The Environment and Meat Eaters

July 9, 2008

Carnivores are paradoxically the ancient protectors of the environment.

Consider this, when the first major African game parks in South Africa and Kenya and elsewhere were made, the animals were initially left undisturbed in the belief that interference could be harmful. Elephants and buffalo have no significant natural enemies other than man, and their herds grew rapidly in the game parks. Elephants destroy several trees every day as they eat their bark or simply sharpen their tusks. Buffalo and elephant herds trample much grass. Within a short time they turned bushland to grass land and grass land to dust. Elephants were then starving to death along with other animals. It then became apparent that these herbivore species can be extremely damaging to the environment. So culling of the game park populations began. In due course, these populations were brought into balance with the environment, the environment again flourished and it has been sustainable for decades ever since (though culling remains debated).

This simple illustration shows us that carnivores are actually very protective to the environment. Forests and grasslands are actually protected and nurtured by carnivores. Humans are the only carnivore that is capable of killing elephants and buffaloes, and prehistorically we killed off even larger herbivores (megafauna). Whilst it is a shame that these giant megafauna were eliminated, the big winners were the forests and grasslands. This frames carnivorous activity in a different philosophical light to that which is usually believed. According to this model the human race were probably the most protective of all animals towards the environment. This of course explains our ancient spiritual beliefs, from Gaia in ancient Greece to the hunter gatherers who say “the people belong to the land, the land does not belong to the people”. Our role as custodians of the land is ancient and our spirits continue to yearn for it today.

Where did it all go wrong? With the act of farming which Jared Diamond refers to as “The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race”. The act of farming is one where we destroy the inedible plant species in an environment and then replace them with edible species or graze domesticated herds. We immediately went from being the protectors of the environment to its destroyers. Vegans correctly remind us that grazing cattle is more destructive than raising vegetable crops, but they conveniently overlook the fact that all farms exist in destroyed habitats. At least we can all agree that grain fed meat is particularly destructive, and leads to inferior quality meat (that is softer due to high amounts of harmful saturated fat- see www.eatwild.com ).

We should recall that salinisation from farming has destroyed much of the world’s arable land. Indeed salinisation of wheat farms is mentioned in the oldest clay tablets from the Middle East (Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia), and we are all aware that the ancient Middle Eastern Fertile Crescent now has much desert due to human activity. In the end, it may already be too late to save our farmlands. Then we shall be forced to turn to oceanic farming, which ironically enough will provide us with paleolithic style foods only.