Vegetarian Discussion: Lobster Pain May Prick Diners' Consciences

Lobster Pain May Prick Diners' Consciences
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Brass Extrusion
2007-11-09 10:08:13 EST

09 November 2007
Colin Barras
Magazine issue 2629
It could prick the conscience of seafood chefs everywhere. Prawns, lobsters
and other invertebrates may feel pain, a controversial finding that could
open up the debate on animal welfare.

Robert Elwood at Queen's University Belfast in the UK and his colleagues
claim they have found convincing evidence that prawns do feel pain. When
they dabbed an irritant - acetic acid - onto one of 144 prawns' two
antennae, the creatures reacted by grooming and rubbing the affected antenna
for up to 5 minutes. This focused reaction is similar to that seen in
mammals exposed to a noxious stimulant (Animal Behaviour, DOI:

Elwood says the results show a centrally organised response to the irritant.
"The prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent
with an interpretation of pain experience," he says.

Most researchers believe that only vertebrates feel pain, but Elwood argues
that this is unlikely because of ...

2007-11-11 10:10:26 EST
On Fri, 9 Nov 2007 15:08:13 -0000, "Brass Extrusion" <> wrote:

>09 November 2007
>Colin Barras
>Magazine issue 2629
>It could prick the conscience of seafood chefs everywhere. Prawns, lobsters
>and other invertebrates may feel pain, a controversial finding that could
>open up the debate on animal welfare.
>Robert Elwood at Queen's University Belfast in the UK and his colleagues
>claim they have found convincing evidence that prawns do feel pain.


>they dabbed an irritant - acetic acid - onto one of 144 prawns' two
>antennae, the creatures reacted by grooming and rubbing the affected antenna
>for up to 5 minutes. This focused reaction is similar to that seen in
>mammals exposed to a noxious stimulant (Animal Behaviour, DOI:

What a clue. Another one is that crabs jump out of pots of
boiling water if they can. It's really pretty damned obvious.

>Elwood says the results show a centrally organised response to the irritant.
>"The prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent
>with an interpretation of pain experience," he says.

If this is a breakthrough, then it's truly a wonder that researchers
have ever managed to learn a damn thing.

>Most researchers believe that only vertebrates feel pain,

How incredibly stupid.

>but Elwood argues that this is unlikely because of ...

Whatever about Elmo... They can see, and they can hear,
and they can smell, and they can taste. Only incredibly stupid
people would "think" they can experience all of the senses
EXCEPT FOR what is probably the most important one. For
everyone who is just now getting a clue, here's a great big
for you!

Now about that domestic animal elimination/veganism thing:

· Vegans contribute to the deaths of animals by their use of
wood and paper products, electricity, roads and all types of
buildings, their own diet, etc... just as everyone else does.
What they try to avoid are products which provide life
(and death) for farm animals, but even then they would have
to avoid the following items containing animal by-products
in order to be successful:

Tires, Paper, Upholstery, Floor waxes, Glass, Water
Filters, Rubber, Fertilizer, Antifreeze, Ceramics, Insecticides,
Insulation, Linoleum, Plastic, Textiles, Blood factors, Collagen,
Heparin, Insulin, Solvents, Biodegradable Detergents, Herbicides,
Gelatin Capsules, Adhesive Tape, Laminated Wood Products,
Plywood, Paneling, Wallpaper and Wallpaper Paste, Cellophane
Wrap and Tape, Abrasives, Steel Ball Bearings

The meat industry provides life for the animals that it
slaughters, and the animals live and die as a result of it
as animals do in other habitats. They also depend on it for
their lives as animals do in other habitats. If people consume
animal products from animals they think are raised in decent
ways, they will be promoting life for more such animals in the
future. People who want to contribute to decent lives for
livestock with their lifestyle must do it by being conscientious
consumers of animal products, because they can not do it by
being vegan.
From the life and death of a thousand pound grass raised
steer and whatever he happens to kill during his life, people
get over 500 pounds of human consumable meat...that's well
over 500 servings of meat. From a grass raised dairy cow people
get thousands of dairy servings. Due to the influence of farm
machinery, and *icides, and in the case of rice the flooding and
draining of fields, one serving of soy or rice based product is
likely to involve more animal deaths than hundreds of servings
derived from grass raised animals. Grass raised animal products
contribute to fewer wildlife deaths, better wildlife habitat, and
better lives for livestock than soy or rice products. ·

2007-11-11 10:23:09 EST
<*h@.> wrote in message

> Grass raised animal products
> contribute to fewer wildlife deaths, better wildlife habitat, and
> better lives for livestock than soy or rice products. \ufffd

"Cattle are the scourge of the Earth."

Brass Extrusion
2007-11-11 10:57:57 EST

<*h@.> wrote in message
> On Fri, 9 Nov 2007 15:08:13 -0000, "Brass Extrusion" <>
> wrote:
>>09 November 2007
>>Colin Barras
>>Magazine issue 2629
>>It could prick the conscience of seafood chefs everywhere. Prawns,
>>and other invertebrates may feel pain, a controversial finding that could
>>open up the debate on animal welfare.
>>Robert Elwood at Queen's University Belfast in the UK and his colleagues
>>claim they have found convincing evidence that prawns do feel pain.
> Duh.
>>they dabbed an irritant - acetic acid - onto one of 144 prawns' two
>>antennae, the creatures reacted by grooming and rubbing the affected
>>for up to 5 minutes. This focused reaction is similar to that seen in
>>mammals exposed to a noxious stimulant (Animal Behaviour, DOI:
> What a clue. Another one is that crabs jump out of pots of
> boiling water if they can. It's really pretty damned obvious.
>>Elwood says the results show a centrally organised response to the
>>"The prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent
>>with an interpretation of pain experience," he says.
> If this is a breakthrough, then it's truly a wonder that researchers
> have ever managed to learn a damn thing.
>>Most researchers believe that only vertebrates feel pain,
> How incredibly stupid.
>>but Elwood argues that this is unlikely because of ...
> Whatever about Elmo... They can see, and they can hear,
> and they can smell, and they can taste. Only incredibly stupid
> people would "think" they can experience all of the senses
> EXCEPT FOR what is probably the most important one. For
> everyone who is just now getting a clue, here's a great big
> for you!

Yes, there are incredibly stupid people that belive invertabrates can't feel

Barb Knox
2007-11-11 20:10:47 EST
In article <>, dh@. wrote:

> On Fri, 9 Nov 2007 15:08:13 -0000, "Brass Extrusion" <> wrote:
> >
> >k-diners-consciences.html?feedId=online-news_rss20
> >or
> >
> >
> >09 November 2007
> >Colin Barras
> >Magazine issue 2629
> >It could prick the conscience of seafood chefs everywhere. Prawns, lobsters
> >and other invertebrates may feel pain, a controversial finding that could
> >open up the debate on animal welfare.
> >
> >Robert Elwood at Queen's University Belfast in the UK and his colleagues
> >claim they have found convincing evidence that prawns do feel pain.
> Duh.
> >When
> >they dabbed an irritant - acetic acid - onto one of 144 prawns' two
> >antennae, the creatures reacted by grooming and rubbing the affected antenna
> >for up to 5 minutes. This focused reaction is similar to that seen in
> >mammals exposed to a noxious stimulant (Animal Behaviour, DOI:
> >10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.07.004).
> What a clue. Another one is that crabs jump out of pots of
> boiling water if they can. It's really pretty damned obvious.

What is obvious from their behaviour is that they see to avoid certain
aversive stimuli, which is clearly an evolutionary Good Thing. But that
doesn't tell us anything about their subjective experience (if any).
For example, one could build a simple wheeled robot that seeks to avoid
extremes of heat, cold, light, etc., but such behaviour does not in
itself indicate that the robot feels *anything*.

> >Elwood says the results show a centrally organised response to the irritant.
> >"The prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent
> >with an interpretation of pain experience," he says.

It's also consistent with the prawns being biological machines which are
complex enough to behave like that but not complex enough to have any
subjective experiences at all.

> If this is a breakthrough, then it's truly a wonder that researchers
> have ever managed to learn a damn thing.

They don't say it's a breakthrough. In general, most research results
are pretty minor.

> >Most researchers believe that only vertebrates feel pain,
> How incredibly stupid.
> >but Elwood argues that this is unlikely because of ...
> Whatever about Elmo... They can see, and they can hear,
> and they can smell, and they can taste. Only incredibly stupid
> people would "think" they can experience all of the senses
> EXCEPT FOR what is probably the most important one. For
> everyone who is just now getting a clue, here's a great big
> for you!

It certainly is a "DUH!" to "discover" that prawns have pain receptors.
What is very far from a "DUH!" is the issue of whether or not triggering
their pain receptors results in some subjective experience analogous to
our experience of pain.

And the same issue applies to vertebrates too. In a painful situation,
Fido or Fluffy certainly *act* like we would, but again that does not
give us a clear window into their subjective experience (if any). We
can certainly empathise with Fido or Fluffy's plight, but that does not
imply that they themselves are having a subjective experience similar to
what we would have in the situation which we are mentally projecting
ourselves into through empathy.

