This is a response to an article by Mike Archer in The Conversation called, "Ordering the Vegetarian Meal? There's More Animal Blood On Your Hands." (16 December 2011) I have had to respond to this article several times, because it seems to be a “go to” article for meat eaters. Here is my response, made up of some of the comments under the article and my thoughts! It's rough, but I am sure I will use this again.
Interesting that Mike Archer speaks about cows in Australia where he can talk about the hilly land being bad for crops, instead of also talking about the U.S. (Archer has dual citizenship) where we have tons of flat land. The U.S. went to factory farming in the first place because we did not have the space for all our cattle to graze since each cow takes about 2 acres a piece, and we would still need the grains to feed the cattle and with growing populations, it will only get worse world-wide. With 56 million acres of cropland in the U.S., only 4 million acres are for vegetables for human consumption.
I live in central Illinois, the “Soy Capital of the World,” and we have corn and soy as far as the eye can see throughout this entire state: and it is all for cows and pigs to eat. Ridiculous.
In Australia, the cows are actually destroying the arable hilly land, and Mike Archer does admit that both range lands and hills in Australia could be altered to produce crops, so he actually has no point that the hills and rangeland are only good for cows. He says it himself, though it is easy to miss.
Since this article was written, there have been two “humane certifications” awarded to two different pig factory farms in Australia, and both have been filmed undercover and found to have dead animals, inches of feces in the buildings, terrible overcrowding, etc. What actually happens to animals is not what is in the pretty pictures they show you.
Archer’s part about humans having “omnivore teeth and digestive system” is wrong. Is he talking about your tiny canine teeth? Do you claim because they are curved, almost to a point, that you were “designed” to rip flesh? Ever check out a hippo’s canines? A gorilla’s? A camel’s? A Gelada?, A Javelina? I guess Mr. Archer did not know that they all have very large canine teeth and all are vegetarian (vegan actually) unless stressed. Canine teeth have little to do with whether you are omnivore, carnivore or vegan. For humans, the point is moot since we have a huge variety of food to choose from, so why choose food that will clog your arteries and cause untold cruelty to animals with advanced brains, spinal cords and nervous systems?
If you still insist that you are “just following the cycle of life” and are an omnivore by nature, first look outside and see if you see cows, pigs or sheep walking by in nature. That will tell you that there is nothing natural about what you are eating. Then go outside with no tools, because you were not born with a weapon in your hand. Take those soft nails and your running speed and go after that squirrel (Idea from G. Yourofsky). If you catch it, tear into it. Well, actually, after you realize you can’t catch it and you start to get hungry, you will find yourself trying blades of grass, leaves and it will dawn on you that you might be better off digging for tubers in soft ground and eating nuts and berries.
I always find it odd that people defensive about their desire to kill animals in order to have a "fleeting pleasure of taste" will use something such as mice as their “evidence” of their kindness and love of animals. Vegans are much more likely to worry about mice, and would want farmers’ systems of growing and their machinery to improve.
Archer’s worrying about mice, snakes, lizards, spiders and insects as his defense of eating large animals is suspect anyway, as most insects and spiders can either burrow or fly so I am not sure if they actually know how many actually are killed and how many are not.
Archer does not delineate between the supposed figure killed for insects or mice, but uses some interesting statistics for mice and the mice plague. He claims it is because planting crops destroys their homes, but actually, the plague is from a record amount of mice surviving and has nothing to do with crops! There has not been cold weather due to climate change (thanks in some part to cows and methane), so mice are not naturally killed. With warmer weather and rainfall, mice are running rampant in the fields, eating wheat, barley, and canola harvests. They love the crops! They are getting into the silos to eat the crops. Their population is getting so huge that disease from them might spread to humans! The other killer of mice (and Archer does mention this) is the poison farmers put near silos to keep mice out of the grain. Maybe they could make the silos more mice proof.
As far as harvesting crops being a killer of animals, I do know that farmers here in Illinois take care to harvest after birds like pheasants are done with nesting, so they are not killed. They harvest corn by cutting the stalks high – not at ground level. I am not sure how harvesting "is killing all the insects and mice" that Archer claims are killed and I suspect his numbers came solely from the plague caused from climate change and some inflation of the figures for insects and spiders.
Archer first says that crops take up more room, then he admits that a lot of the crops are for “finishing” cattle off. The crops grown are for cattle and he is counting that into the numbers for his “sentient animals killed!” That crop land could be used for crops for humans.
Archer worries about the herbicides and pesticides for crops for human use, but does not say that those are used on the crops for the cows - and of course, they are. Any of his statistics about hills being cleared for grains is piddles compared to our rain forests being cleared to make way for animal grazing! Another statistic that was used was how “mono-crops” will be bad for agriculture. Why not do what we have know how to do all along – crop rotation? This is a no brainer.
A red flag went up when Archer spoke in terms of “more sentient animals killed per gram of useable protein.” Why the weight reference? The only way to make his point, perhaps? Of course corn and wheat will take more room to have the same grams of useable protein as the cows (if you put the cows side by side to take up less room, and then include in your statistics about crops the overtaking mice population that are poisoned because they love the crops). But since grains give brain and body energy but less protein, they are favorable anyway! That is because most people get about six times the protein they need and are taxing their systems because of it.
Archer claims “farming crops cause a great deal more animal cruelty than farming animals.” Really? Some snakes and spiders possibly get killed after living free their entire lives or mice get killed because they are overrunning the place and no one has handled the problem with mice birth control? Their lives are more cruel than our factory farming practices? That is just plain bunk, as is all of his article.