Exploring the Environmental Impact of Raising Animals

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Why raising animals doesn’t have to be bad for the planet…

Veganism and vegetarianism have become incredibly popular in recent years, as more people become conscious of the way their food is being raised and its impact on the planet. However, while it is certainly the case that the large-scale industrial forms of agriculture that have become the norm over the past several decades are indisputably bad for the environment (and likely for human health as well), it does not necessarily follow that raising animals for consumption is the cause of all of this pollution – nor that ceasing to eat meat will solve all (or even most) of the problems created by modern agricultural practices.

The argument against eating meat for environmental reasons is that animals are a relatively inefficient source of protein, as they consume much more energy than they provide as a food source.

However, modern agricultural practices are also highly wasteful and resource-intensive even if they are only used for growing plant foods. So are they really that much better for the planet than sustainably and responsibly raised meat animals?

As this interesting article proposes:

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertiliser, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonising sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.

There is no question that industrial farming practices are destructive and unhealthy for our planet, but the environmental questions surrounding raising animals are much more complex than many of the prevailing arguments today would suggest. In fact, it is quite possible to raise meat animals in a manner that respects both the land, the animal, and the consumer.

There are those that would object that this type of farming, while more sustainable for the planet, is not sustainable given the current population and our appetite for meat, and in fact, this may be true. A possible solution would be to reduce our meat consumption, but when we do consume meat, to choose sources that are responsibly and sustainably raised.

As the article here concludes:

There’s no question we should all be eating far less meat, and calls for an end to high-carbon, polluting, unethical, intensive forms of grain-fed meat production are commendable. But if your concerns as a vegan are the environment, animal welfare and your own health, then it’s no longer possible to pretend that these are all met simply by giving up meat and dairy. Counterintuitive as it may seem, adding the occasional organic, pasture-fed steak to your diet could be the right way to square the circle.

Of course, none of us HAVE to eat meat, and if you choose to forgo it entirely, this is an admirable goal. However, for those who simply can’t stand the thought of giving up our favorite steak dinner forever, eating meat only once in a while – and choosing to eat only responsibly and sustainably raised meats – may be a good compromise.


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