Bus Tour part 1: Temple Grandin

This week, Naomi and I took a five day bus tour as a part of Beef SD, a program for young cattle producers to learn more about all segments of the cattle industry. Industry seems like a cold term, but the process of turning grass into the beef you might serve for supper tonight is such an amazing process, it takes an amazing amount of management and coordination to complete. This trip included visiting with world-renown livestock handling expert Temple Grandin, enjoying a meal at a white tablecloth restaurant, and tours of several large feedlots, a popular seedstock producer, and a beef packing plant. It is all too much to explain in just one post, so for today I'll just tell you about meeting Temple Grandin.

Dr. Temple Grandin is an animal science professor at Colorado State University. She revolutionized the cattle industry over the past thirty years with her design of livestock handling facilities. Dr. Grandin is autistic, which she explains helps her to visualize what the animal sees and feels when being handled by a human. There is an HBO movie, titled "Temple Grandin", that tells her story fairly accurately. I highly recommend seeing this film. She has an amazing story. Over half of the cattle handling facilities in the US incorporate her designs, which work with the cow's natural instincts to move them calmly where they need to go. We use her designs in several locations on our ranch.

Besides humane cattle handling, Dr. Grandin spoke to our group about the need for ranchers like us to communicate with the average consumer. She pointed out how anti-agriculture groups are very effective using social media to portray what we do in a negative light. She told us us we need to be using the same venues to tell people what we do and what our values are, building trust and a positive image with the general public. I think the average American probably trusts the average farmer or rancher, but we have not done a good job of telling people what we do, or how it has changed since the days of 40 acres, a milk cow, and a few chickens. This blog is part of our attempt to tell our story. Temple Grandin's story is inspirational in that she overcame great odds to change things she saw as needing changed. 

As a rancher, her story is also inspiring because she did so much to improve the well-being of the animals we raise. It might seem strange that we are concerned about an animal that is just going to be meat. However, we share Grandin's opinion that we owe it to the animal to treat it with respect, because it is giving itself for us. If you ever have a question about the cattle industry, whether it involves what we do on the ranch or not, we'd be happy to help you understand better what goes into the beef that might be in your freezer or fridge right now. Just send us an email and we'll do our best to help. We would like to develop a Q & A page on this website and your questions will help us in telling our story. The next post will be about the Culinary Kitchen and CattleFax.

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13 comments on “Bus Tour part 1: Temple Grandin
  1. Paul says:

    Just saw her TED lecture.  Very inspiring.  She's an educator through and through.  Brilliant.

  2. Luke says:

    I agree, her TED lecture was really interesting. She has a lot to say about things other than just about humane treatment of animals.

    For more information about Temple Grandin, you can visit her website or check out her YouTube channel.

  3. Bea Elliott says:

    Hi, I'm very familiar with Ms Grandin's revered killing machines and her philosophy/writings. Sorry, I'm not thoroughly impressed… She resists the principle that all living beings have rights to their own lives. Furthermore, I've never considered the inventor of the hangman's noose, electric chair, or gas chamber worthy of honor or respect.
    http://www.nonhumanslavery.com/an-autistic-man-responds-to-temple-grandin

  4. Luke says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. Sometimes I wonder if anyone besides friends and family stumble upon it.

    You referenced a “…principle that all living beings have rights to their own lives.” Where do you believe that right comes from? In nature, is the lion morally wrong to end the life of a young wildebeest? To me it seems like a similar situation. People eat beef for the same reason that lions eat wildebeests – to fill our nutritional needs.

    Christianity teaches that man is the crown of Creation, and animals were given the OK to use for food and labor. Darwinism says “survival of the fittest.” In both worldviews, man is at the top of the food chain. To me it seems difficult to find moral grounds to say we ought not eat animals.

    I’d like to know your thoughts. I’m not trying to pick a fight, I just would like to understand your perspective better.

  5. Bea Elliott says:

    Hello Luke – Regarding the lion who kills: First, it is absolutely critical that lions consume flesh in order to survive. The same is not biologically so for us. Secondly lions, sharks and alligators – even IF they could survive on plants alone – They don't have the option of going to super-centers to make other selections of food. People do NOT eat cows or pigs or chickens or any other creature "for the same reason" that lions do. And lastly nonhumans are not moral agents. They don't have any ethical codes or moral distinctions that recognize the "value" of life or the potential of suffering. Humans most certainly do.
    There is no nutritional "need" for flesh consumption for humans – If this were the case… I and billions of others, wouldn't be alive. For the record: I take one "supplement" and that is B12 which as you're probably aware of – Isn't a "vitamin" at all – But a bacteria, and I'm quite fit and healthy for 8 years without flesh consumption.
    And there are certainly lots of things that different religions teach… I know there are parts of different bibles that suggest human slavery, war, murder, infanticide, etc. – But as we evolve – enlightened humans have learned to disqualify certain ideas in favor of a new ways of thinking… Surely, you're not going to tell me that you do "everything" a bible suggests do you? So why just pick out permission for "animal use" as the one to cling to?
    It also would help to know which bible or rather which "God" you refer to? Thor? Cronus? Zeus? Shiva? Brahma? Ogdad? Tyr? Inti? Tane? Tengri? Arya? Dushara? Inyan? Odin? Horus? Well… You see there are many beliefs – And it shouldn't surprise you that many people of varying theologies eschew animal flesh for a variety of reasons. So the idea that your beliefs should be the measure and example for everyone is a bit presumptuous – Don't you think?
    I assure you that no matter what your beliefs are… NO ONE will betray their faith if they choose to be kind. 😉
     
    The moral ground is that we should not cause unnecessary pain or suffering when we can avoid it – It's a matter of following the universally understood Golden Rule. 
     
    Finally, I'm not trying to pick a fight either, but I'd like to leave you with one question regarding being "on top of the food chain". If another race came to our planet (or if we encounter another elsewhere) and those beings saw us as inferior – And wanted to harvest our organs and use our bodies – Wouldn't you scream bloody murder? Wouldn't you want someone to defend your "right" to your own life – Even though it was proved to be "lesser" than someone else's? 

  6. Bea Elliott says:

    Hello again – After viewing your hunting photos something else came to mind… And that is that folks who make extraordinary claims (as in the privilege to take life) bear the burden of substantiating it with a reasonable justification. This would be unquestionable evidence. The "right" of might alone doesn't meet that criteria… We don't say that brutes and bullies are ethical simply because they have the power of mob-rule or physical prowess. When it comes to how nonhumans would view us – In true light… We are the bullies.

  7. Luke says:

    Ms. Elliott,

    Thanks for responding to my questions, and challenging me to think about this topic more.  My answers, and a few more questions, are in blue below.

     

    Hello Luke – Regarding the lion who kills: First, it is absolutely critical that lions consume flesh in order to survive. The same is not biologically so for us. Secondly lions, sharks and alligators – even IF they could survive on plants alone – They don't have the option of going to super-centers to make other selections of food. People do NOT eat cows or pigs or chickens or any other creature "for the same reason" that lions do. And lastly nonhumans are not moral agents. They don't have any ethical codes or moral distinctions that recognize the "value" of life or the potential of suffering. Humans most certainly do.

