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MEAT: Root Cause of Endless War, Distinct Threat to Humanity

It takes nearly one gallon of fossil fuel and 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of conventionally fed beef. (Mother Jones)
The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs:  five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.
Thirty-three percent of our nation's raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter.  In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.
One-third of all raw materials in the U.S. are consumed by the livestock industry and it takes thrice as much fossil fuel energy to produce meat than it does to produce plant foods. 
A report on the energy crisis in Scientific American warned: "The trends in meat consumption and energy consumption are on a collision course."
Livestock production affects a startling 70 to 85 percent of the land area of the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union.  That includes the public and private rangeland used for grazing, as well as the land used to produce the crops that feed the animals. 
By comparison, urbanization only affects three percent of the United States land area, slightly larger for the European Union and the United Kingdom.  Meat production consumes the world's land resources.
Half of all fresh water worldwide is used for thirsty livestock.  Producing eight ounces of beef requires an unimaginable 25,000 liters of water, or the water necessary for one pound of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year.
"It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the overpopulation of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat."
--Jeremy Rifkin, pro-life AND pro-animal author, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, and president of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation
I'm wary of the claim by many on the political left that we'd all be at peace, holding hands, singing "Kumbaya," etc. if it weren't for the terrible world leaders plotting to wage war at every turn, and using innocent citizens as pawns in a global chess game. War and abortion are the karma for killing animals.
The institutionalized killing of billions of animals has led to global hunger, global warming, the energy, environmental, population and water crises. Why is it so hard to accept that there's a slippery slope, a connection between the killing of animals and the killing of human beings?
"Who loves this terrible thing called war?" asked Isadora Duncan. "Probably the meat-eaters, having killed, feel the need to kill... The butcher with his bloody apron incites bloodshed, murder. Why not? From cutting the throat of a young calf to cutting the throats of our brothers and sisters is but a step. While we ourselves are living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal conditions on the earth?"
"I personally believe," wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer, "that as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace. There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a' la Hitler and concentration camps a' la Stalin -- all such deeds are done in the name of 'social justice.' There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."
In his 1979 book, Vegetarianism: A Way of Life, author Dudley Giehl writes:
"Competition for food has inevitably led to conflict and this struggle for survival has been a significant factor in the history of organized warfare.  In this respect, meat-eating may be regarded as either the underlying cause of armed conflict or at least one of several factors contributing to the exacerbation of a pre-existing problem.  The reason why meat, in particular, has created such problems is that the practice of raising livestock requires a much greater use of resources.  The basic problem is simply that people are forced to compete with animals for food--a most precarious situation when food is in short supply."
Many of us believe that hunger exists because there's not enough food to go around.  But as Frances Moore Lappe and her anti-hunger organization Food First! have shown, the real cause of hunger is a scarcity of justice, not a scarcity of food.
In country after country the pattern is repeated.  Livestock industries are consuming feed to such an extent that now almost all Third World nations must import grain.  Seventy-five percent of Third World imports of corn, barley, sorghum, and oats are fed to animals, not to people.  In country after country, the demand for meat among the rich is Squeezing out staple production for the poor.
The same trend can be found in the Middle East and North Africa--increases in grain-fed livestock require more imported feed.  Twenty years ago, Egypt was self-sufficient in grain.  Then, livestock ate only 10 percent of the nation's grain.  Today, livestock consume 36 percent of Egypt's grain.  As a result, Egypt must now import eight million tons of grain every year. 
Twenty-five years ago, Syria was a barley exporter.  But in the intervening years, livestock has consumed increasing amounts of the country's grain.   Now, despite a phenomenal 1,000 percent increase in the land area devoted to producing barley, Syria must import the cereal.
Because of its reliance on livestock agriculture, Israel's economy depends heavily on groundwater use.  You can't make the desert bloom through sheer hard work; it requires water.  Today Israel is heavily dependent on water from the West Bank, and the Israeli press is full of talk of retaining the West Bank in order to protect water supplies from encroaching Arab wells.  One analyst gloomily concludes that the water in the West Bank region--which the Israelis captured from the Arabs in the 1967 war--is "fast becoming the most ominous obstacle to any peaceful settlement in the region."
