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Cow face

Got Beef?

by Brendon Bosworth / 29.05.2009

It’s the vegetarian’s hydra – the volley of questions that surround the action of placing a soya patty on the braai grid. Why don’t you eat meat? What’s wrong with you? Is it ‘cos your girlfriend’s a veggie?

In the beginning I was all for the visceral approach, picking choice scenes from that animal cruelty doccie I watched, the one that finally turned me, and relaying them in graphic detail. I spoke of that redneck rancher. Swaggering into the sheep pen, swearing at the top of his tar-stained lungs, picking up the little lambs, puffs of cotton wool; holding them high above his head, filthy hands trapping their twiggy forelegs, then ceremoniously slamming their heads against the cement floor. Dashing them against that stony surface – cave man with a club – until their skulls collapsed. Then there were the pigs: packed into their stifling sty, air thick with schizophrenic ‘reeting.’ That fat one lying on its side with a pus-filled goitre swelling on its belly – distorted balloon. A cannibalistic comrade, demented, pushing its snout deep into the abscess, snacking down on the infection. Making that bacon taste better. The cows: disconsolately following the death march, shivering in line, eyes popping, waiting to be strung up, sliced up, bled to death. The twitching of the bodies and the spraying of the blood. Old adage: if the abattoirs had glass walls less people would eat meat.

But it’s old, it’s boring. People switch off after the lamb schpiel. The new angle is fresher, it has currency. Jump on the sustainability bandwagon and slag off the earth murderers. An aptly titled report by the UN FAO, Livestock’s Long Shadow, lays it down nice and proper. Globally, the cattle farming industry generates more greenhouse gases, as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent, than all of the world’s transport combined. Which means that smug cycle-everywhere guy can wipe the eco-friendly smirk off his face if he’s tucking into burgers for dinner.

A quick bit of science: cattle burp and fart methane, a gas 23-times more potent that carbon dioxide. So gaseous are the grass-chewing quadrupeds, that livestock accounts for 30-40% of anthropogenic methane emissions worldwide. When it comes to growing grain to fatten up our future T-bones, nitrogen-based fertilizers are used extensively. The manufacturing process spews nitrous oxide into the air – a devilish gas packing 300-times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, with an atmospheric lifespan of 150 years. Overall, it’s estimated that the livestock industry is responsible for 65% of anthropogenic nitrous-oxide emissions.

On top of that, there are the massive swathes of Amazonian rainforest that have been decimated to make way for Brazilian pastures; the fact that roughly 30% of terrestrial land is used for animal farming; the many freshwater systems that have been poisoned by manure-riddled run-off, the growth hormones, antibiotics and other crazy meds they pump into the creatures. Shit that might make you grow man-boobs or send your eight year-old sister into premature menstruation.

By this stage everyone hates me for preaching. The intellectually-gifted are calling me a hypocrite because I wear leather shoes and drink milkshakes, they’re bringing up the whole GM soya thing, whilst noting that soy plantations have gobbled up a fair bit of forest themselves. The sceptics are ranting about the myth of climate change. The coals are dead, the meat is under cooked and no-one really feels like eating. Next time I’ll hou bek and tell ‘em that dry-looking patty is ostrich.

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  1. Andy says:

    Nice work Brendon

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  2. Carol Reed says:

    Short Note to Editor.

    Compliment your staff in person. Or over the phone. It’s a bit weird in public.

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  3. Andy says:

    Ja good point Carol. Just got excited.

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  4. Schteve says:

    But have you seen how they treat those carrots? Bastard farmers sommer lop their heads off and toss them into a big bucket. Sometimes they’re even skinned and PEELED just minutes after they’ve been plucked from their happy sunny pastures, while their friends sit and watch on helplessly. I propose a new diet – those dehydrated meals that they take into space. Just add water.

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  5. Carlos says:

    Nice one Brendan.

    If anyone wants more info on this, come along to the Josephine Mill (Newlands) on Tuesday 02 June 2009 at 19h30, the local Transition Towns meeting is screening “Meat the truth”, a documentary explaining the link between the livestock industry and global warming/environment degradation/etc.

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  6. Aragorn23 says:

    Soy is mostly planted to feed livestock.

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  7. Vic says:

    Obviously just not eating beef won’t get rid of the whole problem as we still eat cheese and drink milk but it will be a start.

    And don’t forget that when eating lamb many predators are cruelly killed to minimise the farmers losses.

    Remember too that there is plenty of bycatch in the fishing industry plus by eating fish we are reducing the food source for many animals dependant on these fish.

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  8. BB says:

    Good points Vic. I think cutting down on animal products is a good place to start. Also, being informed about meat-buying practices. Consumers need to ask questions about where their meat is coming from, how it’s produced, that sort of thing. Factory farms are hell on earth for the animals. They can also be serious sources of pollution.

    There are initiatives afoot to curb the indiscriminate killing of predators on lamb farms. To this effect, see http://www.landmarkfoundation.org.za

    As for fish…WWF’s SASSI index is a great tool for keeping fish-buying/eating as sustainable as possible. Check it out at http://www.wwfsassi.co.za

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  9. ALVIN says:

    whoa! im on the fence here i love my quarterpounder. Cant they just clone our stakes so we can enjoy our grub. So the nexrt time we buy “inyama” give it a thought of what that poor animal sucumbed to ,to be on our plates. BB I feel u man!

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  10. Oldtimer says:

    I tell them that I just don’t like eating that fatty, bacteria-infested, hormone-laden piece of rotting flesh, fit for consumption by only the barbarian hordes. And ja, I wear leather shoes, I don’t blerry eat them. I don’t care how cute the animal is or was, or how it lived or died. I’m not a bunny hugger. Maybe I should make my point while I stab them in the eye with my carrot stick. Repeatedly.

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