New Green Jack New Green Jack

171 responses to “Can you be a meathead and a treehugger?”

    • BoggyWoggy

      Bah-Humbug! As a “tree-hugger,” myself, I have actually reached the point of complete frustration with folks defining, in detail, what that notion means! This is just as bad as the right-wing, ultra-conservative Christians telling us we’re all going to Hell because of our choices. I refuse to accept your rules and will continue to eat the occasional animal flesh presented to me and pursued by me. As a chicken-eating, fish-eating, egg-eating, and even, occasionally, beef-eating woman, I have now put a hex on you and your evil, narrow-minded rules.

    • gabriel oak

      Having read some of the FAO report, i buy into some of the argument but,

      in the UK we cannot grow maize or soya and much of the agricultural land is only suitable for growing grass. Could the UK feed itself from a protein perspective, without recourse to consumption of animals. I don’t know the answer, perhaps you can help.



    • Randy

      Food grown locally, on rootops, and organically is key to a sustainable future. See the excellent food and community work that is being done at

    • Chris

      This one I’m going to really struggle with! I enjoy eating meat and although I do cook vegetarian dishes occasionally, I find it very restrictive and unimaginative. Maybe you can suggest a good website with some tastey vegetarian recipies Juliet? A bit of practical encouragement!

      But dammit, I’d just invented the BEST bolognese on the planet, so this really puts a spanner in the works for me!! <:-/ However I gather red meat is generally a lot more polluting than white meat (?) , and as this also generally has more negative health implications, I’m willing to look at a little reduction of that meat type in my diet.

    • Neil Law

      This is really challenging stuff. I’m a meat eater, and emotionally, I’m moved to take a “yeh, but…” sort of stance,and to try to justify my own inaction. But I think that would be disingenuous of me, so I am prepared to accept what you you say after l’ve looked into it for myself a little. What I might do about it I don’t yet know. I’m already a lapsed veggie (which is a long and boring story of no relevance here).

      As for the point about much of the UK’s land only being suitable for growing grass, that’s a partial truth,which I think I should challenge (partially!). I have at least some skill in that area, as I was RHS-trained in horticulture, buta health issue put paid to my time working in that industry.

      The terminal growth pattern if Britain were left untouched for a few thousand years would be(predominantly) deciduous forest, yet at present,most of our agricultural land IS best suited to grass growing or ceral production.. it’s worth distinguishing between the two, as many natural grassland areas have soil which is generally too poor to suistain viable cereal production.

      But the soil types are not static. They are in a great many cases,determined by what has happened to that soil in the past. Acid grassland is very often created over time by overgrazing. Take for example, the Malvern Hills. The name itself derives from Moel Bryn (so I’m told),which apparently means “bald hill” (feel free to correct me if you speak cymraeg). The hills have been “bald” on top for many hundreds of years, but when the number of livestock grazing the hills was reduced somewhat over 15 years ago, several areas of grassland suddenly sprouted young birch trees. The local conservators then entered into a debate as to wether or not to increase the amount of grazing to maintain the character of the hills.

      Whatever… the point is that if the trees had been allowed to grow, they would have changed the soils type over time, due to the way their root systems work, and due to the natural accumulation of leaf mould.

      Over longer periods of time, decades and centuries, soils can often be seen as being in a state of change, so it may be misleading to say “Britain’s soils are predominantly of one type and that it..end of”.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Interesting point this. I’ve heard some statistics before, such as a kilogram of meat needing 50 times the water to produce as a kilogram of grain. Certainly I think the first step is to try to reduce the amount of meat (and dairy products) we eat… perhaps down to one portion a day (or a week, or whatever takes your fancy) rather than every single meal? This is what I loosely do.

      I find that for a meat-free (and cheese and egg-free) meal, mushrooms and pulses (beans, lentils and stuff) are quite good because they contain protein, which keeps the protein (glutamate) taste. Unfortunately, it re-inforces the stereotype of “Guardian-reading, lentil-eating, sandal-wearing” environmentalists. All I can say is that I don’t wear sandals…

      I remember “eco-man” from the Newsnight programmes: he went vegan and his cholesterol levels went through the floor!

      Only once we can get meat consumption down by reducing and find that it’s still not enough should we consider going vegan or vegetarian altogether.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      I am reducing the red meat I eat without making a huge fuss on grounds of resource efficiency, but I have two small children who need first-class protein in palatable, digestible and compact form, and so although I’d try to steer our family consumption towards (say) chicken and pork (or suitable and tasty vegetable protein combinations) I’m going to give them variety and in time the facts and let them make up their own minds. A bit like religion, sex and politics I suppose.

      Actually, I think vegan is taking it too far the other way and having gotten to uni level with genetics, biochemistry, etc, I think that we are built to eat mainly vege with occasional meat. A pure vegan diet shows long-terms shortages of all sorts of things that our gut expects to get from dead animal one way or another, which is an inconvenient truth of its own. Not, of course, 16oz steaks every night nor MRM burgers oozing with saturated fats…



      PS. Dale, excellent topic. Have you thought of prodding any seething wasps’/hornets’ nests with big sticks for a bit of peace by comparison?

    • Adam

      A correction to the second comment… Much of the UK agricultural land that is currently used for raising meat is in fact suitable for cropping. The problem is to do with access needed to efficiently grow crops. Basically, it isn’t possible to use modern machinery to grow crops economically in many instances, so these areas are generally used for feeding animals. If you don’t believe me, look at the number of fields which were used for crops in medieval times, but which haven’t been ploughed since.

      If, however, we stopped producing and consuming meat, these areas could be returned to a natural forested habitat. This would have the dual impact of cutting out the emissions from the feed production and animal flatulence that contributes to global warming, and also sequestering CO2 while the forests were regrowing. Not to mention the positive impact on biodiversity.

      I recently contributed to this process by planting 2 acres of new native woodland on a field which up until then we had been letting the farmer use for free to graze sheep. Needless to say, the existence of unprofitable land like this for meat production lowers the cost, and thus raises the availability of meat.

      Relying on people to make personal choices in this area may ultimately be futile, though. A better system for reducing the amount of meat consumed would be to put a carbon tax on food.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      I’m fully in favour of a (reasonably accurate externality-pricing) carbon tax on food as a way of steering people toward the most resource-efficient sources without any dangerous prohibitions…



    • Jax

      In response to comments that humans are best suited to occasionally eating meat, I suggest further research. From what I can gather from a range of sources, we have only become meat eaters in relatively recent times, and our ability to eat meat (the majority of which needs to be cooked in order to be safe…need I say more) has enabled our species to expand in the unsustainable way that we have. Yes, we have evolved to be capable of eating meat, but do we really need it?
      See for a brief intro to this area.
      Also, in reference to the comment about all the long term shortages (on a vegan diet)of various things we all need nutritionally, in all my research on obtaining the optimum diet, it appears that you can get literally everything you need in the correct quantities on a vegan diet. As with ANY diet you do have to carefully consider the balance of food types, but it’s all there. The only difficult issue I’ve come across is when trying to stick (as far as possible) to a raw-food vegan diet: in this case, due to our current society’s insistence on clinically cleaned plant foods it can be difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of vitamin B12. As a vegan myself (but not raw food, although I sometimes try!) I get plenty of everything I need; protein, iron and vitamin B12 included – in fact, when I gave blood last Thursday, they were very impressed with my haemoglobin levels!

      As I can’t imagine the whole population going vegan overnight, despite the strong environmental argument, I would advocate cutting down on meat consumption. If everyone cut down and aimed for locally reared (and preferably fed by food with the least food miles), organic, free-range meat, there would be some fantastic immediate improvements that we could all build on.

      P.S. Here’s hoping this article hasn’t encouraged too many non-eco-warriors to justify their gas-guzzler driving habits!

    • Russ

      A lot of people don’t get enough B12 even if they DO eat meat, dairy and eggs.

      You can get B12 from yeast flakes, and vitamin pills, and a lot of food stuff is already fortified with it.

      As a veggie, I do understand that it would be difficult for some to give up meat just for environmental reasons.

    • Chris

      There are some great arguments flying around about whether or not we ‘should’ eat meat. A friend of mine came up with a great analogy on this line. “Anything I could catch and kill with my bare hands, I’ll eat more of!”

      I thought that was fantastic and to me makes some sort of sense! It is very possible to catch/kill a chicken or turkey with your bare hands. In the right conditions, you can catch and kill fish with your bare hands. But can you imagine me leaping on a cow and trying to bring it to it’s death with nothing but my arms and fists!! It would certainly take some time! Maybe this is natures way of saying, it’s high in saturated fat and less sustainable?!

      (Ok I’m ignoring the fact that red meat is full of iron and protein.)

      Having said that it doesn’t make it any easier for us meat eaters!! .. Also if I can counter a inference which is sortof made in the above blog. From what I understand we already have enough food to feed the world. It’s just waste and economics which stop us feeding the world. I doubt a global plant based diet would feed the whole world either. We’d find a way to deprive people of what they need!

    • Thomas Lankester

      Form the title of the blog the obvious answer is ‘no’ you cannot be a ‘meathead’ and a treehugger. The problems seem to come when the blog article shift from being a meathead to a consumer of any amount of meat. Life is not so black and white and making it so just alienates those who might be sympathetic (e.g. the first commenter).

      Classic warning signs came in the middle of the blog:
      1) ‘In fact’ signals the imminent arrival of a dodge assertion which has to be called a ‘fact’ in a vain attempt to avoid closer scrutiny.
      2) ‘a vegan driving a four by four has less of an impact than a bike-riding meat-eater!’
      Spot the whopping generalisation dressed up as a ‘fact’.

      According to this, I, as a cycle commuter with no car but eating (on average) 2 eggs and a sausage a week, will produce more GHG than a vegan driving 400 miles a week in a Hummer.

      Life is grey so the great message from the blog is that reducing meat eating has a big effect but does the message have to so stridently insist that all meat must be forgone? A reduction in meat consumption by 90% is a lot more effective than cutting that last 10% as a matter of principle. If we took that approach with energy then ecotricity (Dale) would be bound to sell 100% renewable electricity instead of focusing on building new plant.

      I like the Tesco approach, no, not greenwash, I mean ‘every little helps’.

    • Anthony

      I can kind of see the point of this article but surely rather than simply suggest cutting out meat all together there should be suggestions of how to cut the carbon emissions of Pastoral farming. Just like the eco-car is about providing a solution to the carbon emissions from cars without simply saying you shouldn’t drive.

      People may feel this attitude is a bit like “having your cake and eating it” but it’s naive to think that isn’t what the majority of people want.

    • Mr. C

      Reading the comments, has anyone thought of the fact that consuming dairy is related to eating meat? Cows will only produce milk when they’re pregnant. If everybody stops eating meat, what do we do with the newborn calfs?

    • pete

      Do you know one of the world’s biggest pollutes?
      Rice Paddies!

    • Alex Ross

      Arguments like these rage on the Friends of the Earth forums constantly.

      First off, can I just say I find it a tad disingenuous for vegans and vegetarians to berate or go on to meat eaters using the ‘carbon emissions’ line – Viva is not an environmental group and it strikes me as clutching at straws to suddenly wedge in another argument on top of what is surely the bottom line for a vegan – a belief in not eating other animals.

      Fine – point out other benefits I guess but there is something about it that annoys me when such a stress is placed on the ‘green’ factor.

      A simple fact is that you will not get the whole world to stop eating meat – quite simply we’ve evolved as a race that eats a mixture of meat and vegetables, and we’ll stay that way quite frankly.

      As such, rather than tell people how un-green they are because they eat meat, why not try look at ways to make the farming process more efficient.

      For starters – talking about having organic food can surely be misleading? Better for the local environment and the animal, but not necessarily more energy efficient in terms of carbon emissions – there is a difference (there was a bit hoo-ha about organic milk using up much more space and energy than non-organic milk, for instance).

      It’s well known that those who do eat meat, eat too much of it. We all need to cut down. The way to encourage people to do it is not to tell them to stop altogether, but to encourage alternatives and more energy efficient farming and use of resources.

      For instance, a lot of British farmers have to import grain from abroad, increasing the carbon footprint for UK meat. We should be looking at ways to help farmers buy local grain in a way that is easier for them economically, thus reducing the amount of grain flown around the world to feed a cow.

      Rant over! 🙂

    • Alex Ross

      I guess – just to add a little – what I’m trying to say I believe is that a group that encourages better behaviour and works with other groups (such as farmers or consumers) will achieve much more than a group that advocates an outright stoppage on eating meat, which will only alienate people and encourage people to not listen to otherwise valid points (ie: we should eat less meat!).

      Viva, as a point of principle, couldn’t really work with farmers to help them rear meat more efficiently, but that’s what’s needed due to the fact that there will always be a demand for meat and any government that tried to ration it would be voted out and the next one in would immediately repeal it. If it gets to the point when a government has to ration it – then it’s too late anyway.

    • David

      I can certainly see the benefits of lowering meat consumption to both myself and the environment. I think that in the comments above the nail has been hit on the head though as regards determining some sort of middle path that encouraged people to buy organic, locally sourced produce, both meat and otherwise. If any carbon tax was then levied, it shouldn’t be sweeping but take into account these factors which in itself should encourage people to eat locally sourced produce, helping local organic food to compete on a more level footing. I think it is fair to say that since switching to a diet which consisted of this type of produce we have been eating less meat anyway purely as function of cost. As for veganism, I once saw a bunch of chimps (I know, I know) on the tv hunting monkeys. Whilst they did mainly eat a plant based diet, the occasional bit of meat did seem to appeal to them and lets face it – genetically we aren’t too far away from them so maybe that is how some primates have just developed. Should a powerful sense of conscience stop us from consuming what nature has designed us to consume? I think not. I do think however that western (used loosely) lifestyles have become so grotesque and spoiled through an easy come easy go attitude brought on by ready access to food that our meat consumption has gone beyond what is probably healthy for us – particulalry when we have to resort to growing “frankenstein” chickens etc to fuel the habit as well as causing the vast environmental damage outlined in the original article.

    • Elliot

      Even organic, free range, local meat is a less efficient way of getting the nutrients we need.

      Not eating meat is healthier for humans, and better for the planet.

      The only reason anybody would eat meat is because they like the taste so much they can’t give it up…

      so perhaps we should try to eat a portion less per week?

      A good new year’s resolution?

      If all of us did this then it would be loads more effective then switching the light off when you leave the room etc.

    • Randy

      To have healthy and happy communities we are going to need more locally produced organic food. Farming methods that use synthetic fertilizer actually deplete soil fertility. Here in the U.S. only 0.5 percent of the farmland is currently organic. Havana Cuba ran out of oil several years ago and now has over 1000 farmers markets. See:

    • Jme

      Elliot – i dnt agree

      I think you will find alot of vegitarians dont eat meat because THEY dont like the taste! its just a flip reverse.


    • Justin

      One of the main issues here, as Juliet points out, is that meat consumption is set to double by 2050 – and with it, the number of land animals killed for meat is set to rise to over 100 billion annually. Current levels are not sustainable, and it is simply suicide to let us simply slide towards conclusion. Of course, it’s all a matter of degree – cutting out meat slowly is a good start. However, veganism as a goal is ultimately best for you health, animals, people in developing countries and, of course, the planet.

      The latest figures from Defra show that Britain is cutting out meat. With 9 million fewer land animals being killed last year for meat than the year before. The truth is that we have exported the horrors (both in welfare terms and environmentally) of factory farming to the rest of the world, and we are now seeing the terrible results. Organic farming may be better in some cases in welfare terms, but, as a major Defra report showed, it is often worse environmentally. The irony being that giving an animal a more natural life is often more carbon intensive, simply because of the vast numbers of animals we eat. Veganism is, in fact, the middle way – opting out of the cruelty of factory farming and the pollution caused by all types of livestock farming.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Hi Justin,

      I stand by my point that I don’t think that a “no meat” option is clearly/obviously better all round.

      However, I’m inclined to believe that a “very little meat” option may be optimal on a number of grounds (human health, environmental impact, energy and water resources, etc).



    • Jonny Holt

      Of course all you vegans are climate criminals – eating vegetables which, if left alone, would help to absorb the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. The more responsible diet for anyone concerned by climate change is to become a breathairian.

      On second thoughts, even breathairians exhale CO2. Also, and inconveniently, they tend to die of starvation.

      On a more serious note, Juliet’s pro-vegan perspective rather crudely lumps all meat eating into one polluted pigeonhole. Meat eating exists as a continuum, with unthinking and unhealthy over-indulgence at one end – and occasional and ethically aware consumption at the other.

      I recommend that anyone who needs a bit of support in arguing their case for responsible meat-eating in the face of a barrage from bellicose veggies (as opposed to the peaceable ones) should go to

      Additionally, the River Cottage Meat Book starts with a chapter which argues very persuasively for an ethical, responsible and proportionate meat content to our diet.

