The Vegetarian Solution to Global Warming?

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Nowadays, it is a distressingly common rhetorical strategy for people who favor one policy or another to claim that "science" is on their side. Now come some vegetarians who claim that eating meat contributes to global warming. EarthSave International argues that the problem is that the digestive tracts of pre-steak cows, pre-bacon pigs, and pre-roasted chickens produce methane which is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels. Thus, the report maintains,

The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan), we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today"

Alas, nothing is simple. Earlier this month other researchers reported that bacteria growing on the roots of rice plants produce nearly as much methane as farm animals do.

Is breatharianism the only solution to global warming?

NEXT: Skoal Scolds

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  1. While I don’t object to skewering vegetarians who make this argument, it’s not exactly new either. I know I was encountering it in high school and that was over 10 years ago.

  2. Well, by skewering them you are probably reducing both methane and CO2 emissions, right?

  3. When you eat beans, you help the terrorists.

  4. Breatharianism….that is just too funny. Thinning of the herds – Thinning of the herds.

  5. As George Carlin said more eloquently that I will: We don’t need to save the Earth. The Earth isn’t in trouble. Humans are. And really, what good is life as a vegan? Being vegan is prohibitivle expensive, time consuming, and not very healthy (Ever see a vegan blue collar worker? No. Why? Vegans can’t do 8 hours of labor every day). If people burn out and die off, I say, “fine”. It’s going to happen eventually. Why make one’s short life on this planet any more miserable?

  6. “When you eat beans, you help the terrorists.”

    I couldn’t help but think a similar thing: If farting’s bad, we should all just kill ourselves, since it’s better for the environment than the inevitable flatulence that comes from “eating.”

  7. Why are vegans so fucked up?

  8. “Earlier this month other researchers reported that bacteria growing on the roots of rice plants produce nearly as much methane as farm animals do.”

    Not on a per-person-fed or per-calorie basis they don’t.

    The problem of methand from farm animals is a real one. It’s made worse by industrial farming practices that replace the animals’ natural diet with a corn-based one, which causes them to, I’m just gonna say it, fart more.

    In addition, the per-calorie energy inputs are thousands of times higher for meat than for vegetables and grains. Finally, the acreage needed to produce 1000 pounds of meat is much, much higher than to produce the same caloric value in veggies and grains (when you consider the land used to grow alfalfa and corn), thus gobbling up a lot more flora that could be serving as a carbon sink.

  9. The key, here, is inhaling more than you exhale…

  10. Can’t someone come up with a catalytic converter for cows or something?

  11. It should also be noted that where we only metabolize the oxygen in the air, native americans utilized every part of the atmosphere.

  12. I love vegetarians! They’re very tasty. And eating them makes my methane-rich farts smell wonderful!

  13. I propose more people partake in the lifestyle I am familiar with known as alcoholinarianism.

    Speaking of methane emissions, do they raise a lot of farmstock in Gary, Indiana? I only aks ’cause it stank there.

  14. “Not on a per-person-fed or per-calorie basis they don’t.”

    What difference does that make?

    The point here should be that if even an Arcadian landscape of farmers and herdsmen is going to warm the planet, if it’s not just a matter of eeeeeevil smokestacks causing the problem, then we pretty much have to concede the fact that the planet is just going to get warmer, and that it’s too damn bad.

    Breatharianism, by the way, isn’t a solution because carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse gas.

  15. joe,

    I didn’t see the word “nutrition” in your post.

  16. fluffy,

    Let me spell it out for you – producing the number of calories necessary to keep our population alive and healthy will produces a lot more pollution, including greenhouse gasses, if there is a heavy meat component than if there is not. Get it?

    If all the beef farms were turned into rice farms, which produced the same number of calories worth of rice, they would create a lot less pollution. Get it?

    And no, “One produces a lot, one produces a little, so there’s no difference” is not a logical statement.

  17. …which causes them to, I’m just gonna say it, fart more.

    Actually the methane comes out the other end. It’s a problem common to all ruminants whether they’re domestic cattle or deer in the wild.

    Come to think of it are the vegans suggesting we exterminate ruminants to save the world. After all they’ll go on producing methane whether we eat them or not.

  18. jc,

    For proper nutrition, your diet should not consist entirely of meat. Nor should it consist entirely of rice. Either diet will make you sick, then kill you.

    Feel better?

  19. I’m astounded that these folks didn’t draw the logical conclusion from their own arguments: the solution is to kill all the cows and pigs.

  20. Wait — If pigs and cows cause global warming, wouldn’t the best way to fight gobal warming be to eat the pigs and cows?

    The cow that produced my steak dinner on Saturday night will pollute no more.

  21. Isaac,

    It comes out both ends, not that that matters.

    Were there no meat industry, the global population of ruminants would produce far less methane. Were the meat industry small, or more ethical, the livestock they raise would procude far less methane.

    None of the cutesy dodges can refute these facts.

  22. OK, Number 6 beat me to it, by one minute. Now, once we’ve killed all the pigs and cows, what do we do with all that meat?

    BBQ!

  23. “Let me spell it out for you – producing the number of calories necessary to keep our population alive and healthy will produces a lot more pollution, including greenhouse gasses, if there is a heavy meat component than if there is not. Get it?

    If all the beef farms were turned into rice farms, which produced the same number of calories worth of rice, they would create a lot less pollution. Get it?”

    Two things:

    First, if you’re willing to seize control of all food production worldwide to force only the most energy-efficient types of production, I don’t see why you just don’t go the rest of the totalitarian way and advocate the forcible reduction of the global human population to the 500 million to 1 billion range, since a population of that size would not have to care about the climate implications of what it chose to eat. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?

