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Vegetarians cause environmental damage, but meat eaters aren’t off the hook

More and more, the animals we kill for food are dining at the human table. Increasingly, we feed them on grain, soybeans and fish meal. Recently, Professor Mike Archer published an article on The Conversation…

Grain agriculture devastates ecosystems, but who is the grain grown for? Peter Castleton

More and more, the animals we kill for food are dining at the human table. Increasingly, we feed them on grain, soybeans and fish meal.

Recently, Professor Mike Archer published an article on The Conversation which looked at the animal deaths attributable to grain production. He argued that vegetarians needed to take responsibility for these deaths, and that shifting to a diet heavier in range-fed beef and kangaroo would be the ethically responsible thing for vegetarians to do.

But are vegetarians really responsible for most of Australia’s grain consumption? Should deaths from growing and harvesting grain be laid at their door?

In 2010 the world consumed 283 million tonnes (Mt) of meat, up from only 44 Mt in 1950. The UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecast for 2020 is 340 Mt. In 1950 most came from range-fed animals, chiefly cattle and sheep, but today, meat production from non-ruminant pigs and poultry dominates because they convert feed to meat far more efficiently.

More and more Australian grain is going to feed meat animals, and most of the meat goes overseas. liveexportcare/Flickr

Grain provides most of the human diet, but global production per capita peaked in 1984 at 342 kg, and by 2010 had fallen to 323 kg. Only half the 2010 grain harvest of 2232 Mt was directly used for food; the other half went for animal feed or for bio-fuels. The FAO expect the share of grain used directly by humans to fall even further, as industrialising countries emulate the dietary habits of the West. Yet in 2010 the FAO estimated the number of malnourished people in the world as nearly one billion.

Soybean production has grown rapidly in recent years, with most production in the Americas. About 70% of the harvested mass of the 250 Mt soybean crop is mixed with grain for animal feedstock. In Brazil, where more land is planted to soybeans than all cereals combined, the Amazon forest is being cleared to expand production — and also for grazing the 74 million beef cattle in Amazonia.

Nor is land-clearing for beef only occurring in the Amazon. In Australia, “peak beef” per capita consumption occurred over four decades ago. Despite this, in recent decades in Queensland, 3000-7000 sq km of native woodland were cleared every year, largely for improved cattle pastures. Much of the meat produced is exported.

An increasing share of Australia’s grain crop goes to produce meat. In 2007, nearly 12 Mt of grain was so used, with 3.5 Mt being fed to beef cattle and sheep, 1.9 Mt to pigs, and 2.3 Mt for broiler poultry.

In 2007, 3.22 Mt of red meat was produced, so 1.7 kg of grain was needed for each kg of meat. For poultry, the figure was 2.85 kg/kg. Additionally, about 4 Mt of hay are cut each year from about one million hectares. Food animals are also fed other supplements, such as molasses.

In wealthy countries, the animal protein eaten is often well in excess of nutritional needs. The average Australian eats 300 grams of meat daily, but US authorities recommend only about half this amount. High-quality protein in excess of requirements is no better nutritionally than the equivalent kilojoule of grain.

The bun is made of grain, sure; but so is the meat. J Domingo

And of course, non-vegetarians don’t only eat meat: a hamburger has one layer of meat, but two layers of bun. Even allowing for somewhat lower direct cereal consumption, overall, non-vegetarians in Australia likely already consume, directly and indirectly, more grain per capita than vegetarians, and the gap will widen as beef cattle (and sheep) get more of their food from grain, as forecast.

Professor Archer, in his widely-read article, is right to stress the environmental consequences of grain production (including mice deaths) but the body count is higher for a meat than a vegetarian diet.

Professor Archer promotes the use of kangaroo meat, as these indigenous herbivores have a lower environmental impact than imported grazers, including low methane emissions. And kangaroos don’t eat grain (the ones that try it are likely to get shot). Over the past decade, around 3.5 million from the larger species of kangaroos were killed annually for meat, with the quotas based on aerial survey counts.

And what do we get from this cull? Although the industry averages about 12 kg of meat from each large kangaroo, only 1.5 kg is prime quality, so most is presently used as pet food. Roughly 20,000 tonnes of meat for human consumption are presently produced annually — and 80% of the meat is exported. Compared with the four million tonnes of meat produced annually in Australia, kangaroo meat is and will remain marginal for our overall meat production.

It sounds simple because it is: if you care about animals, eat less meat. Ben Kimball

Beyond these statistics, there is little agreement between animal welfare groups and the kangaroo industry. Points of dispute include the welfare of the animals shot (and their orphaned dependent young), the share of females killed, and the risk of at least regional species extinction.

Professor Archer says, “The challenge for the ethical eater is to choose the diet that causes the least deaths and environmental damage”. I would add that it is not only animal deaths we should worry about, but also the quality of their lives. Poultry and pigs are reared in extremely cramped conditions because it increases the efficiency of conversion of feed into meat or eggs. In effect, animal suffering lowers the prices to consumers. Chicken Little was right. The sky has fallen - for chickens.

A recent article argues that staying within globally sustainable boundaries for both greenhouse gas emissions and reactive nitrogen mobilisation could require animal product reductions per capita to about 20% of their projected levels in 2050. If shared equally among all Earth’s people, Australians would need to cut consumption by as much as 10-fold. Our own health, animal welfare, and global equity would all be served by a modest first step: halving our meat consumption.

Thanks to Geoff Lacey, fellow vegetarian, for useful discussions on this topic.

Join the conversation

119 Comments sorted by

  1. Alan John Hunter

    Retired

    Most wheat that is used for animal is not fit for human consumption being second grade or worse, i.e. shot and sprung (rain after the seed is mature) or pinched (not enough rain in the growing stage) or other damage, insects, disease etc., so these claims about grain grown to feed animals are misleading to say the least, or omitted due to ignorance, the same could be said about most cereals I imagine, oats which used to be grown for animal feed are hardly grown at all now, due to the low price.
    One of the reasons for decline in cereal production is the growth in oilseed and legume production, which 30 years ago was minute but now has increased manyfold.
    This article like many in this vein leaves out more than it informs as inconvenient facts are omitted or brushed aside.