Here's what the Encyclopaedia Britannica says about the "pathetic
fallacy" <>:

"poetic practice of attributing human emotion or responses to nature,
inanimate objects, or animals. The practice is a form of
personification that is as old as poetry, in which it has always been
common to find smiling or dancing flowers, angry or cruel winds,
brooding mountains, moping owls, or happy larks. The term was coined by
John Ruskin in Modern Painters (1843-60)."

Someday we may know enough about how brains generate subjective
experiences to be able to settle the question of whether prawns, dogs or
cats have any subjective experience of pain. But until then, it's grist
for the mill of philosophers, theologians, etc.



| BBB b \ Barbara at LivingHistory stop co stop uk
| B B aa rrr b |
| BBB a a r bbb | Quidquid latine dictum sit,
| B B a a r b b | altum viditur.
| BBB aa a r bbb |

2007-11-12 06:03:27 EST
"Barb Knox" <see@sig.below> wrote in message

> It certainly is a "DUH!" to "discover" that prawns have pain receptors.
> What is very far from a "DUH!" is the issue of whether or not triggering
> their pain receptors results in some subjective experience analogous to
> our experience of pain.

'We address the question of pain perception in fish by first accepting
the assumption that it is unlikely that the conscious perception of pain
evolved to simply guide reactions to noxious events, or to provide an
experiential dimension to accompany reflexes, but rather it allowed
an organism to discriminate their environment in ways that permitted
adaptive and flexible behaviour (Chandroo et al. 2004). The neural
systems involved in nociception and pain perception, and the
cognitive processes resulting in flexible behaviour function, probably
evolved as an interactive dynamic system within the central nervous
system (Chapman and Nakamura 1999).

Do that also apply to crustaceans? I think you'll find that it does.

> And the same issue applies to vertebrates too. In a painful situation,
> Fido or Fluffy certainly *act* like we would, but again that does not
> give us a clear window into their subjective experience (if any). We
> can certainly empathise with Fido or Fluffy's plight, but that does not
> imply that they themselves are having a subjective experience similar to
> what we would have in the situation which we are mentally projecting
> ourselves into through empathy.

'Neurophysiologists have so far discovered no fundamental difference
between the structure or functions of neurons in men and other
animals."[19] Anthropomorphism he calls an obsolete straitjacket.

After I read Griffin's book, my quest for a context into which an
understanding of ocean mind might grow met with another stroke of
luck. At the 1980 Conference on Cetacean Intelligence in Washington
DC, I met psychologist Dr Michael Bossley of Magill University,
South Australia. Later he sent me an extraordinary unpublished
manuscript - his review of the scientific evidence for non-human mind,
which was a global survey of formal research into cognitive ethology
since Griffin had defined it. I read this with utter delight and suggested
a title, Continuum, which Dr Bossley accepted.

The implications of Bossley's survey could upset many. He insists
that an entirely new ethical system is required, and presents compelling
evidence for a continuity between human psychological processes and
those of other life forms. He urges our species to climb down from its
imaginary pedestal: 'Everything grades into everything else. We are part
of the natural world.' Much of the research Bossley examines is recent
and ongoing. For the most part it has appeared only in highly technical
literature accessible to specialised academics. It may be several
generations before the full implications are heeded. Like the
Copernican and Darwinian revolutions, it could alter the way we view
our place on this planet, how we treat other life forms and each other.

Legitimate evidence that five vital aspects of being human can be traced
to other animals exists in the published work of established scientists.
In each of five chapters, Bossley summarises that evidence.

> Here's what the Encyclopaedia Britannica says about the "pathetic
> fallacy" <>:
> "poetic practice of attributing human emotion or responses to nature,
> inanimate objects, or animals. The practice is a form of
> personification that is as old as poetry, in which it has always been
> common to find smiling or dancing flowers, angry or cruel winds,
> brooding mountains, moping owls, or happy larks. The term was coined by
> John Ruskin in Modern Painters (1843-60)."
> Someday we may know enough about how brains generate subjective
> experiences to be able to settle the question of whether prawns, dogs or
> cats have any subjective experience of pain. But until then, it's grist
> for the mill of philosophers, theologians, etc.

By Penelope Smith

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, "A human being is part of the whole,
called by us 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences
himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest,
a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind
of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection
for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves
from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all
living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Many humans have an attitude that restricts their ability to understand
or empathize with non-human animals and other life forms and has
some serious consequences for all life on this planet. It is called
anthropocentrism, or viewing man as the center or final aim of the
universe. I refer to this in my book, Animal Talk, as the "human
superiority complex" considering humans as superior to or the
pinnacle of all forms of life. From the anthropocentric view, non-
human beings that are most like human are usually considered more
intelligent, for example, chimpanzees who learn to use sign language
or dolphins who signal word or thought comprehension through
touching electronic devices in their tanks. Animals or other life forms
that don't express themselves in human ways by language or in terms
easily comprehensible by common human standards are often
considered less developed, inferior, more primitive or mechanistic,
and usually of less importance than humans.

This viewpoint has been used to justify using animals as objects for
human ends. Since humans are the superior creatures, "dumb,
unfeeling" non-humans can be disregarded, mistreated, subjugated,
killed or whole species eliminated without much concern for their
existence in itself, only their usefulness or lack of it to humankind.

Many humans, as they see other animals are more like them in
patterns of behavior and expression of intelligence, begin to respect
them more and treat them with more regard for their rights. However,
this does not transcend the trap of anthropocentrism. To increase
harmony of life on Earth, all beings need to be regarded as worthy
of respect, whether seen as different or similar to the human species.

The anthropocentric view toward animals echoes the way in which
many humans have discriminated against other humans because they
were of different cultures, races, religions, or sexes. Regarding others
as less intelligent or substandard has commonly been used to justify
domination, cruelty or elimination of them.

Too often people label what they don't understand as inferior, dumb,
or to be avoided, without attempting to understand a different way of
being. More enlightened humans look upon meeting people, things or
animals that are different than themselves as opportunities to expand
their understanding, share new realities, and become more whole.

Anthropocentrism does not allow humans to bridge the artificial gap
it creates. It leaves humans fragmented or alienated from much of their
environment. We see the disastrous consequences of this in human
disruption of the earth's ecology, causing the disintegration of health
and harmony for all including human life.

Anthropocentrism causes humans to misjudge animal intelligence
and awareness. Humans can get too fixed in the view or model that
they indeed are the center of and separate from the universe and
therefore the most intelligent and aware. They then see or seek only
to prove that point.

Anthropocentric humans also tend to judge non-human animals
according to human cultural standards, as human groups often do
with other human cultures. Instead of viewing and evaluating animals
according to the their own cultural experience, heredity, training and
environment, they impose human environments, tests, standards and
methods and evaluate animals, according to the ability to exhibit
human-like behavior.

This is similar to the bias that was found in college preparatory and
intelligence tests, which caused anyone unfamiliar with a white middle
class upbringing to score lower and therefore to be considered less
intelligent. Individuals with different ethnic backgrounds could not
comprehend the tests' frames of reference and therefore were not
able to express their intelligence through them.

When we respectfully regard animals as intelligent, sensitive fellow
beings with whom we walk upon the Earth, our whole perspective of
life changes. In cooperation instead of alienation, we can create a new
balance and joy in living for all us here. Lets each of us do our part.

2007-11-12 07:29:10 EST
"pearl" <> wrote in message news:fh9btm$em$


> Do that also apply to crustaceans? I think you'll find that it does.

Ack! Incomplete edit. Should of course be "Does that also apply......"


Ernie Sty
2007-12-04 15:53:26 EST

<*h@.> wrote in message
> On Fri, 9 Nov 2007 15:08:13 -0000, "Brass Extrusion" <>
> wrote:

>>one serving of soy or rice based product is
> likely to involve more animal deaths than hundreds of servings
> derived from grass raised animals. Grass raised animal products
> contribute to fewer wildlife deaths, better wildlife habitat, and
> better lives for livestock than soy or rice products.

That's only if you assume that the raising of livestock doesn't involve
peripheral deaths, which make up 100% of the deaths involved in production
of plants such as soy or rice.

In other words, what you said there is only true if meat was harvested only
from wild animals in their natural habitat. It's altogether ass-backwards
when you're talking about livestock, which makes up probably >99% of the
world's meat consumption.

Here's the info from the other poster's link, BTW:


Preface - Introduction - CHAPTERS: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 -
10 - 11 - 12
Photo Galleries - ORDER A PRINTED COPY!


Cattle are the scourge of the Earth.