    Second, only a fool would think that getting rid of dairy farms and cattle ranches will lead to more forest “carbon sinks”. The land is much more likely to turn into Wal-Marts and townhouse developments [in the former case] and plain old scrub land [in the latter case].

    In any event, if it comes to the point of banning meat, you have to calculate the energy costs of responding to my nationwide campaign of terror, arson, and deliberate environmental poisoning and destruction, since a world taken over by hippies would cry out for pointless atavistic destruction and violence without sense or object.

  24. Breathing produces CO2. Humans never turn off, while cars do. And theres 6.2 billion of us vs maybe a half billion cars. We’re cooked.

  25. SR-

    Yes, about 12 yrs ago, the national high school debate topic was about the environment.

    I don’t know if any actually studies have ever been done, but this stuff was based on the work of Jeremy Rifkin (the beef disad: increased consumption of beef leads to global warming, kills us all).

    Like I said, maybe someone has done some real work on this since (Rifkin was quite the quack doomsayer if i recall correctly), but at the time 16 yr olds can and did destroy this argument.

  26. How libertarian of you to jump from an observation about the outputs of a certain industry to “you’re willing to seize control of all food production worldwide to force only the most energy-efficient types of production.” I guess when you can’t argue the facts, the make up a dystopia.

    “Second, only a fool would think that getting rid of dairy farms and cattle ranches will lead to more forest “carbon sinks”.” Except that the decline of agriculture, wherever it has occured, has resulted in the reforestation of formerly argicultural land. Why do you think there stone walls running through the woods all over New England?

    As for your last ‘graph, I’ve always found it strange that some people, when confronted by the arguments of vegetarians, inevitably see their thoughts turn to violence. They assume violence will be done to them, and suggest that violence be down to their “persecuters.” It’s very odd.

  27. Joe,

    If you want to cut down the amount of grain produced and fed to animals stop subsidizing grain production. Until that is done feeding grain to animal feeding is an effective way to get rid of all of that surplus grain the taxpayer has already payed for.

    In other words, if you want to change farming and feeding practices change grain subsidies, not your diet:-)

  28. The reason to do violence to vegetarians is that all the stress hormones which they produce while they suffer fear and pain act as a wonderful meat tenderizer.

    I always make sure that my vegetarians are slaughtered in a very slow and excruciating manner to make for the finest quality of meat. It is also pleasant to listen to the sweet music of their screams, if you ever get the chance to visit a slaughterhouse.

  29. Interesting how this puts the boot in the whole Kyoto approach to regulating the climate by regulating the capital-intensive bits of the economy.

    Isn’t this whole methane-based argument a concession that the Kyoto approach is barking up the wrong tree?

    If methane is so damned important, after all, then doesn’t that diminish the importance of CO2?

    I’m sure right now some green think tank is trying to come up with a way to grind down our lifestyles and freedoms in a way that will reduce water vapor, the other major greenhouse gas.

    The common thread between CO2 and methane, after all, is that people are just living too damn well, eating what they want, driving what they want, etc., and something needs to be done about it.

  30. There are lots of areas that will graze animals very nicely that are absolutely incapable of being farmed. So the presence of meat animals used in the right way will produce more food calories with less pollution.

  31. Factory farming techniques cause a lot of problems, both to the quality of the meat we eat, and to the effects on the environment. Thankfully, I’ve found some alternative sources sold at Trader Joe’s: Grass-fed Angus beef and free range chicken.

  32. EarthSave are 50% correct. Having humans eat the corn that we currently feed to cattle would be more efficient use of land and energy.

    However, corn and other cereal crops as they are grown in the Midwest are themselves dependent on large inputs of petrochemical energy. Without heavy irrigation, fertilization, herbicides etc much of the land would only support grasses.

    Which brings us back to cattle. Grazing ruminants are the most energy-efficient means of turning grasses into edible calories that we have. And they don’t fart too much, either.

  33. Once again, taxing all activities based on the amount of perceived* harm done to others via the environmental commons would make all these hypothetical arguments moot and obsolete.

    *That perceptions differ and are thus subject to charges of “bias” does not make coming to a common “perception” via the political process any less useful or feasible or valid than coming to any decision via the political process, which is always similarly marred by “bias.”

  34. i don’t really see what the big deal here is. so meat-eaters are more harmful to the environment than vegetarians. that’s shocking! why don’t those meat-eaters just go all out and start killing animals to indulge their sick habit? they truly are monsters for not thinking about the environment when deciding what’s for dinner.

    the eventual solution to this problem is vat-grown meat. in the mean time, i am going to enjoy my steak.

  35. TJIT, that would help, sure. But the scope and intensity of American meat production and consumption practices is such that they cannot be maintained without grain-based cattle feed.

    Your second point, about grazing livestock being able to use land that is useless for crops is right on, too.

    Penry,

    I don’t know the %, but a large share of the grains grown in the midwest, using all that ferilizer and insecticide and gasoline, is itself fed to cattle. The acreage used to produce one person’s share of beef is much higher than one person’s share of grain, so decreasing meat consumption decreases the amount of grain-land one is responsible for, even if one switches to grains.

  36. The only problem is that hundreds of industries rely on the inedible parts of slaughtered animals to manufacture their products. So even if everyone stopped eating meat the animals would still have to be raised and slaughtered. In reality it is impossible to be a vegan because almost every maunfacturing or transportation industry uses animal by-products.

