A Very Inconvenient Truth
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society
The meat industry is one of the most
destructive ecological industries on the planet. The raising and
slaughtering of pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys and chickens not only
utilizes vast areas of land and vast quantities of water, but it
is a greater contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the
The seafood industry is literally plundering
the ocean of life and some fifty percent of fish caught from the
oceans is fed to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc in the form of
fish meal. It also takes about fifty fish caught from the sea to
raise one farm raised salmon.
We have turned the domestic cow into the
largest marine predator on the planet. The hundreds of millions
of cows grazing the land and farting methane consume more
tonnage of fish than all the world's sharks, dolphins and seals
combined. Domestic housecats consume more fish, especially tuna,
than all the world's seals.
So why is it that all the world's large
environmental and conservation groups are not campaigning
against the meat industry? Why did Al Gore's film Inconvenient
Truth not mention the inconvenient truth that the slaughter
industry creates more greenhouse gases than the automobile
The Greenpeace ships serve meat and fish to
their crews everyday. The World Wildlife Fund does not say a
word about the threat that meat eating poses for the survival of
wildlife, the habitat destroyed, the wild competitors for land
eliminated, or the predators destroyed to save their precious
livestock. . When I was a Sierra Club director for three years,
everyone looked amused when I brought up the issue of
vegetarianism. At each of our Board meeting dinners, the
Directors were served meat and only after much prodding and
complaining did the couple of vegetarian directors manage to get
a vegetarian option. At our meeting in Montana we were served
Buffalo and antelope, lobsters in Boston, crabs in Charleston,
steak in Albuquerque etc. But what else can we expect from a
"conservation" group that endorses trophy hunting.
As far as I know and I may be wrong, but my
organization, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the only
conservation organization in the world that endorses and
practises vegetarianism. My ships do not serve meat or fish
ever, nor do we serve dairy products. We've had a strictly vegan
menu for years and no one has died of scurvy or malnutrition.
The price we pay for this is to be accused by
other conservation organizations of being "animal rights." Like
it's a bad word. They say it with the same disdain that
Americans used to utter the word communist in the Fifties.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not
an animal rights organization. We are exclusively involved in
interventions against illegal activities that threaten and
exploit marine wildlife and habitat. We are involved in ocean
wildlife conservation activities.
Yet because we operate our ships as vegan
vessels, other groups, and now the media dismiss us as an animal
Now first of all I don't see being accused of
as an animal rights organization to be an insult. PETA was
co-founded by one of my crew-members and many of my volunteers
come from the animal rights movement. But it is not accurate to
refer to Sea Shepherd as animal rights when our organization
pushes a strict conservation enforcement policy.
And secondly we do not promote veganism on our
ships because of animal rights. We promote veganism as a means
of practising what we preach which is ocean conservation.
There is not enough fish in the world's oceans
to feed 6.6 billion human beings and another 10 billion domestic
animals. That is why all the world's commercial fisheries are
collapsing. That is why whales, seals, dolphins and seabirds are
starving. The sand eel for example, the primary source of food
for the comical and beautiful puffin is being wiped out by
Danish fishermen solely to provide fish meal to Danish factory
This is a solid conservation connection
between eating meat and the destruction of life in our oceans.
In a world fast losing resources of fresh
water, it is sheer lunacy to have hundreds of millions of cows
consuming over 1,000 gallons of water for every pound of beef
And the pig farms in North Carolina produce so
much waste that it has contaminated the entire ground water
reserves of the entire state. North Carolinians drink pig shit
with their water but its okay they say, they just neutralize it
with chemicals like chlorine.
Most people don't want to see where their meat
comes from. They also don't want to know what the impact of
their meat has on the ecology. They would rather just deny the
whole thing and pretend that meat is something that comes in
packages from the store.
But because there is this underlying guilt
always present, it manifests itself as anger and ridicule
towards people who live the most environmentally positive life
styles on the planet – the vegans and the vegetarians.
This is demonstrated through constant
marginalization especially in the media. Any organization, like
Sea Shepherd for example, that points out the ecological
contradictions of eating meat is immediately dismissed as some
wacko animal rights organization.
