Funnily enough, on the same subject as yesterday, I had my first interrogation yesterday about my reasons for deciding to be vegetarian. From one of my fellow-volunteer friends. I think I did ok, although it is not really an argument I had presented before, certainly not to other people. Obviously I’ve mulled these things over myself, and come to my conclusion.
This volunteer is the wife of a dairy beef farmer, so I would assume that she knows far more about farming than I do. “I just don’t think a lot of vegetarians think it through”, she said, “they become vegetarian in order to see lambs gambolling around the fields [rather than ending up on someone’s plate], where in fact these lambs are only there in the first place as part of somebody’s commercial venture”. And, “a lot of land that is grazed by sheep or cattle is unsuitable for farming crops instead”. Both of which, I can imagine, are perfectly true. Certainly, a lot of this woman’s grazing land is the water meadows surrounding our village. That they are water meadows certainly means that they flood in wintertime – I have no idea whether this also makes summer crops unviable although I don’t really see it as important.
My point in response was simply to say that I didn’t expect to see more animals frolicking around fields, rather I’d hope to see fewer animals altogether. The only reason there are so many animals in the first place is because there is a market for them, so if I can help to reduce that market… And, even if we are already devoting every possible acre to farming crops (my gut feel is that isn’t the case, although I think there’s certainly something in what this woman says), then fewer animals would mean less animal feed, meaning that instead of growing crops for animals to consume, people could grow things for humans to consume instead. So it is kind-of recognising that we have force-bred animals for years, and simply doing less of it.
Of course, there are knock-on effects here. Fewer animals would undoubtedly mean less “managed” land (every square inch of western Europe appears to be managed somehow), although I’m struggling to see a downside to this. Is there one? Apart from the obvious that people make money by using the land, so there is less money to be made?
It is funny debating with someone, because your gut feelings will inevitably reflect your overall opinion, but unless you actually discuss things with someone, those opinions are often not very articulate. It is easy to believe these veteran politicians who have had to hone their arguments, improve them over time. It’s all very well for someone like me to hold a view, but I don’t spend all my time trying to polish my views, they’re often quite raw. Plus, of course, the only person I need to convince about something is me, so thinking is usually enough. It kind-of surprises me therefore that somebody who has chosen to become a professional politician, can sometimes be so un-persuasive in their arguments.