  37. JTIT:
    You are right about the subsidies. They are worse for the environment than eating meat, because they encourage us to plow over wilderness for useless farms. Some groups, like Oxfarm, realized that and are fighting subsidies. We should give them credit where credit is do.

    Everyone:
    Assume for a moment that we get rid of subsidies and let the market forces control agriculture. If that happens, Joe?s per-calorie comments make sense. Animals eat grain products and use most of it to maintain themselves. Only a small fraction of the calories in their food goes into building meat that we can eat. It takes three pounds of grain to make a pound of poultry and seven pounds of grain to make a pound of beef. Meat has some benefits over a vegetarian diet, like high protein and iron, but with some planning in your diet, you can get enough of both without meat. You don?t have to go all the way to vegetarianism either. Substituting chicken for beef or vegetarian dishes for chicken just once per week saves you money and is better for your cholesterol level. If we get rid of subsidies, it will also help reduce the demand for grain and thereby conserve land for nature or other uses. Your diet is up to you, but if you like helping your wallet and your arteries, try making a small change.

    R C Dean :
    You?re right, the research on methane from cows is a warning about how bad the Kyoto protocol is. There is a line in it that creates a permanent UN agency in charge of human activities that affect the climate. According to the global warming experts, that includes any activity that uses or makes methane, carbon dioxide, and a short list of other ?greenhouse gases?. Technically, this agency could write regulations for any part of the economy that uses plants, animals, electricity, or fire. It is a good thing the US is not a part of Kyoto, and we need to make sure other Americans see how dangerous that treaty could be.

  38. and as a side note, yes, that trader joe’s free-range beef is pretty good, and not too expensive, either. the only downside is that you have to deal with TJ’s unnaturally perky employees.

  39. So, a flatulent cow driving down the road in a big ol’ Hummer . . . that would just be some kind of crazy-ass planet-killing machine?

  40. We’ll just grow our meat in the future. Did you like that steak you grilled? Throw the gristle in the Ronco CloneMaster and have it again tomorrow.

  41. Actually, as an organic activist who calls herself a “principled meat eater” explained to me, the environmental concerns favor less meat consumption, but not outright vegetarianism. Essentially, sustainable agricultural practices necessitate the presence of animals to provide manure, etc. Therefore, if we had sustainable agriculture without eating any meat whatsoever, then we would assume all the burdens of maintaining the animals without receiving any food benefit. Therefore, it makes sense to consume small amounts of meat that are part of an organic farming process.

  42. Joe,

    The point of my first post was that since grain production is so highly subsidized the amount of grain produced is mostly independent of the amount fed to livestock.

    If less grain was fed to livestock more grain would rot in storage or be used to make industrial products like ethanol. Decreasing meat consumption will not decrease the amount of grain produced.

    Again, if you want to reduce the amount of grain produced stop paying farmers to produce it. This will drive up grain costs and reduce the amount of grain fed to livestock. And it will make less intensive forms of livestock production cost competitive and livestock production in general more efficient.

  43. As a rule, I ignore press releases from any group with Earth in their name. The exception being the Rare Earth Magnet Coalition, because magnets are cool.

  44. “How libertarian of you to jump from an observation about the outputs of a certain industry to “you’re willing to seize control of all food production worldwide to force only the most energy-efficient types of production.” I guess when you can’t argue the facts, the make up a dystopia.”

    My standard for what constitutes a dystopia is much lower than yours. And, as with infinities, some people might find distinguishing between big and little dystopias to be interesting, but I don’t.

    I observe that there is an environmental movement in the world, and that it holds as articles of faith that the wellbeing of the human species understood as part of the environment is more important than the freedom or wellbeing of individuals, and also that “future generations” can and should be considered when looking at the cost/benefit ratio of any current policy.

    I simply cannot help but see that, taken seriously, this would imply that if you’re willing to reshape every aspect of life, even down to the level of diet, for your future master plan, you should certainly be willing to “cull the herd” a bit. Why wouldn’t you be? Nothing in the paradigm militates against it. On the time scale of “forever” [and that’s what bringing in “future generations” has to mean], and relative to the species as a whole, surely a few billion extant human beings are a drop in the bucket. If you’re willing to be the little dystopia, why not show some balls and be a big one?

    “As for your last ‘graph, I’ve always found it strange that some people, when confronted by the arguments of vegetarians, inevitably see their thoughts turn to violence. They assume violence will be done to them, and suggest that violence be down to their “persecuters.” It’s very odd.”

    Well, one aspect of this may be that the issue is a petty one, and the fact that you are simply driven to intrude even upon this demonstrates that there is no limit, no line anyone can draw that your desire to micromanage human life will not cross. Realizing this is very galling and produces a reaction of extreme hostility.

    Then there’s the fact that vegetarians on the whole are generally such contemptible flakes that the notion that they would choose even to comment about anything I do makes me want to smack them. I consider this a healthy impulse, so I don’t want to throttle it, but I do realize that actually smacking them would disrupt the social fabric, so I talk about extreme social outcomes as a substitute.

    The other thing that raises my blood pressure is the knowledge that without the automobile culture we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because the distance we would have to travel to address the global warming problem would be much more manageable under different developmental circumstances. This means that the social engineering decisions of previous generations of planners, in creating the cesspool that is the American automotive society and then in exporting it to other nations, created intractable problems that the current generation of planners [like you, Joe] feels justifies regulating my life even down to the point of what I eat. This might sound like the first aspect, and they’re related, but the focus is a little bit different: people like you shit the bed, but rather than admit that they shit the bed, you baldly stride up and bandy about statistics that you think mean you can literally take the food right out of my mouth.