    In your opinion, is it ethical to allow an omnivorous animal other than humans to kill and eat another animal?  For example, allowing a chimp to kill and eat a monkey.  As you stated, the chimp does not need the flesh, as it can be supplemented in other ways.  Although the chimp has no moral compass, we as human observers do.  Another way to ask the question is, where do you believe we draw the line between intervention and allowing nature to take its course?   



    There is no nutritional "need" for flesh consumption for humans – If this were the case… I and billions of others, wouldn't be alive. For the record: I take one "supplement" and that is B12 which as you're probably aware of – Isn't a "vitamin" at all – But a bacteria, and I'm quite fit and healthy for 8 years without flesh consumption.

     

    I do not dispute the ability for a vegan to be healthy. At the same time, would you agree with the idea that humans evolved eating meat?  And possibly, even more meat that what the average person consumes today?  Were meat not a healthy component to the diet, I question whether humans would have survived, since B12 supplements were not available in the Stone Age.

    I do have some questions pertaining to the vegan ideal however.  The first things that come to mind are the impacts on world food supply and the environment.  Many areas do not support the growing of fruits and vegetables, such as the land my family lives on.  It is well suited for ruminant animals though, who are much more efficient at turning grass into protein than I would be at growing my own leafy greens.  By essentially taking millions of acres of land out of food production, we would be impacting the amount of food our fellow man has to survive on.  This is a difficult moral question that would need to be answered.  Pain and suffering would be inflicted on those people who could not grow or could not afford food. 

    The environmental impacts of farming more acres would be negative as well.  Sod is a much healthier ecosystem than any tilled soil.  Water use is much more efficient, nutrients cycle better, erosion is nearly zero.  I am not against farming – I derive a portion of my income from cropping, and I know farming can be done sustainably in the right places with the right knowlege.  I am simply warning of possible consequences of farming in areas not meant to be farmed.

     

    And there are certainly lots of things that different religions teach… I know there are parts of different bibles that suggest human slavery, war, murder, infanticide, etc. – But as we evolve – enlightened humans have learned to disqualify certain ideas in favor of a new ways of thinking…

    If I understand correctly, you believe that "enlightenment", which I take to mean "moral consciousness," is part of the evolutionary process?  If so, what's your take on the lion's predicament, a billion years from now, when he evolves and becomes morally conscious?  Does he stop eating wildebeests?  Moral consciousness does not seem to be an advantage in the evolutionary process.  

    If you are right, and moral consciousness is part of the evolutionary process, perhaps vegans are on the leading edge of said evolution.  The rest of us meat-eaters are not developed enough to see things the same as vegans.  Might as well try to convince the lion.  🙂

    Surely, you're not going to tell me that you do "everything" a bible suggests do you? So why just pick out permission for "animal use" as the one to cling to?

    It also would help to know which bible or rather which "God" you refer to? Thor? Cronus? Zeus? Shiva? Brahma? Ogdad? Tyr? Inti? Tane? Tengri? Arya? Dushara? Inyan? Odin? Horus? Well… You see there are many beliefs – And it shouldn't surprise you that many people of varying theologies eschew animal flesh for a variety of reasons. So the idea that your beliefs should be the measure and example for everyone is a bit presumptuous – Don't you think?

    I assure you that no matter what your beliefs are… NO ONE will betray their faith if they choose to be kind. ;)

     

     

    I was using religion and science to make a point.  The point I was making about religion was that I don't find reason in the teachings of Christianity to stop eating meat.  I guess I didn't really say exactly what I believe, but since you asked, yes I am a Christian.  No, I don't do everything the Bible says.  I don't mean to debate religion in this conversation, but I'll just make a couple quick comments.  Understanding what is meant by a given passage of the Bible, or any religious text, requires understanding of the context in which it was written.  Just like when you were a kid, you were told not to accept a ride from a stranger…as an adult, you not only accept the ride, you pay him for it – and we call it a taxi.  Context is critical.  So, you are right, I don't do everything the Bible says.  I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, recorded in the New Testament, and since I'm less than perfect I often get it wrong.  Eating meat, as I understand the Bible, is not wrong.  I can't speak for other religions. 

    I do not expect others who don't share my faith to do as I do.  That's for them to decide.  Just as I do not think you are wrong for not eating meat.  To me it is an amoral issue – neither right nor wrong.  So I would agree that giving up meat does not conflict with Christianity.  Again, I don't know enough about other religions to say for sure, but I suspect you are right about them as well.

    So the idea that your beliefs should be the measure and example for everyone is a bit presumptuous – Don't you think?

    You are right, that would be presumptuous of me.  Sort of like when a vegan tells me its immoral to eat meat, not?  We all need to realize how pointless it is to expect others to do what we see as right when we aren’t even singing the same song, much less on the same page.  Agreed?  

     

    The moral ground is that we should not cause unnecessary pain or suffering when we can avoid it – It's a matter of following the universally understood Golden Rule. 

     

     

    The golden rule as I know it is to do to others as you would have them do to you, which seems to imply a capacity of the other being to be able to understand and reciprocate my actions (not that it is required to reciprocate – just to possess the capacity to).  That is distinctly different than your version.  I do not and cannot have a reciprocal relationship with an animal, because as you said, they have no moral component to their thought process.  It doesn’t matter how nice I am to a crocodile, he lacks the capacity to comprehend my actions.  Animals respond by instinct, not reason.  The golden rule, in my opinion, was meant for human relationships only.  It seems illogical to apply the same principle to relationships with other species incapable of understanding. 

     

    Finally, I'm not trying to pick a fight either, but I'd like to leave you with one question regarding being "on top of the food chain". If another race came to our planet (or if we encounter another elsewhere) and those beings saw us as inferior – And wanted to harvest our organs and use our bodies – Wouldn't you scream bloody murder? Wouldn't you want someone to defend your "right" to your own life – Even though it was proved to be "lesser" than someone else's? 

     

     

    This is an emotional argument you are making, not a rational one, not an evolutionary one.  It would seem to me that a true Darwinist would not see the aliens actions as anything other than evolution in progress.  Expecting anything other than that appears to lean towards the human exceptionalism that you seem to disagree with.   

    The same argument you make could be made for the wildebeest.  Who says the lion is more important than the wildebeest, or that the lion has the “right” to take the wildebeests life?  Isn’t the wildebeest screaming bloody murder as the lion tears it apart?  Using your argument, the lion's need for sustenance does not supercede the wildebeest's right to life, and thus it is immoral for us to stand by as the wildebeest gets torn apart in agony – which is a much more painful death than your average beef cow undergoes.  

    Consider the following.  The lion makes the wildebeest stronger – faster, better vision, keener instincts, removing the weak from the gene pool.  He accomplishes this by eating them.  Is it possible to look at man the same way?  We weed out the weak through the genetic selection of domestic animals, and we propagate the strong and well-adapted.  (I understand the concern about what they are adapted for – let's leave that argument for another time, as we are focused here on the idea of eating meat of any kind).  And we happen to eat them as well.  One difference between myself and the lion is that he has no concern for the well being of the wildebeest.  However, I work very hard in providing for the animals under my supervision.   I do feel a moral obligation to treat animals with respect.  I owe it to them to give them a good life in return for what they give me in their death.  And yes, it is financially advantageous as well.  That in itself, however, is not enough reason to provide proper care of livestock.  

