Defending Meat: Vegetarian Myth #1- "Meat is bad"

December 21, 2016 by Taylor Collins posted on Land + Livestock

In an increasingly polarized food community in which vegetarians advocate for a diet free from animals, I have found myself baffled by the rhetoric and misinformation propagated by this close-minded collective. Since the inception of EPIC in 2013, anti-meat propaganda has only accelerated and unfortunately continues to misguide and deceive consumers. As a result, vegetarian disinformation has influenced popular and deep-held beliefs in our culture by suggesting that meat consumption is destroying our planet, making us sick, and is inhumane towards animals. We hear different iterations of this myth everyday and the vegetarian community has succeeded in making omnivores feel guilty and apologetic for eating meat. Unfortunately this propaganda has resulted in behaviors that in many cases only proliferate our problems of environmental degradation, malnourishment, and economic despair. 

In a time where our current food system is undoubtedly making us sick, destroying the planet, and degenerating the health of livestock, I am here to shed truth on the conventional myth that "meat is bad". In order to do this, let's state the obvious; some meat production is bad and some meat production is really good. I will never defend industrialized or animal feedlot operations and strongly believe that they should be illegal. Industrialized meat production is as destructive as conventional monoculture crop production and without a trace of doubt a leading cause to environmental degradation. The clear distinction between industrialized meat production and grass fed meat production seems obvious, right? It's like comparing petroleum based industrialized crop production to biodynamic and organic crop production. In my mind these are so fundamentally different that we need to intentionally separate them. I strongly believe that industrialized monoculture crop production is the greatest evil within agriculture, however I cannot say that ALL crop production is evil. The ridiculous assumption that ALL meat production has equal outcomes is the first flaw in vegetarian propaganda. 

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This is a great starting point in challenging the conventional vegetarian narrative and can be an enlightening moment for advocates of a meat free diet. Simply put, many of the terrible consequences of industrialized meat production are accurate, BUT grass fed and pastured livestock systems are a completely different animal. When managed appropriately grass fed operations eliminate the ecological destruction of feedlots by allowing animals to convert their waste (manure and urine) into valuable assets (fertilizer) and farmers liberate themselves from heavy input (petroleum, feed, antibiotics) to low input. On regenerative and holistically managed ranches, animal impact is managed so well that in many cases the livestock are producing a net positive return on the planet!!! This is accomplished primarily through enriching soil, creating healthy grass lands, providing habitats for native and migratory species, producing nourishing food, and regenerating rural economies. I have yet to find a single crop farm that is capable of producing a net positive return on the earth without incorporating animal impact, it is impossible because without animals, the symbiotic relationship between grasslands, soil health, and nutrient cycles cannot be completed in a closed loop system.

Let's be mindful about generalizing all meat production into the same system with similar outcomes. As stated above, this is the single greatest myth propagated by the vegetarian community and the easiest starting point in defending meat. The next time you hear someone mindlessly repeating the words “meat is bad for the environment” ask them to explain themselves further. They will likely stumble through a generic answer and say they heard about it on the vegetarian propaganda film Cowspiracy. That's the moment where you explain that “all meat production cannot be simplified into one system. Industrialized animal production is undoubtedly destructive, but not our only choice. When we support ranchers who raised their animals on pasture, we are championing a system that has the potential to not only be zero waste, but also sequester carbon, improve soil biology, create habitats for native and migratory animals, and produce nourishing food. In this system, meat production can regenerate our ecological health!”

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