Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vegetarians vs. Enlightened Meat Eaters vs. Status Quo

This post in Treehugger responds to a N.Y. Times op-ed by Nicolette Hahn Niman (of Niman Ranch fame) in favor of 'enlightened meat eating'.  Enjoy this, um, food for thought:

Last week's NY Times featured an op-ed entitled "The Carnivore's Dilemma"--an ostensibly enlightened response to the chorus of voices promulgating a vegetarian diet as a way to significantly reduce one's emission of greenhouse gasses (not least amongst these voices is

Michael Pollan, author of "Omnivore's Dilemma"). Unlike "The Omnivore's Delusion"--a fluff piece by the industrial agriculture lobby that defends the status quo--the author of the Times' piece, Nicolette Hahn Niman, is no great defender of current industrial agricultural practices; she's a rancher and advocate of "traditional", grass-fed livestock production. Hahn Niman's argument focuses on debunking the notion that vegetarianism is inherently the most beneficial way of eating for the environment.

While Hahn Niman has several valid points, her arguments often fall short of a sale. She frequently compares best-case scenario meat consumption and worst-case scenario vegetarianism. She states, "It could be, in fact, that a conscientious meat eater may have a more environmentally friendly diet than your average vegetarian."

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