    I also wonder about house pets. Do vegans object to them?  I assume not, since I’ve heard of vegan pet food.  Following the vegan ethos, Is it moral to breed animals simply for human companionship?  I am not aware of any other species who demonstrates the need (or desire) to have the companionship of another species only for emotional or entertainment purposes.  If one has a cat, and it needs flesh just as the lion does, whose flesh do we feed to it?  If it doesn't need flesh, does the lion? Should we be feeding the lions vegan pet food?  Forgive me if these sound like silly questions, but I struggle to find a logical alternative to this line of thought.  To me, it would seem better to raise a healthy animal in its natural environment, kill it, and eat it, sustaining life, than it would to keep a cat or dog cooped up in a house and spend just a fraction of its life outdoors – and then, only on a leash – its sole purpose to provide entertainment for the human.  I’m not really arguing against having pets.  I’m just trying to point out what I see as inconsistencies in the vegan argument. 

    Also, please describe to me the vegan's plan for what to do with the domesticated livestock on earth, should everyone stop eating meat.

     

    Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

  8. Bea Elliott says:

     

    Hello Luke – Sorry for the delay in a reply but I wanted to make sure to give my full attention to the comments and questions you left…
     
    Regarding "lines" on who can or can't kill without moral condemnation – I think those lines are the same as where/who we should or shouldn't ascribe "rights" to – And because those lines are in constant flux according to circumstances and according to what new knowledge we gain – We should drawn those lines in pencil – And when in doubt always error on the side of generosity.
     
    The chimps that you cite as "monkey killers" has (as Jane Goodall has recorded) gone to "war" only once in all her years of study. The chimps "meat" diet amounts to about 3% of their flesh intake and it is mainly of termites during their breeding cycle.
     
    What nonhumans do or don't do should not be a basis for our ethical code. It's not a matter of "allowing" nonhumans to eat or not eat others – Those instances just don't apply to us as we don't act on instinct or in a "group" survival mechanism. And for now, I'll leave the lions to act in the only way they know how or can and must act — They can't live without flesh. We can. And even *IF* we were to model ourselves after nonhumans – Since 90% of nonhumans operate under cooperative and pro-social (peaceful) ways why would we choose to adopt the activities of the 10% of predatory ones? Here's an interesting interview with cognitive ethologist Professor Marc Bekoff who can probably explain much better than I: http://human-nonhuman.blogspot.com/2012/08/podcast-24-in-conversation-with.html?spref=tw
     
    In reference to "b12 supplements" – B12 isn't a vitamin it's a bacteria. People who live on a primarily plant based diet (in India for example) get b12 from foods derived from the ground. Insects, small mammals, etc. deposit waste in the dirt and on the plants… Up until we were saturating our crops with inconceivable amounts of factory farm manure and had to irradiate/sanitize our vegetables to remove possible e-coli hazards – We didn't need "b12 supplements". Furthermore… I have omnivore acquaintances that get b12 shots every three months. So the point of b12 being a need primarily for vegans isn't even true.
     
    Your points about sustainability have all been taken up by Dr. Richard Oppenlander author of Comfortably Unaware: 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoqHmd32XxI&feature=plcp
     
    Furthermore, there are highly drought resilient crops and foods that do grow on otherwise "useless" land: extremely nutrient dense quinoa and amaranth are two… And there's kale as well for cooler planting. Not to leave out one of the most abundantly productive foods derived from hardy moringa trees grown in warmer climates… I see lots of cows here in Florida where there could be these life sustaining "miracle" trees instead. And too – Since you are claiming that we should  extract the most resources from the land at minimum output – No one can doubt the many food, fiber and fuel products to be gotten from industrial hemp – Yet… It's an illegal crop. Go figure.
     
    On to religious or rather spiritual matters… I fail to understand how you can think killing innocent life is "amoral". I suppose here I should ask you where you "draw a line". If it's a matter of intelligence – Some humans will never advance beyond an 18 month old child… Yet pigs have a higher mental capacity than a 3.5 month old – So surely "intelligence" isn't your criteria.
     
    Is it blood cell count because human dna is different? What happens to your standards if/when chimera science creates 51% human and 49% ape, or porcine? Will you continue to split hairs for the 1% lacking? Beyond a mind-set of species-restricted-compassion, it is said that kindness is most appropriately given to those who needed it most. True help to victims doesn't occur when points of their "worthiness" is checked against a list of certain exclusion.  In other words true compassion responds to all who would benefit from the offering of it. 
     
    Finally on this point – Don't you see that it takes a huge leap of faith to think that some all-powerful, all-loving deity would deliberately put animals here to use as "food" yet not at least remove their ability to suffer or feel pain? Forgive me for saying… But that "plan" seems more diabolical than holy. An utter betrayal to the notion that everything that God made is "good". 
     
    The golden rule as I know it is the same as a commandment that states "Thy shall not kill" — Any footnotes, disclaimers or "small print" was written in by men with an agenda to do otherwise. If it's not required for kindness to be reciprocated then what's the problem? Aren't the most generous acts done anonymously anyway? Isn't it better to give than receive? You see… These are all values we're taught yet seem to cleverly manipulate to suit our own benefit.
     
    And I'm sure you see yourself as a good person – And that you think you "treat animals with respect" for what they "give" you in their "death".
    A few mentions here and I hate to be so fussy about language – But since words are our main tool to communicate I have to revert to the exact meaning of the words you use. "Respect": 1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem. 2. To avoid violation of or interference with. So "respect" is clearly used in the wrong context.
     
    And nonhumans don't "give" you their lives… Give implies voluntary exchange. 1.to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; 2. bestow. Surely you don't think that cows, pigs or chickens or any other living being "gives" you their existence to exterminate – Do you?
     
    About "their death". Yes, I realize all living beings face an eventual death. But death is met by many circumstances – In the case of "livestock" their death is *caused* by killing. Sure, they're still "dead" but it wasn't their death that you feed from — It's their killing.
     
    So you see how in many ways even your language is skewed to make things appear as you want them to. I suggest that the whole notion of "humane" slaughter does exactly that as well which is why I'm totally opposed to Ms. Grandin's misdirected and misleading practices. "Humane" slaughter is a myth!
     
    Concerning pets – I don't know of any vegans who approve of deliberately "breeding" others for monetary or personal gain. The caring individuals I know have companion animals through rescues… The obvious result of mindless "domestication" and commodification done through neglect and/or breeding.
     
    What are they fed? My dogs eat what I eat… I don't buy any "special" vegan food for them They are quite healthy on rice, beans, carrots, oatmeal, quinoa, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, plant-based milks, etc., etc.
     
    "Should we be feeding the lions vegan pet food?" I don't know why lions would be in captivity in the first place and again — I'm not concerned with what lions do or don't eat.
     
    To me, it would seem better to raise a healthy animal in its natural environment, kill it, and eat it,sustaining life, than it would to keep a cat or dog cooped up in a house and spend just a fraction of its life outdoors – and then, only on a leash – its sole purpose to provide entertainment for the human.  
     
    I'm totally opposed to "breeding". I assure you that no thoughtful vegan is "making" cats or dogs to have to find homes for. We are dealt a certain hand and most try to do the very best they can for their rescues allowing a lot more time than being "cooped up" in a house. Most people I know go through great lengths to insure that the nonhumans in their homes have adequate outdoor time…
     
    And again, I must kindly object to your terminology to *kill "it" and eat "it". The beings you speak of aren't shoes, t.v.'s or iphones… They aren't "its" or things… Should I call my neighbor's child an "it" if  I don't know his or her sex?
     
