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  #1  
Old 08 July 2007, 12:21 PM
Jonny T
 
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Default Veg farming kills as many animals as meat?

A friend of mine (who, admittedly, has an irrational hatred of vegetarianism) argued the other day that vegetable farming results in the deaths of more animals than meat farming, and cited this as one of the flaws of vegetarianism. Mostly due to pesticides and other means of dealing with animals who would otherwise attack the crops.

Is this true?
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  #2  
Old 08 July 2007, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonny T View Post
A friend of mine (who, admittedly, has an irrational hatred of vegetarianism) argued the other day that vegetable farming results in the deaths of more animals than meat farming, and cited this as one of the flaws of vegetarianism. Mostly due to pesticides and other means of dealing with animals who would otherwise attack the crops.
I don't know much about farming but, logically, how could that be possible with modern meat farming? Every pound of meat requires much more than a pound of vegetable (or other) matter to feed it. Animals are fed mostly on corn and other farmed feeds, which are produced in much the same way as food for humans. (The question is a bit silly to begin with, as I'm sure you've noticed. Does the death of a cow equal the death of a one mole or insect or bacterium...? What exactly does the "death of an animal" mean in terms of comparison?)
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Old 08 July 2007, 12:43 PM
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I suppose it's reasonable to say that animals are killed in the course of intensive arable farming. The removal of hedgerows to create larger fields destroys habitat, ploughing probably takes out many minibeasts, and field mouse vs. combine harvester - we all know who will win that contest.

Unfortunately the only person I know who (part) owns a cattle farm is not really on speaking terms with me, so I can't check with her on the techniques used to grow the grass and harvest the silage. I can't say for sure, but ignoring the cattle slaughtered for the meat, I would suspect that the collateral damage from meat farming is slightly less than from arable. That is not an authoratative answer, just a view.

ETA In response to Ganzfield, cattle and sheep here graze on grass in the spring and summer, and grass is harvested and stored as silage for winter feed. Grass does not take much looking after. That is why a lot of sheep and cattle are farmed on marginal land, such as in Wales, Cumbria and The Romney Marsh, because grass is pretty much all you can grow there.

Last edited by Eddylizard; 08 July 2007 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 08 July 2007, 12:52 PM
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Any kind of agriculture will have adverse effects on animals in the area. Different practices will produce different levels, such as mechanical harvesting vs hand harvesting, pesticide intensive crops vs low pesticide crops. Vermin control to protect crops from being eaten by rats or raccoons can be lethal or nonlethal. The amount and type of weed control practiced can influence collateral animal deaths.

And the final reality is that any crop grown with any kind of pest protection will result in the deaths of pest animals, whether from chemical control or biological predators or pathogens.
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  #5  
Old 08 July 2007, 01:35 PM
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Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
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For what it's worth, this is a position adopted some five years ago by Steven Davis, a professor emeritus of animal science at Oregon State University,

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/2002/Mar02/vegan.htm
http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/2002/Apr02/davis.htm
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1

Davis's paper, "The least harm principle may require that humans consume a diet containing large herbivores, not a vegan diet," appeared in The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16(4): 387-394 (2003).

Gaverick Matheny's reply, "Least harm: a defense of vegetarianism from Steven Davis's omnivorous proposal," was printed in the following issue of that journal (pp. 505-511).

I'm sure other responses can be found on the web.

-- Bonnie
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Old 08 July 2007, 07:16 PM
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Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
 
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In the sense that insects are animals, yes this is true.
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Old 09 July 2007, 03:54 AM
Lawgiver Lawgiver is offline
 
