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Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands

The ethics of eating red meat have been grilled recently by critics who question its consequences for environmental health and animal welfare. But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more…

Being vegetarian saves cows' lives, but threatens the future of other sentient creatures. nunro

The ethics of eating red meat have been grilled recently by critics who question its consequences for environmental health and animal welfare. But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.

Renowned ethicist Peter Singer says if there is a range of ways of feeding ourselves, we should choose the way that causes the least unnecessary harm to animals. Most animal rights advocates say this means we should eat plants rather than animals.

It takes somewhere between two to ten kilos of plants, depending on the type of plants involved, to produce one kilo of animal. Given the limited amount of productive land in the world, it would seem to some to make more sense to focus our culinary attentions on plants, because we would arguably get more energy per hectare for human consumption. Theoretically this should also mean fewer sentient animals would be killed to feed the ravenous appetites of ever more humans.

But before scratching rangelands-produced red meat off the “good to eat” list for ethical or environmental reasons, let’s test these presumptions.

Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:

  • at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein
  • more environmental damage, and
  • a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.

How is this possible?

Agriculture to produce wheat, rice and pulses requires clear-felling native vegetation. That act alone results in the deaths of thousands of Australian animals and plants per hectare. Since Europeans arrived on this continent we have lost more than half of Australia’s unique native vegetation, mostly to increase production of monocultures of introduced species for human consumption.

Most of Australia’s arable land is already in use. If more Australians want their nutritional needs to be met by plants, our arable land will need to be even more intensely farmed. This will require a net increase in the use of fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and other threats to biodiversity and environmental health. Or, if existing laws are changed, more native vegetation could be cleared for agriculture (an area the size of Victoria plus Tasmania would be needed to produce the additional amount of plant-based food required).

Australian cattle eat mostly pasture, reducing their environmental impact. chris runoff

Most cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture. This is usually rangelands, which constitute about 70% of the continent.

Grazing occurs on primarily native ecosystems. These have and maintain far higher levels of native biodiversity than croplands. The rangelands can’t be used to produce crops, so production of meat here doesn’t limit production of plant foods. Grazing is the only way humans can get substantial nutrients from 70% of the continent.

In some cases rangelands have been substantially altered to increase the percentage of stock-friendly plants. Grazing can also cause significant damage such as soil loss and erosion. But it doesn’t result in the native ecosystem “blitzkrieg” required to grow crops.

This environmental damage is causing some well-known environmentalists to question their own preconceptions. British environmental advocate George Monbiot, for example, publically converted from vegan to omnivore after reading Simon Fairlie’s expose about meat’s sustainability. And environmental activist Lierre Keith documented the awesome damage to global environments involved in producing plant foods for human consumption.

In Australia we can also meet part of our protein needs using sustainably wild-harvested kangaroo meat. Unlike introduced meat animals, they don’t damage native biodiversity. They are soft-footed, low methane-producing and have relatively low water requirements. They also produce an exceptionally healthy low-fat meat.

In Australia 70% of the beef produced for human consumption comes from animals raised on grazing lands with very little or no grain supplements. At any time, only 2% of Australia’s national herd of cattle are eating grains in feed lots; the other 98% are raised on and feeding on grass. Two-thirds of cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture.

To produce protein from grazing beef, cattle are killed. One death delivers (on average, across Australia’s grazing lands) a carcass of about 288 kilograms. This is approximately 68% boneless meat which, at 23% protein equals 45kg of protein per animal killed. This means 2.2 animals killed for each 100kg of useable animal protein produced.

Producing protein from wheat means ploughing pasture land and planting it with seed. Anyone who has sat on a ploughing tractor knows the predatory birds that follow you all day are not there because they have nothing better to do. Ploughing and harvesting kill small mammals, snakes, lizards and other animals in vast numbers. In addition, millions of mice are poisoned in grain storage facilities every year.

However, the largest and best-researched loss of sentient life is the poisoning of mice during plagues.

With its soft feet and low water use, kangaroo is a source of less ecologically damaging meat. No Dust

Each area of grain production in Australia has a mouse plague on average every four years, with 500-1000 mice per hectare. Poisoning kills at least 80% of the mice.

At least 100 mice are killed per hectare per year (500/4 × 0.8) to grow grain. Average yields are about 1.4 tonnes of wheat/hectare; 13% of the wheat is useable protein. Therefore, at least 55 sentient animals die to produce 100kg of useable plant protein: 25 times more than for the same amount of rangelands beef.

Some of this grain is used to “finish” beef cattle in feed lots (some is food for dairy cattle, pigs and poultry), but it is still the case that many more sentient lives are sacrificed to produce useable protein from grains than from rangelands cattle.

There is a further issue to consider here: the question of sentience – the capacity to feel, perceive or be conscious.

You might not think the billions of insects and spiders killed by grain production are sentient, though they perceive and respond to the world around them. You may dismiss snakes and lizards as cold-blooded creatures incapable of sentience, though they form pair bonds and care for their young. But what about mice?

Mice are far more sentient than we thought. They sing complex, personalised love songs to each other that get more complex over time. Singing of any kind is a rare behaviour among mammals, previously known only to occur in whales, bats and humans.

Girl mice, like swooning human teenagers, try to get close to a skilled crooner. Now researchers are trying to determine whether song innovations are genetically programmed or or whether mice learn to vary their songs as they mature.

“Hoping to prepare them for an ethical oversight” Nikkita Archer

Baby mice left in the nest sing to their mothers — a kind of crying song to call them back. For every female killed by the poisons we administer, on average five to six totally dependent baby mice will, despite singing their hearts out to call their mothers back home, inevitably die of starvation, dehydration or predation.

When cattle, kangaroos and other meat animals are harvested they are killed instantly. Mice die a slow and very painful death from poisons. From a welfare point of view, these methods are among the least acceptable modes of killing. Although joeys are sometimes killed or left to fend for themselves, only 30% of kangaroos shot are females, only some of which will have young (the industry’s code of practice says shooters should avoid shooting females with dependent young). However, many times this number of dependent baby mice are left to die when we deliberately poison their mothers by the millions.

Replacing red meat with grain products leads to many more sentient animal deaths, far greater animal suffering and significantly more environmental degradation. Protein obtained from grazing livestock costs far fewer lives per kilogram: it is a more humane, ethical and environmentally-friendly dietary option.

So, what does a hungry human do? Our teeth and digestive system are adapted for omnivory. But we are now challenged to think about philosophical issues. We worry about the ethics involved in killing grazing animals and wonder if there are other more humane ways of obtaining adequate nutrients.

Relying on grains and pulses brings destruction of native ecosystems, significant threats to native species and at least 25 times more deaths of sentient animals per kilogram of food. Most of these animals sing love songs to each other, until we inhumanely mass-slaughter them.

Former Justice of the High Court, the Hon. Michael Kirby, wrote that:

“In our shared sentience, human beings are intimately connected with other animals. Endowed with reason and speech, we are uniquely empowered to make ethical decisions and to unite for social change on behalf of others that have no voice. Exploited animals cannot protest about their treatment or demand a better life. They are entirely at our mercy. So every decision of animal welfare, whether in Parliament or the supermarket, presents us with a profound test of moral character”.

We now know the mice have a voice, but we haven’t been listening.

The challenge for the ethical eater is to choose the diet that causes the least deaths and environmental damage. There would appear to be far more ethical support for an omnivorous diet that includes rangeland-grown red meat and even more support for one that includes sustainably wild-harvested kangaroo.

Thanks to many colleagues including Rosie Cooney, Peter Ampt, Grahame Webb, Bob Beale, Gordon Grigg, John Kelly, Suzanne Hand, Greg Miles, Alex Baumber, George Wilson, Peter Banks, Michael Cermak, Barry Cohen, Dan Lunney, Ernie Lundelius Jr and anonymous referees of the Australian Zoologist paper who provided helpful critiques.

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  1. Wil B

    B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

    We have a few hectares, where we run sheep for our own meat. I can confirm from my own situation that there is absolutely zero chance of substitution across from meat animals to cereals or other edible plants in my area. No one does it, and it's not because of socio-economic reasons, it's due to physical constraints.

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  2. Paul Rogers

    logged in via Twitter

    Nice try, and some good points re mice and men, and spiders, (I've known a few nice arachnids), but I would like to see a published paper, peer review and a wider canvas.

    Lets include a full environmental life-cycle analysis, with an 'ethical eating' arm and let's see how it all pans out.

    Anyone done this?

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  3. Derek Bolton

    Retired s/w engineer

    Good article, but the body-count figures as given may be misleading. Converting to arable has a one-off high body count, whereas pastoral has an ongoing one. In the extreme, you could exterminate a species and amortise the count over eternity!
    This shows that population level is also important: a lost opportunity for a new individual is not completely different from the death of an existing one.

    The deal we have imposed on farmed animals is that in return for their own untimely deaths we will maintain the line of their descendants (or those of close relatives). In strict Darwinian terms that's not such a bad deal. The real downside is that it often comes at the expense of species we don't use. And it would appear from this article that that cost (in Australia at least) can be higher for veg than for meat.

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  4. Wil B

    B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

    I don't think that this article grapples with methane production from ruminants. Mentioning kangaroos doesn't quite cut it.

    Happily however this significant issue appears to be amenable to research.

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  5. Nick Pendergrast

    PhD Candidate in Sociology at Curtin University

    Raising the issue of other animals being killed in the production of plant-based foods is important. However, why isn't the solution focussed on reducing this problem, rather than just "giving up" and eating animal-based foods which inevitably lead to other animals being killed?

    Saying that sometimes other animals are killed in the production of plant-based foods so therefore we should eat animal-based foods which inevitably leads to the killing of other animals seems to be similar to saying that lots of people are killed in car accidents anyway, therefore it is acceptable to deliberately run over people in our car because we enjoy it.

    Why not exclude the products that directly involve the killing (and domestication, exploitation, confinement etc) of other animals, and work to improve the production of plant-based foods that do not have to inherently lead to the killing of other animals?

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    1. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Nick Pendergrast

      I agree Nick.

      'I care about sentient beings so I'll kill cows rather than marsupials' - WTF?

      If it was sincere then you'd stop eating vegetables altogether. It sounds like an excuse to me. 'Eating bacon and eggs is doing my bit for the environment' - yeah right.

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    2. Ash Card

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Nick Pendergrast

      Kangaroo would be I imagine. Presumably, until we reduce the harm caused to rodents etc. it would be better to eat meat if that's their angle.

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    1. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Tim, semantics from you about red meat and colorectal cancer I feel. Yes, cancer causes can be multi-factorial, but the epidemiology is pretty much established now that too much red meat consumption raises the risk of bowel cancer in the absence of confounders. Note the recent dietary guidelines from the NHMRC, suggesting men 'eat less red meat'.

      (Even so, a little crumb to the meat industry by suggesting young women 'eat more red meat'. What a nonsense that is -- as if young women with anywhere…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      It isn't me that says red meat causes bowel cancer, but the World Cancer Research Fund:

      http://www.wcrf.org/cancer_research/expert_report/index.php

      WCRF work rather like the IPCC in that they summarise research and publish reports once per decade. The 150+ scientists involved in the last report were very clear about what they take as evidence that one thing causes another and were quite clear that red meat and processed meat both cause bowel cancer. And yes, obesity is also listed as a cause…

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    3. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Tim... what the? It's a clear finding: causes cancer. All cancer is a matter of stochastic effect, but there is a pretty short list of foodstuffs that get the causation nod and red meat and particularly processed meat is one. This is what I mean in my comment below about longing for a meat advocate to write something decent and robust. Yet you all seem happy to dispute that which really can't be disputed.

      Oh, and as someone who has dealt with Geoff once or twice, underestimating him is a really bad idea. Just a tip.

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    4. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Tim, I can see that you haven't read the diabetes paper if that's what you think. I have.

      Either way, do you think Hu and Willett and that team are going to make such a fundamental mistake, considering they are one of the best and most experienced teams of nutrition epidemiologists working in the field?

      " . . . after adjustment for age, BMI, and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors . . ."

      And I don't think that diabetes forum is worth quoting here. Frankly, it's embarrassing for you.

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    5. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Sure, of course absolute causality and dose-response is unknown for red meat and colon cancer. That's the nature of prospective studies in this business. However, in the absence of such data, sensible policy needs to ensue.

      There are no randomised controlled trials for smoking and lung cancer, (at least I hope not!), but that does not prevent sensible public health policy. I distinctly recall the tobacco manufacturers arguing the point of lack of evidence of causality as well.

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    6. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Mmmmm.... yeah, I guess, but I'm pretty sure I could have a shot at the statement that smoking causes lung cancer running very similar logic, but not many people seem to object to the claim.

      Don't worry too much about me Tim, I have my specialisations and this is not one of them, so I'll be backing off and watching. As a meat eater for 32 years and a vego for 6 months, these discussions interest me greatly. I'll see how you travel, but so far I have to say I'm not particularly swayed. I'm yet to see anyone shape up effectively in the meat corner, especially with Geoff in the ring, and Paul seems pretty switched on too. Frankly the last article on this (Richard England I think?) was so bad I cringed. Maybe you're the guy?

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    7. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Continuing on, at home, Clifton (Baker Inst) reports this:

      Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2011 Dec;13(6):493-8. Protein and coronary heart disease: the role of different protein sources. Clifton PM.

      "Meat protein is associated with an increase in risk of heart disease. Recent data have shown that meat protein appeared to be associated with weight gain over 6.5 years, with 1 kg of weight increase per 125 g of meat per day. In the Nurses' Health Study, diets low in red meat, containing nuts, low-fat dairy, poultry, or fish, were associated with a 13% to 30% lower risk of CHD compared with diets high in meat.

      Low-carbohydrate diets high in animal protein were associated with
      a 23% higher total mortality rate whereas low-carbohydrate diets high in vegetable protein were associated with a 20% lower total mortality rate."

      Common factor.

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    8. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Mmmm ... dose-response ... can you get lung cancer from a single cigarette? I think the consensus among cancer experts is that if you got lung cancer from smoking then it was ALWAYS from a single cigarette. If you could only work out which one and not smoke it! Can you get bowel cancer from a single piece of red or processed meat? Anybody want to claim hormesis? If not, then the answer will be the same as for cigarettes. So much for the personal level, at a population level, the dose-response curve…

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    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Full marks to Peter Clifton for going with the data ... it can't have been easy for somebody who has sold a million copies of a book telling people to eat 300g of meat protein daily to write that abstract. I'll need to get the full study. You've made my day Paul !

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    10. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, I was thinking the same thing. Way to go Peter!

      I'll admit to only having read that abstract as well.

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    11. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Well from me to them , they should pull their fingers out. I am a busy guy but found time to contribute a couple of weeks ago. Might it be that they are concerned that even if the methane issue could be addressed, on the sum total of issues animal agriculture still comes out as a bad idea? Just a thought.

      And no, in fact I find in everything Geoff Russell does he works up studiously from clear and transparent data into clear and transparent conclusions. His recent article on feeding 10 billion at Brave New Climate are two such good examples.

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    12. Evan Willis

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Paul,

      Forgive my lateness here but I wanted to point out that the Nurses Health Study data (and the follow ups data) was, as I understand it, obtained through habit based questionnaires. Even in my minimal grasp of scientific methodology this does not seem like a particularly efficacious method of discerning what is cause and what is correlation. By way of example, a quote from the study itself "[f]or both men and women, red meat intake was negatively associated with physical activity, but positively associated with BMI and smoking. In addition, a high red meat intake was associated with a high intake of total energy and a worse diabetes dietary score". These confounding variables would appear to complicate matters somewhat before we even look into the veracity, or reliability of questionnaires or the definition of what constitutes "meat" in the reporting structure of the questionnaires.

      Great discussion everyone. Pleased to have read it.

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    13. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      No statistical study will sort out cause from correlation ... but you can quite effectively correct for "confounders" and such corrections (too many in my view!) are routinely made. Studies typically compare the quintile of highest (red) meat intake with the quintile of
      lowest after correcting for confounders. The most common tool is the Cox Proportional Hazards modelling. The statistical studies feed back to people working with petri dishes, rats and other "models" to try and establish mechanisms. The last step is testing with human subjects. The mechanisms of the red meat/bowel cancer link are extremely well established ... but, as with tobacco and lung cancer, there is always room for somebody to argue that causality hasn't been proven.

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    14. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Evan, you are correct to be cautious in interpreting prospective studies such as the Nurses Health Study for cause and effect relationships, even from such an experienced group as the Harvard School of Public Health team. Factors that help to confirm the relationship are multiple, independent studies and, in particular, a dose-response relationship, a tenet of toxicological assessment.

      However, the data on red meat consumption and colorectal cancer does not come from the Nurses Health Study only…

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  6. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Let's just run a few more numbers. We export a lot of the red meat produced in
    this country. But lets make 2 huge and generous assumptions, that we keep it all here and absolutely none of it eats grain (currently as per my previous link, Australia's cattle eat almost twice as much grain as does the human population). That gives us about 3 million tonnes of grass fed red meat (beef + sheep) ... this works out to less than 550 Calories per person. So even with a vast area cleared, and many wildlife…

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    1. Mark Robertson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      A question, if you grow all this extra plant food in Australia, where will you get the extra water required from? Or will you be using water-efficient crops. Crop type you will be growing to feed everyone on a vegan or vegetarian diet has to be specified such that it can actually be produced within the limitations imposed by the physiology of the plants in Australia's climate. This does not include the increasing impacts of climate change.
      So basically I would be intrigued to know what are you going to grow, and can you make the numbers add up, based on the amount of water available in Australia per crop type and per climatic region. Which of course does not include factoring in the climatic variability that Australia is prone to in best of times.
      I do not know the answer to this, so would be interested if you have an answer given that you seem to be reasonable with numbers.