      I take comfort in my meat eating habit from Sir David Attenborough, the living national treasure, who is happy to state that he eats meat because his digestive system is evolutionarily suited to that diet.

      Personally, I believe that veganism is a denial of our nature, albeit usually with ethical intentions. Many lacto-vegetarians tend towards sentimentality and a lack of knowledge about the true connections between the beef and diary industries.

    • Chris

      I thought this might be useful for some people. I don’t mean to condone or condemn meat eating, but if you’re going to eat it anyway.. check this out! It’s a site done by ‘compassion in world farming’ a group campaigning for the end to factory farming. They have ranked the supermarkets on their animal supply chains, both as a whole, and on individual animals…

      Here’s a question for you. If the world suddenly went vegetarian. Would we use all that spare land generated to…
      a) feed all the poor and desperately undernourished in the 3rd world.
      b) grow biofuels to burn in western cars (and thus crush or stall the ever elusive dream of the electric car)

      Also, anyone know how much cheaper the average vegetarian diet is? I bet the difference is significant. How much do you vegetarians spend? When I occasionally cook vegetarian it does seem cheap.

    • simon mallett

      I wear a suit (sometimes) own a 4×4 (but usually drive a Yaris) collect Military vehicles, love to eat steak, pork, lamb etc etc, in fact my mouth waters when I go to my local butchers. I’m pro nuclear and used to work on oil rigs!

      But, I have had a 30 sq. meter “solar century” PV array for 5 years, solar thermal for almost as long, my roof is the last to lose its snow or frost (huge amounts of insulation) my electric and fuel use goes down every year, I’ve just installed two wind turbines (yes its very windy here) and have been recycling for decades. Triple glazing about to go in, to replace windows that are almost rotted through! I expect my family has one of the lowest carbon footprints!

      My peer group are all now fascinated by what I do and an increasing number are now copying – they can afford to, they can see the real advantages and that somebody in their circle has done it and they feel empowered to change. They (and I) are however totally put off by a green movement that continually alienates people who don’t fit within their norms! Also, that seems more interested in green politics and dogma than simply showing an example.

      Of course there are many exceptions who I won’t apologize to as they will invariably be sensible enough to realize they aren’t included in this minor complaint.


    • toby


      correct me if I’m wrong, but is it the case that you’re happy to accept the ideas of “The Green Movement” when it saves you money, but not when it raises uncomfortable questions about the true cost of your luxuries?

      Juliet’s article does specifically talk about “the meat industry” and the effect that it has. The entire world cannot consume meat at the levels common in the West, the same way it cannot consume energy at the same levels – it’s simply not sustainable.

      So the question is, what makes us so special that we can have what the rest of the world can’t?

      a problem that can’t be answered by putting any amount of solar panels or insulation up in the roof, unfortunately.

    • simon mallett

      Not wishing to use zerocarbonista as a place to have an argument but I really struggle to understand Toby’s response. It seems to amount to shades of grey are not permissible. Perhaps Toby can illuminate us with his Green credentials?

    • toby


      we’re both fortunate in that we can do what we like. Whatever I say or think doesn’t effect you in the slightest, so you can whatever shades of gray, green, pink – whatever you like. My choices and opinions have no (or extremely neglible) impact on yours.

      The problem outlined by Juliet’s article is that mass consumption of meat produced on an industrial scale does have a direct effect on the environment and the choices of others in less fortunate societies – quite simply, meat production takes a disproportionate share of energy and resources in general.

      My green credentials are extremely poor – feel free to pick holes in (forgot to include it the first time)

      but perhaps a problem is the idea of “Green credentials” – if that becomes delegated to having a solar panel on the roof or recycling newspapers as “doing your bit for the Environment”, and not considering the overall impact of the choices that we are free to make, but not available to others.


    • Matt

      I agree with this article completely. In the UK alone, 850 million animals and hundreds of millions of fish are killed every year to put meat on tables – that’s more than three million animals a day.

      Rainforests are cleared for grazing; methane from livestock causes global warming; soil is eroded by cattle; slurry poisons waterways; and the seas are laid to waste by overfishing.

      Not to mention the energy consumed by breading, rearing, killing, butchering, packing, transporting, freezing, cooking. Also factor in the associated cost of the food used to fatten up the animals (again all of the above points).

      Its a viscious cycle with very serious implications to our environment.

    • Anthony

      I don’t think anybody can argue that the amount of waste and pollution etc generated from farming animals isn’t having a negative effect on the enviroment. But the main thing that I’ve admired about Dale and Ecotricity is that it gives alternatives… To me at least, Dale’s wind-powered car and Ecotricity’s Wind-turbine generated electricity always seemed to be about providing alternatives to some of the country’s biggest environmental issues. Saying farms cause pollution so stop eating meat isn’t going to bring many people round and if anything is going to alienate the type of people who (like me) enjoy eating meat.

      Maybe once the wind powered car’s sorted maybe Dale could join forces with Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver et al and steer them in a more environmentally sound direction 🙂

    • Jeffrey Lam

      We can debate about how much the UK needs to lower its GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions by, but the government has decided on a target of 80% reduction by 2050 (with some intermediate targets, I believe)
      The simplest way of dividing this up is to aim to reduce every sector by 80%: energy supply emissions by 80%, transport emissions by 80%, agriculture emissions by 80% etc. Therefore GHG emissions from meat production need to be cut 80% if we follow this simple way.
      Either we (the UK) reduce meat consumption by 80% or we reduce GHG emissions from meat production by 80%, or some combination of the two. The only way I know of reducing GHGs from meat production is to feed cows and sheep grain instead of grass. Is this acceptable? Given that grass can’t be eaten by humans, but grain can, switching 100% may have an unnacceptable effect on food prices, though I imagine to some extent grain is already fed to livestock. Therefore, there should be a long-term reduction in meat consumption by the UK as a whole, of somewhere close to 80%.
      Or we could make up for it by reducing emissions by more than 80% elsewhere, but that makes things complicated…

    • Helen Rossiter

      Going vegan is the most effective thing anyone can do to help the environment. This is a fact. Environmentalists who eat meat are simply in denial.

      • If the 61 million people in the UK went vegan for a year, the UK’s carbon footprint would be reduced by approximately 15 per cent. Seventy three million tonnes less damaging gases would be produced
      • Millions of starving people in the world could be fed
      • If the UK didn’t eat beef for a year, millions of people could have the water they need to survive
      • Hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest could be saved
      • Vegans have smaller carbon footprints than meat-eaters, and people who take ‘green’ steps

    • Jeffrey Lam

      I’m not convinced that going vegan would reduce UK’s carbon footprint by 15%. Defra’s 2006 figures show that “agriculture” is responsible for 38% of methane emissions (methane making up 7.5% of all GHG emissions) and 66.9% of NOx emissions (NOx making up 6% of all GHG emissions). By my calculation, all agriculture amounts to 6.9% of all the UK’s GHG emissions.
      It gets a bit complicated because the UK imports a lot of food, but if we assume all food is sourced domestically, giving up all food would reduce GHG emissions by 6.9%. However, I’m sure once people start dying of starvation, emissions from all sectors will start falling!
      The sectors emitting the most GHG are energy supply, then transport, then “business”, then “residential”, then agriculture. With that in mind, ecotricity are addressing sectors in the correct order, except for skipping business and residential…
      I’m not against veganism, I do believe the UK (and the developed world) should cut down on meat consumption, but I’m still not convinced that veganism is the most effective thing anyone can do to help the environment.

    • trugreen

      So here we have commited environmentalists and the middle class part time (I have 3 kids, 2 houses, 2 cars but don’t worry I recycle!) environmentalsist or ‘enviro-hypocrits’ who feel that as long as they try and paper over any flaws in their ‘green’ credetials they are fine. The simple answer is that NO you cant be a meat eater and a tree hugger – FACT. All the reserch is clear – meat eating causes enivornmental degredation, human and aniaml suffering, puts huge amounts of pressure on water and soil resorces and results in reduction in bio-diversity. Is meat eating the new breading ground of deniers that climate change was ten years ago? By the looks of some of the responces above I would say yes!

    • Palegreen

      The ECONazi has spoken!

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Thanks for writing me off (along with the rest of the lumpen proletariat here) as a part-timer and a hypocrite. Ad hominem attacks always strengthen your case, along with shouting louder. (Sarcasm alert for the hard of humour…)

      As it happens I’ve reduced our home carbon footprint by about a factor of 3 in the last 18 months to well under half the average so far as I can tell, which I consider to be pretty substantial (and only the start) as well as recycling and FreeCycling like a good’un and not owning a car, etc, so you tell us what *objective* *measurable* improvements that YOU’ve made in any shared resource other than smug assertions of moral superiority, plus provide links to peer-reviewed reserach to back up your assertions about facts and *all* the research? Or else lay off the personal abuse and keep to polite discussion maybe? Either would be fine.



    • Jeffrey Lam

      Well said Damon. Labelling people as enviro-hypocrites, part-timers or deniers does nothing to help anyone. Or am I wrong? Is anyone here going to stop eating meat now that they’ve been told that they are a hypocrite?

      If you firmly believe that veganism is the only way to go, you need to show that no amount of consumption of meat, fish, milk, eggs or cheese is acceptable and how/why, preferably with sources and verifiable facts.

      It is our ideas and comments that should be criticised here, not each other!

    • Simon Mallett

      Seems to me we need to engage with everybody to bring about a progressive and voluntary lifestyle change. Education, peer pressure, example, financial incentives are all effective ways. Metaphorically shouting at people and deriding them because they are actually achieving change but not in the ‘politically correct’ manner is counter productive and will just lead to the very people we need to make those changes (the majority) switching off to the environment!

      As to the term ‘econazi’ used above I would suggest the use of the term ‘ecofundamentalist’ being more appropriate.

    • trugreen

      Hello Damon

      So what have I done? I didn’t realise that this was a competition. I could tell you all about all the stuff that I have done and not done (no car, vegan for 17 years and the biggest green tick of all – no kids!) but seeing as I have no idea as to what set of measurements you are using its fairly irrelevant. Dale had posed the question ‘Can you be a meathead and a tree hugger’ I was simply putting down my view (based upon current scientific research). So you feel that I am slandering half the people who have posted here – good! If we are (as many green groups and NGO state) at a tipping point of runaway environmental /climate change then you have to look at every aspect of your life and what you can personally do.

      I’m glad that you don’t have a car, recycle/freecycle etc but seeing as you and a number of people who have commented here are ignoring the huge effect that livestock has upon the planet (livestock production accounts for 18% of ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions world wide – that’s compared to 13% for all forms of transportation – boats, planes cars – and livestock production is set to double by 2050), I am more than willing to call you out.

      If you want to read scientifically non biased information feel free to download this (its 19mb so may take some time.) It’s a report by the UN…

    • Damon Hart-Davis


      1) I did not ‘ignore’ anything about livestock (I’ve even helped rear some and I am quite clear about their high inputs and unwanted outputs having been knee-deep in it from time to time). I’m weighing each issue in terms of my understanding of its relative importance. I’m tackling issues in the best order I can, and in the light of actual facts as they become clear. These things aren’t binary and you shouldn’t let the best become the enemy of the good.

      2) What this SHOULD NOT be is a personal slanging match where you attack individuals. That’s playground bully stuff or worse. I invited you to stop doing it or else hold yourself to a rather higher standard of proof by way of compensation. Please stop attacking individuals: you won’t achieve anything except antagonise them and make them dig their heels in. In my experience leading by example is much more effective.

      So, in summary, what you’ve done is be rude without any justification or gain, IMHO.



    • Damon Hart-Davis

      OK, read that document (well not every word, but much of it).

      I see nothing there that says vegan is the (only) answer.

      I agree with what I see there about the ‘long shadow’ of livestock, and the care that will need to be taken to reduce it.

      But note that several parts of the document allude to the value (social, nutritional, etc) of livestock too. So my initial reading of that document seems to support my view (a little meat is probably a good thing) rather than yours. I will go back and read it more closely however in case I’ve CompletelyMissedThePoint(TM), which wouldn’t be the first time.



    • Chris

      Some of the slightly heated posts above highlight a significant and common problem which the green movement faces.

      Not only is ‘being green’ a struggle against unregulated capitalism, half-arsed governments, and general greed/materialism, but there’s regularly this brick wall of infighting that crops up between ‘greenies’.

      People judging each other. People accusing other peoples waste of being worse than their own. People feeling compelled to go on the defensive. Outspoken passion of alienating proportions. Well we all like to feel special I guess.

      It’s time to get over this fellow greenies! Together we stand, divided we fall. We’re ALL hypocrites. So now we’ve acknowledged that much, let’s pull in the same general direction and stop pointing out each others downfalls!!

      I think the most important thing is that we acknowledge the truth (even when it contradicts what we like), and make an effort to reach for a more sustainable lifestyle or a new ‘personal best’. I eat meat, but I know it’s not particularly green and although I’ll probably never be a full veggie, I will try to reduce my consumption. It’s more likely that we will get people to reduce than to cut out all animal products, and as someone pointed out, a 60 or 70% reduction is more important than an ego badge which says “I’m a supergreen 100% veggie”. In fact I’m willing to bet that such a person is more damaging to the environment than the meat eater! Through the promotion mass alienation and what will be perceived as ivory tower elitism.

      In answer to the title question “Can you be a meathead and a treehugger?” (A title that was always going to start a fight!) The answer is YES you can! A meathead who uses recycled toilet paper is more of a treehugger than a meathead who doesn’t make any effort. Being green is not an exclusive club. If you are genuinely passionate about the environment you will welcome and positively encourage other similar hypocrites into the gang. These people have different hypocrisies, they are not worse or with lower standards. That is the mentality we must take.

    • Chris

      Oh and if I can just add this,..

      The biggest set back Al Gore has always had is people in media and internet circles yelling “Hypocrite”! … “He drives a big American car, he lives in a big house, he flies everywhere”.

      This is totally pointless and destructive in every sense. Plus in truth, Al Gore has probably done more for the fight against Climate Change than any of us.

    • Matt

      Wow Chris! I agree with your points here.

      People shouldn’t feel better because they have solar panels and air source hear pumps, are vegan etc where the next person recycles and turns stuff off at the walls.

      I’d love to have all this energy saving equipment but because i rent its just not possible plus I dont have the money. I do what i can, does that mean i am any less passionate than anyone else? No it doesn’t, its a matter of circumstance.

    • Simon Mallett

      Totally agree, well said! We can all do our bit and all support each other and bring people on board, everybody needs to take that 1st step towards a sustainable lifestyle. Alienate them, put them off the 1st step and they can’t take the second!

    • nommo

      Totally agree Chris – a similar conclusion came about in the discussions in the bike post…

      The real enemy of ‘green’ is not pale green… it is ‘not green’

      I mean what is the ‘ideal’ of green?

      I think everybody has a different idea of a green utopia…

      The extremes – for some people humans are not part of ‘nature’ and no longer belong here (12 Monkeys?).

      For others we need a high-tech future of ‘sustainable’ resource use – a kind of tweaked version of today, and others a return to pre-industrial revolution self-sufficiency…

      The question is how to reconcile and move forward together.. a very human dilemma…

    • Ben

      I found Juliet’s article extremely informative, and am quite shocked at some of the information i’ve read. To be honest, i’m quite ashamed i didn’t know how much of a negative impact producing animals for food really had on the world.

      I understand Viva are primarily an animal protection group, but that only makes me more shocked by this article. I’ve never heard ANY of the main eco-groups specifically explain the environmental benefits of a vegan diet, and after what i’ve read and researched online over the last week or so, i have no idea why?!

      I’ve never thought about whether i should or should not eat meat, but am not so attached to chicken dinners or beef burgers that i would’nt be willing to forget about them for the sake our planet.

      This has made me think about why i want to save the planet in the first place. Can a person really say they care about the planet if they want to kill off it’s inhabitants every time their tastebuds demand it?

      Can anyone really say they care about a planet of lives they want to destroy?

      I’ll definitely be looking more into veganism now.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Ben

      At the risk of re-injecting a bit of the bile and vituperation back into this discussion that has so recently been wiped from its now polished and kindly face, please can I ask – have you read any of the rest of the comments on the blog? Or are you actually a dyed in the wool, paid-up member of Viva already and merely masquerading as a new convert? No offence intended – just asking.

      The point of what has been said by many of our fellow bloggers who do not subscribe to the totalitarian / fundamentalist wing of veganism is that we DO agree that the balance is wrong. We as a species, particularly in the West, eat too much meat and the environmental consequences are too poorly known by nearly everyone.

