An interesting Op-Ed on the ethics of eating meat.
Animals convert calories that human can't eat (such as grass) or prefer not to eat (such as grubs) into calories humans want to eat (such as chicken).I have made that case before (well at least to myself when that hamburger looks sooo good). If an animal gets to live a good (although a little short) life, what is wrong with eating it? And, if the whole world went vegan, we would not be able to take advantage of the ruminants ability to turn grasses that we can't digest into milk and meat that we can.
But there's a strong case that giving a farm animal a happy life making a constructive environmental contribution and slaughtering it humanely to feed people is ethical. Even animal rights hard-liner Peter Singer, in "The Way We Eat" (co-authored with Jim Mason), can't condemn "the view that it is ethical to eat animals who have lived good lives and would not have existed at all." He concludes that it's "more appropriate to praise" this relatively enlightened view than to criticize it for not being the veganism he prefers.
Every time I see pictures of Ethiopia, I wonder how can people live there? It is only by having goats or cattle that can eat plants that we can't are they able to live there. Speaking of Ethiopia, the Economist has a nice, er make that depressing, look at the Horn of Africa. All I can say is that it sucks to be them.
On the other hand, not eating the meat would allow for more wild animals to exist. Instead of raising a cow, that same land could support a wild buffalo. Or you could raise the cow but instead of eating it allow another carnivore like a bear, mountain lion or a tiger to eat it instead. There is a trade off between how well we as humans want to eat and how large the population of other wild animals, especially carnivores, on earth can be. In a way it is like vegetarians and other low calorie eaters are donating their "uneaten" calories to nature.
Speaking of tigers, this article has an interesting take on how to protect them from going extinct. Farm them like cows or goats and sell their products.
For instance, there are perhaps 1.5 billion head of cattle and buffalo and 2 billion goats and sheep in the world today. These are among the most exploited of animals, yet they are not in danger of dying out; there is incentive, in these instances, for humans to conserve.Reminds me of salmon, where humans run salmon hatcheries to make sure enough young salmon make it back to the ocean each year. I don't know if this scheme would work, but the idea of actively managing the tiger population to help their numbers increase sounds good to me. If you breed extra to allow for more hunting, but their population increase, fine by me.
Wildlife farming and ranching could potentially break the poverty trap that most forest villagers find themselves in. In Zimbabwe, before the current spiral into chaos, villagers had property rights on the wildlife in the forests around them, and they earned revenue by selling a limited number of hunting licenses.
But tiger-breeding facilities will ensure a supply of wildlife at an affordable price, and so eliminate the incentive for poachers and, consequently, the danger for those tigers left in the wild. According to senior officials I met in China, given a free hand, the country could produce 100,000 tigers in the next 10 to 15 years.
Given the growing popularity of traditional Chinese medicines, which make use of everything from tiger claws (to treat insomnia) to tiger fat (leprosy and rheumatism), and the prices this kind of harvesting can bring (as much as $20 for claws, and $20,000 for a skin), the tiger can in effect pay for its own survival. A single farmed specimen might fetch as much as $40,000; the retail value of all the tiger products might be three to five times that amount.
But wait you say, the tiger is a wild animal, it could never be tamed. Think again.
Of the planet’s estimated 5,000 wild tigers, about 75 percent are in India, which, like most nations, believes that commerce and conservation are incompatible. Only a relative handful of tigers — probably a few dozen — can be found in China’s forests. (The United States is home to some 10,000 tigers, owned by zoos and private citizens.) The tiger, in short, is still staring at extinction.