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misrepresented. again.

January 24, 2010

Once again, the New York Times has printed a very silly article that misrepresents the concerns of vegans.  James Kanter’s article, Stop Eating Meat and Save the Planet?,was published in today’s Green Inc. column of the NY Times. The article discusses the conversations in Copenhagen last month regarding a push to have people eat less meat in order to reduce green house gas emissions. Kanter’s aim on the surface seems to be to present both sides of the argument. But he fails. Kanter misrepresents, or simply doesn’t understand, the argument on the vegan side while nearly unproblematically presenting the perspective of the beef industry. Whether it is due to perspective or ignorance I am not sure, but he is writing in the NY Times, so I am holding him accountable.

Kanter’s Summary:

Kanter doesn’t cohesively outline the argument on either side, presenting only select ideas from each side. He presents two arguments on the vegan side. According to him: we think methane from cow burps is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions and that some of us are pushing for governments to campaign for one meat free day a week among its citizens.  He then presents the beef industry’s counter arguments. First, that there is no proof that one meat-free day a week will have any good. And the second beef industry point? He quotes this ridiculous comment:

“‘Would, for example, wild herbivores and termite mounds take over many of these environments, and end up producing as much greenhouse gases as domestic ruminants?’ Mr. Seré asked. ‘We frankly don’t, and can’t, know that yet.’”

Following this, Kanter plays it safe and takes to citing middle ground solutions. He then closes with quotes from a Livestock lobby, giving those who make big bucks off of animal torture the last word.

Oh, come on, Kanter! Are you for real?

I’ll start with the easy stuff. To the point that there is no proof that one meat-free day a week on a large scale will help the environment: there is plenty of proof it will help in terms of reducing risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer—the biggest health epidemics in the US.  That seems reason enough to me, though I am sure it would help the environment as well.

My next objection is that Kanter takes the beef industry so seriously in this article and seems to trust their perspective. Yes, this is the same silly industry that has something stuck so far up its ass it actually sued Oprah for libel for saying she never wanted to eat another hamburger. This is the same industry that is regularly found covering up contaminated meat and processing downed cows. Kanter really should try for better sources.

I am also little miffed that Kanter chooses a single group of cult like vegans to represent us all. On the vegan side, he uses the followers of Supreme Master Ching Hai as representative of vegans. I will let that slide for the moment though since I don’t really know much about the Supreme Master’s teachings.

The greatest issue of this article is that Kanter doesn’t understand the arguments for how beef production leads to environmental degradation. Cow burps? Sure, that releases methane, but that is not the whole story and he seems to be inviting readers to interpret the vegan environmental argument as silly. The whole reason that beef production in the US is the number one contributor to environmental degradation is because of all the waste across the board that goes into it: excessive water use for the factory farmed cows and the crops they eat (calorie for calorie, many more crops are needed to raise cattle that will later be turned into “food” for people, than would be used if we just fed people crops directly), chemicals for crops and the toxins the over-antibiotic ridden bodies of the cows are leeching into the soil and water, the extra trucks and machinery that are used to feed, transport and slaughter cows pollute the air, soil and water,  and the toxic waste that cow poop develops into when cows are factory farmed.  Much of this leads directly to greenhouse gas emissions.

Next, Kanter actually presents someone’s counter argument that “wild herbivores” might overrun the earth and burp in mass to destroy the environment. Ridiculous. I would rather take my chances on the termite take-over than settle with the current state of affairs because, frankly, even my imagination can’t foresee a future in which the  “wild herbivores” have run a muck and the environment has been depleted by their burping.

Finally, we get to the last point of the article in which Kanter again quotes Carlos Seré (of the termite-burping fear mongering) who is the director general of the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi:

[Mr. Seré] said environmental campaigners should keep in mind that the “biggest concern of many experts regarding livestock in developing countries is not their impact on climate change but rather the impact of climate change on livestock production.”

Seré says we should care more about how the environment effects livestock than how livestock effect the environment.  If livestock production degrades the environment, then we need to be concerned with the later to approach the former. And this is not a chicken-or-egg argument I am bringing up.  In this scenario, we know which came first.

And then he continues with Seré to close up:

The “hotter and more extreme tropical environments being predicted threaten not only up to a billion livelihoods based on livestock but also supplies of milk, meat and eggs among hungry communities that need these nourishing foods most,” he said.

Kanter, use your brain before quoting such illogical crap. If we didn’t deforest and deplete these environments for the sake of mass beef production by using the land for mono-cropping livestock feed and clear-cutting land for cows to be factory farmed (think McDonald’s and the Amazon Rainforest), this area could be used to produce food sustainably, which could then be used to feed people. Let’s not forget, calories are wasted when used to feed cows that will later become “beef,” as many fewer crops are needed to feed people than are needed to feed that cows that are later used to feed people.  And mass producing food allows for mainstreaming production and downsizing the labor force, so I think my suggestion would actually improve the livelihoods of  many more people.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2010 9:04 am

    I’ve officially lost many brain cells from reading Kanter’s pile of misinformed drivel.

    • January 25, 2010 10:51 am

      gather yourself, greenie! we need to have all our wits about us when the wild herbivores take over! haha 🙂

  2. conradvisionquest permalink
    February 20, 2010 6:27 am

    great article. your name makes me giggle… vegina…tee heee he…. vegina. heheee

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