--Richard Rice, The Wilderness Society

The American West is world famous for cows and cow-men, perhaps more so
than any other region on Earth. However, livestock production in less
celebrated forms has a profound influence across the globe. To put Western
ranching in perspective, to learn how it is interrelated with world
livestock production, let's take a quick (and necessarily simplified) global
livestock tour, starting with our overgrazed neighbor to the south:

Mexico is an incredible topographic labyrinth and includes everything from
scorching deserts to pine-clad highlands to steamy jungles. The country
shelters more than half of all migrating bird species in North America. It
harbors the Earth's greatest array of reptile species and ranks second only
to Indonesia in mammal species.

Cattle in the state of Sonora, Mexico. The new fence in the foreground is
part of an intensified ranching development effort that includes
devegetating and seeding millions of acres of lush aboriginal Sonoran desert
and grassland.


A nearby area of Sonora not yet developed for ranching.

Unfortunately, Mexico is also one of the most degraded and threatened
regions on Earth. With 90 million humans and 40 million cattle in only 115
the area of the US, it is overpopulated throughout. More than half of the
country in nearly every landscape is grazed by livestock, and most of this
land is plagued with overgrazing and ranching abuse. Many areas have been
stripped of vegetative groundcover to bare dirt, and officials list
accelerated soil erosion as one of Mexico's worst problems.

More than 60% of Mexico's original rainforest has been destroyed, largely
to create cattle pastures, while overgrazing and brush and tree removal by
ranchers keep it from growing back. Millions of acres of temperate and
semi-arid tree and brush cover have likewise been eradicated. Predators such
as jaguar, mountain lion, Mexican wolf, and bears have been eliminated from
the vast bulk of their range, along with most other wildlife. To hint at the
extent of ranching's environmental impact: Stockmen in Mexico and other
tropical countries search out and kill millions of vampire bats in their
roosts because the bats feed on cattle.

Due to human overpopulation, widespread poverty, and intensive competition
for land, private land in Mexico has little protection from ranching. Due to
these factors and general, institutionalized political corruption, Mexico's
public land is likewise degraded. Additionally, more of Mexico's grain is
fed to livestock than is eaten by people.

The [Mexican) jungle is burning, the great trees are being destroyed and
the land is enveloped in a sinister darkness. No-one cares, people only seem
to be thinking about the cattle.

--Gertrude Duby Blom, "The Jungle Is Burning," Advance magazine

To the east, in the Caribbean Islands, 1/4 to 1/2 of the land base of most
islands has been deforested and converted to cattle pasture, with similarly
tragic results. On Espaniola, where in 1493 Columbus introduced cattle,
sheep, pigs, goats, and horses, only 9% of the forest that once covered
nearly all of the island remains; much of the island continues to be
overgrazed by cattle and goats. Cattle density in Cuba is among the highest
on Earth, and much of the land is cattle pasture.

Throughout Central America, cattle grazing produces fewer benefits per
unit of land deforested than any other form of land use. In Costa Rica, for
example, the livestock cattle industry produces only $42 per square
kilometer in export revenues, while the banana industry produces $6,036 on
the same amount of land,

--Rainforest Action Network

The 7 nations comprising Central America cover only a tiny portion of the
planet's surface, yet rank high in numbers per year in Colombia alone, where
25% of all land is said to have "serious" soil erosion problems. Predators
and competing herbivores have been eliminated, along with most native


Sheep, alpaca, goat, and cattle grazing is prevalent throughout most of
the 6000-mile-long Andes Mountains, from the Caribbean shore to Tierra del
Fuego. The UN identifies this region as one of the world's most threatened
by pastoralism. The and to semi-arid high plains and valleys, and some of
the drier lowlands, are especially vulnerable to livestock damage, and much
has been divested of nearly all plantlife. Native Andean camels -- llamas,
vicunas, and guanacos -- once roamed the grassy high plateaus by the tens of
millions, but livestock grazing has so ruined their habitat and sheep and
goat ranchers and herders slaughtered so many of them as competitors that,
despite recent recoveries, the Hama and guanaco remain at only small
fractions of their aboriginal numbers; the vicuna was listed as Endangered
in 1969 before making its modest recovery under special protection. (All 3
are now semi-domesticated in most areas.) As with the California condor, two
of the biggest threats to the Andean condor -- of which only about 1500
remain -- are livestock grazing and shooting and poisoning by stock raisers,
who are likewise the main killers of other large predators and smaller
competitors in most of the Andes.

Portions of the drier lowlands and west coast are also overgrazed, as is
about half of Bolivia, from mountaintops down to rainforest. The US Embassy
in Bolivia reports forest cover being removed at roughly 3/4 million acres
per year, largely for livestock, and that overgrazing is changing river
flows, stripping topsoil, and desertifying the land: "On the Altiplano [high
plains], grazing animals remove virtually all plantlife."

Off southern Argentina in the Atlantic, Great Britain's Falkland Islands
are little more than an overgrazed 6000 square-mile sheep ranch.

Out in the vast Pacific, many oceanic islands once covered with lush
vegetation have been devegetated by or for goats, sheep, cattle, and/or
feral pigs and goats. For example, Easter Island (famous for its huge,
mysterious monoliths), now desert like throughout, is thought to have once
been mostly tree covered. Whether the forests were originally cut more for
wood or to promote livestock grazing is uncertain, but livestock
subsequently prevented them from growing back by eating saplings. St.
Helena, in the South Atlantic, met a similar fate. In the South Pacific,
more than half of 300-mile-long New Caledonia and about 1/3 of the
7000-square-mile Fiji Islands have been cleared and turned into pasture.

Small islands are particularly susceptible to livestock damage because
they usually contain relatively simple ecosystems with fewer natural
limiting factors (large predators, diseases, etc.) and lack adjacent
terrestrial ecosystems to buffer impacts, allow wildlife to escape to,
reintroduce extirpated species, etc. Ranching and feral livestock have upset
the elogical balance on hundreds of small islands around the world. For
example, goats introduced to Baja California's San Benito Islands and
California's San Clemente Island multiplied without restraint and quickly
transformed these botanical wonderlands into wastelands.


Back in the South Pacific, we move on to New Zealand, world-renowned for
its sheep. With about 100,000 square miles, 80 million sheep, and 8 million
cattle, New Zealand has the world's highest livestock density -equivalent to
about 1200 sheep per square mile. Much of the island nation is steep,
rugged, densely forested, or otherwise unproductive for livestock, so
density in areas actually grazed approaches 2000 sheep per square mile!

Were New Zealand not well-watered and lushly vegetated, it could not
support even a fraction of these animals. However, environmental damage here
can only be described as extreme. About half of the country now resembles an
immense golf course covered chiefly with exotic vegetation. Forests that
once blanketed most of the islands have been reduced to 5% of their original
coverage. In large portions of the North Island "slips" -- or huge sections
of topsoil -- are sliding off the overgrazed hills. In the worst areas,
former subtropical and temperate forest is now virtual desert. Most of New
Zealand's unique animal life is gone, and some species are extinct or in
danger of extinction, due largely to livestock grazing and ranching
practices. On this biologically isolated island realm -where bats are the
only native mammals -- the impact of nearly 100 million large, hooved
quadrupeds is understandably profound.

New Zealand's big neighbor to the northwest, Australia, is grazed by twice
as many sheep -- 160 million, or a population 8 times greater than the
continent's human population. By far most of these are raised in the
interior eastern third, while some are grazed on the far western grasslands
and Mediterranean scrub. The island continent is also home to some 30
million cattle, most being raised along the relatively moist eastern coast.
However, most of the remainder of Australia is also grazed by cattle and
sheep; generally, livestock density decreases toward the arid, barren heart
of the continent. Altogether more than 2 million of Australia's 3 million
square miles are grazed. Ranching is impossible on most of the remainder
because large portions of the interior are too dry and barren (partly as a
result of past overgrazing), and some of the northern tropical forest is too

Of all land uses ranching easily causes Australia's greatest environmental
damage. The huge land mass drifted away to form "the island continent" more
than 100 million years ago, before the evolution of large ungulates on the
contiguous continents, so Australia never felt a hard hoof until 200 years
ago when Europeans arrived with their cattle and sheep. In other words, the
Australian environment did not evolve to include any hooved animals, much
less domestic livestock.

Overgrazing has reduced or extirpated native vegetation throughout much of
the continent and replaced it with more than 800 species of exotic "weeds,"
and bare dirt. About 3300 native plants are now considered rare or
endangered, and more than 100 are extinct largely as a result. Cryptogamic
crusts have disappeared in many areas. Soil erosion has increased
tremendously; consequently, huge dust storms sometimes roll out of the
overgrazed interior and over coastal cities. Natural water sources are
greatly diminished, and soil salinity continues to rise. Cattle dung
produces billions of troublesome bush flies. Sheep and cattle have eaten and
trampled many small mammals and others out of food and shelter. So far, 18
of Australia's mammals are extinct and 40 are endangered, due more to
ranching than any other factor.


Extreme overgrazing, especially by sheep, promotes massive grasshopper
"invasions" and incredible population explosions of feral European hares.
The exotic hare is now the most populous mammal in Australia, eating
approximately 1/12 as much as the nation's livestock. Also helping to lay
waste to the continent are many feral ungulates, spread largely by
ranching -- an estimated 300,000 horses, 1.5 million burros, 570,000 cattle,
7 million pigs, 150,000 water buffalo, and 35,000 camels.

