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No, vegetarianism won’t save the world…

Posted Aug 27 2012 11:00am

Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists, trumpets the Guardian , with an emphasis on the droughts and crop failures in the USA and Russia, which prompted one numpty to say, somewhat absurdly, in the comments:-

Rubbish! – There are Billions of cubic meters of fresh water in the ice-caps.

Indeed there are –  and the reason why that’s vanishing at such an alarming rate is the same one that’s causing droughts, crop failures and floods across the world – to which he, presumably, hasn’t been paying too much attention. There’s no shortage of water, it’s just falling in all the wrong places. Like here – I’ve barely seen enough dry days to make a week this year.

But aside from that, I’d love to hear his ideas for getting those billions of tonnes of fresh water to, say, the American Midwest, or the Russian steppes, bearing in mind that destroying the icecaps on the vast scale needed in the long term, even if it were possible, would at some point change the albedo of the planet, reflecting less sunlight and driving climate change even faster, dramatically worsening current problems and doubtless, too, creating new ones.

I’ve a problem with the whole vegetarian/vegan thing being touted as a world saviour, having been both in my time, and that’s the fact that nobody is explaining how such a dietary** change would actually prevent crop failures, on the scale we’re currently seeing, from happening in the future. And few are more at risk from crop failure than veggies and vegans.

**And I stress dietary, I’m not wearing plastic shoes for any bugger – because it’s not just the meat industry this would wreck, it’s all the peripheral industries around it, using up its by-products, not to mention that the land that supports meat and dairy farms, particularly in Britain, is mostly unsuitable for growing anything more demanding than grass.

While I agree that some cultures eat meat on a scale that is positively obscene (the US for example, and Jay Rayner ;) ), even if we all abandoned meat next week, it wouldn’t make it rain where it’s badly needed, or stop it raining where it’s causing disastrous floods, with similar effects on crops.

So here we are, in 20 years time, with most of the world vegetarians or vegan (it’ll never happen, but bear with me), and the world suffers a massive El Niño event, as happens periodically, causing floods, droughts, and crop failures across a wide swath of the planet – what happens then? Do we eat each other?

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that with no meat industry there’d probably be no dairy industry. After all, where do you think all the bull calves born to dairy cattle wind up?  Or cows past their milking days? With no meat industry to absorb them, they’d have to be killed – that’s an awful lot of dead meat to be disposed of, and the dairy industry would likely collapse under the burden.

So, no dairy industry, no milk, butter, cheese, or yoghurt. And don’t rely on the soy-bean industry to take up that slack – it’s as prone to crop failure as any other. Most of its traditional products are crap, too, loved only by the Japanese and Chinese. Oh, and vegans, who probably deserve them. ;) (Joke, guys!)

Anyway, it could – and does – turn out pretend cheese, and various pretend-dairy spreads, which are pretty dire, as well as an assortment of meat analogues. Pretend milk, too. I spent a year on soya milk and it’s all a variation on “WTF am I drinking?”.

Eggs will simply be gone, too, if we don’t eat chickens (we currently eat battery birds past their prime, ditto with even the most free of free-range birds),  unless we eat game-bird eggs, but there simply aren’t enough to supply the demand, even if the birds haven’t all been shot for meat (rather than fun, as now).

Let’s not forget sheep, most of which are bred not only for their meat, but for their wool, too. No more sheep, no more wool, and another industry goes down the pan as collateral damage

So given the problems that would inevitably ensue, and the fact that it won’t protect us from future catastrophic crop failures, I really don’t feel that a totally meat-free existence is viable for an entire planetary population.

And what of the pig industry? True, pig battery farms should be destroyed just on general principles, but can you imagine a future containing no pig bits, just pretend sausages, pretend bacon (I’ve actually got a great marinade for sliced  tofu which makes a damn good bacon substitute), no lard, and if you’re an American football fan, no pigskin.

What is viable, and eminently to be desired, is that we reduce out positively vast consumption of meat. We should – and this isn’t a new idea, it’s been kicking around for decades – simply stop making meat the centrepiece of a meal.

This is an idea I’ve covered previously in this post . The bottom line, though, is that while we need to change our habits, and get right away from our false reliance on meat – nobody needs more than a couple of ounces of protein a day, from ALL sources, not just meat – and eat a great deal less. And where that very much needs to be put into practise sooner rather than later is the USA.

No matter what the rest of us do, their addiction to meat in vast quantities will remain massively damaging.

Good luck with changing that!

Note – there are a couple of comments after the Guardian article that formed the basis for this – they’re mine. I am, for my sins, LePendu.

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