    Besides, whenever you’re contemplating a new regulation you should consider the cost of enforcement. That means if we just create the impression that the cost of enforcement of regulations designed to discourage or eliminate meat eating will be astronomically high, perhaps we can head the regulations off at the pass, as it were.

  45. It’s all joe’s fault!!!

  46. I actually have to agree with joe, to a point, in this discussion. The people mentioning subsidies are correct, too, of course. jtuf said mainly what I would have (without the anecdotal, just what I’ve read).

    Personally, I eat beef, chicken, seafood, and have some bacon every once in a while, but I’d say 50% of my diet is not dead animal related. So I’m already doing my little part.

  47. if the vegans really want this to result in less global wamring, then in addition to ending meat and farm usbsidies, they would need to end fossil fuel subsidies, so the farming market can grow veggetable oil to turn into biodiesel..instead of pumping artificially cheap dead-dinosaurs into the air.

    yay

  48. Fluffy:

    Take a deep breath. Yeah, there are lots of water melons (green on the outside and red on the inside) who use environmentalism as a justification for expanding the government. We’ve got to argue against those expansions. There are also some environmentalists who use persuasion to bring voluntary change without involving the government. Joe didn’t advocate any government expansion, so give him a break. Look at and judge each person individually.

  49. Speaking as a vegetarian, I certainly invite fluffy to try smacking me next time he sees me. I also invite him to take a big, deep, healthy drag off my cock.

  50. fluffy,

    “I observe that there is an environmental movement in the world…”

    As it turns out, there are actually many environmental movements in the world, and none of them (alright, let’s say very few of them, to account for the truly fringe wacko few) advocate anything close to “‘culling the herd’ a bit.” Nor do they all hold the belief that the “wellbeing of the human species understood as part of the environment is more important than the freedom or wellbeing of individuals.”

    And I’ll second what jtuf said – how in the world did you take joe’s comments about the relative energy efficiency of meat-intense vs. veggie/grain-intense diets (which are well-established facts, but which don’t by themselves lead to any necessary public policy conclusions) and decide he was advocating anyone taking over the means of food production and killing people? (As near as I can tell, he never made any statements about policy. We can all make our guesses about what he would advocate, but I’m going to give him a break and assume it wouldn’t involve violent revolution or mass murder.)

  51. Actually, jtuf, you’re right. In the context of this single thread, Joe does not explicitly argue for a government solution to the “problem” of unbalanced energy input per calorie eaten. That being the case, it is at least possible I’m arguing past him.

    Given just about everything else I’ve ever seen him write, however, I don’t really believe I’m that far off track when I assume that a government solution is in his pocket somewhere.

    “Speaking as a vegetarian, I certainly invite fluffy to try smacking me next time he sees me. I also invite him to take a big, deep, healthy drag off my cock.”

    Actually, Phil, my statement about vegetarians was that in general [not universally, but in general] they’re flakes. Think of every vegetarian you have ever encountered, even in passing, and assign a flake percentage. Is it higher or lower than the general population?

    Who knows? Maybe you aren’t a flake. You’d have to describe the rest of your life to me before I could know. That, or I’d have to be able to see you or listen to you for five minutes [yes, folks, that is as long as it takes; don’t gasp].

    The ones that specifically make me want to smack them, as I pointed out, are the ones that want to tell me to be a vegetarian, too. It’s the presumption, really, more than the vegetarianism itself. The vegetarianism itself is a harmless failing, much like Christianity or astrology. The belief that I might benefit from sharing in the harmless failing is what is smack-worthy. If someone came up to me and told me that failure to practice astrology was contributing to global warming, so they intended to require that I got a horoscope cast every day, and that they would measure whether or not I took it seriously, etc., I would want to head-butt that person, too. I probably wouldn’t – I would probably just talk about doing so on the internet – but what the hell, that’s fun too, right?

  52. Talking about animals producing methane and no one mentions that episode of SeaQuestDSV where a crewmember’s going to great lengths to furtively cook an illegal hamburger – because cattle-raising was banned in order to stop the methane they produce? 🙂

    And Joe, what’s the factor that makes “ethical” animal-husbandry less likely to produce greenhouse gases? Couldn’t a factory farm more easily be sealed up and filter its gas outputs in order to abate methane pollution than an idyllic free-range farm, if it came to that?

  53. Actually, I think lots of left-leaning individuals use the “culling-the-herd” mentality at the private level. One of the primary justifications I have heard from childless or single-child couples as to why it is permissible for them to not raise two children to replace them in the next generation is over-population. Ironically, this is complete bull as virtually the entire industrialized world is below replacement rate already. It is becoming a huge problem in Japan and Europe, for example. In reality, these people are just grasping at a justification for their hedonism, but that is another matter.

    Of course, there is a big difference between private decisions such as these and government regulations. I agree that virtually no one is calling for a government-mandated culling.

  54. Actually, Phil, my statement about vegetarians was that in general [not universally, but in general] they’re flakes. Think of every vegetarian you have ever encountered, even in passing, and assign a flake percentage. Is it higher or lower than the general population?

    You’re asking me this on this blog? Are you fucking kidding me? Let’s see, after I sort out the conspiracy theorists, the future Ted Kaczinskys, the crypto-fascists, the crypto-anti-Semites, and the fundies, I’ll let you know.

