Back in my third year of college, I stopped eating meat. Over the decades, my lifestyle choice has deviated – I will eat eggs, fish and occasionally, white meat. But I refrain from red meat. My reasons for this change in diet are many. The first is my natural affinity with animals. I feel love and empathy with all animals, cold- and hot-blooded. I’d rather shoo away a roach than kill it; I lift grasshoppers and rehome them; I start each morning from a little perch that looks out on my backyard, and listen to the morning calls of blue jays, the screeches of squirrels. I write poems about animals. Animals are an essential part of the web of life.
I also have more pragmatic reasons. And these relate directly to the occupiers and the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The resources dedicated to raising beef cattle are wasteful.
The grain used to feed livestock could instead feed 800 million people, according to a report by Cornell University (Roger Segelken, “US Could Feed 800 Million People with Grain That Livestock Eat,” http://www.cornell.edu, Aug. 7, 1997).
Here’s an example that relates to the Bundy beef ranchers. Two boneless steaks (about one pound) require over ten pounds of plant protein to produce. (Nathan Fiala, “The Greenhouse Hamburger,” Scientific American, Feb. 2009). If these grains were fed to humans instead of animals, more food would be available to millions of people in chronic hunger worldwide.
America’s favorite fast food – the burger, is one of the most wasteful to produce. An NPR report in 2014 broke this down in simple numbers.
This same article notes that: “Though meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped off slightly in recent years, at 270.7 pounds per person a year, we still eat more meat per person here than in almost any other country on the planet.”
The ill effects of consuming red meat are equally alarming.
But this isn’t meant to be a treatise on the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
The beef industry is grossly out-of-step with the realities and demands of today’s world.
In an era when the entire civilized world is united in its quest to reduce fossil fuel use to avert cataclysmic climate change, a world where physical wellness is increasingly a lifestyle choice, a world in which millions are starving, and a world in which undeveloped land is a scarcity, the beef industry is anachronistic.
When Ammon Bundy and his gang took-over Malheur, they uttered a lot of nonsense about rescuing a pair of ranchers. They presented garbled interpretations of the Constitution. They wagged on about the “people’s land.” But the Bundy’s have been roundly rejected by every individual and organization they purported to “protect.” So why do they remain?
One remark by Ammon Bundy reveals the answer. It was during an early press conference, when Bundy asked rhetorically: “Do you know what the price of steak is today?”
Th price of steak has nothing to do with the people’s land or Constitutionality or rescuing ranchers. It has everything to do with the falling profit of the beef industry. It has everything to do with a red meat diet that is literally killing Americans.
Ammon Bundy is no patriot. He is a desperate and greedy man who refuses to see that the Old West cattle round-up has lost its place in the modern world.
This is why vegans need to care about the occupation of Malheur.
It is an illegal, intrusive action backed up by armed thugs with one goal – to prop up a dying industry.