"I became interested in growing vegetables and found myself apprenticing on a farm in Massachusetts. Still a vegetarian, I was surprised to learn that we amended soil fertility by applying bone and blood meal, both slaughterhouse byproducts, and we regularly dipped young transplants in fish emulsion. I realized then what farmers have known forever: the domestication of animals and the cultivation of vegetables go hand in hand. Growing vegetables is an inherently extractive process, removing nutrients from the soil, so a sustainable system requires other inputs to replace them. Every backyard gardener knows that animal manure enriches the soil, so it should come as little surprise that the animal-vegetable connection is so basic that it’s built into the words themselves: the word 'manure' is rooted in the Latin manuopera, meaning manual work. Through my first season on the farm, I gradually came to terms with the idea that using animal byproducts made good sense, especially in contrast to the alternative of synthetic chemical fertilizers."This author concludes: "There is an ethical option — a responsibility, even — for eating animals that are raised within a sustainable farm system and slaughtered with the compassion necessitated by our relationship."
Another excellent article among the top six states:
"While most present-day meat production is an ecologically foolish and ethically wrong endeavor, happily this is changing, and there are abundant examples of ecologically beneficial, pasture-based systems. The fact is that most agroecologists agree that animals are integral parts of truly sustainable agricultural systems. They are able to cycle nutrients, aid in land management and convert sun to food in ways that are nearly impossible for us to do without fossil fuel. If 'ethical' is defined as living in the most ecologically benign way, then in fairly specific circumstances, of which each eater must educate himself, eating meat is ethical, in fact NOT eating meat may be arguably unethical."And I also find this statement of the issue enlightening:
"We need to seek balance in our land and in our kitchens. However, I also ask my vegetarian friends to consider that if they are eating eggs, then someone had to cull the roosters or mature hens, and I hope those animals were not wasted. If they are drinking dairy, someone had to cull the males from the herd, since a world where every animal is maintained would be unsustainable. And if there are no animal inputs on the farms, then that energy has to come from fossil fuels and other nonorganic sources."I'm familiar with the usual discussions of animal welfare, planetary welfare, and global human welfare. I had often heard these questions, asked by several of the contestants:
- Is it ever ok to slaughter a living being?
- Do cows or pigs or chickens know what's happening to them?
- Is meat eating "natural" for humans?
- Does a vegan diet in humans lead to brain damage or other deficiencies?
- Does the raising of grain-eating animals for some populations cause other humans to starve for lack of the grain that feeds the animals?
- Is large-scale meat agriculture ruining the planet because of rain-forest destruction, methane gas production, toxic runoff, or whatever?
- Is small-scale meat-raising sustainable and would it be less ruinous to the planet?
But I found the common-sense approach of asking about farming vegetables without animals very fascinating.