In their attempt to maximize production, Australian stockmen have degraded
the land perhaps as much as their livestock. Ranching "improvements,"
including roads, are the most visible and harmful developments throughout
most of the Australian outback. Millions of acres of brush, eucalyptus and
other trees around the continent have been cut, chained, bulldozed, burned,
herbicided, etc. for livestock; largely for this reason, less than half of
Australia's aboriginal tree cover remains. Millions of acres of forestland
in the north currently are being cleared for cattle and water buffalo.
Denudation of woody vegetation, along with slaughter by ranchers and a
drastic reduction of grass from overgrazing, has caused many of the smaller
of the 62 species of Australian kangaroos to become endangered or extinct.
Each year an estimated 3 million large kangaroos (and many other herbivores)
are killed legally, plus an equal number illegally, mostly by or for
ranchers to reduce grazing competition. Wallabies and pademelons once roamed
the grasslands of Australia; today, due to overgrazing and attrition from
ranchers, few survive but on offshore islands. Australia's primary large
predator, the coyote-like dingo, is considered vermin and killed by the
thousands annually. Ranchers slaughter millions of competing feral hares,
but to help kill off the rodents they introduced European red foxes, stoats,
and domestic cats, which now number in the millions and kill off burrowing
marsupials and other natives as well.

The Australian ranching establishment is strikingly similar to that of the
US West. The government leases grazing to a handful of powerful, wealthy
stockmen, who essentially control about half of Australia with ranches of
tens or hundreds of thousands of acres each. They pay only token grazing
fees and are heavily subsidized by numerous direct and obscure means. Yet,
they commonly represent themselves to the public as poor, dusty, downtrodden
stockfolks; Crocodiel Dundees; or John Waynes.

As in the USAs Old West and now in Brazil's Amazon, the native peoples,
here the Aborigines, are being forced from their homeland and into poverty,
disease, and alcoholism, while their land -- their source of food, water,
and other necessities -- is ravaged by overgrazing and range development.
According to a recent National Geographic article, "Whites came in and
killed any game they wanted, but when an Aborigine speared a sheep or calf
he was an outlaw."

Australia is said to hold the world's record for environmental destruction
relative to the size of human population -11 acres of land significantly
damaged per human inhabitant. Livestock production is by far the main factor
giving it this dubious distinction.

Moving north, to the equatorial west Pacific region, we find as yet
relatively little livestock production, except sheep pasture on Sumatra and
cattle pasture on Java, a large island with one of the world's highest
concentrations of humans. Partly as a result, soil erosion, siltation, and
flooding are serious on these 2 islands. However, the Indonesian region is
the wettest large area on the planet, and though logging is increasing
dramatically in some areas, most of the region is still covered with dense
rainforest, on Borneo and New Guinea in particular. Unfortunately, to reduce
population pressure on some islands, the Indonesian government is
encouraging expanded settlement, including clearing of rainforest for
livestock. An estimated 1 million acres of the island country are deforested

The Philippines a few centuries ago was covered with one of the most
prolific rainforests on Earth. Today, little rainforest remains and more
than 1/3 the area of The Philippines is cattle pasture. Remaining rainforest
is falling faster than almost anywhere else in the tropics, mostly for
timber, but as elsewhere around the globe livestock and their owners prevent
reforestation in many areas.

Japan also has several million cattle. Much of the land in its southern
islands is dedicated to pasture.

Commercial livestock production on mainland Southeast Asia is limited
mostly to Thailand and Burma, where much of the fertile lowland is used to
produce about 20 million cattle. Still, livestock raising is spreading in
the region where forests are cut, and the animals eat and trample young
trees and prevent reforestation. Forest covered 80% of Thailand only 40
years ago; today, the 20% remaining is quickly being destroyed. When
forested areas cleared for farming lose productivity, often they are
converted to livestock production rather than being allowed to reforest.
Also, over 2 million acres of former Thai forest now grow cassava, a fruit
exported to feed European cattle. Water buffalo are raised as work animals
throughout much of Southeast Asia, but they do much less harm than
commercial livestock production.

There are nearly 1.5 million square kilometres of desert in China [16% of
the nation] including the Gobi Desert... It is estimated that 1000 square
kilometres are lost to desertification in China each year and that 85 per
cent of the desert area of the country was caused in the first place by
overgrazing deforestation and excessive cultivation.

--from China Reconstructs (Vol. 36[2], Feb 1987)

China ranks second both in world sheep and goat production. More than 120
million of the wooly animals graze nearly every portion of the US-sized
country, while tens of millions of goats browse and graze generally the more
rugged portions. The heaviest concentrations of both are in the
north-central region and northern Manchuria, where accelerated soil erosion
is nearly universal, plant cover is severely depleted, and nearly all large
native animals are gone. The Chinese government recently implemented a
massive grass and tree planting program to stem desertification in the
north, but most of the grass dies and only about 10% of the trees reach
maturity; livestock often eat the new grasses and tree saplings. Chinese
scientist Zhu Zhenda reports in Beijing Review that "unless urgent measures
are taken" desertification in China will consume an additional 200,000
square miles -- more than twice the size of Taiwan -- by the year 2000.

Most of west China is dry, and 2/3 of the region is utilized by nomadic
sheep and goat herders; damage here is considerable. In the southwest,
before the invasion of Mao's People's Liberation Army in 1950, Tibet had one
of the most successful systems of environmental protection of any peopled
region on Earth; Tibetan Buddhism extoled compassion for all life and
forbade killing animals. The new regime, however, established collective
farms and widespread intensive livestock grazing. Predators and competing
animals, even moles and marmots, were slaughtered. Livestock numbers have
risen 10-fold in many areas, and where large numbers of antelope, gazelles,
musk deer, wild sheep and asses, wolves, foxes, leopards, and bear once
roamed, huge herds of domestic sheep and yaks now graze. Recent expeditions
through the region report denuded ranges, serious soil erosion, and
virtually no wildlife. According to the UN, the Himalayan region is one of
the most endangered ecosystems on Earth, largely from livestock production.

East China, where nearly a billion humans live, is mostly highly developed
farmland. Nearly all of the nation's 60 million cattle are grazed on pasture
and cropland there; altogether, about 1/3 of eastern China is grazed.
However, pigs are China's primary meat animal (although most Chinese eat
little meat), and more than 300 million are raised -- 40% of the world total
and 5 times more than any other country. Relative to the amount of meat
produced, Chinese pig production is much more efficient and less
environmentally harmful than is cattle, sheep, and goat production.

North of China is Mongolia, an Alaska-sized, sparsely populated,
semi-independent Soviet territory. Nomadic herding here is nearly
omnipresent, and most of this cold, dry, barren land (original home of the
tumbleweed) has been extensively damaged by livestock grazing. Recent
research on the steppes of Inner Mongolia reveal a desertification rate
among the highest on Earth.

Nearly half of the immense Soviet Union is cold northern forest, so
livestock grazing in this nation is confined mostly to the southern and
western regions -- still an area larger than the US. Here are broken
woodlands, vast grassy steppes, extensive marshes, expansive deserts, 125
million cattle, and 160 million sheep. Globally, the USSR ranks first in
number of sheep and second behind only India in number of cattle. About half
of the mid-section and nearly all of the southern portion of the country are
ranched or farmed for livestock, with a heavy environmental impact. For
example, the saiga, a strange goat-like animal with short, straight horns
and a large, thick snout, roamed mid-Asia by the tens of millions before
being driven nearly to extinction by livestock production and overhunting.
Now propagated as a stock animal, the semi-domesticated saiga population is
about 1 million.

Large portions of central Asian USSR have been turned dry and barren by
decades of overgrazing. Massive grassand tree-planting restoration efforts
here try to stem the tide. However, the cattle population increase in the
USSR and eastern Europe in the second half of this century has been the
highest of any region on Earth, as more and more grain is fed to livestock
instead of people, more land is devoted to grazing, and rangeland is more
heavily developed and stocked.


Scattered across the northern Soviet Union, seminomadic herders raise
semi-domesticated reindeer across nearly 4000 linear miles of Arctic tundra
and boreal forest. Modern breeding and handling practices and overstocking
cause overgrazing in many areas, while related predator kills, developments,
and human encroachment also damage these fragile Arctic to sub-Arctic


An Indian with a decorated sacred cow. (BLM)

India probably is the most overgrazed large country. With nearly 200
million cattle (15% of the world total), 50 million sheep, 17% of the
world's goats, and other livestock competing with more than 800 million
humans in an area only a little larger than the contiguous 11 western US
states, the situation is critical. Though most of the Indian subcontinent is
well-watered with monsoon rains and is naturally one of the most productive
regions on Earth for humans and wildlife, livestock have rendered much of
the country desertlike -- what is termed a "wet desert." Even the Great Thar
Desert in northwest India does not have a truly and climate, but has been
turned into barren waste mostly by livestock.