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    1. Roger Jones

      Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      The humans as top predator approach (along the lines promulgated by Professor Archer), if we stuck to what extensive systems could provide (rangelands, grasslands) would only allow small amounts of meat per capita if spread evenly across global population. Archer's argument can be extended to say that maybe eating small amounts of meat within that overall balance has the ethics of environmental sustainability in it. But it does not sustain a meat vs grain argument.

      Grain not fit for human consumption…

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    2. Marian Macdonald

      Dairy farmer and blogger

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      That is such a salient point, Alan. As a dairyfarmer who feeds grain to her cows, it's often my gain when growers have a disappointing season and their wheat is downgraded so that it can only be sold as animal feed.

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    3. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      I would like some proper figures on the proportions of good versus spoiled grain fed to animals.

      Maybe it is only spoiled grain going into biofuel production, too.

      A proportion of "spoiled" grain is also suitable for some use as human food, too. A limited range, compared to top-quality grain, but not always utterly unusable.

      On a different thread, it is worth mentioning that even the "improved" pastures used for rangeland grazing have far greater genetic diversity than many of the vegetal…

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  2. sue wright

    Writer

    Come on 'The Conversation', I expect a higher standard of debate that some Prof having a half-hearted bash at vegetarians with tired old arguments just to provoke a tired old response. I have been a vego for 33 years now and I really can't count the number of times I've heard this debate. Time to move on I think.

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    1. Sean Freeman

      Consulting Arborist

      In reply to sue wright

      I think it is sadly inevitable that these arguements will have to be replayed over and over since it seems to me that successive generations of Australians miss out on exploring just what lies behind their quick easy and (apparently) cheap food choices.

      Like Sue I have had the conversation (pun intended) over and over to the point where now I am less liekly to spend too much time explaining yet again why industrial agriculture of all types is bad news for everyone in the long term.

      However…

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    2. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to sue wright

      Hi sue - Patrick is actually proposing greater vegetarianism, not bashing vegetarians.

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    3. Stephen B

      Freelancer

      In reply to sue wright

      Yes, Sue, it's presumed you are referring not to this but to the smoke and mirrors piece by Prof. Archer. It is precisely because of articles like Archer's that counter arguments are constantly necessary. Nothings suits an apathetic public better than the flimsiest of logic or opinion that allows it to continue doing nothing, its confirmation biases catered to, its cognitive dissonances assuaged, in time for the next unthinking meal.

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    4. sue wright

      Writer

      In reply to Stephen B

      That's right Stephen, I was referring to Prof Archer's article. I understand the need to keep countering naive arguments, I suppose I just expected better arguments on both sides via this site, not just same old same old.

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  3. Robert Wiblin

    logged in via Twitter

    I speculated that this had to be the case on my blog a few months ago:

    http://robertwiblin.com/2012/01/05/eat-cows-to-save-mice-hold-your-horses/

    Thanks for confirming my instincts with some hard numbers Patrick!

    It turned out the original post was inappropriately applying the numbers for mouse plagues as well - confusing a mouse outbreak in one farm with a mouse outbreak on all farms.

    As I wrote then:

    "The huge popularity of the piece is more likely because it allows those who don’t care or think about animals at all to superficially stick it to vegetarians and claim they were right all along (by pure luck presumably), rather than because its claim really stands up to scrutiny."

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    1. Bob Weis

      Film maker

      In reply to Robert Wiblin

      Look at the China Study by Campbell for another interesting view on the link between meat consumption and cancer a link also recently published in the UK from British research.
      If this is not enough the greenhouse effect of farm animals is more than all the cars on the roads.
      Then of course the disease issues of battery farmed meat with the concomitant of the vast amounts of anti-biotics fed the animals to counter it which in turn causes mutations of disease which become transgenic.
      What were the positives again?

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    2. Lisa Ann Kelly

      retired

      In reply to Robert Wiblin

      Thank you. I appreciate your wisdom and ability to put my thoughts into coherent sentences.

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    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Bob Weis

      The China Study has been debunked so many times it isn't funny. Put another way, the study has never been peer reviewed for validity.

      Also correlation doesn't equal causation. The statistics on cancer are not causal and they don't show strong ties - RR values are often used but they need to be higher than 1.5 or 2 before you'd start making any claims.

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    4. Simon Porteous

      Chiropractor

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Could you please provide a peer reviewed debunk of the china study?

      The China Study (the book), has one chapter discussing the results of the findings (peer reviewed and published) of the china study (the research).

      The rest of the book discusses the research being performed around the would on the biological mechanisms linking eating animal products to disease.

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    5. Bob Weis

      Film maker

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      While you are showing Simon your sources have a look at recent British research which shows a correlation between eating meat and blood and bowel cancers

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    6. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Bob Weis

      I just said correlation doesn't equal causation. I also referred to the RR values.

      Oh, and I'm meant to provide a direct link to sources but vague reference to "a study" is okay? I could just post this link to the various nutrition blogs that have discussed it:
      http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/
      http://freetheanimal.com/2010/07/the-china-study-smackdown-roundup.html

      Of course Google still works.

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    7. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Bob Weis

      Bob, not valid. It is already common knowledge that in populations on poor diets consisting primarily of animal protein and lack of exercise, not just meat but milk and cheese more usually, lacking fruit and vegetables, with maybe oatmeal biscuits for fibre, exhibit high incidences of bowel cancer.

      All that took place in Scotland over 200 years ago. Today we all know what dietary balance represents and how it can be provided, none of this is new.

      It's no argument against consuming animal protein but for a balanced diet, from anthropological, historical, political, nutritional and human welfare perspectives more against land clearances and their consequences than eating meat as such.

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    8. Simon Porteous

      Chiropractor

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      You're not trying to use a blog, with no peer review, of a 24 year old English major to debunk the most prestigious nutrition researchers from the US, UK and China are you? Seriously?

      Nothing against English Majors or 24 year olds but if they want to be taken seriously and take down the big dog they need to get their stuff peer reviewed and published.