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  7. David Ulrich

    Tech

    What a load of Crap! First of all I am as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of mice however I have to point out that the only fields a mouse might be attracted to would be wheat or corn. Since both of those are harvested by machines which cut the stalks several inches above the ground. Any self respecting mouse would have no problem avoiding the harvester unless it is suicidal which it could be if it had to suffer through the drivel this article presents as reasons to eat cows.

    Of course the real reason to not eat cows and other animals is it is that eating them kills humans. Imagine how many lives could be saved if everyone adopted a healthy plant based diet. Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, could all be dramatically reduced or eliminated.

    Not to mention the billions of rodents, insects and spiders which would be saved because marauding live stock would not be trampling them as they stomp around in their pristine rangelands.

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  8. James Walker

    logged in via Facebook

    - pulled up at the description Peter Singer as 'renowned'. "Infamous" might be a better description.

    - anyone planning to try kangaroo meat for the first time, try a 1/4 mix of kangaroo 3/4 beef for stir fries, minces and so forth: the mix works well, and tastes like a very rich tasty beef as the kangaroo enhances the beef! Discovery of a friend of mine who feeds us regularly - scrummy!

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  9. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    Yes indeed where does one start?:

    1. Sheep and cattle have contaminated waterways throughout Australia including the Murray Darling Basin and the GBR

    2. In the driest inhabited country on earth, a lactating dairy cow consumes massive amounts of water. The dairy cow is impregnated every year. The sentient progeny is “waste” and sent to slaughter some 5 days after birth - around 700,000 bobby calves every year

    3. Livestock in Australia consume more antibiotics than the entire human population…

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    1. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley says-------
      5. Welfare-unfriendly gas-guzzling, polluting transport trucks carrying loads of livestock are a common sight on Australian roads with around 480 million animals transported across the country every year. Many of these journeys span thousands of kilometres, significantly adding to CO2 emissions
      There are only 100 million sheep in Australia so how could there be 480million being trucked around Australia. By the way , how are you going to transport all those nice vegies around without those unfriendly gas guzzling trucks

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  10. Gideon Polya

    Sessional Lecturer in Biochemistry for Agricultural Science at La Trobe University

    An entertaining and provocative article by Professor Mike Archer. However some further key issues are outlined below..

    1. World Bank analysts have recently re-assessed the methane (CH4) contribution to man's global greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution on the basis that it is 72 times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 years time frame (as compared to 21 times worse on a 100 year time frame). On this basis they estimated that the revised annual global GHG pollution is 63.8 Gt CO2-e, 50% bigger…

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gideon Polya

      Gideon,

      I would be most interested in finding out how you managed to produce a 2,000 kg Cow! I know that the livestock industry in Australia is one of our most efficient industries and that we surpass most of the world in this area - but I did not know that there would be commonly produced animals weighing more than three times what most heavy animals are when slaughtered.

      I would also recommend that you go through the details of my post explaining why the methane fro our livestock cannot cause increases in our Green House Gas emissions in soite of all the political fervour for removing red meat from our diet. If you could show me your calculations of the same process we could compare our numbers perhaps which would be a useful exercise. I would be interested to know where I have gone wrong in my calculation. Geoff Russel might offer to give you a hand as he seems to feel that I have made a mistake. Cheers, John Nicol

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    2. Mark Robertson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Gideon Polya

      There was soem recent research on the microbes present in Tammar Wallabies which might have potential to solve the methane production problem. The microbes, Succinivibrionaceae bacteria, found seem to be responsible for lack of methane production in the Tammar Wallaby compared to ruminants. It's dramatically less.

      Obviously, the next step would be to see if inoculation of ruminants by this bacteria could be successful (no guarentee, they may not be adapted to the rumen and could just go extinct within the rumen; or they may detract from the animals quality of life, or cause disease in a non-adapted animal - all things are unknown in this regard ) and contribute to a dramatic reduction in methane production by ruminants across the world.

      Pope-et al. (2011) "Isolation of Succinivibrionaceae Implicated in Low Methane Emissions from Tammar Wallabies" Science 29 July 2011:
      Vol. 333 no. 6042 pp. 646-648

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  11. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    I don't know... every one of these "meat isn't that bad" articles I read seems to be so shoddy and full of weird assertions, it persuades me ever further of the merits of my very recent change to largely vegetarian diet. As a former meat eater and non-ethical vegetarian (which is to say ethics of animal products was not my driver) am I really supposed to give a damn about some plague mice in a whole world of suffering? Mice who will soon starve en mass as their little Malthusian cycle reaches it's inevitable conclusion once again? That is the weirdest attempt at reverse guilt I have ever heard. Then, as usual, Geoff Russell drives trucks through the holes in the argument pertaining to some very basic matters.

    Seriously, could a meat supporter please just write something robust to make my decision a little harder?

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    1. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Mark, I do only speak for myself. I would suggest that those forums you mention are probably full of people who are in little danger of ever changing their minds. Possibly I represent people who are deeply concerned about both climate change and the challenge of feeding 10 billion people by mid-century, am searching/have searched for compelling arguments for the inclusion of a lot of animal products and keep being disappointed in the quality of what I read when the argument is in favour of meat…

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    2. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Ben Heard

      I will be sure to read that Ian. Thank you.

      I'm not an ethics free zone on food, far from it. I just frame my concerns differently to the stereotypical vegetarian.

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  12. Adam Lippiatt

    Conversation Participant

    I agree with Nick. Let's start from first principles and then work to diminish what are the unintended consequences of our actions.

    Keep up the conversation.

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  13. James Mugg

    International Relations Student

    Umm... Can I just say that I think everyone seems to have missed the false assumption in the original article. Geoff have touched upon it by pointing out that cattle consume more than 3 times as much grain as humans in Australia every year.

    The false, implied assumption is this: if we eat less meat then we will have to plant more grain to fill the void.

    My response? If we live in a free market society - and I'm fairly certain we do - then by reducing our meat intake we reduce the demand for meat. By doing so, less meat is produced and less grain is required to feed them. By avoiding meat, we cut out the "middle-man" of meat production and require only a third of the grain produced. The result: less crops - not more.

    As a "weekday vegetarian" (search on TED if you're not sure what I mean) I am quite frankly insulted by the over-simplification in this article.

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  14. Nikki Archer

    logged in via Facebook

    I drew those mice : D First image published outside of science journals and small advertisements. Woop. = D

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  15. Mark Carter

    logged in via Facebook

    Great article Michael.
    Arable farming kills vastly more animals than meat farming, and rangelands are very productive for wildlife, arable land is mostly a wildlife sterile-zone and most of Australia is useless for arable cropping anyway. I moved on from veganism years ago for exactly these reasons.
    The supposed moral superiority of veganism is a sham. They talk big about speciesism and sentience but as the comments above show none of that is really believed by vegans- the idea that mouse deaths…

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    1. Nick Draney

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Carter

      Mark a lot of what you've said is true, please read my whole comment before replying because I do want to listen. A lot of people tend to disregard a species if it doesn't fit into their preconceived definition of a sentient being I.e Arachnids and other Invertebrates.

      The issue for me however is not to become some enlightened morally superior super human but to try to reduce my impact on other species as much as I can. It seems to me that everybody is focusing on one piece of a very large…

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    2. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Mark Carter

      Considering the medieval theatre of cruelty that prevails in this “first world” country – i.e., the surgical procedures perpetrated on hapless livestock (without the benefit of analgesics or anaesthesia) which includes chopping off beaks and tails and genitals, inflicting third degree burns, ripping out ovaries, teeth and chunks of flesh and bludgeoning full conscious animals into oblivion, I would say that most contributing to this thread are concerned only about their own hides.

      And no…

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    3. Mark Carter

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Carter

      I would humbly suggest that all the things you mention- while noble and interesting subjects in their own right- are mainly attempts to change the subject.
      The animal rights campaigns of today assert that omnivory results in mass death and that the solution is veganism. The truth is that arable farming kills more sentient beings than animal farming and veganism as a practical and efficient way to save animals lives is a sham. Bad behaviour in other parts of meat production is no more an argument…

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    4. Mark Carter

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Carter

      I am not the one out there claiming my diet saves lives (although, as Mike explains here, in total it does). Its the vegans doing that- and they are wrong. As it happens I was vegan myself for many years so I do know a thing or two about the convolutions of vegan theology.
      Life on earth involves killing- there is no escape from your role in this unless you stop eating altogether. Its an objective fact that arable crops cause more death of sentient beings in total than beef or kangaroo production. Sorry. Everything we do has impacts and we can only make the world better if we are honest about what those really are- so, be vegan all you like but quit claiming it makes you even slightly morally superior.

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    5. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mark Carter

      Okay Mark Carter, you have assumed the high ground, now prove to us that Archer is correct, rather than assuming he is. That is, "that arable farming kills more sentient beings than animal farming"?

      Being a wildlife biologist, I assume you have scientific training and understand the basis of evidence. Show us the proof. Show us the published studies in reputable journals that you are correct and not just grandstanding.

      Be careful.

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    6. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Mark Carter

      @ Mark Carter: “Many invertebrates are just as alive and intelligent as large vertebrates but the vegans don't want to believe it because it would mean accepting their diet does great harm, certainly more than an Australian omnivores…Instead they wallow in self-delusion, proselytizing that eating plants doesn't do any harm, flying in the face of the cold hard fact."

      Really Mark Carter? Well hang about while we bandy a few statistics – the “cold hard facts” for your perusal which demolishes…

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    7. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Mark Carter

      For the record, I am not a vegan. I simply endeavour to stick to the facts to the best of my knowledge in preference to circulating fictitional data or misleading information.

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    8. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Carter

      "If any of them were truly anti-speciesist they would see the killing of a spider on their behalf is as serious and important as the death of a kangaroo." Really? No distinctions? If the death of a spider is "as serious and important as the death of a kangaroo," is the death of a kangaroo as serious and important as the death of a human being?

      Someone else was bemoaning (seriously or disingenuously) the lack of compassion vegans have for carrots ripped alive from the ground. The fact is, as another…

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  16. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    A thought provoking article.

    Some cattle graziers have pasture land completely cleared of trees to maximise available grass, while others have pasture land that is semi-cleared of trees only. Obviously pasture land that retains some tree cover will also support more native birds, animals and insects than pasture completely cleared of trees.

    I have read of a study conducted some time ago recommending that pasture land be semi-cleared of trees only, so as to increase meat production. The available…

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    1. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Mark,

      Most certainly, but what is meant, is that native tree cover is not completely cleared, but selectively or partially cleared only.

      While not being as favourable as native forest, partially cleared land can support some wildlife, as well as acting as a wildlife corridor for certain species of animals and insects.

      If partially cleared land has no negative effect on beef production (and it may actually increase beef production as mentioned above), then it is better than fully cleared land in basically every way.

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  17. Jim Phillips

    Scientist

    So what the author is telling us is that meat diets are responsible for killing cows, pigs, fish and chickens. But on the other hand, meat diets are also responsible for killing the most mice in grain fields. This is because meat eaters eat just as much bread, cereals etc and then we have to add to this the enormous amount of grain fed to those animals. The author is hiding the true figures. As the grains research and development corporation's 2008 report (JCS0002) states, "Cereal grain for animal…

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  18. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    I'm still patiently waiting for Mike Archer or anybody else to face up to the fundamental problem in this article ... which isn't about whether vegans can eat without causing any suffering, but how to feed 7 billion people while doing the least damage to both the planet and other creatures. Of course, if that isn't your goal, then we are discussing at cross purposes because it is mine. All meat fed on grain causes more suffering than eating the grain directly, so lets rule it out. There isn't much…

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  19. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    Mark, you're spot on. The key point is that vegans/vegetarians can't claim that less sentient lives are lost to provide their food than the mixed diets of omnivores. A lot more could be said about mice, such as that other research has demonstrated they're incredibly empathetic, aware of the pain suffered by other mice when hurt. Clearly there's far more to the sentience of mice than we have realised--and yet mice are deliberately killed by the millions to produce our grains and pulse products--simple…

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    1. Mick Matheson

      Journalist

      In reply to Alex Cooney

      Yes, both sides do seem to present valid points, and the arguments will never be mutual. Mike argues for a middle-road solution under current circumstances; a sustainable way of dealing with a contemporary issue now. The other side of the argument appears more extreme and less realistic (too altruistic?) in 2011.

      Those who attack the detail of Mike's research are distracting us from the bigger picture and the point that Australia has virtually outlawed the sustainable use of a great resource, the kangaroo. Ethics are constantly used in the argument against kangaroo meat, but as Mike argues, the ethics of the anti-meat side are heavily flawed. We need to accept a middle ground.

      My declaration of interest: I regularly hunt for my meat, and my diet would include kangaroo if I could get it legally.

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  20. Jay R

    Mining Engineer

    People who feed themselves 'hunter gatherer' style can talk about how many animals they have killed in order to feed their society.

    But as soon as you start farming, be it for crops or meat, you have radically changed the entire ecosystem. Who can say what the future impact on animal numbers and diversity is? I know a lot of vegan's like to think that they no longer impact mother nature in any way, but they still have a house, drive a car, use electricity, buy things constructed of metal.

    So why are we arguing about the number of sentient creatures killed whether we eat meat or not? It's not relevant to anything. The questions to ask are what is sustainable for all future generations, what is the most efficient (for a particular area) and what is better for population health.

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  21. David Tuck

    Scientist

    The problem that I have about this article is that, as a scientist Mike...I'm guessing that that is what you are...it is not normal practice to use emotive language such as:

    'Baby mice left in the nest sing to their mothers — a kind of crying song to call them back...despite singing their hearts out to call their mothers back home, inevitably die of starvation, dehydration or predation.'

    of any kind in your work. Is this article an infotainment piece based on one of your papers? If so I'd be very interested in reading the research because it's an extremely interesting subject, and one that is becoming more important as the world reaches the crisis point of population vs. resources.

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    1. Mick Matheson

      Journalist

      In reply to David Tuck

      Unfortunately, emotive terms are comonly used by its opponents to argue against good science. And science can sometimes be a little serious. Mike's deviation from "normal practice" made me stop and wonder, too, but then I had a quiet giggle at what may be a good way to make some people sit up and take notice of a scientific argument. Certain people are only moved by emotive language, especially some of those Mike targets.

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  22. Fiona Lake

    rural photographer & writer

    At last! I am so thrilled to see an article that explains the reality far better than I've been able to do, over the years I've been trying to get this message out there.
    The reality is that human beings impact on the environment simply by breathing and eating. Vegans are deluded if they believe they are having less of a negative impact on the natural world than meat eaters. Countless quantities of native organisms are displaced in monocultures, and increasingly intensive monocultures are necessary…

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona ... please see my challenge above and respond by explaining how to feed the world on extensively produced meat without cereals. Archer hasn't responded, and nor has anybody else.

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    2. John Hudson

      Professor of Life

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona, before you get too excited (Or thrilled) about this ridiculous article and beating up people who have a different view (Vegetarians & Vegans), why don't you go and do some of your own research and be informed...or do what most people do and fall in to line with society and industries that make a lot of money out of ensuring humans stick to a meat and diary diet. (Just like smokers do)

      There are so many (Global & Local) studies highlighting the impact of cattle and dairy farming and to write…

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  23. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    Geoff, with respect, you don't appear to be reading what others are saying (including my last post) which suggests to me that your self-declared animal liberation agenda is showing. You are at one extreme end of a very wide spectrum demanding that everyone else abandon any reasons for being anywhere else on this spectrum other than where you are. You're also a bit too inclined to bully other participants. Why not take a break and let others express their views without fear of being attacked by you? Forums such as these work best when they don't degenerate into a shouting match.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mike, you claimed: "The key point is that vegans/vegetarians can't claim that less sentient lives are lost to provide their food than the mixed diets of omnivores. " ... given that non-vegan Australians consume, via their pigs, chickens and dairy, far more cereals than they would requre if they ate those cereals directly, then your "key point" is simply false. Not debatable, just plain false.

      You write a highly provocative piece attacking vegans/vegetarians which prompts lots of ra-ra comments…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Tim, do you have a source for your "point", your claim that: "There is not enough productive agricultural land to support a move to a non-omnivorous diet for the entire population of the Earth." ... where is it? You are peerless at pompous condescending arrogance, but not too good at peer reviewed evidence for your claims.

      On the other hand ...

      A recent paper by 20 authors in Nature calculated how many Calories
      would be added to the global food supply with a shift to plant based diets:

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v478/n7369/full/nature10452.html

      ... 49 percent. This isn't a guess, this is a careful calculation based on an obsessive
      attention to detailed preparation of global datasets by many teams over the past
      decade or so.

      Oh gosh, there I go, bullying people with data and evidence again! Sorry.

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    3. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Where about does you 16ML figure and your 76 ML figure come from?

      Page 73 of the report I cited lists dairy at 4,194,619 ML.

      You made a claim about the lack of arable land, the Foley paper shows your claim is false. I never said Foley was advocating a full shift to a vegan planet, only that he had calculation how much extra food it would yield ... 49% more calories. Nothing you have said alters that.

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Suppose 22 million Australians read this paper of Prof. Archers and think ... "How can I live with myself, I'll stop eating cereal and animals raised on cereal and dairy from animals fed with grains and replace them with an equal amount of kangaroo and grass fed cattle". What would happen? Given that cereals provide 700 Calories per person per day, chicken and pigs another 270, dairy another 326, so we have stripped 1300 or so Calories per person per day from the food supply and have to replace…

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    5. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Geoff said: "Whereas if everybody went vegan, we could reforest the Brigalow, etc etc. Retire some crop land (or increase exports)."

      Some convergence of thought here: I was thinking the same thing, and even the Brigalow came to mind.

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    6. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Like I keep saying Geoff, read the report. They have the data there. 16ML is the figure you get from adding up all the animal water, 76ML is from all the crop water.

      And yes you did make the claim that shifting to a vege or vegan diet was advocated, to quote your own post: "A recent paper by 20 authors in Nature calculated how many Calories would be added to the global food supply with a shift to plant based diets:" This is in direct conflict with the source you cited, as I pointed out in the quotes above.

