31 August 2008

Pondering the Cows at Point Reyes

On Saturday Tong and I walked 9 miles (round trip) to Drake's Head in Point Reyes to look over the cliff at the leopard sharks and bat rays - but the water was too choppy and we didn't see any. We did see a lot of cows on the trail, some of which, like #220 on the right, I photographed. It suddenly seemed odd to me that there are what must be privately owned cattle grazing on public land. I remembered backpacking in the Sierras years ago. You had to filter the water to drink it because of giardia, because of cattle. I never wondered before why cattle are grazing on and polluting public land - seems really strange now!

Anyway, I started thinking about cows and came across some alarming statistics to do with climate change and livestock. Like that almost 20% of extant greenhouse gases come from livestock. I also came across an NPR report that many polar bears have been seen swimming in the open ocean - their habitat is literally melting from underneath them.

I find the image of the polar bear swimming in open water with no ice to be found deeply disturbing. Livestock consume more food than they produce, contaminate groundwater, and send staggering amounts of noxious greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And demand for beef and milk is on the increase. In 2001, humans on earth consumed 230 million tons of meat and 580 million tons of milk from cows. This volume is expected to double by 2050.

I do not eat beef but am going to cut down more on dairy products, the eating of which - from the point of view of the endlessly swimming polar bear - has the same effect as eating beef. One alternative I enjoy is goat's milk in my coffee. I like the taste of it and I think it causes less harm than food derived from cows.

Some References
Melting Arctic Ice Imperils Polar Bears (NPR, August 2008)

Facts about Pollution from Livestock Farms (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Conscious Eating, Okay, But Where (On Earth) Do You Get Your Protein?
(Huffington Post, May 2008)

Some notes about Goat's Milk (Revolutionhealth.com October 2007)

Meat and the Planet (New York Times, December 2006)

Livestock a Major Threat to Environment (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, November 2006)

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