Any economy that relies on meat production is in serious trouble.  Any social system which persists in putting an emphasis on meat production will be progressively weakened until it as destroyed or until its policies are changed.  The amount of time which will pass before a serious social disaster sets in, of course, will vary from region to region.  In the case of the United States, which still has abundant agriculture resources, there are probably many decades left.  In the case of Africa, the disaster is there today. 
Regardless of social system or ideology, any country that emphasizes meat production is going to make its food situation worse.  In the richer nations, food may simply become somewhat more costly.  If the livestock industry is subsidized by the government--as is the case in both the United States and the former Soviet Union--then other areas of the economy may suffer, as they are sacrificed go keep agriculture afloat.   In the poorer nations, food may become unavailable to many and starvation may result.
In Ethiopia and Mozambique, we have two cases of very poor countries which have relied heavily on livestock agriculture with tragic results.  In both countries, thousands have died and tens of thousands more are in danger of dying.  In both countries, livestock agriculture has played a key role in crippling the ability of the food system to produce food.  Ecological disaster is not new in Africa.   Northern Africa, once the granary of the Roman Empire, was reduced to a barren wasteland by the pastoral nomads which entered the area after the Empire's collapse.   The march of the Sahara desert southward, preceded by large herds of livestock animals, has been observed for decades.  Numerous independent observers have confirmed that soil erosion today is rampant in Africa.  The destruction has been savage.  Fifty years ago, 40% of Ethiopia was covered with trees, while only 2% to 4% is covered with trees today.
So the famine in Ethiopia during the 1980s should not have been a surprise.   Many blamed the drought, the civil war, or governmental incompetence in pushing the country over the edge into starvation; and certainly these factors played a role. but we cannot ignore the ecological realities which are the underlying conditions responsible for Ethiopia's getting to the brink of disaster in the first place.  Overgrazing by cattle has played a key role in Ethiopia's decline.
Incredibly, while the people are starving, Ethiopia today has a larger livestock population than any other country in Africa, though it is only ninth in total land area!
Similar problems have affected Mozambique.  Here we have a country which recently liberated itself from colonialism.  Yet Mozambique then proceeded to import beef from abroad to satisfy the demands of the urban elite for meat.  Perhaps even worse, they are intensifying their production of corn--one of the most erosive of all plant foods--and feeding it to their cattle!  This is a recipe for disaster and a most depressing pattern throughout many third world countries.  They throw out colonialism, but they keep or even intensify the colonial system of food production.
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are also experiencing serious problems related to meat production.  In Poland, prior to the worker's riots in 1979 over rising meat prices, the per capita meat consumption was nearly as high as it was in the United States.  In 1979 the government allowed the price of meat to rise, and the workers expressed their intense dissatisfaction.
Meat consumption has placed a severe strain on the Polish economy; the Polish economy simply cannot sustain the level of meat consumption which approaches the "American" level.  The Commonwealth of Independent States' well-publicized agricultural difficulties only arise because it tries to feed its citizens a Western-type diet high in meat and animal products.  The former Soviet Union would not have the slightest difficulty in feeding itself from its own resources, but grain has to be imported for their cattle.
Most news reports on shortages and hunger in the former Soviet Union emphasize the lack of meat, which is really an unnecessary luxury and not a necessity.  Meat consumption has severely aggravated the country's problems.  In 1991, Worldwatch noted: "Since 1950, meat consumption has tripled and feed consumption quadrupled.  Use of grain for feed surpassed direct human consumption in 1964 and has been rising ever since.  Soviet livestock now eat three times as much grain as Soviet Citizens.  Grain imports have soared, going from near zero in 1970 to twenty-four million tons in 1990, and the USSR is now the world's second largest grain importer."
Development funds have irrigated the desert in Senegal so that multinational firms can grow eggplant and mangos for air-freighting to Europe's best tables.  In Haiti, the majority of peasants struggle for survival by trying to grow food on mountain slopes of a 45 degree incline or more.  They say they are exiles from their birthright--some of the world's richest agricultural land.  These lands now belong to a handful of elite; cattle are flown in by U.S. firms for grazing and re-exported to franchised hamburger restaurants.
Throughout Latin America, land availability is a prominent social issue. Revolutionaries as well as reform-minded moderates have made land reform a major issue.  Yet in many Latin American countries, forests are being leveled in order to create pastures for cattle grazing land.  In a region where land availability is a central social issue, existing land is being gobbled up by livestock agriculture.   The resulting social tensions have resulted in civil wars, repression and violence.
