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Omnivore's Dilemma

Anita Rag
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Joined: Oct 17, 2007
Posts: 4
I live in the US. I have been a meat-eater all my life.. BUT, I somehow got myself interested in industrial farming practices, and what I saw has made me a temporary vegetarian.

So, I am not against eating meat - I just don't like the idea of the torture and cruelty involved it. If an animal/fish was grown in its normal environment, and killed cleanly and quickly, I don't mind eating it. Long story short - how do I get this kind of meat. Should I look for "free range"? it seems like it is very loosely defined by USDA.

ps: But I will probably never again wear leather, or buy products that involved testing on animals. Those wretched cows that were skinned alive, and blind rabbits and screaming monkeys will haunt me for the rest of my life, I think.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1379
Originally posted by Anita Rag:
I live in the US. I have been a meat-eater all my life.. BUT, I somehow got myself interested in industrial farming practices, and what I saw has made me a temporary vegetarian.

So, I am not against eating meat - I just don't like the idea of the torture and cruelty involved it. If an animal/fish was grown in its normal environment, and killed cleanly and quickly, I don't mind eating it. Long story short - how do I get this kind of meat. Should I look for "free range"? it seems like it is very loosely defined by USDA.

ps: But I will probably never again wear leather, or buy products that involved testing on animals. Those wretched cows that were skinned alive, and blind rabbits and screaming monkeys will haunt me for the rest of my life, I think.
Are there indeed advantages to skinning a cow while it's still alive? That is indeed counter-intuitive; I would have thought dead cows to be much more cooperative.

But in answer to your question, one option is to learn to hunt. Wild game are the freest of free range animals, and the meat will have less in the way of saturated fats, or artificial hormones and drugs. Hunting is a multicultural experience, in that you get a bit of a sense of what it might have felt like to live as a Native American or African Bushman. Also, by participating in the sport you provide an economic demand for the preservation of wilderness and wildlife. (In the days when rich British big-game hunters threw around lots of money for the privilege of hunting Indian tigers, local Indian administrators protected the tigers' habitat with much greater urgency.)

Unfortunately, hunting is not an option for me, as meat obtained in this way isn't kosher. Perhaps I might one day try it just for the experience -- there are local food-banks through which hunters can donate their kills to help feed the poor. (Hunting for sport and donating the meat isn't the most efficient means of feeding the hungry by any means; but it's certainly more effective than, say, playing video games or going to the theater.)
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

As much as I like leather jackets, it is disturbing how these are made. I have a leather parka that I've worn for the last 12 years, but I'm looking to replace it with a nylon one this year.


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Doug Slattery
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Joined: Sep 15, 2007
Posts: 294
I used to live near a meat packing plant as a kid, and the nearby smell was just wretched. The only people I knew who worked there were new 3rd world immigrants who desperately needed a job. One guy I knew was Vietnamese who was going to night school to get his BSEE. I still eat meat though, but not much red meat.

But I will probably never again wear leather


Me neither. After seeing a special on Discovery, there was this place (I forget where atm) that used pigeon crap as part of the tanning process !

Aloha,
Doug

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Marc Peabody
pie sneak
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Joined: Feb 05, 2003
Posts: 4727

Originally posted by Anita Rag:
and what I saw has made me a temporary vegetarian.

I don't think you gave a source for HOW you saw what you saw. Did you visit a farm or a slaughterhouse and see something firsthand? Were you given a video that was created by some particular organization?


A good workman is known by his tools.
Doug Slattery
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Joined: Sep 15, 2007
Posts: 294
Did you visit a farm or a slaughterhouse and see something firsthand? Were you given a video that was created by some particular organization?


I know that this wasn't directed at me, but if you have the stomach for it, see "Faces of Death". It's a gory nauseating documentary filmed 20+ years ago. I forget the details now of the producer, director, etc.. But the narrator was a coroner (or something to that extent) that explored the various ways living things die (not just people).

Aloha,
Doug

-- Nothing is impossible if I'mPossible
Ashok Mash
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Joined: Oct 13, 2000
Posts: 1936
Well, I was never big into red meat, but now have managed find replacement food for chicken as well!

The trigger for me was a number of YouTube videos including the Dolphin and Bluefin Tuna slaughters, and the article on latest edition of National Geographic about zoonotic deceases - with graphic pictures of a cow being slaughtered somewhere in street in Bangladhesh, blood literally spurting out of the severed neck, eyes rolling, trying to hold on to its dear life - well, I know the farms in the west use bold guns that guarantee instant death, but its still killing some creature that doesn't want to die - and that was the final nail in the coffin of my non-veg days, so to speak!