      So my comments still stand. My figures on the extensive agriculture still stand, even by the figures from the Foley paper.

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    7. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Tim, I gave you a page number with a list of water
      by activity ... page 73 in:
      http://www.clw.csiro.au/publications/consultancy/2004/MDBC_stage2_report.pdf

      Dairy usage was 4,194,619 ML ... rather higher than your supposed sum of all the crop water of 76ML.

      So I've got no idea what you are talking about. Please give me a page number.

      Foley and Ramankutty calculated if X then Y. ... if vegan then 49% extra Calories. That's not an endorsement of X, just a calculation of what happens if you choose it.

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    8. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      If you want to measure food production efficiency, then ML/kJ is
      the right unit.

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    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Ah ... now I understand what you are talking about.

      You added the plant numbers in the ML/ha column and then the animal numbers. That's now clear.

      So try this, a Toyota Prius uses 4 litres per 100 km and a Toyota Prado uses 10 litres per km. What is the average litres per km of these 2 Toyota cars?

      Do I hear 7?

      Obviously not. To find the average you need to know how many of each type sold ... or more accurately how many kms all of the vehicles of each type sold actually travel…

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    10. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Not a basic error at all. You are trying to denote an industry based upon a total water use whilst excluding the size of the industry. If you want to say I've made an error then you are just as guilty, in fact, moreso.

      You are still failing to understand the basic tenants of agricultural production. The proportion of water used per hectare is greatly biased towards crop production, as I have pointed out. Diary just happens to be a bigger industry due to the higher value produce per ML of water, thus larger areas of dairy.

      Of course we all know why you fail to see this point: you are outside of your field and are an animal liberationist. This isn't about science for you, hence your ignoring of the basic data and cherry picking. Also referencing your own self-pubbed book is another derailment.

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    11. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Tim, that's a screw up. No ifs, buts, ducks or dives, you have completely bastardised the figures you are reporting. You can't add up figures that are ML/ha and report the sum. The answer you get is not even wrong, its irrelevant. Geoff's the trained mathematician, but I at least made it through high school.

      Admit your error and reframe you argument on some correct information or concede the point and move on. If you do neither of those things, well I am going to struggle to give anything else you say any credibility because you would appear to not respect good process with information.

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    12. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Come on Tim. It looks like MA f**ked up in his article. You can't blame Geoff for taking the 2 seconds it requires to point it out. That's not Gish Gallop.

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    13. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Scott. Of course I hold myself to the same standards. All of the work I use to support my claims about both duck shooting cripple rates and duck shooting wounding rates is peer reviewed. Some of it was done by shotgun makers but was still of good quality and published in reasonable journals. Here's a couple of the key references:

      The first is a study of over 2000 shooters in 3 different regions of Canada. It is the only study I know of where shooters were observed without their knowledge ... they…

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    14. Scott Sharman

      Agribusiness Adviser

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Geoff

      If those references are key it speaks volumes about the integrity of the work you do. One is 24 years old and the other is 38 yo. Were either of them independent? Neither were done in Australia. I know you dont consider this important but its entirely possible that is conducted under different conditions and laws than exist in Australia. I'm aware of the study started in 1957 by the way so lets not swamp the post with a never ending list of research.

      Can you please cite a reference to…

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    15. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      I'll post a little more detail later, but for now ...

      Please note that the age of a piece of good research is often irrelevant. The 38 year old Winchester work is a prime example. A shotgun pellet distribution is bivariate normal. It has been bivariate normal since shotguns were invented ... a couple of hundred years back. The occasional misshaped pellet causes a deviation from a perfect distribution but that's of no account. It wouldn't have mattered if Winchester had done this work in 1920…

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    16. Scott Sharman

      Agribusiness Adviser

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Geoff

      Personally I'm not that interested in wounding rates in ducks. No, I can't point you to more relevant research. Firstly because its not a key area of interest for me and secondly I doubt empirical Australian data exists. Please prove me wrong. You will however recall that the number of ducks "wounded" (evidenced by the number collected by activists) in Victoria this year was far, far less than what would have been predicted by your model.

      You are oversimplifying the external ballistics…

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    17. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Scott: "A model which you have used as key evidence to campaign against duck hunting." As I keep saying. The peer reviewed field and experimental data shows perfectly well that duck shooting wounding rates are high. My model has explanatory value, that's all. I'll include the reference when I write a fuller reply later.

      Is there any Australian field data. Not that I know of. There is however X-ray data. Decades of it. Go out into a swamp and catch a bunch of ducks and X-ray them for embedded…

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    18. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Okay, for anybody who is interested in the constant misleading claims that that 1) my model is the sole evidence for high duck shooting wounding rates and 2) that my modelling work wasn't peer reviewed. I have added a page to the Animal Lib blog which details solid evidence for high wounding rates from the two huge field studies which followed numerous smaller studies. I also include the journal title page from the journal which published my modelling work. You can see that the journal was a serious journal with a well qualified editorial board.

      http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/119-response-to-the-conversation-critics.html

      P.S. I don't get paid by Animal Liberation. I work as a programmer/mathematician, and always have done. That work is proprietary and my boss would sack and sue me if I started publishing stuff. I only work short hours these days, which gives me time for other things :) like this :(

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    19. Scott Sharman

      Agribusiness Adviser

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Geoff

      Thanks for going to the trouble of posting that but if that's your idea of peer review, well the publication can speak for itself;

      "MapleTech (previously called "The Maple Technical Newsletter" or simply "the MTN") exists to communicate applications among creators and users of Maple software."

      So what we have is newsletter published to extol the virtues of a specific software application. The newsletter was in print from 1991 to 1996. Publication in one little known, niche newsletter…

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    20. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Scott: You claimed: "A model which you have used as key evidence to campaign against duck hunting" wrong. You claimed it wasn't peer reviewed. It was reviewed by a top shotgun ballistics expert. You are wrong again. Maple-tech isn't Nature or Science. I have no illusions about the value of that paper. It contributed a little clarification to a solid body of data showing that shooting flying ducks with shotguns leaves large numbers of crippled
      and wounded ducks. I haven't been waiting for a call…

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  24. Fiona Lake

    rural photographer & writer

    Geoff I'm not sure that I understand your comment; I'm not advocating a meat-only non-cereal diet, rather a diet that consists of as wide a range of foods as possible. Including meat in the daily diet (beef, lamb, fish, poultry and any other animal source) reduces the pressure on cereal and other crop production, and thus helps reduce human impact on the natural environment, and it also helps to spread the impact throughout the environment, rather than concentrating it in particular areas.
    Regarding the world's overpopulation. In nature, organism population imbalances are corrected by cycles of natural disasters eg floods and famines, disease outbreaks etc. Lack of birth control in the human population is decimating the natural environment in Africa and other countries, at present. But that's a whole other topic...
    Perhaps no-one has responded to your challenge because your not inconsiderable reputation has preceded you.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Please Fiona, what do anecdotes demonstrate?

      Look at the data in the link I posted last time: Dairy 4,194 giga litres, grapes 523 ... dairy used 8 times the water of grapes. And yes indeed, the national dairy herd has reduced by about 10% (from memory) since those heady days of unfettered expansion. They certainly stuffed it up for themselves as well as the small users.

      Do we need dairy products for our bones? Not according to (non-vegan) Professor of Nutrition at New York University ... Marion Nestle: "In parts of the world where cow's milk is not a staple of the diet, people often have less osteoporosis and fewer bone fractures than we [Americans] do; they maintain calcium balance perfectly well on less than half the calcium intake recommended for Americans".

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      You argued that vegans had blood on their hands for eating cereals. But I could argue, and already have, that vegans don't need to eat cereals, they can do just fine on fruit and veg which need involve no mice killing. But such a solution doesn't scale. A solution "scales" if it works when everybody does it. We have to feed everybody, not just a few people with access to kangaroos and rangeland cattle and if everybody said, gosh, I won't eat grains because of the mice and I won't eat pigs and chickens…

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  25. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    @ Fiona Lake: “Last comment - most vegetarians follow the philosophy of 'all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others'. I.e. cute, furry, sizeable and domesticatable are important (anthropomorphism occurs), whereas micro-organisms, reptiles, amphibians etc are not worthy of consideration. Hypocrisy at it's worst.”

    “Hypocrisy at its worst" Fiona? Please provide reputable links to substantiate that allegation. The practice of veganism, to my understanding is that vegans find…

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    1. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Well, this vegetarian has a rat-trap and Ratsack out tonight, defending my tomatoes - even growing fruit and vegetables will mean killing pests!

      Am I the only vegetarian who feels differently about killing a sheep compared to a fish? Maybe they are all sentient beings, but whereas I think I could kill a fish and eat it if I had to, I don't think I could do the same to a cow. Despite the touching story of the empathetic mice with the babies singing to their mothers to come home, I will be ruthless in stopping them eating the food I'm growing for myself - they're pests. No cows or sheep have yet to invade my suburban vegetable patch.

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  26. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    Just a comment in response to remarks made re. irrigation water from the Murray, during the recent drought.
    I personally know of many dairy herds that were sent to slaughter because the producers did not have irrigation water to produce feed, or couldn't afford it. At the same time new urban developments near Moama were running water sprinklers on acres of grass, in the middle of the day. And a lot of vineyards were still irrigating. I found it puzzling that milk producers were having to send generations of carefully bred genetics to a wasteful end while wine producers seemed to be doing alright by comparison. Ask someone with osteoporosis which they'd find more useful.
    Yep Geoff I'm sure you could live for a while on just veges and fruit...not sure how long though - and you're certainly unlikely to be standing upright beyond middle age.

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Well said Fiona. I believe the above main article is well presented and provides a balance in the extraordinary debate concerning the beef and other red meat industries.

      It is just interesting that in very few of the articles and subsequent on land clearing, does the urbanclearing for housing, roads and major city type infra structure, usually on coastal or near coastal land with large significant forests, get mentioned. While I agree that clearing for grain, is much more devastating than…

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  27. Paul Rogers

    logged in via Twitter

    To be fair to Mike Archer, he has presented a 'specific' case based on Australian conditions and circumstances and for a specific substitution, eg plant protein in cereals and legumes for range-land red meat.

    However, intended or not, this has been presented as a 'general' case against vegan eating principles. Considering that we live on one earth, and that food is traded cross borders ever more frequently, the general case is surely the most relevant. Geoff and Shirley have argued cogently that…

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  28. Fiona Lake

    rural photographer & writer

    Crikey Geoff, next you'll be demanding a written thesis proving that the sun appears over our eastern horizon each morning. The world is full of studies spouting facts & figures supporting one theory or the exact opposite. This is a discussion - a to and fro conversation putting forth different points of view, ideally with participants listening to one another and gaining knowledge and potentially altering their points of view. I found Mike Archer's article to be original and thought provoking and worthy of a non-venemous discussion.
    Could you please advise what first hand knowledge you have of commercial food & fibre production, or what particular life or work experience you are basing your beliefs on (other than reading reports picked to support your agenda).

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona: My qualifications are in mathematics, pure and applied. Mathematicians like to nail stuff down precisely. You reckon: "The world is full of studies spouting facts & figures supporting one theory or the exact opposite." That's not true. 2+2 isn't 5; vegans, like orangutans, need a source of B12; smoking has caused far more cancers since 1986 in Ukraine than the Chernobyl accident; all these are incontestably true.

      I don't care much for first hand "knowledge" ... thousands of cattle farmers think that beef doesn't cause cancer or heart disease. Many think it is an indispensable form of
      protein. I prefer science.

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    2. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      I think that's weak. These threads provide adequate space to support arguments, and a request to do so is fair. Geoff manages it. I managed it on my article.

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  29. David Tuck

    Scientist

    Hi Mike, I feel as though my question has probably been overlooked because of the heated comments coming from Geoff. I just wanted to ask again if you could give me a link to some information about the amount of water/land needed to produce different sources of protein. The topic of the human consumption of animal products seems to be becoming more radicalised every year which makes it harder for the average person to engage with in a constructive way. I feel as though in your article you are using…

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  30. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Thanks, Mike, for an entertaining and provocative article.

    I feel constantly alienated by the nonsense of people like PETA who give us only worse-case instances of factory farming, or meaningless averages. A bit of balance, and Australian context, is helpful in our balancing the ethics around our own diets.

    What your article raises is the core issue that some vegetable production, as well as some meat production, is environmentally disastrous while some of each is relatively benign. Unfortunately…

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  31. Robert Davy

    person

    It's quite disingenuous to claim that the use of grain by cattle is small. There is good data on this.

    See ABARE report: "feedgrains - regional demand and supply in Australia" April 2007.

    Table 5 shows that in 2006-07 the grain availability was about 22 kilotonnes.

    Table 11 shows the feed use by animals.
    The total was about 11 kiltonnes, or about HALF of the available grain stocks.
    (Granted, this was a drought year but droughts are not unusual for us.)

    Of this amount, the approximate proportion of grain used by industry was as follows (just the 4 biggest ones):
    beef feedlot 33%,
    dairy 23%,
    broiler chickens 21%
    pigs 14%

    In the case of broiler chickens, it takes about 4 grams of grain protein to produce 1 gram of chicken flesh protein. The conversion rate is even worse for pigs and cattle.

    Therefore, it is surprising that this article is directed at vegetarians. Perhaps it would be better directed at the major users of feed grain as shown above.

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  32. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    A comment on eating kangaroos harvested from the wild rather than farming them. The trouble with harvesting kangeroos is that rather than taking the smallest, weakest animals, roo shooters (naturally) harvest the largest, healthiest animals, as they're paid on size/weight. Over generations this will enevitably have a negative impact on the quality of the gene pool. Although there are many thousands of the particular species that are harvested, and the effect may be very gradual. Long-term, farming…

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    1. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      @Fiona; I am intrigued by your experience of lack of wildlife while staying in Melbourne. In central Brunswick we regularly see lorikeets, magpies, ravens, wattlebirds, honeyeaters, suphur-crested and occasional yellow-tailed black cockatoos. Occasionally galahs and corellas as well.

      We have a bit still to learn about maintaining wildlife in disturbed environments but all is not gloom.

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  33. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    Geoff, you're such an aggressive extremist! I don't understand how you get through the day without having a heart or bile attack! You posit the absurd idea that someone would wonder after reading my article: "How can I live with myself, I'll stop eating cereal and animals raised on cereal and dairy from animals fed with grains and replace them with an equal amount of kangaroo and grass fed cattle" which is nuts--the indigestible kind. Then you go on to roll out absurd non-sequitors one after another. I'm sure you're a nice guy in the flesh but online, I'm sorry, you're irrational. People don't have to adopt extremist positions on any spectrum to lead a well-balanced life and lack of balance may be what's over-exercising your gall bladder.

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    1. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mike, any residual respect I may have held on to for you just evaporated.

      I was thoroughly taken to task on my recent article on nuclear power, and did not resort to that kind of petty comment. I engaged with my critics in conversation, extensively in fact.

      That is an extremely rude response to some very clear criticisms of your work. Hate Geoff if you want, but I am interested in this issue and yet again, you seem to be a defender of meat who either can't or just plain won't support your own arguments.

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mike, I obviously misinterpreted your article. I thought you were serious, not simply writing for entertainment value.

      In any case, can I get clarification on what you think about cruelty to animals? 3 questions:

      1) do you support duck shooting ... for food of course?

      2) do you support long drawn out deaths and injuries for wildlife used for food?

      3) do you know roughly what duck shooting wounding and crippling rates are? (Do you understand the difference between wounding and crippling? I can explain if required).

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  34. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    John I can relate one of many conversations last year that sums up an unfortunately common view I've encountered in recent years. While staying at a B & B in innercity NE Melbourne last year, I observed sadly that over the 3 days in residence and a lot of walking I only sighted one native bird the whole time - a solitary magpie sitting on a powerline. There was a plethora of Indian mynahs, blackbirds, sparrows and pigeons. The bitumenised footpath was thick with ancient spat-out chewing gum and…

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  35. Susannah Waters

    Communications Officer at UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics

    I actually think Archer's summary is a little simplistic. He focuses on Australian farming rather than on a global context. We export much of the wheat and pulses grown here, and we also import much of the food that is consumed in Australia. His article focuses too much on Australian-grown food, assuming that this is the only food that Australians eat.
    Much of the forest currently being stripped out of places like Brazil (the Amazon) is being converted to land grown for soy crops. These aren’t…

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    1. Keely Boom

      Research Associate, Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      THINKK, the think tank for kangaroos, based at the University of Technology has assessed this critique by Cooney, Archer et al. Our response ‘Thought again: fair criticism or a muddhle-headed grandstanding’ by D. Croft, D. Ben-Ami, D. Ramp and K. Boom is available here: http://thinkkangaroos.uts.edu.au/issues/thought-again-fair-criticism-or-a-muddle-headed-grandstanding

      Our conclusion is:
      'Cooney et al. (2011) approach their critique with the intention of discrediting THINKK on the basis of one…

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    2. Keely Boom

      Research Associate, Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mr Beale, you are welcome to reach your own conclusions about THINKK. However, for your information: there are two Research Fellows at THINKK, Dr Dror Ben-Ami and myself. Dr Daniel Ramp is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Environment at UTS (he is not a Research Fellow with THINKK).

      Professor Stuart White is Project Director of THINKK and Louise Boronyak is Project Manager. Prof Stuart White, Dr Ben-Ami, Dr Ramp and I are members of the Research Advisory Committee, which guides the work. Expert…

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    3. Rosie Cooney

      Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Apologies for a typo in the above: the third bullet point should read
      "- comparing the weight of the bone-in meat yield from sheep with the bone-out meat yield of kangaroos, greatly inflating the difference in yields."

      Clearly I should have sought peer review!

