These comments about food, food-producing systems, and routes to sustainability are made in the spirit of direct and open dialogue
Food and food-producing systems are core matters for planning routes to sustainability. There are, however, a number of sticky issues to deal with if we are to present a united front for change.
I think it important to get some clarity on these issues and thereby avoid potential rifts among those who are greatly concerned about health and about the planet and who believe that the food we eat is crucial to our health and that the food systems that produce, process, and distribute food are crucial to the health of the planet.
I suggest we consider these four contrasts:
1) Healthful food vs. toxic food (not “vegetables vs. meat”).
We want organic (or natural or bio-dynamic or authentic) fruits and vegetables – the healthful kinds. Not GMO. Not laden with toxic pesticides. Similarly, we want animal products that are healthful.
Not all fruits and vegetables are healthful. Many are contaminated with pesticides, for example “Apples top list of produce contaminated with pesticides“. And not all meat is unhealthful. In July/August 2012 PASA’s Passages, Susan Beal, DVM, writes:
“A friend of mine who raises grass-fed stock in Tennessee owns and manages several personal care homes. He bases the diets of the residents in his homes on as much fresh seasonal produce as he can procure – and also on grass-based meats and dairy products. He’s clearly found a shift in the health of the residents: fewer hospital visits, fewer need for unscheduled doctors’ visits, reduction in the use of insulin and other medicines, fewer episodes of ‘brittleness’ in his diabetic residents, better sleep/wake cycles, and a general decrease in the amounts of medicaments used in these facilities. At one point he had a spike in the number of hospital visits and the residents were generally restless and agitated. He began to investigate this anomalous trend – and finally found out that the distribution company had substituted regular box beef for the usual grass-fed beef they usually supply my friend.”
How about animal fats? Heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell, says, “Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labelled polyunsaturated. Forget the ‘science’ that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.” – From “Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease”
2) Sustainable Ag vs. Industrial Ag/Pharmacology (not “the growing of plants in gardens vs. animal husbandry”).
Permaculture systems/ecologically-based food production systems include both plants and animals in ecologically integrated systems.
What we don’t want is an industrial agriculture tied in with industrial-strength pharmacology that is out of whack with ecological systems. No GMO products. No artificial chemicals to kill insects, pests. In a May 2004 issue of The Ecologist, it is stated, “The evidence thus strongly suggests that the infantile paralysis (polio) epidemics of the past were man-made disasters caused by the gross overuse of very dangerous pesticides, and that these epidemics are continuing” (p. 48).
3) Climate-Appropriate Plant/Animal Systems vs. Climate-Inappropriate Plant/Animal Systems (not “all animal-based systems are contributing to the climate crisis”).
Allan Savory’s extensive work has demonstrated that cattle (!!) can be used to solve the global climate crisis. In discussing Savory’s 2011 keynote address at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNCCD states, “Savory went on to outline new scientific insights explaining that desertification had never been fully understood and how it was being inexpensively reversed by increasing livestock numbers using holistic planned grazing. He stressed it is simply impossible to reverse desertification using technology, fire and resting land which are the only tools recognized by mainstream reductionist science. Only livestock can now do what is required to restore biological decay to annually dying above ground plant material in the grasslands, savannas and man-made deserts. Fire, however used, is rapid oxidation leading to bare soil. And resting land, as research plots have consistently demonstrated, leads to oxidation replacing decay furthering desertification.” See also a 2011 video of Allan Savory talking about using cattle to solve the global climate crisis.
4) Treating living things of other species respectfully vs. Treating living things of other species as commodities (not “killing vs. not killing”).
Unlike plants, we cannot make our substance or get our energy only from the inanimate world. We are the kind of living thing (animal) that has to eat other living things in order to exist (perhaps recognition of that fact is why vampire movies and TV series are in vogue). The question is: how can we balance our food needs while treating living things of other species with respect? Religions do that to some extent thru the saying of “grace” or “bruchas” before eating. Sustainable agriculture does it through integration of the plants and animals that provide people with food into sustainable ecological systems compatible with the needs of the plants and animals.
And production of vegetables is not without its sentient casualties. The corn, soy, and wheat fields of industrial agriculture kill countless numbers of small mammals (voles, field mice, woodchucks) both directly by machine or chemical means or indirectly through destruction of habitat. We just don’t eat those sentient casualties.
– Martin Boksenbaum