Reading the daily litany of the disasters that we humans are wreaking on our dying planet through our irresponsible actions, my attention was snagged by news of the storm-wrought crop failure and the resulting declaration of a ‘natural emergency’ in parts of France. It’s not the only place that’s buckling under the strain of climate change, but the western world in general is very good at ignoring what happens in places that don’t directly affect us. For Scotland, this is quite literally getting much closer to home.
I find my writing increasingly needs to combine my focus on animal rights with the environmental consequences of our own species’ actions. The planet we are destroying is theirs as much as ours. In sawing off the branch our species is sitting on, we must never forget that our victims are sitting on it alongside us, helpless passengers on our self-driven journey to ruin. And so it was that I found my thoughts wandering on the subject of crops.
‘The berries’ and ‘the tatties’
Firstly potatoes; one of my favourite foods. In recent years these have become increasingly expensive while the quality has steadily diminished. I recall that in my ignorant, unchallenging and nonvegan youth, the scabby, damaged and rotten parts of the crop would have been considered to be food for the nonhumans who are ‘farmed’ for our use; they would have been pig food, cattle food. I dread to think what our victims are being fed nowadays, if what is being sold to my species is considered to be the pick of the crop. Many shops are trying to turn this into a virtue, using advertising spin to make misshapen and damaged fruit and vegetables appealing. It’s the capitalist way and once you spot this spin in action, you’ll see it everywhere.
It’s also worth mentioning soft fruit. I live in an area in Scotland that is traditionally renowned for strawberries and raspberries amongst other soft fruits, and in my youth it was traditional for children and often their extended family, to ‘go to the berries’, picking fruit during the days of the school summer holidays. It was hard and back-breaking work with the meagre payment based on the quantity ‘weighed in’.
For the fortunate few this was pocket money, but for the vast majority it was an essential supplementary income for the family. Rural schools even traditionally had an extra two weeks’ holiday in the autumn to ‘go to the tatties’ (take part in the potato harvest) and in my memory’s minds eye I can see the tattie-pickers bent double in the chilly fields, frozen hands picking up the crop, dragging plastic clothes basket type receptacles along the ‘dreels’ (furrows) after the tractor had turned over the soil. Again, many families literally depended on this income.
Now setting apart that socio-economic and technological changes have seen this work become less popular, allocating it increasingly to low-paid, overworked *migrant workers, often without rights to protect their working conditions, I look out my window on a completely changed landscape. I’ve mentioned potatoes. The climate here has become increasingly less conducive to the old ways and almost all berries are now grown in vast polytunnels, stretching across the valley like a space-age vision of an alien planet. Only thus protected can they survive the erratic temperatures and rainfall.
Crop failure and our victims
The inevitable conclusion we must draw is that crop failure is becoming increasingly common and all the science tells me we are seeing and will continue to see the phenomenon escalate exponentially. Even the quality of traditional crops is declining and will continue to do so because the climate they need simply doesn’t exist any more. We are all facing a time when there will be fewer plants available for us. That time is not some distant day that need not concern us yet; it’s happening now.
Now ‘animal farming’ is another term for creating and maintaining a supply of victims so that our species can continue to indulge our brutal and environmentally calamitous obsession with using and consuming other living beings; causing escalating levels of disease in our own species by killing and using others in the ultimate act of tragic irony.
Doing the sums
My thoughts meandered onto the maths, sums that examine only land-based creatures farmed for consumption – which is in itself a huge simplification, discounting possibly trillions of creatures killed either directly or indirectly through our usurping of their habitats to facilitate the ‘farming’ of the species used for profit. The estimated 2.7 trillion aquatic lives we take and the trashing of the marine environment is a separate issue that I won’t cover here. Interested in finding out more? Check out the site Truth or Drought which is always factual and informative.
Nonhumans: In a single year, human animals slaughter over 80 billion members of other land-based species. That’s more than 10 times the number of humans that currently live on the planet. From conception until slaughter, these victims of ours require food. And what do they eat? Yup that’s right – plants.
Although it should be mentioned that there is a real irony in a world obsessed with presenting ‘farming’ and eating other animals as part of a ‘natural’ process for humans, that nonvegan supply industries routinely feed fishmeal (basically dried and processed fishes) – to cattle and sheep who are natural herbivores, as well as to pigs and chickens who are technically omnivorous but would never in a million years have natural access to fishes. A brief investigation established that chicken litter, feather meal, blood meal, meat and bone meal, and meat meal are all used for ‘livestock’ feed too, subject to whatever local regulations apply, and at that point my stomach started to heave. If this is your idea of ‘natural’, it certainly isn’t mine.
Thus, in addition to the land that accommodates the billions of establishments where our nonhuman victims are forcibly reproduced, incarcerated, used, slaughtered, ‘processed’ etc, sufficient land is required to grow enough food for them.
So every year that’s 80 billion mouths to feed before humans eat a thing. And what is achieved by this annual atrocity is not nearly sufficient to feed the human population either in quantity or nutritional value.
Humans: There are currently 7.9 billion humans on the planet. Not only are they physically capable of eating plants, but doing so spares those who are needlessly persecuted for their flesh, their breast milk and their eggs while maintaining or improving human health and simultaneously reducing the damage caused to the planet by animal agriculture which science increasingly recognises as a pivotal driver of climate change.
So in the end of the day, there are questions to ponder as crops become less dependable. The time is fast approaching when choices will have to be made; do we continue the monstrous and brutal practices involved in creating and feeding billions of victims, or do we stop all that nonsense, leave our fellow earthlings and the living world in peace and feed ourselves?
To me the answer is clear and there’s no time to lose. The world belongs to all its inhabitants equally. Our destructive species needs to stop bringing innocent lives into the world for our needless indulgence. As voters we need to support the shifting of agricultural subsidies from the public purse away from farming animals which is inherently unsustainable in every sense, and towards the farming of crops and plants for human consumption. As shoppers, we need to stop putting desecrated body parts into our shopping trolleys; if we stop buying, creating victims eventually becomes unprofitable.
Be vegan. Now.
- On the subject of migrant workers, updated to note that the folly of ‘Brexit’ has unleashed a racist toxicity in this DIS-united Kingdom resulting in even migrant workers keeping away, while crops rot in the fields.