This blog post is in response to Amanda Radke’s rebuttal piece posted on Beef Magazine(http://beefmagazine.com/blog/6-reasons-ignore-cowspiracy-and-eat-burger), after I wrote an article (http://www.loghancall.org/?p=67) -fact checking- her original piece posted in June.
First and foremost…yes, I have been to a farm. I went to a school that was adjacent to a beautiful organic & biodynamic farm that produces some of the finest quality animal products on the East Coast. I spent my upbringing, working in nineteen gardens that dotted our five acre property in upstate New York. I know first-hand the difference between how a farm can look, and how a vast majority unfortunately do look.
Radke claims in her bio on Beef Magazine and in her first article, that she believes it’s important to engage with the opposition in discussion to make certain that her industry is heard. In fact, the title of her first piece encouraged readers to watch the film Cowspiracy, even though she couldn’t be bothered to watch it herself. I appreciated the fact that she wanted people to hear both sides because it’s a sentiment I share.
However, it would appear that it’s smoke & mirrors, as she penned her rebuttal piece “6 Reasons to Ignore ‘Cowspiracy’ And Eat A Burger Instead”.
So not only has she completely flip-flopped her position on seeing the film she never saw, she also pens a rebuttal piece, in which she never directly responds to anything I wrote.
Instead, she admits that her original article was off point and proceeds to criticize me for blaming the water crisis on beef cattle while failing to show me how I was wrong. Apparently, she feels there’s no room to argue with the facts & statistics that I outlined.
Radke proceeds to bullet point 6 reasons why you should eat a burger and ignore the factual evidence that clearly states we need to dramatically reduce our meat consumption. I want to highlight a few of the more outlandish claims and comparisons she makes:
“Cattle can utilize terrain that would simply have no productive use if we didn’t graze cattle on it.”FACT: while there might be a few select farms where this holds some truth, 78% of all cattle are raised in factory farms (CAFO’s)1. With current demands for meat, there is absolutely-zero possibility that we could get all of our meat from grass-fed locations that aren’t used for any other purposes2.
“their grazing supports wildlife, aerates the soil, and helps reduce wildfires.” FACT: animal agriculture is the leading cause of rainforest deprivation3 and species extinction4; while runoff from animal agriculture is the leading source of water quality degradation on rivers, lakes and oceans.5 While it is true that animals are a natural part of Earth’s ecosystem, our Western diet, that demands more animals than what is natural…is not.
“Consider the water usage needed to make synthetic replacements for all of the byproducts we get from beef” Please provide independent research that states synthetic replacements -as a whole- use less water, and are more environmentally friendly.
“Did Americans feel bad about participating in the ice bucket challenge, as they poured water over their heads to raise money for a cause? Are these effective uses of water? Does this water help feed the world and offer important byproducts? Hardly.”FACT: The average ALS challenge probably used about a gallon or two of water per person and as of September 16th, has raised over $114 million dollars for the ALS Association6 (and was a one time event). I remind you that one burger uses a minimum of 110 gallons of water and does not fund research or treatment.
“Water is essential to life, something we are in dire need of in many parts of the nation.(I agree!!!)California and parts of Texas continue to suffer from drought, so it’s important to be conscious of our water usage. (seems like you are arguing against your point no?)But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. To blame water waste on a cow when we have a growing population demanding more and more water for our personal use(that would include eating meat)is simply ridiculous. We must look internally in how we can reduce our water use.”(consuming less meat is number one!)
“This means shorter showers, skipping the coffee, turning off the water when we brush our teeth, washing dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, judicious watering of our lawns, and skip dumping water on our heads and just donating the money to our favorite cause.”
This last part, actually had me chuckle…is Radke seriously suggesting that instead of consuming less meat, that we instead stop drinking coffee altogether?
Listen, I’m all for water conservation across the board. I already take very short showers, wash my dishes by hand and don’t even have a yard that requires watering. But let me just break down a few numbers for you:
A pot of coffee is about 12 cups of water, or about .75 of a gallon of water.
An average shower according to the EPA, uses 2.5 gallons of water a minute.7
An average dishwasher will use around 4-6 gallons of water per load.8
So let’s say that in order to save water, you skip your coffee, your 8 minute shower and the use of your dishwasher.
You’d save around 25 gallons of water.
Or you could skip a hamburger and save at least 110 gallons of water.
Saving 25 gallons of water is great, don’t get me wrong. However, I did the math to show you that once again Radke fails to highlight one example of something within an typical American lifestyle, that is as unsustainable as consuming large quantities of meat.