    Also, please describe to me the vegan's plan for what to do with the domesticated livestock on earth, should everyone stop eating meat.
     
    The world will not go to a plant based diet "overnight" – It will be a slow process of incremental change – "Producers" will simply reduce the amount of nonhumans they breed as we can see happening already in regards to "livestock" for U.S. consumption. Demand will decline and so will supply. Necessity is also the mother of invention and we surely may be forced to a rapid plan of reducing "livestock" in the near 2050 future: 
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/aug/26/food-shortages-world-vegetarianism?cat=global-development&type=article
     
     
    For those ranchers seeking alternative ways to earn a living a former farmer named Harold Brown has started an organization called Farm Kind:
    http://www.farmkind.org/ Or someone could model their non-farming future into being another type of advocate such as Howard (mad cow-boy) Lyman has: http://www.humanemyth.org/howardlyman.htm
     
    In any case my main point still remains that it is not essential to consume flesh for health… And that it is therefore unnecessary to take the lives of beings who would rather live… It doesn't matter how "nicely" any of the killing is done – Only people who stand to benefit from these practices could possibly see the choice as an ethical or amoral one. It really isn't a matter of whose "better" or not – For all intensive purposes we're the same in the ways that truly matter… We all wish to live without being harmed. We all desire a peaceable kingdom:
    http://www.peaceablekingdomfilm.org/home.htm

  9. Bea Elliott says:

    Hello – Just for clarity… I have no issue with people who eat meat. It's the killing I'm opposed to. In other words if someone desired to consume accidentally killed beings or those who died of natural causes – I'd have no issue with that. I am opposed to deliberate, intentional killing… Not necessarily the eating of flesh. 
    Although I do have to preface that for myself I really don't consider flesh "food" at all… All my nutritional needs are met through plant based sources. I don't feel that I'm lacking any satisfaction from the taste of my meals or any critically important health requirements. 
    So to sum up – I don't think it's "wrong" to eat meat… Just inhumanely excessive considering that there is no biological necessity to do so.

  10. Luke says:

    Ms. Elliot,

    Thanks once again for your reply. You continue to challenge my thinking and stimulate some great topics of discussion. My answers are in bold.

    Since 90% of nonhumans operate under cooperative and pro-social (peaceful) ways why would we choose to adopt the activities of the 10% of predatory ones?

    Why would it matter? Are the 90% “better” than the 10%? I think we’ve established that one is not better than the other, it’s just nature’s way. Has man not been predatory in his evolution? Do you believe moral consciousness ought to change the course that evolution has taken us down?

    Your points about sustainability have all been taken up by Dr. Richard Oppenlander author of Comfortably Unaware:

    Dr. Oppenlander seems to be the one “comfortably unaware” of many things. His “data” on beef production versus kale production is laughable, not to mention his perception that forest is “better” than rangeland in terms of ecological health. There were numerous problems with his “facts” but I’ll just highlight a few.

    He stated that keeping a cow on an acre of land requires 20,000-30,000 gallons of water, or “in most cases, 1-2 million gallons…” This summer, which has been rather hot and dry, our cows drank 24 gallons per pair (cow with calf) based on the August water bill. That’s in the heat of the summer, their peak water consumption for the year. But let’s say they drink that year around, just to be safe. That’s 8760 gallons annually. The rest of the water they “use” is rain water – which comes through the grass and goes to support the rest of the flora and fauna on the landscape. To think that the rain water could be used for something else is just plain silly – if the cows weren’t there, the water would still be “used” by the rest of nature. One million gallons of water is the equivalent of 36 inches of rain on one acre. How exactly the cow “uses” all that water is beyond me.

    Dr. Oppenlander’s opinion that the photo of the pasture with cows is a picture of the “depletion of land, air, food, water…” could not be further from the truth, especially when compared to his kale patch. Properly managed grassland is many times better at protecting the soil than cultivated land. Even poorly managed pasture is better than tilled fields. This video shows the results of a simulated 2-inch rainfall on several types of soil conditions. How much rain does his kale need? How much of that rainfall is effective (gets to the root zone)? How much runs off, taking precious topsoil with it? How much evaporates due to the bare ground between the rows? It does not take a soil scientist to understand what’s going on. Dr. Oppenlander also touts the 15,000 lbs of nutrient-dense kale his acre would produce, yet does not mention that by removing those nutrients, the land is essentially being mined. They must be replaced, or else the production suffers in subsequent crops. Oregon State University (which receives 37 inches of rain annually) recommends the following fertility program for kale (at 4000 lb leaf per acre, not 15,000):

    Nitrogen: 60-100 (N) lb/acre (1/2 at planting and 1/2 at thinning)
    Phosphorus: 80-120 (P205) lb/acre
    Potassium: 60-120 (K20) lb/acre
    Sulfur: 30-50 (S) lb/acre
    Boron: 0-4 (B) lb/acre
    Magnesium: As indicated by soil test (may need 60-120 lbs MgO per acre)
    Copper, boron, and zinc – as indicated by soil test.

    10-34-0 fertilizer (which is 34% phosphorus) costs $605/ton, or 88.9 cents per pound of phosphorus. That’s $71-106 per acre in phosphorus alone (remember, thats only 4000 lb of production, not 15,000 as Dr. Oppenlander stated). However, I am sure he’s not a proponent of commercial fertilizers, and I can’t imagine that organic fertilizers are going to be any cheaper per unit of nutrient than synthetic ones. Most likely they will be more expensive. Grazing animals is what our grasslands evolved with. They are sustainable without any fertilizer. In fact, there are many progressive graizers who have improved production simply by proper grazing practices – no fertilizer whatsoever.

    Growing a monoculture of kale is just that – a monoculture. Show me in nature where monocultures occur by themselves. I am not against farming, because it is necessary for people to eat – wild berries probably won’t feed 10 billion people. But it needs to be done thoughtfully and strategically, and only as needed. Dr. Oppenlander references wildlife – there are many times more wildlife on that acre of grass than his acre of kale. He’s a hypocrite to displace wildlife habitat for a monoculture of his preferred food, and then say he’s more sustainable and environmentally conscious. Wildlife not only exist, but thrive on properly managed grasslands, right along with livestock.

    Dr. Oppenlander, who according to what I could find online is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (not a biologist), neglected to mention what else can be used from a beef cow besides the meat. The hide is pretty obvious, no explaination needed there. Other cultures use different organs in their cuisine. Glue made from cow’s blood is widely used to make plywood. The cow’s nasal septum is processed into chondroitin sulfate, an alternative medical treatment for arthritis. Extracted protein from horns and hooves goes into foam for fire extinguishers. The root gland of the tongue yields pregastric lipase, which is used in cheese production as a curdling agent. Tissue from the small intestines becomes catgut for racket strings or surgical sutures. The truth is, very little if any of the beef animal is just thrown away. Even if the animal only yielded 400 lbs of meat (which would be a small finished animal by most standards) the rest of him/her would be put to good use as well.

    All this to say, by no stretch of the imagination is growing kale (or any vegetable crop) more sustainable than grazing animals for food. In fact, I’d say it is less sustainable. I am not against growing kale – I know it is a healthy, nutrient-dense food source. I take no issue with its’ health benefits. I would be happy to answer any further questions about this topic with well-referenced information, something Dr. Oppenlander did not offer. Ms. Elliot, you are obviously and intelligent and thoughtful person, not flippant with your statements. You do yourself a disservice by referencing that man as an expert on sustainability.

