“Comprehensive Animal Protein Study Compares Environmental Impacts” – (Ecowatch)

Interesting timing on the part of the publication of this article.

During this past weekend, a vegan co-worker of mine made an attempt to essentially sell the lifestyle to me. I don’t recall exactly how this conversation started, but either way, it ended with me grudgingly agreeing to watch a documentary called “What The Health”. Something I was a bit hesitant to do because:

1.) I don’t really trust documentaries anymore. The documentary Micheal Hates America does a good job of illustrating just how easy they can be used as a tool of manipulation.

In this age of podcasts and other such long-form platforms, consider how most of them handle information. Generally, you have an interviewer (or a small panel of interviewers and/or guests) unfamiliar with the often complex material being presented. If the information seems to have some semblance of sense to it, people often accept it at face value. This is amplified by the fact that these hosts often are considered trusted vetters of information, even though it’s not always clear exactly why. Whether it’s someone dabbling outside of their area of expertise, or just someone without any focused education playing the part of the academic gatekeeper, the result is essentially the same.

Online popular culture (which is increasingly bleeding into an offline popular culture, and beyond!) is littered with the end results of this flawed vetting method. Whether it’s Canadian psychologist’s that should never have seen any spotlight, or the reemergence of long-disproven hypotheses with obvious roots in racist starting points, this stuff is quite literally EVERYWHERE.

It’s all bullshit, and it’s bad for you. To quote the wise comedian that seen our future long before we were willing to even entertain it.

To bring it back to documentaries, this genre is (in a sense) just an older form of what is more or less the same methodology of information dissemination that we just explored (the podcast). You sit and watch / listen as a case is made, and you generally accept what you see / hear.  Because, why would they lie to you?

Unfortunately, long gone are the days of me being able to blindly trust almost anything at face value, let alone the known tool of manipulation that is the documentary.

2.) I don’t trust this documentary.

First, because it’s from the same producer as the infamous Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. And second, because even lightly scratching the surface unearths a world of nonsense, as demonstrated by quite literally the first Google search result one comes up with the query What The Health Criticisms.

Yes, that may seem like a loaded query. But when looking into something like this, you have to employ de-manipulation tactics like that. If not, you will almost certainly be digging through pages and pages of self-published propaganda and blind yes-men testimonials before ever hitting anything critical.
A fact that doesn’t escape me when I hear people talk about having researched a topic in depth, despite often times mysteriously ending up with a very niche and un-nuanced conclusion.

Either way, I may or may not watch the film. The Red Pill wasn’t nearly as biased as I thought it would be (though wise friends still have blunt critiques of it).
Some may thnk that watching it is the honest thing to do (“How can you critique what you haven’t even seen!”). Logic dictates that information within the film that is proven false is just as false without viewing it as it is WITH viewing it.

We will see.

Either way, onto the Ecowatch article. Alike my last encounter with Ecowatch, this piece will be less critical than it will be exploratory.

Let’s begin.

Scientists behind a study published less than two weeks ago said that avoiding meat and dairy is probably the single best consumer choice you can make for the environment.

There is no arguing this, PERIOD. To throw a bone to my militant vegan audience members.

There is much to say about the truth in that statement. Before you even get to the meat protein stage, energy has to go into feeding this food grade livestock in the form of plant matter.
Then comes the matter of cow farts and methane. Livestock agriculture leaves German car makers in the dust in terms of noxious emissions. Fine, cow farts leave most vehicle emissions, PERIOD, in the dust.

It had to be said, though. I still see many aging TDI’s on the road.

Along with the pre-production, production and post-production pollution associated with meat and dairy is the huge energy dedication just in storing it. With little toleration for temperature variation on the higher end of the spectrum, these items must ALWAYS be properly refrigerated.

We have all likely come across the end results of not following this process, at some point or another.  Here’s what happen’s when that person owns a bankrupt grocery store.

Meat,and dairy are extremely energy intensive. You won’t find me disputing that fact.

But if you want to watch your footprint while still eating meat, a study published Monday, which authors say is the most comprehensive comparison of the environmental impact of various animal proteins, has you covered.

The study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, compared farmed livestock, farmed fish and wild-caught fish and found that livestock and farmed catfish took the greatest toll on the earth, while farmed mollusks and wild-caught fish caused the least damage.

Livestock isn’t surprising. But the farmed fish observation is.

“From the consumer’s standpoint, choice matters,” lead author and University of Washington (UW) School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences professor Ray Hilborn said in a UW press release published by Phys.org. “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices, and really obvious bad choices.”

But Hilborn said the study wasn’t only useful for guiding consumers. It could also help governments in charge of free trade agreements and agricultural or environmental policy.

“I think this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Hilborn said. “Policymakers need to be able to say, ‘There are certain food production types we need to encourage, and others we should discourage.'”

Researchers looked at 148 assessments of the environmental impacts of different animal proteins along all stages of production, comparing each product’s energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution potential and acid-rain-causing emissions.

The animal proteins that had the least impact on all four criteria were farmed mollusks like oysters, mussels and scallops and wild-caught sardines, mackerel and herring. Wild-caught pollock, hake and cod as well as farmed salmon also had a relatively low impact.

Unsurprisingly, farmed livestock had a high impact, with beef emitting about 20 times more greenhouse gases than farmed mollusks, chicken and salmon or some wild-caught fish.

Excellent. I can all the poultry I want.

However, farmed fish like catfish, shrimp and tilapia required more energy than most livestock because the water they live in has to be constantly circulated using electricity. Farmed catfish had greenhouse gas emissions about equal those of beef.

Fine by me, since I don’t really like any of those (short of tilapia, occasionally).

The mind wonders who would catfish. The stuff is wild in my neck of the woods, but it’s certainly not the first choice of edibles within our watershed. At least not for me.

Farmed mollusks actually had environmental benefits because they absorb the excess nutrients that are often the result of other types of agriculture.

The study also found that a diet that included low-impact farmed and wild-caught fish was actually better for the environment than an all vegetarian and vegan diet.

1.) I am not surprised by this finding.

The Zebra mussel, invader of many waterways thanks too improper disposal of bilge water in some areas and improper cleaning of pleasure craft when traveling from one watershed to another in other areas, is slowly choking off many North American waterways. Including Lake Winnipeg (as though that lake doesn’t have enough problems already).

2.) HA! Take that, militant vegans!

But enough gloating.

The study did not assess the impact of animal protein production on biodiversity, however, which researchers say they would like to tackle next.

As of 2016, nearly 90 percent of fish stocks were either overfished or fished to capacity, so examining the impact of various fishing practices on biodiversity would be especially important for assessing their true ecological cost.

I’ll be watching for that information.

 

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