We all know that livestock farming is hugely wasteful and ethically dubious, yet we continue to do it on an ever-increasing scale. What can we do to encourage a shift to a more humane, more ecologically-friendly food culture?
As IFLScience’s resident animalogist, I, Dr Barron Goodfellow, spoke to Chod Barley-Withers of the Vegan Society:
DrBG – So what for you is the biggest issue with farming livestock?
CB-W – Cattle are an enormous problem. The amount of methane they produce is vast. The cumulative greenhouse effect from all the cows is four times the amount of greenhouse gases produced by heavy industry, and approaches half of that generated by private passenger vehicles.
DrBG – Without the land given over to grazing these cattle, we could sustainably grow enough vegetables to feed half the world’s population, is that correct?
CB-W – Absolutely. It’s such an obvious solution, yet people are so self-centred that having a steak for dinner is more important to them. Changing that mindset is a big part of the task ahead of us.
DrBG – Changing the mindset, and killing all of the cows?
CB-W – Definitely. We need to kill all the cows as soon as possible to stop them doing any more damage.
As a man of science, I’m often asked about animals. However, contrary to popular belief, animals are a legally-defined concept rather than a scientific one. Scientists study animals, but it is the law that defines what exactly we should be studying.
Take this anemone – a scientist might look at it and say, “Yep. Looks like a plant to me.” But the law says otherwise.
The Vegan Society has found a strong correlation between the legal definition of a lifeform and attitudes towards consuming it.
In the UK and the USA, both dogs and horses for example are considered to be animals, and they are not eaten in these countries. By contrast in South Korea, the law defining animals includes the phrase “naturally occuring.” As dogs were created by human intervention from their wolf ancestors, this loophole means that dogs are not considered animals, and consumption is rampant.
In France, horses are not considered to be animals, and again they are a number one choice for dinner plates in that country. The reasons are slightly less clear in this case, but our research points toward it being a combination of sheer bloody-mindedness and just being French.
You can help. Write to your MP or Senator demanding a review of the criteria used to define animals. Let’s get this on the agenda worldwide, and together we can make a difference.