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Back in 1996, DPI Agricultural Economist Peter Hardman did a study on the kangaroo industry ... his yield was a little less than 12 kg ... 10.17 kg. But lets not quibble. Most of the yield is used as "manufactured meat". The World Cancer Research Foundation told people in 2007 to avoid processed meat entirely ... not just limit it. Remove it from the food supply. Why? The cancer risk from just 30 grams of this stuff is similar to the cancer risk of 100 grams of normal red meat. Is all "manufactured meat" in the "processed meat" category? Difficult to say, but more than likely all of it is. What do I mean above by "most of the yield" ... Hardman put it at 70%. The 1.5 kg in the Thinkk report is the industries own yield figure for "quality" meat. The stuff that you'd get served at the Hilton.

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    5. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Like I said, I don't know how much of the second rate stuff gets
      treated, but I'd be interested to find out. It would clarify the debate if
      the yield and proportion of processed meat were known. My understanding is that most of the cheaper stuff exported to Germany was processed ... I'd have to hunt down the source, but I think RIRDC.
      I imagine such percentages fluctuate wildly.

      The smoking gun on red meat is endogenous nitrosamine production which damages DNA in colon cells. Kangaroo meat…

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    6. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      CSIRO have been feeding red meat to rats with all kinds of things aimed at reducing the DNA damage ... I don't think you can guess this stuff ... you might like to suggest they test kangaroo meat? That would be brave!

      Most of what CSIRO do uses very crude testing for DNA damage (comet assay). The Lewin work was looking for very particular kinds of DNA damage ... those associated with bowel cancer. Much harder. Most protein damages DNA ... see if you can spot the difference between damage from radioactive caesium-137 and a "mystery product" in the pictures here:

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/02/would-sir-like-a-caesium-salad-with-his-steak/

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    7. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      I suspect you’ll find Geof that any increase in cancer risk associated with small goods will have more to do with the additives which go into them (stuff like sodium nitrite for example) than with the meat per se. Blaming the meat in small goods for causing cancer is a little like blaming road deaths on the cars rather than the drivers. Regardless, in addition to the additive-free fine cuts of meat, a great deal of kangaroo manufacturing meat is actually sold as straight mince (without preservatives…

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  36. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    Hope you feel better after your spray at anyone who dares to have a different opinion to yours Ben (there's a distinct pattern there).

    Yes I've seen posters of native birds on walls in inner-city houses too, but I was talking about real live birds, and not in cages either.

    Brunswick is an incredibly polluted environment, a world away from what it would have been like prior to European settlement. It would be less degraded if the local residents spent less time washing their Prius cars and sipping lattes in the cafes while discussing global warming furphies, and more time planting (locally) native gardens. Tell me it ain't so and I'll have an even bigger laugh than the one you've already given me.

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  37. Keely Boom

    Research Associate, Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology, Sydney

    Thanks to Prof Archer for bringing attention to the plight of mice. These practices are very concerning and I am sure that with increased awareness many people will call for cruelty free wheat. As with palm oil, consumers are willing to look through the supply chain and demand such products or look for alternatives.

    Nonetheless there are a number of major problems with this article. Here I will highlight two:

    1) People who eat meat do not just eat meat. Omnivores tend to eat from the entire…

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  38. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    To me the main point of Mike's article is drawing attention to the fact that animals are adversely affected by production of plants for human consumption. In other words, there's a much bigger picture than just cereal growing, just mice, and just broad-scale commercial agriculture.

    ALL plant production for human consumption impacts on other fauna, large and small - from tiny insects up to large marsupials and birds. It matters not one bit whether it's a big crop or a little one. Nature will…

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  39. Redmond Fox

    Professional Feral Animal Control Manager

    Here is a small list of some things that are made from Cattle - no doubt we have used many of these items in our day to day lives. Despite the fact Vegans/Animal Rights Groups think they are caring and sharing when it comes the non use of animals as you can see from the list below that they too have benefited from mans farming and use of the humble Cattle, not to mention all the other farmed animals that are not only used as a food source but also are used in all our day to day lives whether we realise…

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      Redmond, that is an extraordinarily thought-provoking list and the first time I have seen something like this laid out in that way. It's an eye-opener and should be a wake-up call to those who advocate stopping the consumptive use of animals. In a broader context, no traditional cultures known to me anywhere in the world have been other than consumptive users of animals as well as plants. While it's true that one African branch of prehistoric hominids may have been in large part vegetarian (the 'Nutcracker…

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    2. Redmond Fox

      Professional Feral Animal Control Manager

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      Your welcome Mike, I saw an interesting video presentation a while ago on pigs as well - apparently we use pig in approximately 180+ products and a lot are used on a daily basis

      HERE'S A BIT OF A LIST OF PRODUCTS THAT OFTEN HAVE PIG IN THEM.

      Soap
      Toothpaste
      Shampoo/Conditioner
      Anti Wrinkle Cream
      Bread (Hair Protein is used in it)
      Butter
      Concrete
      Train Brakes
      Cheese Cake/Tiramasu
      Fine Bone China
      Paint (High Gloss)
      Sandpaper
      Paintbrushes (Hair)
      Hair Brushes (Hair)
      Meat Glue
      Beer/Wine/Fruit Juice
      Cigarettes
      Collagen
      Bullets
      Heart Valves
      Renewable Energy

      Just to name a few!

      Once you really start looking into it we all use animals regardless of what we think, just because you don't eat animal flesh doesn't mean you haven't benefited from an animals death, something Vegans and Animal Rights Groups really should sit down and really think about I feel.

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    3. Redmond Fox

      Professional Feral Animal Control Manager

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      This might be of interest to you Mike

      http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/christien_meindertsma_on_pig_05049.html

      Also a great series that's just finished on the ABC2 here in Australia called KILL IT, CUT IT, USE IT and KILL IT COOK IT, EAT IT - fantastic series of shows showing exactly what's involved from start to finish when it comes to animals - very interesting series really, lots to learn about and it really showed just how naive people really are when it comes to humans using animals for…

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      What makes you think vegans don't think about these things? Have you booked an airline ticket lately? Have you looked at the list of special meals? All airlines cater for vegans. Have you ever seen an airline offer a "free range meat" option, or "wildlife meat" option? No? Why is this? My guess is because more than a few meat eaters crow loudly about supporting free range or hunting or whatever, but its all just lip service, almost none actually have any ethical principles that they allow to impact…

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    5. Redmond Fox

      Professional Feral Animal Control Manager

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      How does it sit with your philosophy about animal use knowing that you use animals on a daily basis? The funny part is the computer you are using to have these conversations almost certainly has animal product in it!

      You can't escape the fact that animals have been killed to benefit not only meat eaters but vegetarians and Animal Rights Groups alike, we all benefit from farmed animals - simple as that.

      I know it's hard for you guys to swallow, but its the plain simple truth, where do you think…

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    6. Dominic Meagher

      PhD Candidate

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      Redmond, your comments wont come as a surprise to many vegans and we are mostly resigned to the fact that you can't live in the world without having some harm on someone or causing some destruction to something. Its just totally impractical. That's why the point is about harm minimisation. Most vegans aren't puritans, we are just conscientious consumers.

      Regarding your long list of products that have animal derivative components, you may be interested to know that its very easy to find substitutes…

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    7. Mark Robertson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      That will cause there to be a lot of panicking vegans & vegetarians, if they are real and very diligent.

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    8. Lisa Milne

      Education at Southern Cross University

      In reply to Redmond Fox

      whoah! "your guess" is? perhaps you should find out what the actual usage of more ethical alternatives as dominc above notes, harm minimisation is the only realistic possibility.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Thanks Mike. I was pretty sure that this was how you felt, and was reasonably sure that you wouldn't let political correctness interfere with an honest statement of your views, so I wasn't so much baiting you as trying to confirm my ideas about you.

      I've just spent a few weeks reading Steven Pinkers "Better angels of our nature" ... which I think will be judged as one of the key books of the century in a hundred years time. It plots the decline of violence over time, a very long time. My favourite…

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    2. Mick Matheson

      Journalist

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Geoff, you too reveal your feelings. Your figures may be convincing at times, but your attitudes are contradictory, subjective and quite arrogant. By your logic, female mutilation of humans is akin to hunting species like kangaroos because animals deserve moral consideration at, I presume, the same level. Take this another step or two and we would impose our morals on animals; tigers would no longer be permitted to kill prey.

      You may think this is a silly position to take, but it is a logical…

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    3. Lisa Milne

      Education at Southern Cross University

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      It would be useful to respond to the points raised earlier about how sustainable your xmas ham supplier (and all their ilk) would be if they suddenly had meet demand from many more or indeed all consumers of meat in Oz or elsewhere - How soon would wild harvest become stressed and exhausted under those conditions? I think the issues in Africa with bush meat give a fair indication (since you mentioned springbok). That is a very important 'nuance' to address in this debate as it stands.

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  40. Carlos Caceres

    Reader, Materials,

    This is a question for Tim, who possibly has the numbers at hand. This is on the issue that feeding on cows is bad for the environment because of the methane thing and bad for your health since it shorten your life (cancer, etc).
    It seems to follow that if we stop feeding on cows, we not only live longer, we stop global warming on its tracks, and we don’t even need to stop burning coal or go nuclear.
    However, an analysis re cars produces rather startling results: should you get everybody off…

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Carlos,

      The CSIRO now acknowledges that raising cattle and other ruminants does NOT increase green house gases (GHG). In spite of this, politicaians and many others still make comments about this and suggest that these animals provide about 16% of Australia's GHG production. That this is nonsense is easily seen from the facts that

      1. The carbon in Methane produced by animals is 100% biological being produced from last years sequestered carbon from the air - used to produce the grass or…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      John. Over on bravenewclimate.com you'd be asked to provide sources to back your claims. Under "The Conversations" pretend moderation rules, you can say any garbage you like, provided you say it politely.

      So, with respect, have you ever bothered to check any of what you wrote?

      How many cattle are there in the world today? Did you bother to check? Obviously not. According to FAOstat, the latest figure for cattle is 2009 when there were 1.4 billion cattle and the earliest figure is 1961, when…

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Geoff,

      With all due respects, this is called a "Conversation" so I didn't think it mattered that I didn't quote a reference - only joking of course.

      No I did not check the world population of cattle, whch is why I had said "probably", and accept your correction thank you, - again without checking! But I did check Australia's population from the Bureau of Statistics which is what does matter to me.

      OK, I was wrong about the 50s - the cattle population here peaked about 1970 at 34 million…

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    4. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Hello Yuri.

      Yes, if you say so, but I do not deny that the globe has warmed from 1979 to 1998 which seems to be the qualification required for being referred to as a "denier". As a scientist, I am always sceptical of claims which have not been substantiated by empirical evidence. So yes, I am definitely a “sceptic”.

      The best known theories of physics, those of Newton and Einstein, were the subjects of very extensive experimental work which, in Newton's case preceded the theory. In Einstein’s…

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    5. clarke vincent

      Head of Marketing & Business Development

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      John - you ask for enlightenment... if only you asked Einstein or Newton. Or perhaps for a living, high-repute vegetarian physicist, you could still ask Briane Greene. As Einstein put it:

      Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. ~Albert Einstein

      You must occasionally allow yourself a momentary release from the rigid framework of the scientific method in order to dream about the possible direction in which we should help it develop. That was Einstein and Newton's genius.

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    6. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Clarke,

      Thanks for your quick response. As a meat eater for 76 years it would be difficult I feel to become a dedicated vegetarian. As far as cruelty to animals is concerned though, I do agree that everything shoild be done to reduce suffering in any way possible although it would be unrealistic to eliminate it altogether just as we have pain in road accidents and other common activities in life- not that our own foolishness is an excuse to make animals suffer.

      However, I do wonder how…

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    7. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      John, too many to mention have told you where you are wrong. Your strategy is to ignore them and continue to post as if they had not, like a true zealot. See the other thread.

      This is not a thread about global warming per se, but what I would say is that if you think you have something, why don't you try to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal? Well, have you? How did you go?

      In the meantime, when the 99% of climate and associated physicists that believe MM global warming is real, start to become sceptics, then get back to me and I might take more notice.

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    8. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Yuri,

      Yes, I agree, many people have said in no uncertain terms and sometimes very rudely unfortunately, that what I am saying does not fit with their own beliefs in the statements by the IPCC. No one yet has been able to show me why the IPCC is correct, nor that the scientific statements I have made are wrong.

      As I have pointed out, the people in the units in Australia, and the CSIRO, continue to make claims that their models show this and that but have been unable to justify these claims…

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    9. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Okay, you have not been able to publish your paper, right? And that's because it doesn't hold up -- unless you believe that, let''s say, 97% of the world's climate scientists are duds and you happen to be correct.

      Many, many scientists with better training in this discipline than I have rebutted your premise, so why would I waste my time repeating it?

      For the uninitiated, Mr Nicol uses the standard agenda-driven sceptic approach of pretending that his ideas have never been debunked, and repeating this ad nauseum. It's all here, and in many other places, for anyone to read, including the comments:

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/

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    10. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Carlos Caceres

      Well done for sticking with it Yuri. John and other skeptics rely on people getting bored and too frustrated to point out just how often their claims have been dealt with.

      For anybody sucked in by Ian Plimer's book, Ian Enting's list of mistakes now runs to 58 pages, many are basic and more than a few show a thorough lack
      of basic knowledge ... or worse:

      http://www.sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/content/pages/ian-plimers-heaven-earth-checking-claims

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  41. Wayne Hogan

    Mechanical Engineer

    Great article Mike, my family has included meat as part of a balanced diet for over 100,000 years. It's a natural part of being who we are, something that seems to escape the extreme greens who would have us living in caves and eating roots and leaves.

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  42. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    Redmond, you're spot-on. The hypocrisy in the animal rights position is stark. It's evidently ok for them to use--or for practical reasons too hard to avoid the use of--dozens of products (try driving around in cars without tyres) on a daily basis even to produce the bulk of the plant foods vegetarians eat but not alright to use the meat from the animals killed. A research veterinarian in the University of Sydney, Dr Paul Hopwood, published a book called 'Animal Deliberation' which explored other…

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  43. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    The vegan argument is based essentially in the question of killing animals to eat.

    What about the rights of plants? Do they suffer from our eating.

    There would certainly seem to be evidence in the behaviour of eucalypts in response to being eaten by koalas. The tree produces toxins that make it unpleasant for the koala who has to go off regularly to find a new tree. That is why you see them on the ground, sniffing trees. They are sniffing for the trees that have not been eaten recently and have let their guard down.

    Eucalypts are not alone in responding to predation and in interacting more broadly with their environment. Are we being faunocentric in ignoring the suffering of plants?

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  44. Carlos Caceres

    Reader, Materials,

    The philosophical and ethical issues re "moral vegetarianism" have been dealt with in this now classical 1976 paper by Michael Martin, "A critique of moral vegetarianism", widely available in the internet. ( www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/03/rp_3_2.pdf )
    Martin uses formal logic to debunk all and everyone of the vegans' claims on moral superiority and the like, not to mention other deeply significant issues such as What do vegetarians feed their dogs, or how to deal with the fact that Adolf Hitler was a vego. Highly recommended to everyone interested in the topic, vegans included. Even hard core vegos like these:
    http://animalethics.blogspot.com/2009/01/moral-vegetarianism-part-1-of-13.html
    had to agree (as recently as 2009) that the idea that eating meat "brutalises" people "fails" once you consider Martin's arguments.

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  45. clarke vincent

    Head of Marketing & Business Development

    what a fierce and insightful debate. The animal users do seem a little desperate to justify animal farming, against what appears to be a mounting proliferation of evidence to suggest it is not right.

    I suspect that, as with climate skeptics who contested issue of the reality of global climate change over the last 10 years, with time, animal users will eventually and quietly, one by one change their minds.

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    1. Carlos Caceres

      Reader, Materials,

      In reply to clarke vincent

      That's right, Clarke. Vegans may be losing the odd battle here and there, but they are winning the war. I thought for a sec today that perhaps my colleagues at the CSIRO would like to develop a time capsule, and send Geoff Russell, or maybe you would like to volunteer too?, on a delicate time-mission (temporary of course, we need you back here guys).
      This is the idea: Geoff (and/or you) go back to London (UK) ca 1830, with the mission of locating two German political émigrés, named F. Engels and…

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  46. Jane Daly

    PhD Candidate at RMIT University

    Animal suffering aside, there are a range of environmental and health concerns associated with meat and dairy consumption and production which are not discussed in this article. See my piece on this subject here: http://theconversation.edu.au/reducing-meat-and-dairy-consumption-easier-said-than-done-or-easier-done-than-said-4317

    And, despite the recently flurry of unhelpful articles like this one – that apparently only seek to distract and confuse people on this issue – transitioning to plant…

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  47. Doug Shupe

    Teacher, conservation hunter, defender of rural life

    M Archer should be congratulated for highlighting the other side of the argument that even vegetarians have animal blood on their hands. Denial is a strong emotion. It is unlikely that we will see similar articles in the Lame Stream Media.

    My MD -- "everyone gets cancer an average of four times in their life. Those who naturally fight it off remain healthy while the others contract cancer" I presume he included vegetarians in this statement.

    My Chiropractor who teaches natural therapies…

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  48. Joel Munro

    farmer/irrigation designer

    I have read this article and the comments so far with a deal of interest, and so far as I can tell most of the commenters have been consumers with very little practical knowledge of production of either cereal grains and pulse crops, or of livestock. I have recently returned to Australia after two and a half years working on a large grain cropping property in Canada, after spending my life growing up on a beef cattle producing farm. The fossil fuel and chemical requirements of efficient production…

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  49. Jen Rose

    Student

    Dear Mike Archer,

    While I am aware that the death and suffering of sentient animals results from crop farming, I try to apply Peter Singer's philosophy of 'do least harm' while acknowledging that it is unfortunately impossible to do no harm. Your article has failed to convince me that an omnivorous diet would cause fewer deaths/suffering that an omnivorous diet would be an ethical alternative to my current vegan one.
    Firstly, I am yet to meet an omnivore who excludes chicken, pig flesh, dairy…

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  50. Jen Rose

    Student

    Oh and I should say that I would support more ethically farmed grain products for sure.

