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Human carnivory as a major driver of vertebrate extinction (1 Viewer)

dantheman

Bah humbug
Seriously though, with governments already deciding that their targets are to reduce emissions etc by less than 50%, it is apparent that a reduction in population by 50% would, even at current emission levels per capita, achieve the target. Equally, half as many people will need half the resources for feeding (less than half if the fattest have been "dealt with".) This is why it is obvious that the solution has to be fewer people. If you care about the planet but don't believe people can be educated into preferring hedonism to breeding, then keep your fingers crossed that the next pandemic does a proper job.

John

There is absolutely no way that any government is going to set targets of reducing emissions by say 50% of current levels by, say, 2030 by setting targets of reducing population size by 50% (size not recruitment). Even Russia or N Korea would struggle (you would hope).

I really don't follow your logic. Of course we agree that there are way too many people, but even with vastly reduced breeding the numbers aren't going to come down much in the foreseeable future. And if they were to be reduced marginally in some places (say Italy or Japan) there will be other places where they go up.


Your argument that any crisis in animal extinctions is solely/ultimately/mostly caused just by their being too many people strikes me as similar to making the same argument about global warming - the only cause is there are too many people. Of course it is the root cause. 100% . However global warming is caused along the way by a number of other factors such as deforestation and a major one of emissions. You seem to be saying (as a parallel example) that reducing emissions won't solve anything* and thus we shouldn't do anything about it. In environmental terms that is akin to suicidally burying your head in the sand? There would be no effort to reduce emissions, no effort in alternative energy supplies or reducing deforestation etc etc.

There is (and has been for some while) a global crisis in foodstuffs feeding the population of humans.



Of course you can eat as much meat as you want to at a personal level (as can I, I'm not a vegetarian either), but globally it's worth looking into the whole picture. (Going back to the original paper that includes bushmeat, competition, bycatch etc in addition to farming)

*(Being cynical, yes, but that is a) defeatist and b) woefully ignoring the problem)
 
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Andy Lakin

Well-known member
What are the projections for the global population? Iirc some countries populations are actually decreasing but obviously it makes a massive difference depending on which ones. It seems weird that when a countries population is decreasing they automatically start panicking!
 

Andy Lakin

Well-known member
Just did a quick Google r.e population declines and virtually all of the countries (in the top 20) are in Europe and especially Eastern Europe along with Japan so that's not going to make a great difference!
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
Just did a quick Google r.e population declines and virtually all of the countries (in the top 20) are in Europe and especially Eastern Europe along with Japan so that's not going to make a great difference!
Yes, and you're right about the panic! I guess that's another issue with (capitalist?) society in that it needs Growth ... we're all doomed!
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Yes, and you're right about the panic! I guess that's another issue with (capitalist?) society in that it needs Growth ... we're all doomed!
That is the political problem. There is no economic model that does not depend on higher numbers for economic growth - so they are all basically Ponzi schemes doomed to ecological failure - all politicians are bankrupt of ideas to save the planet from over-running with the most pernicious vermin ever: the hopelessly misnamed Homo sapiens.

There are two options:

1. Start and keep on pushing non-breeding as a fun and conservation-minded alternative lifestyle

2. Give up and just get on with seeing as much of what is left as you can before it disappears.

Actually the two are neither inconsistent nor uncombinable.

John
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Several thoughts:

1. On the initial study, the methodology used seems to be flawed, in that it is biased to identify Carnivory as the most important factor. What they did was take a IUCN list of endangered animals, then basically looked at the reasons for their endangerment. If ANY of the reasons were connected to Carnivory (Bycatch, habitat clearance for grazing land, overhunting), than they were considered to be affected by carnivory. BUT, they don't really quantify the relative impact. A hypothetical species most important threat could be habitat destruction for farmland, but if there was minor bush hunting, it would be considered to be effected by Carnivory. You could probably take any major threat category, say invasive species or habitat destruction, and using a comparable methodology get a result identifies those as the most significant effects.

2. No argument can really be made that raising livestock, at least large mammal livestock, isn't worst overall for the environment than just raising crops. Simple ecological principles state that the higher up the food chain you go, the more biomass is needed to sustain that level. Sure, you can argue that different methods are better than other methods, but comparing energy intensive monoculture to free-range cattle kept at low densities in a natural setting is not a 1:1 comparison.

3. Yes, human overpopulation is the root of all evil, but sort of dismissing arguments about eating less meat for this reason is mostly just an excuse to avoid any unpleasant truths or any reason to change your existing lifestyle. As already mentioned above, we see the same arguments against doing anything against climate change.