I did not set the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society up as an animal rights organization and we have never
promoted animal rights in the organization. What we have
promoted and what we do is oceanic wildlife and habitat
And the truth is that you can't practise solid
and constructive conservation work without promoting veganism
and/or vegetarianism as something that promotes the conservation
A few years ago I attended a dinner meeting of
the American Oceans Campaign hosted by Ted Danson. He opened the
dinner by saying that the choice he had to make was between fish
and chicken for the dinner, and what was the point of saving
fish if you can't eat them?
Guest speaker, Oceanographer Sylvia Earle put
Ted in his place by saying she did not think that he was being
very funny. She said that she considered fish to be her friends
and she did not believe in eating her friends. So neither Sylvia
nor I ate dinner that night.
I met Sylvia again at another meeting, this
time of Conservation International held at some ritzy resort in
the Dominican Republic. Harrison Ford was there and the buzz was
what could be done to save the oceans. I was invited as an
advisor. I sat on a barstool in an open beachfront dining plaza
as the "conservationists" approached tables literally bending
from the weight of fish and exotic seafood including caviar. I
looked at Sylvia Earle and she just shook her head and rolled
The problem is that people like Carl Pope, the
Executive Director of the Sierra Club, or the heads of
Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and
many other big groups just refuse to accept that their eating
habits may be just as much a part of the problem as all those
things they are trying to oppose.
I remember one Greenpeacer defending his meat
eating by saying that he was a carnivore and that "predators"
have their place and he was proud to be one.
Now the word predator in relationship to human
beings has a rather scary connotation having nothing to do with
eating habits, but for any human being to describe themselves as
a carnivore is just plain ridiculous.
Humans are not and have never been carnivores.
A lion is a carnivore as is a wolf, as is a tiger, or a shark.
Carnivores eat live animals. They stalk them, they run them
down, they pounce, they kill, and they eat, blood dripping, meat
at body temperature. Nature, brutal red in tooth and claw.
I've never met a human that can do that. Yes
we found ways to run down animals and kill them. In fact we've
come to be rather efficient at the killing part. But we can't
eat the prey until we cut it up and cook it and that usually
involves some time between kill and eating. It could be an hour
or it could be years.
You see our meat eating habits are more
closely related to the vulture, the jackal or other carrion
eaters. This means that we can't be described as carnivores. We
are better described as necrovores or eaters of rotting flesh.
Consider that some of the beef that people eat
has been dead for months and in some cases for years. Dead and
hanging in freezers, full of uritic acid and bacteria. It's a
corpse in a state of decomposition. Not much that can be said to
be noble about eating a cadaver.
But a little dose of denial allows us to bite
into that Big Mac or cut into that prime rib.
But that one 16 ounce cut of prime rib is
equal to a thousand gallons of fresh water, a few acres of
grass, a few fish, a quarter acre of corn etc. What's the point
of taking a shorter shower to conserve water as Greenpeace is
preaching if you can sit down and consume a 1000 gallons of
water at a single meal?
And that single cut of meat would have cost as
much in vegetable resources equivalent to what could be fed to
an entire African village for a week.
The problem is that we choose to see our
contradictions when it is convenient for us to see them and when
it is not we simply go into a state of suspended disbelief and
we eat that steak anyway because, hey we like the taste of
rotting flesh in the evening.
Have you ever thought why it is that with a
person, it's an abortion but when it comes to a chicken, it's an
Does anyone really know what's in a hot dog?
We do know that the government health department allows for an
acceptable percentage of bug parts, rodent droppings and other
assorted filth to go into the mix.
And now tuna fish comes with a health warming
saying it should not be eaten by pregnant women or small
children because of high levels of mercury. Does that mean
mercury is good for adults and non-pregnant women? What are they
telling us here?
Eating meat and fish is not only bad for the
environment it's also unhealthy. Yet even when it comes to our
own health we slip into denial mode and order the whopper.
The bottom line is that to be a
conservationist and an environmentalist, you must practise and
promote vegetarianism or better yet veganism.
It is the lifestyle that leaves the shallowest
ecological footprint, uses fewer resources and produces less
greenhouse gas emissions, it's healthier and it means you're not
In fact a vegan driving a hummer would be
contributing less greenhouse gas carbon emissions than a meat
eater riding a bicycle.
May be freely distributed, reproduced and
published with permission of the writer. Paulwatson@earthlink.net
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