    Furthermore, there are highly drought resilient crops and foods that do grow on otherwise “useless” land: extremely nutrient dense quinoa and amaranth are two… And there’s kale as well for cooler planting. Not to leave out one of the most abundantly productive foods derived from hardy moringa trees grown in warmer climates… I see lots of cows here in Florida where there could be these life sustaining “miracle” trees instead. And too – Since you are claiming that we should extract the most resources from the land at minimum output – No one can doubt the many food, fiber and fuel products to be gotten from industrial hemp – Yet… It’s an illegal crop. Go figure.

    Those other crops grow under the same biological mechanisms as kale…and by harvesting them, their nutrients need to be replaced as well. Sun and rain are the only free things. Good point about hemp. I would tend to agree with you, it certainly has benefits that are overshadowed by society’s misconceptions. I’d vote to legalize it for industrial purposes.

    On to religious or rather spiritual matters… I fail to understand how you can think killing innocent life is “amoral”. I suppose here I should ask you where you “draw a line”. If it’s a matter of intelligence – Some humans will never advance beyond an 18 month old child… Yet pigs have a higher mental capacity than a 3.5 month old – So surely “intelligence” isn’t your criteria.

    Is it blood cell count because human dna is different? What happens to your standards if/when chimera science creates 51% human and 49% ape, or porcine? Will you continue to split hairs for the 1% lacking? Beyond a mind-set of species-restricted-compassion, it is said that kindness is most appropriately given to those who needed it most. True help to victims doesn’t occur when points of their “worthiness” is checked against a list of certain exclusion. In other words true compassion responds to all who would benefit from the offering of it.

    I believe, as most Christians, that humans were created in the image of God, that we are different from the rest of Creation. Intelligence doesn’t have anything to do with it. The question about part-human-part-nonhuman is interesting. I’ll have to think on that. It would seem though, through the lens of my faith, to be something God wouldn’t be a big fan of. But your idea of true compassion – why does it not apply to the wildebeest taken down by the lion? I don’t understand how the pain the wildebeest feels, despite the lion’s need for flesh, does not call for compassion based on how you define it? At least we ought to be euthanizing the wildebeests so they don’t feel pain, right? I understand you aren’t concerned about the lion’s actions, but what about it’s prey’s pain?

    Finally on this point – Don’t you see that it takes a huge leap of faith to think that some all-powerful, all-loving deity would deliberately put animals here to use as “food” yet not at least remove their ability to suffer or feel pain? Forgive me for saying… But that “plan” seems more diabolical than holy. An utter betrayal to the notion that everything that God made is “good”.

    Ah yes, the “if God is good why does evil exist” question, rephrased. There are most certainly others who can answer your question better than I. I guess I would ask, how would we know the light if there was no dark? I believe we were created with free will – we can choose to believe, which requires faith, or not to believe. Giving us a choice seems better than not, would you agree? I believe that at times, God allows pain in our lives to get our attention, to turn our attention back towards Him (who is Good, defined), much as a child is disciplined by his or her parents when they do wrong. As far as pain and suffering for animals, that’s another interesting question. My first thought is that pain is essential to survival – if it didn’t hurt when you cut your finger, you would not be afraid to do it again. Cactus and porcupines rely on pain for survival – not their pain, but the pain of other animals when attacked. Pain is just part of the design, and a rather important one I think. And yet, I do not understand everything about God or his character, and if I did, that would make him a pretty small god – which I don’t believe He is at all. I do not care to turn this conversation into a debate about religion, because it would get us nowhere. Men have been arguing about it for centuries. We’re not going to solve anything here in that regard. I can only tell you about my experience.

    The golden rule as I know it is the same as a commandment that states “Thy shall not kill” — Any footnotes, disclaimers or “small print” was written in by men with an agenda to do otherwise. If it’s not required for kindness to be reciprocated then what’s the problem? Aren’t the most generous acts done anonymously anyway? Isn’t it better to give than receive? You see… These are all values we’re taught yet seem to cleverly manipulate to suit our own benefit.

    I don’t really follow you here…the Golden Rule is not the same as the sixth Commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” which I believe you are referencing. Again, context is important. The eight Commandment is “Thou shalt not steal,” so maybe we should not steal other animal’s homes (trees) or food (plants) or air. That doesn’t make any sense. The rest of the Ten Commandments all speak to how the Israelites were to interact with God or each other. None of them are about how to treat animals. Truthfully, if man is no different than the animals, then the Bible makes no sense. That is a matter of faith, not science or morality. I don’t expect you to have the same ideas about who mankind is in relation to the rest of nature if we don’t agree on who God is, or that He is at all. Either way, trying to use the Bible to condemn eating meat would be a stretch. “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t enough. Do you know of someone in the Bible that God punished for killing an animal?

    And I’m sure you see yourself as a good person – And that you think you “treat animals with respect” for what they “give” you in their “death”.
    A few mentions here and I hate to be so fussy about language – But since words are our main tool to communicate I have to revert to the exact meaning of the words you use. “Respect”: 1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem. 2. To avoid violation of or interference with. So “respect” is clearly used in the wrong context.

    My apologies for using improper vocabulary. Here’s my revision, although it doesn’t really change what the point was.
    One difference between myself and the lion is that he has no concern for the well being of the wildebeest. However, I work very hard in providing for the animals under my supervision. I do feel a moral obligation to make their lives as healthy and comfortable as I can reasonably. I owe it to them to give them a good life in return for what I receive (to take into one’s possession) in their death, which I am responsible for.

    “Should we be feeding the lions vegan pet food?” I don’t know why lions would be in captivity in the first place and again — I’m not concerned with what lions do or don’t eat.

    I meant feeding wild lions, to alleviate the pain and suffering imposed on their prey. I’m not concerned about the lions either, its their prey that would appreciate our compassion as you define it.

    And again, I must kindly object to your terminology to *kill “it” and eat “it”. The beings you speak of aren’t shoes, t.v.’s or iphones… They aren’t “its” or things… Should I call my neighbor’s child an “it” if I don’t know his or her sex?

    I apologize for that as well. As I try to see things from your perspective, it occurs to me that you carry a heavy burden. It’s the same burden a pro-life person carries for the unborn who are aborted. That is a heartbreaking feeling, and I do not mean to offend you by my choice of words.

    The world will not go to a plant based diet “overnight” – It will be a slow process of incremental change – “Producers” will simply reduce the amount of nonhumans they breed as we can see happening already in regards to “livestock” for U.S. consumption. Demand will decline and so will supply. Necessity is also the mother of invention and we surely may be forced to a rapid plan of reducing “livestock” in the near 2050 future:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/aug/26/food-shortages-world-vegetarianism?cat=global-development&type=article

    If they are using the same references as Dr. Oppenlander, then they are just as delusional.

    Thank you again for your contribution to this discussion.

  11. Bea Elliott says:

     
    Hello – –
    Regarding whether we should or shouldn't emulate other species… You were the one who brought up the wild predators in defense our actions. I'd just as soon leave out what nonhumans do because we have the ability to reason.
     