If you like to eat beef, fine, just be honest about it. Don't do the mental gymnastics of "It's okay for me to eat beef because I don't have kids, because breeders are the real problem".

4. Honestly a global reduction in beef and pork consumption would be better for the world on a simple health basis, beyond environmental considerations. A lot of health problems in the western world are directly related to the consumption of these products, which are high in cholesterol and fat, and thus bad for the heart and drivers of obesity. I've had to cut most beef and pork out of my diet due to heart issues (although I can't quite quit Dairy!), and I haven't missed it, although I will occasionally sneak a hamburger as a special treat.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Several thoughts:

1. On the initial study, the methodology used seems to be flawed, in that it is biased to identify Carnivory as the most important factor. What they did was take a IUCN list of endangered animals, then basically looked at the reasons for their endangerment. If ANY of the reasons were connected to Carnivory (Bycatch, habitat clearance for grazing land, overhunting), than they were considered to be affected by carnivory. BUT, they don't really quantify the relative impact. A hypothetical species most important threat could be habitat destruction for farmland, but if there was minor bush hunting, it would be considered to be effected by Carnivory. You could probably take any major threat category, say invasive species or habitat destruction, and using a comparable methodology get a result identifies those as the most significant effects.

2. No argument can really be made that raising livestock, at least large mammal livestock, isn't worst overall for the environment than just raising crops. Simple ecological principles state that the higher up the food chain you go, the more biomass is needed to sustain that level. Sure, you can argue that different methods are better than other methods, but comparing energy intensive monoculture to free-range cattle kept at low densities in a natural setting is not a 1:1 comparison.

3. Yes, human overpopulation is the root of all evil, but sort of dismissing arguments about eating less meat for this reason is mostly just an excuse to avoid any unpleasant truths or any reason to change your existing lifestyle. As already mentioned above, we see the same arguments against doing anything against climate change.

If you like to eat beef, fine, just be honest about it. Don't do the mental gymnastics of "It's okay for me to eat beef because I don't have kids, because breeders are the real problem".

4. Honestly a global reduction in beef and pork consumption would be better for the world on a simple health basis, beyond environmental considerations. A lot of health problems in the western world are directly related to the consumption of these products, which are high in cholesterol and fat, and thus bad for the heart and drivers of obesity. I've had to cut most beef and pork out of my diet due to heart issues (although I can't quite quit Dairy!), and I haven't missed it, although I will occasionally sneak a hamburger as a special treat.
People dying early because of what they eat is just as good as not breeding. There's a reason why we have Darwin Awards....

We've got to get away from all this anthropocentricity. I was at Loch of the Lowes RSPB today and they had a notice up listing and "explaining" terms related to climate change (supposedly). At the end it actually said the problem with climate change is that it "makes large parts of the Earth more difficult for people to live and raise food" - rather than, for instance "it makes large parts of the Earth less hospitable for their wildlife". So even the RSPB can't keep its head on straight long enough to give out a sensible, wildlife-orientated conservation message about climate change.

But what is required if the Earth is to be saved is substantially fewer people and both economic models and government policies need to be directed towards that forthwith. Anything less is tinkering round the edges and won't work.

Incidentally, any change in human behaviour is done by each individual one at a time (but hopefully all together, if you see what I mean). So for major effect go to the root cause is the right answer, not faffing about trying to change a percentage of people's eating habits a bit. Stop burdening the planet with lethal human excess population. Nobody needs an heir, nobody's genes are more important than the planetary ecosystem.

John
 
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Andy Adcock

Well-known member
Cyprus
That's a very simplistic, superficial response to the problem ... ;)

Proper varied organic/wildlife friendly farming is quite different to monocultures of grass/crops grown to support meat production, not even delving into other ecological issues (eg pollution, land use).


The issues are complex though.


(We are probably agreed that the carrying capacity of the planet way exceeded over the top though!)
I seriously doubt that even mass, organic farming would produce the yield required to feed the UK alone, never mind the World?
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I seriously doubt that even mass, organic farming would produce the yield required to feed this country alone, never mind the World?
Not true.

Farming as a big business model does rely on pesticides heavily etc etc, but there are more sustainable models and methods which can be used/integrated. Food quality, pollution etc positives, some lower yields etc negatives etc etc

To be fair, I wasn't suggesting we flip over to solely organic farming, as any kind of solution to everything.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
Several thoughts:

1. On the initial study, the methodology used seems to be flawed, in that it is biased to identify Carnivory as the most important factor. What they did was take a IUCN list of endangered animals, then basically looked at the reasons for their endangerment. If ANY of the reasons were connected to Carnivory (Bycatch, habitat clearance for grazing land, overhunting), than they were considered to be affected by carnivory. BUT, they don't really quantify the relative impact. A hypothetical species most important threat could be habitat destruction for farmland, but if there was minor bush hunting, it would be considered to be effected by Carnivory. You could probably take any major threat category, say invasive species or habitat destruction, and using a comparable methodology get a result identifies those as the most significant effects.