    Who knows? Maybe you aren’t a flake. You’d have to describe the rest of your life to me before I could know. That, or I’d have to be able to see you or listen to you for five minutes

    Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head; I wouldn’t deign to waste five minutes of real-life offline time sharing your air.

  55. One of the primary justifications I have heard from childless or single-child couples as to why it is permissible for them to not raise two children to replace them in the next generation is over-population.

    “Permissible.” Nice.

    In reality, these people are just grasping at a justification for their hedonism, but that is another matter.

    So not having kids is hedonism? That’s some boring fucking hedonism. I’d at least want orgies and naked servant girls and such before I break out that word.

  56. For proper nutrition, your diet should not consist entirely of meat. Nor should it consist entirely of rice. Either diet will make you sick, then kill you.

    If all you eat is rice, you will die. You can survive on a meat only diet.

  57. producing the number of calories necessary to keep our population alive and healthy will produces a lot more pollution, including greenhouse gasses, if there is a heavy meat component than if there is not. Get it?

    Umm, no I don’t. You are assuming that the methane generated by the meat dietary chain is greater than that generated by the meatless dietary chain. So the question becomes, does the vegetation-meat-human methane generation path produce more methane than the vegetation-human path given the reduced efficacy of digestion in the latter.

    Next ask the same question when both paths are optimized by selecting the best combinations of vegatation and meat products. For instance, it is possible if not probable that other livestock such as rabbit, goat, emu, etc. would yield a better balance of methane production, required land area, labor, ad infinitum. All of this in, of course, the subsidy free utopia of never nader land.

  58. “The ones that specifically make me want to smack them, as I pointed out, are the ones that want to tell me to be a vegetarian, too…. The vegetarianism itself is a harmless failing, much like Christianity or astrology.”

    In my experience, atheists are much more likely to be aggressively foisting their views on others, or to be condescending and moralistic toward those who don’t share their views, than are vegetarians. (Disclosure – I’m a full-time atheist, some-time vegetarian.)

    “‘Permissible.’ Nice.”

    Yeah – what the fuck was that about? Is it really my job to “replace” myself?

  59. Eddy, an even better balance can probably be achieved by eating more fresh seafood, which requires no land area whatsoever to produce, practically speaking.

    J — The dirty little secret that fluffy doesn’t realize is that 99% of vegetarians don’t give a shit what he eats, they give a shit what they eat. He strikes me as the type that probably just invites obtrusive comments from people.

    I don’t care if you eat a turducken for every breakfast, an entire Angus beef cow for every lunch, and a snail darter for every midnight snack. Eat what you want. Frankly, the ratio of snotty comments I’ve received from people who find out I’m a vegatarian to snotty comments I’ve ever made to someone about what they eat is somewhere in the neighborhood of “undefined.”

  60. A point about the study itself – they found these bacteria associated with rice. Different crop plants may have radically different microbial communities associated with them; I didn’t read the actual Science article, but I don’t know of any evidence that other crops harbor comparable bugs. So the implications don’t apply to a vegetarian diet in general, but to rice specifically (although rice is a biggie as world crops go).

  61. Vegetarianism is almost a type of religion. They push their lifestyle like any other religious kooks. If they were not outnumbered, outgunned, and generally unfit for siezing any objective more difficult than the local Trader Joe’s, I suspect they would try something.

    Stock up. Stock up on 5.56 mm, Jack Daniels, MREs (containing meat), and keep your eyes on the vegetarians . . . .

  62. Phil, I’m all for seafood, being one who has been known to eat bait. Unfortunately we still need the cows to help melt the polar ice caps so there will be that much more ocean thereby increasing the seafood habitat. The hard part will be finding someplace for growing the wasabi. I should probably remove my tongue from my cheek before someone takes me too seriously.

  63. Little boys seem to enjoy both fire and flatulence. Let’s let them follow the cows around and light their farts on fire, so the methane can burn off harmlessly and I can enjoy beef, cheese, and a clean environmental conscience.

  64. Phil,

    I’ve had a similar experience with vegetarians – very few try to tell me (in my meaty phases) or others that they shouldn’t eat meat. Even most vegans I’ve known are more than happy to live and let live (although the percentage of moralists is certainly higher there).

    But I’ve definitely encountered vegetarians who want to proselytize, and I guess it’s like a lot of other things (religion, political affiliation, etc.) – you meet one or a few of a group who want to convert you or tell you you’re immoral/stupid, and it can color your opinion of the whole group. Especially if you’ve already got a chip on your shoulder for some reason, or if you’re incapable of distinguishing groups from individuals. You know, like Don….

  65. A question just occurred to me – joe, are you a vegetarian? This is not to say (not that my saying it would or should mean much) that you would necessarily be wrong to occasionally eat a burger while being a good liberal and also knowing that a meat-heavy diet is not very energy efficient – presumably we all try to recognize the practical effects of our individual actions, make our trade-offs, and pick our battles as appropriate to our circumstances.

    Most vegetarians I know aren’t vegetarians for ecological reasons (at least primarily); they don’t like the thought of eating another sentient being, don’t like the perceived health effects, or just don’t like the taste/texture of meat (one is repulsed the “googly bits” of tendon, vessel, and connective tissue; who am I to argue with googly bits?).

  66. I’ll start listening to vegans if they do two things for me

    1. Take an economics class and sustainability class.
    2. Work in a factory for a year and raise the efficiency of a particular line.

    I have no use for someone who won’t communicate on a practical level.

