Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A blog detractor

First picture: Hog rearing on a large scale industrial farm.

Second picture: Aimee being cruel to animals on our farm

Interesting. A comment on the blog post the other day comes from a Bea Elliot, a vegetarian detractor of meat-eating. Here it is:

Bea Elliott said...

The human body does not "need" meat to thrive. We can do fine on a plant base diet. These animals - Or rather these small babies that are about to die are being killed for the taste of their flesh alone... Perhaps it's about time you examined your compassionate soul and spared the innocent from your gluttony?

November 8, 2010 5:23 PM

And my response:

Bea, you make four points, near as I can see, of which I agree with two. The remainder reveal some difficulties with your understanding of agriculture.

1) I agree, there's no need for humans to eat meat. What we need are proteins and lipids.

2) We can get by just fine on a balance of the proteins and fats found in some plants.

3) These animals are about to die, to feed us and five other families, about fifteen people. Including several children. These are not heavy meat-eating families. All of us in the pig club buy local food and wholefoods and base our diets largely on that. The Womerlippis tend to eat what we grow in the farm. My wife is vegetarian, so her diet is more restricted -- she has to buy more food than I do. [Explanation, not in my original response: Aimee uses more "convenience" foods and commercially prepared foods than I do, because my preferred diet, with a little meat included, can mostly be grown on our farm.] I eat meat perhaps five meals a week. I don't think this adds up to gluttony, and if you do think so, you are not making careful distinctions, nor are you attacking the most problematic sources of animal cruelty -- particularly industrial farming systems.

4) The main reason we grow livestock is to make use of plants unpalatable to humans, and to fertilize our vegetable gardens. Animals are needed to complete the nitrogen and other cycles to grow plant foods. The two go together. Here in Maine, at 527 feet above sea level, livestock agriculture is the most viable land use. It's also interwoven in our case with the need for compost for our vegetable garden, and in general in Maine, manure is the primary source of fertilizer on many farms. There are plant-based ways to complete these cycles, cover crops and the like, but none are as effective as manure cycling systems. Other key elements also work well, so, for instance our free range hens eat all the slugs that otherwise hurt our plants. But that means one of them occasionally ends up in the pot, like for instance the time a few blogs ago when a hawk tore a whole in one of our hens.

So in general, in northern climate agriculture, and for at least 6,000 years, my British Isles farming ancestors used animals and plants together in ecological combination. This is, to my mind, the definition of the word "sustainable."

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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