Posted by: Rachael | July 8, 2008

Why I Am Not Vegetarian.

I don’t believe in it.
That said, Father Bear thinks we eat vegetarian most of the time – six sausages divided amongst eleven people doesn’t really count as meat as far as he is concerned šŸ˜‰

It’s not that I think vegetarians are extreme – since when did that ever bother me?
It’s not that I think they are unhealthy – quite to the contrary, may of them are far more aware of the nutritional value of what theyĀ eat.
It’s not that I don’t care about animal welfare – that’s why we boycott Tegel (well, that and the fact that I am big enough without eating growth hormones too!)
It’s not that I don’t care about drift nets raping the seas – that’s why we only eat fish we’ve caught ourselves and stopped buying tinned tuna or salmon.
It’s not that I don’t care about farmers polluting our waterways – I just haven’t done anything about sourcing *ethical* meat yet.
It’s not that I don’t think we have a world hunger problem. Clearly we do, but vegetarianism is not the answer.

And not only do I think that, but Colin Tudge does too. He even wrote a book all about it.
“So Shall We Reap”, subtitled: (How everyone who is liable to be born in the next ten thousand years could eat very well indeed; and why, in practice, our immediate descendants are likely to be in serious trouble)

See what he has to say:

Vegetarians point out that a hectare of wheat or pulses, say, produces about ten times more protein or calories as would the same area dedicated to beef or sheep. Therefore, they say, agriculture devoted entirely to plants must be far more economical on space, and so in principle should leave far more land spare for wilderness, and the wildlife that lives in it. If the 10 billion people who will be with us us by 2050 were all vegan, then the world population would indeed be 10 billion. But if mid-twenty-first century people all eat as much meat as is projected, then the effective population – people plus livestock – will be 14 billion.

There is a great deal in this argument. Farming would indeed be more sustainable, and wildlife-friendly, if humanity in general ate less meat. Even so, the case is nothing like so clear-cut as the vegetarians suggest….The traditional role of livestock is to clear up odds and ends. Farmers should always aim for a small crop surplus for insurance, in case the weather fails and reduces the crop. In most years, then, they will indeed produce more than is stictly needed, and without animals to mop up the excess, this surplus will be wasted. In addition, cattle and sheep in particular (sometimes supplemented with goats and camels) can always produce at least a little meat or milk from hillsides, uplands, wetlands and semi-deserts where crops cannot be grown at all. Finally, too, animals provide an excellent source of fertility in the form of manure; and as noted in Chapter 2, US cereal production waned somewhat in the 1920s and ’30s until more livestock were introduced. In other words, agriculture that is plant-oriented but also includes some livestock here and there, in the end uses landscape more efficiently than agriculture that is geared exclusively to crops. Thus, agriculture, with a judicious mix of plants and livestock (mostly plants, but at least some livestock) should occupy less space than an all-crop agriculture, and so (in principle) would leave even more wilderness for other creatures to enjoy…..

(He also recognises that many vegos are concerned about inhumane animal practices, and he discusses at length how veganism and vegetarianism do very little to improveĀ them – just avoiding eggs or meat does not FIX the problem).

On pages 357-359, Tudge suggests an ideal land-use scenario. I would have copied it out, but I’ve already had the book out of the library for two months and cannot renew it again, so it has gone back. Suffice to say, it avoids mono-culture and is based on the idea that farming’s primary role is to feed people rather than to keep some people in power and produce money. In food production, the bottom dollar is not the benchmark against which to measure success. And so multi-crop-mixed-with-some-livestock-smallholdings, which can sustainably feed a community can be viewed as more successful thanĀ theĀ most cost-and-time-efficient mega-farms thatĀ are touted as the answer to the world food shortage.

And so, IĀ have no qualms about eating some animal products. I just need to make the effort to discover where to source them from, because I’d like toĀ support the small-farmers and preferably organic-care-about-the-environment small-farmers.



  1. I can see your point,` and the Tudge fellow’s point as well. Vegetarians do balance out those who eat quite a bit of meat I guess.

    We killed two roosters in the weekend and bought 72 locally made sausages yesterday. Should get well over 20 meals from the two meat sources – good for six weeks, with other meals coming from beans/dairy/fish.

  2. i’m a vegetarian, but yeah, what you said šŸ™‚ and what sandra said too (the bit about the balancing, not the roosters šŸ˜‰ )

    a lot of veges/vegans are also activists, so are trying to fix the welfare issue too..

  3. […] – bookmarked by 4 members originally found by billyoungs on 2008-09-29 Why I Am Not Vegetarian. – bookmarked by 1 […]

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