      The argument I put forward earlier in this discussion is that meat-eating – IN STRICT MODERATION – is a requirement of our human metabolism and to deny our nature in this regard is a very dangerous route for us to take. To do so separates us from the very connection with natural processes that we need to re-embrace. We will never understand the real needs of our planet if we turn away from aspects of our deepest connection with the life that truly sustains us; but one example being the pleasantly forgotten fact that animal manure is a crucial part of the benign cycle that nourishes and improves agricultural soil.

      I do not disagree that globalised industrial farming is profoundly wrong. It is just that the scale and scope with which it has despoiled so many parts of the world is so out of tune with a balanced, sensitive and wise approach. The global warming impact is a feature of this imbalance. It is not livestock (and therefore meat) that is the problem; it is the disconnection between ourselves and the evil processes that got most of it onto most of our plates that is the issue. We eat too much meat because we so readily accept quantity instead of quality. This goes for quality of life, quality of death and quality of care in preparation of the meat as much as the quality of our awareness when we eat it.

      I also think you need to consider the implications of your comment about killing off the world’s inhabitants every time our tastebuds demand it. We are animals; we are part of nature. A sentimental and prissy attitude to the death of another animal is a feature of the comfortable, sanitized and insulated life so many of us now enjoy – and we badly need to have a more realistic attitude. It is not our tastebuds that are at issue, it is our critical faculties.

      The production line systems that process thousands of animals per hour through industrial abattoirs in circumstances of overcrowding, terror, noise and stench are simply not comparable to the quick and unexpected death of a farm animal which has been reared within a system which respects its nature. The fact that the commercial model underpinning industrial farming is so reprehensible does not reflect badly on meat eating per se – rather it reflects badly on the quantity and quality of the meat we as a society are prepared to accept.

      In summary – if you truly are new to this sort of topic – I would exhort you to be brave. Accept you are part of nature. There are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores in the animal kingdom. You are one of the omnivores. Wishing it were not so will not change it and it would not do the good you yearn for if you did. What will truly make a difference is to take up the challenge and work to make a sustainable and compassionate agriculture the prime determinant of the food we are prepared to accept in our mouths and our stomachs.



    • Jax


      You have made some relevant points in your last post, I will agree.

      However, your statement that insists that meat eating is a requirement for human metabolism has me somewhat confused; I am vegan and I do not seem to be dead yet. True, we as a species are omnivorous; however, we CAN survive without meat, and therefore, some of us DO survive without meat. If anyone has evidence for the requirement of meat in our diets, I’ll be a willing volunteer for any non-intrusive (non-meat-eating) experiments to identify the mystery of my survival!

      We have a choice; some of us exercise that choice and opt for going fully herbivorous, and don’t need to lose out nutritionally. It would be great if more people would consider this as an option. However, it would also be great if everyone exercised their ability to choose, and significantly reduced meat consumption; this would also benefit the planet. But I don’t think you should use ‘nutritional requirement’ as an excuse for continuing to eat meat – it is your CHOICE to do so, as much as veganism is my CHOICE.

      And no, I do not consume anything that claims to supply me with all the nutrients that I am missing out on by avoiding meat; I simply eat lots of fruit, veg, beans, pulses, grains etc (& possibly a little too much chocolate, hence I’m slightly overweight – not very stereotypical!) and I seem to be healthier than the majority of my steak-loving-can’t-survive-1-day-without-meat family.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jax,

      I was expecting venom in any reply to my rant. Thank you for being temperate in you response.

      For clarification of my claim that meat eating is a requirement for human metabolism: I believe that the starting point of all our dietary needs is the soil and – in order to give of its best – the soil itself needs to be fed. For most of us in the (over) developed world this conundrum for a long time had one answer: agro-chemicals. However, the 20th century fashion for synthetic, oil-derived NPK fertilisers is a bankrupt system – being so dependent on energy and raw materials that are very soon going to be in ever shorter supply, due to the effects of peak oil if nothing else.

      Some contribution can be made with green manure but, ultimately, the demands we make of the soil require additional input – from livestock. Those animals that fertilise our soil cannot be kept simply to do so; they must be fed and watered and that is a significant investment, which to put it in crude cold economic terms, requires a payback. Some may be draught animals, some provide wool, some provide milk or eggs (in a lacto-veggie system) but ultimately, they have to be used in a manner that more truly realises the investment that has been made in them. This is an uncomfortable fact of economics, but I believe, no less a fact for that.

      So a vegan, eating vegetable crops which have been manured by animals that are part of this system, is participating in the system. The vegan metabolism is thus sustained by an imperative that demands that animals be part of the benign cycle of life, death and regeneration.

      I do not offer this opinion from any sense of righteousness and I apologise if that appeared to be my sentiment in my previous post. Nevertheless, I do believe that we are divorced from our food, anthropomorphise those animals with which we most usually come into contact, and – as a society – have a long way to go to realise and accept our true place in nature and the obligation that brings to our table. I want my meat to be a rare pleasure and an opportunity for me and those around me to honour the animal that gave its life to be on my plate. I also believe that the vegetables that make up the greater part of my diet should be intimately bound up in the same covenant.



    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Hi Jax,

      Well that’s good to know and counter-examples are valuable.

      May I ask how long you have been fully vegan and if there are any non-vegetable protein sources in your diet at all (I’m sure there are various flavours of ‘vegan’ism which I am ignorant of).



    • Simon Mallett

      On the subject of Green Manure, there is increasing use of human derived sewage (to the point where there is an increasing shortage), basically it closes the loop and puts back into the fields much of what has been taken out, a step towards more sustainable farming. The farm I overlook uses this form of fertilizer, yes it pongs a bit and many of the locals who expect a chocolate box countryside write loads of ill informed letters complaining about it! What did they expect moving to the food factory?

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Is this a discussion only about meat? Just wondering how the carbon costs of consuming milk, eggs and honey compare, both to meat and to plants? Maybe it’s a job for google and wiki…

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jeffrey,

      I have not checked this with the great god Google (so I might be wrong) but I imagine that the carbon footprint of honey is negligible. Does anyone know?

      Milk and eggs are a different matter. They are on the other side of the coin to that occupied by meat – specifically cows and chickens. Until the awful day comes when agro-science invents a method of reliably ensuring only females of each species are born, industrial scale egg and dairy production will operate at approximately 50% efficiency. The male offspring are, in effect, their waste stream – but conveniently one that itself can provide some sort of return.

      Therefore the dairy and meat industries cannot survive without each other – and the manufacturers of leather, blood and bone meal, hoof and horn and so on are in the same boat. The end users of any of these products keep the whole lot in business.

      It is this that makes the conventional lacto-veggie diet – if predicated on not wanting to hurt animals – a bit suspect. Making a dietary choice on the basis of bodily health or preferred tastes is entirely justifiable. Just don’t claim that “no animals were harmed in the making of this cauliflower cheese”.

      Of course, it is industrial scale agro-business that seeks to blur these connections and keep the public ignorant. Organic systems of land and animal husbandry are generally much more open about the links between our food choices and our ethics. The carbon costs are thus more likely to be appreciated and minimised in such a system, which probably involves lower stocking densities, local re-use of manure, fewer (food) miles travelled to the abattoir, less packaging and – ultimately – a well informed, well fed and healthy consumer.



    • Jeffrey Lam

      Thanks Johnny, very good points.
      I had a quick look on google and can’t find anything on CO2 from honey production, but I have learned that CO2 is affecting bees: and also that some Hawaiian honey producer wants to go carbon-neutral…

      One thing I was thinking: one chicken in its lifetime will produce two wings, two drumsticks, two claws (some cultures eat them), two thighs, two breasts and two sidebreasts, plus a number of nuggets (probably), but I imagine a considerable number of eggs. So could it be argued that eating a couple of eggs harms less animals than a piece of chicken? Not much consolation to those who want no animals to be harmed admittedly. But from a carbon emissions point of view, is eating eggs more sustainable than eating chicken (weight-for-weight, or calorie-for-calorie)?

      Another interesting case is the Hindu world. In India the cow is not so much respected as revered, and the majority of the population are vegetarian. They still consume dairy products, and some even eat meat but one thing they do not do is eat beef. In some places, fatally running over a cow carries the death sentence. So I imagine India’s cows have the best welfare in the world. But they are not vegan! What do they do with their waste stream? It makes me wonder about Hindus living in the western world, who buy their milk at the supermarket: do they know or care how the cows who produce their milk is treated? I’ll ask my Hindu friend next time I see him. But does India demonstrate a dairy industry surviving without a meat industry?

    • Jeffrey Lam

      I meant Hindus are not vegan, not India’s cows.

    • nommo

      Jeffrey – I think I can answer your last question, or at least stimulate some more investigation.

      I recorded a programme called “Crap: A Short History” over Christmas this year, and finally watched it the other day. It was fascinating! Far more serious than I thought it would be, but still plenty of toilet humour.

      They covered the sacred cow in India, and went into detail about the ‘waste’ – it is actually as important a resource as milk. The poo is fuel, fertiliser, symbolic paint and even soap!

      The thing about Calcutta and the East Calcutta Wetlands was interesting, never mind the ‘cow-pattery’ 🙂

      Here’s a Youtube snippet

    • Jeffrey Lam

      the “waste stream” I was referring to came from Jonny’s statement that male animals are the waste stream. Nonetheless, the programme is absolutely fascinating! I will try to catch the programme when it comes round next time, which looks like a couple of weeks. Thanks 🙂

      BTW, how do you create hyperlinks without displaying the URL? Do you have to do a bit of clever HTMLing?

    • nommo

      Doh! I thought you was referring to Jonny’s other comment about manure and vegetable growing. I should pay more attention 😉

      There does seem to be too many cows in India though. In rural India – I think bulls are used for labouring, but I imagine that modern farming is making that increasingly rare.

      To create a hyperlink in a blog that allows you to use limited html, you need to do something like this:

      <a href="">The Link Name</a>

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jeffrey,

      Your point about the relative productivity of chicken body parts versus eggs (per animal) is a good one. However, I think that vegans would say that was missing the point. The vegan perspective is that egg production supports meat production, so the two are inseparable. My point is that manure production supports meat production. Therefore I cannot deny the utility of meat; to do so would be to leave the soil unfertilised – or commit some greater environmental crime.

      (To any vegans who feel I have misrepresented your views, please respond).

      Of course the carbon clawprint of chicken production is very different in an intensive, industrial system when compared to an extensive (possibly organic) system. My sympathies are entirely with the vegans when the iniquities of aggro-business are under discussion, but this is about meat and carbon and I maintain that just because most meat has a high carbon cost it does not mean that all meat is wrong.

      Hello Nommo,

      The cowpat footprint of cows in India is a less rosy picture than might be imagined. Anyone who has seen the state of health of emaciated cows searching among the discarded plastic bags of rubbish in among the urban squalor for fodder to eat might disagree with the assertion that cows are revered. They are not used for meat, but they still produce significant quantities of effluent, so the effect is the same – but often in areas of high population. In urban India this causes significant public health problems.

      The even darker side to the lot of cows in India has to do with the role of cattle carcasses being rendered down to produce protein rich cattle feed to be sold on the world market. It is thought that the contamination of this process by imperfectly cremated human remains washed up on the banks of the Ganges was the vector by which CJD migrated to humans from BSE. So even in a society which professes not to eat their meat, there is a significant (carbon emitting) industry built around cows as an industrial raw material.

      Incidentally, it has become quite fashionable recently in that part of the world to eat “buff”. This comes from buffalo and is almost indistinguishable from beef. It strikes me that this distinction is about as logical as mediaeval Catholics being allowed to eat beaver on Fridays because the beaver, living in water, was classified by the church as a fish!

      Best regards,


    • Jeffrey Lam

      Jonny, Nommo,
      I’ve just read nommo’s link on too many cows in India, and it does appear that India’s system may have worked in the past, but then along came modern, industrial milk production, and the cow population ballooned.
      I agree that meat and animal products should be consumed in moderation, but I realise now that it’s not just the quantity that’s important, but also the way it is produced. Plus the animal products extend to manure, and the meat extends to effluent.
      I guess it’s not really enough to say “I will limit my meat/dairy consumption to…”, but any consumption needs to be from extensive farming.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Everyone,

      Back to where Juliet started – the carbon emissions inherent in meat production. We have become used to the idea of embedded carbon costs in many products and services, and embedded water costs – in food especially. These are rightly counted as hidden costs even though they tend not to be recognised on a company’s balance sheet. Other examples of hidden costs exist in all sorts of things – one being the exploitation cost of a sweatshop workforce making apparently cheap clothes.

      This principle applies to a hidden cost of veganism. If a vegan diet derives from a well fertilised soil, that diet – according to the argument I have made in earlier posts – contains an element of embedded oil (via NPK fertiliser) or embedded meat (via animal manure). The third option of green manure is sadly not a viable provider of sufficient fertility back to the soil to compete at this level, although that is not to say it should not play a supporting role.

      I believe that the embedded meat “vegan” diet is ethically the more justifiable of the two – and probably the lower carbon cost alternative. I further maintain that the luxury of a vegan diet is only possible if it is thus supported by the meat-eating habits of the majority. The carbon costs – and the moral complexity – associated with that symbiosis have to be acknowledged by vegans. Of course, I use the word “meat” here in its organic, free-range, CWF accredited form. I repeat that I find industrial scale meat (and soya feed) production and consumption as abhorrent as does any vegan.

      Do Viva! – or any other vegans (Dale, you have been absent from this subject for quite some time now;)) – have a perspective on this?

      Best regards,


    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hello Jonny/everyone else,
      just thinking aloud… can the embedded fertiliser cost be minimised if people switch to vegetables that host their own nitrogen-fixing bacteria? Broad beans and other legumes host bacteria in their roots that convert nitrogen gas into nitrogen compounds in the soil. Oak trees also host nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and if grown among the crops could supply nitrogen to them.

      There are issues though. Only nitrogen (the “N” in “NPK”) is supplied. Or going down the oak tree route (no pun intended), the trees may present problems to combine-harvesters.

      This is quite possibly a ridiculous idea, but does anyone do this/has anyone thought of this? I do know that clover has been deliberately grown with grass because of its nutritional value to grazing livestock.

    • nommo

      Hi Jeffrey,

      As a keen, but distinctly amateur green gardener – I can vouch for the widespread use of nitrogen fixing plants and crops as green manure.

      Also traditional pre-agrochemical crop rotation included such methods. Although beans are not strictly native to the UK going back a few hundred years – I am sure there were other crops that provided a dose of nitrogen fixed into the soil, and possibly bore fruit (or veg) in the process.

      Don’t forget biochar and terra preta either, combined with compost making, vermiculture etc…

      I still don’t think that we can do without manure though.. but possibly humanure would play a greater part in a meat free farming world?

    • Simon Mallett

      Human Manure – now there’s a can of worms!
      My house overlooks a field that is regularly fertilised with human sourced sewage. Its over 100 acres so takes a lot of s**t which is stored as a dung heap for about a month or two before spreading, I can see it and smell it! But, I’m all for it, brilliant idea! The country is a rural food factory, we have to take the rough with the smooth! And human sewage is an ideal example of sustainability.

      The local village however, all of two miles away are up in arms and want it stopped, it smells a bit, even the Parish council throwing a tantrum.

      But its the same argument as the anti wind farm protestors and totally down to a complete ignorance of cause and effect. Cheap food and cheap power means we have to make sacrifices, the more so in our delicate and overcrowded world. Increasingly these sacrifices are in our own back yards.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Thanks nommo and Simon. I didn’t realise nitrogen-fixing comes under green manure. But I’ll take your word for it (and Jonny’s) that green manure isn’t enough. But would it allow us to use “PK” instead of “NPK” fertiliser?

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jeffrey, Nommo, Simon,

      I was unaware that oak trees shared the same nitrogen fixing qualities as both legumes and clover but I agree that they might pose all sorts of problems, not least of which is significant shading to any undersown crops.

      I am also an amateur in these matters and from my very limited researches humanure seems to be used primarily to fertilise plants where the edible parts are not in direct contact with the soil – such as fruit trees and bushes – to limit the possibility of re-ingestion of human infective agents. My great-great grandfather, who was a farmer on the Essex marshes in the 19th century, had barges full of the stuff delivered directly to his fields from London on a regular basis. However, this was before the science of epidemiology was as well understood as it is now.

      I wonder whether it is really such a good idea to rely on this resource today as it invariably contains all sorts of residue – oestrogen, dental mercury, vinyl plasticisers, big macs etc. which will inevitable get back into the human food chain if not carefully managed.

      While I agree that it has its place and, like any refuse, needs to be re-used if at all possible – I can’t help thinking that a more varied mix of manures helps to spread the risk of re-infection from pathogens and contaminants.