    Regarding water use in growing cows… We're just not talking about what the animal consumes in his or her life time – But the processing of the carcass as well. Even by admission of the AMI it takes 481 gallons for each pound of "beef". Please go to the National Geographic site to see how water intensive "meat" production is… And water use in leather is quite high as well: 
    http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/embedded-water/
     
    In comparison – kale, potato's, rice, soy and nearly every other plant based food requires just a fraction of water to grow. Furthermore, most of these foods do not need to be keep frozen during transport or while waiting to be consumed. I can buy a few pounds of beans and aside from cooking them – That's the total energy expended. Meat on the other hand is extremely energy intensive. It takes an enormous amount of industrial power sources to turn a living steer into an edible product. That then in turn must be kept extremely cold for weeks/months — And then when it finally reaches a consumer — It must be cooked at extremely high heat. At every turn it is less efficient than eating grains, fruits, and vegetables.
     
    As far as displacing wildlife – Please research how many thousands of animals are disposed of for the sake of livestock: http://www.publiclandsranching.org/htmlres/fs_cows_v_wildlife.htm
     
    "A branch of the federal Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services, has long specialized in killing animals that are deemed a threat to agriculture, the public and – more recently – the environment.
    Since 2000, its employees have killed nearly a million coyotes, mostly in the West. They have destroyed millions of birds, from nonnative starlings to migratory shorebirds, along with a colorful menagerie of more than 300 other species, including black bears, beavers, porcupines, river otters, mountain lions and wolves."
    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/28/4450678/the-killing-agency-wildlife-services.html#storylink=cpy
     
    And as far as the plethora of other uses for cow's carcasses – There's not a thing on that list that can't be substituted with equally fine products. I know. As a vegan I can assure you I do very well in avoiding purchasing these things… Frankly the idea of using slaughterhouse waste as a lip gloss is revolting. (sorry).
     
    You asked "But your idea of true compassion – why does it not apply to the wildebeest taken down by the lion? I don’t understand how the pain the wildebeest feels, despite the lion’s need for flesh, does not call for 
    compassion based on how you define it? At least we ought to be euthanizing the wildebeests so they don’t feel pain, right? I understand you aren’t concerned about the lion’s actions, but what about it’s prey’s pain?" It's not that I don't feel empathy for the wildebeest. Would I ever deliberately place a wildebeest in the path of danger? Of course not! But the lion MUST consume flesh in order to live. And he will take the weakest or oldest of the herd… He will do so without any other choice. If I were to make that choice on behalf of the wildebeest – The lion would starve… I am first, not able to control such things and secondly I'd just be trading one tragedy for another. Best to let nature do as it will. While we humans can direct our course – As "Gods" I suppose… We can order and manage the world to reflect what we see as justice. In essence we are all gods of our own world – The question is – Do we want to be a god who causes the least amount of suffering? Or who capitalizes on the most vulnerable?
     
    I truly wanted to avoid getting into religious ideology – But it seems it always comes to that when discussing "permission" to use another species. You said "I believe we were created with free will – we can choose to believe, which requires faith, or not to believe. Giving us a choice seems better than not, would you agree? I believe that at times, God allows pain in our lives to get our attention, to turn our attention back towards Him (who is Good, defined), much as a child is disciplined by his or her parents when they do wrong. As far as pain and suffering for animals, that’s another interesting question. My first thought is that pain is essential to survival – if it didn’t hurt when you cut your finger, you would not be afraid to do it again. Cactus and porcupines rely on pain for survival – not their pain, but the pain of other animals when attacked. Pain is just part of the design, and a rather important one I think. And yet, I do not understand everything about God or his character, and if I did, that would make him a pretty small god – which I don’t believe He is at all. I do not care to turn this conversation into a debate about religion, because it would get us nowhere. Men have been arguing about it 
    for centuries. We’re not going to solve anything here in that regard. I can only tell you about my experience."
     
    But you base your entire justification in killing animals on the premise that you're allowed to… That animals were "put here" for consumption. I'm just wondering what kind of god would prefer his creation to kill his other feeling creatures over killing non-feeling vegetation?  But of course rather than think this through – It's much easier to have faith that "he" knows what's best and "his" reasoning is far too "divine" for humans to question:
     
    I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. ~~~Susan B. Anthony
     
    Yes, you're correct that the "Thou shalt not kill" commandment isn't first: I am God. Or second: Don't make any copies of me. Or third: Don't use my name except in worship. Or fourth:Remember to worship me. Many say he's a very self absorbed, jealous god to make so many rules about remaining so popular and adored.
     
    Anyway… I forget those others because they do seem rather redundant. If one truly believes in a God – The first 4 commandments are extraneous. If not… They're pointless. But the matter seems to be the rules set forth to establish a civilized culture. From #6 on – I totally understand their significance even within a nontheists point of view. And I could even go further to say that one commandment could possibly cover all the other rules: Thy shalt not steal. For stealing is taking something that is not yours. Adultery, envy and greed would be taking what one didn't have rights to. Bearing false witness – Or lying – Is stealing truth from reality… Again it's theft. And finally – The biggest no-no of them all: Killing – Is stealing someone else's life. I believe this is true regardless of the species. In the most reverent sense of my respect to the potential of man – I believe it's the highest of "sins" to steal the lives of others.
     
    You asked "Do you know of someone in the Bible that God punished for killing an animal?" There are approximately 4,200 religions currently existing on Earth. To say that not one of "their" bibles has a god that disproved of animal killing would be like saying we were the only planet in the universe that supported life. You don't believe that – Do you?
     
    I can say this – That everything anyone one believe about any deity was recorded by man. Man is vulnerable and subject to error whether deliberately or not. I could argue that the Christ Man was said to be an Essene and traveled with the Desert Fathers, who lived on flat cakes, seeds, figs and all the abundance of a plant based diet.  I could remind you that some faiths believe the Christ Man never ate "lamb" at the Last Supper – For many Christian bibles never say he did.  I could say that the Christ Man took 3 fish (which were already dead) to feed the multitude at Galilee.  Some say it was 3 loaves of bread — But either was done to show he had arisen as mortal, not "gOd".  
     
    Some say the Christ Man was so enraged at the butchery of animals at the Holy Temple – because he was a man who lived in kindness and nonviolence… And that he could not bear the brutal slaughter of the innocent. A few versions of "truth" makes one wonder which might be most consistent… (?)
     
    And as an historical note – It's not too absurd to think of the economics which have always worked as they do today.  "Favors" were granted to then too… Perhaps shepherds with "excess" commodity required sales — It's not difficult to surmise that "high priests" who served "kings" gave "mandates" from a deity to kill/sacrifice a certain type of animal… This has always kept the coffers filled and land owners rich. Even to this day we can see many laws that bend toward the interest of the livestock holders. The first meaning for "cattle" or "chattel" is "war" — Meat moves armies. You figure out the rest….
     
    Now mind you… These are just suppositions – I have no more proof that a peaceful prophet abhorred *all* killing than you have proof that a gentle soul didn't mind killing the weakest ones… Of further note: The original meaning of soul was meant to include "everything that breathes" – The Hebrew words for this expression are nephesh chay. The term chay is derived from chayah, a root word meaning “to live.” How convenient that during a translation the world was twisted to pertain only to human life. (?)
     