2. No argument can really be made that raising livestock, at least large mammal livestock, isn't worst overall for the environment than just raising crops. Simple ecological principles state that the higher up the food chain you go, the more biomass is needed to sustain that level. Sure, you can argue that different methods are better than other methods, but comparing energy intensive monoculture to free-range cattle kept at low densities in a natural setting is not a 1:1 comparison.

3. Yes, human overpopulation is the root of all evil, but sort of dismissing arguments about eating less meat for this reason is mostly just an excuse to avoid any unpleasant truths or any reason to change your existing lifestyle. As already mentioned above, we see the same arguments against doing anything against climate change.

If you like to eat beef, fine, just be honest about it. Don't do the mental gymnastics of "It's okay for me to eat beef because I don't have kids, because breeders are the real problem".

4. Honestly a global reduction in beef and pork consumption would be better for the world on a simple health basis, beyond environmental considerations. A lot of health problems in the western world are directly related to the consumption of these products, which are high in cholesterol and fat, and thus bad for the heart and drivers of obesity. I've had to cut most beef and pork out of my diet due to heart issues (although I can't quite quit Dairy!), and I haven't missed it, although I will occasionally sneak a hamburger as a special treat.
I was going to ask if anyone had looked at the paper dispassionately ... rather than just being triggered by certain key phrasing.

Is it good science? Is it sound scientific reasoning? Is ScienceDirect a mainstream, respected publication?

I did try opening the supplementary information, but didn't have a program for it unfortunately.


My take on it is that all this kind of thing has possibly being covered in blogs and 'alternative' science circles, but not in mainstream thinking. A bit of a taboo to criticise meat eating - immediately branded as a long haired hippy type, rather than analysing it all objectively. So probably good to see it in mainstream. I expect it may be clumsy, but hey.

Meat-eating has a long history (not only in terms of actual human omnivory) but in written/recent history - eg religious terms - a God-given right (animals 'given' to mankind to consume) then farming improvements in the Industrial Age and after etc, advertising and expectation of bbqs etc etc Now science tells us these animals are our right to consume too (factory farming etc).
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
But what is required if the Earth is to be saved is substantially fewer people and both economic models and government policies need to be directed towards that forthwith. Anything less is tinkering round the edges and won't work.
Your words. Other people may disagree!!!!

Fewer people is not implementable. Barring major catastrophe/armageddon etc (which may well happen... !) the world population is going to steadily climb before there is any chance/hope of levelling off/crashing. That won't happen soon enough for all the main issues (ok mainly climate change/habitat loss rather than meat-eating caused, but they will continue to be affected) to resolve in the slightest.

Farming practices change according to the factors at play. Laboratory grown meat is on the cusp of happening mainstream. Non-meat products, through food technology are now virtually undetectably different from meat ones (in the processed food sphere at least - which accounts for the majority(?) of meat type foodstuffs).
 

Andy Lakin

Well-known member
Surely one of the problems is that a lot of the ideas that may help won't make the big companies much money! There are a vast amount of smaller scale projects in progress but the mega companies don't appear to be the backers I.e it is mainly charities that are providing the finance. Obviously one of the problems with producing meat is the vast amount of water required. Its probably not much of an issue in Europe or North America but it must be an issue in a very many countries.Dealing with all the waste from rearing animals seems to be a big issue as well. Some of the practices in America are shocking with knock on effects for the local residents such as respiratory problems.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
Several thoughts:

1. On the initial study, the methodology used seems to be flawed, in that it is biased to identify Carnivory as the most important factor. What they did was take a IUCN list of endangered animals, then basically looked at the reasons for their endangerment. If ANY of the reasons were connected to Carnivory (Bycatch, habitat clearance for grazing land, overhunting), than they were considered to be affected by carnivory. BUT, they don't really quantify the relative impact. A hypothetical species most important threat could be habitat destruction for farmland, but if there was minor bush hunting, it would be considered to be effected by Carnivory. You could probably take any major threat category, say invasive species or habitat destruction, and using a comparable methodology get a result identifies those as the most significant effects.
I look upon it as a starting point. With more work to be done, indeed. They were looking at a lot of things though - it's already been mentioned on this thread a lot (majority?) of rainforest clearance in Brazil is for cattle-raising. They looked at fish - a lot of the threats in that sphere include direct catching*/bycatch (don't forget cetaceans in recent centuries too).