      Which gets us back to cows, pigs, sheep and chickens.

      Best regards,


    • Simon Mallett

      Hi Jeffrey, Nommo, Jonny

      Humanure – Brilliant, what an apt term. The local humanuring is on wheat. The field is also used for oil seed rape. I don’t think there is any risk of pathogens, the humanure is composted prior to delivery, however I agree and alreday have my concerns over what is in the diet of the donors. Locally the humanure can be from Thames Water or Southern Water. It has been noted that the Thames Water deposits have a more pungent smell, most likely due to the more varied diet? As to the other likley contaminants, lets also include drugs and perhaps not forget the source of the BSE scare.
      As a family we eat organic! Which I suppose means our deposits should command a higher price?

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Oak trees host a different nitrogen-fixing bacteria to legumes, but it is a nitrogen-fixing bacteria all the same. Other trees too, but I can’t remember which, and which were legumes and which were not.
      Presumably some non-tree, non-legumes might also have these properties, but as I got the info from a book called “The Secret Life of Trees” I don’t think they covered non-trees in as much detail.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hey did anyone see Natural World yesterday? Straying slightly from meat/lacto consumption, but relevant all the same. It covers the future of farming… without fossil fuels.
      Some very good points, modern farming (including organic farming) has a heavy reliance on fossil fuels: fertiliser, mechanisation and transport. The narrator, a livestock farmer’s daughter looks at how to grow livestock without making hay. She does admit, though, that less livestock will need to be grown in future. She also looks at permaculture: a term I have heard before, but I never knew what it was. Amazing what permaculture can do.
      It does appear that not only will we have to move away from meat and dairy, but also cereals.
      Anyway, watch the programme! Not enough space to mention everything here.
      It does reveal to me the relevance of Dale’s electric tractor plans though…

    • paul

      Jeffrey – yes!! I sent a link to Dale straight away too. Very important programme this. I was aware of all the aspects before but having it presented in a TV show on prime time BBC2 as part of a brilliant and well respected series hammered it home with great force. We are the last of the fossil fool generation!

      We are in for a very very rough time – even without the threat of climate change (which was not mentioned once during the show) 🙁

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Thanks Paul. Actually I think there was ONE mention of climate change, but it was a passing comment near the beginning.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jeffrey, Paul, et al,

      I have just watched the programme, which is less doom and gloom than I had feared. However, it chimes with a book I have been re-reading recently called “The Last Oil Shock” by David Strahan. Possibly you know it.

      For those that have not read it yet I would urge you to go to

      Both Rebecca Hoskins’ programme and this book confirm the extent to which we have undoubtedly been living well beyond our means. I believe that the current economic depression is a constituent part of this new phase in civilisation, but just the beginning. In order to come out of this unscathed we need to abandon some sentimental attitudes as well as some simplistic notions.

      One of these is the apparent moral purity (superiority?) of vegetarianism / veganism, which I feel – as I have stated in earlier posts – is mistaken and conveniently avoids the true nature of our connection to other organisms of every kingdom in the tree of life.

      This does not mean we have to abandon our concerns for animal welfare. Nor does it discount the perfectly legitimate free choice – for those that wish it – to limit their diet only to certain foods for reasons of perceived health benefit or taste preference.

      The inspiring move towards “gardening”, as opposed to “farming” that is mooted in the programme still requires animal inputs into the soil in order to mimic or complement natural processes. However, I think that Juliet’s original argument, to imply that all meat consumption amounts to avoidable climate endangerment, serves to risk splitting the green movement to the detriment of all. Ultimately, I am sceptical that it is even possible not to be a “meathead” by proxy or on an embedded basis.

      Best regards,


    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hi Johnny,
      I agree with you to a large extent. I am neither veggie nor vegan, but I limit the amount of meat/dairy I eat. It was first out of convenience, then out of health, but I’ve kept in mind the GHG emissions.

      You mention earlier that meat is fine “in strict moderation”, but we haven’t yet established what strict moderation is yet. One portion per meal? One portion per day? One portion per week? I don’t really know. Any ideas?

      I think we are all agreed here that the UK’s consumption of meat/dairy is excessive and unsustainable. We (the UK) need to move away from petroleum-based and intensive farming, yes, but I think we still need to reduce meat/dairy consumption drastically. I can’t see any way around it, while still meeting GHG reduction goals.

      But I think it is possible to meet the 80% reduction goal (or any similar goal) without everyone going completely vegan.

    • paul

      Hi Jeffrey – I must have missed that bit 😉 I recorded it – and will definitely be watching it again. They do need an electric tractor – and probably a wind turbine or two in order to be a farm fit for the future 😉

      Jonny – yes – funnily enough – I came across David while reading an article from last year in New Scientist last week called Whatever happened to the hydrogen economy – I was looking at his website at the time I authorised your comment! If the world is small – then cyberspace is tiny 😉

      I suppose, going back to the original question – if we are being asked whether it is possible to be a deep green environmentalist and a regular and enthusiastic meat eater – the answer is probably no.

      If we are being asked whether it is possible to produce enough food (veg) for the world to eat without involving any inputs from animals whatsoever (and where do we draw the line? is vermiculture ‘battery worm farming’?) – then the answer is probably also no, but someone needs to crunch those figures…

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hi Paul, I watched the beginning again after my post just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. Climate change is mentioned 4min 45secs in 😉 blink and you’ll miss it!

      Is it vermiculture and not permaculture? Did I hear the word wrong?

    • paul

      Hi Jeffrey,

      Cheers for that – I did find it interesting that this was more about peak-oil than climate change… that hasn’t really been discussed on TV much.

      Oildrum has a post about the Farm for the Future prog too. Loads more to read!

      Vermiculture is worm farming – closely related to Permaculture, as Permaculture needs all the little critters to do the agro-chemical work…

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jeffrey,

      My gut feeling (please excuse any pun that might be in there) is that an 80% reduction is about right. I assume that means 80% of meals currently containing animal products would now be meat and dairy free. I am nowhere near there yet, but will try to reduce my intake. I foresee some protracted negotiations with my family in the next few months….

      Hello Paul,

      I suppose the main thrust of my argument, throughout this topic, is that I am irritated by the implication that Juliet started with – that only vegans can truly be “deep green environmentalists”. My feeling is that, not only is the pious attitude adopted by many of the most vocal vegans a turn-off for the millions of ordinary people who badly need to be brought on board the wider green movement, but the prescriptive vegan code is at heart unrealistic. In casting all consumption of meat as beyond the pale (for animal welfare or carbon footprint reasons) it denies the role of livestock farming in soil improvement – to grow food for those of either a vegan or omnivorous diet alike.

      Vermiculture is a subject that fits well into a discussion of this moral and philosophical dichotomy. To strict followers of Jainism, for example, I think it would be morally unacceptable – involving as it does the necessary incarceration of animal organisms which are required to die as part of the controlled process (after all if they didn’t we would end up with nothing but worms in our wormeries). Your description of it being “battery worm farming” is loaded but accurate.

      Perhaps global scale vermiculture could be practiced, to help feed a projected population of nine billion of us later this century. Even if this is possible in theory, I seriously doubt that it could happen in practice (without the admixture of animal manure) and I think it would separate us from nature even more than we are at the moment. At present the only connection many people have with “higher” animals is as surrogate humans (pets), meat of questionable provenance or distorted cartoon characters. Nature is presented as a bit of landscaping around the edges of a retail park, something seen on television or – if ever encountered for real – disgusting and dirty.

      Our attitude to nature – and the central place of death in its ability to sustain us – is disturbingly unbalanced or heavily masked. Many of us in the pampered, insulated West sentimentally equate the death of an animal as being morally equivalent to the death of a human. Yet at the same time many of the very same people will happily (perhaps ignorantly?) tuck into meat from animals that have been reared in circumstances of appalling cruelty – where death might possibly be seen more realistically as a merciful release. These same people – say, watching a wildlife documentary – might express the attitude that nature is beautiful, exemplified by a cheetah running down its prey, but best experienced vicariously via the Discovery Channel. How can we draw together these emotionally charged responses into one coherent moral position?

      As you say – where do we draw the line? In a fundamentalist vegan world, where meat eating is forbidden by law, would we deny carnivorous wild animals the right to eat meat? What about domestic dogs and cats? There are already vegans who do so, given the availability of meat free pet food on the market today. Is this not the denial of an animal’s right to behave within its nature? What about our right to behave within our nature? Morality is a minefield, isn’t it?

      I think that the carbon footprint angle that started this topic is a bit of camouflage for the more established vegan position that all killing of animals is wrong. I question whether whole scale veganism is either possible or desirable from either the animal welfare or carbon emission perspective and I question whether an exclusively vegan diet – in a post peak oil world – can feed us.

      Of course that begs the question “How many of us should there be?”

      I have lit the blue touch paper and I am now standing well back!

      Best regards,


    • paul

      Hi Jonny,

      Thanks for the response – although I try not to take over the comments too much (I am not really here to voice my own opinion) I am very interested in this subject in particular – being an aspiring smallholder. I do a lot of research into self-sufficiency, permaculture and sustainable living etc in my own time.

      Here is a view from the other side of the fence – the farmer’s perspective. They also have some thoughts on the ‘A Farm for the Future’ documentary.

      Nature and the human – that’s a whole topic in itself 😉 I have noticed that the ‘peril’ is now implied in most nature docs. I guess that is something to do with the ‘Cruel Camera‘ thing.

      Anyway – here are a few interesting links on the topic of stockless organic arable farming (which is what we are essentially talking about – apart from the morals surrounding veganism):

      Organic Stockless Arable Rotation Experiment -1999-2007 PDF

      Organic arable farming – conversion options Autumn 2008 PDF

      Management & sustainability of stockless organic arable and horticultural systems PDF

      So from some brief looking around – it seems that yes – it is possible to do it. Not as much food/profit output from the tests, and tricky enough without animal input, never mind without oil-based input as well, but still possible. I imagine that the GM crowd will be quite vocal about how their products will help the bottom line too 😉

      Perhaps if we tried to do it for a few decades we would become accomplished at being able to cope without animal or oil input, and be able to meet similar output levels as our current intensive models?

      Here’s hoping we have the time to try.

      And yes – I think we are slightly over the comfortable global population levels. Not a pleasant tangent – and one that we all seem to avoid for that reason.

      “Can you be a treehugger and raise more than two children?”


    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Paul: that’s one of the reasons that we’ve stopped at two, ie to contribute to a gentle/graceful decline in population if possible… I really don’t think the doomers are right: more like post-war austerity is on the cards IMHO.

      …which will almost certainly imply less meat in the average diet, again IMHO.



    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for the pdfs. A cursory first glance seems to show that the experiments and trials have been carried out by experts and on good quality land. Is this representative of what we could expect of agriculture as a whole in a carbon reducing world? I do not know. I will try to get my non-agronomist head around the reports in greater detail.

      Nevertheless, keeping in mind the caveat that I have not yet read them properly, I still feel that the perspective from which Juliet first asked the question is one that masks its true intent. The prescriptive strain of veganism she appears to promote irritates my sense of liberty. I have a default dislike of “holier than thou” attitudes even – I hasten to add – on occasions when I realise I have been guilty of that misdemeanour myself. (Note to self: must try harder). I have just re-read her opening piece and think that is a fair comment.

      I accept it is perfectly right for people to be able to choose to eat according to their conscience in matters of animal welfare. The dietary health argument of veganism is also valid, as a personal choice. But the attachment of the carbon footprint angle seems to me to be a sledgehammer. As I said earlier in this conversation – it “lumps all meat eating into one polluted pigeonhole”. Meat in our diet is not the problem – it is the quantity and quality that is the issue. Additionally, many people would dislike the preaching tone, who would be perfectly receptive to the idea that we should eat less meat of better provenance. That is a more constructive approach – more capable of being widely accepted, unlike the nuclear option of semi-coerced veganism.

      Ouch! Your supplementary is a thought provoking re-edit of my earlier question. I have three children. Which one should I give up – perhaps in the manner suggested by Jonathan Swift in “A Modest Proposal”?

      Now that really would not be a vegan diet!

      Best regards,


    • paul

      Hehe – Chris yes – we agree on the relevance as mentioned above – I have to say – the number of comments on this post have now made it difficult to keep up to date 😉

      Threaded comments soon come! (that will help a bit).

      Jonny – I have to admit that the original draft of my comment above was actually at least twice as long, and included, amongst other things – my confessions of being an omnivorous localvore, my aspirations of being a smallholder, and my agreement with the general principle of seriously cutting down meat eating, not necessarily total abstinence. I focussed on the question of whether stockless arable farming was viable in the end. I do have my doubts about oil-less *and* stockless arable farming though, at least in the present day.

      But here’s some more of my rambling.

      Just as most people do not appreciate being told that they are only allowed to have x number of children, most people do not like to be told what to eat either, or even to turn their appliances off standby. It needs to be a concious choice, which requires a personal change of mind, a shift in thinking. We are still struggling with the idea of man *not* being at the centre of the universe, so I doubt that change will happen en mass this year. or even next year 😉

      Speaking from a pure carbon/greenhouse gas perspective – we would cull all bovine herbivores – including the million and a half wildebeest that roam the Serengeti etc. All together they produce far more GHG than all of our transport and home energy. But is that kind of callous thinking really ‘green’? If animals have developed a symbiotic relationship with the human animal to ensure their continued survival and evolution (and vice versa) – should we really hold that against them? I am sure the cereals and grasses, if they could talk, might urge us to 😉

      Personally – I think it is about balance and biodiversity – it is about an abundance of life, but not over-abundance. Evolution even. We have got to the stage (again?) where our own demands on the resources of the planet have seriously affected that balance – forget about the Climate Change debate – we have destroyed many habitats and have driven many species to extinction – we are part of the evolutionary system – every species that becomes extinct removes genes from the system and restricts how future adaptations can be made.

      Now we need to ask some hard questions of ourselves – like can you be a treehugger and a meathead, like can you be a treehugger and raise more than two children, can you be a treehugger and a petrolhead etc.

      Although I do draw the line at eating surplus children 😀

      I for one won’t hold it against you or anyone else for having an extra one at this stage though. Personally I only have two primarily because they are hard work, and then secondly because of the population issue as per Damon 😉

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for the ethical clarification. Rest assured that of course I have no intention of reducing my carbon footprint in this way. The older two (17 and 15) would be a bit stringy and the younger one (11) would certainly fight back!

      Seriously though, it seems to me that the much avoided subject of population is one that merits discussion on this blog. Perhaps it could be under another heading; “Society” or “Communities”? This could also cover issues such as political representation, access to resources, consumerism, rights and responsibilities, conservation and probably many more – all debated within the zero carbon context. I acknowledge that several of these issues are more than touched upon under existing topics and threads and already generate much debate in other – broadly green – forums, but does the Zerocarbonista community have a settled view on these areas of discussion? Do we “Zerocarbonistas” have anything new to add to the greater conversation?

      I have no particular axe to grind regarding population but feel deeply that it is a delicate subject which is all too often left out of the debate – for fear of raising some potentially unpleasant trains of thought. However it is much better that it is talked about openly, rather than being left only to far-right reactionaries. Similarly there are uncomfortable questions we have to ask ourselves in the field of political liberties – balanced against obligations and the extent to which we can be free to behave as we wish towards our planet and its other inhabitants, or need our freedoms curtailed.

      These potential topics could sit well with those currently being discussed. The vegan perspective from which we started on this particular thread has shown itself to be but one view among many within the green community. Many undoubtedly feel – as I do – that you can indeed be a meat eater and yet also a treehugger. (I refuse to consider myself a “meathead”, with all its pejorative connotations). No doubt there would be other subjects where a particular standpoint might seem the obvious and only green position to some people, but when discussed more widely, might show itself to be occupying just one place on a continuum of outlooks – the consideration of which encourages a wider understanding of the issues.

      Best regards,


    • Dave Howey

      Ahem– surely it’s not about ‘limiting population’ per se, but about the haves and the have nots – global distribution of wealth and resources? This sort of thing –

      If there is any ‘population’ that needs limiting it is the richest 20% of people in the world, which uncomfortably includes me.

      Something about “there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed”?


    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Well, there is some debate about whether we can support the projected population indefinitely at any level.

      My understanding that if the rich world shapes up and significantly cuts consumption then there will be room for the developing world to increase theirs (ie improve their standard of living to match ours) *and* sutainably support the projected population peak of 9bn.



    • Dave Howey

      Of course- exponential(ish) growth of anything (population, GDP, whatever) is never physically sustainable in the long run and eventually will collapse (I wish politicians and economists would realise this!).