And what about the United States?  Half the water consumed in the U.S. goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock.  Huge amounts of water are also used to wash away their excrement.  In fact, U.S. livestock produce twenty times as much excrement as does the entire human population, creating sewage which is ten to several hundred times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage.  Animal wastes cause ten times more water pollution than does the U.S. human population; the meat industry causes three times more harmful organic water pollution than the rest of the nation's industries combined.
Meat producers are the number one industrial polluters in our nation, contributing to half the water pollution in the United States.  The water that goes into a thousand-pound steer could float a destroyer.  It takes twenty-five gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, but twenty-five hundred gallons to produce a pound of meat.  If these costs weren't subsidized by the American taxpayers, hamburger meat would be $35 per pound! 
The burden of subsidizing the California meat industry costs taxpayers $24 billion.  Livestock producers are California's biggest consumers of water. Every tax dollar the state doles out to livestock producers costs taxpayers over seven dollars in lost wages, higher living costs and reduced business income. Seventeen western states have enough water supplies to support economies and populations twice as large as the present. 
Overgrazing of cattle leads to topsoil erosion, turning once-arable land into desert. We lose four million acres of topsoil each year and eighty-five percent of this loss is directly caused by raising livestock. To replace the soil we've lost, we're destroying our forests. Since 1967, the rate of deforestation in the U. S. has been one acre every five seconds.  For each acre cleared in urbanization, seven are cleared for grazing or growing livestock feed.
One-third of all raw materials in the U.S. are consumed by the livestock industry and it takes thrice the fossil fuel energy to produce meat than it does to produce plant foods. A report on the energy crisis in Scientific American warned: "The trends in meat consumption and energy consumption are on a collision course." 
According to Howard Lyman, former senior lobbyist for the National Farmers Union, "Family farmers are victims of public policy that gives preference to feeding animals over feeding people. This has encouraged the cheap grain policy of this nation and has made the beef cartel the biggest hog at the trough."
The Bible contains numerous examples of conflict situations that are directly attributable to the practice of raising livestock, including contested water rights, bitter competition for grazing areas, and friction between agriculturalists and nomadic herdsmen.  The more settled agricultural communities deeply resented the intrusion of nomadic tribes with their large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats.  These animals were considered a menace.  Aside from the threat to the crops themselves, large herds of livestock caused much damage to the general quality of the land as a result of over grazing.
It was ostensibly for this reason that the Philistines, whose primary agricultural pursuits were corn and orchards, sought to discourage nomadic herdsmen from using their territory by filling in many of the wells in the surrounding area.  One of the earliest accounts of strife among the herdsmen themselves is found in the story of Lot and Abram:
"And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.   And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together; for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.  And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle."   (Genesis 13:5-7)
Abram moved Westward to a region known as Canaan, while Lot journeyed to the east, finally settling in Sodom.  Such peaceful agreements, however, were not always possible. There are several references in the Bible to clashes between the Israelites and Midianites.  The Midianites were wealthy Bedouin traders who owned large numbers of livestock, as did the Israelites, who brought their herds with them when they left Egypt.
Livestock require vast areas of land for grazing.  They also need water, which has never been abundant in that region of the world.  The strain thus placed on the land's resources is mentioned in Judges 6:4: "And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth."
The depletion of resources created by the people arid livestock moving into this territory is described in Judges 6:5 by a singularly appropriate simile: "For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers."   Another passage informs us that after a particularly vicious battle with the Midianites the Israelites augmented their herds with the livestock of their slain captives.  This included 675,000 sheep and more than 72,000 beeves.
A strikingly frank reference to the casual relationship between flesh eating and war, in terms of land use, is found in Deuteronomy 12:20: "When the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, 'I will eat flesh,' because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after." 
A similar straightforward reference to the relationship between flesh eating and war can be found in Plato's Republic.  In a dialogue with Glaucon, Socrates extols the peace and happiness what come to people eating a vegetarian diet: "And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them."
Glaucon remains skeptical that people would be satisfied with such fare.  He asserts that people will desire the "ordinary conveniences of life," including animal flesh.  Socrates then proceeds to stock the once ideal state with swineherds, huntsmen, and "cattle in great number."  The dialogue continues:
"...and there will be animal's of many other kinds, if people eat them?"