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Rambo Prasad
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Joined: Feb 23, 2006
Posts: 628
Hunting is a multicultural experience, in that you get a bit of a sense of what it might have felt like to live as a Native American or African Bushman. Also, by participating in the sport you provide an economic demand for the preservation of wilderness and wildlife.


What a reason to justify a cruel action....


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Rambo Prasad
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Joined: Feb 23, 2006
Posts: 628
Just to satisfy my taste buds I don't want to even be a remote reason for the sufferings of any creature...Besides that I believe in Karma -"You will reap what you sow"..That's why I am a vegetarian...
Shiv Sidhaarth
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Joined: Aug 06, 2001
Posts: 119
Generally, veg-eaters are soft hearted in nature.

Non-veg eaters generally get the wild life vibrations from animals.

Note: This may not be applicable to all. At the same time, this suits majority of people. Am I right?
Satish Chilukuri
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Joined: Jun 23, 2005
Posts: 266
Originally posted by Shiv Sidhaarth:

Non-veg eaters generally get the wild life vibrations from animals.


Wild life vibrations? What are they? Does it mean I have to cluck like a chicken if I had some chicken meat?
Shiv Sidhaarth
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 06, 2001
Posts: 119
Read this Virtues of Vegetarianism
Satish Chilukuri
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 23, 2005
Posts: 266
Originally posted by Shiv Sidhaarth:
Read this Virtues of Vegetarianism


Advocating vegetarianism on grounds of empathy for life or physiological benefits is fine, but I don't understand why they had to resort to psuedo-science in the last section.
Deepak Bala
Bartender

Joined: Feb 24, 2006
Posts: 6657
    
    5

I am a vegetarian. I dont eat meat / buy leather or other animal products because of the way they are tortured and killed just so we can get something we can live without. The point is not whether you kill with pain or kill without it. The point is the killing itself. May be you can 'you tube' for slaughter house and see how its done. Its not the same everywhere. My sister visited a slaughter house once and she said the cows could sense they were gonna die and it was so disgusting. They were hit on the head with a hammer like device several times till they died. Sick !


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Rambo Prasad
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 23, 2006
Posts: 628
Just curious to know if Vegetarianism has a good following outside India?Are there any non Indian Veg ranchers here...
Anita Rag
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 17, 2007
Posts: 4
Originally posted by Marc Peabody:

I don't think you gave a source for HOW you saw what you saw. Did you visit a farm or a slaughterhouse and see something firsthand? Were you given a video that was created by some particular organization?


I saw some videos and pictures that a colleague got for me. I am not sure where he got them from, maybe he just googled.
Arun Bommannavar
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Joined: Jan 11, 2003
Posts: 53
Originally posted by Rambo Prasad:
Just curious to know if Vegetarianism has a good following outside India?Are there any non Indian Veg ranchers here...


Depends on you define "good following". This past summer we went to an big event organized by "Science of Spirituality" group promoting "Vegetarian" food habits. It was held in Naperville/Lisle, right next to Lucent building. It was an all day event and there must have been at least 30-40 small tents promoting different companies that deal with Vegetarian food. Ateleast 3000-5000 people must have visited the event.

In a period of 3 hours while we were there, we saw may 10-15 Indians, rest were all Americans (white/black).

In one stall a lady was promoting vegetarian food for cats, which I thought was rather extreme. I did get into argument with her about that.

I have also met few Vegans and none of them are Indian.

Arun
fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
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Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 10916
    
  12

I only eat soylent green.


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paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞



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Avishkar Nikale
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Joined: Aug 06, 2010
Posts: 173
I generally prefer vegetarian food but I fail to see the rationale of killing or cruelty towards animal as an reason
to turn vegetarian.

Plants are also killed & skinned alive, their fruits & leaves plucked.

They too feel the pain, its just they dont have a tongue & sound-box.

I can understand if someone says that they prefer to be on lower side of food chain or pyramid.




Regards,
Avishkar Nikale
Joe Ess
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Joined: Oct 29, 2001
Posts: 8710
    
    6



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Joe Ess
Bartender

Joined: Oct 29, 2001
Posts: 8710
    
    6

Avishkar Nikale wrote:
They too feel the pain, its just they dont have a tongue & sound-box.


Well, they don't have a nervous system either, so there's no pain.
This is where I usually brag about being a fifth-level vegan because I don't eat anything that casts a shadow, but somebody always misses the reference and goes off on a mushroom tangent.
Avishkar Nikale
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 06, 2010
Posts: 173
Joe Ess wrote:
Well, they don't have a nervous system either, so there's no pain.