      I was just making the point that sometimes suggestions about ‘population curtailment’ have an underlying vibe going on which is that it’s the population growth on the other side of the world which is the problem. Actually it’s us lot (even though our population growth is stable or even negative in many European countries AFAIK) who are pushing against the limits of growth by our ridiculous resource overuse per capita. We are making the world a more dangerous place for everyone else. It is not the poor people of this world who are doing that. They will, unfortunately, be the victims of our profligate, wasteful lifestyles, both now and in the future.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      I agree with Dave Howey too! I haven’t had the time to do my usual google/wikipedia stat finding + my own number-crunching, but if the whole world had the same GHG emissions per capita as China, then I think we would find that the world can take significantly more people, climate change-wise. And if the whole world had the same per capita emissions as India, then the world can take even more, climate change-wise.
      And then most of China’s emissions are making products that the developed world uses…

      Anyway, I did once hear someone say that the world cannot take it if the developing world adopted the lifestyles of the developed world, but this does not justify controlling the developing world’s population or emissions in order to maintain the population or emissions of the developed world.

      Not that eloquently put (by myself), but it is late…

    • Jeffrey Lam

      ooh, just remembered something else.
      If the number of children goes too much the other way, then that causes problems too. China’s one-child policy and Japan’s trend for less children is leading to an aging population. Therefore less workers are supporting more elderly. This, combined with people living longer, is putting a bigger burden on the workforce.

      I believe a similar thing has been happening here, which I believe contributed to the raising of the retirement age.

      So… perhaps 3 per couple may be too much, but 1 per couple may be too little… ouch. I have no children, but then I’m not in a couple either.

    • George

      Things will never improve until we help change hearts and minds!, until people earth wide wake up to the fact that slaughtering animals and birds without the dire necessity is clearly a moral wrong, a “sin” if you like!.

      Reach people hearts and conscience and you will motivate their actions to nurture our environment.

      A persons first monumental step in this respect is very simple and attainable, Go vegetarian!

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello George,

      I disagree with your argument. I hold that things will never improve until we open our eyes and minds to a rigorous understanding of the connection we have to our food and the means by which it comes to us. We also need a humble appreciation that we are part of nature and must therefore participate in its regenerative processes.

      “Slaughter” is a word weighted down by hyperbole, and given undeserved connotations of wanton desecration. Yet a true slaughterman can be a sensitive and dedicated craftsman with a strong sense of obligation to animal welfare – to ensuring that the process of slaughter is as quick and free of pain and fear as possible. I do concede that this happens all too rarely, but nevertheless I believe that we should all strive for this to be the only allowable standard for the profession.

      To say that killing animals in a disproportionate, indulgent volume or manner is immoral or a sin, is a statement of the obvious with which I can only agree. But morality and the concept of sin are human constructs – they are not natural laws, despite the claims of various organised superstitions throughout history. Nature allows for meat to be eaten, so meat-eating per se cannot be wrong according to nature – only according to human mores and customs if such conventions become generally accepted in society as a whole.

      However, if we truly want to motivate and inspire people to embrace a sustainable agriculture to feed the world’s human population without further damaging the environment, the most important things we need to ditch are sentimentality, naive idealism and – most importantly any self-righteous tone that would alienate potential converts to environmental awareness. To change hearts and minds you need to give people options which are achievable and realisable – and yet which truthfully embrace all the concomitant practicalities, such as “how do we nurture the soil?”

      Vegetarianism patently does not meet this standard, being founded on a rosy-tinted disconnect as to animal by-products and their uses – including dairy, leather and manure. Veganism has a less simplistic outlook but I believe still does not stand up to a thorough examination of sustainable food production practice.

      Best regards,


    • George

      Hi Jonny

      >>>the most important things we need to ditch are sentimentality,<<>>Yet a true slaughterman can be a sensitive and dedicated craftsman with a strong sense of obligation to animal welfare .<<>>Nature allows for meat to be eaten, so meat-eating per se cannot be wrong according to nature <<>>naive idealism and – most importantly any self-righteous tone that would alienate potential converts to environmental awareness.<<>>Vegetarianism patently does not meet this standard, being founded on a rosy-tinted disconnect as to animal by-products and their uses – including dairy, leather and manure.<<>>Veganism has a less simplistic outlook but I believe still does not stand up to a thorough examination of sustainable food production practice.<<<

      Sorry but I don’t believe that you have done the subject the justice of thorough research before seeking to demean it, data pertaining to the greater food producing capacity of vegetables corn and beans per acre compared to that of rearing livestock are abundant on the internet. If we choose a vegan diet then we have taken the positive step to reduce reduce our carbon footprint and our personal impact on this very sick ecosystem.

      Yours Sincerely

      George Powell

    • George

      >>>naive idealism and – most importantly any self-righteous tone that would alienate potential converts to environmental awareness.<<<

      I believe that’s its totally impossible to alienate a genuinely good person by reminding them of the kindness that they should show to animals and birds wherever possible, such merciful compassionate conduct has long been expected from others particularly from those who claim a religious belief .

      If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act is abstinence of injury to animals.
      Leo Tolstoy

      Ghandi wrote wich very much the same import.


    • Damon Hart-Davis

      I believe that it’s almost impossible *not* to alienate a genuinely good person by berating them in a holier-than-thou and emotional way, regardless of the rightness of the cause.



    • George

      “I believe that it’s almost impossible *not* to alienate a genuinely good person by berating them in a holier-than-thou and emotional way, regardless of the rightness of the cause.”

      That’s complete load of Twaddle Damon!

      Stretching back over thousands of years many great men ( the founding fathers of consideration for all beings ) set the standard and exposed the plain and simple truth, “that act more like savages than civilised people when we cause unnecessary harm to other sentient creatures“, and as you well know that truth unfortunately hurts!

      Even in recent history their example was emulated by abolitionists and thanks to this our fellow humans are no longer caught, chained, and sold into slavery, simply because those such as (Wilberforce etc) were prepared to stand up with in a seemingly “holier than though” attitude and condemn the practice, and as history shows many blacks and whites since that time, thank God that they did.

      “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
      Thomas Edison, inventor

      No doubt Edison as well as Wilberforce was vilified as being holier than though also.



    • Jonny Holt

      Hello George,

      The subject title of this blog contains two pejoratives. Neither “meathead” nor “treehugger” were invented as anything other than demeaning terms. In that sense, anyone here who considers themselves to be one, or the other, or both, cannot complain that they or the subject is being demeaned unfairly; the clue is in the title. I have no intention to demean your position, or the subject as a whole, but I still think you are wrong and will continue to say so.

      I can assure you that I feel I have done quite enough research to know when an argument – in this case the promotion of veganism – is less than watertight. Of course, that is by definition according to my own assessment. You are perfectly free to disagree with me and I with you. Marshal the forces of dead famous people to your cause if you like but I will still say that vegetarianism, particularly, founded on an anthropomorphic moral construct (but which conveniently ignores the less overt uses to which animal by-products are put) is ethically and environmentally less sustainable than the diet of a considered and conscientious omnivore.

      The vegan position, as I have acknowledged before, is more sustainable than that of the conventional (lacto-)vegetarian. Your assertion that beans and corn can be produced in greater quantity per acre than equivalent livestock misses the point. How can they be such productive crops? What input sustains that level of productivity? A fertile tilth in which to grow our crops is the key to human agricultural survival. We can smother nature in (oil derived) NPK – to deliver the tonnage of grain that temporarily out-competes the nutritional value of livestock (as I am sure is so in the case you make) or we can embrace nature, work with it and – yes – participate occasionally in the natural process of killing another organism for our own benefit.

      Veganism itself remains, I believe, a hostage to the soil – for reasons I have given in earlier posts.

      I do not advocate eating meat in the quantity – and of the quality – that you might find convenient to imagine. This is the main reason I find the vegan (but particularly the vegetarian) position so poorly analysed. Belligerent vegetarians, like all fundamentalists, seem to assume that – to quote George W. Bush out of context – “you are with us or you are against us”. I do not think the world is that simple.

      Best regards,


    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hi there, I’ve not joined in the discussion with George until now… mainly because I’ve been busy, but also talking about causing harm to other sentient beings is a completely different point from GHG emissions, world food supplies (although George does touch on this) and “Life Post Oil and Post Carbon”, the slogan of

      Couple of points: first, Damon, I think you’re a little too quick to jump to terms like “berate” and “holier-than-thou”, and likewise Johnny, perhaps you’re a little quick to use terms like “self-righteous”, though admittedly you were not making a direct accusation of self-righteousness. George has not yet made any direct accusations, or called anyone anything inflammatory such as “enviro-hypocrite”, although you could argue the indirect accusation of “slaughterer” has been made.

      George, I’d like you to clear a couple of things up. Do you eat organic veg (or grow your own), or do you eat regular non-organic veg? Obviously, if one buys meat, someone has killed the animal on that person’s behalf. Likewise, if one buys non-organic veg, then someone has sprayed the veg with pesticides, fungicides and fertiliser, killing thousands (perhaps millions) of insects, invertebrates, bacteria, fungi and other organisms on that person’s behalf. The telling anecdote is the one shown on the “Farm for the Future” Natural World programme showing the tractor plowing land 20 years ago, showing all the birds descending on the plowed (is my spelling correct?) land feeding on the insects, followed by a recent plowing of the same land, and no birds descending on the lifeless soil.

      George, I’m not sure how much of the previous comments you read, but how does one fertilise all these plant crops? With fossil-fuel-derived NPK fertilisers, or with large amounts of animal manure? And who will supply this animal manure without livestock farming? Or will farmers grow livestock in the same numbers as they are in a meat-eating society, but not kill the animals? How will these farmers get their return? And from a GHG emissions perspective, the emissions will be the same, whether or not the farmers kill their livestock.

      Finally, George, are you advocating vegetarianism or veganism?

      I personally don’t wish to demean you or your arguments, but I am wondering if you’ve thought about the consequences if everyone followed what you’re advocating, and what further actions would then be required to mitigate these consequences.

      Let me know what you think.

      Best regards, Jeff

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Hi Jeff,

      I was attempting *not* to attack George directly but instead use a contrasting but strikingly similar form of (true) statement.

      It appears that I failed, clumsily.

      I keep failing my Diplomatic Service entrance exam too: could that be related? %-|



    • Ludwig Heinrich

      I am a past president of a regional environment centre, the convener of a number of innovative environmental projects and have been an activist for about 40 years. However I share a (medical) condition, with the Dalai Lama and others, that does not allow me to be vegetarian. Does that mean I cannot be a “treehugger”?

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hi Damon,
      well I guess you managed the second part: use a contrasting but strikingly similar form of statement.

      Whether or not the statement is true, in my opinion, remains to be seen.

      Do you think I would do well in this Diplomatic Service entrance exam?


    • Jane Easton

      Dear Ludwig

      I hope this comment encourages you to take your green life that bit further – you are clearly deeply committed – but I’m afraid I have to burst a few bubbles in the process re the Dalai Lama. The condition he has is Hepatitis B – meat has nothing to do with its ‘cure’, but he was given dodgy medical advice back in 50s, which told him to eat meat; he responded by eating it on alternative days as a compromise. The advice given him has long been overturned by modern nutritionists, from the WHO, American Dietetic Association and the British Medical Association, all of whom state that well balanced veggie or vegan diets are more than adequate. In other words, there is no magic bullet in meat/fish (or eggs/dairy for that matter) that cannot be obtained from veg*n foods. From what I’ve read, the DL’s attempt at a veggie diet at that time was ridiculously limited so not the fault of vegetarian diets per se. FFI on nutrition, check out the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation’s site It contains lots of science-based but accessible fact sheets and nutritional guides.

      The DL currently advocates being veggie and is trying to get the exiled monks in India to do the same. However, he doesn’t seem to practice what he preaches and there has been quite a lot of criticism about this. This open letter from Norm Phelps, an American animal advocate and long-term practising Tibetan Buddhist explains it in more detail.

      For my part, I don’t believe the DL’s bodyswerve on meat-eating negates all the good he has done. Even though I am a sort-of Buddhist and practising vegan, I always think that to deify anyone results in disappointment – far better to realise that even our ‘heroes and sheroes’ are just human and can make mistakes; better that than to become completely cynical! But I wish he would at least come clean…

      Whatever your opinion on this, I hope very much that you will contact the VVF as above – they would be very happy to supply you with good, sound advice on your diet. I hope this helps.


    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Hi Jeff,

      Well maybe the Foreign Office has a three-legged race we can enter? B^>



    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hi Damon,
      and what would be the rules of this race? No attacking competitors? 🙂

    • Ludwig Heinrich

      Dear Jane
      Thanks for that. I was misinformed about the DLs condition – never trust hearsay:-)
      I have a condition (that runs in my family) whereby I have low levels of serum ferritin. (The extreme version of this condition is sometimes called vampirism – see, doctors do have a sense of humour!)

      Anyway this effects how iron is stored. Over the years (I am now 61) I have tried many times to find a diet that allowed me to function properly. I did manage to stay as a vegetarian for about 7 years but the cost was beyond me as I had to eat a very specific diet and include supplements. I also had to have regular medical monitoring. Even then my susceptibility to infections (and influenzas etc) was unacceptably high.
      I won’t bore you with more details of my case but there were two major reasons for going back to eating meat. 1. Iron from meat is easier for the body to absorb than iron from vegetable and other source. 2. Many vegetables and cereals have salts that adversely affect iron uptake.

      Now I am on a diet that includes about 200grams of red meat per week and another 200 grams of poultry or fish. This has stabilised my iron levels and I feel generally well (or at least par for the course for someone of my age) and nor do I have to do weekly monitoring.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Well Jeff,

      Perhaps not attacking people running in the same direction as you, to the best of their ability.

      I feel an allegory coming on. B^>



    • George

      Hi Jeff

      Sorry for the delay, I will quickly try and address your post.

      “I’ve been busy, but also talking about causing harm to other sentient beings is a completely different point from GHG emissions,”

      From my point of view much of the harm we cause to other sentient beings and in fact all creation is dependant on our willingness to reduce our carbon emissions so the two are inextricably connected.

      “George, I’d like you to clear a couple of things up. Do you eat organic veg (or grow your own), or do you eat regular non-organic veg? Likewise, if one buys non-organic veg, then someone has sprayed the veg with pesticides, fungicides and fertiliser, killing thousands (perhaps millions) of insects, invertebrates, bacteria, fungi and other organisms on that person’s behalf.”

      Even with organic foods there are still a lot of pesticides and fungicides sprayed on them, these however are of organic origin, therefore they usually do not harm us, however they are still very deadly to insects etc so there will always be some harm which we can do little to avoid, if we are going to survive.

      “Finally, George, are you advocating vegetarianism or veganism?”
      The latter !” I have followed a vegan diet for many years.

      I do grow a lot of my own veg myself in tubs and in the greenhouse, thankfully I gained my experience working on salad farms in the 70s.

      I continue to do my best to promote the diversification of farmers from rearing animals under intensive conditions to being custodians and conservators of the landscape, maximising the land we can set aside for vegetable and cereal growing and thereby reducing our carbon footprint, and I further encourage the reforesting of most of the wild areas of Wales and Scotland (as trees reduce carbon, and forests restore the spirit).
      What a great thing it would be see the reintroduction of former native species to Britain again, those such as the Wolf and the Brown Bear, each of which is vital to our biodiversity, but without the reestabishment of the forests this can never be.

      Im sure everyone is aware that we are the most uniquely destructive species on the planet as what we do affects everything else to a great degree( including how much carbon we emit ), I firmly believe then that only when the ecosystem is treated as sacred ( and we view it as a duty or calling to reduce our impact on it) will we resolve to live in balance with nature, however since many people still couldn’t give a fig about reducing our impact then it would appear that we will allregrettably go the way of the Dodo!.

      Nothing personal is meant Jeff, I am just talking about us broadly speaking as a species.


    • Jeffrey Lam

      George, no offence taken. In order to debate this fully we should say what we need to.

      “From my point of view much of the harm we cause to other sentient beings and in fact all creation is dependent on our willingness to reduce our carbon emissions so the two are inextricably connected.”

      There is a connection, but to me it appears one way. One may want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a result of wanting to minimise harm to other sentient beings. But a person may not necessarily want to minimise harm to others as a result of wanting to reduce greenhouse gases. Not everyone who wants to prevent climate change necessarily does so to minimise harm to others.

      I personally started to care about climate change when I was made aware of people in the developing world starting to struggle because of changing rainfall patterns etc. The people who have done the least to contribute to climate change will suffer the most. My primary motivation is other humans, although yes, I do care about the ecosystem as a whole, though perhaps because of its potential effects on human lives. But that’s me personally. And I acknowledge my motivation is not necessarily the next person’s.

