With the United Nations’ 2006 scathing report on animal agriculture, and the recent WorldWatch Magazine article purporting that raising animals for food contributes more than 50% of all greenhouse gases, one would think that the book would be closed on the issue. Unfortunately, we’re not even close to having the last word.
Time Magazine recently posted an error-ridden article entitled “How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet.” The fallacies are too numerous to bother detailing, I have already addressed many of them in the past. But let us always resist the baffling logic that says “if grass-fed beef is better for the earth than grain-fed beef, then it must be helping the environment.” If punching someone hurts less than stabbing them, is it helping them heal?
Worse than the Time Magazine article was a story earlier in the week, from an environmental news site, blindly praising Niman Ranch for its supposed sustainability and animal welfare standards. Considering that the cows are still killed in the end, and that the methane that ALL cows emit far outweighs the environmental impact of the fuels, fertilizers, and feed for the cows, there is really no way a cow could be raised to “high welfare standards” or “sustainably.”
Every grass-fed “miracle” story emphasizes that cows can actually help sequester carbon by helping grass grow. But they conveniently leave out or downplay the fact that grass-fed cows emit significantly more methane than grain-fed cows (not that grain-fed cows don’t contribute to a host of other environmental problems), and methane is about 75 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period. Additionally, these stories all compare raising grass-fed cows to either raising grain-fed cows (omitting the option to just not eat meat at all!), or to growing vast amounts of monocrops for vegetarians (omitting the fact that most monocrops in the US are grown to feed cows!).
Even if raising grass-fed cows is slightly better for the environment than grain-fed cows (and that is debatable), a vegan world is not only possible, but high preferable. It would be more sustainable, would not raise any animals to be killed, and would more easily nourish the entire earth’s population. Why strive for mediocrity when we can work for total compassion?