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    9. Simon Porteous

      Chiropractor

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      I have already seen Denise's critique. I have also read Campbells reply.

      When read in conjunction with the clinical work of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr Dean Ornish, Dr Neal Barnard, Dr John McDougall, and their working in reversing heart disease, diabetes and cancer I'm inclined to place greater weight on Campbells work.

      As yet I am unaware of any nutritional research demonstrating reversal of heart disease or diabetes where there were animal products in the diet.

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  4. Lorna Jarrett

    Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

    "In wealthy countries, the animal protein eaten is often well in excess of nutritional needs. The average Australian eats 300 grams of meat daily, but US authorities recommend only about half this amount".

    And that's the U.S.A. - not exactly a bastion of vegetarianism.

    I think the "science is settled" on the fact that we'd be healthier for eating a lot less meat, so why not couch the argument in terms of human health? Less meat - better health - increased quality of life. Bingo!

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  5. Paul Richards

    integral operating system

    The underlying issue is not just how much we eat or what we eat, it is how many humans there are.
    We are locked into the ideas of "exponential growth" and "exponential profit" being sustainable.

    Large populations are not sustainable, even if they lead to "exponential growth" in profit. Nothing in human history refutes this, neither does the exponential growth and decay formula.

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  6. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I live surrounded by the very beasts in question ... I know this issue all too personally. .. I can call some of my mince by name. Black Angus spend their entire lives moaning and whingeing as if they knew where it was all going to end.

    This used to be prime dairy country. Hard work and generous government protection ensured that the local farmers managed a consistent if constant lifestyle.

    Now it's cattle country and the old milking sheds lie disused and decaying out in the paddocks…

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    1. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yes, watching the grass grow, and more recently watching the 'tree change' resettlement of old dairying districts instead of beef, watching the ardent, newly arrived vegans and vegetarians anxious to prove that their ethics work but still unable to make even the grass grow.

      Prime farmland advertised as being restored to pristine bush by conservationists in fact going to weed, fashionable horses along with dogs and cats and family pets, and now semi-feral ex-city children, left to invade the landscape…

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      G'day Gil,

      I reckon it's not all that difficult myself. Petrol at $15 a litre will sort a lot of it out.

      Yep there's too many of us ... particularly us lot that eat too much - of anything and everything and consume anything and everything we can slap our eyes on. Living leaner would be a start. Growing at least some of our own food as well.

      But strewth we're in big trouble of we have to herd everyone off to Ethics 101. Not sure it'd even help actually. How to spot a weed and what to…

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    3. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Hey, Peter. I like your style - you have a literary talent! I live in a similar environment to you, and feel guilty that while my Chinese ancestors would have been out there sweating in their funny hats to grow enough bukchoy and beans for the whole village on this fertile five acres, I do nothing with it but retire an old riding pony and run a flock of free range chickens, spending much time instead at my computer cogitating on the CSU Ethics course I am enrolled in. I don't eat meat myself, but…

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    4. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Thanks for your insights Peter - fascinating reading!

      "We need to learn to enjoy hard physical work. I pretend I'm paying for it at a gym".
      Funny you should say that - I pass several adverts for gyms and "boot camps" on the way to the block where I'm building my newest garden, with much sweat and whatever organic materials I can scrounge (not human feces yet I should say - and yes I reckon I'd limit that to well-composted, under fruit trees and under mulch) and haul up the hill. I often wonder…

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    5. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      really nice comment, Peter: thanks.

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    6. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yes, sure, I came from an old Riverina family myself, and teaching Permaculture over here in WA for so long taught me primarily that all I was doing in fact was reviving traditional skills and habits my mid-Victorian grandparents practiced anyway.

      So, cutting a long story short, we did home tanning to make warm furs and leather, drum skins and instruments, curing, pickles and preserves, knife and tool making, furniture making, building, residential design, local exchange systems, on top of our…

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Ethics? Trade? Strewth that'll never catch on Sandra.

      While you're having a look at the feed lotting of cattle in Indo might be worth finding out a bit about what they're being fed.

      I recall a few years back reading a very interesting piece on how US feed lot operators had discovered that muscle mass could be boosted by over 3% with the simple addition of a couple of bags of cement mix to the feed.

      I googled it up but found this instead:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/now-cows-and-sheep-can-eat-cement-dust-1345690.html

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    8. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      You're inspiring me Peter. As soon as this essay is done (I'm afraid the word count won't allow for a discussion of the composition of feed lot fodder, but thanks), I will plant some buk choy.

      And if my poodle starts to set, my ancestors would say, "Now good time to eat!"

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    9. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, my Aunt keeps Aberdeen Angus cattle, apparently because they can survive months of being up to their knees in freezing mud better then Herefords.

      Are they the same as the Black Angus of which you speak? If so I'm amazed. Cold-climate animal by definition as I understood it.

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      This could explain their endless complaints.... too hot, the grass is too long, wrong colour grass, not cold and wet enough ... no pleasing the cranky black blighters.

      These black angus beasties are sleek and glossy and all look they came out of the same bottle. In fact they're a cross from angus and herefords I'm informed by those who follow such things.

      There are a few properties around here carrying a weird looking breed - black with a white cummerbund arrangement around their middles... all pretty much identical. Don't remember what they're called. Quiet though. Look a bit like huge pigs from a suitable distance.

      I will suggest to my neighbours that they try hosing these black angus buggers with icy water every morning to settle them down. Let's see if that'll make them happy.

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    11. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      According to the infallible Wikipedia they are indeed from Aberdeen.

      I think the endless complaints are probably down to their inherently dour Scottish nature. A spot of whisky might cheer them up. I have heard of the concept of Scots pining for the cold weather but stuffed if I can understand it.

      I've seen the white-belted kind in Scotland too although I don't know what they're called. I grew up in Ayrshire - wall-to-wall Fresians and Herefords, and scarcely an Ayrshire to be seen!

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    12. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Yes, maybe that's it. My grandmother's family came out from Aberdeen, as Presbyterian missionaries to boot. The rest arrived from the West Country, and from the Midlands and Ireland, over 150-odd years ago.

