PETA, politicians, and half of Hollywood vegans champion the premise that the ONLY sustainable, healthy, environmentally friendly, and ethical way to eat is to leave the animals out of the dietary equation altogether. At The Fittest, we tend to disagree on every one of these theories. We’ve already discussed the detriments of veganism when it comes to human health and optimization, and the environmental benefit of regeneratively farmed cattle deserves several articles, so let’s focus on the ethics and animal welfare of a vegan diet vs. a nose-to-tail, horns-to-hooves, bones-to-blood, evolutionarily appropriate diet. As it turns out, adopting a vegan diet may be the very worst thing you do for yourself, the animals, and the environment.
When discussing ethics and animal welfare, everyone could agree that we should adopt habits that cause the least amount of harm to animals, and most of the animal rights activists adamantly preach that we should just eat plants exclusively and all of the animals on the planet will live in utopian harmony. But… the data doesn’t lie, KINGS and QUEENS.
To produce 1 pound of cow meat, it takes anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds of plants, depending on the type of plant and other factors. Based on that figure alone, which is what promoters of a vegan lifestyle like to cling to, we should be trading ribeyes for salad, but in order to understand just how wrong that sentiment is, let’s dive beyond the surface and look far deeper into the implications of eating plants exclusively.
When we dive into the data regarding the production of wheat, vegetables, and grains, what we see is eye-openingly deadly. A hell of a lot more animal cruelty occurs. In fact, at least 55 times more animals are killed per pound of edible protein than in the cultivation of grazing animals, not to mention monocropping of these grains is incredibly devastating to the environment.
Producing wheat, rice, and mono-cropped vegetables requires the decimation of native plants. Just the clearing of natural vegetation kills thousands of animals and plants per acre. Huge amounts of natural lands across the world have been cleared to grow vegetables for human consumption.
Nearly all of the arable land in most places in the world is already in use for mono-cropped agriculture. If everyone were to convert to a plant based diet, we’d need to clear quite a bit more land and kill countless more native plants and animals to grow enough vegetables to feed everyone adequate calories. This would require a huge increase in fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which all negatively impact biodiversity and environmental health.
We hear all the time that cows are the middle man; that they eat what we could be eating, so if we just take them out of the equation, then we’d be much more efficient and environmentally protective, but unless you eat grass, this is simply not true. At all.
Most cattle feed exclusively on pastures and live most of their lives eating natural grasses that are native to the ecosystems in which they live. These grasslands have far more native animals and plants than mono-cropped vegetable farms and they are not fit to produce crops, so the production of meat in these areas has no impact on the ability to grow plants for people to eat.
Admittedly, overgrazing can cause soil erosion and damage, but nowhere near the devastation that is inherent in growing crops.
Kids learn that cows eat grass. Evidently the misguided environmentalists that think cows are dining on a cornucopia of veggies that would make a delectable salad never heard this, but it remains true… Cows eat grass. 70% of the beef used to feed humans comes from cows raised in grazing environments with little to no grain supplementation, and only 2% of the cows humans consume are raised in feedlots.
Let’s do some basic 4 function math.
To get protein from a grazing cow, a cow is killed. That cow weighs, on average, a little over 600 pounds. 70% of this is boneless meat, and 23% is protein. That means we get roughly 100lbs of protein per animal killed. This would feed the average family of 4 for about 100 days. 1 death traded for feeding a family of 4 a nutrient-dense diet for 100 days. What about plants?
Producing protein from plants means plowing pastures, tilling soil, and planting seeds. You ever seen vultures following a tractor? It is not because the tractor operator is a bird whisperer or that they’re just there for the companionship of a cowboy hat wearing dude riding a super loud horse. It’s because plowing and harvesting of farmed plants causes insane levels of death and destruction and these birds are in avian heaven with the buffet of little furry mammals, snakes, lizards, and everything else that happened to be in the path of maximum mayhem. This doesn’t even factor in the inhumane death caused by pesticides. The result? To get that same 100 lbs of protein from plants means an average of 55 animals had to die either a violent death by tractor or an equally violent death by pesticide. 55! And that’s not factoring in the infinitely larger numbers of insects that are killed in this process, all of which are paramount to the long-term health of the soil, which we’ll get into in another article.
Replacing red meat with vegetables leads to 55 times more animal deaths, far more animal suffering, and a lot more damage to the environment. Eating red meat is the most humane, ethical, and environmentally-friendly dietary choice, not to mention it’s just way better for you.