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  51. Jennifer Sangster

    Supply Chain Manager

    Okay before we start all banging our heads against the wall re: papers, etc I think there are still preliminary things to discuss with the points raised in the article- albeit a very good point. The article seems to be focusing exclusively on the drawbacks of veggie farming in one region without examining any of the drawbacks of animal farming/fishing. It talks about the side effects of clearing farm land for crops, but largely skips over the vast amounts of land cleared for grazing animals (ie rainforest). It talks of the cruelity of killing mice and spiders for crops, but not the damage and cruelty done to, say, dolphins and fish caught in nets. I guess what I'm saying is the piece raises some good points, but it's not a black & white issue, and it feels like only half the story.

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  52. Adhityani Putri

    logged in via Facebook

    The point raised in this article--that land clearing for agriculture has harmed animals and biodiversity--is certainly a valid point. But in comparing the environmental dmages caused by vegetarianism and meat eating the author completely disregards the different types of meat production as well as agricultural production. Meat isn't just produced from sustainable cattle farming, most meat products in the world are produced in the most unsustainable and cruel ways (battery farming, anyone?) and that's…

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  53. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Mike's article was a provocative and at times amusing challenge to vegans who want to convert the rest of the world - not a scientific treatise as such. Some responses which persist in debating the causes of cancer and whether most meat eaten in the world is from cattle,pigs and chooks that are fed grain are irrelevant to the main theme of the article , as are arguments about which industries use the most irrigation water from the MDB . In the heat of debate some omnivores fell into the trap of…

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  54. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Gosh ,Fiona , some of your later comments got a bit too heated.

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to George Wilson

      Dear George,

      Unfortunately I cannot produce the article at present as I am away from home. I acknowledge that not all scientisrts in CSIRO will say that cattle are not a problem. Those in the Climate Science Group who do all the modelling for the IPCC for instance would not be prepared to admit to that. But there is a report in which one of the sections in the agricultural area did acknowledge just what I had said - that producig grain, for instance leaves more carbon in the soil than is taken…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to George Wilson

      Dear John and George ... Tim Scanlon in an earlier comment stated:

      "I actually asked a couple of my animal science professors from UWA to weigh in on The Conversation and write an article. Their response was that they had bigger issues to deal with, like actually doing the methane lowering research, figuring out which feeds lower methane and better rumens."

      I suggest John give them a quick call so they can start looking for new jobs since their current jobs are obviously redundant.

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to George Wilson

      Dear Geoff,

      As with a lot of research on climate matters of course, the availability of funding is dependent on there being a problem. I would not expect them to change what they are doing simply because it could be a waste of time - they are asked to find a way to reduce methane, so why not do it?

      On the other hand, research at Armidale suggests that reducing the methane out put also coincides with increased efficiency in feed conversion - so there are other incentives for this work.

      Howevr, I am surprised that you did not comment on the analysis I have presented to you of the sequence of events - CO2 -> grain/grass -> methane -> CO2 and carbonates - therefore no net increase in the Green House Gas (actually small decrease)! Were you able to understand what I was saying or should I put it into a more simple form for you? It would be interesting if you could show me that my analysis is wrong! Cheers, John.

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to George Wilson

      A steady state livestock population now is responsible for a steady state component of methane in the atmosphere ... sure ... but at a level well above that component in
      preindustrial times due to livestock. So it is a net forcing increase relative to the preindustrial forcing. As is the forcing due to methane from human sewage ... also counted by IPCC.

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    5. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to George Wilson

      Geoff,

      Yes, that is correct if we were to try to go back to the level of CO2 in preindustriasl times - 1750 which is before we had any cattle in Austrlai. I didn't think the aim was to go that far back which will mean an awful lot of wind farms!

      However, the claim is that we put out 16% every year and are being assessed on the assumption that our methane has been accumulating in the same way as our CO2 and thast we will be continuing to accumulate methane for the next 100 years unless we…

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    6. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to George Wilson

      John,

      Here's another way to do the math. Grow (or divert) more plant protein for direct human consumption (the huge mouse mortalities in Australia appear to be an atypical problem; in the American context, Steven Davis - also a proponent of the hypothesis that free-range beef leads to fewer animal deaths than a vegan diet - estimated an annual mortality rate of 15 animals per hectare of cropland). Preferentially retire grazing land (made redundant by the switch to plant protein) that lends itself to conversion into forest. The new forests will sequester much more carbon than the grazing lands ever did. To the extent that the global livestock herd decreases this way by attrition, there will be a much-needed "methane dividend" with a rapid lowering of the CO2-equivalent concentration in the atmosphere due to the very short half-life of methane - a kind of gentle geoengineering.

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  55. David A. Murray

    Staff Writer

    With, I hope, due respect to participants (but none at all to Singer), this approach illustrates the absurdity of the whole Mill-ian attempt at a quantitative morality.

    Pace Singer, we can't do without qualitative distinctions--that is, attributing a moral difference between humans and animals. The attempt to do so leads to a lot of earnest, but absurd, wheel-spinning that tries to reason morally by counting--totting up units of input vs. pounds of protein, or units of pain among sentient creatures…

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  56. Sebastiao Nascimento

    logged in via Facebook

    there are so many false or unsustainable premises in this article that it almost seems an op ed paid for by the lobbyists of the gargantuous export-oriented australian meat industry, just barely disguised under environmentally concerned language. the argument could only work if all of the conditions below were satisfied:

    i. meat eaters would eat nothing but meat
    ii. the whole world could afford to eat organic beef delivered from australia
    iii. australian meat production and export would be solely…

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    1. clarke vincent

      Head of Marketing & Business Development

      In reply to Sebastiao Nascimento

      You forgot one - the actual article title is clearly false according to the arguments presented in the article.

      Title is: Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands

      It then goes on to claim that more small animals are killed by a vegetarian diet than large ones are eaten. Yet I'm fairly sure a cow or pig has a lot more blood in it than several mice*. So technically, there still would not be more blood 'on our hands'. A nice example of the obvious bias of the writer creeping into the content and tone.

      *I have no peer reviewed reference for that, and since I'm a vegan I'm sure someone will discredit me for being a zealot with no references. I just hope a meat eating scientist doesn't jump on it as a scientific knowledge gap opportunity needing a peer reviewed paper, and then go slit some throats of different sized animals to measure blood output.

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  57. Patrick Delaney

    logged in via Twitter

    Some interesting and educational thoughts here, from both sides of the debate, and clearly a few frayed tempers. Some general structural points about this debate:

    * Accusing vegetarians of hypocrisy may be fun, but it doesn't speak to the general point. I think doing harm to others is bad, but I sometimes do it, and it doesn't follow that I cannot correctly argue it is wrong to do harm to others. This is the classic tu quoque logical fallacy.

    * Can we please focus on net effects? It strikes…

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  58. Anne Watts

    logged in via Facebook

    Nikki Archer's mice were an appropriate and creative addition to this article!!

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  59. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    Oh Albert Einstein said it was a good idea to be a vegetarian did he? Last I heard, he didn't know how to boil an egg. Probably didn't know how to cook steak either, let alone any meat dish requiring more skill, so fanging on lettuce was probably the easiest option.
    The trouble is, omnivores don't tend to have the burning desire to convert everyone they meet, to their own chosen diet, in the way that the vast majority of vegetarians and vegans do. So yes you'll find a few 'celebrities' and well known scientists who spout the virtues of not eating meat. But for every one of these, there are thousands more who are silent - because they're omnivores and don't feel the need to carry on about it.
    Sorry I know this is blindingly obvious but at least two people need to be reminded that just because a person has a talent in a specific field (eg mathematics), it doesn't mean their opinion on other topics carries any more weight than the next persons.

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    1. clarke vincent

      Head of Marketing & Business Development

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona, do you think the pioneers of any of the great changes in social development (pick one that means something to you - e.g. campaigning against slavery, apartheid, child labour, sexual discrimination) had a burning desire to convert everyone they met? Was their desire justified? Would you have belittled them because it was once the minority view?

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  60. carmen fanali

    salon owner

    This article seems to be from the standpoint of a meat eater. Most meat eaters that I know overdo protein. And many vegetarians overdo grains. There are vegetarians and vegans who eat no grains at all and only 10% of there diet is protein. as more and more vegetarians and vegans are eating this way I think that throws a wrench into this whole theory.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to carmen fanali

      Carmen: Any vegan diets use less grains than the average Australian diet which is built on vast amounts of grains fed to the pigs and chickens which are just over half of all meat consumed in Australia (FAOstat). Yes, its easy to construct healthy vegan diets with no grains, but they don't scale ... they are only sustainable if hardly anybody does it. Why? Because the total Calories in the Australian food supply if you take out cereals and animal products is about 1480 ... and 400 of those are sugar…

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  61. Jinx K. Brooks

    -

    This article seems kind of exaggerated to me, however it does make some interesting points. I am on the fence about veganism, but here is what I think with regards to this article:

    The way I see it, a vegan diet is not only about eating no animal products, but is also about sustaining life on the planet (i.e. not killing animals for food, research, and clothes). I do not know any vegans who eat food that was grown with pesticides, herbicides and other polluting chemicals. If more people in…

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  62. Ketan C

    logged in via Facebook

    There are a lot of fallacies in the attitudes of overly sensitive 'Greens' and 'animal lovers'. I support what Dr. Archer is aiming to convey to the vegans out there. They need to question the notion that us humans should be held to some 'extra-natural' standard when it comes to the treatment of other species - we are a predator after all. However, I do not think that the concerns of activists such as Peta are "ethical" - even though they may claim them to be so - but they are sentimental. A paraphrasing…

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    1. Dominic Meagher

      PhD Candidate

      In reply to Ketan C

      Ketan, I think you're making a couple of mistakes here.

      Firstly, I don't think vegans hold humans to "some 'extra-natural' standard". You seem to be making the point that because animals kill each other in nature, its unnatural to set an ethical standard of not killing. But the idea that someone with the ability to make a moral decision also has the responsibility to make moral decisions is not 'extra-natural' at all.

      Secondly, you "paraphrase" the "campaigning of PETA" and then assert that…

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    2. Ketan C

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ketan C

      Dominic,

      I'm not making that case really. What I'm saying is that, there is nothing immoral about killing an animal, bred in captivity for the purpose of being eaten. Though, there may be moral considerations applied to the method of killing. We do have the capacity for making moral decisions, and we must make those decisions. Peta, however, stands for absolute abstainence from meat-eating. This isn't a moral decision, this is extremism.

      Now, my paraphrasing wasn't of what Peta actually stands…

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    3. Stephanie Hunt

      Student

      In reply to Ketan C

      Have you actually met any vegans in real life? I know many and they are not like this at all. The vegans I know are peaceful thoughtful caring people who believe in non violence and want to live by that standard. I have not met any vegans that people are referring to here. What's with all the vegan bashing?

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    1. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mike, first of all, many things are carcinogens in various tests and we should take note of that. However, red meat, not just processed red meat, has consistently been shown to raise the risk of colorectal cancer, even though a no-effect level probably exists. It's not just about nitrosamines, it's more about haem iron, which is toxic in excess (see haemochromatosis), and the polycyclic aromatics and other chemical products of cooking red meat.

      It's quite disingenuous to try to suggest that the carcinogenicity of red meat is all about nitrosamines in processed meat.

      The risk to humans of acrylamide in food is inconclusive. In any case, if it were to be found to be carcinogenic to humans, why would you not want this to be made public, like red meat and colon cancer, so that consumers can make dietary changes to protect themselves?

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Hi Mike ... I had decided to draw a line under all this, particularly as nobody had responded to my "on topic" suggestion of designing a feasible food supply with less suffering than a vegan system. Saying that one meal of kangaroo may involve less suffering than one meal of cus-cus, isn't really relevant. I can just respond that one meal from my back yard involves less suffering than the kangaroo steak. This issue is the total impact on the environment and suffering of a feasible food supply. The…

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    3. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      My comments re nitrosamines were related to exongenous derivative nitrosamines (preservatives) in preserved meats, but nitroso compounds from haem iron may well be a primary carcinogen in red meat per se.

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  63. Bhole Nath

    Engineer

    Yes by this argument presence of humans on planet affects more animals so let exterminate half of humanity!

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  64. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    Some animal rights/liberationist advocates have implied that the sustainable wild-harvest of kangaroos is offensive to Indigenous Australians, who of course have done this successfully for more than 45,000 years. For those interested in ongoing use by Indigenous Australians of sustainably wild-harvested kangaroos to produce wonderful cuisine available to all, have a look at Mark Olive's website: http://www.blackolive.net.au/ --and, in particular, the online menu. There are of course many other indigenous…

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  65. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    In terms of natural carcinogens in plant as well as animal foods, there is a vast literature out there indicating that while it's easy to cherry pick reports that support one particular prejudice about food choice over another, it's highly likely that carcinogens are in plant as well as animal foods. E.g., try the following overview from http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/natural/natcarc.htm:

    'Although cancer-causing substances are often thought by the general public to be synthetic, there are numerous…

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    1. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mike Archer uses the "Ames defence". Bruce Ames made his name in the mid seventies with the bacterial assay 'Ames Test' for mutagens and putative carcinogens. His later assertions (Ames and Gold) that the carcinogenicity of certain pesticides and industrial chemicals should be virtually ignored because there are an equal number or more of natural carcinogens in food plants does not hold up. It ignores: 1) additive and synergistic actions of natural and industrial carcinogens; 2) fat soluble carcinogens…

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    2. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Hi Paul. Couple of points wrt to your post. I happily confess to not being an oncologist--too many other things to keep up with these days. Hence I accept what you say at face value--some meats, particularly when treated with additives and when over-cooked--can increase the chances of getting cancer. However, despite what you suggest, I'm not trying to dismiss this issue. I accept it. Lots of things can increase the chances of cancer. What I am trying to do in this regard is point out that in the…

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    3. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Mike, yes there are some powerful plant-based carcinogens that are carcinogenic in a variety of laboratory tests. I'm well aware of that having once published a professional toxicology newsletter. For humans, the genus Aristolochia (Dutchman's pipe) is a serious poison, and has caused kidney failure and bladder cancer in people prescribed it as a natural remedy for weight loss. No doubt there are others with such potential, eg pyrollizidine alkaloids for example. I wasn't suggesting we start eating…

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    4. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Paul, clearly we do agree about the need to be thoughtful and cautious about the foods we eat in terms of their potential risks and benefits to us as individuals. The risk/benefit to the environment that arises from our food choices has, however, drawn out a range of much less flexible, more diverse convictions. Here I am more constrained by the fact that we are not now using Australian land sustainably given the accumulating $3-5 billion in land degradation costs we're inflicting on this continent…

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  66. William Grey

    Philosopher

    If you insist that rodent suffering is a serious issue (and why not?) it makes ethical eating very problematic. The (late) philosopher Bernard Williams remarked: “It is not an accident or a limitation or a prejudice that we cannot care equally about all the suffering in the world: it is a condition of our existence and our sanity”. ('The Human Prejudice')

    Also worth noting are the malthusian remarks of Richard Dawkins: "The total amount of suffering per year in the world is beyond all decent contemplation…

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  67. Syd Baumel

    logged in via Facebook

    Hello Mike,

    You write:
    "... if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do."

    By your own models, figures and calculations - if we assume for the sake of argument they are valid - wouldn't eating meat, eggs and dairy from grain-fed or grain-finished animals be the worst thing an Australian could do? And if so, shouldn't Australians who continue to eat that way be your first, biggest-bang-for-the-buck target for dietary reform?

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Syd Baumel

      Hi Syd. Nice try but... It is inarguably the case that less sentient lives are lost in producing red meat on the rangelands than in producing wheat on agricultural lands--the main thrust of the article. This is not about eggs, dairy or other grain-fed animals, or about cancer, climate change etc where these discussions have sometimes gone, although these are all important issues in their own right--it's about sentient lives lost per kg of useable food produced on 70% of Australia's land where other…

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  68. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Geoff Russel tells us: "Go places where people don't eat red meat and the age standardised rates of bowel cancer just plunge."

    Higher consumption of meat tends to follow higher incomes and greater wealth also tends to be accompanied by higher total consumption of protein, that Geoff acknowledges to be a trigger of cancer in itself.

    All that extra food leads to higher average body mass as well, another factor strongly implicated in cancer.

    Is the data for different places/cultures standardised for total protein, total calorific intake and average body mass, as well as age? If not, it is pretty meaningless in the context it has been used.

    Red meat may cause a marginal rise in the risk of cancer but the dramatically different rates across cultures are confounded by a lot of factors other than red meat consumption.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Harland

      I'm writing up my response to this post for the Animal Lib SA blog (animalliberation.org.au) ... and will post a link when its done.

      But you're conflating little things with big things ... the bowel cancer incidence in Australia is 46 (per 100,000 per year) for men and 32 for women (who eats the most red meat?).

      About 5 to 10% of this has a known genetic basis, another 20% runs in families but has no as yet found genetic linkages. Assuming these
      are found, that gives us an explanation for a quarter of bowel cancers.

      Go to places with low red meat and the rates can be single figures which are almost entirely "understood" by those genetic components. So yes there are other factors, but not as big. Obesity is a risk for more cancers, so probably a bigger overall risk.

      Anyway, I'll post the plot of bowel cancer rates against red meat intake by country when I finish the blog.

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  69. Russell Hamilton

    Librarian

    Mike - would you say that intention matters? The death of the mice who were taking some of the crop, then killed because they didn't get out of the way of the harvester, doesn't seem the same thing as putting cattle in a field, then rounding them up, trucking them to an abbatoir, and slaughtering them for the purpose of eating them.

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Russell, fair question but not relevant to the main message of my article: that vegans/vegetarians can't claim, as some do, that their choice of foods does not involve killing animals--let alone sentient animals. It's pretty much as simple as that--all of us, no matter what the balance of foods we choose to eat, deliberately or inadvertently kill animals to get our foods--and use parts the animals killed by us to provide hundreds of the products we use in our daily lives. Does it matter whether we…

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    2. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Mike - I think some vegans - those who eat mostly fruit, vegetables and rice, nuts etc could claim to be killing fewer animals than the rest of us. I don't have any qualms about shooting dogs who take sheep, or foxes who take chickens, or the rats who (would) take my figs, but I feel a little uneasy about the dairy foods I consume - but, from my own experience I know I need them.