      The temperament doesn't change much . . . .

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    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      God that''d be it then - I'm surrounded by whingeing wowser proddy cows. They're not complaining they're throwing curses and condemnations!

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    14. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Aye, it's not the cold they miss it's the granite, to build with and build on . . . ;-)

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    15. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Aha! They would be "Belted Galloways" I believe! My husband is Scottish, but actually I learned this from the fine book "Clancy the Cow" I read to my daughter a few years ago (Clancy was ostracized for being born with no 'belt' - would that make him a Black Angus? - but triumphed by turning his difference into an advantage). It's not often I can answer a cow question, being the archetypal useless tree-changing, tree-planting, pony-owning, landscape-invading etc etc (refer to Gil Hardwick's earlier post) vegetarian ethicist wannabe ...

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    16. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      I'm 1/4 Aberdonian. It's a funny place. Story goes, the invading Celts chased the indigenous Picts up to the North East. Story is probably bollocks but Scots like a yarn. Also, Scotland's full of funny places...

      I haven't spent much time in Aberdeen (or "Furry Boot City" as it is known by other Scots) but I recall being (a) practically to cold to move and (b) surrounded by a lot of singing, drunken Gaels.

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    17. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      When I was a kid the highlight of our cultural calendar was the cattle show. Nuff said eh?

      Also we used to play slingshot with those little rubber bands and the device that stretched them... nope, right first time. Nuff said.

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    18. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Mine improved no end when I finally got to see some sun :)

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    19. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      "Beef Week" is STILL the highlight of my town, with the highest point being the crowning of "Miss Beef" (we called her "Miss Steak"), inevitably the winsome daughter of some friend of a friend of a friend. Nuff said here too. Nite all!

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    20. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      "Miss Steak" is just lovely.

      Casino in Northern NSW bills itself as the "Beef Capital of the Known Universe" or some such and has a similar Bovine Beauty Pageant culminating in the crowning of a Beef Queen. Said virgin presides over a host of local shenanigans for the full week and then is offered up for sacrifice at the local B&S Ball I think.

      I wanted to do a bit of research on where these Beef Queens end up - whether it changes their lives ... launching them on careers as TV celebrities…

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    21. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Good morning Peter ... That's funny, Casino and Wingham must be hotly contending the titles of both Beef, and Tick Capital!

      Forgive my tendency to pedantry (I'm not a perennial student for nothing!) but, unless I'm wrong, "Brahmin" is a Hindu caste while the cattle breed of the same phonetic name is normally spelled "Brahman".

      Two opportunities in 24 hours to brag knowledge of bovine things! I'm doing rather well ...

      or ... was it a deliberate pun, in which case I'm feeling like a fool ...

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    22. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Morning Ms K,

      You are of course spot on the money spelling-wise. I prostrate myself before your encyclopedic bovine knowledge.

      But I'd have a hunch (like the cattle in question) that they should actually be called Brahmins and that this is just some graziers' spelling error elevated to fact.

      Either way a truly magnificent and dignified animal. And wonderfully quiet and uncomplaining. No wonder the hindus regard them as a sacred species.

      Seeing as it is still raining and I am still flooded in I shall hunt about and track the history of the breed and its spelling.

      Pedantry? I wrote the book on that - but I'm still correcting the final proofs.

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    23. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Ha! The crow of triumph from a proper pedant!

      According to the accursed wikipedia - infallible papal source on all things bovine - the originals - bos indica - were not so much spelled but named after the Brahmins.... they are your most godly hindu caste of cow. The yanks got their hands on them in the early 1900s and reckon they bred a new line and called them Brahmans because they (a) couldn't spell or (b) didn't want to offend hindus. (Take your pick) Typically we've followed suit.

      But it gets worse Sandra. Our cows aren't. Simple as that. Nope not cows at all - no relation whatsoever. Lesser ungodly beings with dangerous - even poisonous - milk. You can read the full details of this scandal here:

      http://www.swadharmam.com/

      And you reckon the good burgers of Casino and Wingham take their cattle seriously.

      And yes, burgers was a joke. Sorry... It's early, cold and wet and I'm getting cabin fever.

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    24. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I see the rain's got you immobilised too Peter. The Sun's out here now but I stacked my bike in the floodwater last night so I'm another cabin-fever candidate (cry not for me but for my Gore-tex jacket. It was new! Can you patch those things?)

      Anyway, your writing is much appreciated - as are the ever-fascinating website links. It's either that or get on with my sodding PhD - and if I was doing a real job I'd be off sick so I resent that.

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    25. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I see the rain's got you immobilised too Peter. The Sun's out here now but I stacked my bike in the floodwater last night so I'm another cabin-fever candidate (cry not for me but for my Gore-tex jacket. It was new! Can you patch those things?)

      Anyway, your writing is much appreciated - as are the ever-fascinating website links. It's either that or get on with my sodding PhD - and if I was doing a real job I'd be off sick so I resent that.

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    26. Alison X

      Sales

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Actually Peter this is where you're wrong :)

      Black Angus are the same thing as Aberdeen Angus, also know as just plain Angus (as there are a red variety also).

      They are not related to Herefords - a 50/50 Angus x Hereford is known as a Black Baldy (these are the black ones with big white faces).

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    27. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Alison X

      Thanks for that Ms X ... and the herefords I have so cruelly libelled say thanks as well. Always liked herefords ... wouldn't like to think of them being forced to entertain the fancies of some whining wowser proddy angus.

      Actually they've been really quiet the last few days ... it's been raining in sheets. Must feel right at home.

      They've been playing around here with Brahman angus crosses (Brangus) ... probably in an effort to get them to shut up. And also Charolais angus (not sure what they've christened them but a seriously intimidating bit of gear that ... just huge).

      Thanks for redeeming the herefords. I am relieved.

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  7. Tim Scanlon

    Author and Scientist

    I don't like these articles trying to justify a dietary decision. No dietary type is better or worse for the environment than the other when you take into account all the issues involved. E.g.: this article dodges the larger issues of grain type suitability for human vs animal food and completely ignoring where production occurs and land suitability for it.