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Having lived in a small, primarily farming town for a few years, I can say there a a lot of animals killed in the processing of vegetables. I have seen opossum, rabbits, mice and even several deer killed by tractors, bush hogs and all kinds of farming equipment. At least in the meat industry, every bit of the animals are used, when there killed while farming, there generally left to rot.
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Old 09 July 2007, 05:41 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
In the sense that insects are animals, yes this is true.
No, only if the meat animals are fed by free range grazing and never eat farmed feed (which is certainly not the case for most meat these days). As I said, it takes a lot more than a pound of feed to make a pound of meat and that feed comes from farms that are run the same way as for human food. The claim of the guy in Bonnie's post applies only to animals who are fed by grazing. I'm sure there are a few animals that are fed mostly by grazing but by this count, you would not be allowed to feed the animal its weight (or calories or whatever benchmark you're using to count amount of food) in feed during its lifetime. I'm skeptical as to whether that will ever even be remotely economically feasible or practical. But the point is, it certainly is not how it is done now.
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  #9  
Old 09 July 2007, 06:03 AM
Shnoops Shnoops is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonny T View Post
A friend of mine (who, admittedly, has an irrational hatred of vegetarianism) argued the other day that vegetable farming results in the deaths of more animals than meat farming, and cited this as one of the flaws of vegetarianism. Mostly due to pesticides and other means of dealing with animals who would otherwise attack the crops.

Is this true?
I don't know if it's true or not, but to simplify what rlobinske said, it's not a flaw of vegetarianism, but a problem with the harvesting techniques and crop protection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
ETA In response to Ganzfield, cattle and sheep here graze on grass in the spring and summer, and grass is harvested and stored as silage for winter feed. Grass does not take much looking after. That is why a lot of sheep and cattle are farmed on marginal land, such as in Wales, Cumbria and The Romney Marsh, because grass is pretty much all you can grow there.
That's not their only diet. Their feed contains grains and possibly animal parts from a slaughterhouse.
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  #10  
Old 09 July 2007, 08:01 AM
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Tarquin Farquart Tarquin Farquart is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonny T View Post
A friend of mine (who, admittedly, has an irrational hatred of vegetarianism) argued the other day that vegetable farming results in the deaths of more animals than meat farming, and cited this as one of the flaws of vegetarianism. Mostly due to pesticides and other means of dealing with animals who would otherwise attack the crops.

Is this true?
If you grew your own vegetables without pesticides this wouldn't be the case. Besides, are they really saying insects are equivalent to cows and pigs?
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  #11  
Old 09 July 2007, 12:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shnoops View Post
That's not their only diet. Their feed contains grains and possibly animal parts from a slaughterhouse.
Do they still feed animal parts in the UK? I would have thought the whole mad cow thing would have put a stop to that.

But no, grazing is almost certainly not their entire diet.
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  #12  
Old 09 July 2007, 01:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
If you grew your own vegetables without pesticides this wouldn't be the case. Besides, are they really saying insects are equivalent to cows and pigs?
For a small, private plot, you can often grow without using pest control measures, but as a farm grows to a commercial size, that is less true. Even some of the control methods used by organic farming can have adverse nontarget effects on beneficial insects and other organisms.

While I don't believe that way, there are people (and not just entomologists) out there that consider killing an insect to be just as wrong as killing a cow or a pig.

Last edited by rlobinske; 09 July 2007 at 01:13 PM. Reason: edited sentence for clarity
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  #13  
Old 09 July 2007, 01:18 PM
Base Ten
 
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The number of "animals" (however you define that) that are harmed or saved by any specific diet is not necessarily a good "measure" of that diet. If it were, then one could argue that a diet of veal and lamb chops (stopping those animals before they could cause a lot of other needless animal deaths) would be an even better diet. In fact, following this logic further, a cannibalistic diet (stopping those humans before they could cause a lot of other needless animal deaths) might be the "best" diet of all. (animal death-wise).
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  #14  
Old 09 July 2007, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
ETA In response to Ganzfield, cattle and sheep here graze on grass in the spring and summer, and grass is harvested and stored as silage for winter feed. Grass does not take much looking after. That is why a lot of sheep and cattle are farmed on marginal land, such as in Wales, Cumbria and The Romney Marsh, because grass is pretty much all you can grow there.
In the US very few commercially raised meat animals subsist on grazing. Most are fed special feed containing grains, protein, and medicine. Grazing is too slow and land-expensive.
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  #15  
Old 09 July 2007, 07:18 PM
Shnoops Shnoops is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Do they still feed animal parts in the UK? I would have thought the whole mad cow thing would have put a stop to that.
I meant in the US. Here is the regulation that states what animal proteins is prohibited in ruminant feed. Read the exceptions in Sec. 589.2000(a)(1)
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