      I can't share your view that I should think of cows the same way I think about grasshoppers, I don't hink it's 'irrational' to see these as quite different things.

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    3. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Russell, it's not black and white, but do realise I am NOT advocating that we stop eating plant foods--just that we recognise the hypocrisy of some (not all) vegetarians/vegans who rationalise their choice of foods on the grounds that animals don't die to produce them. The reality, of course, is that animals die in the course of production of almost all foods we eat, no matter what our food preferences.

      Think about fruit. To grow it, we dedicate vast areas of totally cleared land to this purpose…

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      "Think about fruit. To grow it, we dedicate vast areas of totally cleared land to this purpose which clearly impacts negatively on millions of animals of all kinds."

      From the 2009-10 year book:

      Irrigated areas of fruit and nuts 130,000 ha.
      Irrigated areas for vegetables 114,000 ha
      Irrigated cereals 340,000 ha

      and the irrigated areas for livestock ... bigger or smaller?

      Grazing, 554,000 ha
      Hay 147,000 ha,
      silage 65,000 ha.

      Compare a drip irrigated fruit orchard with flood irrigation for lucerne ... there is no comparison.

      and it isn't only fruit growers in conflict with wildlife ... think sheep producers and eagles ... would we still have wedge tailed eagles if they hadn't been legally protected?

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    5. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Geoff, ironically, we don't disagree and you're not paying attention to what I have been wrapping up these points with--that I am NOT suggesting moving from one food type to another--you and the other vegans/vegetarians are suggesting this. What I'm ONLY interested in communicating is that, no matter what your food lifestyle focus is, there is no death-free lunch! Whatever foods we chose to eat, all of us need to accept that animals are killed to keep us alive. It's what life is all about. Whether…

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    6. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Of course there are few death-free lunches and of course the planet is over populated ... but both claims are blindingly obvious and therefore hardly interesting. What's interesting is what we can do to improve things.

      Barry Brook summarised the situation wrt population brilliantly
      with his recent post:

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/09/19/population-no-cc-fix-p1/

      You may prefer disease and war and climate change to deal with
      population pressures, but I'm sure we can make a useful…

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    7. Andrew Bartlett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      It is good to see these issues getting some reasonably detailed examination by way of this article and many of the comments.

      We all have our own biases, so I've refrained from just joining in the fray for the sake of it. But having read the article and most of the responses I have to make a couple of comments of my own. - (but before I do, I should say as an aside that while I don't agree with the main thrust of the piece written here, it is good to see an author of a piece willing to engage with…

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    8. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Thanks Andrew. I've responded to this post in the course of responding to a more recent post by you further up this chain. Broadly, I'm in agreement with you about the principles of engagement you outline here--no argument! But personally I'm not that bothered by evangelists for vegetarianism any more than I am by those who promote any other view. It's human nature to do so and, at least at the moment, we all can exercise free choice in these matters, for better or worse. But what you say about being irritated by vigorous advocacy is certainly true for others as some of the comments on this article clearly demonstrate. Nevertheless, a lot of very interesting comments and points have been made by individuals on both sides of the vegetarian/omnivore divide.

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  70. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    If the lives of big animals count for more than the lives of little animals, for instance cows against mice, do the lives of big people count for more than the lives of little people?

    If animals are killed incidentally, rather than intentionally, is this morally analogous to "collateral damage" in war?

    And Geoff, I don't think you have answered my previous question about filtering out the factors confounding the comparison of levels of meat consumption across different cultures.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Harland

      John. you can only formally "adjust for" confounders in particular types of studies. There are none of these kinds of studies in countries with low rates of bowel cancer. Why would anybody bother? It's far too expensive and they have plenty of more pressing problems. But the rates are age standardised, which takes care of some of the problems of comparison, but no, not all. Please be patient until I put up a piece on the AL blog ... or you can always buy my book :). perfidy.com.au
      The book went to great lengths to try and explain the stats and other evidence as clearly as possible for a non-technical audience.

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  71. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    Geoff, further worries about current let alone increasing dependence on grains: more herbicides required to produce less-reliable harvests of wheat. This is just one of the globally-challenging problems for those focused on monocultures of introduced plant species to produce the increasingly large amounts of food required by ever-more people.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/19/us-monsanto-superweeds-idUSTRE78I4BA20110919

    Analysis: Super weeds pose growing threat to U.S. crops

    (Reuters…

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Do you have a point Mike? Plant scientists have been fighting wars like this for decades ... and, happily, winning. Cereals are 46 percent of global food calories. Are you going to replace them with bush meat? Rangeland cattle? All up, beef is 1.4 percent of global calories and still knocking down forests at a massive rate. How much of that is rangeland? Sweet fa. The livestock to wildlife biomass ratio is about 7 to 1. Think about it. Double the planet's cattle population and you could knock cereal…

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    2. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Geoff, I give up. You seem unwilling or unable to grasp my main point which is actually very simple, or step out of that narrow zone you're in, or envision any other than the most extreme ends of the spectrum of foods eaten by people. There doesn't seem to be any position you recognise other than those at the extreme ends of any spectrum. However, others do seem to understand my point which I've no doubt reiterated too many times. Best of luck mate.

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    3. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      When George Wilson and Melanie Edwards
      published their kangaroo plan a couple of
      years back, at least they had one ... quantified goals that are amenable to discussion:

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2008.00023.x/full

      That's all I'm asking for. Not just platitudes of "managing Australia sustainably". You can't judge sustainability without quantification. I keep asking you to quantify and you keep telling me I don't understand your point. Without quantification, you…

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    4. Mark Robertson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mike Archer AM

      Wonder if the Creationists ignore this as their farms get swamped, given that it could be viewed as good example of evolution in action.

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  72. Russell Hamilton

    Librarian

    "But I am arguing that all of us, vegans, omnivores, vegetarians and kangatarians alike, stop trying to grab the moral high ground. ALL of us live at the expense of the lives of other animals"

    Mike, that's what I was getting at - your piece is a retort to the vegans who claim the high moral ground - "We're purer than you". Your point is that all of our food involves killing. But if the real argument is a moral one - who is morally purer - then I think that you should include issues like intention and the 'value' of the animals being sacrificed.

    Should I have bought a new computer for Xmas or is it that The Conversation can't handle long conversations?

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Russell, I agree with you absolutely--and that was the main point of my article--no animal-death-free lunches. I wasn't trying to rank the range of alternative approaches to eating in terms of ethical merit, but I can understand that everyone does have a view about this, and I respect the effort to do minimum harm. Given that over-population of the planet by humans and massive over-consumption of resources is the primary cause of the problem (there wasn't a problem prior to the global spread of agriculture…

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    2. Andrew Bartlett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      I acknowledge that you are not wanting to sound insensitive, but it seems you are saying Australia should not be helping to feed 50 million people (or presumably any number of people) overseas because it is degrading our environment (more than would otherwise be the case) to do so? So are you saying those people overseas should have to pay more for their food by sourcing it from elsewhere?

      In particular, you seem to be saying that by producing food for people who live in other countries, it "makes us contributors to the exacerbating global problem of overpopulation rather than part of the solution."

      I find it hard to read this in any way other than suggesting that feeding people who live in other countries is a problem, and also that not helping to feed them is part of a solution to over-population.

      Is that an an accurate summation of what you're suggestion, or am I missing something?

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    3. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Hi Andrew. First, re your other post about the principles involved, basically I agree with you and thank you for your understanding. But I'm not actually irritated by evangelical efforts to convert us all into vegetarians any more than it worries me that some religions feel the need to convert others to convert to their belief system. This is what people do. I was, rather, just trying to put numbers in front of us relating to the comment that I do often here from vegans/vegetarians that their food…

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    4. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      This conversation is getting impossible to follow - I must have missed a comment by Andrew somewhere!

      Re how necessary it is for Australia to feed the world: perhaps some parts of the world would be better at feeding themselves if the distortions produced by subsidised agricultural products from the rich countries wasn't fed into local markets in less developed countries. It's part of the myth that we can produce goods more "efficiently", when efficient doesn't take into account that we are doing it unsustainably.

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    5. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Amen brother. Subsidies can definitely obscure the full costs of agriculture all around the world which, as you say, rarely if ever factor in the costs of unsustainable land degradation when calculating the overall costs of production.

      In regard to the difficulty in finding particular comments, you can rapidly locate posts by individuals by doing a 'ctrl F' then typing in the name and using the up/down carrots to find each post by that person. I only just realised this myself. But why these posts play leap frog with each other from time to time is a complete puzzle to me.

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    6. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Mike, are you seriously suggesting we scale back our cereal exports?
      and what about our beef exports ... which are more likely from the
      feedlot end of the production spectrum? Do you want to scale back these
      also? Because of your concerns about sustainability? Are you really that concerned about monocultures?

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    7. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Geoff, to the extent that they represent a serious ongoing, exacerbating threat to conserving Australia's unique biodiversity and the future resilience of the land, yes, I am. There are other ways of maintaining Australia's trading balance that don't involve exterminating our biodiversity as we are doing now because we are unsustainably producing and exporting more food than we consume ourselves. And of course it's not just production of cereals that are involved in land degradation--I'm talking about ANY widespread use of our land that leads to long-term degradation of our natural resources.

      Are you seriously suggesting we continue to degrade Australia's lands and natural resources to the tune of a $3-5 billion every year as a growing unpayable debt to the future? I seriously hope not.

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    8. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      I'm suggesting we phase out all of our animal industries ... globally ... and Australia can continue to export food ... at least as much,
      probably more. I'll spell out the details in a future post.

      For anybody who took Mike's health claims about the cancer protective
      properties of kangaroo meat seriously ... because of the CLA, I've posted a little of the background on this over on the Animal Lib site.

      http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/120-archer-dodgy-health-advice.html

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    9. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Dear Geoff, you seem to be battling away once again at the vegetarian extremist end of the spectrum which makes it difficult to accept that your main game isn't trying to convert all Australian's into becoming vegans/vegetarians ('chuck a lettuce on the barbie') and stuff the environmental consequences along the way. Pity.

      Have you actually read Simon Fairlie's book--the one that led to George Monbiot's very public conversion from veganism to omnivory? You're a zealot with a vegan/vegetarian…

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    10. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Geoff, I answered your question above; you didn't answer mine--a common debating strategy you, Creationists and anthropogenic climate change denialists frequently utilise. This is 'JAQing off' and 'Gish gallop' (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gish_Gallop) -- just asking rapid-fire questions to razzle-dazzle the audience and not really caring about the answers because that wasn't the point of asking the questions in the first place..

      Once before I signed off on your comments because it was increasingly…

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    11. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      I will answer your main question Mike ... about my vision of agriculture
      in Australia, but that isn't best done in a comment.

      Have I read Fairlie? No. I tried to contact him to do a book swap but
      got no response. Based on what Monbiot wrote I did a couple of
      posts over on the AL site.

      As for the introduced grasses and the $5 billion losses. Are you talking about the big and unproductive areas of introduced grasses ... managed pastures, or the small but very productive areas ... cereals?

      Really, it's best if you wait for a proper answer and not these little comments.

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    12. Andrew Bartlett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Thanks for that Mike

      I don't think there could be much dispute that it would be an "intergenerational crime if we turn over to the next generation of Australians a continent that has significantly less capacity to produce food (and conserve its globally unique biodiversity) than the Australia we inherited from our parents", and even less dispute that that is what we are currently in the process of doing.

      (even though there obviously is dispute as to what sorts of food we should or shouldn't…

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    13. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Dear Andrew: we're pretty much on the same wavelength on all of these issues, although some of them are as you say complicated, such as the export of live cattle to Indonesia. There was clearly a range of very strong opinions about the the most appropriate response. While no-one should try to justify unnecessary cruelty, cruelty can sometimes be a culturally-relative concept. I've seen far more of it exhibited by American and Australian teenagers towards animals than I care to recall, and even some of (to me) the most unbelievable, deliberate cruelty to cattle exhibited by well-known animal rights campaigners here in Australia. It is indeed a very complicated topic.

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    14. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Re the need for Australia to provide protein to Indonesians by shipping cows to them: Indonesian agriculture could be much more productive with improved technologies, infrastructure, and communication to small farmers. Australia could help Indonesia with all of those and allow the people there to be in control of their own food production. That would be a better thing for us to do than have them rely on us for food, when they don't need to.

      That said, if we wanted to help Indonesians live healthier, longer lives, we might do better to aim at improving public health infrastructure than boosting their protein intake.

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  73. Lorna Jarrett

    Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

    I agree that growing grains displaces native animals but I didn't see anywhere in the article that raising cows/sheep on rangelands does too. Raising livestock MUST displace native animals - there can't be enough food for both, unless extra feed is being brought in. If that's the case, then that feed is being grown somewhere, with the resulting loss of naive habitat! What's more, because of the 10-fold (roughly) inefficiency in converting plant biomass to animal, surely (roughly) times as much native…

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  74. Angus Taylor

    Academic

    Calculations for Australia no doubt must take local conditions into account. Nevertheless, readers may be interested in the graphics and accompanying text in the following piece -- Number of Animals Killed to Produce One Million Calories in Eight Food Categories:
    http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/1mc/

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Angus Taylor

      Angus, that's interesting. However, there are at least three problems here that cast a bit of doubt on the conclusion drawn in this popular article.

      FIRST, as you note, Australia or any other specific place could involve quite different numbers from those given here; hence it may not have a bearing on the case made above that more sentient animals die to produce the same amount of protein based on wheat than based on rangelands-grown beef.

      SECOND, when the author admitted that more animals…

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    2. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Angus Taylor

      All animals kept for food aren't treated the same way - I didn't like Angus' link advising people to give up eggs and chicken first. If you want to eat eggs look for a good supplier. I think most cities now have Saturday morning farmer's markets where you'll find eggs from chickens that spend their lives scratching around in orchards.

      We had an orchard when I was young and had the same set up with chickens - we never killed them when they stopped laying because we couldn't be bothered to keep track of which ones were laying and which were too old, plus none of us wanted to kill anything. The chooks seemed to enjoy their lives, the way chooks do.

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    3. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Angus Taylor

      Russell, that makes sense. When I was a kid in an agricultural town, there were all sorts of things chickens did that were appreciated by those that kept them, but most of the folk I knew did eat the old boilers once it was clear that they weren't laying eggs any more.

      At the risk of lightening up the sometimes tense tone of these posts, in relation to chook eggs, a friend of mine wondered who it may have been, thousands of years ago, who first pointed to one of these birds and declared 'I'm going…

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  75. Jane Daly

    PhD Candidate at RMIT University

    FYI you may be interested to know that George Monbiot has changed his position on vegan diets.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/dec/24/christmas.famine?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

    "As a meat-eater, I've long found it convenient to categorise veganism as a response to animal suffering or a health fad. But, faced with these figures, it now seems plain that it's the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue. We stuff ourselves, and the poor get stuffed."

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Jane Daly

      Dear Jane: that post was 2002. British environmental advocate George Monbiot, did indeed convert to veganism at that time because he thought that was ethically the most defensible position. But in 2010 he admitted he was wrong and publicly converted (Monbiot 2010) from being a vegan to an omnivore after reading Simon Fairlie’s (2010) expose of the flaws in arguments that production of meat is environmentally unsustainable. A similarly strong case has been argued for omnivory by environmental activist Lierre Keith who documented the awesome damage to global environments involved in producing plant foods for human consumption (Keith 2009).

      Monbiot, G., 2010. I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat (but farm it right). Guardian.co.uk, 6 September. Guardian News and Media Limited.
      Keith, L., 2009. The vegetarian myth. PM Press, Oakland.

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    2. Jane Daly

      PhD Candidate at RMIT University

      In reply to Jane Daly

      Thanks, just realised it was the wrong link. The conclusion is that meat and dairy consumption should be reduced drastically (halved), is that right? I have not got around to reading Fairlie's book as yet but its on the list.

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    3. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Jane Daly

      I'd have to check too, but the main point Monbiot was making was that omnivory is ethically justifiable but he certainly advocated that obtaining meat from animals should be done with ethical consideration.

      What's a pity is that neither he nor Keith were aware of the relatively greater ethical merit of obtaining meat from sustainably wild-harvesting rangelands animals such as kangaroos given that, unlike farmed cattle, sheep or pigs, these are not farmed, couped-up, restrained, mustered, desexed, live-transported, etcetera. They live entirely natural lives until sustainably harvested. If they weren't harvested, they would either die awful, dragged out deaths from starvation or violent painful deaths by being eaten alive by predators.

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    4. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Jane Daly

      “If they weren't harvested, the would either die awful, dragged out deaths from starvation or violent painful deaths by being eaten alive by predators.”

      Mike – I doubt if alluding to Momma Nature as a bitch will have much impact on the bleeding hearts when the pathological cruelty perpetrated by kangaroo shooters is well documented, not least by the Australian Wildlife Protection Council:

      “Kangaroos are shot in the Australian outback by spotlighting at night. One million joeys die alone…

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  76. Jane Daly

    PhD Candidate at RMIT University

    I'm interested to read the refs for this. Thanks.

    Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:

    at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein
    more environmental damage, and
    a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Jane Daly

      Dear Jane: the refs are indicated via the hotlinks in the article. But a fuller list is given in the following article which has just been published: Archer, M., 2011. Slaughter of the singing sentients: measuring the morality of eating red meat. Australian Zoologist, vol. 35 (no. 4), pp. 979-982. It was the original article upon which 'The Conversation' abbreviated form (above) was based.