Livestock are nearly everywhere in India, and Hindu "sacred cows" wander
freely, multiplying unchecked, eating and trampling the already overburdened
environment. Throughout most of India, native wildlife has disappeared; soil
erosion is severe; water tables are dropping; streams are being converted
from year-long to seasonal flow; rivers flow with sediment; silt clogs
reservoirs and irrigation canals; and flooding is increasing. Overgrazing
and deforestation in the Himalayan watershed cause landslides, fill
reservoirs with silt, lower water tables, and flood the Ganges Plain. Where
once elephant, rhino, buffalo, gaur, lion, tiger, leopard, 8 species of deer
and antelope, and many primates roamed in great numbers, extinction,
near-extinction, and scarcity are now the rule. For example, cattle and
domestic buffalo are currently destroying the last tiny remnant of habitat
of the endangered Asiatic lion. In southern India, cattle compete with and
spread diseases to the last significant herds of wild Indian elephants,
which also are killed as competitors by stock owners.

Little of India's original forest remains and what does is "intensely"
overgrazed, according to government officials. Of the remaining 185 million
acres of original forest (22% of the country), 75 million lack tree cover
and 25 million have only shrubs. Worse, satellite data show a loss of more
than 3 million acres of Indian forest annually. Stock owners often fell
whole trees to provide fodder to their hungry animals; saplings are eaten as
soon as they sprout. Consequently, as do people in much of Asia, Africa, and
Latin America, many Indians burn dry livestock dung for fuel -at the further
expense of the soil. But even dung is becoming scarce. In some areas people
follow cattle around and compete for the plops as soon as they leave the
animals 'bodies; the winners dry their bounty in the sun.


Throughout most of India, cattle eat most edible plant material within
reach. In some areas there is nothing left to eat, and their bloated bodies
are seen being eaten by vultures or floating in the rivers, augmenting the
manure, sediment, chemical, and sewage pollution. During droughts, they die
by the hundreds of thousands. While people lie in the dust starving,
children climb high into remaining trees to pull off leaves and twigs so
cattle will not starve. In recent years, local governments have established
fodder relief camps for starving cattle, much as they have food relief camps
for starving people. India has extreme overpopulations of both humans and
livestock; the populations of both have doubled since 1950.

The Great Thar Desert turns truly and in neighboring Pakistan, where the
huge southern Indus River Valley region receives only 4"-8" of precipitation
annually. Scientific evidence indicates that several thousand years ago this
region was covered with jungle -- even away from waterways - and that
livestock production has not only denuded vegetation but helped aridify the

Moving west from Pakistan through the Middle East to Turkey, we find a
rugged assortment of and to semi-arid terrain, much of it mountainous.
Nomadic herders (generally in the east) and livestock farmers (generally in
the west) raise about 150 million sheep and uncounted millions of goats here
on short grass, brush, small trees, and pasture. Turkey holds about a third
of these animals, along with about 15 million cattle. From centuries of
intensive pastoralism, most of the region is badly deteriorated.

Much of the "Holy Lands" of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and the
Sinai Peninsula once supported abundant grass and other vegetation, as well
as wild animals. Millennia of overgrazing transformed most of the region
into scenes of desolation. In Conquest of the Land through 7, 000 Years, WC.
Lowdermilk relates how historic goat and sheep grazing "unleashed the forces
of erosion" that "devastated" many areas. He describes how the forests that
once covered much of Lebanon -- including the fabled "Cedars of Lebanon" --
were destroyed for building materials and, because livestock ate all small
trees, never reestablished themselves, except as 4 tiny groves protected by
stone fences from "the rapacious goats that graze down every accessible
living plant on these mountains." (Lowdermilk 1975)

Large portions of the huge Arabian Peninsula are too dry, sandy, and
barren for livestock, but evidence indicates that millennia of pastoralism
is a contributor to this condition. Desertification appears to have
progressed here for at least several centuries, but recently it has
accelerated. Today, nomadic herders run domestic camels (a relatively less
destructive trampler, though a more wide-spectrum eater), sheep, goats, and
some cattle wherever they still can -- on most of the subcontinent,
especially the relatively moist southern highlands.

The Middle East generally has been overgrazed perhaps longer than any
region on Earth; thus, desertification there has progressed to the point
that little original soil, water, or wildlife remains. Contemporary grazing
on about 3/4 of the region keeps it in a highly degraded condition.

We cross the Red Sea into Africa. Half of the world's livestock-dependent
people live here, along with 15% of both the world's sheep and cattle and
nearly 1/3 of all goats -- animals renowned for their ability to eat almost
any plant (some kinds of goats can even climb trees to reach browse).

Africa's 183 million cattle, 197 million sheep, and 163 million goats are
supported almost entirely by grazing and browsing. Most of the huge
continent is used by livestock. Non-livestock Africa consists mostly of
desolate portions of the Sahara, Namib, and Kalahari Deserts; what remains
of the dense, central African tropical rainforest; the tsetse fly portions;
scattered farming areas; and the few (partially) protected wildlife
preserves. The image of Africa as a gigantic, unfenced wildlife landscape is
wholly false. In fact, much more land is dedicated to livestock, and by far
most wildlife is gone.

However, the infamous tsetse fly continues to spread deadly sleeping
sickness to cattle, though not to wildlife. Large portions of central and
southern Africa support some of the world's largest surviving wildlife
populations in a comparatively healthy environment, mostly because humans
have been unable to eradicate the tsetse fly to make way for cattle (or, in
many areas, to reinstate cattle). For more than a decade, the United
Nations'Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has waged a multi-billion
dollar pesticide campaign to eliminate the tsetse fly over 70% of its
African habitat -about 10 million square kilometers, an area larger than the
United States. The FAO's stated reason for the "war" on the tsetse is to
open up potential ranchland (largely cut-over forest and woodland) so that
120 million cattle may be raised there. These cattle would eat small trees
and prevent regrowth of forest and woodland, increase soil erosion, compete
with wildlife, transmit disease, etc.; the incoming ranchers would build
fences and roads, kill predators, cut more trees, and so on. Thankfully,
even though 200,000 tons of deadly active ingredient in insecticide has
rained down on the tsetse areas, FAO has thus far been ineffective in most
areas. Unfortunately, the FAO program is scheduled to continue another 30
years or more, and now the European Economic Community is pushing a plan to
eradicate the fly and develop the tsetse area for ranching. (As for the
tsetse's alleged deadly threat to humans, only 5 deaths have been recorded
in 25 years.) [To protest FAO's war on the tsetse, write: FAO, United
Nations, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100, Rome, Italy.]

More surely than the bark of a gut; the lowing of cattle and bleating of
goats sound trouble for wildlife.... Many in the wildlife community mourn
the loss of the insect that, for its role in keeping out livestock and
settlement, has been called "the best game warden in Africa." "While I rode
with one hunter, he rolled down his window and carefully shooed out a fly
with the admonition, "Go and breed, you little bugger"

--Douglas B. Lee, "Okavango Delta," National Geographic (Dec 1990)

Aside from the tsetse areas, ranching and nomadic herding are common south
of Africa's central rainforest, large areas of which have been cleared for
livestock. Recent studies show mounting range deterioration throughout
southern Africa. In the Kalahari region, cattle and range developments have
ruined much of the grassland and semigrassland, leading to the deaths of
millions of antelope and other wild animals. In the late 1970s in the
Kalahari, drought-stricken migrating wildebeests piled up against new cattle
fences; 200,000 out of 230,000 migrants died of thirst because they couldn't
reach water. Ranching and herding have also ravaged the land of, plundered
the livelihood of, and made virtual slaves of thousands of Bushmen -- the
tribespeople who had gathered and hunted here for more than 10,000 years.
Many now live in shanties and tend cattle for their stockmen bosses.

A 1984 United Nations report states, "The degradation of rangelands caused
by overgrazing is doubtless the most serious environmental problem facing
Botswana." The nation's cattle outnumber people 2 to 1, and are a
traditional measure of wealth. Much of the land is stripped bare, and during
droughts starving goats climb atop cars to reach withered leaves and onto
roofs to eat thatch. Having killed the tsetse with herbicides, ranchers are
invading Botswana's last remaining wetlands. Thousands of miles of fences
built to exclude wildebeests, zebra, antelope, water buffalo, elephants, and
other wild animals thought to carry fivestock diseases kill tens of
thousands of these wild animals yearly; for example, more than 50,000
wildebeests died in 1983 alone. Like many others, the Botswanan government
is dedicated to serving big-time ranchers, and many high government
officials are themselves cattle barons.

Sheep ranching is intensive in South Africa and northwest in neighboring
Namibia, though not elsewhere in southern Africa. Forty million of the
fleecy beasts overgraze millions of acres of the scraggly brush and
surviving grass there. In southeast Africa the populous Zulu tribe has
evolved to regard cattle as indicative of wealth and status -to the great
harm of the environment.

