26/5/2020 0 Comments
I could not be a farmer myself, or not without changing how I relate to animals so much I would need to become a different person than I am, but I would not want to live in a world without farming. What I would like to live in a world without is the intensive factory farming that is not what I would call farming at all but an atrocity. George Monbiot points out that the opposite of intensive farming is extensive farming, given that, even if individual farms are small-scale, to produce enough food to feed a population still projected to keep growing we would need even greater numbers of these farms than we already have, and many more again if they were to replace the intensive farms now producing so much of our food. The land used by all these small farms, in place of the fewer and far more efficient factories of caged animals, is land that could have been rewilded, full of animals living out their natural lives without interference or domestication. But there are other things we use land for we could give up in order to reduce the space we take away from the wilderness, like schools, libraries, golf courses, parks and gardens. If we all lived in high-rise apartments without any public buildings or green spaces, our cities could be a lot smaller, and if no-one lived in a suburb or small town, our cities could rise out of the surrounding wilderness like islands we would never have to leave, except for those truck drivers bringing in food from the factories, or except for those farmers who might then be able to keep farming on their small-scale, organic farms, just a little worried about the wolves. If I wouldn’t want to live in a world without libraries, parks or gardens, how can it be right to keep millions of animals in factories, in order to let other animals live wild? The amount of meat eaten now is unsustainable, but even in a world in which everyone could be made to be vegan, intensive farming of peas, soy, almonds and other crops involves the use of vast amounts of land, chemical fertilisers and animal mortality, as deer, possums, wild birds and millions upon millions of mice are killed to sow, harvest and protect the crops (one estimate finds 25 times more animals die to produce a kilo of protein from wheat than from beef), creating inhospitable monoculture tracts of land that might serve a purpose, but are no kind of good in themselves. I would rather we looked at other ways of making space for wilderness than allowing intensive farming to take place of the kind of farming in which all kinds of animals, farmed and wild, can live good lives. And extensive farming doesn’t have to mean vast farmlands, but can also mean vast numbers of small farms and even tiny micro-farming initiatives, making space for farming in our own cities, with beehives on city apartment roofs, and hen coops in our back gardens. There are too few truly wild places left but there are also too few animals in the lives of too many people and I don’t want to live in a world where human people are wholly separated from plants and animals, never meeting anyone not of their own species.
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