  67. Actually, I think lots of left-leaning individuals use the “culling-the-herd” mentality at the private level.

    Too late for anyone to care, but hey —

    It’s occurred to me before that there’s a subconscious/obscured eugenic motivation behind all of the “left’s” superficially incompatible and mostly unconscionable plans and plans and plans for the rest of us. While I wouldn’t stand by that clairvoyant diagnosis as across-the-board valid, it’s…not wrong.

  68. I’ve met very, very few evangelical vegetarians. The vast majority of vegetarians seem perfectly content to live their lives without prosyletizing.

    The handful of evangelicals that I’ve met, however, are even worse than any Christian fundamentalist that I’ve ever met. The most recent one, about a year and a half ago, didn’t look very healthy, to be honest. Yet he thumped his chest about his superior lifestyle. And every couple hours he had to excuse himself to attend to some stew that he was preparing. I told a vegetarian friend of mine about him and she just burst out laughing.

    So most vegetarians have a sense of humor, thankfully.

  69. fluffy,

    FYI, I skipped your novel.

  70. Hey! All this talk of smacking — I’ll do the smacking around here. Ya hear?

  71. a flatulent cow driving down the road in a big ol’ Hummer

    Those do exist — they’re called “soccer moms”.

    Badah-bing!

  72. Eric the .5b, “And Joe, what’s the factor that makes “ethical” animal-husbandry less likely to produce greenhouse gases?” The grass-based diet reduces the amount of methane their digestive tracts produce. It also tends to be less energy-intensive, but that’s sort of an independent, though highly correlated, variable.

    “Couldn’t a factory farm more easily be sealed up and filter its gas outputs in order to abate methane pollution than an idyllic free-range farm, if it came to that?” I would expect that such a system would be quite energy-intensive, and would probably be a net greehouse gas producer. But I don’t really know – such a technology is speculative.

    Chad, “Culling” doesn’t refer to reducing the rate of reproducting, but to killing off a portion of the population. That’s what Dynamist was accusing me of advocating – via starvation. But remember, it’s the environmentalists who are the hysterics.

    Don, and all-meat diet would eventually give you heart desease and kill you. It would also rot your stomach, clog your intestines, and cause vitamin deficiencies. Though the all rice diet would probably kill you faster, neither one is a very good idea.

    Eddy, I’m not assuming that growing meat creates mre greenhouse gasses than growing veggies. It’s been repeatedly demonstrated. Though you raise a good point that the outpat can vary hugely depending on what type of meat, and what practices are used.

    J, I was a veg for a while, but I’m not anymore. I still boycott factory farmed meat, though. Mainly for ethical and ecological reasons.

  73. “Given just about everything else I’ve ever seen him write, however, I don’t really believe I’m that far off track when I assume that a government solution is in his pocket somewhere.”

    Well, every environmental solution that has ever worked has required SOME government involvement. So you’re technically right there. Of course, the BEST results were obtained by the government setting up a market for externalities rather than overregulating, and I’ll bet Joe knows that too.

    The thing you hard-core Randroids don’t get is that most of the population (including probably most of the population _here_) understands that pollution is a problem that individuals can’t solve. Even the least interventionalist scenarios require the government to at least establish additional property rights to clean air or water or whatever. For you to bleat about how every environmental solution requires government action is therefore disingeuous – of COURSE it does.

  74. “Of course, the BEST results were obtained by the government setting up a market for externalities rather than overregulating, and I’ll bet Joe knows that too.”

    Let’s not go overboard here. We didn’t set up a market for the externalities of leaded gasoline – we banned it. Ditto PCBs.

  75. For proper nutrition, your diet should not consist entirely of meat. Nor should it consist entirely of rice. Either diet will make you sick, then kill you.

    Then why make some silly point about calories and the calorie efficiency of rice farming versus animal farming.

    There’s always going to be meat consumption. And while most vegetarians aren’t proseletyzers, EarthSave International ARE.

    And M1EK’s kind of dimwitted – I think most of the regulars here would tell you that government has made things like pollution worse with the myriad subsidies given out as corporate welfare. If you subsidize oil production, you get more automobile pollution. You subsidze grain production, you make it cheaper to feed and farm farting livestock.

  76. “Then why make some silly point about calories and the calorie efficiency of rice farming versus animal farming.”

    Because of the difference between replaceing SOME of your meat intake with vegetables and grains, vs replacing ALL of your meat intake with vegetables and grains. Really not a difficult concept there.

  77. Observations from this thread:

    1) Fluffy is crazy
    2) Joe, also crazy
    3) Phil: large vegetarian

    I generally think people who want to be vegetarians should be, you know, no big deal to me, but I reserve the right to make fun of them.

  78. Well, every environmental solution that has ever worked has required SOME government involvement.

    When you have a large and intrusive government, as we do, everything that happens has SOME government involvement, so I’m pretty sure this statement is meaningless.

    After all, in the modern state, every environmental solution that hasn’t worked, and everything that makes the environment worse off, also has SOME governmental involvement.

    Of course, the best thing for the environment is a wealthy society, preferably one with high-efficiency farms. Only wealthy societies can afford to spend on a clean environment, and high-efficiency farms free up lots and lots of acreage for back-to-nature. Wealthy societies and high-efficiency farming are not results that strongly correlate with large and active governments.

  79. I’m not crazy
    Institution
    You’re the one that’s crazy
    Institution
    You’re driving me crazy
    Institution

    Doesn’t matter. I’m trying to get by a car anyway.

  80. http://arbl.cvmbs.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/herbivores/rumination.html

    “Fermentation in the rumen generates enormous, even frightening, quantities of gas. We’re talking about 30-50 liters per hour in adult cattle and about 5 liters per hour in a sheep or goat. Eructation or belching is how ruminants continually get rid of fermentation gases.”

