It’s actually really hard to grasp onto the complex reality of what it means to raise and slaughter livestock for consumption. Livestock are animals that we have domesticated for our own use over the last 10,000 years. They wouldn’t exist without our meddling hands.
It’s doubly difficult to understand this idea: Slaughtering one cow raised on a Regenerative Farm can actually reduce the harm suffered by many many other animals.
But it is a truth. It is a truth we need to grasp onto in order to move forward in agriculture.
In a conventional feed-lot livestock farm, the health of all the animals involved suffers, including the humans who run the farm.
Other beings suffer: The soil web of life; the small animals, the large animals, song birds and birds of prey, beetles, spiders, honeybees, earthworms, and on and on and on, into the sunset.
These small itty bitty creatures are really animals. They are as essential, if not more essential, than the larger mammals. The ladybug, tadpole, and garden spider all play a minute, but infinitely expansive, role in the circle of life.
These small animals make up the vast majority of animal life on the planet, and we need to begin to respect them. Truly.
Let’s get this straight — Veganism does not cause “Less Harm To Animals”. It causes “Less Harm To Some Animals.”
Some animals that are more like us. The ones that we like to anthropomorphize. The cute ones.
But there are a million unpopular animals that live within the web of Nature that also deserve our respect. These animals provide the unseen food-web framework that all of us larger animals depend upon.
It’s a life or death situation.
Conventional farming, in general, harms or kills many billions of these animals every year in order to establish rule of law over their territory.
The small creatures may not have backbones — they may not have doe eyes — they may not have fuzzy fur - and they may lack cute hooves and horns; But they are incredibly important, and they are, no matter what anybody says, animals.
A vegan may cause less harm to a pig, or a cow, or a few chickens raised in a feed-lot CAFO.
But if they really wanted to cause less harm to all the animals in the food web, they would have to turn to Regenerative Agriculture to purchase their ingredients.
But who does that?
Not many people at all.
That is what we truly need to change in order to reduce the harm that all sentient creatures suffer at the hands of agriculture.
Conventional farming is based on three methods of agricultural control and dominance: Chemical, Genetic, and Mechanical.
Each of these methods plays a role in the symphony of soil web destruction that we like to call “farming”.
I know. I am a farmer.
In general, we have to manage our lands with severity in order to increase production so that we can streamline operations so that our costs go down every year and we can make a profit , or the entire damn thing will sink into the muddy ground we till.
Farmers have one of the hardest jobs out there. They commit suicide at double the rate of veterans of war. They rank right below loggers and deep sea fisherman in terms a dangerous occupation. On top of all that, they make barely enough to scrape by.
Most of this is caused by the industrial agriculture farm system. “Farming as Factory — Inputs, Outputs, and Profit.”
But what we call “farming” is changing in small pockets of rural America, where the unsung geniuses of the land are toiling away tirelessly trying to keep their small farms afloat in a massive agricultural industry subsidized by the government and Big Ag.
In other words, all “farming” is not created equal. It is changing.
Farmers, at least, are beginning to understand the complex and sacred web of life that exists within the soil.
Let’s cut right to the chase.
Here is the exact argument that a vegan will make when confronted with the idea that Regenerative Farming causes less harm to animals than Veganism.
“But all pigs, cows, and chickens that are raised for the selfish carnist ALSO rely upon those same crops that would feed us vegans. So no matter what, Vegans cause less harm to animals because we eat those crops instead of feeding them to animals.”
That basic concept has validity to it, and I wholeheartedly subscribed to it for the many years that I was a vegetarian.
That all changed when I finally began to wrap my head around the potential of Regenerative Agriculture.
I became a farmer and learned what it took to raise a pound of broccoli or a field of potatoes, the carnage I had to carry out in order to secure my landscape from the many pests and prey and predators and weeds and weevils and on and on that wanted what I was trying to grow.
There is no vegan agriculture unless one is farming on a blank slate; even a piece of desert land contains a mouse waiting for the right opportunity to harvest a kernel of corn.
Riding a bike and driving a car both transport you from Point A to Point B. They both use wheels. They both require some form of energy to move forward. But that is where the similarities end.
A bicycle improves the health of the bicyclist and has a minimal impact on the environment while transporting a person around town.
At this point in history everybody knows the positive aspects of riding a bike. Everybody knows that bicycles are healthier for us, for the environment, and for our communities.
But instead of changing our ways, we say, “It would be so smart to ride a bicycle to the store. I would probably get in shape, while causing less greenhouse gas emissions.” And then we find an excuse not to do it, and jump into our gas-guzzling cars, bemoaning the state of the world all the while.
There are some die-hard cyclists that make it happen no matter what, rain, shine or snow, and they are the dedicated few who cause the least harm to themselves, their community, and the planet.
Similarly, there are some farmers out there that are dedicated to creating a truly sustainable Regenerative Farming paradigm, even in the face of Big Ag and intense competition for the consumer’s food dollars.
Meat is the most digestible nutrient-dense food on the planet and therefore we have evolved as a species to pursue it.
We can ignore or externalize all the issues in conventional farming in order to selfishly maximize our own health, but in the end, taken collectively, this type of destructive (dare I say poisonous) agriculture will result in the collapse of all healthy systems; ecological, social, and economic.
The overall health of the small family farm has numerous and untold benefits upon and within our dwindling rural communities. All of us who grew up in small farm communities have seen them crumble and collapse over the course of the last thirty years.
No doubt this collapse has played a massive role in the increasing the poverty of rural America, including the devilish crystal meth epidemic, the massive obesity epidemic, and all the diet and lifestyle related health problems that plague us, including dementia, depression, and diabetes.
This teaches us a visceral lesson: We ignore the web of life at our own peril.
We grow fat and mad with our poison foods and drinks, our bones breaking and our souls screeching for meaning.
We are what we consume. And that includes the air that we breathe, the water that we bathe in, our social networks, our ties to the community, even the TV that we watch.
Within the Conventional Agriculture paradigm you have two options.
You can become a vegan and reduce harm to specific livestock by abstaining from consuming their flesh directly. Conversely, you can ignore the ethical, ecological, social and economic issues that rampant throughout the entire system, and simply focus on what you like to put in your mouth.
Outside of that system you can find an entirely different way of life. One that increases the health of human, animal, and vegetable.
In the Regenerative Agriculture paradigm, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Eating animal products from a Regenerative Farm supports the ethical, ecological, social, and economic health of rural America, and ultimately the entire country.
This way of farming and eating has far-reaching global implications, but it has yet to become even 5% of total production.
It is time to change that. How do we do that? By voting for the system that you want with your dollars.
That is the only real way.
What are you willing to pay for health?