"And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before? "
"Much greater."
"And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?"
"Quite true."
"Then a slice of our neighbor's land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?"
"That, Socrates, will be inevitable."
"And so we shall go to war, Glaucon.  Shall we not?"
"Most certainly," Glaucon replies.
Critics of Plato, reading the rest of the Republic, have complained that what Plato gives us is a militaristic or proto-fascist state, with censorship and a rigidly controlled economy.  Plato would hardly disagree with these critics; what they have overlooked is that the state which he describes is not his idea--it is merely a consequence of Glaucon's requirements which Socrates himself disavows.  Greed for meat, among other things, produced the character of the second state Plato describes.
The history of the European spice trade would seem to suggest that there is indeed a relationship between war and large-scale consumer demand for foods not required by what Plato refers to as "natural want."  Spices were of vital importance to meat preparation before the process of mechanical refrigeration was developed in the 20th century, meat was usually preserved by the process of salting.  Using various combinations of spices to offset the saltiness of meat, thus making it palatable, became a popular practice in medieval Europe.
The demand for spices was a significant factor in European colonial endeavors. Competition intensified, contributing to the exacerbation of serious disputes that already existed among various European nations. Efforts in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Dutch, Portuguese, English and French to expand their spice trade resulted in warfare, as well as the subjugation of native peoples by these imperialist powers.
Shepherds have traditionally been depicted in both art and religious and secular literature as a peaceable lot. However, there were inevitable disputes between farmers and shepherds over territorial rights.  This situation was aggravated by the fact that sheep posed an even greater threat to the land than cattle because they clipped grass closer to the ground, sometimes tearing it out by the roots. The Spanish sheepowner's guild known as the Mesta dominated Spain's political affairs for several centuries (AD 1200-1500) and was the source of much internal strife within that country.
The Mesta's sheep not only destroyed pastureland by overgrazing but were also allowed to rampage through cultivated fields. The peasant farmers could hardly expect the monarchy to rectify this injustice since sheep raising dominated medieval Spanish commerce and was the government's principal source of revenue during this period.
There was considerable animosity among shepherds, cattlemen and crop farmers in 19th-century America. The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged more people to settle in the West.  The very nature of livestock raising in the United States at that time required vast areas of land for grazing and moving the animals along designated trails to their final destinations. Hence the proliferation of farming communities became a serious threat to the livestock industry.  This situation became worse when the farmers put up barbed-wire fences, a practice that began in the 1880s.
Aside from the conflict between livestock herders and farmers, there were bitter feuds between cattlemen and sheepmen, including such conflicts as the "Tonto Basin War" in Arizona, the "Holbrook War" in Montana, the "Blue Mountain War" in Colorado and the "Big Horn Basin Feud" in Montana.
We are presently confronted with a rather precarious situation in which a few select regions of the world are the principal suppliers of various commodities that are essential to the entire process of food production.  The Middle East region, for example, dominates the world petroleum market. Petroleum is needed to power farm machinery in addition to its use as a fertilizer base.  Despite the relatively large amount of petroleum produced in the United States, this country is, nonetheless, highly dependent on Middle East oil.
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger commented in 1975 that military intervention "could not be ruled out" in the event of another Arab oil embargo. His comment indicates the extent of American dependency on Arab oil and the desperate lengths the U. S. government will go to obtain it.  The "Carter Doctrine" of 1980, concerning the use of tactics nuclear weapons in the Middle East by the United States and the Persian Gulf War of 1991 reiterate American dependence upon a highly unstable part of the globe.
Morocco is the leading producer of phosphate, an important element in fertilizer production. Within the period of a few years in the early 1970s, Morocco more than quadrupled its price for phosphate.  The large world demand for phosphate prompted Morocco to invade the Spanish Sahara when the Spanish relinquished control of the region in 1975.  A guerilla force of Saharan nationals found themselves battling the Moroccan aggressors, whose sole interest in the region was its phosphate reserves.
The United States is fond of using its position as a major food exporter to manipulate the policies of foreign governments.  The most striking example of this practice is the successful American "destabilization" effort in Chile in the early 1970s. A project initiated by the American Central Intelligence Agency to create dissatisfaction among Chilean truckers resulted in widespread food shortages. The Allende regime was then rebuffed in its attempts to make a cash purchase of vitally needed U S wheat. However, in less than a month after a successful Chilean coup that was abetted by the U S government, the new fascist regime was given a large shipment of American wheat on generous credit terms despite Chile's unstable economy.  