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  77. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    Geoff you've promoted your own book at least twice, and have been repeatedly and increasingly noisily attempting to direct people to the Animal Liberation website. You seem to specialise in vehemently refuting anything anyone dares to say that doesn't agree with your entrenched believes and core agenda. It's so utterly predictable, it's amazing. I'm just curious, do you EVER admit that you've made an error, or that someone with an opposing point of view has raised a good point? It would seem not…

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Take a look over at bravenewclimate.com ... you will find I recently
      agreed with a point made by Tim Scanlon! If you actually
      look at the post on the AL site about CLA, it is too long to be a
      comment here.

      I kept chooks for many years and recently rescued a couple from
      a back-yarder ... who had been feeding them on scraps and made them
      anemic and sickly. Silly idiot couldn't work out why they didn't lay ... and dropped them off at the grain store cause he didn't want them
      anymore. Hens, particularly modern ex-battery birds have VERY high nutrient requirements that cannot be met by kitchen scraps and rarely met by the insects in a suburban back yard. Go to a grain store and look at the label on a bag of chook pellets ... 15% protein, and a level of iron that would be enough for a 70 kg person ... plus the rest. Chick starter is even more nutrient dense. Happily, the chooks are now with a friend who appreciates them and knows how to feed them.

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    2. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Dear Fiona--brilliantly put! I've been struggling with Geoff's incredibly rigid world views on several fronts, to no avail. He appears to have no capacity to genuinely think about the merits of viewpoints other than his own. Rather, from his posts it would seem that 99% of his energies are devoted to trying to undermine any other views that don't support his own. Pity. I've signed off on responding to him above because quite clearly it's a total waste of time. He would appear to be the self-appointed…

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  78. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    There was an interesting article recently on the percentage of household income spent on food now, compared to decades ago. From memory I think Australians spend only a quarter of what they spent 50 or more years ago, on food.
    Apparently it's around 50% in Britain (2006-8): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-510968/Changing-family-fortunes-How-Britains-household-budgets-altered-past-50-years.html

    Basically, food is way to cheap. Food prices should be considerably higher and these increases…

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Dear Fiona, sustainably wild-harvesting kangaroos was never promoted by anyone I know as a way to replace cattle or sheep in terms of production of red meat or other animal products for Australia. It's about augmenting current strategies. To whatever extent kangaroos can be sustainably wild-harvested for this purpose, it will have added benefits for human health as well as reduction of land degradation and loss of biodiversity. Rosie Cooney published another article about this topic on 'The Conversation' (https://theconversation.edu.au/from-pests-to-profits-making-kangaroos-valuable-to-farmers-9) and we've published a deconstruction of an animal/liberation attack on the viability of the industry in terms of their misrepresentations. Our deconstruction (Cooney et al. 2012) is coming out in a thoroughly refereed book published by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales called 'Science under Siege', to appear in January 2012.

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    2. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      What people do not realise also Fiona is that farming kangaroos would hardly be economical given the difficulty in handling them and the little meat that you get from them. The other thing is that they are much more destructive of herbage and grass than cattle as they eat everything down to the roots, and often the roots as well, whereas cattle always have to leave a significant stuble. I must say that I am not a real fan of roo meat having, in my youth, spent some time harvesting them for their skins and to cull the numbers from our irrigation patch for the milkers. The number of roos one finds with quite large numbers of blood worms through their veins is incredible and an quite off-putting.

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    3. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      The Australian Wildlife Protection Council wrote in 2004: “The chronology of betrayal to kangaroos has been part of a well structured plan by State and Federal bureaucrats and scientists to hoodwink an unsuspecting, apathetic Australian community. This became evident in 1988 with the 'bogus scientific' CSIRO survey based on the perceptions of land holders that kangaroos were as big a pest as blowflies.”

      The Council also wrote in 2004: “Head of Australian Museum ,Sydney NSW, Professor Michael…

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  79. Mike Archer AM

    Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

    For anyone interested in the issue of sustainable wild-harvest of kangaroos, Cooney et al. (2012) deconstruct recent animal rights/liberation misinformation about this conservation through sustainable use program (published by THINKK). It also reiterates the point that kangaroo is in fact the best choice in terms of red meat for environmental as well as ethical reasons.

    Cooney et al. also make the point that publications funded by interest groups with a predefined agenda can lead to outputs that…

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  80. Brett Massey

    Public Servant

    Apologies if someone's already asked this out (I'm not reading every single comment), but I have a query about how you derive the figure of 55 mice deaths per 100 kg of protein.

    Both the sources you cite say that mice plagues occur *somewhere* in Australia's grain belt every 4 years. It would be consistent with this statement for an average mice plague to cover some smaller area of the total grain-producing area. Note that other parts of the CSIRO article indicate that mice plagues do not travel…

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Dear Brett: thanks for the comments. If you check the maths in the article you'll find the dividend 4 under the number killed because the statistics show that every area that grows grain in Australia has on average a mouse plague every 4 years. Hence the number 55 is based on actual figures for Australia.

      Wrt animals killed overseas in the course of producing grain, you have mentioned some areas where the same thing happens. In other areas it's less clear how many sentient animals are killed to…

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    2. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Dear Brett--sorry, I meant to say that 4 was the divisor in the calculation--not dividend!

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    3. Paul Rogers

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Mike, I have not read Lierre Keith's book, nor Simon Fairlie's, but I have followed Monbiot online over this issue. Fairlie may be worth reading but I doubt Keith's book is, and citing her as a source does not enhance your case.

      Keith is a supporter (from her web site) of the Weston Price Foundation (http://www.westonaprice.org/), an odd nutrition belief system that defies most of what nutrition authorities worldwide recommend as healthy eating -- including their support for raw milk, saturated…

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Well spotted Paul. The Weston Price people have huge power in the US ... lots of celebrity support like Atkins had so people who know better are a little hesitant to tackle them head on. I've only read one Michael Pollan book ("In defense of food"), he's a brilliant writer and gives some excellent nutritional advice, but he's fundamentally anti-science and gets into all kinds of knots over saturated fat and Weston Price.

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    5. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Paul, if I dismissed all the thinking of anyone who supported an organisation that was a worry to me, I'd sure have a great deal less thinking to pay attention to, which right now seems like a great idea. Some of the commentators above are animal liberationists who embrace a world view that sometimes flies in the face of science and natural ecosystem functionality. Some of the most infamous AL organisations have supported dangerously illegal operations that have forced countries like England to draft…

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    6. Brett Massey

      Public Servant

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Hi Mike,

      Do you have a separate source that supports your claim that *every* area that grows grain has a mouse plague every 4 years? Because, as I pointed out, that's not what the sources you cite say. Eg the summary of the Caughey book says "There has been a mouse plague somewhere in the Australian grain belt every four years on average since 1900." That, to me, is very different to saying that every area experiences a mouse plague every 4 years. To me it sounds like every 4 years some localised portion of the grain belt suffers a mouse plague.

      I haven't read the Caughey book in full itself, so maybe they used their language a bit loosely in the summary. But on its face the language seems to be making a much more limited claim than the one you make.

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    7. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Massey

      I would also like to see this cleared up. One of the sources says the number of plagues has increased to once every year or two over the past 20 years but, again, if it's localized, what is a reasonable estimate of the average number of mice killed per hectare across all of Australia's cropland? Some other things that I would need clarity on if I was an Australian vegan (as opposed to a Canadian one) attempting to integrate these arguments into my ethical-eating decisionmaking:

      * One of your sources…

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    8. Dominic Meagher

      PhD Candidate

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Syd and Brett,

      I can clear up one of these questions. Mouse plagues definitely do not cover all of Australia's grain growing regions on average every four years, despite Mike's claim to the contrary.

      I haven't been able to find specific data that covers the whole country, but this article published in Australian Wildlife Research provides data on plagues in SA between 1900-1984:
      http://www.publish.csiro.au.virtual.anu.edu.au/?act=view_file&file_id=WR9890677.pdf

      There were 20 plagues in…

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    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Brett Massey

      PIRSA defines 500 mice per hectare as a plague by definition ...
      http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/pirsa/more/factsheets/fact_sheets/field_crops/pests_and_diseases/faqs_on_mice_plagues

      Is the 2D distribution uniform? Unlikely and Archer pretends it is uniform and always covering the entire harvest area. Probably nobody bothers to poison if the outbreak has
      subsided naturally ... after consuming the available food. I'd be thinking the best way of estimating deaths would be to find sales data on the poisons…

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    10. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Thank you very, very much, Dominic. Mike, we await your reply.

      As for "no death-free lunch," for thoughtful vegans the goal is to try and minimize unnecessary harm - we know we can't eliminate harm, whether it's killing a particularly aggressive mosquito or using important or essential products that unavoidably have animal byproducts somewhere in their production chain. Ironically, harm minimization is a credo to which most people would subscribe, regardless of the kind of diet they've consciously or unconsciously adopted.

      The collateral killing of field animals in crop production strikes me as a largely unnecessary and avoidable harm. I think vegans should "extend our circle of compassion" accordingly and try and encourage the use of less destructive farming practices, including R&D. For example, could sound or scent be used to scare animals away from an approaching combine? I'm sure many ethical eaters would pay a premium for food produced more humanely this way.

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    11. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Dear Syd: thanks for the questions. I apologise for being tardy but my professorial day job at UNSW and associated institutions kicked in on Monday with a vengeance so I'm having to ease away from other time-consuming, albeit enjoyable distractions!

      But, to the point... No-one has asserted that mouse plagues cover ‘all of Australia's grain growing regions on average every four years’. The assertion is that on average, each part of the eastern Australian wheat belt is subject to a plague every…

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    12. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Mike,

      I have to say that if I was an Australian vegan I would be no better informed now than I was a couple days ago. To give one glaring example: the source you quote says "They [mouse plagues] occur somewhere in Australia once every four years on average." But you continue to interpret this as supporting your assertion that "on average, each part of the eastern Australian wheat belt is subject to a plague every 4 years--on average." There's a world of difference between *each part* and *somewhere…

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    13. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Well put. You think clearly enough to be an honorary vegan :) But, with great respect, I still don't think you get it. Mike is old-school paleontology ... these boys and girls (mainly boys) don't let facts get in the way of a good story. Hence his pompous plea for me to stop thinking like a mathematician. We like to get stuff right. I have to confess to not really thinking that Mike could be all that wrong about the mouse death toll ratio, but your and other comments eventually niggled enough for me to go looking for the data. I'm writing it up now and will post on the Animal Lib blog and notify this thread with a link. The only thing I'm still chasing is the poison sales data. That would seal it, so if you come up with it, please post.

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    14. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Well put Syd. I should have made it explicit who I was talking about. Shirley's points were also well made, but Syd has nailed Mike's weird abuse of language and logic which lies at the heart of his mistake with the death rate ratio.

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    15. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Geoff, I'll be honoured to be made an honourary Australian vegan. Here in Canada, I've been a vegan for nearly a dozen years and a near-vegan for over 30 <g>.

      I also assumed that Mike's mouse mortality stats are reliable, so I would defer to Brett for being the first, apparently, to fact-check them and alert this discussion board to the discrepancy.

      I just noticed that I got my "latter" and "former" mixed up in my previous comment. I wrote:
      "There's a world of difference between *each part* and *somewhere in Australia*. The former leaves open the possibility that only a tiny portion of Australia could be plagued by mouse infestations over the course of four years (or one or two years, going by the last twenty years). The latter - your assertion ..."

      What I should have said is "The latter leaves open..." and "The former - your assertion..." Sorry for the confusion.

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    16. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Sorry Syd, I misinterpreted "If I was as Australian vegan" to mean you weren't any kind of vegan. Yes, Brett deserves primary credit. But I've also had some back-channel emails indicating that others have been aware of the problem ... I've just been around a little longer and knew where to look for the data. Animal Liberation SA (I'm on the committee) actually co-sponsored a conference back in 1990 on fertility control in wildlife so mouse plagues aren't a new issue for us, ... though I have lost track of the on-going research over the past decade. Anyway, I will post something tonight, even if I don't find the poison sales data.

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    17. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Massey

      Geoff, thanks so much for making the effort to do a serious quantitative critique of Mike's arguments on your blog (notably, http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/122-archers-dodgy-mouse-claims.html). As I was going through your authoritative source for the mouse plague claim, I came across this stat: "In addition to intensive farming, the grazing industry is impacted through mice consuming pastures, destroying feed grain and damaging stored hay." Mike, this is just one example of the skewing of your…

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  81. Matthew Gleeson

    Designer

    Vegetarians do not necessarily support the continuation of current crop farming techniques in place of animal farming. Abstaining from eating meat can be more a personal act of protest against flawed and outmoded farming practices as it is a gesture of care and concern for farmed, sentient beings.

    As we are loosing 24 billion tons of topsoil each year, our efforts should be aimed at changing and evolving unsustainable farming and fishing practices. For me, being vegetarian is a gesture of solidarity…

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  82. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    It is regrettable that the author has resorted to ad hominem attacks against vegans/vegetarians when a survey commissioned by the Vegetarian & Vegan Society of Queensland found that 5% of Australians said they were vegetarian while only 1% said they were vegan. While 5% of people said they were vegetarian, only 2% actually ate a vegetarian diet.

    The author declares that “published figures suggest that in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in a great deal more animal cruelty than…

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  83. Stephanie Hunt

    Student

    This is familiar...Mike's argument rehashes an old one first put forward by Steven Davis (2003) in the journal of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics "The least harm principle may require that humans consume a diet containing large herbivores, not a vegan diet".

    It's not a new suggestion, and it has already been shown to be incorrect by others:
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/v0726k81713341m1/
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9833.2007.00382.x/full

    Aside from the incorrect…

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Stephanie Hunt

      Stephanie. Interesting statements about Fairlie. I've been trying to work out how to read his book without buying it ... ditto Lierre Keith ... although I've seen enough quotes to realise she's a total nutter and I'm wary about wasting much time on her.

      I've just put up an analysis of the mouse numbers:

      http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/122-archers-dodgy-mouse-claims.html

      The bottom line? Archer is out by a factor of about 400. The data comes from the pest animal control CRC and is pretty clear. Mostly he's totally wrong about the areas affected, totally wrong in assuming plagues are all ended by poisoning, totally wrong about the land required to feed a veg*n Australia, totally wrong about the causes of land clearing in Australia ... to name but a few.

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  84. Robert Wiblin

    logged in via Facebook

    I respond in some detail here: http://robertwiblin.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/eat-cows-to-save-mice-hold-your-horses/

    As is very common, the article is guilty of thinking on average rather than on the margin and failing to properly sum up all the effects of more beef consumption.

    "Grazing cattle on land that is not suitable for other agriculture is the low hanging fruit for beef production – if the land does not have other productive uses we don’t give up anything to stick cattle there. For that…

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  85. Art Mackenna

    logged in via Facebook

    there would be a point here if most plants weren't grown to feed the 40 billion livestock across the world. Omnivores are still responsible for more deaths.

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  86. Nicole Pettipas

    Meteorologist

    This article is complete garbage. A person can get all the protein they'd ever need with a plant based diet, it is not necessary to eat meat. Further, animal protein is just one nutrient! A person can not survive off meat alone, it has very little nutrient value. So 100kg of meat is not equivalent to 100kg of vegetables. Cattle and livestock use up many times more fertile land and cause more habitat destruction then land used for agriculture because of the large amount of grain need to feed livestock…

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  87. Jamey Suede

    logged in via Twitter

    Per one million calories (which is about what a person eats in a year), the number of animals killed is as follows:
    1. Chicken: 251.1 (237.6 slaughter; 13.5 harvest)
    2. Eggs: 92.3 (83.3 slaughter, 9 harvest)
    3. Beef: 29 (1.7 slaughter, 27.4 harvest)
    4. Pork: (7.1 slaughter, 11 harvest)
    5. Milk: (.04 slaughter, 4.74 harvest)
    6. Veggies: (0 slaughter, 2.55 harvest)
    7. Fruits: (0 slaughter, 1.73 harvest)
    8. Grains: (0 slaughter, 1.65 harvest)

    People actually think Vegan diet kills more than Meat HA! what do you think they feed the animals on intensive farms to fatten it up? for further research on the above numbers see....www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/1mc/ this article is just a fancy title and that's it. I don't understand the need for people to try and debunk veg*nism, is it guilt?

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  88. Joshua Bamford

    University of Western Australia

    Sorry if I'm repeating something that has already been said, but surely you aren't suggesting that we should not try to control pest species? If the mice you are referring to are largely introduced mice then they are pests whose numbers are controlled regardless of farming methods.

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  89. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    I do have a problem with the idea of simply wiping out the mice that feed on the wheat.

    Shouldn't we be eating them?

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  90. Viliam Rockai

    logged in via Facebook

    since we're looking at proteins, what about comparing meat to lentils or soya instead of wheat. wouldn't that make a difference?

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  91. Akincana Das

    logged in via Facebook

    this is the best-argued piece on the ethics of meat eating i've ever read. the crux of the argument here rest on the fact that cows in australia graze on pastureland. that's certainly not the case in many other places.

    a few of the author's assumptions to question include:

    - why is the vegeterian alternative to meat only wheat, rice and pulses? what about fruit, veggies, nuts and dairy? if you can compose a nutritious human diet without focusing on grains and pulses, the author has created…

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  92. Freddy Warren

    logged in via Facebook

    Sentient animals? Opening up a massive philosophical can of worms with that one. A big leap to say we undertand the subjective experiences of non humans and that ethically we are thus beholden to not kill them for food. I think sentience has become a red herring in this argument. Just because humans think differently to other animals does not mean we don't have the right to eat them. I wonder if Lions spend their musing time on such matters before they dine on a passing Wilderbeast?

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    1. David Ulrich

      Tech

      In reply to Freddy Warren

      Hi Freddy, It is a nice myth, Lions being the "King" of the beasts and all. However the reality is that Lions like all other predators are scavengers just like vultures. In fact they are beneficial to wild animal populations as they remove the wounded and sick animals from the population. The result being that the animals do not die a long lingering death from their wounds or disease and the herd is spared further exposure to a contagious diseased animal. This is a completely different situation…

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  93. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    @ David Ulrich:

    A fascinating insight, I am grateful to you for it.

