadco

    Stewart, I’ve never refused to meet you in person or talk on the phone. But I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.

    Yes, we agree that the average American needs to eat less meat. We agree on several things. And I appreciate the fact that you’re now saying that you’re not advocating folks go vegan or vegetarian. I realize you used the words “plant-based diet” in your commentary, but when you rail against the small animal farm for using too much land and complain that animals on pasture produce so many greenhouse gasses, you underhandedly attack the basis of good local agriculture, and it gives the reader the impression that you are anti-animal husbandry and by consequence ultimately talking about eliminating animals from the equation altogether (not to mention several of your follow-up comments that are more up front about how you really feel). We’ve had this discussion before. You see, animals produce manure, which I guarantee helped grow some of your local veggies. Manure and other animal byproducts are the building blocks of good soil around here. We need animals on our farms, because we don’t want to kill our soils and ourselves with petrochemicals. Those animals have to die at some point, like everything else. And while it’s not pleasant to have to kill them, it’s part of our history and survival, and we try to be humble about it. In turn, domesticated animal species thrive like no other (in certain circumstances, of course), when they likely would have went extinct long ago. But I forgot, you want to remove them from the planet anyway, so I’m not sure the history will interest you. Of course, the offer is still open for you to show me how veganic agriculture works on a real farm feeding real people.

    So, look, if you really want people to switch to a plant-based diet I recommend, instead of attacking local farm practices in the paper, you get to intimately know a farm and its farmers. Learn how everything is done there. See how hard it is. See how poor most of them are. Then, as a community member with a direct interest in that farm, tell them what you want and help them get there. Maybe less meat production. More humane killing and herd management. Also, if you don’t want “high” meat prices, maybe you can advocate for more localized control of the slaughtering process. Allow farmers to once again do it themselves; or make it easier to establish and run local processing plants. Local agriculture should be about complete transparency, so the consumer knows exactly what is going on with their food. Help exempt our small farmers from all the red tape meant for the agribusiness slashers. Do you think you could actually help farmers kill better?

    I have my doubts that you are serious about wanting people to eat merely less meat, and instead your real agenda is to push for people to eat no meat. Feel free to have that agenda, just don’t try to hide it underneath something else (or, if I’m wrong, maybe try to be a bit more straightforward with your stance in your commentaries and follow-up comments). Then we can talk more plainly about our positions in this debate.

  30. Piffy!

    Stewart has contradicted himself multiple times in this thread as he peruses the PETA website for talking points to attack all of our valid arguments in favor of sustainable agriculture. Merely reading the above letter and subsequent posts will verify this as he jumps from calling animal husbandry inherently unsustainable to falling back on his moralist argument that eating meat is ‘wrong’.

    there is no common ground the be reached with PETAapiles. It is all or nothing for them, which is the definition of an ‘extremist’.

    makes me think of a recent PETA program that looked to boycott maple syrup in response to Canada’a Seal Hunt. really. those damn seal hunting maple tappers.

  31. Stewart David

    Joe,

    Thanks for your response. I never said that you refused to meet or talk to me. But you accused me of ducking a question, something I’ll never do. At times I feel that forum conversations in general and this one in particular deteriorate into people talking at each other rather than talking to each other. So I encouraged you to pick up the phone if you were interested in a better dialogue.

    I am very serious when I encourage people to eat less meat. It’s the right thing for the environment, and I’ve been an environmental advocate for a very long time.

    I worked as part of a coalition with small farmers to pass Proposition 2 in California, which put some restrictions on the worst abuses of factory farming. I am all for animals suffering less, as noted in my commentary. But I’m an honest person and won’t hide my beliefs.

    It’s no secret that I think people who buy their food should stop buying dead animals. The ethics get murkier when you get to hunter/gather societies or cultures where people rely on fishing and have few other food sources, but that’s a topic for another day. I don’t find historical precedent for raising animals to be fair justification for killing them. Humans have done a lot of things that society has deemed no longer be acceptable. I just don’t believe that we have the right to do whatever we want to animals. Philosopher Peter Singer put it well when he said “It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.” But you don’t need to be a philosopher to share the vision. Andy Rooney said, “Most of us think of vegetarians as nuts and I’m not a vegetarian but I wouldn’t be surprised if we came to a time in 50 or 100 years when civilized people everywhere refused to eat animals. I could be one of them.”

    But I am very pragmatic. I know that we live in a society based on meat-eating, and that won’t change anytime soon. Environmentalists should eat less meat, and yet I seldom hear that from “your side.” I am glad you acknowledge it. Right now we are awash in manure, it’s killing our planet. Right now, IMHO, the most meaningful environmental action someone buying food can do is to buy little or no meat. Small farms can only produce so much, and their markets are pretty strong. I don’t think small farmers should be defensive and worry about losing business.

