Listen now | How to reform our food systems
Thank you for having such a wide range of guests that are coming from very different perspective on solutions to our multiple crisis.
From my reading of Regenesis, George Monbiot is presenting a radical break from the way things are now, stopping the incredibly harmful factory farming and presenting some options to have more land given back to nature. To me he is widening the goal posts, or Overton window, and pushing to eliminate business as usual thinking. He explains that there are other options than the binary choices between cheap meat from unethical factory farms or expensive meat from ethical regenerative farms.
It really resonated with me when you said many people have gone vegan as they want nothing to do with all the cruelty and destruction caused by capitalism led industrial farming. That is certainly my motivation, along with carbon footprint. If I go to a quiet place in nature I feel the pain and suffering of the animals we keep in factory farms. But I would say plant based is not the end state of diets forever. If things were reset and humans developed widespread real respect for nature, I’m sure many would return to having meat on an occasional basis. But we are a long way from that.
One of my friends went on an ayahuasca retreat after leaving the army and afterwards had an absolute commitment to not eating meat. It's interesting that people has wildly different experiences.
It was useful to hear that methane emissions are about double that of factory farmed beef due to the animals living longer. I hadn’t understood that before. A beef farmer on Nate Hagen's podcast said his cattle produce no methane because they are grass fed, which seemed complete nonsense, so Nikki’s statement makes a lot of sense. So we obviously need to stop industrial farming, and if regenerative farming is a way forward, we would have to have a lot less meat produced otherwise we’d have even more methane emissions.
It feels to me like having some regenerative animal farming with a lot more plan based systems, and a lot more land rewilded for nature would be a way to go.
Nikki mentioned that there aren't any plant based farming systems, but Tolly Farm does that with a variety of techniques including green manures. https://www.tolhurstorganic.co.uk/
I don't think Mr Monbiot was saying get rid of all cattle. As I understand it there would be natural herds in rewilded places, helping to increase the biodiversity. There would be millions of species of animals above and below ground. And he talks at length about increasing the biodiversity through improved soil ecosystems, ecological farming practices. It probably is right the we address the crazy stat that only 4% of mammals are wild, and have fewer farmed animals.
Yet another enjoyable conversation, I love the diversity of topics and ideas you bring to us!
Thank you Rachel : )
It was interesting to hear Nikki’s initially measured but increasingly emotional rebuttal to George Monbiot. I like George but think she has some really valid points and that debate would be good to hear. I watched the Monbiot/Savory discussion a while back and it was painful. Savory seemed a bit unhinged and Monbiot was increasingly dismissive. I think Nikki Yoxall would make a better case. Another person who has been pushing back on Monbiot’s ideas is Chris Smaje, who you had on a while back.
There are people who grow food without input from animals, and there are cultures such as Jains who I believe are strictly vegan, so I don’t think it’s entirely true to say that animals, or at least cattle, are always part of food systems.
Loved this convo! Indeed, much creativity could be implemented in our food systems as Nikki demonstrates. Good work!
Indigenous hunting and foraging knowledge systems may be needed as well in the near future to maintain general diversity and migration flows; it’s the foundation and obviously the most symbiotic system. Most regen models still use “paddock” style ag methods which may need to be revised or opened up as bio-diversity plummets globally. Food for thought.
I enjoyed this conversation but felt there was some missing pushback. The guest is an animal farmer herself so she has a very emotional connection to that type of agriculture which often means that there is some lacking objectivity, more immersed in personal experience than data. When she spoke about the lack of humility in removing animals from agriculture due to it's existence for thousands of years it was a missed opportunity to bring up that we created these animals and they are not part of the natural ecosystem. They are born, used, and killed simply for human purpose. And an agriculture without livestock is not an agriculture without animals. There are countless nonvertibrates and bacteria involved in agriculture regardless of livestock. She seemed to be guilty of the same thing she accused others of, she was very dismissive of other schools of thought.
Thanks for all your great episodes, Rachel. They are generally super interesting. However I want to respond to this episode and the idea that regenerative cow farmers often claim, that if you only manage the cows “holistically” (there are many names for it), we can continue to eat as much meat as now; or as Savory put it: “in fact we need millions more cows in the landscape”. This is said at a time when 62% of all mammal biomass is livestock, 2% is wild land mammals. Just bonkers. And big meat industry love this muddying of the waters when it comes to sustainable meat consumption. Sowing doubt in the same way as fossil fuel companies have done to such devastating effect. As Monbiot so brilliantly explore in depth in his book Regenesis, there is just no way to feed 8billion people (far too many for the planets carrying capacity anyway) with as much meat as humans eat today without climate catastrophe, biodiversity collapse (holistic agricultural grazing land is not the same as wilderness), eutrophication of waterways and ocean, and ever more forest destruction. There were never anything close to this many ruminants in the worlds’ landscapes, despite grand claims about bison and wildebeest, besides the fact that there was also much more forest back then. And much less carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Of course it’s better to not overgraze land compared with badly grazed, but the crucial part is that humans need to give back land and forest to the wild to help biodiversity and climate recover some stability. And with three quarters of agricultural land used for grazing and animal feed (not least in the UK, which used to be largely forested), the way to do that is to eat less meat. Meat production requires massively more land per calorie that plant food for humans. Sitting in nature and watch cows might be lovely and help you reconnect with nature, but it does not teach you about the carrying capacity of the planet or the planetary boundaries in relation to agriculture. It does not give you the big picture. You need science for that. Thank you. Rant over 🙃
No offense intended but I think you’d benefit from watching this.
Dear friends and Rachel, I didn't feel the intensity of bias or lack of it that other listeners seemed to perceive from Nikki's approach. As a permaculture designer and fruit grower (who happens to be 90% vegan) I think it's perfectly reasonable to have and nurture and not abuse animals in an agricultural system. And yes, policy makers need to see on the ground perspective so they can see that holism is the most resilient approach and basic biology told us that long ago. And yes, us men need to listen wayyyy more. And... from a pure energy perspective, I think it's obvious that meat consumption will have to be reduced to reach sustainability. not down to zero, but it needs to be much more of a treat of calorie/fat/nutrient rich food than a daily staple. That's the part that cash-rich countries mostly don't get, and we are sicker because of it. As a Polish-American, I treasure the tastes of meat and fish and milkfat is a miracle, eggs are hard to replace, and I eat them only a few times a week. But I hope that attitudes like Nikki's can show that animal products can be integrated into a plant diet and the plant landscape as normal, but return to balance, rather than the proverbial "would you like some bread with your butter?" Thanks, All!