That is debatable






Richard Golebiowski
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Joined: May 05, 2010
Posts: 213

I'm satisfied with my place on the food chain!
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

Richard Golebiowski wrote:I'm satisfied with my place on the food chain!


As food for parasites?
Richard Golebiowski
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2010
Posts: 213

As food for parasites?


I'm aiming hire, maybe a mountain lion or bear. Parasites are just too slow!
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8764
    
    5
A couple of random responses:

- In the U.S. beef is HEAVILY subsidized. It should probably cost about $40 / lb.
- A pound of beef requires about 3000 gallons of fresh water to produce.
--- (I love that meat eaters force me to buy low volume toilets )
- I'd advise anyone who eats "Kosher" to look into what that really means these days.
--- (As opposed to what it meant thousands of years ago.)
- Poultry and pork more or less have the same issues as beef.
- A well hunted animal won't have huge amounts of adrenaline in it's flesh like a slaughterhouse animal does.


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paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

In the U.S. beef is HEAVILY subsidized. It should probably cost about $40 / lb.


I'm gonna say that my analysis on this subject is very different from yours.

Granted, CAFO beef is fed primarily comodity corn which is heavily subsidized. But it doesn't move beef from $40 per pound to $2 per pound. More like from $3 per pound to $2 per pound.

Consider grass fed beef - I am quite certain there is no subsidy.

A pound of beef requires about 3000 gallons of fresh water to produce.
--- (I love that meat eaters force me to buy low volume toilets )


I'm a little curious about that number.

But overall, I don't understand these concerns about how much water something takes to do. It isn't like 24,000 pounds of water goes into one pound of beef and is never seen again. That water is still around and is still part of wet systems everywhere.

A well hunted animal won't have huge amounts of adrenaline in it's flesh like a slaughterhouse animal does.


And a well harvested domesticated animal won't have any adrenaline.



Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8764
    
    5
- Costs: The numbers I stated are based on a long view; what's the 'cost' of topsoil erosion, what's the 'cost' of depleted aquifers, what's the 'cost' of subsidized monocultures like corn?

- Grass fed: It's true that some small percentage of cows are grass fed. A lot of that occurs on BLM land. In order to survive and grow, a cow needs HUGE amounts of typically marginal grassland. Dumping herds of cows on marginal, BLM grassland causes significant erosion problems - again, there's a cost associated with eroding our topsoil. So, if the demand for beef was a fraction of what it is, a small number of cows could be grass fed. But on this planet, a grass fed cow is a luxury.

- Wet systems: Again, it's a numbers game. If the volume was much smaller then nature's wet systems could sustain the water use, and the "used" water could be purified naturally. But, because of the volume of usage, nature's systems can't keep up. Aquifers like the Ogallala are being depleted far faster than nature can refresh them. And have you been to any of our nation's major rivers lately? Would you drink out of them?

- Well harvested: I agree, but the problem is that a small percentage of animals are "well harvested".
Richard Golebiowski
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Joined: May 05, 2010
Posts: 213

Where I live, all of the cattle are free range and eat grass.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

Bert Bates wrote:- Costs: The numbers I stated are based on a long view; what's the 'cost' of topsoil erosion, what's the 'cost' of depleted aquifers, what's the 'cost' of subsidized monocultures like corn?


Could you help me to understand where the number for these costs come from?

And are there similar numbers for the cost of monocrop organic potatoes and monocrop conventional potatoes? (I'm trying to select a vegan high calorie staple) After all, that's the sort of thing that this book explores.

It's true that some small percentage of cows are grass fed. A lot of that occurs on BLM land.


Do you have any good info of how small of a percentage? If there were a pool, I would currently go with 12%.

As for BLM land, my impression is that more than 70% is private pasture. Maybe even more than 90%. This is based on my reading of salatin's books, years of issues of the stockman grass farmer journal, acres USA and visiting with hundreds of ranchers.
[url]
Dumping herds of cows on marginal, BLM grassland causes significant erosion problems[/url]

It depends on how it is done. There is a large movement with a lot of momentum to paddock shift systems as described, initially, in alan savory's book "Holistic Management" and later in many others. Based on a motivation of profit, these techniques are being dramatically improved every year.

the problem is that a small percentage of animals are "well harvested".


And getting better.




paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

Richard Golebiowski wrote:Where I live, all of the cattle are free range and eat grass.