      I suppose my point about the pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers is that veg (e.g. non-organic) is not necessarily less harmful to other living things than meat (if it is organic). If the veg is organic, then that is potentially a different story. Certainly a problem with chemical pesticides etc. is their indiscriminate killing not only of the target organism but also of other organisms that may even be beneficial to the crop (plus larger organisms up the food chain). I don’t know enough about the organic variety to comment on them.

      Before we start thinking about reintroducing wolves and bears, we should focus on the less controversial species first, such as wild boar and lynx, which will be more readily accepted by the British population. Interesting that you mention this and reforesting, as I am going to join Trees for Life in Scotland on a volunteer work week in a couple of weeks.

      Looking back at your Edison quote, would we always be savages (according to Edison) if we can’t even find a way not to harm other insects?

    • Betsy

      Sorry but how on earth (literally) can you eat meat and say you are eco-logical? Yes, maybe you walk instead of drive. And yes maybe you wash clothes at 30 degrees celcius, but when you sit down at your dinner table, and eat a slice of meat, Number 1: that animal has probabaly been transported over countries. Petrol.
      Number 2: The cow (or any animal) has been given water and food which could be grown for starving humans, not animals. Waste of resources.
      Number 3: Its totally un-ethical and has no morals to kill animals when we can get protein from plants!

      Please email me >>>>>> if you have any questions.

      Thank you

    • Damon Hart-Davis


      Please don’t weigh in with this tired “it’s obvious” line.

      Many of us think it’s much less black-and-white than you suggest, and simply kicking us with your assertions does not progress the discussion.

      Did you read any of the comments in this thread before in effect insulting the views and intelligence of those who may see shades of grey?



        • Betsy

          Hi Damon,

          yes i did read the comments before and thought i wanted to contribute even if im quite blunt im sorry.
          Please carry on the conversation, if you want me to, i will only read your comments.

            • Damon Hart-Davis

              Thank you for responding: I thought that you might have been one of those SPAMmers/trolls that just drops an incendiary post and never comes back!

              Bluntness is not particularly the problem.



                • Betsy

                  Thanks for replying.
                  Then what is /was the problem?


                    • Damon Hart-Davis


                      The black-and-white “with-us-or-against-us” viewpoint, IMHO.

                      President Bush was widely despised for taking such a simplistic “teenager’s” view.

                      So why will you not allow that a non-absolutist position may be acceptable? You seemed to dismiss all such shades of grey by not even acknowledging them in earlier replies.



    • Justin Noe

      I’m not strickly vegetarian as I eat seafood, does this mean I’m not a treehugger? I love fish but I don’t want to burn the world.

        • Jeffrey Lam

          Hello Justin,
          I’ve been thinking about this the last few days… I have never considered myself a treehugger, and the last time anyone accused be of being one (many years ago) was more to do with my (then) long hair, coupled with the Prudential having a TV advert out at the time showing a long-haired man saying “I want to hug a tree”.

          I am specifically concerned with climate change caused by GHG emissions, although I think we shouldn’t resort to solutions that have unacceptable environmental or social consequences.

          Overfishing can unbalance the ecosystem. Some methods of fishing can harm other life such as dolphins and sharks that may get caught up in nets.

          If you want to continue eating fish, try looking for fish caught sustainably using methods that don’t harm other life.

          The Co-op try to follow the Marine Stewardship Council guidelines. Pursue ethically sourced food and read the label carefully is my suggestion. Co-op and M&S are good places to start, but I’m sure there are plenty of smaller companies out there.

          But I’m not aware of any large GHG emissions from fishing, maybe fish-farming though.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jeff, George et al,

      We are getting somewhere. George: I agree with your position vis-a-vis trees, forests and higher carnivores. For this country, in particular, to re-introduce species that we humans have expelled from our shores would be a long overdue step to re-acquaint ourselves with nature. All in all, I concur with just about everything in your post of 2nd April.

      Where I differ from your position is that I feel we can only truly engage with nature if we accept that we are part of it and acknowledge that we play an active role in ALL its processes. I cannot avoid the conclusion that – to me – those processes include being party to – or complicit in – the killing and eating of animals. This is with all the provisos I have mentioned previously, concerning a moderate, respectful and sustainable approach to the eating of meat.

      However ….

      Hello Betsy,

      How on earth (literally) can you propose the statements you have made in your post? I would suggest either by not having read any earlier contributions to this discussion or choosing not to comprehend the role of each human individual in the benign cycle of life, death, decomposition or digestion, excretion, fertilisation and – ultimately – new life.

      The true morality of Nature trumps any artificially constructed “morality” every time. However, as with most other omnivorous contributors to this blog, I take my responsibilities to participation in this natural cycle very seriously indeed and work hard to square my (hopefully enlightened) sense of compassion to my duties to Nature.

      Do you?

      Best regards,


    • Betsy

      Dear Jonny,

      So you are saying that animals should suffer in factory farms for the ‘life cycle’?
      Thanks for replying but im kind of confused.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Dear Betsy,
      I’m sure Jonny will say something similar (if he hasn’t already posted a comment awaiting approval), but eating meat does not necessarily equal animals suffering in factory farms.

      Sure, if you go to the local supermarket and just buy “bog-standard” meat then yes, it probably is from a factory-farmed animal. But if you go finding organic, free-range meat (or dairy) then no, it is not from a factory-farmed animal. Also, having watched “Jamie Saves Our Bacon” a couple of months back, there were a number of farming grades: from free-range to sow-pens (or whatever they were called), which are illegal in the UK, but not in the EU.

      Oh and the same goes for the animal being transported. If you buy meat without caring where it comes from, then it is very likely from abroad, especially if you’ve picked the cheapest meat. But if you find out where meat comes from before you buy it, you can ensure it comes from somewhere nearby. Although, judging from “Jamie Saves Our Bacon”, you do have to read the labelling carefully in some cases. This also applies to fruit and veg, and I actively check the labels of fruit and veg that I buy to check that it’s from the UK (and preferably a nearby county) before I buy it. (Along with not buying out-0f-season produce) I do sometimes buy foreign produce (being Chinese makes me quite fond of rice).

        • Betsy

          Dear Jeffery,

          Factory farmed, organic, free range does not have ‘that much’ in difference. yes i agree with you that you should get the organic free range option if your going to eat meat, but as undercover video’s show, (like the RSPCA freedom food show) they dont always meet up to standards.

          ‘Jamie Saves our Bacon’ that show was….i cant explain it. Jamie (he is trying to do good i suppose) but he said that british pig welfare aint that bad. Aint that bad? Yes, maybe we are better than the EU but we still have farrowing cages. I cant understand what he did the show for!

          Please reply,

            • Jeffrey Lam

              I don’t know much about the RSPCA freedom food show, but I wouldn’t be surprised if meat marketed as organic, free-range might not be completely so. I do remember hearing a few years back that if an animal is imported into the UK and fed organically it can be sold as organic regardless of what happened to the animal before it was imported. Yes I imagine this is a problem. I guess the only guaranteed way is to know the farmer personally and to see the animals being reared.

              I think if Jamie can get the general population at least thinking and perhaps debating then some good will have come out of it. “Ain’t that bad” is a subjective statement, so I quite readily overlook it. Even if UK animal-farming is still too cruel, if someone switches from EU caged meat to UK meat as a result then the result is more animals are treated better than if that person didn’t switch.

              The explanation I heard for the farrowing cages (from the programme) was to prevent the sow from crushing her offspring. Without being an expert on this matter, I can only accept the given explanation!

              I think the exact standard an animal should be reared to is a matter for debate. If people want their meat to be free-range, fine, but if they are content with it being reared indoors with or without straw, then who am I (or who is anyone else) to say that is wrong? What I don’t like is the disconnect, where someone buys meat not knowing (and perhaps not caring) how it was reared. That person might not like an animal being reared in a farrowing cage, but they don’t know, so it doesn’t bother them.

                • Betsy

                  Dear Jeff,

                  Yes, people have the right to buy what they want and it isnt my decision to stop them. But
                  like you said, they need to be informed on what they are buying. And packaging does not do that in any way.

                  I cant believe you believe what the people say about ‘farrowing cages stops pigs from lying and killing their offspring’. This is so ridiculous it makes me want to scream!
                  In the wild, pigs like humans, breast feed. Have you heard on the news of any woman suffocating her baby because she was breast feeding?

                  Please reply,
                  Kind regards

                    • Damon Hart-Davis

                      Well Betsy, human mothers do fall asleep with their infants while feeding and are specifically advised not to feed in sofas with hard arms to avoid the risk of crushing for example.

                      Pigs don’t get the advantage of NHS nannying AFAIK.



                    • Jeffrey Lam

                      “I cant understand what he did the show for!” Oh also, I don’t Jamie was only focussed on animal welfare, but also the declining British pork industry due to (unfair) competition from the EU, and what goes into cheap meat (water injected into the meat to bulk it up), and poor labelling.

    • Jane Easton

      Hi Justin, well done for reducing your animal intake this far. However,
      fish and seafood are not only (in the main) massively contaminated
      with toxins, but they also have a destructive impact on the world’s oceans,
      which are on the brink of collapse. Seafood is another major problem –
      the destruction of mangrove forests and so forth and other eco issues
      around the world’s shorelines. You might want to check out this link. Viva! gets its figures
      from the World Watch Institute and other reputable groups, incidentally.

      Sea vegetables such as arame, nori (used to wrap up sushi) and others
      are not only full of nourishment, but way down the food chain so less polluted and much less environmentally damaging. Here’s another link: Fish Free for Life – a guide on the health issues re fish as well as some non-fishy recipes!

      Good luck!


        • Justin Noe

          Thanks Jane. Although I’m shocked to read that eating fish can cause Kidney damage, mental retardation and cancer! I think my mental retardation may have occured some time ago but I think someone should inform those poor polar bears before it’s too late. I’ll try to give up this vice but it will be hard.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Betsy,

      Please don’t be confused. As you will have read in many other posts on this blog, we tree-head-meat-huggers specifically do NOT advocate factory farming – much (I suspect) to the disappointment of those who wish to tar all omnivores with the “cruel and careless carbon criminal” brush. As I have said several times and in various ways I advocate quality instead of quantity – with quality of life for the animal being the prime determinant for meat I am prepared to eat.

      Your assertion to Jeffrey that there is not much difference between factory-farmed, free-range and organic is one on which you and I will have to agree to disagree. I do not regard the RSPCA as an impartial judge on such matters. Compassion in World Farming is probably a more balanced arbiter of these things.

      Jamie Oliver made the programme so that we could be better informed and – yes – make up our own minds from a position of some knowledge. He was clear that he advocates a ban on farrowing cages for pigs. He was also concerned to engage with representatives from the “pig industry”. UK animal welfare standards – imperfect though they might be – are much better than the standards in force throughout the rest of Europe and the wider world. He is intelligent enough to know that he would only have alienated the industry reps and prevented a constructive dialogue if he had been more confrontational.

      The life-cycle you mention is the unavoidable one (of which we are a part) that dictates – among other things – the need for the soil to be fertilised. This is a responsibility for every one of us who eats anything at all.

      Given your vegan credentials, how do you propose that this should be done?

      Best regards,


        • Betsy

          Dear Jonny,

          Thanks again for replying.

          Yes, i know and understand the life cycle, but nature doesnt torture or use animals in the way we humans do!
          Yes lions kill gazelles etc etc etc. But they do it for survival and not for purposely torturing the animal.
          If you cant bear to watch an animal kill another animal, then you shouldnt eat meat. Just because you arent killing the animal, doesnt mean someone else isnt doing your dirty work. If you are responsible (and care) you would rear animals yourself (but money issues are bad i know).

          Please reply,


          P.s. i wouldnt rear animals because of my vegan/veggie opinions.

            • Damon Hart-Davis

              I know no farmer that deliberately tortures their animals, be they pets. working animals or livestock.



                • Betsy

                  Dear Damon,

                  So workers are trying to be kind when they whack pigs on their backs with poles?
                  Or sit on hens?
                  Or pull chickens heads off?
                  Or break the necks of turkeys?
                  The list goes on forever. Obviously not in every farm, but when people (from Animal aid or
                  PETA) go undercover in farms, this happens.

                  Kind Regards,

            • Jeffrey Lam

              Dear Betsy,
              I actually agree with you on that point: if you can’t bear to watch an animal (or a human) kill another animal, then you shouldn’t eat meat. I have respect for those who follow this to the conclusion and become veggie (even a dairy-eating one). I have less respect for those who can’t bear the thought of an animal being killed and still eat meat, pretending that somehow an animal isn’t being killed.


                • Betsy

                  Thanks jeff, I find it so annoying when people watch a documentary on wild animals, and
                  are like “NO dont kill that zebra! That poor thing….” and they start crying, but for dinner they have beef????

                  Kind Regards,

                • Damon Hart-Davis

                  You are surely not claiming that all farmers routinely and necessarily deliberately torture their animals for the sake of it?

                  There are bad people in all walks of like but somehow thinking that all farmers and farming are exactly like some extreme cases that may have been highlighted in court trials or activist newsletters or whatever is like assuming that all Austrians lock their daughters in a cellar and rape them because one did.

                  Or, to be blunt, it would be like assuming that all vegans/meateaters/homosexuals/women/men/blacks/whites whatever are incapable of rational thought because one apparently is, which is farily offensive to all members of that arbitrary group which presumably conveniently excludes the person making the judgement.

                  Maybe you need to hear the joke about the astronomer, phsyicist and mathemetician going for a walk in the Scottish hills and leaping to conclusions about the composition of the local fauna…



                • Vanky

                  Definitely Jeff- I hear that from meat eating friends so often. This is down to the old chestnut that the meat production process has become so far removed from the end product. People simply do not have to deal with the grim realities of meat- from production and slaughter, down to their end product being bloodlessly vacuum packed or marketed as ‘popcorn’!

            • Jonny Holt

              Hello Betsy,

              Have you ever seen the manner in which an orca (killer whale) treats a seal before killing and devouring it – or for that matter the way a cat will “play” with a mouse before killing and eating it? Nature is full of examples of what we smug “civilised” humans would consider unwarranted and gratuitous cruelty, which are hard to reconcile with any utilitarian survival mechanism. It is not just our species that has this capacity.

              I have no difficulty in watching nature at work, and do not feel squeamish at the sight of animals killing each other for the food they need. As I have said previously, I believe that I am part of nature. I do not keep livestock at the moment but intend to take on this profound responsibility fairly soon if possible. I would have no ethical problem in performing all the tasks necessary (including killing the animal concerned) to provide my family and friends with meat. I have done so in the past and regard these processes as deeply sacred, to be performed with care and reverence.

              How do you know anything at all about my financial status?

              I am still waiting to be informed about any truly vegan – but climate friendly – methods for fertilising the soil.

              Best regards,


                • Betsy


                  I didnt finacialy mean YOU i meant people that dont have enough money.

                  If you treat the animal with respect and kill it as ‘humane’ as you can, they i guess
                  i have no problem. But personally for ME, i will never eat meat (because i will never be able
                  to have any space for the animals, for rearing.)

                  Im really glad when you watch a documentary programme, when animals are killed, you dont mind. (if you read the comments before, me and jeff said stuff about that).

                  Thanks fro replying,


                  P.s. What do you mean ‘truly vegan’ ways of fertilising soil? You mean without killing insects?

    • George

      Hello Jonny

      “We are getting somewhere. George: I agree with your position vis-a-vis trees, forests and higher carnivores. For this country, in particular, to re-introduce species that we humans have expelled from our shores would be a long overdue step to re-acquaint ourselves with nature. All in all, I concur with just about everything in your post of 2nd April.”

      Great to hear it Jonny, I don’t think it would do anyone any harm to support the reforestation of Britain and the restoration of a more complete biodiversity, of course with the clothing of the hills comes the opportunity to fill them again with the native species we have treated badly.

      At present we have too many people living on this Island, but we can never have too many trees here for its is they will help heal the ecosystem where we have been failing miserably, there’s never been a better time to become a avid tree hugger!.

      Kind Regards

    • Jane Easton

      Re ‘other animals are cruel, so it’s OK for us to be’ simply doesn’t wash imho, for several reasons.
      Firtsly, there’s a huge amount of romantic hogwash about hunting, animal killing and all the rest, with the usual ‘noble savage’ nonsense that goes with it. I constantly hear the organic meat defenders say: Oh, but what about the Inuit/North American Indians/First Australians?’ Firstly, those people were and are in relatively small numbers. Were all 6 billion of us now to to reverse to our gatherer/hunter origins, I doubt there would be any wild animals left at all. They did what they did to survive – we now have different choices, particularly in the richer countries – and our survival needs to take a different rout. And I doubt that all of them were ‘in harmony with the land and had respect for the animals, man’ – there were probably as many deadened brutes as there are now in the human race. Kill for long enough and it becomes meaningless and easy – all the accounts I have read of farmers and slaughterhouse workers bears that out. I’ve also seen splenty of horrific undercover footage of livestock markets, farms and slaughterhouses to realise that these aren’t just the odd ‘bad apple’.

