Commentary: VB6 and more anti-livestock propaganda

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New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has a new approach to eating and health and wants you to share it with him. He also wants you to buy his new book, of course, which describes this new diet: VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health…For Good.

As the title suggests, Bittman believes a vegan diet before dinner time and a “reasonable” diet late in the day is the recipe to health and happiness. Bittman claims he is not a vegetarian, and that he enjoys a steak once in a while. But he has routinely criticized livestock production and animal foods. For instance, in a January column for The Times, Bittman wrote, our food system has “been a major contributor to climate change, spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned countless volumes of land and water, wasted energy, tortured billions of animals…I could go on.” Bittman asks his readers to start a movement to improve the conditions of livestock.

 “Well-cared-for animals will necessarily be more expensive, which means we’ll eat fewer of them; that’s a win-win,” he wrote. “They’ll use fewer antibiotics, they’ll be produced by more farmers in more places, and they’ll eat less commodity grain, which will both reduce environmental damage and allow for more land to be used for high-quality human food like fruits and vegetables.”

If you’re a livestock producer it is likely you are more than mildly offended by Bittman’s claims. “Tortured billions of animals?” Seriously? Any livestock producer knows well-cared for animals are cheaper to produce and result in higher quality meat and increased profits.

Unfortunately, other prominent writers are repeating wild claims against the livestock industries. For instance, David Sirota, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and best-selling author, also believes livestock production contributes significantly to climate change.

In a column written for, Sirota cites a study that declares the livestock industries “produce between 18 percent and 51 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.” The study claims those percentages account for feed production, deforestation and animal waste.

Sirota says it is “demoralizing that we are incinerating the planet and dooming future generations simply because too many of us like to eat cheeseburgers.”

In a report published last year (and reported by Drovers/CattleNetwork) titled “Clearing the air: Livestock’s contribution to climate change,” Frank Mitloehner, animal scientist and air-quality specialist at the University of California-Davis, says that, in the United States, raising cattle and pigs for food accounts for about 3 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions, while transportation creates an estimated 26 percent.

Mitloehner says analysis of livestock’s environmental footprint is often flawed and can confuse the issues. Additionally, he says, “We certainly can reduce our greenhouse-gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk. Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries.”

Unfortunately, reports such as Mitloehner’s don’t generate much media attention. Columnists such as Bittman and Sirota would rather repeat the propaganda rather than examine the facts about livestock production.

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montana  |  May, 10, 2013 at 10:18 AM

We must remember as we hear more and more vegan comments that this "lifestyle" is being promoted by Agenda 21, from the United Nations. After 17 years as a vegetarian, now an avid meat/bone broth/animal fats eater, I know why veganism is being so heavily promoted. Vegans never get enough fat/protein to be satiated quickly- they purchase and eat a LOT of high glycemic (taxpayer subsidized) grains and pulses. Vegans, and "low animal product" vegetarians also have a hard time obtaining the proper balance of minerals (meats, milks, animal fats have 82+ per serving), since plants to not include the full complement of amino acids and minerals that humans need for optimum health. Plants seldom bioaccumulate more that 10-15 essential minerals per food species. Only an extremely focused and well educated vegetarian will obtain all the essential fats and minerals needed. Plants also lack vitamins A,D,E, and K in adequate quantities for optimum human health- those only come from animal food products. Health practitioners of all sorts, and insurance providers benefit from vegetarian diets. Sick, poorly mineralized humans need FAR more health care, pediatric care for babies with sub-par health, arthritis, diabetes, cancer care.... the list goes on. Animals can feed themselves on land across which tractors fear to tread. They provide food for humans in EVERY environment in the world, Arctic to Equator. They also can improve soils without the need for petroleum machines- planned grazing works in EVERY environment. Alan Savory is right. We need animals to help heal the world's soils. We need animals to provide nutrient balanaced foods for humans everywhere.

kansas  |  May, 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Thank you Jenny from Montana! What an intelligent, refreshing and informative comment. It is so very rare that we get to hear something quite so balanced and detailed from someone who has actually lived the veg life and returned to balance... who isn't bitter, angry and resentful over it. Please continue to share your thoughts and, if Cattlenetwork is sharp, they'll invite you to be a regular contributor. The thing lacking most in the Pro-Omnivore World is sufficient and sufficiently promoted speakers/writers. The typically rich, white, urban, pop-culture elites - who serve only their peers - dominate the discussions and provide a false set of "admirable" examples to the general population/consumers. We need Real People, with an I.Q. over 75 and no Publicist, in the public eye.

SD  |  May, 10, 2013 at 07:22 PM

What ever happened to the very sensible suggestion that we should "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper" if we wish to be healthy"?

Middle America  |  May, 13, 2013 at 09:39 AM

Where are we going to get all the fertilizer required to grow all these veggies? Have these socialist lifestyle dictators even tried to grow their own food? Are they composting their own waste for composting into fertilizer? Of course not, the thought of connecting directly to the cycle of nutrients on the planet and being engaged is too messy. These "self declared experts" on food production need to get a bit dirty in my opinion and lets see if they can grow all the food they need to survive on for a year. I'll wager they really don't know how efficiently and effectively farmers currently raise the food we all enjoy, and in such diversity to allow us to make choices and live life as we choose.


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