    So while I can't say with 100% certainty that "The" God rejects those who would do violence against his other creations – I can take a guess that *if* a good God existed – He'd not approve of thinking, free willed man to inflict harm on the weakest beings… A not-so-good god (a demon) would have planned it that way.
     
    Perhaps this is one of man's greatest challenges to overcome before we can finally have a peaceable kingdom? That is the goal right? For the lion to lie with the lamb? Isn't every action we take toward that end the right one?
     
    There are many scholars who also question the idea of animal killing within the realm of religious beliefs:
    Norm Phelps has written a few books regarding where nonhumans fit: http://www.amazon.com/Norm-Phelps/e/B001JP8P8O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
     
    And there's Rev.Dr.Andrew Linzey an Anglican priest, theologian, author, and prominent figure in the Christian vegetarian movement.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqAEdImk9nU He's also the director at the Oxford Center for Critical Animal Studies: http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/who-we-are/director/
     
    You also said "Truthfully, if man is no different than the animals, then the Bible makes no sense." Truthfully it would only make sense if it were written by man with an agenda to commodify living beings. It would only make sense to justify making women subservient (or evil) as in the case of Eve the first to sin. It would only make sense to be written in a way to make human males the ones whose image is closest to a male god. The bible only makes sense when you see it for all the possibilities and the edicts that it was intended to manipulate. Then… The god-inspired wars, the slavery, the incest, the sacrifices – All makes perfect sense.
     
    But as I said… I'm not theologically inclined. I don't operate on faith to establish my ethical course. I realize I'm taking chances following my own moral codes… But I'm hoping that perusing a life based in fairness and compassion would be an acceptable existence – Regardless of any god (or not) that represents justice as the highest Truth.
     
    And at the very least the thoughts that Matthew Scully expounded upon in his book Dominion – The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy implies that since nonhumans might-not/don't have a soul… And that this is the only world they will ever know – It makes it all the more imperative that we not make it the shortest or most miserable one as possible – But the longest and most gentle. I don't know how knives and throat slitting would fit into that scenario. (?) And after all – We have eternity – Right?
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  12. Luke says:

    Ms. Elliott,

    My reply is in the bold type below. Thanks.

    Hello – –
    Regarding whether we should or shouldn’t emulate other species… You were the one who brought up the wild predators in defense our actions. I’d just as soon leave out what nonhumans do because we have the ability to reason.

    From a non-theists point of view, does our ability to reason exempt us from the laws of nature? It would seem to me that we are just as much a part of the “circle of life” as non-humans. I keep bringing up nonhumans because if we are a product of evolution just as predators are, it seems odd that we must play by different rules. They seem to be able to be able to keep nature in balance while killing other animals for food, demonstrating sustainability; I believe humans are able to do the same. In your opinion, if Dr. O is wrong about the sustainability of meat production, would it change the morality of raising livestock to eat? In other words, if it could be demonstrated that raising livestock is equally as sustainable (just as the lion eating wildebeests) as growing vegetables, would that make it OK?
     
    Regarding water use in growing cows… We’re just not talking about what the animal consumes in his or her life time – But the processing of the carcass as well. Even by admission of the AMI it takes 481 gallons for each pound of “beef”. Please go to the National Geographic site to see how water intensive “meat” production is… And water use in leather is quite high as well: 
    http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/embedded-water/
     
    I went to the NatGeo site you linked to. I followed their link they used to reference their data.  Here it is.  Below the table on the page reads the following paragraph:
     
    “Global animal production requires about 2422 Gm3 of water per year (87.2% green, 6.2% blue, 6.6% grey water). One third of this volume is for the beef cattle sector; another 19% for the dairy cattle sector. Most of the total volume of water (98%) refers to the water footprint of the feed for the animals. Drinking water for the animals, service water and feed mixing water account only for 1.1%, 0.8% and 0.03%, respectively (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010).”

    Processing accounts for a very small percentage of water usage in beef production. You may find this peer-reviewed study interesting regarding water use in beef production. I was surprised to find how much irrigation water goes towards pasture. In our part of the world, there is very little irrigation, and none is for pasture. In the big picture, I’m not sure that it matters though. The thing about the water use issue that gets left out is the water cycle. It doesn’t matter if it is irrigation or rainfall, grasslands are more efficient with water than crop land, as demonstrated by the rainfall simulator video I linked to earlier. Less water runs down the creek (into the ocean eventually), more gets into the soil and recharges below-ground water reserves. If the argument is about wildlife, I don’t think it’s debatable which is more beneficial to wildlife, an acre of grassland or an acre of [name your vegetable or grain].
     
    In comparison – kale, potato’s, rice, soy and nearly every other plant based food requires just a fraction of water to grow.

    Comparing a pound of kale to a pound of beef is apples and oranges. If all you look at is pounds of food for human consumption, I agree; however, we want to include the effects on other species and the environment as well, correct? The water cycle, soil health, and biodiversity (plant and animal, above and below-ground) are all better on well-managed grasslands compared to farmed acres; not to mention that the pound of beef comes with a bunch of other co-products as I mentioned earlier. Maybe we should compare native grass species to the cultivated species you mentioned; I have little doubt which would be more water-efficient. Try looking at livestock as harvesters rather than just a food source and it might change your perspective a little.

    I agree that meat consumption requires more energy. Beef is a protein source most commonly utilized by middle and upper-income people. From what I have read, the progression from plant-based protein, to chicken & pork, to beef occurs as income rises. It would seem that similar progressions take place in other facets of life – entertainment, transportation, occupation – with little pushback from society. If beef is too energy-intensive, what about other things, such as the music and film industries? Isn’t that just entertainment? It doesn’t sustain life. How about the energy used in vacationing? Washing your car? Maintaining lawns and flowerbeds? Running air conditioners? There are many things we spend energy on that produce little if any practical benefit to sustaining human life. If nothing else, beef production is a luxury that provides food for people. That would seem to me like a more pragmatic use of energy than filming a movie or growing petunias.

    I wonder about the labor required to produce the crops you mentioned. I believe growing such crops would require more manual labor to produce. How do you account for that energy? How about the shift of labor from other industries to farming? I would imagine it would have some effect on world economies to make such a change.

    As far as displacing wildlife – Please research how many thousands of animals are disposed of for the sake of livestock: http://www.publiclandsranching.org/htmlres/fs_cows_v_wildlife.htm
     
    “A branch of the federal Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services, has long specialized in killing animals that are deemed a threat to agriculture, the public and – more recently – the environment.
    Since 2000, its employees have killed nearly a million coyotes, mostly in the West. They have destroyed millions of birds, from nonnative starlings to migratory shorebirds, along with a colorful menagerie of more than 300 other species, including black bears, beavers, porcupines, river otters, mountain lions and wolves.”
    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/28/4450678/the-killing-agency-wildlife-services.html#storylink=cpy

    If you want to campaign against shooting predators, I can live with that.  Let Mother Nature go back to the cycles before man intervened – which included large die-offs due to disease resulting from overpopulations.  What USFWS is trying to do is manage populations to avoid that – and conflict with our own species.  Those numbers don’t mean much without some reference to the actual populations of each species.  My guess is 86,000 coyotes is a rather insignificant percentage.  Also notice that ranching is not specified as the only industry involved, rather “agriculture” is the term used. Farming would be included. I doubt the starlings and shorebirds mentioned were bothering the cattle much. I’m guessing at least some of the requests for Wildlife Services to intervene came from people who wanted to live in “nature” without the inconvenience of living amongst the natives.
     