      Secondly, obligate carnivores are just that, they have no choice but we do. Also, in the animal kingdom there is a genetic relationship between the hunted and the hunter in the wild; the hunter culls the weakest and this strenghtens the gene pool of the hunted herds et al. H0wever, humans are omnivores at most – in fact, our guts and teeth resemble the more or less vegan great primates who are are our closest relatives. We have long guts with acids that break down plant foods easily – meat stays around in our guts for about a week, creating toxins, compared with natural carnivores with short guts which poo it out very fast!
      Even chimps get only a tiny fraction of their food from meat, whereas gorillas and other great primates exist mainly on plant foods. What humans are is opportunist tool-makers. We had to eat what we could get hold of to survive. But now that very opportunism debases us and destroys the planet and its biodiversity. The 54 billion or so animals that are killed for meat are bred deliberately by us and destroy the planet and its resources in the process. We were never meant to eat this much meat, yet we do – and it kills us. There is a direct link between high levels of animal protein and heart disease, as well as most cancers, obesity, diabetes and all the ‘diseases of affluence’.

      On an ethical level, I think if we are ever to evolve as a species, we have to develop empathy pretty fast. Some philosophers (eg Isaac Bashevis Singer, Charles Paterson, ‘Eternal Treblinka’) suggest that our proclivity for slaughtering each other is rooted in killing other species. Either we treat animals as commodities, as does factory farming, with all the immorality that engenders or else we form a relationship with the animals we farm – yet still kill them for appetite and profit. Either way, I’m not convinced that it’s good for us, let alone the animals that we enslave and kill.

      Finally, in my experience vegans and veggies (I’m the former) say all this not because we’re fundamentalists – I for one try to lead by example and do the least harm I can and I don’t berate people and try not to judge them. Using terms like ‘fundamentalist’ or even comparing us to Hitler and Pol Pot as someone did recently, is turning it upside down! Whatever people’s views, surely we humans need to examine our speciesism. Why for example to we insist on the rights of disabled people (and quite rightly!) yet condemn a healthy, intelligent and sentient being to a miserable, short life and brutish death – just because we can? Isn’t that the worst sort of ‘might over right’ philosophy?

      And there is no such thing as ‘humane killing’, that’s Orwellian in my book. Even in relatively regulated slaughterhouses such as we have, millions of animals each year are inadequately stunned, meaning they are paralysed but fully conscious when killed.
      I’ll stop now… !

    • Jane Easton

      Re Jonny’s remark about animal fertiliser for growing – it’s not necessary and people have grown food around the world for aeons without dung, including Africa. Here in this country there is a growing movement called ‘stock-free farming’ or ‘vegan organics’. Check Iain Tolhurst and Jenny Green’s book Growing Green and also the Vegan Organics website. Stock-free farming is also taught as a course at the Welsh College of Horticulture, in Flint.

      Re stock-free farming in the developing world, Animal Aid’s articles opposing the Send a Cow scheme mentions traditional farming methods – I’m sure they could find you more info if you asked.

      Obviously, it’s impossible not to kill insects and other creatures when farming, but organic and especially vegan-organic would go some way to alleviate that, partly because of the reduction in pesticide use, partly because more traditional farming methods tend to keep hedgerows etc.

      Currently, about 90% of UK’s crops are used for animal feed and still we import loads more – if we moved towards more of a vegan diet we could both grow more cereals and veg and grow more trees to feed ourselves and also increase biodiversity. We may never be able to feed the entire population but we could do way better than we do now. Climate-suitable (non-GM) soya beans have been developed to grow in Europe and UK now, so presumably we could do the same with other pulses and maybe some grains. Even importing grains/pulses is still less heavy on environment overall rather than feeding them to animals.

        • Betsy

          Thank you for your comments! I believe in exactly what you said, and you put it in the right words that i could never of found!!

          Kind Regards,

        • Jonny Holt

          Hello Jane,

          First of all, this is all meant in a spirit of constructive dialogue and mutual respect. I may disagree with you on many issues but have no intent to offend.

          Cruelty is a human moral construct. Our species conceptualised it from natural aggressivity, probably as an evolutionary adjunct signifying unacceptable behaviours to others of our tribe – our closest family – and by extension what was then deemed acceptable but contrary behaviour towards other competing tribes. With the general abandonment of a Cartesian (utilitarian) philosophy towards other organisms – particularly farm animals – and the general demise of the religious edict of Mankind having dominion over the earth and all life, it has become accepted that human cruelty exists towards other species than our own. In this context, cruelty cannot be said to exist between other animals in nature; it is only due to our imperfect view of their behaviour that we choose to identify it as cruelty. We have no other word we can use.

          So – should we humans now separate ourselves further from nature to “save the planet” or is our best hope for that end to reconnect with nature? Are the choices to ensure the survival of our species as we might imagine them to be – simple and apparently obvious – or more complex and uncomfortable?

          In response, firstly, I will resist saying that there is a huge amount of romantic hogwash about vegetarianism and veganism, with the usual “sentimental bunny-hugger” nonsense that goes with it. To do so would be as unproductive as your assertion about noble savages. However, I find it strange for a vegan to condone meat eating among small hunter gatherer tribes; surely, it borders on patronising doesn’t it? It is almost as if you are saying they are too primitive to be expected to understand. Numbers of humans can have nothing to do with rights and wrongs if we are talking about moral absolutes. I have always in this discussion and elsewhere held that meat should be a part of our diet only in strict moderation. The determining factor should be the stock carrying capacity of the locality – and the planet as a whole – but on an environmentally sustainable basis. I believe that our survival depends as much on our connectivity to nature and a humble appreciation that we are part of it. Perhaps that is what you would call “noble savage nonsense”. Nevertheless I entirely agree with you about the ease with which killing can become meaningless and I give no support to any who would defend the worst excesses of the meat industry as shown in the sort of undercover video footage you mention.

          Secondly, you are correct, we have a choice – and I have made mine. I have chosen to eat a moderate amount of good quality meat from animals that I have made efforts to ascertain (to my satisfaction) have lived good lives and in death have been as free from suffering as possible. I also agree with you that we are omnivores, in that we have longer guts than straight carnivores, with acids that break down plant fibres – but which are also capable of breaking down meat, particularly when cooked. Would you say that, to be unwaveringly true to our natural gut type, we should not cook vegetables? If the ease with which a food can be broken down in the gut is the determinant of what we should eat, perhaps we should stick to yoghurt – although that is not a vegan option. The fact is that the human digestive tract is not as long as that of a straight herbivore. We are somewhere in between, not far from the chimpanzees you cite. As opportunists we have done well and, uniquely, have the capacity to choose to modify our natural urges. The quantity of animals killed, the resources squandered, the quantity eaten per human and the diseases we suffer as a result of over-indulgence are all unarguably excessive and I do not advocate anything like the status quo in per capita meat intake.

          Bringing in the subject of how we might evolve as a species, as if evolution were a process of ethical betterment, is to conflate two distinct precepts. Humans, like all other species, are undoubtedly still evolving – but we will do so in response to our environment, with the most suited individuals passing on their genes and others not doing so. Ethical progress exists on a different continuum. I do not say that our choices will have no effect on our survivability but I do believe that engaging with all of nature’s mechanisms – not abdicating ourselves from one crucial process, in this case the causing of the death of another animal – is important to our understanding of the forces within it which might finish us off or save us. Being as close to that process as I can is the most consistent approach with the greatest integrity, given my beliefs. Use of the word “enslave” in the context of this discussion is even more inflammatory than my earlier use of the word “fundamentalist” (although I do not recollect the mention of Hitler or Pol Pot) – and wrongly ascribes a human condition to the animals concerned.

          We insist on the rights of disabled people because they are family – but I am sure that under more straitened circumstances for the human race, society could very likely dispense with what might at that time be seen as an unjustifiable burden. Don’t misunderstand me – I heartily agree with the prevailing ethos of universal human rights, but I also know it is a very recent and possibly transient invention. You ask why we should “condemn a healthy, intelligent and sentient being to a miserable, short life and brutish death” as if the only alternative to veganism is to agree with the misery, brevity and brutality. I would also ask why beings neither healthy, intelligent nor sentient should be discriminated against – as if their deaths were somehow less valid, more excusable. Which of us truly understands the pain of an old apple tree, harvested of its last fruit and cut down? The fact is that intelligence and sentience as they exist in animals, are properties vastly removed from the human conscious experience, which is not to say that we should not accord those animals due respect when they die to feed us.

          I am intrigued by your sweeping assertion that animal fertiliser is “not necessary” and wonder if this is the same Africa as we know from the media as being subject to poverty, malnutrition, soil erosion and drought. True, these things have other causes as well, not least of which is anthropogenic climate change, but I understand most of these have been long established problems – for aeons. I do not disagree that it is possible to grow food without animal manure (or NPK) but only on high quality land, where reliance is put on the natural fertility of the soil, and no doubt starting from a high base. I seriously question whether it is applicable on the less fertile soils worked by the majority of subsistence farmers.

          You accept that it is not possible not to kill insects and other creatures when farming, given the background natural fauna and the character of the activity. I go further and maintain that completely stock-free farming is inherently un-natural, in that neither temperate forests, nor African savannah, nor any other remotely fertile landscape in nature is stock-free. If it were so there would be no place for “higher” animals in the natural environment. I concede that stocking densities on most farms are much too high and are predicated on our unbalanced meat-intensive diet. However, a proportionate response to this glut is not to deny a meat content to a healthy diet but to re-balance it to something approaching natural sustainable levels. This balance, replicated in our farming and soil management would, in turn, be reflected proportionately in our food.

          Best regards,


    • George

      Hello Johnny

      “I would have no ethical problem in performing all the tasks necessary (including killing the animal concerned) to provide my family and friends with meat.”
      Why dont you have a problem with doing such things, dont you think you should be ashamed of keeping animals in this way! Have you never heard of the words, Mercy, Compassion or Empathy, each of these would forbid us to keep animals in this way? Its precisely this kind of attitude toward non-humans that is so damaging to our environment.

      “I have done so in the past and regard these processes as deeply sacred, to be performed with care and reverence.”
      There is no reverance in such exploitive practices, only complete shamefulness,

      “I am still waiting to be informed about any truly vegan – but climate friendly – methods for fertilising the soil.”
      Its possible to grow just It, ever heard of green manure Johnny?

      “Typically, a green manure crop is grown for a specific period, and then plowed under and incorporated into the soil. Green manures usually perform multiple functions, that include soil improvement and soil protection: Leguminous green manures such as clover and vetch contain nitrogen-fixing symbiotic bacteria in root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen in a form that plants can use.
      Green manures increase the percentage of organic matter (biomass) in the soil, thereby improving water retention, aeration, and other soil characteristics.
      The root systems of some varieties of green manure grow deep in the soil and bring up nutrient resources unavailable to shallower-rooted crops.
      Common cover crop functions of weed suppression and prevention of soil erosion and compaction are often also taken into account when selecting and using green manures.
      Some green manure crops, when allowed to flower, provide forage for pollinating insects.
      Historically, the practice of green manuring can be traced back to the fallow cycle of crop rotation, which was used to allow soils to recover.
      Quote Wiki

      So we don’t really need Cow, Pig, Sheep or Horses muck at all, we can easily grow an abundance of adequate alternatives.

      Kind Regards

    • Jane Easton

      Farrowing crates – there’s loads of info on it at where they’ve done lots of investigation and campaigning against the crate system. Look in ‘Campaigns’ and you’ll all sorts of stuff on pigs, much of it sourced from Defra Hopefully f.crates will be outlawed soon; even the industry admits there’s no difference in piglet mortality between non-crate births and natural births. It’s both cruel and anachronistic. All this stuff about British welfare standards being better is

    • Justin Noe

      It’s understandable that this topic arouses such strong emotions. Afterall this shows that we are quite different from our animal cousins. We have transcended the animal kingdom and become the planet’s dominant species. With this great power comes great responsability for we are now able to affect even the climate!
      Charles Darwin could have shown us examples of how large dominant populations crash once they’ve consumed their environment. I think if we are to avoid this same fate (which appears to be happening before our very eyes in Haiti) then we’ll have to use the one thing we have over nature: our intelligence!
      It’s quite hard to ignore the decades of scientific research that Juliet Gellatley has raised in this post. Perhaps we want more evidence?
      Maybe someone has figures on how much imports this country might need should the country go vegetarian or even vegan? Would we need imports? How much Carbon (considering farming methods) would this release compared to a meat diet? Big questions I know.
      I guess the trick is to overcome our animal instincts and as in my case this is quite difficult (I still eat fish). I will keep trying and I hope others will join the good cause.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello everyone,

      Last night I needed a bit of spiritual uplift – so I read the first chapter of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “River Cottage Meat Book” for inspiration for my point of view. It is entitled “Meat and Right” and I urge anyone with an open mind to read it.

      It appears from this chapter that animals are not immortal. One way or another, they die sooner or later, as do we humans. In this sense as in so many others we are no different from our animal cousins – as Darwin and his supporters showed, much to the chagrin of a bunch of self-appointed moral arbiters, in this case the 19th century church.

      No animal in nature ever dies of old age. Few die directly of disease or even starvation, although these are often the debilitating factors leading to their being hunted down, killed and eaten by carnivores – obligate or not. In such instances the process is often long drawn out and extremely painful.

      In the case of farm animals (the vast majority of our subject matter, I am sure you will agree) we would be faced with several very difficult decisions, if the world turned vegan. How would we manage their eventual demise? Would they be “put down” like so many pets? Would they be left to fade away like so many old aged pensioners? What moral justification could there be for sanctioning such a lingering decline? Perhaps the salving of our consciences would be a weird metaphorical looking-glass altar on which animals are sacrificed – condemned not to death but to unhealthy life. Where are mercy, compassion and empathy in this future? At least we humans can express our wishes. We can opt for medical intervention to relieve pain, in the knowledge that it will shorten our lives. We can express a wish to abjure resuscitation. In some enlightened jurisdictions we can even opt for assisted suicide. How can any animal, in pain through disease and old age, ever express such wishes? In a vegan world, how would the unexpressed wishes of such animals be interpreted? It would surely be deeply unethical to vegans to second-guess any choice on their behalf.

      Furthermore, after the inevitable eventual deaths of the last farmed generation of animals there would, no doubt, be a residual (possibly sizeable) population of their offspring, still requiring our care. What would be the fate of these domesticated animals? Would they be turned out, into the wild, to take their chances? Would that absolve us of any further responsibility to their care?

      If we have moral responsibility to any animals over which we have any control (and I believe we do have that duty) it is to limit suffering. Death, in all natural circumstances, involves suffering to a greater or lesser degree, and usually greater. What would be the vegan means of ending animal suffering? What is the best use of the resulting carcass after inevitable death – whenever it may come, as it surely will?

      My omnivorous habit is informed and underpinned by a profound dislike of factory farming and the industrialisation of food, not least on grounds of animal welfare. I have stated many times exactly how I believe animals should be reared so that their lives can be as fulfilling and natural as possible, while also largely free from pain, fear and disease. I maintain that the lot of a well cared-for, healthy farm animal (even when destined for my plate) is not only to be preferred to that of its wild cousin and its life of hunger, stress and possible lingering pain but also enhances human morality. In that sense, surely, the lot of an organic, CWIF accredited herd is immeasurably better than its wild counterpart.

      Let me also reiterate that I believe that the connection between anthropogenic climate change and our current over-indulged appetite for meat is clear. That is what the research shows and I think we all agree upon it. Where I part company with vegans is in making the leap to argue in favour of total abstinence; rather I argue for strict moderation of the meat content of our diets, informed by the natural stocking density of the land. I think that to embrace the ill-conceived pro-vegan case would lead to the rule of the law of un-intended consequences. I strive (often, to my shame, less successfully than I would like) to live sustainably. The benign cycle I have mentioned so often before – incorporating all elements of the animal presence into a perpetuating system of land husbandry – is the better for that inclusion, on all ethical, spiritual and dietary measures.

      In short I believe that the vegan claim to any moral high ground is deeply flawed.

      Best regards,


        • Betsy

          So jonny, I cant really write an answer to every paragraph of yours because i need to go soon. But i will answer you first statement. You are basically saying if the animal is going to die in the wild then it might as well die for us to eat. If you put humans in ‘the wild’ with lions etc etc we wont die from old age probably either. But that doesnt give us the right to kill humans, does it?

          thanks betsy

    • Jax


      there is one fundamental flaw in your arguments above; you seem to assume that if the world’s humans went vegan we would all go vegan overnight. No vegetarian or vegan who is capable of logical thought would ever assume that this would happen, as much as some people may like this idea.