    Working in agriculture in the grains industry I'm not impressed with the way huge assumptions are made about grains. It also ignores the price…

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    1. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "My point is that your diet type is not any better or worse than any other diet type."

      That statement seems to be demonstrably untrue. If my diet consists exclusively of human toddlers and tomatoes grown out-of-season in fossil fuel-powered hothouses, it seems that my diet is uncontroversially worse than some other diets, both ethically and environmentally.

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    2. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Matt Harris

      Lol.

      My point was about the major diet classifications and their environmental impact. I knew someone would comment when I didn't specifically state this in my last sentence.

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    3. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Don't try to pretend that I'm deliberately twisting your words just to be a smart-arse though. You write: "No dietary type is better or worse for the environment than the other when you take into account all the issues involved." Surely eating seasonal foods is less environmentally damaging than eating out-of-season. Surely eating more ___ and less ___ is less environmentally damaging than vice versa. If the claim is "the environmental issues surrounding food production are so complex as to resist an analysis like 'eat less meat for the good of the planet,'" then I can go along with that, but that appears to be very different to anything that you said.

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    4. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Matt Harris

      Matt, you did ask for it, going on about diets of human babies and off-season tomatoes, as if the two correlate in some way.

      Keeping things within reason, an ordinary person would make ordinary statements without thinking that someone would come up with the most extreme exceptions so far out on one or the other tail of a distribution, statistically they don't really exist. I say that because such exceptions do not alter the fundamental reality in any way.

      I'm sure Tim is well able to speak…

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    5. Matt Harris

      Graduate Student in Philosophy at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      The hypothetical diet of human babies was used not as an extreme for its own sake, but to avoid unnecessary sidetracks. If I had replaced 'human toddlers' with 'veal raised in confinement stalls', Tim and I may or may not have been forced to go back and forth a few times to establish whether or not we both agree that veal raised in confinement stalls is an unethical food. I assumed that Tim agrees with me that eating human toddlers is prima facie morally wrong, and that he would see that 'human toddlers' could be replaced in this context with 'any food that you think is uncontroversially unethical'.

      As for the substance of my present disagreement with Tim, I think that it would be an incredible coincidence if the environmental impacts of all of the world's 'major' diets were the same.

      I'm not interested in denigrating your specialisation, so I'll hold myself back.

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    6. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      The hypothetical diet of human babies was used not as an extreme for its own sake, but to avoid unnecessary sidetracks. If I had replaced 'human toddlers' with 'veal raised in confinement stalls', Tim and I may or may not have been forced to go back and forth a few times to establish whether or not we both agree that veal raised in confinement stalls is an unethical food. I assumed that Tim agrees with me that eating human toddlers is prima facie morally wrong, and that he would see that 'human toddlers' could be replaced in this context with 'any food that you think is uncontroversially unethical'.

      As for the substance of my present disagreement with Tim, I think that it would be an incredible coincidence if the environmental impacts of all of the world's 'major' diets were the same.

      I'm not interested in denigrating your specialisation, so I'll hold myself back.

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    7. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Matt Harris

      The conditions animals are raised in is a clear moral issue.

      The morality of eating young animals is less clear. Predators in the wild, immoral beasts that they are, target mainly young animals.

      But they don't raise them in confinement stalls, crowded cages, intensive feedlots or pork factories.

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    8. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to John Harland

      Ahh, the good old argument from authority by claiming the moral high ground.

      Morals don't enter into it the way you would like to think.

      I'd contend that the issue about the way we produce food is down to a happy animal is a productive animal. Well maintained soils are productive soils. Paying a fair price for food to the farmer will enable this to happen.

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    9. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      I have visited intensive meat production facilities of all the kinds I mentioned, and, in my opinion, there is a moral issue with them. And I didn't see much sign of contentment or happiness in the animals (and birds) in them. They were crammed in until their unhappiness became severe-enough to negate the productivity increase from cramming more animals in.

      That was a while ago and things might have changed, perhaps.

      The price relationship is a fair point.

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  8. Ashley Hooper

    Farm worker

    A common argument is that marginal land (typically hillsides) not suited to growing crops be used to graze large herbivorous animals. However, more research needs to be done in this area with regard to the long-term sustainability of this practice.

    In New Zealand, for example, soil erosion occurs at a rate that is ten times the global average. Some proportion of this is certainly as a result of grazing animals on deforested hillsides. The question is how much.

    At the time for which I last saw…

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    1. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Ashley Hooper

      When helping my son with a school project recently, we googled Incan agriculture and found a terrific photo of wild mountainsides extensively terraced with simple ingenious hand tools and growing prolific quantities of vegetable crops to feed large numbers of people in surrounding regions. This has been happening for centuries in South America.

      Machines could easily take the really hard grind out of the terracing.

      So what exactly ARE these 'marginal lands not suitable for cropping'?

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  9. Sandra Kwa

    Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

    Surely it boils down to ecological footprint? All these factors above taken into account, how much land is required to sustain a vegetarian compared to a meat-eater? Given that the human species is crowding out every other on this finite planet, and until we learn to deal with the population crisis, if there IS a significant difference between the two footprints, then diet DOES matter. Does anyone have the figures?

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  10. Metta Bhavana

    logged in via Facebook

    Meat is not murder; it is theft. The farming issue and the unsustainable economics of the meat trade leading to diminution of natural resources are well developed in this article. At a personal level, the real philosophical question about the nature of the deed, is this: is it objectionable as excessive, selfish consumption, or is it in some way justified? I would argue eating meat is not so much about the death of animals, or even how they are raised, as it is about the act of meat eating becoming…

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  11. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    I am simply stunned by some of the intellectual contortions people seem to be prepared to attempt to avoid acknowledging the massive, overpowering argument laid out in this article. I forced myself to get over this a little while ago and just look at the big picture. Turned vegetarian as a result... you can nuance the argument against vegetarianism, but you simply can't beat it if you are trying to eat ethically on a crowded planet.

    Not to mention that Geoff Russell showed Archer's article to be stunningly, staggeringly, mind-bogglingly wrong in the first place, mouse death numbers out by a factor of 500 or something. Thanks Patrick, nice work.

