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Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis

By Darrin Qualman - National Farmers Union, November 2019

The farm crisis is real, as is the climate crisis. Left unchecked, the climate crisis will dramatically deepen the income crisis on Canada’s farms as farmers struggle to deal with continued warming, more intense storms, and increasingly unpredictable weather. It is clear that climate change represents a major challenge to agriculture, but it also represents an opportunity.

Farmers and policymakers are encouraged to recognize that we are facing an existential crisis, which means that all of our options must be on the table for consideration, even if they are uncomfortable to consider. If we commit to an open and honest conversation about the causes and effects of climate change and how they are intertwined with our agricultural sector, we also take the first steps towards a transition that will benefit us all.

Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis does not claim to have all the answers. Both the climate crisis and the farm crisis are so complex that no single report can provide all the answers. However, this report does have many answers — some of which could be implemented right away. Others provide a starting point to opening up the climate conversation in the agricultural sector. Options that will work for different geographic locations, soil types, or types of farms will be explored, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Read the text (link).

If We All Became Vegan Tomorrow

By Chris Saltmarsh and Harpreet Kaur Paul  - New Internationalist, June 6, 2018

If everyone became vegan tomorrow, between 14.5 to 15.6 per cent of anthropogenic (human-made) global greenhouse gas emissions would be wiped out. That is huge. You would be forgiven if you thought it was higher, as a recent viral Guardian article, based on a new study out from the University of Oxford, sensationally reported that meat and dairy accounted for 60 per cent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, without stating the proportion of global anthropogenic emissions attributable to agriculture specifically.

With a current global average surface temperature increase of approximately 1.2°C, climate change has already caused harms, and any reduction in emissions would curtail further damage. Land currently used for meat and dairy production could be reforested, grains fed to cattle could be directed, water would be saved, and environmental damage caused by animal agriculture would cease.

While noteworthy, prioritizing dietary solutions is not only insufficient, but problematic. Imposing veganism on the majority world would hurt the rural poor. A survey of 7978 households in 24 countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa, found that reliance on wild meat is highest among the poorest households and fills a gap when other food sources are not available. Many traditional and indigenous cultures surviving in relative harmony with natures have hunted meat sustainably long before the capitalist industrialization of agriculture. They’ve done so often with a profound respect for the animal and their role in the co-production of natures.

Cowspiracy: stampeding in the wrong direction?

By Danny Chivers - New Internationalist, February 9, 2016

‘Why do you keep talking about fossil fuels? Don’t you know that animal agriculture is the biggest cause of global warming? Why don’t you campaign on that? Watch Cowspiracy!’

If you’ve posted anything online about fossil fuels and climate change lately, the chances are you’ve seen a response like this. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret may have started as a crowdfunded documentary by US filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn but following a year of online success a new version of the film – executive produced by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio – has now been launched on Netflix. The film follows Andersen’s investigation into the climate impact of animal agriculture, and his attempts to get a series of large US environmental NGOs to speak to him about it. It’s a compellingly told story, as most of the green groups seem reluctant to answer his questions or to justify their focus on fossil fuels rather than livestock emissions.

The film has built a sizable and vocal following, as evidenced by the critical Cowspiracy-inspired comments that frequently pop up on articles about climate change, bemoaning the lack of coverage of the climate impact of animal agriculture. In Paris for the climate talks in December, there was no escape either. I spotted the headline statistic from the documentary – ‘animal agriculture is responsible for 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions’ – emblazoned on at least one placard or banner at most of the protests I attended in Paris. Kip Andersen himself even turned up at the anti-oil protest outside the Louvre, with a film camera and the 51 per cent figure printed on his shirt, presumably to denounce such fossil-fuel-bashing antics as a waste of time compared to stopping the livestock industry.

There’s only one problem with this eye-grabbing stat: it’s a load of manure. Emissions from livestock agriculture – including the methane from animals’ digestive systems, deforestation, land use change and energy use – make up around 15 per cent of global emissions, not 51 per cent. I’ve been vegan for 14 years and have been asked to justify my dietary weirdness at more friend and family meals than I can count, so believe me – I’ve looked into it. If meat and dairy really were the biggest cause of global climate change I’d be trumpeting that statistic myself every chance I got.

But I don’t. Because it’s not true. The 51 per cent number comes from a single non-peer-reviewed report by two researchers – a report littered with statistical errors. This study counts the climate impact of methane from animals as being more than three times more powerful as methane from other sources [1], adds in an inappropriate chunk of extra land use emissions [2], and incorrectly includes all the carbon dioxide that livestock breathe out [3].

Setting aside this deeply flawed paper and looking instead at more reliable studies, we find that livestock’s real climate impacts – methane, land use change, energy use – make up just under 15 per cent of the global total.

The thing is, 15 per cent is still a huge amount, more than all of the world’s cars, ships, trains and planes put together. Environmental campaigners – including large NGOs - certainly should be doing more to tackle it. Which is why the 51 per cent fake statistic is so painfully groan-inducing. It undermines an important argument and makes otherwise well-meaning people look foolish when they use it.

'Cowspiracy" or capitalism: what's causing the climate crisis?

By Dr J - Your Heart's on the Left, December 11, 2015

Cowspiracy shines a light on the carbon emissions of the animal agriculture industry, but its beam is so narrow that it leaves the rest of agriculture and the economy hidden from view, and elevates dietary choice to political strategy.