      In reality, if the whole country, or world’s humans, went vegan it would be a very gradual process. The basic theory of supply and demand would come into play and the number of farmed animals would reduce gradually. There would be less need to breed further animals for meat and therefore the populations would gradually decrease. In this case there would be no large population of ‘unwanted’ farm animals to leave to live out their lives or make some other ‘ethical’ decision about.

      If we all did go vegan, and did so gradually, this would make most of your points above redundant. There seems to be a few comments on here from meat eaters who are implying that a vegan adopting the moral high ground has a fatally flawed argument, but on this point I think the assumption that if everyone went vegan it would be overmight is not only a fatally flawed argument but plain daft.

      A gradual change towards a population adopting a more vegan diet will help on many fronts, including dealing with the farmed animal population, learning a range of methods of looking after our agricultural land and allowing the time for the the animal husbandry business’ workforce to move into other areas of agriculture etc.

      However, despite being a relatively optimistic person and a vegan myself, I know that I will never see the whole world’s population turn vegan in my lifetime, so I would at least advocate a drastic reduction in meat, dairy and other animal product consumption by those who, for whatever reasons, will not cut out animal products altogether.

    • Jane Easton

      Dear Jonny & Everyone,

      Firstly, you don’t offend me. I’m safe and not going to be killed and eaten by you! I regard this as a frank but civilized exchange of views. Several points here.

      The main point really is that if we turned these arguments on their head, we’d still have slavery for black people or the oppression of women, both of whom were once regarded as less than human. I’m no sentimental bunny-hugger and neither are most of the extremely bright vegans I know. I and they simply object to the violence and destruction engendered by the human addiction to eating other species. There is no need for it, essentially and it’s simply not fair!

      Jax has explained the ‘but what would happen to all the animals’ most eloquently, so I won’t attempt to improve on it, except to say that the billions of animals killed each year are only there because we bred them for the meat market! They aren’t rolling around having great sex in the forests and meadows… Reduce the culture of meat-eating and there will be fewer animals bred etc etc.

      But why is it that whenever veganism is debated, meat-eaters always go into the most extreme scenario. There is ‘What Would Happen to All the Animals ..’ as above and ‘but what if you were on a desert island’ and probably more. Sub-text being ‘Hey, I’m a really good person and it’s my Duty to eat animals!’ Yawn. Basically, why not be kind instead of cruel? Why not refrain from killing instead of taking life? It really is that simple.

      As to say that CIWF approved animals are happier despite being destined for the killing factory at some point, rather than being free… pro-slavery advocates said something similar.

      Oh, and I don’t believe you or I are like Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot – I think both of us are just two humans trying to do the best thing in a confusing world. I just happen to believe your way, although better than many, is wrong nonetheless because it’s based in an outdated speciesist approach to other living creatures!

      Re my apparent patronising of small hunter-gatherer tribes. It’s not. just an acknowledgement that there are a relative handful of humans on the planet who are still dependent on hunting in a way most of us are no longer so. Similarly, Tibetans couldn’t grow enough food to be veggie – with the invasion of Han Chinese, there is probably a much wider variety of foods imported in the cities at least. Things change, not always for the better, but they do change.

      Re the likes of HFW and such viewpoints. I’ve seen a picture of HFW cradling a dead pig with a sickly smile on his face. I found it spooky to say the least.

      But yes, when I went back to eating animals myself for a few years, I used similar self-serving arguments. I was wrong. I won’t bore you with the wake-up call I had, but suffice it to say I got sick of kidding myself at the expense of sentient beings’ lives. Killing animals is cruel and those who justify it are just trying to justify their own cravings . No animal wants to die; they scream, struggle and cry for their lives. I don’t care how skilled a slaughterman is at his job, it’s still a gross violence to take another creature’s life against his or her will. Ultimately, there is no such thing as ‘humane killing’, only that some are less painful than others. It’s a bit like saying Theresianstadt concentration camp was humane – well, compared to Auschwitz, conditions were marginally better, but the outcome was the same. Isaac Bashevis Singer – a Holocaust survivor, nominee for Nobel Peace Prize and literary mogul said ‘to animals, all humans are Nazis’. I don’t want to reclaim my inner Nazi – we all have that potential inside us as well as the nice stuff. We have a choice. I know what mine is.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Jane, Jax, Betsy, George and everyone,

      So we have established that we do not agree with each other. You are convinced of the rightness of your cause – based on one moral position. I am convinced of the rightness of mine – based on another. We omnivores have brought forward points of view in support of our position and you vegans have countered with yours, I and others have questioned your assertions, you have questioned our ethics….

      I think we can agree that we are getting nowhere. What started as a fairly circumscribed discussion about the carbon footprint of the meat industry has descended – perhaps inevitably – into a discussion about cruelty to animals. I am as guilty as any for having contributed to that departure.

      However, on reflection, I cannot help thinking that it was the express purpose of Juliet’s original piece. I have concluded that carbon emissions are not of great interest to Viva!, except insofar as they can be used to spread another layer of guilt onto meat-eaters, no matter where they exist on the supposed animal cruelty continuum. I am aware that this accusation is serious – and I only make it reluctantly. I am also aware that I may be accused of paranoia.

      Anyway, we must agree to disagree on matters of animal cruelty. You are unlikely ever to see any compassion in my point of view and I am equally unlikely to see robustly reasoned empiricism in yours.

      In matters of human bodily and spiritual health also, you have your opinions and I have mine. I believe that a small proportion of my diet should consist of animal protein, you believe it can usefully be replaced by vegetable derived sources. Statistics and dietary research – good, bad and indigestible – can be marshalled on either side but both of us know they will make little difference to our opinions.

      Likewise we must disagree in matters of utility; the many practical applications of animal by-products to a healthy human existence in line with natural principles. Green manure has been spread liberally through this discussion but has not been able to grow any consensus as to its primacy in matters of fertilising the soil. Again, vegans say one thing, omnivores say another, facts and fabrications fly in all directions; disbelief and mistrust of motives reigns supreme.

      I believe that – as Jane rightly says – all of us involved in this conversation are humans trying to do the best thing in a confusing world. I believe the vegan way, although better than many, is in the end unsatisfactory because it is based on a misreading of nature and humanity’s place in it – applying the morality of human to human relationships in our dealings with species that have for many millions of years been our food – let alone food for each other – with all the ramifications for our physiology that derive from that fact.

      I also have a distaste for squeamishness in the face of nature, which position invariably becomes a justification for a retreat to a techno-fix model of engagement with the world. I want to understand nature from the perspective of thorough involvement. I do not believe this robs me of the human capacity for compassion and empathy – although I accept that vegans would have me take those traits further. I argue that to do so would cross an important line, beyond which I would risk divorcing myself from my evolutionary inheritance. Feel free to consider amongst yourselves that I am talking rubbish, but at least give me the benefit of the doubt that I sincerely hold this view.

      Of course animals fear pain and can undoubtedly conceive of that eventuality happening to them, particularly if one of their number is suffering nearby. That is why I broadly agree with vegans that the causing of pain and suffering at human hands is unwarranted. But, for the many reasons I have outlined above, I do not count the quick and unexpected (to the animal) killing of that animal as being unacceptable.

      In the same way as individual insects, earthworms and other invertebrates are apparently expendable within a vegan agricultural model – for the greater good of food production – individual stock animals in an omnivorous system are rightly used as a crop. We all draw the line somewhere; we just disagree on which rung of the evolutionary ladder the line should be drawn.

      Best regards,


    • Simon Mallett

      Jonny is quite right in that the ‘discussion’ has gone from carbon footprint to the morality of eating meat at all. I commented much earlier and dipped out as it ceased to be the discussion that I was involved in. The morality issue is covered to extremis elsewhere, my personal interest in this is not just carbon fottprint but the likelihood of facilitating change.

      Telling the UK population, the majority of you are bad people, stop eating meat! Is pointless. Developing a reasoned argument that leads to a reduction in carbon generated by the farming industry along with a return to greater sustainability in farming has a point!

    • Jane Easton

      Dear Jonny.

      Thanks for your considered response. However, I have to take issue with your statement: ‘carbon emissions are not of great interest to Viva!, except insofar as they can be used to spread another layer of guilt onto meat-eaters, no matter where they exist on the supposed animal cruelty continuum. ‘

      You are completely missing the point and yes, I do think you’re being a tad paranoid! Or perhaps a bit defensive – whatever it is, it’s not helpful nor is it constructive. All this isn’t about you, Jonny, or me for that matter – but about the survival of the planet and all that live on it.

      For the record, Viva! has been in the vanguard of campaigning on this issue. Tony Wardle (Viva!’s assistant director) is a committed greenie and has worked with the Green Party (who were very slow to take up the cudgels) even before the UN report (Livestock’s Long Shadow) was published, For years, Viva! said pretty much what it says now – there was a lot of evidence about the sustainability of rearing animals for food and its catastrophic environmental impact but it was dificult for a small group to get this information out before the UN’s findings. Interestingly, Wardle was blanked by the Ecologist magazine, FOE and so forth – all of whom were dominated by the organic meat brigade. He is a skilled, award-winning writer/director. Nonetheless, it’s taken years for the likes of Viva! and others to bring these facts to even the green mainstream.

      In addition, Wardle also has two young children, is desperately concerned about their future and to say that he or anyone doing such campaigning is doing this just to inflict more guilt on meat-eaters is missing the point rather badly. There are groups all over the UK and indeed, the world, who are saying this. Some of them are so concerned that they have become active and got involved with those groups in order to put grass-roots, democratic pressure on green groups like FOE to incorporate the findings into their policy and promote veg*sm – or at the very least, big meat reduction – to their members. It’s starting to take root but it’s all too slow.

      It’s about survival and a better world. I don’t know if animals will ever not be food for humans – all I know is that we need to find better ways of feeding ourselves. The ethics arguments are to me, part and parcel of it all – I take a more ‘global’ approach to what we are doing to animals and each other, but not everyone does. I know plenty of people who like meat and don’t have a problem with killing animals, but nonetheless are going veggie or vegan because they believe not to do so is inconsistent with their green beliefs and lifestyle.

      Simon, no group is just saying ‘don’t eat meat’ – they are arguing in a far more sophisticated way than that – it’s mainly the media who distort the message. What we and everyone else like me is saying is that we can’t keep consuming food in the way we have been post WW2. We have to stop kow-towing to the food industry and governments need to address the issues. Most importantly, the debate has to start somewhere – it isn’t happening on TV, is it? Even Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ omitted the massive role that meat/dairy consumption is having on the environment he’s been taken to task by committed greens everywhere, but too late. What a tragedy, what a missed opportunity!

      Jonny, re your scepticism about vegan organics/stock-free farming, it was done liberally during the war and is being done as we speak. There is plenty of evidence – go to the Vegan Organic site or better still, email Iain Tollhurst who currently runs his successful organic veg business on these principles – I’ve given you plenty of places to get evidence if you are genuinely interested!

      Re meat and ‘all the ramifications for our physiology that derive from that fact’ there was a big study done in California recently which suggested that the biggest development in humans came from fire (not meat) – ie it allowed us access to foods that would hitherto have been unavailable, such as cereals, grains and so forth and widened our food sources hugely and thus allowed us to survive and grow in numbers as we did. Meat played a very minor part in that – ‘awkwardly bipedal animals’ such as humans could never rely too heavily on such a hit and miss scenario as hunting. Haven’t got the refs to hand but can get them for you if you’re interested!

      As for our evolutionary heritage – so what? The whole point of evolution is that we continue evolving – or else we die.

      Take care

    • Jane Easton

      Dear Jonny
      Re your comment that you are ‘unlikely to see robustly reasoned empiricism’ in my point of view, it might be useful to remind you that all the points I make originate in figures from Defra; UN; World Watch Institute; American Dietetic Association; peer-reviewed science (nutrition) or fully referenced nutritional reviews – and plenty of other well-respected sources. I would in turn argue that yours are rooted in an outdated and inaccurate overview of human nutritional needs and a romantic obsession with our ‘evolutionary roots’ ie hankering back to some mythical golden age where each animal was ‘valued’ before we shot it/cuts its throat and gloried in the cosmic cycle of life (man).

      But it’s been a long day and I’m probably feeling a bit shirty! :o)

    • Betsy

      Hello everyone,

      I havent replied in a while, sorry.

      Jonny, on your paragraph on the ‘moving away from the carbon emmision’ thing is true. Personally for me, like i probably had said earlier, but i dont believe you can be an 100% ‘eco’ human if you carry on eating meat. Someone earlier in the disscusions said to me that i was looking at the black and white. I am trying my best to look at the grey shades. Especailly when im talking about hoe much meat you eat. Dale said earlier that its better for more people to cut down on meat then small amount of people cutting meat out completley is kind of true and false. Yes, its good for people to stop eating as much meat, but for me, i would rather people become veggies.

      What are your guys and girls views?

      Thank you,


        • ElynnKy

          “Yes, its good for people to stop eating as much meat, but for me, i would rather people become veggies.”

          Enough to force that on them through legislation?

    • Jane

      Hi there. Interesting point.

      Well, there is going to be a fair bit of legislation about all polluting activities – how else do we stop global warming and other environmental disasters. Meat/fish/dairy are at the heart of almost every environmental nightmare, from emissions to water depletion to the oceans’ eco-collapse to desertification, deforestation and all the rest – not to mention world hunger.

      George Monbiot has suggested that carbon rationing may be the only fair way to stop the rich from guzzling the world’s resources. I for one would welcome a carbon-tax on animal products, although whether the G8 and co would ever risk their re-election chances/alienate the multinations is another question!

      However, that’s not the remit here – as I see it, the blog is simply to get the debate going, to educate and inform. I’ve had too many depressing conversations with self-professed greens who continue to eat meat/fish/dairy but think that’s OK because they ‘only eat organic’. While I don’t want to diss those who genuinely believe they are doing their bit, the argument has to be had – there’s just too much at stake not to.

      Ironically, organically reared meat/dairy takes up even more resources than factory-farmed. Our addiction to animal products harms in so many ways, from our health to the animals to the planet to the world’s poor.

    • Matt

      “Yes, its good for people to stop eating as much meat, but for me, i would rather people become veggies.”

      Be Vegan. If you dont eat animals on moral grounds then why consume and use other things that they are exploited for too?

    • Betsy

      My problem with being a Vegan is that i have tried, and failed. There are so many products that you wouldnt think would have milk in or egg and they do. Supermarkets (apart from Organic ones) have hardly (if any) choice for vegans. I literally eat as less as i can, and i go for dairy free cakes and only organic milk and free range eggs (i know they’re arent that much better but i always go for that option) and i try my best to not eat too much.
      I am totally against the milk industry, i think its discusting. Not only are we drinking from another species, but we arent letting the calves have the needed milk.
      Are you a vegan matt? If you are please give me suggestions.
      And thank you for your inofrmation jane.

        • Jane

          Hi Betsy, don’t give up. It’s actually much easier. Waitrose has a great free-from section and increasingly, the free-from sections (not to mention world food shelves) in large branches of Sainsbury & Tesco are pretty good too.

          Here are a few ideas.
          1. Buy yourself a copy of the Animal-free Shopper from Viva! or the Vegan Society.
          2. Go to . Click on ‘Resources’ and download ‘How to Be Dairy-free’ for useful hints and yummy recipes that replace dairy and eggs. ‘It’s Easy to be Dairy-free’ is also free and lists lots of products. (You can also get these very cheaply as hard copies from Viva!. Just ring them 0117 944 1000
          3, Join a local vegan group – or join a group online.
          4. Learn to make a few simple vegan cakes
          5. Switch to soya milk – not only is cows’ milk (including organic) cruel to cows and their calves, it’s also associated with breast cancer and other nasties. Try it for a few weeks – you’ll soon get used to it and will wonder why you never drank it before!

          That’s a start… contact me again if you need to. Hope this is useful. Good luck!

        • Matt

          Hey Betsy

          To be fair I was in the same situation as you, when I first made the Vegan plunge I was amazed to see how many things have egg and milk etc in them, its usually used to bind. Even the Quorn products contain egg. Not having been vegetarian before it was a hell of a shock. Luckily for me when I started, my flat mate has been a vegan for 6 years so I had a bit of help but once you’re in that routine its just like doing a regualr shop because you already know without looking at the labels what is ok and what isnt.

          Like Jane I would suggest Waitrose for a start, if you ask them for a list of their Vegan friendly products they are usually very helpful (my parents did that for the first few times I went for dinner with good results).


    • Betsy

      Hi jane,
      This is great information. Now my only other question, what do i do when i go out o restaurants with friends and family??
      Thanks again