Vegetarianism

I have recently decided to give up dairy for health and animal welfare reasons. I cannot find any reference to dairy in Daniel’s books.

I recently read an opinion that the drinking of cows milk is little more than a cultural tradition. I was wondering when people in human history started consuming dairy products and their reasons for doing so.

I found an article from July 21, 2002 in The Sunday Times Magazine, UK “Cover feature: Is there a time bomb in your diet? Exploding the myths about milk.”

It included the paragraph: “Just 7,000 years ago, the first settled communities, with their new-found genius for growing crops and domesticating animals, were able to create a relative heaven on Earth, verily a ‘land of milk and honey’.” This phrasing reminded me of something familiar and wondered how it fitted in with “the great forgetting.”

I also gathered from this article that 7/10 people worldwide are lactose intolerant because dairy culture was largely confined to the Caucasian minority, and today most of humanity still thinks it a very peculiar practice to consume milk beyond the end of weaning, and even more peculiar to drink the milk of another species.

So is cow milk drinking a product of taker culture? Or am I rejecting a part of my Leaver culture ancestry by giving up all dairy milk.

I suppose what I am really asking about is whether it is true to say that people only started to drink dairy with the development or invention of the kind of agriculture that made people Takers or was animal milk part of human life before then.

My question concerns your thesis regarding food production and population growth. If you are right, and I rather think you are, then a human community should not grow beyond its ability to subsist on locally produced food sources.

My question is this: how do we define local? I would like to define local ecologically in terms of “bioregions.”

For example, my bioregion, northern Canada, produces no bananas, oranges, grapes, etc. But it does produce very good raspberries. So my fruit diet should consist of raspberries. And if I recover a bit of old wisdom I could learn how to preserve a variety of rasberry products for use over the winter. This makes perfect sense to me, although in an era of global trade it does limit my food choices. Still, ecologically this makes sense to me.

So the second question is this: Do you think the ideas of global trade and competitive advantage (not to mention cheap oil) have led us to an artificial understanding of things like food production? Is this one more source of our disconnectedness with natural processes?

If I am understanding you correctly then the modern “supermarket” is a disturbing place, but the local “farmers market” is to be supported and encouraged. I would be interested in your response.

While I understand the theory that vegetarianism tends to aggravate the population explosion, I find it morally reprehensible to consume the product of a cruel and unnatural factory farming system. My reasons for vegetarianism are not because I value a cow’s life over a carrot’s, and I know that both the meat and vegetable industries practice totalitarian agriculture. Both industries kill, but this is a “natural” way to get food. The problem, in my eyes, is that it is clear that cows are vastly mistreated during life, whereas carrots are not. My vegetarianism is a boycott of an industry that treats life as no more than capital. I want this industry to change. Are my morals unfounded in your opinion? Do you think vegetarianism is an ineffective way to bring about change in the meat industry? If so, what would be more effective, or what should I do instead?

In your reply you suggest that being a vegetarian is ethnocentric. Are you implying that cannibalism is acceptable? About vegetarianism you say, “It suggests that creatures that resemble us are more precious than creatures that don’t.” You state that you can’t subscribe to the idea that animal life has some sort of higher right to life than plant life. Are we humans animal life? Isn’t taking a life, any life, wrong?

You answer the questions about vegetarianism in strictly economic or agricultural terms. But vegetarianism can be a political stance as well–a desire on the part of people to NOT take from other species, to not use them, but in your words to “let all life forms continue to live and evolve.” A broad way of defining vegetarianism is that it not only involves not eating animal products but not wearing animals, not using them for research, not exhibiting them unnaturally, etc. In other words, if one looks at your 3-part definition of the Taker mentality, vegetarianism seems to fly in the face of all three. Why then, if looked at from this perspective, can we not say that vegetarianism, in its respect for the equality of all life on the planet, isn’t an example of the Leaver mentality? (I realize it isn’t the ONLY re-visioning necessary because we can still treat the earth as though it belongs to us even if we are only eating plant life. I also realize that Leavers ate meat albeit in a different spirit.)

I think you’ve answered this question, but inadequately: There is a well-established correlation between standard of living and population growth. The higher the standard of living (and hence the more food produced locally) the lower the birth rate. This flies in the face of your contention that population growth is tied to food production. Taking this down to the microcosm – when you see a picture of people starving in Ethiopia, what is ALWAYS in the picture? A LOT of infants and children. They’re not producing any food, but . . . .

Awhile back I read a question that asked if being a vegetarian wouldn’t be a good solution. I thought I understood you to say no. However, as I have talked to vegetarian friends and explored this more, I wonder if not buying meat in stores is a valid aspect of helping to solve the problem. Since so much of the world’s agricultural production is tied up with raising and feeding cattle, it would help if people ate less or no commercially raised meat. It’s not that eating meat is bad, just that the meat industry is a variation of the agricultural form.