Several hundred miles off Africa's southeast coast lies the island country
of Madagascar, home to some of Earth's most unusual and varied wildlife.
About 200,000 plant and animal species are native there, more than half of
them endemic. When humans and their livestock first arrived in this
227,000-square-mile paradise only 1500 years ago, 4/5 was mantled with
luxuriant tropical forest and lush savanna. Today, 60% of the forest has
been cut or burned, largely to increase forage for cattle and goats, and,
along with most of the former savanna, lies barren due to relentless
overgrazing. Thousands of plant and animal species are already extinct, and
grazing pressure continues to mount. The World Wildlife Federation
identifies Madagascar as one of the world's 3 leading areas experiencing
decline in biodiversity due to human influence.

Back on the mainland, moving north through eastern Africa, we find that
large portions of the south have relatively few fivestock, thanks to the
tsetse fly and other deterrents. From central Tanzania northward through
Ethiopia, however, cattle, sheep, and goat damage is moderate to severe.
Portions of the coastal lowlands are overgrazed, and some of the dominant
nomadic herders here kill anyone venturing onto their grazing territories.
The 100,000 square-mile Afar Triangle, just west of where the Red Sea meets
the Gulf of Aden, contains some of the lowest, hottest, driest, and most
desolate land on Earth; yet, even here herders allow their goats, sheep, and
camels to take what scant vegetation and fresh water still exits.


In the livestock-ravaged highlands, human starvation is periodic, as
recently demonstrated once again in Ethiopia. Livestock plague the region's
arable lands and make them more susceptible to drought and other natural
vagaries in climate, frequently even eating crops. Bare dirt is spreading as
stock raisers topple trees for fodder and livestock eat saplings and
groundcover. The Masai, one of the region's large, nomadic herding tribes,
has over the centuries become so over-specialized and dependent upon
livestock that they sometimes allow their animals every last available leaf
and drop of water in an area rather than risk losing their source of milk,
blood (they drink it), and meat. Masai populations have tripled over the
past 30 years; their livestock numbers have also soared and grazing pressure

The Ethiopian highlands were once among the most biologically diverse
non-tropical forestlands on Earth; now they are among the most damaged. The
rate of deforestation here is one of the highest anywhere, and only 3% of
Ethiopia's original forest remains. Herders currently are driving livestock
into the few remaining rugged areas not yet overgrazed. Recent reports from
Ethiopia's northern mountains tell of the forest understory in previously
ungrazed areas being stripped of every edible leaf and twig.

In northern Kenya, Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf), one of Africa's
largest lakes, has shrunk dramatically in recent years. Many people think
overgrazing of the vast Turkana Basin is the main cause. In southern Kenya,
deforestation of mid-altitude brushland and upland forest to improve
livestock pasture is occurring "at an alarming rate," according to the UN.

Not far south, in northern Thnzania, lies Africa's largest caldera, a
12-mile diameter, steep-walled crater named Ngorongoro. Mostly
livestock-free since 1974, and protected from encroaching ranching, farming,
and poaching, the grass-, shrub-, and tree-filled Ngorongoro is now one of
the planet's greatest game preserves.

The vast belt of steppe and grassland from the Ethiopian highlands 3500
miles west to the Atlantic, from the Sahara 1000 miles south to the
rainforest -- sometimes termed the Sahel -- is also a land of cattle, sheep,
goats, and famine. Here, periodically, many thousands die from starvation;
the emaciated people often are pictured lying in the dust beside their
skeletal cattle -- the cattle that symbolize their wealth and prestige! As
throughout much of the world, social inequities are largely to blame for the
famines; however, contemporary livestock production is a major cause of
these inequities, as well as an inefficient and destructive food production
system. The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based environmental think
tank, states that "virtually all the rangeland [in this region] is "at least
moderately degraded." According to ecologist Paul Ehrfich, "In the Sahel,
the territory just south of the Sahara, and in Africa in general, cattle are
playing a major role in this desertification" (Ehrlich 1986). The Sahel
livestock population quadrupled between World War 11 and 1968, and remains
many times higher than the land can accommodate.


Livestock grazing throughout the vast bulk of this region has turned
thousands of square miles into wasteland, and continues to do so at an
ever-accelerating rate. For example Mauritania recorded only 43 sandstorms
between 1960 Q 1970, but 10 times this number in the following decade, with
a record 240 sandstorms in 1983 alone. Officials here and throughout drier
Africa report a main cause of devegetation and land degradation is herders
breaking branches from the already small tree population to feed livestock,
and cutting woody vegetation to build livestock enclosures. In The Sudan,
about 30% of which has been seriously desertified during the past 50 years,
thousands of square miles of forest are burned annually to increase
livestock forage. And Lake Chad, the largest natural lake in northern Africa
and one of the largest closed river basins in the world, has shrunk to
merely 20% of its size only a few decades ago, mostly due to
livestock-caused desertification and livestock production practices.

According to various sources, the Sahara Desert (or rather, desert-like
condition) is expanding southward at a fluctuating, rough average of 2-6
miles per year, with livestock production the principal cause.

There were those who even claimed that the huge Sahara Desert was a
man-made product caused by shepherds burning the jungle, and by the
subsequent overgrazing of ever larger herds of goats and sheep. Modem
research has proved this to be so.

--Thor Heyerdahl, Fatu-Hiva

Recent research has demonstrated that the Sahara was covered with frees as
recently as 6, 000 B.C., and that it was turned into a desert by nomadic
tribes that burned the trees to provide grazing areas for their herds.

--Jacques Cousteau, The Ocean World

Only 6000 years ago the Sahara Desert was largely covered with trees,
brush, and grass, and has since become arid. Much evidence also indicates
that, as is the case in many of the world's drylands, livestock grazing was
a significant contributor to this aridification. Contemporary livestock
herding over more than 2/3 of the USA-sized, sandy, barren wasteland we now
call the Sahara Desert continues to deplete what scant soil, vegetation, and
water sources remain. Stock raising is carried on wherever possible with
little regard for sustained yield or environmental consequences. However,
livestock ownership here is less a matter of survival than tradition, honor,
and glory.

The region all along the northern coast of Africa and south for many miles
into the interiors of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco was 2000 years ago
extensively utilized to provide livestock and crops to the Roman Empire.
Much of it was covered with forests. Today, the climate has not changed
much, but the area is largely desolate. WC. Lowdermilk writes:

Over a large part of the ancient granary of Rome we found the soil washed
off to bedrock and the hills seriously gullied as a result of overgrazing...
With the coming of the grazing culture, brought in by invading nomads from
Arabie; erosion was unleashed by overgrazing of the hills. We can see here
on the landscape how the soil mantle was washed off the upper slopes to
bedrock Accelerated run off from the bared rock cut gullies into the upper
edge of the soil mantle, working it downhill as if a great rug were being
pulled off the hills. In this manner has the country been seriously damaged,
and the capacity to support a population much reduced. (Lowdermilk 1975)

Today, the region is still tremendously overgrazed by millions of cattle
and tens of millions of sheep and goats. The United Nations reports that
"Rangelands have been overgrazed with three head of cattle where only one
could thrive .... Two-thirds of the land area of Tunisia is being eaten away
by desertification." The Sahara is expanding north as well as south.

Far to the east, in Egypt's richly fertile, intensely overpopulated Nile
River Delta, much potential cropland is used instead for the less efficient
production of 5 million cattle.

Overall, Africa rivals any continent in the extent of livestock production
damage. Overgrazing, forest clearing, and other livestock production
activities are major factors in the decline of most African endangered
wildlife, including the gorilla. Between 1850 and 1980 Africa lost 60% of
its forest cover, perhaps mostly to promote livestock. African stock raisers
have killed millions of large herbivores as competitors, and because they
think that wildlife spreads livestock diseases. Historically, disease
epidemics introduced by cattle have repeatedly decimated Africa's wildlife,
causing severe ecological disruptions. Livestock protection rivals, and in
many areas exceeds, sport hunting and poaching as the main cause of predator
mortality, with similarly profound environmental consequences. Stock raisers
encouraging new growth burn many millions of acres unnaturally each year.
Overgrazing has caused gigantic dust storms and accelerated hydraulic
erosion, displacing much of the soil over vast areas. Africa's infamous
locust invasions, caused mostly by overgrazing, worsen the devastation. (The
US and USSR military are currently collaborating on laser technology to
fight Africa's locusts.) Livestock production has displaced many native
tribal cultures, and is, along with human overpopulation and unjust food
distribution, the major anthropogenic cause of relentless famine in Africa.
The continent's cattle, sheep, and goat population doubled between 19SO and
1987, and continues to increase at a high overall rate, despite sporadic and
massive livestock die-offs.

Across the Mediterranean, about half the area of the European
subcontinent, excluding the Soviet Union and Scandinavia, is used to produce
livestock. Other than India, this region has the heaviest concentration of
cattle on Earth. It also has some of the worst sheep grazing.

