It takes my copy of Farmers Weekly about the same time to cross the Atlantic as it did my great great great grandparents, 10-14 days, so this evening I have been digesting the November 13th copy. Stephen Carr and I evidently think along the same wavelength, because much of what he wrote and is considering has been on my mind for several weeks, ever since a book called "Eating Animals" has entered into my awareness.
I have not read this book, but have followed with a mixture of interest and horror various reviews of it on the Huffington Post. The comments that inevitably follow the reviews are depressing to say the least, because it becomes so clear how little the public knows about farming of any kind. The assertion that animals are "pumped full of hormones and antibiotics" is completely false, but never the less accepted as fact by the readership of the Huff Post. The "don't eat animals" movement has moved far beyond the idea it is wrong to eat animals. Now, it isn't just wrong to eat animals because they are living beings, now it is wrong because animal agriculture supposedly is killing the planet, something I rather doubt. Growing corn(maize) evidently is as well. In fact, nearly everything farmers do is bad for the planet......the armchair quarterbacks of farming sound this alarm daily. One would halfway expect the crowd at a cattle auction to resemble a group of barbarians or mutant zombies, intent on eating the brains of the elite.
The way I see it, cattle, sheep and pigs have been around for centuries. Much of the land in the world is not fit to be tilled. As far as I know, all of my ancestors for quite some time have eaten meat and used milk products, if it shortened their lives it wasn't by much, 3 of my grandparents lived to be 93, one lived to be 80. None of my great grandparents died before the age of 72, several lived into their 80s and 2 into their 90s. For all the harm we as farmers do, and for all the poison we spread to grow food, lifespans are increasing.
Somewhere along the way, alot of common sense has disappeared in the population of the developed world. Suddenly, a cow eating grass and belching happily, as cows have done since cows were invented, is a menace to the planet. Forget the subdivisions, space shuttle(it gasses off alot of pollution). Forget the grain used to make beer and pet food. Forget the land used for golf courses and football fields, shopping malls and airport runways. Forget the fact farmers worldwide are struggling with prices at or below the cost of production to feed 6 billion+ people. Lets all follow the lead of a few actors, authors and a handful of scientists who I expect are very smart but have never farmed and let's damn livestock farming as the biggest menace to mankind since old Adolph Hitler first drew a crowd. While we are at it, let's drag crop farming around by the nose for good measure, those darned farmers, poisoning all of us with herbicides and insecticides and chemical fertilizers just to make....a PROFIT of all things, who do those farmers think they are, thinking growing food is important enough to garner a living wage.
So, on one hand, organic farming is the darling of the save the earth crowd. Perhaps they know something I don't, but from my farming experience I know all crops need N, P, and K. If you aren't going to use chemical fertilizer, manure seems to be one of the best sources of it I know, and it takes alot of it to replace commercial N, P, and K. But what does the save the earth crowd want to do?? Put livestock farming in the same category as selling cocaine to children. I wonder if Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson considered that when he declared one day last week "thank a farmer day"???
Cutlets Carr pointed out in his trial that 60% of British ag land is in grass, and much of that is unsuitable for anything but grass. You can apply that same logic to much of the world, the 1800 acres of grass my cattle run on could never be plowed, it could never grow anything but grass. The truth of it is, raising livestock has been part of humankind for centuries. Meat has been part of our diet for centuries. It has only been in the last few years that meat has become the supreme threat to the planet. I think this is just fad, albeit a dangerous one especially when coupled with the "can't you all just farm organically" mindset. Take away animal agriculture and you render millions of acres that have been producing protein for people more or less useless. Take away their manure and your remove what is arguably the best organic fertilizer there is. You can't feed over 6 billion people on pipedreams and theories, but you probably can cause enough damage to agriculture with irresponsible policies brought about by misinformation spewed by people who have never milked a cow or plowed a furrow to bring on a man made famine. Maybe just every once in a while actors, politicians and musicians ought to ask the real experts on food production their opinion....hey, what a novel idea, lets ask a FARMER about growing food.