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Cows: Our Greatest Enemies

Cows: Our Greatest Enemies

    I hate cows.

    My uncle owned a dairy farm. My siblings and I often worked on that farm. My chores included shoveling cow manure, cleaning the milk storage tanks, and herding the cows. One time I befriended a calf and gave it a cute name. A few weeks later my grandmother served it to me for dinner. It wasn’t the best way to hear the news. 

    I will always remember the day my brother and I were invited to watch the hog slaughter. My uncle slit each hog’s necks in front of us and we watched the hogs scream and bleed out.

    I’m a vegetarian now (mostly) but not because of that childhood farming horror. I don’t digest meat well. I tell you this background so you understand my bias.

    I recently watched a documentary called Cowspiracy. Leonardo DiCaprio executive produced it. The filmmakers are vegans, so take their point of view with the usual skepticism. The film’s claim is that science supports their notion that perhaps half of the problem with climate change is caused by livestock flatulence and the decimation of the rain forest for livestock farming.

    The more interesting claim is that the cow-fart portion of climate change is the type that can be quickly reversed. Once the cows are gone, the gases dissipate relatively quickly. The film claims that even if we stopped using all carbon fuels for transportation, the chemistry of the atmosphere is such that we would not get a meaningful improvement in a short time frame. But getting rid of livestock has a quick benefit, they say.

    According to the documentary, it’s either the cows (and other livestock) or us. If we keep eating animals, and the animals keep turbo-charging climate change, we’re all deeply screwed.

    The movie suggests that Big Meat might kill people for mentioning this topic. So if I die under suspicious circumstances, please reduce your meat consumption. Karma demands it.

    One assumes the Cowspiracy film has some bias. And I expect that critics are questioning the science and assumptions in the film. I’ll let you rip the documentary apart in the comments. But I think the basic premise that livestock is a big contributor to climate change is true. Fact-check me on that. 

    This week we heard that cured meats cause cancer. Sheesh.

    Now add the economics of using a zillion acres of land to feed cows instead of humans. That can’t be a good use of resources in a crowded world. 

    I would like to avoid a debate on the benefits of a vegetarian diet, as I find that unproductive in this sort of forum. But I am interested to know if any of you are meat-eaters and also climate change worriers. I don’t see how you can be both, assuming the Cowspiracy folks are right, or somewhat right.

    Is there anyone reading this blog who is both worried about climate change and also a meat-eater? If so, how do you rationalize it?

    P.S. It was nice knowing you.

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