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Ben Heard

      I've already pointed out to Geoff that he got several of his figures in that rebuttal wrong. His carcass protein value was the most egregious error I've seen, let alone his extrapolation of that value. He also didn't include digestive efficiencies in his protein comparisons.

      Plus, I've also pointed out that Geoff based his replacement of beef in the diet with X hectares was based upon US broccoli figures, which are 4-5 times higher yielding. Let alone the fact that hectares of cropping in Australia are decreasing and suitable areas for this supposed area is completely unrealistic.

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    2. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Hi Tim,

      You seem to be very knowledgeable. I'm just a student, and would very much appreciate any comment:

      I am very worried about the prospect of destroying more wilderness to feed the growing human population. Supposing, hypothetically, we (all humans) had to limit ourselves to the land we have already taken over, where ecosystems and bio-diversity are already decimated, and with that area of land only, sustain the population as it increases, without anyone dying of starvation, for as long as possible.

      How would we use that land?
      What would we all be eating?

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    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      This was the topic that has been addressed in many papers. Examples include Livestock Long Shadow and Foley's Nature paper. The main thing is to understand the systems that are currently in place and how they have to be adapted.

      Refer to chapter 7 for the summary:
      http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
      Foley paper needs to be read in context:
      http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature10452

      I cite these two because I've seen several claims attributed to these papers that are not made…

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    4. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Before I turn in myself, sorry to say Sandra that all the wilderness was destroyed from about 150 years ago. I'm not referring here to remnant Amazon or high Alps, or Central desert, but for all practical intents and purposes humans have already taken over what there is to take over.

      The answers to your questions lie in simple observation of what people are already doing, in ecosystems and biodiversity already decimated, and on that land area only.

      That all happened 100 years ago. The future…

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    5. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Sandra,

      "How would we use that land?
      What would we all be eating?"

      I predict that as oil gets more scarce and expensive, urban and suburban food production will become more important. The big coastal populations certainly have the most reliable rainfall, the transport of nutrients between soil and consumers is minimised, and soil quality is frequently high (even if it's not, it's not hard to improve in small intensively-managed systems).

      I'm not suggesting that urban/suburban food production…

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  12. Matt Harris

    logged in via Facebook

    The original article is interesting, but I find the implication that omnivores do or should care about causing fewer animal deaths bizarre. Surely if you think that animal deaths are prima facie morally bad, you ought to adopt the practices that cause as few animal deaths as possible - not just those that cause fewer deaths than your current lifestyle.

    In other words, I think that it's very odd when omnivores claim to be morally concerned about animal deaths. If you buy meat products, you *want* animals to be killed and you're willing to pay people to kill them for you. That position seems to require one to not find animal deaths very troubling.

    As for the issue of animals like mice being killed in the process of grain harvesting, the doctrine of double effect might provide some insight here.

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    1. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Matt Harris

      If you want to put it that way, Matt, yes, I'm an omnivore. But so are you, your system is designed to digest all manner of food. It is your privileged intellectual pose, your if-then syllogism, not having to fend for yourself in the wild that somehow pretends a logic that because you choose to decline the range of foods you body can process, your omnivorous system has morphed suddenly into ruminant perhaps.

      And no, it is not my 'lifestyle' that 'causes deaths'. This is not Faerie. No living thing…

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    2. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Aw, but it's fun . . . .

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    3. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      @Gil: I am a herbivore, in the sense that I eat a herbivorous diet. You're right that my digestive system can digest animal products as well as plant products, but that doesn't change the fact that *I* am herbivorous. Anyway, this is besides the point.

      I think you misunderstand my point about the fact that you pay people to kill animals for your food. I don't think that killing the animals yourself makes the killing more or less moral (I am aware that some animal activists sometimes claim that…

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    4. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Matt Harris

      Matt, I'm trying to communicate to you, for my part, your chronic overuse of the "if-then" syllogism as a means of imposing your ideological stance and the personal decisions you make on that basis on what other people should or should not do.

      The point I made about mortality in the sense of husbanding with the view to harvesting animal protein rather than waste it, is that over many centuries complex and sophisticated systems of ethics and morality, knowledge and science, learning and culture…

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    5. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      I'll try to reply to the rest later, but you're right about at least one thing; we are certainly from different planets (despite being at the same university...).

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    6. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      As far as I can tell there are about four distinct points in your comment above. I'll try to reply to them in order.

      1. If-then reasoning is valid, especially in public debate. We might not all agree on the premises, but we can reason about conclusions by saying things like: "if you think that ___, then it would be inconsistent for you not to also believe ___, due to reason ___". The use of conditionals is absolutely not an attempt by me to impose anything on anyone. That being said, it is a position…

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    7. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Matt Harris

      I love broccoli but I had never thought of it as a dietary substitute for meat.

      It is likely you might make yourself rather sick trying to eat enough of it to satisfy your requirements for protein and lipids.

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    8. Matt Harris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Harland

      I think it's pretty clear that I wasn't suggesting that people one-to-one substitute beef with broccoli. If you mean to say that people can't be healthy on all-plant diets, that's incorrect.

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    9. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to John Harland

      John, most Westerners eat too much meat and too little veggies.

      Therefore substituting meat for brocolli isn't about trying to extract protein and lipids form it - it's about getting fibre, vitamins and minerals in healthy amounts.

      We also know it's pretty easy to be healthy on a meat-free diet, but not on a veggie-free one (cf: Scotland as one great big case study).

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    10. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Matt Harris

      Yes, one-to-one substitution is ridiculous. My point precisely.

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  13. Sandra Kwa

    Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

    Thank you The Conversation and Patrick Moriarty for the original article which has sparked this enjoyable forum. And thanks Peter, Lorna, Gil, Tim and others for your comments and responses.

    I fully intend to ruminate like a good Brahma/in on all your ideas and follow up the links, after my Monday deadline and inevitable sleep deprivation have passed. I must bar myself from this site till then. It's way too distracting!

