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Where's the Beef?

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Editor:

While I appreciate Rhiannon Ferriday's dedication in her pursuit to save the environment via veganism ("Hypocrisy Now," April 20), I would pit a pound of Tule Fog Farm pork against a cup of soygurt in a sustainability contest any day.

Like the sustainable livestock raised by numerous local farmers, Tule Fog pigs are born in Humboldt and eat grass (a crop requiring little or no fossil fuel input). By also eating food waste that would otherwise get trucked out of county to landfills, these pigs could hardly have a smaller carbon footprint. Compare this with soygurt: beans grown at best somewhere else in North America (at worst, China) then turned into yogurt in goodness-knows-where (not Humboldt) and brought here on a refrigerated semi-truck. How "green" is that? Any food, vegan or not, is only as sustainable as the miles it travels to get to your plate.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to eat in an environmentally-conscious fashion; veganism isn't the only, nor is it the "greenest." Whatever our dietary preferences, we in Humboldt are lucky to have access to lots of locally grown food, as highlighted by Laura B. Johnson in her profile of local farms ("Grab it by the Horns," April 20). While the carnivores feast on Shakefork chicken, our vegan friends can also find protein sources at the farmers market, such as Warren Creek dried beans. And any of us, if we choose, can abstain from the Mexican zucchinis trucked here all winter, opting for local kale instead. Come summer, the local zucchinis will taste better than the ones that rode here on a semi — especially after we spend the winter and spring awaiting their arrival.

Most of us are trying to do good with the choices we make, and our budgets or our tastes may lead us to make compromises (so far, there seems to be no locally-grown chocolate). Some of my closest friends are vegan, and we have cooked many wonderful meals together; I know veganism can be an admirable choice. So can meat-eating.

Maggie McKnight, Arcata,

Editor:

I have to respectfully disagree with claims that Rhiannon Ferriday makes in her column.

First, having one less child will reduce your environmental impact much more than switching to a vegan diet, especially since a very large fraction of a person's impact comes simply from living in the USA no matter what your lifestyle choices.

Second, according to a United Nations report, "Livestock's Long Shadow," animal agriculture produces 16 percent of net greenhouse gas emissions, not 51 percent, and half of the 16 percent is from land use changes. Here on the North Coast, if you eat grass fed beef, the greenhouse gas impact will be substantially reduced.

The most basic increase in impacts from animal agriculture over the past 75 years has come from the switch to intensive industrial methods rather than there being an inherently high impact from raising animals and eating animal products. Traditionally, raising animals for food gave humans indirect access to food sources that would otherwise be inedible to humans, such as grass. Cattle are then simply filling an ecological niche formerly occupied by deer and elk.

The solutions are to raise animals using more sustainable, less intensive methods, and to reduce, rather than eliminate, meat consumption. I know a number of former vegans and vegetarians who have gone in this direction.

Expecting a large percentage of our population to switch to veganism or vegetarianism is, I think, very unlikely and very unrealistic.

I have no children and have a very low total environmental impact. I do not feel guilty about my meat consumption. You can be the judge of whether I am a hypocrite.

Michael Winkler, Arcata

Editor:

My wife and I loved "Hypocrisy Now!" Recycling, driving less, taking short showers and reducing home energy consumption are all excellent, but we can accomplish a much more dramatic reduction of our environmental footprint by going vegan.

As the article mentioned, this is carefully documented in the compelling documentary Cowspiracy. Also, going vegan can dramatically improve our health, energy, and vitality! The same brilliant and courageous young filmmakers who produced Cowspiracy have now just released an equally powerful film called What the Health. We do not need to suffer with all the heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer, obesity, autoimmune conditions and just plain feeling crummy and being sick all the time. It's the food!

And we cannot count on nonprofits like the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society to steer us right — as carefully documented in this new film, these organizations are heavily supported not only by the gigantic food corporations that make us sick, but also by the gigantic pharmaceutical companies that produce expensive drugs to "manage" our illnesses. What the Health also shows inspiring people dramatically reclaiming their health by adopting a whole food, plant-based diet.

It is indeed crucial to ditch the animal foods, but it is still quite possible to be an unhealthy vegan — if one eats a lot of processed junk food. Cokes and potato chips are vegan. The key is to stick with whole plant foods — vegetables, fruits, beans and other legumes, whole intact grains, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. My wife and I have been eating this way for more than four years now, and we feel dramatically better and hardly ever get sick anymore. Our taste preferences have changed and we enjoy our food much more than before, and now — our food loves us back!

Brian Julian, Blue Lake

Editor:

In the column "Hypocrisy Now!", I wonder about the title as it didn't appear that anyone was being called out for actual hypocrisy; rather that even "green" folks might not be living as "green" as possible.

Those reading the opinion should calibrate their skepticism meters, as the first warning sign that her source of "facts" might be a bit biased is in the title of the docu-drama, Cowspiracy. Does anyone think the purpose of this "documentary" was anything other than to push its agenda? I note that the narrator is a vegan, every "expert" on his panel is a vegan and his "environmental researcher" is a vegan dentist. Checking the backgrounds of the panel reveals that only one has possibly any educational achievements or experience in agriculture or environmental studies. Finally, after the barrage of facts (some accurate, some slanted, some outdated) thrown at the viewer, there is no range of proposed alternatives or ameliorations but rather the simple edict: Go Vegan!

As to the "facts," one simple example will illustrate. The assertion that 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions result from animal production was based on two main sources: (1) a flawed (and subsequently corrected) calculation by the UN's FAO, which considered only tailpipe emissions for the transportation sector, rather than total life-cycle emissions, and (2) a non peer-reviewed report, which has been heavily criticized by environmental scientists as using only half of the carbon cycle (the carbon mitigation half was completely ignored) and that some scenarios were made up to maximize emission values. The generally accepted value is far lower than the 51 percent cited.

However, I support Ms. Ferriday in promoting a vegan food-style. The natural consequence of success in such a movement is more and less-expensive meat for us carnivores.

Bronco Weseman, Eureka

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