Where do you live?
Richard Golebiowski
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2010
Posts: 213

Humboldt County, CA. About 300 miles north of SF.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8764
    
    5
[disclaimer] I love this topic! [/disclaimer]

First off, I'm a huge fan of ideas like permaculture, and what I can surmise of an idea with the name "holistic management". I completely agree that some people are doing a fantastic job of sustainable farming and ranching, and that those people continue to make great strides.

In fact, if we could put those people in charge, I'm sure the world would be a much better place.

As far as my research goes, it started with John Robbin's 'Diet for a New America'. Great book, loaded with credible references. That book came under a lot of heat, and so he updated (and largely confirmed) his previous research and published 'The Food Revolution'.

Other than those two books (which are again, heavily annotated, with extensive bibliographies), most of my research has been through miscellaneous articles.

But here are the main conclusions that I have come to from my research:

- overgrazing is common, and it's causing a lot of erosion of topsoil, which is a scarce and largely irreplaceable commodity.
- fresh water supplies used to support monoculture farming, are being used and polluted far faster than mother nature can cleanse them.

I don't know for sure what would be possible if all farming and ranching were as awesome as something like permaculture. Perhaps we could support seven billion people sustainably... I hope so.

But I'm totally convinced that currently, the most widespread ag-business practices are NOT sustainable.

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

The think that "The Omnivore's Dilemma" addresses so well, is the idea of attempting to live a more evolved life my making good food choices. In the last few decades, that choice has been about vegetarianism or veganism.

Overgrazing is solved with the paddock shift system. Paddock shift systems build soil.

What is worse than overgrazing is plowing. Each time you plow, you not only kill the birds, small mammals and reptiles living in that patch of ground (to say nothing of insects, worms and smaller creatures), but you release 30% of the organic matter to the atmosphere - thus, slowly turning the soil into something resembling a cement-like dirt.

And if you think cattle are bad at compacting the soil, those big tractors are even worse.

So then it becomes a difficult choice: big ag vegan crops cause a high level of damage. And big ag organic crops are often plowed even more often. (although I am pretty strict at purchasing only organic food myself - but that's a whole different discussion)

It gets really complicated.

But! Out of all of this complexity, there is one wonderful ray of goodness: organic beef that is pasture raised for it's whole life - which is now available in most communities - is something that builds the soil, which is never plowed and the animal has eaten a dominantly polyculture diet. That means that the food you consume has roots in polyculture. Based on what little I know, this food would be the best food anybody could eat (that one can purchase at a store) and the best for the long term needs for the planet.


Chris Baron
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Posts: 1049
Could you explain it to the towner?
paul wheaton wrote:but you release 30% of the organic matter to the atmosphere

Do the plowed up roots hover away?
paul wheaton wrote:thus, slowly turning the soil into something resembling a cement-like dirt.

I always thought plowing would aerate/loosen the soil.

Could you seed a field of grain without plowing at all? I mean so, that you could harvest it in a way beyond hunters and gatherers methods? And another question: is crop rotation not common in the US?
Andrew Monkhouse
author and jackaroo
Marshal Commander

Joined: Mar 28, 2003
Posts: 11279
    
  59

Bert Bates wrote:- A pound of beef requires about 3000 gallons of fresh water to produce.
--- (I love that meat eaters force me to buy low volume toilets )

I don't think it is valid to equate one with the other.

According to the EPA a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons per day, and even a toilet in good order can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush (or up to 106 gallons of water per day).

These are not small numbers. Saving that water is important.


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Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8764
    
    5
Hey Andrew,

Perhaps we're both guilty of a little conflation

Of course any leaky fixtures ought to be fixed.

So let's say that an old fashioned toilet uses 5 extra gallons / flush. That means a couple of Big Macs equals about 400 flushes. I don't mind the idea that I need to buy a different toilet as much as I mind the fact that no government official ever talks about perhaps chowing down a just a few fewer burgers...
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

Organic matter: think about it a minute. It breaks down, right? What does it break down into? And is the organic matter in the current soil from just the last few years or from the last 20,000 years?

So, Bert, do you support some sort of government ban on all vegetables because they cost more (per your idea of the long term costs) than beef raised on pasture? Be careful what you wish for.

I think it is wise to solve the problems, but what I see a lot of is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I also see a lot of people wanting to live in the desert.

Andrew Monkhouse
author and jackaroo
Marshal Commander

Joined: Mar 28, 2003
Posts: 11279
    
  59

Hey Bert,

Bert Bates wrote:Perhaps we're both guilty of a little conflation

Heh. Yep.

Bert Bates wrote:I don't mind the idea that I need to buy a different toilet as much as I mind the fact that no government official ever talks about perhaps chowing down a just a few fewer burgers...

That perspective I can see.
 
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