    But one more thought, just before I go ... I remember the twinkle in Bill…

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    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      A study by Dr. Giovanni Turchini and Professor Sena De Silva of Deakin University in Australia reported that domestic house cats are eating more fish than many seal species.

      According to the report, more than 2.48 million tons of fish is used globally by the global cat food industry every year.

      http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30017184

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  14. Ron Chinchen

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    My doctor constantly syas to me 'Ron you must eat less'. My intake is not gteat but it seems to sit there. Perhaps eating nothing is the solution, though I acknowledge that when I eat meals free of much meat and cereal. I usually feel better. I guess though the problem globally is TOO MANY PEOPLE TO FEED. When society realises that the Chinese were on the right track with their one child family, within a century we may start to see a world we are beginning to remember only in books.

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  15. Jude Williams

    Retired and still curious

    I'm a bit late in commenting but better late than never............
    The last animal meat I'd eat is kangaroo meat. Anyone heard of toxoplasmosis? A parasitic infection carried by kangaroos and cat faeces.
    Unless kangaroo meat is cooked correctly, it carries the parasite. When this meat is consumed, it can cross the placenta and cause blindness in newborns.
    I' was infected with toxoplasmosis 30 years ago and I'm still recovering.

    When cattle are farmed bio dynamically they are carbon neutral. That's the way nature intended them to live

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    1. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Jude Williams

      Jude,

      That's an interesting point - do you have any links to research showing the risks of toxoplasmosis are higher from kangaroo meat than from other kinds of meat?

      I'm primarily aware of toxoplasmosis as contracted via contact with cat feces. Handling cat feces is an occupational hazard for cat-owners (and gardeners, and kids who dig in soil or sandpits).
      Also, I thought that the disease is primarily a risk for the immune-compromised and pregnant women.

      Anyone with any expertise on this topic able to enlighten us further?

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    2. Jude Williams

      Retired and still curious

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      I have a written document entitled "A Probable Foodborn Outbreak of Toxoplasmosis published CDI 16 October 1996. Authored by Drs Sullivan and Nicolaides at Taringa in Brisbane.

      It pertains to a 3 month old female who was not tracking well with her eyes for her age. Her paediatrician (who I worked for at that time) sent her off to an ophthalmologist who eventually diagnosed toxoplasmosis. This mother, at 28 weeks into her pregnancy, attended a Christmas party where rare kangaroo medallions were served. She was not told what the meat was and would have avoided it as she was very careful during her pregnancy.

      I am unable to present this paper as it is in pdf format and I can't find it in an internet search. This little girl had treatment for 12 months in the form of a very painful injection every week. Her eventual outcome was a loss of some sight in one eye.

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    3. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Jude Williams

      http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0074-02762009000200033&script=sci_arttext

      "In livestock, T. gondii tissue cysts are most frequently observed in various tissues of infected pigs, sheep and goats, and less frequently in infected poultry, rabbits, dogs and horses. By contrast, tissue cysts are found only rarely in skeletal muscles of cattle or buffaloes (Tenter et al. 2000)."

      So not just kangaroos then.

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    4. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Jude Williams

      from the same paper:

      "Although seropositivity of T. gondii infection in marsupials is usually lower than in placental mammals, kangaroo meat in particular has been recognised as a potential source of infection for humans, because it is very lean with little fat and, thus, is usually consumed rare or undercooked (Robson et al. 1995)."

      That looks pretty clear to me - it's the cooks who are to the blame, not the roos.

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    5. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Jude Williams

      International Journal for Parasitology
      Volume 38, Issue 12, October 2008, Pages 1359–1370
      Control of the risk of human toxoplasmosis transmitted by meat
      Aize Kijlstraa, Erik Jongertc

      "Seroprevalence of T. gondii in sheep can be as high as 92% in certain European countries (Tenter et al., 2000)."

      "Seroprevalence for T. gondii in goats can be as high as 77%"

      "Seroprevalence of up to 65% in free ranging chickens has been reported"

      "Horses... up to 90% ... seropositive"

      "It was recently…

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    6. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      So just buy frozen meat rather than fresh, and cook it thoroughly, no matter what it is.

      Or have the lentils. They're looking pretty good to me...

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  16. Shane Perryman

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    I only have unlinked second hand sources (ie my memory of what I read), but on the recent red meat => cancer paper (annoyingly behind a paywall), there were some co factors that needed to be considered. One appears to be that the people who ate the most red meat had a lot of other unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking (more) and probably not exercising. Two it depends on the processing. Burnt meat - not good due to the presence of chemicals thought to induce cancer. Uncooked meat - also not…

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    1. Shane Perryman

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      HI Lorna, The article I can't see is
      http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/172/7/555

      My comments above are based purely on second hand sources (eg http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3452557.htm) reporting from/about this paper.

      Whether we get our nitrogen via plants (legumes) or animals, ultimately the environmental damage is due to the shear size of the human population... the difference between meat eaters and non is kinda like the difference between the presence or absence…

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    2. Jude Williams

      Retired and still curious

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      Here's the solution to all this http://chronicle.com/article/As-Beef-Cattle-Become/131480/

      BIGGER cattle fed on new drug. So less cattle producing more beef!! Just kidding, who'd want to eat drugged cattle. What is the world coming to.....Cattle grown on bio dynamic pastures are carbon neutral. They enjoy a good life. Feed lot cattle do not enjoy good lives.

      I've enjoyed everyone's thoughts immensely -thanks

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  17. Ron Chinchen

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    Seems that there is only one realistic solution to the problem, which we all know but all recognise humanity, with its diverse cultural/religious antipathy to the concept in implementing will vehemently oppose...reducing human population.

    Some say education and effective contraception, along with improved access to food and opportunties in the third world could assist (given first world societies seem to be stabilising if not reducing population, except through immigration, as a consequence…

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    1. Shane Perryman

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      A two child policy would have been enough and might probably reduce the amount of sex selection going on. Factoring in that young adolescents (especially males) are slightly more likely to have an adventurous death at an early age... the sex ratio might just balance out nicely and the net number of children per couple fall just below 2.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      Oh dear... why do peasants and the poor have so many children? Perhaps they don't know what is causing it? They just can't help themselves? They don't have access to contraception?