A report prepared in August, 1974, by the American Central Intelligence Agency cites several ominous trends in weather conditions and population growth.
The authors of this report indicate there is substantial evidence to support the belief that food shortages will become more acute as the result of a major cooling trend. As a result, such a situation "could give the United States a measure of power it had never had before--possibly an economic and political dominance greater than that of the immediate post-World War II years." The study warns, however, that countries adversely affected by these weather changes may resort to desperate measures, including "nuclear blackmail" and "massive migration backed by force."
The report concludes that we have the potential to compensate for future large-scale famines that may be far worse than the present food crisis. It is duly noted that if the anticipated marked and persistent cooling trend occurs there would not be enough food to feed the world's population "unless the affluent nations make a quick and drastic cut in their consumption of grain-fed animals."
Vegetarian author Laurel Robertson writes that "The relationship between meat consumption and available grain is...more sensitive than we might think... In 1974, when the market for meat did fall, the grain that was so unexpectedly released actually did find its way to poorer countries."
Vegan author John Robbins writes in his 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America:
"Meat-eating contributes to the fear in the world by putting us in a position in which there is not enough to go around (half the world's grain is fed to livestock). But that's not all. Meat-eaters ingest residues of the animal's biochemical response to the horrors of the slaughterhouse. 
"Programmed to fight or flee when in danger for their lives, the animals react to the slaughterhouse in sheer terror. Powerful biochemical agents are secreted that pump through their bloodstreams and onto their flesh, energizing them to fight or flee for their lives. Today's slaughterhouses virtually guarantee that the animals will die in terror."
The Maoris would eat the flesh of a slaughtered enemy in order to possess the enemy's courage and strength. The people of the lower Nubia, likewise, would eat the fox, believing that by so doing, they would be possessed of his cunning. In upper Egypt, the heart of the hoopoe bird was eaten in order to acquire the ability to become a clever scribe. The bird would be caught and its heart would be torn out and eaten while it was still alive. 
John Robbins notes, "certain Native American tribes would not eat the flesh of an animal who died in fear, because they did not want to take into themselves the terror of such an animal. When we eat animals who have died violent deaths we literally eat their fear. 
"We take in biochemical agents designed by nature to tell an animal that its life is in the gravest danger, and it must either fight or flee for its life. And then, in our wars and our daily lives, we give expression to the panic in which the animals we have eaten died."
Vegan author John Robbins writes in his Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987):   
"The way we treat animals is indicative of the way we treat our fellow humans. One Soviet study, published in Ogonyok, found that over 87% of a group of violent criminals has, as children, burned, hanged, or stabbed domestic animals.  In our own country, a major study by Dr. Stephen Kellert of Yale University found that children who abuse animals have a much higher likelihood of becoming violent criminals."  
A 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) reported that children convicted of animal abuse are five times more likely to commit violence against other humans than are their peers, and four times more likely to be involved in acts against property.  
Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, which launched the modern day environmental movement, wrote:
"Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is whether its victim is human or animal we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity." 
In a December 1990 letter to Eric Mills of Action For Animals, vegan labor leader Cesar Chavez similarly wrote:  
"Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cockfighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves." 
Marjorie Spiegel, author of The Dreaded Comparison:  Human and Animal Slavery, writes:  "All oppression and violence is intimately and ultimately linked, and to think that we can end prejudice and violence to one group without ending prejudice and violence to another is utter folly."
Apart from the violence against animals involved in meat-eating, foods DO affect one's consciousness! The ill effects of alcohol, opium, morphine, nicotine, etc. upon individual users have been well-documented. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 60 to 75 percent of all violent crime is alcohol-related. Might there be a similar relationship between meat-eating and aggressive behavior?
In a letter to a friend on the subject of vegetarianism, Albert Einstein wrote, "besides agreeing with your aims for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."
U Nu, the former Prime Minister of Burma, made a similar observation: "World peace, or any other kind of peace, depends greatly on the attitude of the mind. Vegetarianism can bring about the right mental attitude for peace... it holds forth a better way of life, which, if practiced universally, can lead to a better, more just, and more peaceful community of nations."

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