Like many people, Kip Anderson watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and was frustrated by the limited lifestyle choices to stop climate change—like bike riding more often or using less water. He then found out that animal agriculture is responsible for significant emissions and is backed by major powers but is not the focus of many environmental NGOs. He then made a choice.

He could have made a film connecting animal agriculture to the rest of the oil economy, exposing the massive corporations who dominate the food supply and who have warped our relationships with animals. He could have called for vegans and non-vegans to unite, supporting front-line communities who bear the brunt of climate change, and integrating vegan concerns into a movement for system change and real control over food production and distribution.

But instead he chose to make a film that counterposes animal agriculture to the rest of the oil-dependent economy, dismisses the challenge to tar sands and fracking and the need for climate jobs, blames cows and those who consume animal products, shames environmental NGOs instead of agribusinesses, ignores traditional knowledge about how to live sustainably with animals, and calls non-vegan environmentalists hypocrites—while preaching veganism as the panacea for everything from climate change to world hunger.

The result: protesters inspired by his film denounced the recent People’s Climate March in Edmonton: “The organizers only wanted to focus on oil and gas, the safe climate topics and not ‘switch focus’ to address personal behaviors that can actually make difference.” There would not be a People’s Climate March and a climate justice movement were it not for Indigenous communities who have challenged tar sands and fracking, while defending their rights including hunting, fishing and trapping. It’s ridiculous to dismiss as “safe topics” the challenge to these powerful industries, and to blame diets that communities have followed sustainably for millenia. How do we place industrialized animal agriculture in its proper context so that the concerns of vegans can integrate with the climate justice movement?

The Animalization of the Proletariat

By Percy Gauguin - Species and Class, August 29, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The animalization of the dispossessed has been the very process by which the dispossessed became dispossessed. To reduce another to a bestial status is the establishment of supremacy over that other.

The condition of animality is essentially the lacking of humanity. The human who is treated as inferior is not fully human, and therefore lies somewhere between humanity and animality. This hierarchical mechanism is a form of predatory relations constituted within society, or the relations of nature transferred into social relations- not the reproduction of nature on social terrain, but the institution of a separate nature within society. This humanized nature, originating from nature but diverging from it, imposed itself upon ‘original’ nature and made it indistinct from it, thereby conflating human social relations with the natural order spontaneously arising between life forms in an idealized form. Animalization has been one of its underlying historical processes that has established inferiority and superiority between people, which then condensed the signification ‘animality’ as a distinct concept in opposition to ‘humanity’. This continual reproduction of animality throughout time has perpetuated the divide between humans and other species because humans themselves are divided into ‘social species’, or classes.

And so the species-relations between humanity and its livestock appear as the reflection of inter-human relations, reproduced in a distilled manner. The imperative of capital is to relegate each individual to the status of a meatbag which will generate, or at least not be an impediment to, profit. In the mass concentration of animals into bestial death camps proletarianization is reproduced in a very raw manner: the hyperexploited animal is merely a disposable unit situated in the accumulation of alienation. The hamburger fuels and provides alienated pleasure (e.g. McDonald’s) to those whose labor fuels the accumulation of capital and the even greater alienated pleasures of the capitalist class. The idea that animals suffer greatly under the industrial farm system is still extremely alien to many people, and oftentimes a matter of complete indifference and contempt. How can the proletariat’s proletariat become an object of solidarity when workers have no conception of even themselves? The pivot on which capitalism hinges is the individual ego that disregards all life that is situated beyond its egotistical view. The destruction of the slaughterhouse can never be accomplished within capitalism because capitalism is by nature always a world where the predatory instinct is sanctified.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a Vegetarian (at least for a time)

By Jon Hochschartner - Species and Class, August 16, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This article is republished from an eBook series that has been made freely available.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a leader in the Industrial Workers of the World and later Communist Party USA, was a vegetarian for at least a portion of her life. The texts I’ve been able to access suggest her choice was to some degree influenced by animal-welfarist concern.

The inspiration for folksinger Joe Hill’s song “Rebel Girl,” Flynn was a feminist and founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, in addition to her roles as a socialist and labor leader. Her activism took her from New York City, where she spent her formative years, to Russia, where she died.

Her dietary change was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle,” which she apparently read as a teenager. “After reading it I forthwith became a vegetarian!” Flynn stated in her memoir. “He wrote this book in 1906 to expose the terrible conditions of the stockyard workers and advocate socialism as a remedy. But the public seized rather upon the horrible descriptions of filth, diseased cattle, floor sweepings and putrid meat packed in sausages and canned food.”

Sinclair was himself a vegetarian, but apparently for health reasons, rather than any sort of concern for animals. “It has always seemed to me that human beings have a right to eat meat, if meat is necessary for their best development, either physical or mental,” Sinclair wrote later. “I have never had any sympathy with that ‘humanitarianism’ which tells us it is our duty to regard pigs and chickens as our brothers.”

This does not seem to have been the case for Flynn. Writing of her visit to the Chicago stockyards in 1907, she said she “couldn’t stand to see the animals killed. The frightened squeals were dreadful. I remained vegetarian. It smelled bad, looked bad, and left a bad taste for days afterward.”

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