    My commentary didn’t bash anyone. I didn’t rail against anyone. Many people (from both “sides”) have told me it was respectful and thoughtful. I’m sorry that you don’t see it that way. As you will recall, I encouraged people to buy locally. I just put out some information and exposed some greenwash. And ask some questions that no one has answered, which will be in my next post. And that will be my last post. Feel free to get in touch if you wish to carry on the conversation. I appreciate your comments. I am not your enemy.

    Again, a main point in of my commentary is that people must eat less meat if we are ever going to see an end to factory farming. Again, we agree more than we disagree.

  32. Stewart David

    PFKaP,

    I don’t contradict myself at all. Someone can be against the death penalty but also work for better conditions on death row and work to limit the death penalty to specific crimes. We can work in coalitions while we keep our beliefs intact. Your desire to reduce me to a single soundbite and stereotype is silly.

    You spend your time tossing out insults, pre-judging me, putting words in my mouth, etc., because you don’t like my values. We both advocate for the environment. A lot of people are offended by that, but it’s a moral judgment we’ve made. I’ve advocated for an end to wars, racism, sexism, homophobia, feeding the poor, etc., and every time I have, it offended those that disagree. Without moral judgments, we’d have nothing. Deal with it, move on, and agree to disagree once in a while.

    You accuse me of not answering questions. Yet I haven’t heard answers to the questions I posed, which included the following: How do family farms feed today’s population? Should everyone who can’t be fed by family farms die of starvation? Do family farms give people an excuse to eat all the meat they want rather than eat meat sparingly? Should the poor become vegetarians so that the privileged can eat meat with a clear conscious? Should small farms that raise animals encourage people to eat less meat, or should they promote gluttonous barbecues? Should people in the business of selling meat be held up as experts? Should we ignore their greenwash, like when they sell “local” hot dogs that make a 1350 mile round –trip for processing? Who do you believe uses better scientific methods, the money-grubbing Dr. Atkins who was obese when he died of heart disease, or the American Dieticians Association, which tells us that vegetarian diets are healthy? When someone says they treat animals “humanely,” is it okay to ask for details?

    I don’t know how to enable the “private message” system on the Mountain Xpress website, and am not interested in doing so. Your e-mails on this public forum are nasty enough: I can only imagine what you’d send privately. I usually stay off of forums because they often end up this way, especially when people who don’t know each other are “arguing.” I’d rather talk to someone rather than talk at them. I see that you comment on most of the forums, you apparently thrive on this sort of thing. I’m in the phone book; I don’t hide behind a moniker. If you are ever interested in an actual conversation, give me a call and we can talk on the phone or meet somewhere. Of course, you’d have to be willing to identify yourself.

    So I’ll sign off now. I know you’ll need to have the last word, so have at it.

    Thanks, though, for keeping my commentary in the “Hot Topics” section on the Mountain Xpress website for so long. I hope all of our comments got read by a lot of people who then made more informed choices. That’s what it’s all about!

  33. joeinmadco

    That’s cool Stewart. I know you think you’ve been fair, and your friends “from both sides” agree with you. You’ve told us several times. I’m just telling how your commentary and follow-up comments come off to me, someone who only recently moved to this area and doesn’t have any direct financial stake in this issue. I merely care about building good local and regional foodsystems to ensure a sustainable and secure future for my neighbors and my family. While you think you’re simply putting out information and exposing “greenwash”, you completely fail to acknowledge the holes in your “science” and don’t seem to realize that you offer no real, sustainable alternative to the practices you ultimately condemn.

    You think eating less meat is the best thing you can do for the environment. I think eating locally and regionally is the best first step–because it helps build a system and an infrastructure for a sustainable future. Eating less meat is only one piece of the bigger picture of eating seasonally and locally. I hope you’ll understand this one day and learn to help our local farmers succeed.

  34. Piffy!

    [b]Thanks, though, for keeping my commentary in the “Hot Topics” section on the Mountain Xpress website for so long. I hope all of our comments got read by a lot of people who then made more informed choices. That’s what it’s all about! [/b]

    Yes, i’m sure lots of people saw you contradict yourself and manipulate statistics in the name of fundamental fanaticism. Good Job!

  35. sarahjane

    Without judging one another, I think we can all realize every effort towards a more sustainable asheville is great. Fair enough, a human race of carnivores is not sustainable, but we won’t go from walmart shoppers to Gandhi’s overnight.

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