      Not really. Two big reasons: a lot of them die and secondly, it's their superannuation.

      Unike us sophisticated types, poor people get looked after by their kids ... no homes, no pensions just the charity and duty of the kids. That's how it used to work anyway.

      It makes good solid economic sense for poor…

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    3. Shane Perryman

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      A two child policy would have imposed a lot less burden than the one child policy China did adopt...

      And don't characterise me as some kind of effete armchair "us n them" antagonist. I live in a developing country. We have one child. And around me I see examples of your "superannuation" strategy of the local poor. Kids "begging" on the streets.

      Great strategy that is.

      Rapid urbanisation is taking place,most people now live in cities. The "plot of dirt"children as "free labour" for the farm…

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      Shane,

      I'm not saying the superannuation strategy works - or works well. It does require a block of dirt. It is how society operated, how the culture operated before industrial agriculture turned up. Before palm oil and plantations.

      It was not intended as a personal characterisation at all and I am sorry if this is how it read.

      All I am pointing out is that the number of kids is a function of a long established cultural and economic practice. It worked. In "developing" countries - particularly…

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    5. Ron Chinchen

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      Yes Shane I have thought of the two children concept and yes though it would cause a much slower reduction (probably take 50-100 years to strat to effectively reduce) it is a good start and probably would overcome some of those nasty happenings with the one child happening.

      And Peter, the suggestion was not an attack on the poorer people. China by the way was a serious third world country and it took some very hard decisions to manage their economy and population growth realistically (a lot of…

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    6. Shane Perryman

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "long established cultural practice"
      It might be true but is it a practical approach? Does it work? You might just as well say that Western overconsumption is a "long established cultural practice"... as indeed red meat eating has become... the mental image I have accompanying the statement is one of a resigned shrug.

      "Long established cultural practices" may explain some human behaviour but given the present situation many of these same practices probably need rethinking.

      I do teach, but you assume too much (like many locals) when you suggest I bankroll anything.

      To finish my contribution here. I have no fundamental objections to meat eating... excepting some killing methods. However we do eat too much of the stuff and its impact is greater relative to some other long standing cultural practices. However, population and some new cultural practices of the affluent can't be ignored.

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      See Shane I have this problem with focusing our attention on the poor when it comes to the need for restrictions and changes in behaviour while we just carry on regardless, buy ouy Prius and get our asparagus from Equador.

      Conspicuous consumption is not a long established western tradition ... not for the poor. But historically the consumption by the rich and powerful puts Bill Gates and the like of modern times to shame. Have a wander round the Vatican some time.

      Western over-consumption…

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    8. Shane Perryman

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Or at least paying the house servants a decent wage."

      Arrogant twat. How many times do I have to tell you to stop making foolish assumptions?

      I am not a corporate or even NGO sponsored transplant living it up among the locals.

      {notify box dechecked}

      I have wandered around the Vatican. Yes, a lot of booty there, and the Louvre and the British Museum.

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      Shane,

      I'd be pretty sure my assumptions aren't foolish. You might live there. You might teach. But you understand nothing about them or the situation in which they must live and die. You are not living there Shane, just passing through.

      How many house servants Shane ... honest answer.

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    10. Shane Perryman

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      No. Perhaps I do not understand "them" but I (being here) am in a far better position than you, I suspect, to make any kind of generalisation.

      I don't understand what your beef is with my comments. Nowhere have I applied my remarks exclusively to "the poor". I have nowhere said that only "the poor" should have two children. I merely suggested it as an alternative to the one child policy as applied in China. IF we all aimed for such a policy...

      Your continuing assertions are a pain in the arse. We have no (NO) house servants. This is an alien concept to most Aussies and I and my wife (who is not Australian - got it yet?) do our own housework. I am not sponsored or employed by any foreign interest. And No, pre-empting another potential assumption on your part, I am not a missionary. We also do not live in a gated community.

      Any further remark/assumption on your part about my personal circumstances can only be taken as the act of a troll.

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    11. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Shane Perryman

      Hmmm ... Methinks this thread went a little awry. Pity, as you are both on the same side, essentially. Anyhoo, the reference to begging children prompts me to give greengeckoproject.org.au a plug. Please bear with me ...

      I went to Siem Reap in 2007 to check out what my friend Tania was doing with 30 street kids she'd taken under her wing. They weren't their parents' superannuation, they were daily bread. I saw deep, long scars on one 9yo's back inflicted by his father when he failed to beg sufficiently…

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    12. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Excellent Ms K.

      Good thing to have such mates. Such a small thing can make a huge change. Things we take for granted or don't even notice. Like paper and pencils.

      I was always in a quandary about servants in India. I actually don't like having people fuss about and clean up after me.... seems unAustralian and certainly un-me. But it was expected. It was considered as a way of distributing my assumed enormous wealth around the village. Charity was regarded as rather insulting and demeaning…

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    13. Lorna Jarrett

      Former PhD candidate, physics teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "I actually don't like having people fuss about and clean up after me.... seems unAustralian and certainly un-me. But it was expected"

      Yes Peter, I had to get used to that in India. As it was explained to me, there are lots of people and they all need a job - so let them carry your bag. Reality there is not the same as here!

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    14. Ron Chinchen

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      I think the issue has been somewhat sidetracked by humanitarian and equity concerns, and though I respect the argument and that the points made are valid, we are still left with a population question that MUST be answered otherwise all you have discussed will become irrelevant.

      If we are going to discuss ethics and the rights of people rich and poor, educated and uneducated, resourse rich and lacking in resourses, I would suggest we also consider the other life form species on this planet that…

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  18. Darc' Sapote

    fruit picker, adult entertainer

    could any put forward something a frugivore like humankind needs from grains, something from tubers, from meat, that we can't get from organic fruits? & don't say cholesterol or vitamin-b12, we are animals, not machines, where is alot we produce ourselfs, are own seed ect.

    eat the flesh and spread the seed, go raw vegan, the easiest route is the quickiest route.

    MEAT CANCER VIVOSECTION AUTISM, make the connection..

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