Any thoughts on this TED talk about climate change and livestock?

I watched a TED talk the other day: www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_gr een_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_clim ate_change.html (please paste and remove spaces, I fear link rot)

The basic gist of it is that, in areas that are seasonally dry, we can use livestock, where natural herd animals are absent or underpopulated, to restore healthy grasslands, by carefully mimicking natural patterns of herd animal movement (large numbers of animals clustered together, and moved when grass supplies are exhausted).

I know that one reason that some people are vegetarians is concern about the environmental impact of meat vs plant food sources. Obviously, modern industrial meat production has significant environmental drawbacks, but where appropriate management techniques are used, does this change your mind at all about the environmental impact of meat consumption?

Update:

The problem is, in a lot of these areas, the natural populations *aren't there*. Nor are healthy populations of the predators that cause the herd behavior. And, well, people need to eat. So, using livestock to mimic natural herd behavior seems like a more environmentally friendly way to feed people than trying to turn this otherwise-marginal land into cropland...

Update 2:

Did you watch the video?...

Update 3:

I agree that growing crops, feeding them to animals, then eating the animals is more wasteful than just eating the crops (unless we only feed the animals parts of the crops that we can't really eat, like stalks/husks).

This isn't talking about that, however, it's talking about direct grazing, and using that direct grazing to help replace the ecological role of absent natural herd populations.

Update 4:

And feedlots would be part of the "modern industrial meat production" I mentioned.

I think this talk is mostly about places like Africa that are having trouble feeding everyone, not *necessarily* the US.

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  • 7 years ago
    Best Answer

    I haven’t had time to watch the talk, but I’ll respond to your summary:

    > The basic gist of it is that, in areas that are seasonally dry, we can use livestock, where natural herd animals are absent or underpopulated, to restore healthy grasslands

    It’s true that grazing can benefit particular habitats when correctly managed. Another example might be California vernal pools, which tend to lose their rare native plants due to competition with nonnative annual grasses when not grazed or burned.

    A lot of environmental problems remain, however. For starters, how can we insure that grazing will be correctly managed, particularly when on private land? With regard to public lands, livestock owners have gained undue political control over public land management many times in the past, and could easily do so again.

    There’s also the point that wild grasslands used for sheep or cattle forage won’t be available for bringing back native grazers such as elk or pronghorn, let alone the native predators that once preyed on them such as wolves. Opposition to wolf recovery in most of the west has been vicious, bordering on the fanatic, and most of that has come from ranchers. Their attitudes towards cougars and coyotes have been almost as bad. Why should we support such people by buying their products?

    Also, what happens when the livestock have to come down to the feedlot? Then they’re back to eating products from farmland that could have been used to grow food for people. That means extra land ploughed under, extra pesticide use, extra water consumption (both for the crops that will feed the livestock and for the livestock themselves). And after all that food and water has passed through the animals in the feedlots, what do you do with the tons and tons of concentrated fecal waste?

    > does this change your mind at all about the environmental impact of meat consumption

    Not for most situations. For me however, the primary reason to avoid eating meat is that it’s not ethical to unnecessarily kill things that don’t want to be killed.

    > it's talking about direct grazing, and using that direct grazing to help replace the ecological role of absent natural herd populations.

    But we're talking about areas that are seasonally dry, right? You can't maintain commercially viable herds on seasonally dry lands without taking them to a feedlot during the dry times. They tried it during the late 1800s in California and some of the rangelands still haven't recovered. It's not sustainable.

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    how is that a better alternative than allowing natural wildlife return to their land and not face population stresses due to livestock farming? Not to mention these animals have evolved to deal with such conditions and are capable of moving to other areas where there is food for them without having to have to be moved by a farmer/rancher/jackaroo/jillaroo. mind boggles how some think.

    "The problem is, in a lot of these areas, the natural populations *aren't there*. Nor are healthy populations of the predators that cause the herd behavior." yes, that's the problem. 70% of agricultural land is for livestock farming, both directly and to grow their feed. Predators are often culled because of the fact that they prey on livestock animals when they're stressed, and usually the reason for their stress is due to a lack of the natural prey animals ie the herd animals, and habitat loss. Yes, people need to eat, but we don't need to eat meat and we don't need to keep animals as livestock. Hence the UN reports slamming livestock agriculture.

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