    Note to joe. I am not disputing that factory farming or the corn rich diet of feedlot cattle may increase the amount of gas.

    Nevertheless no matter how tittilating it is to say “cowfarts” the methane production in ruminants is expelled in cowburps.

    And as a further caution:

    “Animals suffering ruminal tympany (bloat) die from asphyxiation.”

  81. “And M1EK’s kind of dimwitted – I think most of the regulars here would tell you that government has made things like pollution worse with the myriad subsidies given out as corporate welfare.”

    And yet, the catalytic converter. And yet, leaded gasoline. And yet, CFCs. And yet, acid rain rules.

    Do you people come from the same planet as the rest of us or what?

  82. I know I shied away from saying this earlier, but culling, with certain strictly prescribed rules, would bring down methane production and reduce the arable land necessary to maintain the population. Such rules would likely institute a cut-off age for life, e.g. 70. Perhaps that number could be tweaked a little, but who really has the right to live longer than that? Each year past 70 (or so) simply steals the resources of later generations and results in a poorer quality of life for such generations. As an atheist, moreover, I do not see any moral difference between slaughtering of livestock and forced eugenics, so long as the strictly prescribed rules are followed.

    Okay, I know “culling the herd” sounds a little extreme, but so does mass starvation, flooding of coastal cities, increases in asthma, lung cancer, skin cancer and a host of other diseases on a global scale. I know it runs counter to some principles of individualism, but in the long run, it would mean a better quality of life for all. I’d rather see 70 good years than 90 bad ones.

  83. Wealthy societies are not good for the environment as long as wealth is defined as production of material goods. It’s easy for you to say here in America when you moved all your industry to China.

    Poor societies simply do not generate the pollution that wealthy societies need to clean up. High-efficiency farms are among the worst polluters on earth (nitrogen run-off, pesticides etc.)

    Good point about government involvement in both good and bad outcomes.

  84. Plato once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” So, while we are all jabbering on about our supposed “rights” to permanently incarcerate animals in inhumane settings and then viciously kill them and consume them, no one is admitting that some collectivism is required from time to time. Thus, the needs of the many. If we have to slowly ween ourselves from meat so that we don’t die from Global Warming, some of you may be forced to do so.

    I am so tired of this “my rights” to screw up the planet. What about the rest of us who are tired of chickens being tortured in Tyson plants, cows eating other animal matter then being sold to us, Mad Cow disease and all. What about the putrid rivers and melting tundra in Alaska? How long will it take for the Hummer drivers and veal murderers to realize that their actions must be reined in before we all perish?

    Socrates once said, “there is a higher purpose in selflessness.” Something to ponder . . .

  85. Plato once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” So, while we are all jabbering on about our supposed “rights” to permanently incarcerate animals in inhumane settings and then viciously kill them and consume them, no one is admitting that some collectivism is required from time to time. Thus, the needs of the many. If we have to slowly ween ourselves from meat so that we don’t die from Global Warming, some of you may be forced to do so.

    I am so tired of this “my rights” to screw up the planet. What about the rest of us who are tired of chickens being tortured in Tyson plants, cows eating other animal matter then being sold to us, Mad Cow disease and all. What about the putrid rivers and melting tundra in Alaska? How long will it take for the Hummer drivers and veal murderers to realize that their actions must be reined in before we all perish?

    Socrates once said, “there is a higher purpose in selflessness.” Something to ponder . . .

  86. Plato once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” So, while we are all jabbering on about our supposed “rights” to permanently incarcerate animals in inhumane settings and then viciously kill them and consume them, no one is admitting that some collectivism is required from time to time. Thus, the needs of the many. If we have to slowly ween ourselves from meat so that we don’t die from Global Warming, some of you may be forced to do so.

    I am so tired of this “my rights” to screw up the planet. What about the rest of us who are tired of chickens being tortured in Tyson plants, cows eating other animal matter then being sold to us, Mad Cow disease and all. What about the putrid rivers and melting tundra in Alaska? How long will it take for the Hummer drivers and veal murderers to realize that their actions must be reined in before we all perish?

    Socrates once said, “there is a higher purpose in selflessness.” Something to ponder . . .

  87. Plato once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” So, while we are all jabbering on about our supposed “rights” to permanently incarcerate animals in inhumane settings and then viciously kill them and consume them, no one is admitting that some collectivism is required from time to time. Thus, the needs of the many. If we have to slowly ween ourselves from meat so that we don’t die from Global Warming, some of you may be forced to do so.

    I am so tired of this “my rights” to screw up the planet. What about the rest of us who are tired of chickens being tortured in Tyson plants, cows eating other animal matter then being sold to us, Mad Cow disease and all. What about the putrid rivers and melting tundra in Alaska? How long will it take for the Hummer drivers and veal murderers to realize that their actions must be reined in before we all perish?

    Socrates once said, “there is a higher purpose in selflessness.” Something to ponder . . .

  88. Ha! That was a pretty decent parody of joe. I bet a some people here are more than willing to believe he actually advocates this sort of “culling.” Goddamn hippie.

  89. Plato once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” So, while we are all jabbering on about our supposed “rights” to permanently incarcerate animals in inhumane settings and then viciously kill them and consume them, no one is admitting that some collectivism is required from time to time. Thus, the needs of the many. If we have to slowly ween ourselves from meat so that we don’t die from Global Warming, some of you may be forced to do so.