I looked at Cats on the IUCN list. There are also tipping points and complex interactions/one mechanism taking over once a species has been depleted. Big cats will eat game/farm animals - but other factors at play too. A species could become endangered due to hunting due to competition (for prey animals that humans would eat) initially, with trophy hunting or such later becoming a greater issue etc.

It almost requires a thought-experiment. If humans were solely vegetarian/herbivorous were would we be instead? Same, different or a similar different? That's difficult to ascertain.

A study on a smaller sample group size to quantify the relevant impact would make sense. (Although to what end!)

*(Catching for food = predation ;-) )
 
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dantheman

Bah humbug
Surely one of the problems is that a lot of the ideas that may help won't make the big companies much money! There are a vast amount of smaller scale projects in progress but the mega companies don't appear to be the backers I.e it is mainly charities that are providing the finance. Obviously one of the problems with producing meat is the vast amount of water required. Its probably not much of an issue in Europe or North America but it must be an issue in a very many countries.Dealing with all the waste from rearing animals seems to be a big issue as well. Some of the practices in America are shocking with knock on effects for the local residents such as respiratory problems.
Not so sure. There will be plenty of money to be made. It took a while for Shell etc to realise they could invest heavily and make their shareholders happy by looking at alternatives to oil-based. All the major supermarkets sell whole ranges and proliferations of meat-alternative products, some of which are probably pretty profitable ... extrapolate that out to future ideas ...

The religion of excessively eating meat in places like America probably has greater health problems overall (as mentioned above) from the consumption thereof than any localised production issues ...
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I was going to ask if anyone had looked at the paper dispassionately ... rather than just being triggered by certain key phrasing.

Is it good science? Is it sound scientific reasoning? Is ScienceDirect a mainstream, respected publication?

I did try opening the supplementary information, but didn't have a program for it unfortunately.


My take on it is that all this kind of thing has possibly being covered in blogs and 'alternative' science circles, but not in mainstream thinking. A bit of a taboo to criticise meat eating - immediately branded as a long haired hippy type, rather than analysing it all objectively. So probably good to see it in mainstream. I expect it may be clumsy, but hey.

Meat-eating has a long history (not only in terms of actual human omnivory) but in written/recent history - eg religious terms - a God-given right (animals 'given' to mankind to consume) then farming improvements in the Industrial Age and after etc, advertising and expectation of bbqs etc etc Now science tells us these animals are our right to consume too (factory farming etc).
ScienceDirect isn't a journal, but rather a website that serves as a clearing house for several publishers. The actual journal Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation. It's published by Elsevier which is a reputable publisher for a very large number of journals, and has a decent impact factor, so it's a legit journal.
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
For all the argument about overpopulation vs meat eating: There are some undeniable facts that some people (on both sides) want to dance around. The impact on the planet is simple multiplication of people x resource consumption. Arguing for lower human fecundity is politically unsavory, flies in the face of modern economic systems (as pointed out), and hits a raw nerve with a lot of people who have or want to have babies. Reducing resource consumption is politically complex, flies in the face of modern economics, and hits a raw nerve with everyone who enjoys eating meat, driving, flying, buying imported goods, and 30,000 other things.

Some people really don’t want to hear they shouldn’t have children, and some people really don’t want to hear they shouldn’t eat meat, and some people really don’t want to hear they shouldn’t fly.

In the end, it is # of humans multiplied by resource consumption. Making less humans and reducing per capita consumption are the only two substantive things we can do.

I recognize that I should fly less, consume less, etc - I know my flying is poor for the world and I don’t hide it, I feel bad even though I do it. I am vegetarian and have neither car, children, nor plans for kids, but I don’t use that as a free pass to wash my conscious of other things I could do better.
 

Andy Lakin

Well-known member
I have just been listening to an expert on the radio discussing using insects as protein. He mentioned that they are focusing on farming insects on a much bigger scale to feed farmed animals I.e fish.Would people be up for consuming insects protein to replace some of the traditional meats. Personally I have only tried Cricket powder and it tasted really nice. Also I know they are trying to find ways of farming fish such as Tuna, Cod etc but apparently they don't do well at all being reared artificially. This would be a big step but would also have lots of potential issues both ethically and environmentally. If anybody is interested they have a lot of podcasts/ series on BBC Radio 4 available on the BBC Sounds app.
 

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