Meat-Is-Must Ideology Already Disturbs Eco Balance


Just sent this to the press:

I refer to the letter ‘”No meat, no fish” ideology can disturb eco balance’ (Sept 26) by Paul Chan in ‘The Sunday Times’, which stated that that ‘we cannot survive on rice and vegetables alone’ and ‘if half the world’s population became vegetarian… the sea would be infested with whales, sharks and blue tunas, which would prey on all the other marine animals, while cows and lambs would swamp the land to eat all the grass. We would then compete with other predators for meat and agricultural land to grow rice and vegetables.’ He also wrote that ‘We don’t need to disturb the natural cycle of life, and should… maintain the eco balance’.

First, a vegetarian diet does requires more than rice and vegetables. According to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vsk/food_groups.html), a balanced diet includes fruits, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Second, if humans really cannot survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet, his concerns are unfounded, as the human race will surely not starve itself to death due to attachment to a faulty diet. Third, it is helpful to know that the founder of Vegan Society Donald Watson was vegetarian for over 80 years and vegan for over 60 years, who passed away at the ripe old age of 95 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Watson), which few meat-eaters reach.

Fourth, half the world will not turn vegetarian overnight. Since this takes time, the planet’s ecology will naturally balance itself in good time. Fifth, due to relentless consumption, the sea is already facing severe near extinction of whales, sharks and blue tunas, which means its eco balance is already off. Sixth, cows and lambs today are almost all domesticated, trapped on farms, with their numbers controlled by consumers’ demand, making it impossible for them to suddenly run free to create havoc. The true way to keep their numbers in check is to consume less of them. Seventh, since a vegan diet can sustain us, there is no need to ‘compete with other predators for meat’.

Eighth, humans are already disturbing ‘the natural cycle of life’ – precisely by attachment to fish and meat as musts – by overfishing and overbreeding of livestock. As written by Jessica Chean in ‘The Sunday Times’, ironically on the same day in her article ‘A Budding Vegetarian’, ‘According to the United Nations, agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, consumes 70% of global freshwater, 38% of total land use and contributes 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Producing 1kg of beef, for example, requires 16kg of grain and 100,000 litres of water.’ As she suggests, if we cut meat consumption a little, it will help a little. The less meat we consume, the more easily will true eco balance be restored.

Here is another response:

I refer to “’No meat, no fish’ ideology can disturb eco balance” (Sept 26). The writer believes that humans need to eat other animals in order to “maintain the eco balance”. However, there was eco balance before humans ever appeared on Earth. We appeared approximately 2-3 million years ago, whereas sharks appeared more than 200 million years ago. Indeed, all or most of the animals whom we eat predate us by millions of years, yet there seems to be no record of eco imbalance that did not self correct.

In fact, we humans are the ones throwing the environment out of balance. For instance, we no longer catch fishes with fishing poles. Instead, we use industrial methods that simultaneously capture 1000s of fishes and other marine animals, thereby devastating marine ecosystems already endangered by the pollution we cause.

As to land animals, such as the cows and lambs mentioned by Paul Chan, they, like chickens and pigs, no longer live anything approaching a natural life. For instance, 1000s of chickens are crowded together in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The conditions in these CAFOs deprive chickens of opportunities to practice natural behaviours such as nesting, dust bathing, foraging and caring for their young. Then, chickens raised for meat are slaughtered when these thinking, feeling beings are only 6-8 weeks old. To make matters worse, our rapidly increasing meat consumption disturbs the eco balance by creating large amounts of pollution, as well as causing the release of greenhouse gases.

Dr George Jacobs
President, Vegetarian Society (Singapore)
www.vss.sg