Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Prominent Guardian Environment Reporter George Monbiot, who sometimes shows up at prominent climate events, no doubt after a long journey by sail, has decided to eat Vegan supplemented with Roadkill to “reduce his impact” on the global climate.
I’ve converted to veganism to reduce my impact on the living world
The world can cope with 7 or even 10 billion people. But only if we stop eating meat. Livestock farming is the most potent means by which we amplify our presence on the planet. It is the amount of land an animal-based diet needs that makes it so destructive.
An analysis by the farmer and scholar Simon Fairlie suggests that Britain could easily feed itself within its own borders. But while a diet containing a moderate amount of meat, dairy and eggs would require the use of 11m hectares of land (4m of which would be arable), a vegan diet would demand a total of just 3m. Not only do humans need no pasture, but we use grains and pulses more efficiently when we eat them ourselves, rather than feed them to cows and chickens.
This would enable 15m hectares of the land now used for farming in Britain to be set aside for nature. Alternatively, on a vegan planet, Britain could feed 200 million people. Extending this thought experiment to the rest of the world, it’s not hard to see how gently we could tread if we stopped keeping animals. Rainforests, savannahs, wetlands, magnificent wildlife can live alongside us, but not alongside our current diet.
Then something happened that broke down the wall of denial. Last September I arranged to spend a day beside the River Culm in Devon, renowned for its wildlife and beauty. However, the stretch I intended to explore had been reduced to a stinking ditch, almost lifeless except for some sewage fungus. I traced the pollution back to a dairy farm. A local man told me the disaster had been developing for months. But his efforts to persuade the Environment Agency (the government regulator) to take action had been fruitless.
I still eat roadkill when I can find it, and animals killed as agricultural pests whose bodies might otherwise be dumped. At the moment, while pigeons, deer, rabbits and squirrels are so abundant in this country and are being killed for purposes other than meat production, eating the carcasses seems to be without ecological consequence. Perhaps you could call me a pestitarian.
I quite like Monbiot, or at least I find him more entertaining than most greens.
Sometimes he shows a flash of common sense, such as when he defended nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima. Then he goes and blows it by saying something wild, such as telling everyone the corrupt media are keeping the end of the world a secret.
At least Monbiot is going to get enough protein, unlike some Vegans I know. The number of wild deer currently running around the British countryside, and all those impatient drivers trying to beat the rush, Monbiot is not going to starve – unless increasingly punitive British attempts to price driving out of reach of ordinary people finally succeed in clearing the roads of traffic.