Mediterranean scrub and woodland has been particularly hard hit. Centuries
of overgrazing by sheep and goats, and later cattle, as well as
environmental manipulation by their owners, left most of this area eroded
and impoverished. Greece's ragged, scrubby condition may seem charming to us
now, but its more fertile, verdant aboriginal character would have been more
so. Much of Yugoslavia's forest was destroyed in ancient times for and by
goats, sheep, and cattle. Sheep and cattle turned whole regions of Spain
once lush Mediterranean shrub/woodland and steppe desertlike, while stockmen
cut and burned millions of acres of forest for their animals. (The Spanish
were the greatest historic influence on ranching in the Western US.) The
drier portion of southern France is being similarly desertified, and most of
Italy has been devastated.

Very little of the Mediterranean region resembles its original character
or environmental productivity, though paleontological studies show that
today's climate is almost identical to the climate of ancient times. Georg
Borgstrom, a widely respected authority on world food problems, has ranked
the destruction of Mediterranean vegetation by goats and other livestock as
1 of the 3 worst ecological blunders in world history. (The other 2 were the
Dust Bowl of the 1930s US, in which livestock were a major factor, and the
deforestation of China's uplands around 3000 B.C., yet another instance
where livestock have subsequently been the most potent human influence
keeping the area in a degraded condition.)

Cattle and sheep in the Pyrenees compete with remaining wildlife and
spread disease, while their owners kill the nowrare predators. Most of the
grassy meadows in the Alps, once productive for wildlife, are denuded by

Nearly half of central Europe's well-watered flatlands and hills is farmed
for livestock or grazed as pasture, most of it heavily. The grass may be
greener here than in drier southern Europe, but this does not represent
benign land use; stocking rates are much higher; native vegetation has been
displaced, wildlife habitat ruined, and soil erosion intensified.

In the soggy British Isles -- where more than half of the land has been
converted to livestock pasture -intensive, long-term sheep and cattle
grazing has stripped the land of native vegetation, laid bare and damaged
the soil, and even created sand dunes in some areas. Herders from the
European mainland invaded the British Isles beginning about 6000 years ago,
cut most of the forest that covered the land, and exterminated all bears and
wolves. Livestock kept forests from growing back by eating and trampling
saplings. Recent reports are that intensive sheep grazing, clearing of
livestock fields, and tree planting have diminished the heather on English
moors by 25% in 20 years. (The British were the second most powerful
historical influence on ranching in the Western US.) Ireland is "the Emerald
Isle," but by far most of it is livestock pasture; competition for forage
there is so intense that some stockmen force their herds of cattle to swim a
mile or more out to small coastal islands to graze. Thousands of tons of
Irish seaweed is harvested and fed to livestock.

Even southern Scandinavia is home to about 10 million cattle and several
million sheep, while much of northern Scandinavia is used for commercial
reindeer. And according to an article in National Geographic (February
1987), sheep herders long ago stripped off virtually all of the forest that
once covered much of Iceland, while subsequent overgrazing prevented it from
growing back: "When the trees disappeared, so too did most of the
well-drained soil, carried off by the incessant wind." About 20% of Iceland
is grazed by sheep now, the remainder being barren, steep, covered with lava
or ice, or excessively damaged by past grazing. Nearly all of Greenland is
too barren, boggy, or ice-bound to be grazable, though some sheep are raised
along its southern coasts.


Most of Canada is likewise ungrazable, being enveloped with cold,
herbage-scarce conifer forest or Arctic tundra. However, about 200,000
square miles (an area 4 times larger than New York) of the Great Plains of
central Canada, most of south-central British Columbia, and portions of
southeast Canada are grazed, mostly by 11 million cattle. Most of this land
is overgrazed, in the west much of it with a welfare public lands ranching
system similar to that of the US. As in the US, Canadian ranchers are
foremost among those exploiting the wild and opposing protection for wolves,
grizzly bears, and large herbivores in ranching areas. For example, the
Canadian Cattlemen's Association recently presented a position paper to the
Canadian Ministry of Agriculture recommending that the entire population of
the world's largest free-roaming buffalo herd be exterminated from Alberta's
Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because some of
the buffalo are infected with brucellosis and tuberculosis. (The buffalo
have carried these diseases since contacting them from cattle in the 1920s,
before their forebears were shipped in from overgrazed areas to the south at
the insistence of cattlemen who wanted to make way for more cows.)

And so we return to the USA. In Alaska, other than Eskimo reindeer herding
in the northern and western coastal lowlands, livestock production is thus
far limited to cattle on Kodiak Island, some of the Aleutian Islands, and
around Anchorage; a few thousand sheep are grazed, mostly near settled
areas. However, range professional D.C.Tomlin estimates that 10-13 million
acres of grassland in Alaska have "potential" for cattle, sheep, and horses.
Tomlin thinks that, rather than being inherently impractical for producing
livestock, these areas are simply not yet socially structured to maintain a
ranching establishment.

Not so 4000 miles south. Firmly entrenched, big-time ranchmen graze cattle
on more than 1/3 of the area of the Hawaiian Islands. Tropical and
sub-tropical paradise has been converted to cattle ranches and cropland.
Feral goats and pigs also do extensive damage.

xtensive damage.


According to the US Forest Service:

About 112 of the total land area of the continental United

States is used for grazing livestock [by far mostly for cattle]

This area amounts to about I billion acres. (USDA, FS 1983)

Food production experts report that, in addition, more than 2/3 of the 444
million acres of cropland in the 48 states (15% of the contiguous US) are
planted with livestock feed (56% for beef cattle). Roughly 80%-90% of all
grain grown in the US is used to feed meat animals, mostly cattle, and about
40% of all US farm produce, including grain, is fed to livestock. To feed a
typical American requires about 2 acres of cropland (more than 1/3 of which
is used to grow food for beef cattle) and 4.4 acres of grazing land (nearly
all of which is used for beef cattle). And, according to Worldwatch
Institute, about 50% of all water used in the US goes to produce livestock
or livestock feed, mostly for cattle, and a much greater percent of
consumptive -- generally nonrecyclable -- US water use is by the livestock

Therefore, 65% of the US outside Alaska is somehow employed in the
production of livestock! Most of this land is significantly impacted. While
most American rangeland may look good compared to North Africa, the Middle
East, or India, remember that the US has been overgrazed and overcultivated
for only a century, not millennia, as has been the case in most of the "Old
World." The vast bulk of the remainder not currently used for livestock is
incapable of producing livestock, or is intensively used for other purposes.
Some of this land suffers indirectly from livestock production, or from
lingering influences of past livestock production.



Altogether, about 50% of the Earth's land surface is grazed by domestic
livestock -- (23% as "rangeland") -- while an additional 5% is farmed for
livestock. Again, nearly all of the remainder is unsuitable for producing
livestock, or is developed for other purposes. FAO estimates that 70% of the
Earth's land surface is potentially grazable.

The cows which dot this jungle-turned-to-pasture appear like white specks
from above, and they begin to seem like cancer cells eating away at Mother

--Daniel Dancer, environmental photo-journalist

*Tropical rainforests are in many ways Earth's most important ecotype.
They are the oldest continuous ecosystems, most having remained more or less
in their present form for tens of millions of years. Experts estimate that
although they cover only 2% of the Earth's surface, tropical rainforests are
home to at least half of the 10-20 million animal species (most are insects)
and perhaps 120,000 of the more than 280,000 plant species on the planet
(including those in the oceans). Some recent estimates are that as much as
4/5 of the animal species and 1/2 of the plant species on Earth may depend
on tropical rainforest habitat. Additionally, as many as 30,000 plant
species and millions of animal species are thought to be as yet
"undiscovered," most of them in rainforests. Tropical rainforests are
crucial to the Earth's atmospheric balance, play a key role in moderating
its climate, contain more than half this planet's live wood and unfrozen
fresh water, and are the source of numerous food and medicinal plants.
According to US News and World Report, in terms of ecological and human
impact, loss of the Earth's rainforests would be tantamount to losing 80% of
the world's vegetation.

Only a few centuries ago rainforest covered about 14%, or 8.2 million
square miles, of the Earth's terrestrial surface. Axe, chainsaw, bulldozer,
fire, hoof and mouth have reduced this to about 6%, or 3.5 million square
miles. The United Nations FAO estimates that more than 41 million acres of
world rainforest, by far mostly in the tropics, were completely and
permanently cleared in 1990, up from 25 million in 1980. Additionally, more
than 50 million acres are thought to be grossly disrupted annually. This
would indicate that more than 1.5% of the biome is being destroyed and 2%
heavily degraded annually (at constant 1990 rates). Satellite data indicate
that in 1987, 20 million acres of rainforest were cleared in the Brazilian
Amazon alone. The National Academy of Sciences estimates annual
deforestation at 50 million acres -- an area the size of England, Wales, and
Scotland combined. Either estimate equals more than one acre per second. At
this rate, the vast bulk of the Earth's remaining tropical rainforest will
be gone within a single human life-span.