    How many animals are displaced by farming? If you break up an acre of grass and plant it to a monoculture, which would you expect to have more biodiversity? I question the “morality” of converting land to benefit only one species (humans), or how that is beneficial to wildlife. Again, the lion is able to kill and eat meat and remain sustainable, why can’t humans?

     
    And as far as the plethora of other uses for cow’s carcasses – There’s not a thing on that list that can’t be substituted with equally fine products. I know. As a vegan I can assure you I do very well in avoiding purchasing these things… Frankly the idea of using slaughterhouse waste as a lip gloss is revolting. (sorry).

    Does anything else you buy exploit migrant workers, child labor, soil health, and ecological diversity?  If you’re disgusted by lip gloss, that’s fine, but it’s not a good reason (there’s that word again) to stop making it.
     
    It’s not that I don’t feel empathy for the wildebeest. Would I ever deliberately place a wildebeest in the path of danger? Of course not! But the lion MUST consume flesh in order to live. And he will take the weakest or oldest of the herd… He will do so without any other choice. If I were to make that choice on behalf of the wildebeest – The lion would starve… I am first, not able to control such things
     
    Yes you are, you could capture the lion and feed him vegan pet food, just like the shelter cats.
     
    and secondly I’d just be trading one tragedy for another.
     
    Like destroying native rangeland with all its biodiversity to establish a monoculture.
     
    Best to let nature do as it will.
     
    And plant non-native, domesticated seeds in place of what nature put on the land to begin with?

    While we humans can direct our course – As “Gods” I suppose… We can order and manage the world to reflect what we see as justice. In essence we are all gods of our own world – The question is – Do we want to be a god who causes the least amount of suffering? Or who capitalizes on the most vulnerable?

    May I suggest you consider the land with the same regard as you do animals, because it is perhaps even more vulnerable, and much more important to sustaining life in general, than any one species.
     

    So while I can’t say with 100% certainty that “The” God rejects those who would do violence against his other creations – I can take a guess that *if* a good God existed – He’d not approve of thinking, free willed man to inflict harm on the weakest beings… A not-so-good god (a demon) would have planned it that way.

    You are not alone in your doubts about the validity of the Christian Bible. At times, I have wondered about whether or not men long ago could have made mistakes, and why some texts were included and others weren’t. From what I understand, there is enough historical evidence to conclude it hasn’t changed much over the years. I have come to the conclusion that I can’t just assume mistakes have been made when I don’t agree or don’t understand parts of it, and therefore disregard it. As far as men corrupting God’s intentions in order to favor livestock producers, I would have expected other things to be changed first – like sex. If God already gave men authority over women, it would have been an easy thing to make polygamous relationships OK. I would suggest that the desire for sex is greater than for meat, so if it was made up, that should have come first, or at least not be left out. Just something to think about. It doesn’t answer your question, just gives a little context in which to think about it.

    “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” Kahlil Gibran

    I think you are right in that eating meat was not part of the original plan. Adam and Eve didn’t eat meat, and it wasn’t allowed until after the Great Flood. It is talked about in the New Testament by Paul as well (Romans 14:5-6). He says whether you eat meat or not, give thanks to God. I wonder if eating meat is like marriage. Paul says it is good not to marry, for those that are called to be single; It is good for those to marry who have the desire to do so. Jesus said that in eternity, earthly marriage won’t matter. Yes, the “lion shall lay down with the lamb” eventually – that refers to the second coming of Christ. A lot of things will be different. I continue to believe eating meat is an amoral action, just as getting married is. For some, it is the right thing to do. For others, it isn’t. Not all actions are treated this way, of course, but this one is mentioned specifically. I have a hard time ignoring such a clear explanation of the subject in the Bible and instead subscribing to some one else’s interpretation.

    But as I said… I’m not theologically inclined. I don’t operate on faith to establish my ethical course. I realize I’m taking chances following my own moral codes… But I’m hoping that perusing a life based in fairness and compassion would be an acceptable existence – Regardless of any god (or not) that represents justice as the highest Truth.
     
    It seems like a worthy cause, to pursue justice and try to do what’s right.  Justice is funny thing. We imagine it like the blind woman holding the scale and the sword. The balance, however, isn’t to weigh the good versus the bad. It’s to weigh the evidence of the offence. Justice does not take into consideration the sum of our good deeds, but the severity of what we did wrong and the evidence to support it. If we believe that there is a higher power who is truly just, what can we do to outweigh the bad? Nothing, really. That’s what is so compelling about the God of the Bible. He is not only just, but also merciful. Justice requires punishment for doing wrong. We are sinful by nature (nobody’s perfect) and deserve punishment for our wrongs, and no amount of good works can outweigh that; that’s the justice part.  Jesus’s death on the cross represents God’s mercy – taking the punishment we deserve and allowing us to connect with God again.  That’s the merciful part. You don’t have to believe it; you can hope in whatever you wish. But that is where my Hope is.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  13. Luke says:

    Ms. Elliott,

    I read over your last comment again, and wanted to point out a couple things I missed the first time.

    You stated, “But you base your entire justification in killing animals on the premise that you’re allowed to…”

    That’s not accurate. Yes, my faith allows me to eat meat. But I can make a rational argument for it apart from my faith. In my first reply to you, I simply stated that I find no reasonable argument against it – either in Christianity or from a Darwinistic perspective (survival of the fittest). That was not an argument in favor of either worldview, rather in support of an action that I find no discrepancy with in either school of thought. You have seemed to changed your approach from first trying to use my faith to justify your position, to now discrediting my faith and distracting from the topic at hand, rather than using logic to support the original argument you made. I can say with certainty that I will not be able to answer every question and doubt you have about what I believe to be true. Enough of my questions have been answered for me to form my own opinion about it’s validity. If, as you say, you really wish to end the debate about Christianity in this conversation, just stop replying to my comments on it, and focus on backing up your own ideas on the topic of eating meat. Again, I can make a rational argument for my opinion apart from what the Bible says in this matter.

    I agree with part of your opening paragraph last time. You said, “I’d just as soon leave out what nonhumans do because we have the ability to reason.”

    Yes, we do have the ability to reason. Reason implies logical thought. By your statement, you seem to imply that nonhumans not only are incapable of thinking logically, but their actions are illogical as well. But nature’s processes are by definition logical – they have order and structure, dare I say purpose. I find no reason to ignore what nature shows us, just because we are able to reason. Assuming no supernatural moral code to follow, what logic is there in saying that because we can reason, our moral code now changes to go against the laws of nature? So the lion can’t reason, and he can kill for food. Now, we can reason and can’t kill for food? The moral code is all in our minds then, because nature does not support it. It’s just whatever we decide to do or not to do, because there is no precedent if we can’t look at nature and emulate it.

    If nature’s processes are in fact the precedent for our moral code, then it is very fitting to look at all of nature to decide what is allowable.

    I would go so far as to say that compassion and mercy are not linked to our ability to reason; instead, they are mutually exclusive. Is that an argument against showing compassion and mercy? Certainly not! I just want to draw the distinction between these human capacities, and point out that our ability to reason does not justify a moral code of not eating animals.

    I look forward to hearing your answers to the questions I raised about the sustainability of your preferred food production system, and gladly welcome any questions about the points I made.

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