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  94. Laura Hart

    Teen Mental Health First Aid coordinator at University of Melbourne

    "When cattle, kangaroos and other meat animals are harvested they are killed instantly."
    Is that true? Are there abattoirs on every station in Australia? Are live cattle never transported? I guess all those cattle trucks driving through my north east Victorian country town to our local regional abattoir must have been a product of my imagination then? And all those debates about live exports just, say, delusions?
    This article, while well argued and persuasive, is based on an incorrect premise…

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  95. Meaghan Webster

    PhD student - Environment

    while i appreciate the point the author is making in his article, it does seem that he's used the best (range-fed cattle) and worse case (wheat) for a comparison, which i feel is a little unhelpful and perhaps misleading. would the case still stand (in terms of number of animal deaths) if we compared chickens with mushrooms? or prawns with seaweed? i also found the emotive language and cute cartoon that suddenly appeared in the mice section a bit strange. what this article shouldn't do is placate…

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  96. Michael Scandirito

    logged in via Facebook

    I would like to see a study for all nutrition given an area of land(and the comparisons) not limited to protein-per-hectare.

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  97. Menkit Prince

    logged in via email @essentialoilcookbook.com

    This article is absurd. Mice are regarded as 'vermin' by farmers, householders, commercial establishments wherever they are found and killed violently in mouse traps or poisoned with ratsak - a cruel death. Hundreds of millions of them are killed in horrific experiments in laboratories to test pharmaceuticals for medicines every single year. Is Professor Archer calling for people to not only avoid a vegetarian diet but also to avoid pharmaceuticals? No.

    Is Professor Archer also calling for people…

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Menkit Prince

      Menkit,

      With all due respects, I believe your comments regarding degradation by animals, which have roamed this earth for thousands of years and still live in areas of effectively undespoiled landscape, indicates that you have not yet actually ventured into the regions of Australia, Canada, America or Europe, where these anaimals are actually husbanded. If you had and could envisage a landscape in the place where you are, 200 years ago, you would find very little difference indeed. My comment here does not apply to areas where large forests have been cleared, most of the worst of which actually applies to urban areas along the coast, rather than to the major farming regions. John Nicol

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Menkit Prince

      John, did you check any of your claims? What are Australia's urban areas? How much land has been cleared? How many non-native grasses have been introduced?

      Urban areas? 1.4 million hectares

      Land cleared? 100 million hectares

      Land cropped? 24 million.

      Introduced grasses? About 5,000 species ... not to mention plenty of varieties of
      dung beetles.

      John, please, you shouldn't just make stuff up because it sounds nice. Some of
      us actually care about claims being true or false. We check things.

      For links to land clearing figures ...
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/10/18/who-crippled-the-murray-darling-basin/

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Menkit Prince

      Geoff,

      Your figures of clearing are including a lot of areas which were not in fact cleared of any more than a few stunted bushes as is well known. However, I will take your numbers at face value if you wish. There are a lot of areas by the way, which are much better forested than before men came here and helped to prevent bushfires and other fairly uncontrolled burning. The Mulga areas in South West Queensland and Northern NSW are cases in point. The same cannot be said for urban areas where…

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    4. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Menkit Prince

      Syd,

      The link you gave me doesn't work now apparently and its redirection did not help.

      I square my "very sanguine view" with observation which even FAO do not claim to be part of their excercise last time I looked. Have you done any observing lately? Beats theory every time.

      If you can give me a live link to the FAO article I will look it up. Thanks.

      Cheers,

      John

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    5. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Menkit Prince

      I haven't seen anybody killed on the roads in Adelaide for well over a decade, but theory and official statistics assert that many people have indeed been killed. Personal observation is a very poor source of information as you constantly demonstrate ... thanks John.

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    6. Syd Baumel

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Menkit Prince

      The link still works for me, but I'm sure you're familiar with the FAO report it describes, Livestock's Long Shadow (ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf). One pertinent statement from the article (the report doesn't allow copying):

      "About 70 percent of all grazing land in dry areas is considered degraded, mostly because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion attributable to livestock activity."

      For "all the world pastures and rangelands," FAO estimates in the report itself that about 20% has "been degraded to some extent."

      I don't have the skill and knowledge to "observe," even when I look - mostly through the window of an automobile - at a miniscule percentage of the world's grazing land on the Canadian prairies. How much of the world's grazing lands have you observed? I prefer to go by the conclusions of all the professional observers out there, as in reports like the FAO's.

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  98. douglas leith

    teacher

    Amazing that this absurd old chestnut continues to dupe the public and a sad indictment on some 'academics' and ourt media.

    Most of the soy, wheat and corn is used to feed ANIMALS we eat. So if you do not want to contribute to the deaths of animals who die during the harvesting of such stop eating meat and dairy products.

    Don't take my word for it but consider the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisations thorough study "Livestocks Long Shadow" for a start. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to douglas leith

      Douglas,

      I would be very interested in learning where your 10,000 l H20 per kg beef and 1000 l H2O per litre of milk come from. Also what would you propose to do with that water if it were not used in that useful way?

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  99. Richard Vegh

    logged in via Facebook

    From go, the author's overstating his case. "...adopting a vegetarian diet might be the WORST POSSIBLE thing you could do" (emphasis added). That is self-evidently false, nor does he try to prove that, the second sentence of his article, with facts.

    Is the author ignoring the fact that, by his own reckoning, if 2% (actually 2.56% [1]) of the total cattle herd are fed grains at any given time, and "25 times more sentient animals" [sic] suffer as a result of grain production over cattle production…

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  100. Shreyas Iyer

    logged in via Facebook

    Just had a couple of questions about this article, being a vegetarian myself and with an almost-vegan brother:

    Firstly, how would the impacts of this argument change if world trade was shifted such that there were little or no restrictions on agricultural trade (as opposed to the current system which is quite unfavourable for african nations). This could allow countries in africa and other regions where the natural landscape is suited to growth of wheat and other crops to become the producers…

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    1. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Shreyas Iyer

      In Esperance ,farmers noticed that the cereal farmers who also kept sheep did not have to use poisons to kill mice. What happened was that the sheep when grazing the crop stubbles trod on the mouse holes and destroyed their burrows. The other interesting thing about modern Western Australian cropping practises is the build up of benificial soil flaura, such as earth worms and termites.The comment about the live export trade is actually the opposite. Since the trade from Australia , it has improved the treatment of animals---there is still room for improvement, but stopping the Australian trade would not achieve your aim of less animal cruelty.

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  101. Lisa Ann Kelly

    retired

    Here's what I got out of this article: vegetarians/vegans only eat grains. What?!? And lizards and snakes "pair bond" and raise their young? What the heck?!? Australia can't control any pest problems without the use of pesticides/poison? Kangaroos, cattle and other meat animals "die instantly" when shot or slaughtered in factories?!? Gimme a break. This article definitely bites off more than it can chew. (Hah.) It really reminds me of a paper written by some teenager who stayed up late, putting the writing off to the last minute, and then throwing out ideas, nothing based on any empirical evidence, hoping that it sounds like he knows what he's writing about-----tsk, tsk, tsk. I give it a big fat D-minus.

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  102. Tim Paton

    Automotive Engineer

    To feed a typical vegetarian, I need to cultivate about 2000m² of monocultures.
    To feed a typical omnivore, I need to cultivate about 8000m² of monocultures. Much of this produce is then fed to animals, which are butchered for eating (with the remaining vegetable matter as a side serve).

    I'm astonished that there can be any debate as to whether 8000m² of monoculture is more or less damaging than 2000m² of monoculture. In any way... ethically, environmentally, whatever. If you use 4 peoples-worth of food to feed a person (second hand, via animals), that's more than 1 peoples-worth.

    I'm an omnivore. I don't wear a hair-shirt about it, but I'm not deluding myself that the environmental impact of my diet couldn't be reduced by eating less meat, with zero meat as the obvious limit.

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  103. Cassandra Newbold

    logged in via Facebook

    Couple of points to make...
    "only 2% of Australia’s national herd of cattle are eating grains in feed lots; the other 98% are raised on and feeding on grass." at any one time? Is this not because they spend 98% of their lives grazing and 2% of their lives being fattened up for slaughter?
    Have we forgotten climate change and the number of sentient beings that are becoming extinct because of it... At least grains as vegetation are a better choice in regards to this than methane producing livestock…

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    1. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Cassandra Newbold

      Cassandra: while no doubt some cattle are 'finished' on grain, from experience I would assume that most grass fed animals are 'finished' on grass, though perhaps on another property.

      I am being a little cautious because I have not seen any figures on this. But both cattle and sheep fatten on pasture.

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  104. Darc' Sapote

    fruit picker, adult entertainer

    before a read any comments I thought I'd mention that article dosen't mention the term, vegan, let alone raw vegan, or fruitarian, I'm the latter largely, 95% on my calories coming from fruit, the only grain i've eaten more of a bite size of this year is Quinoa, though that's technically a grass isn't it? Consumption of grain is ethical but not sustainable, and this article takes grains legumes and beans in a vegan diet as a given & protein as the needed variable, I get my protein from fruit, I get…

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  105. Edwin Flynn

    I am a early retired executive at Worked in Local Government, Education and Financial Services Industries

    Mike, thanks for this article. It is an interesting view that you have put forward, one that I had not read before. I am impressed that you have introduced the concept of animal consciousness into the equation. I have long believed that all animals indeed do have conscious thought and are able to communicate with one another and execute communal action. I arrived at this conclusion many years ago whilst skin diving off Portsea Beach (the bay side). My diving friend and I would swim out about…

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    1. Mike Archer AM

      Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Edwin Flynn

      Edwin, we can certainly agree about the most threatening elephant in the room in this and most other sustainability discussions: massive human overpopulation. Combined with the scientifically inarguable threats from climate change that we are amazingly good at ignoring because there is a coordinate need to stop using fossil fuels, most other issues seem much less important. It's all rather disappointing listening to the tunes being fiddled by economists and politicians while the Earth burns. Ah well, back to my other far less important but far more demanding research challenges of the moment.

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  106. Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop

    logged in via email @worldpreservationfoundation.org

    I can't believe this article is being repeated - surely you can't equate the odd mice plague to the devastation to flora and fauna done in the name of establishing and maintaining grazing pastures.

    For 20 years I worked with the team mapping deforestation in Queensland. Over that period the average deforestation was 415,000ha/year (over 1,000 ha/day) - 92% for grazing pastures, 60% remnant (virgin) bushland.

    The largest driver of biodiversity loss is loss and fragmentation of habitat - and…

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  107. Leo Kerr

    Consultant

    Roflmao - this has to be the trashiest article published by TC this year. Didn't see it first time round but thought it and the responses were hilarious - Mike - give you 2 out of 10 as the English was ok. The argument was a joke.

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    1. Edwin Flynn

      I am a early retired executive at Worked in Local Government, Education and Financial Services Industries

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      Leo first I want to restate your response:

      "Roflmao - this has to be the trashiest article published by TC this year. Didn't see it first time round but thought it and the responses were hilarious - Mike - give you 2 out of 10 as the English was ok. The argument was a joke."

      Now I would like to ask you, "Which part of the article did you think was the trashiest?" Which part did you think it hilarious?"

      I can agree with the general consensus that growing range fed beef cattle is not as green…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      Edwin and Mike: Population isn't a taboo subject. Everybody "gets" population and billions of people have been doing something about it. Which is why total fertility rate on the planet has dropped from 4.95 in the 1950s to less than 2.5 now. This isn't an accident, its the result of half a century of population control measures in many countries. The trouble is that we can't drop population fast enough to solve our problems, but we can rebuild the energy infrastructure and we can depopulate sheep…

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  108. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    Missed this originally.

    As I have argued for many years, a life is a life, attempting to put different values on different lives leads to issues like the recent outpourings over a shooting in the US, while far greater, regular killings in which the US is involved, and which Australia supports, go unremarked.

    The logical way out of this dilemma is to eat whales. One death, many meals! As a delicacy, around Xmas for instance, we could eat the odd meal of elephant. Obviously less many meals per death.

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    1. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Putting different value on lives is logical. It is right to value some lives over others, or is it ok if I kill and eat your mother?

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    2. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      What difference if you killed my (late) mother, or some other persons mother? You are still taking blithely about killing -- somebody.

      My point is that an Australian life is worth no more than a Brits life, or an Africans life, or an Anglican, or Muslim.

      Or whether we eat a cow, or a sheep or horse or a whale.

      When you can restore a life that you have taken, talk to me. Otherwise all lives are equal.

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    3. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Absurd. You can blithely say it, but you cannot justify it.
      You would leap into traffic, sacrificing yourself to save a nest of hatchlings fallen on the road? Because the quantity of lives makes yours worth less?
      You deem a slime mold, a snail more worthy of existence than a sentient creature? Of what value is this chemical reaction called life that you speak of? I'd rather you place no merit on it at all unless you can justify it.

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    4. Pamela H.

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      It's just as wrong and unethical to kill and eat a human mother as it is to kill and eat anyone elses mother ie a calf (who is then starved and killed as veal to gratify greedy humans).

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    5. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Te question that Peter Hindrup raised was about e relative value of lives, not whether they had value. We value some lives more than others, which is why we kill lice, infective bacteria on our children and terminate pests in the house. I presume you would kill a dog that was attempting to devour you child? If so, clearly you value the child's life over that of the dog's? We all value loves differently which is why you own a computer that you're typing on and not giving the money to charity.
      Nothing to be ashamed of, and us meat eaters go further and see less value in the life of animals/fish/etc. I'd prefer to have an animal killed than to go without meat. Doesn't mean I want animals to suffer, just suffer enough that I should be fed their flesh.
      Do you rebuke the lion for going after the kill?

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    6. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      In fact I was trying to make the point that a life, be it an Australian: NZer, Iranian; an ''American' or anybody else is worth no more, and no less than the next.

      In general, I do not kill unless there is no rational alternative.

      While I do not kill wild life that invades the house, though I may remove it, if there were kids around I kill it if it returned after being removed.

      For those interested, long ago there was a study done re driving and 'options' in an accident environment. t result was that the vast majority of people will hit a man before hitting a woman, a woman before hitting a child. Sorry, I don't have a reference.

      Killing without regret, even when it is done for food, is when, in my view that person has 'lost it'.

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    7. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Well that's hardly the point. The point is that there are circumstances where you, I and all of us will judge a life to be more valuable than another. Whether a killing is regrettable or not is not the issue.
      If your rule is that all lives are equal en how do you live by this rule? Would you sacrifice yourself, or your son or your mother to save a litter of kittens? If not you cannot uphold this ethos and of what use is the rule?
      Better to acknowledge that we are prone to placing value on life and applying ethical principles to every slaying and allowable death.
      Your ethic is to place more value on animal life than the satisfaction of your carnivorous desire, mine is not. It actually does not make me wrong and you cannot apply your extreme rule of all lives being equal without addressing the un acknowledged flaw in this absolute rule.

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    8. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Gartner wrote: "Would you sacrifice yourself, or your son or your mother to save a litter of kittens? If not you cannot uphold this ethos and of what use is the rule?"

      Surely the 'rule' is to 'do least harm'. And as Obama and Biden said recently (in gun control context) . . . just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we should not do some things.

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  109. David Ulrich

    Tech

    Surprised to see this article rear its ugly head again. While I agree that it is bad to poison mice. I do not think that a compelling argument can be made that Vegetarians and Vegans are responsible for the mouse Apocalypse because they choose to eat plants. Surly meat eaters manage to get a few vegetables and grains into their diet. So even given that some farmers use inhumane practices to control rodents. The burden for their actions does not fall exclusively on the backs of people who choose to…

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  110. Kaspr Zak

    logged in via Facebook

    Please excuse my copy+paste from a Facebook conversation on this article. Would appreciate some feedback & information on why the above mentioned pastures are not suitable for grain cultivation, but are suitable for wild grasses.

    ...There are a couple flaws in the research, such as the claim that 80% of mice deaths are attributable to poisoning (one paper versus mine below [1]), but I like the argument. I don't know any vegetarians who rely only on grains for their protein intake, though. Doubt…

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Kaspr Zak

      Zac: apart from more than a few comments you'll find on this page, I also wrote 3 blog pieces about Archers claims in this article:

      3. http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/122-archers-dodgy-mouse-claims.html
      2. http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/121-archers-dodgy-land-claims.html
      1. http://animalliberation.org.au/blog/120-archer-dodgy-health-advice.html

      As for protein. Unless you tank up on sugar, nobody needs any special food to get plenty of protein. If you eat enough food, you will get…

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  111. Ramapriya Ramanuja

    Avian Consultant

    The fallacious argument de jour for meat eaters . . . humans are in no way physiologically suited for the consumption of animal products: not in our teeth, our jaw function, our salivary makeup, our alimentary canal or nutritional needs. How many omnivorous animals die of the cancers, stroke and heart disease which afflicts humans who eat animal products? How many humans can catch, tear apart and bolt down raw whole chunks of meat, fur, bones and ass holes of small animals? How is it that when you create a graph based on community dairy consumption and osteoporosis that there is a complete correlation of the two? There are no osteoporotic vegans. How many vegans know that wheat is poison and wouldn't touch it? Answer - a great many of us. I could write all day on this topic but I'm as bored with arguing with meat heads as I am global warming deniers . . . both groups being massively unreflective and with their heads entirely up their asses . . .

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    1. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Ramapriya Ramanuja

      I'll pretend for a minute that you are not attempting to describe human physiology....

      Does your arrogance extend to hectoring other cultures? How exactly would you explain your dogma to a traditional Inuit?

      What do you think pre-agrarian peoples evolved eating and continued eating for 99% of homosapiens' existence? The only fallacy her is pretending that somehow we cannot eat meat, that it is 'wrong' for us.

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  112. Kim Maston

    Financier

    I don't know whether to thank you more for the article or the discussions