Contrary to popular images, the man with a chainsaw is as likely to be
cutting for pasture as for wood. Livestock production is a leading cause of
world rainforest denudation. However, because rainforests store most of
their nutrients in the vegetation -- rather than in the soil, as do most
terrestrial ecosystems -- cleared rainforest makes moderate to poor
livestock pasture. When rainforest slash is burned, nutrients are lost as
heat and smoke or rendered inaccessible to regrowth, as rainforests
generally are not adapted to fire. Much of the regrowth that does occur is
eaten or trampled by livestock. The thin soil, never before directly exposed
to sun, wind, raindrops, or hooves, becomes drier than ever before, and is
therefore damaged and easily eroded. Sediments damage waterways. Deforested
land gradually loses productivity and stocking rates drop accordingly.
Livestock grazing is the last commercial use rainforest soils can support,
so even in areas where the forest initially is cleared for some other
purpose, livestock production often prevents restoration. Conversion of
rainforest to pasture has been identified as the most destructive of all
possible uses while, overall, livestock production is a (possibly the) major
factor preventing world rainforest regeneration.



Burning rainforest for pasture also contributes to the buildup Of C02 in
the atmosphere, accelerating global warming by way of the "greenhouse
effect." Some scientists think that about 25% of human-caused greenhouse
gases come from burning rainforest.

Experts estimate that every quarter-pound of beef costs about 55 square
feet of rainforest and thousands of individuals of hundreds of species. They
say that during the past 600 million years the Earth's rate of species
extinction was roughly 1 per year. Now they estimate the rate at more than 3
per day -- perhaps as high as 1 per hour -- scores of times higher than
during the great ice age extinctions and during the demise of the dinosaurs.
This is estimated to be the highest extinction rate in Earth's
4-billion-year history of life, roughly 1000 times higher than normal
background extinction. At the present rate of acceleration, species
extinction will reach several hundred per day in the early years of the next
century. Scientists project that in the next 30 years more than 1 million
species will become extinct and that only a few human generations down the
line the Earth may contain less than half as many plant and animal species
as it once did!

The planet's mantle of trees has already declined by a third relative to
preagricultural times, and much of that remaining is damaged or
deteriorating. Historically, the demand for grazing land is a major cause of
worldwide clearing of forest of most types. Currently, livestock production,
fuel wood gathering, lumbering, and clearing for crops are denuding a
conservatively estimated 40 million acres of the Earth's forestland each

. Worldwide, grasses of more than 10,000 species once covered more than
1/4 of the land. They supported the world's greatest masses of large
animals. Of the major ecotypes, grassland produces the deepest, most fertile
topsoil and has the most resistance to soil erosion. Livestock production
has damaged the Earth's grassland more than has any other land use, and has
transformed roughly half of it to desertlike condition. Lester Brown of the
Worldwatch Institute reports that "Widespread grassland degradation [from
livestock grazing] can now be seen on every continent."


*Deserts and desertlike conditions have expanded proportionately, not only
into former grassland but into shrubland, brushland, and even into former
forest. In preagricultural times, only about 115 of the planet's land
surface was desertlike. Mostafa K. Tolba, Executive Director of the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), summarizes the results of scientific
studies by the UN:

Based on climatic data, more than a third of the earth's surface is desert
or semi-desert.... Based on vegetation and soil criteria, however, it was
found that 43 percent of the earth's land surface was desert. The difference
... was man-made desert.

In 1977, experts attending the United Nations Conference on
Desertification in Nairobi agreed that the greatest cause of world
desertification in modern times has been livestock grazing (as did the US
Council on Environmental Quality in 1981). They reported that grazing was
desertifying most arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid land where farming was not
occurring. Seven years later UNEP compiled, from questionnaires sent to 91
countries, the most complete data on world desertification ever assembled.
According to the resultant 1984 assessment, more than 11 billion acres, or
35% of the Earth's land surface, are threatened by new or continued
desertification. UNEP estimated that more than 3/4 of this land -- the vast
majority of it grazed rangeland -- had already been at least moderately
degraded. About 15 million acres (the size of West Virginia) of semi-arid or
subhumid land annually are reduced to unreclaimable desert-like condition,
while another 52 million and acres annually are reduced to minimal cover or
to sweeping sands -- more due to livestock grazing than any other influence.
The world's "deserts" are expected to expand about 20% in the next 20 years.

Thus, livestock grazing is both the greatest cause of world
desertification and the greatest detriment to the Earth's deserts.

The Worldwatch Institute estimates that each year 24 billion tons of
topsoil over and above natural erosion are displaced from the Earth's
surface due to human activities. Livestock grazing and livestock crop
production cause accelerated soil loss over more of the globe than any other
land use.

From woodland to grassland to desert, throughout most of the inhabited
globe, livestock production is a primary cause of environmental
deterioration and sustained degradation that is, prevention of recovery.
Many ancient civilizations in southern Europe, North Africa, Arabia, the
Indus Valley, India, central Asia and elsewhere -declined under its impact,
and the vast majority of countries have serious livestock problems now.

According to New Scientist (5-6-89), world cattle population has doubled
in the past 40 years, and now stands at 13 billion. In other words, the rate
of cattle population expansion is even higher than that for humans! In total
biomass, cattle now outweigh humans about 2 to 1. The United Nations reports
that the world's domestic sheep population increased 9% between 1974 and
1982 -- 3 times faster than the cattle population for those years -- while
other sources indicate a continuing high rate of increase. Today, there are
also about 1.3 billion domestic sheep, and (though they eat only about 115
as much as cattle) pound for pound, they are in some ways more destructive
grazers/browsers. Countless millions of goats, pigs, buffalo, camels,
alpacas, and other domestic stock add to the impact, while millions of feral
goats, pigs, and other escaped or introduced livestock have ravaged
environments in many areas. Projections for cattle, sheep, and goat
populations indicate that high increase rates probably will continue to the
year 2000 and beyond.

These dramatic livestock population increases reflect not only human
population increases but modernized and expanded range development,
including predator slaughter, roading, water development, fencing,
vegetation manipulation, changes in grazing systems, and much more. As
discussed, these and traditional, related human activities and methods of
management often cause as much environmental damage as do the animals
themselves. Much of this livestock increase also reflects increased feedlot
and cropland livestock production; however, reports indicate increases in
rangeland grazing pressure in most grazed regions.

The soil loss and degradation, water depletion and pollution, flood and
sediment damage, desertification, deforestation, wildlife destruction,
cropland loss and damage, energy and other resource waste, social and
political inequities, and unjust resource utilization inherent to livestock
production are all major contributors to hardship, poverty, and global

Now, all this would seem much less a tragedy if livestock production
supplied great amounts of food for people. Livestock grazing and farming
stand roughly together as the planet's leading causes of environmental
decline (aside from human overpopulation and a more abstract but also
fundamental cause, our withdrawal from Nature -- the 2 main problems
underlying the rise of agriculture and livestock domestication). However,
while about 10% (3.7 billion acres) of the Earth's terrestrial surface is
cropland, nearly half of this land is used to grow food for livestock.
Moreover, non-livestock farming produces several times more in total food
value for humans than all livestock production, cropland and rangeland.
(Half of the world's fish catch is also fed to livestock.)

According to Worldwatch Institute, altogether roughly 1/3 of the plant
food grown on Earth that could be eaten by people is instead fed to
livestock. According to world food and agriculture expert Frances Moore
Lappe, the figure is 40%-50%. This food -- grain, legumes, fruit,
vegetables, nuts, and seeds (even animal products) -- loses approximately
80%-90% of its food value to humans when cycled through livestock rather
than being eaten directly by people. In other words, we are being consumed
by the livestock we think are sustaining us.

In State of the World: 1989, Worldwatch Institute identifies 4 principal
causes of global land degradation: (1) overgrazing; (2) overcultivation of
croplands; (3) waterlogging and salinization of irrigated lands; and (4)
deforestation. Let's more clearly identify these causes: (1)
Overgrazing/ranching may be the greatest single cause of environmental
degradation. (2) As stated above, roughly half of the world's cropland is
used for livestock. (3) A large portion of the world's irrigated land
(irrigated land comprises 15% of all cropland) is irrigated to produce food
for livestock, and much of this land is damaged by trampling livestock.
(Irrigation accounts for 3/4 of global human water use, and more than half
of the world's irrigated lands are already significantly damaged.) (4)
Again, livestock production is a major cause of world deforestation and,
perhaps more importantly, prevention of reforestation.

Thus, (aside from human overpopulation) livestock production is not only
the planet's greatest environmental degrader, but, relative to what it
provides humans, it is by far humanity's most environmentally destructive
pursuit. Most of the Earth's arable and grazable land is already heavily
used and is declining in productivity. Attempts to increase livestock
production on existing and newly opened land are intensifying the
environmental crisis and exacerbating global famine and social conflict.

Exaggeration? Fabrication? Not at all. The role of livestock production in
world problems is universally underplayed due to many factors explained in
this book.

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