    I am so tired of this “my rights” to screw up the planet. What about the rest of us who are tired of chickens being tortured in Tyson plants, cows eating other animal matter then being sold to us, Mad Cow disease and all. What about the putrid rivers and melting tundra in Alaska? How long will it take for the Hummer drivers and veal murderers to realize that their actions must be reined in before we all perish?

    Socrates once said, “there is a higher purpose in selflessness.” Something to ponder . . .

  90. Joe:

    “I know I shied away from saying this earlier, but culling, with certain strictly prescribed rules, would bring down methane production and reduce the arable land necessary to maintain the population. Such rules would likely institute a cut-off age for life, e.g. 70. Perhaps that number could be tweaked a little, but who really has the right to live longer than that? Each year past 70 (or so) simply steals the resources of later generations and results in a poorer quality of life for such generations. As an atheist, moreover, I do not see any moral difference between slaughtering of livestock and forced eugenics, so long as the strictly prescribed rules are followed.”

    Fluffy was right. You’re a watermelon. You could have at least been honest enough to make your suggestions at the start of the blog.

    You say you don?t see any moral difference between killing livestock and forces eugenics. From this I conclude that you believe all animals have an equal right to live. If that is true then the bears are murders when they kill salmon. This makes bear hunters the defenders of helpless salmon. We should all go out and kill some bears. Then we can grill them up and have a feast.

    ?Okay, I know “culling the herd” sounds a little extreme, but so does mass starvation, flooding of coastal cities, increases in asthma, lung cancer, skin cancer and a host of other diseases on a global scale.?

    Now look who is making up distopias to support a political agenda. First, the biggest mass starvation of the 20th century was 1959-1962 famine of China, which killed 30 million people. It was caused when the switch to Communist disrupted the agriculture industry. Stalin caused massive famines in Ukraine when he confiscated food from the farmers there. Again millions died. Thanks to the green revolution, per calorie intake is higher now than 50 years ago, even in most undeveloped countries. I?d say agriculture research does a better job of feeding people compared to government planning. The massive flooding during the tsunami last year was caused by an earthquake, which has nothing to do with global warming. The recent hurricane in the US is comparable to a hurricane that hit Texas in the 1890?s, before cars and global warming. Asthma is rising, but it has many causes, not just human made pollution. Most families dedicate less time to cleaning than they used to, which means there is more dust and cockroach droppings in homes to trigger asthma. There are also more parks compared to a decade ago, which means more pollen to trigger allergies and the associated asthma. Lung cancer rates are falling after a temporary rise which most epidemiologists attribute to the higher smoking rates of the mid-20th century. The ozone layer is thinker than before, but that has nothing to do with methane production. The extra UV light reaching Earth do to CFC damage to the ozone layer is equal to the extra UV light you get by traveling about 100 miles closer to the equator. Compared to the natural range of UV light levels, the human caused increase is small. Most of the rise is skin cancer is due to people exposing more of their skin to the sun compared to earlier decades when people dressed more modestly. If you got your science from research journals instead of political websites, you might get some of your facts strait. If you really want humans to die, please lead by example and commit suicide. My grandmother had a _good_ 90+ years in her life, and I see no reason why I shouldn?t follow her example.

  91. jtuf,

    Repeat to yourself, “It was only a parody…. It was only a parody…. It was only a parody….”

    If the completely absurd statements like “I do not see any moral difference between slaughtering of livestock and forced eugenics” don’t make it obvious enough, check out the e-mail address; it’s different from all joe’s other posts on this thread (and I assume other threads).

    I do, however, have it on pretty good authority that joe advocates the dismemberment and consumption of loggers as a (not quite) renewable food resource. Also, he rapes puppies as a hobby.

  92. J:

    Good catch. I didn’t realize people would fake someone else’s signature. The statement was extreme, but I’ve heard students seriously advocate it on my campus, so I thought it was real.

    Joe:

    Sorry for the accusation, my bad.

  93. 3) Phil: large vegetarian

    Nope, just easily pissed-off, particularly when insulted by a complete stranger.

    Wealthy societies are not good for the environment as long as wealth is defined as production of material goods

    OK, so who here is defining wealth that way?

    Poor societies simply do not generate the pollution that wealthy societies need to clean up.

    Poor societies also are not awash in clean, drinkable water and sufficient foood.

  94. jtuf,

    They do pop up on occasion, although they’re very much frowned upon by the powers that be (they’re usually removed, and I’m pretty sure IP addresses have been banned for such activity). But they can still be pretty amusing if they’re well done. I’m sure a lot more people would have responded to this one if the thread hadn’t been so old (then again, it probably would have been removed if the thread was active).

  95. The Kyoto protocol is not just about CO2, but methane and other gases as well. While reducing CO2 is critical in the long run, methane sources cause far more observed global warming, and animal agriculture is the biggest source of methane, released both from the animals and their manure. Now, if you don’t care about global warming, fine. But if you do, reducing meat consumption is probably the most effective thing you can do to curb it, more effective that buying a hybrid car, for example.

    It also happens to be good for you — for the person who said vegetarians are less healthy, this contradicts a large array of scientific studies. The person who just won the 135 mile Badwater marathon in a record 24 1/2 hours was a vegan. Whether you choose to eat healthy is your own business, but no one should be eating meat because they are afraid of being weak or ill-nourished.

    (Methane from rice paddies is only relevant to those thinking of replacing their hamburgers with rice burgers. There’s plenty of other stuff to eat, and at present animal agriculture is a far larger methane source than rice paddies.)

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