And finally a few of Radke’s last points:
“today’s consumer is three generations removed from the family farm, it’s harder to understand where food comes from because most folks don’t get to see it being raised outside their backdoor.”Couldn’t agree more. If they weren’t so removed, they would realize that in the last half century, the typical meat producing farm was turned into a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (or Factory Farm)9. 78% of all beef comes from CAFO’s, and 98-99% of all other animal products come from CAFO sources1. They would also realize that these operations waste grain and water that could be used in far more sustainable and effective manners.10
“Unfortunately, all too often, the information found there is based on speculation”FACT: Couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are always cases of people stretching the truth on both sides of the fence…there is a massive amount of independent research out there to back up my points. Organizations and government agencies such as the EPA, World Health Organization and the United Nations have all released reports on the issue. To prove it, every fact I have put into this article is available for review in the footnotes. Apparently unlike Radke, I have researched and vetted everything I have presented.
And finally, I would like to add a closing note.
Being vegan has been a recent change for me11. I have consumed dairy products nearly my entire life, and spent a decent portion looking forward to a good burger. I am not some crazy hippie that is hell-bent on making others wrong. Instead, I have spent the last two years of my life researching the topic of sustainable agriculture for the future…and there is one, simple, inescapable truth, we simply cannot continue to consume animal products at our current, and ever increasing rate.
I am surrounded by family and friends who consume meat and dairy products. I am never in their face about what they eat. Instead, I encourage them to educate themselves and make sure they are buying local, sustainable meat and dairy products. While I have no illusions that we will stop eating meat anytime soon, I have zero tolerance for CAFO’s. No living being should ever be submitted to that type of torture.
For those ranchers and farmers who are reading this article and are doing everything they can do to treat their animals with respect and without the use of growth hormones and other drugs…I give my heart felt thanks. While I may no longer personally support the killing of animals for food, I do appreciate those who are making a conscious effort to work with nature and their animals.
The simple fact, and the point I have continued to make, and the point that Radke cannot disprove…is that our current Western-meat eating-diet is simply unsustainable.12 Earth cannot support this type of animal agriculture moving forward.
We’re currently eating & drinking more animal products than anytime in recorded history13…while continuing to explode as a human population. In the last half century or so, CAFO’s have skyrocketed to meet the demand, and in the process the industry has completely ignored the horrific animal welfare and environmental issues created in its wake.
We must dramatically reduce our meat consumption, eliminate CAFO facilities and demand that meat we do consume, comes from far more sustainable and humane sources.
And to those who wonder where our food would come if we didn’t eat meat (or far less)…please realize that, everyone, including the world’s hungry population would be fed.10 If you’re interested in reducing your meat consumption, please check out:
After watching a new documentary called “Cowspiracy” (which I highly recommend to anyone), I did a Google search to see what type of response the film has garnered. One of the first articles I stumbled upon, was from Beef Magazine (link: http://beefmagazine.com/blog/why-ranchers-should-care-about-documentary-cowspiracy), it’s an article written by Amanda Radke…in which she stresses the importance of watching the film, to have counter facts ready to “educate” people on the “real numbers”.
The article attempts to persuade the reader that the beef industry is sustainable and working hard on water conservation. She goes on to say that, while she hasn’t seen the film, she guarantees that the statistics that “Cowspiracy” uses are highly inflated. One of the things the documentary film does best, is visually showing just how much water is wasted by eating meat, compared to a plant-based diet and other water uses.
In order to prove her point, Radke attempts to compare beef production to the production of t-shirts, new cars and water wasted by the city of New York (see visual below).
Silly comparisons of course, that aren’t at all relatable. However, the article has been shared over 1,000 times on Facebook and will be one of the first articles to appear in a Google search. So I felt it was important to break down the numbers in a rebuttal article.
Please note, that the film’s statistics show that an average hamburger can use upward of 600 gallons of water. According to Radke, it takes 441 gallons to produce one pound of beef. However, her statistics are coming from Beef Check Off, which is basically an organization designed to promote beef products and consumption. So we’ll assume it’s a load of manure…BUT for the sake of those on the side of beef, I’ll even use their numbers and skew this debate in their favor!
Now let’s break it down:
441 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Let’s be honest and say that would make four hamburgers.
For an average meat-eater, they will consume about one burger a day (some may eat far more or have a larger burger than 1/4 pound, and some might eat a burger every couple of days..so to be fair, let’s just even it out to 1/4 pound per day).
That means that each burger consumed wastes 110.25 gallons of water each day.
Now to compare that to her statistics… First up is a cotton t-shirt -taken at her word- uses 713 gallons of water for one shirt. Hypothetically, let’s say I buy that shirt and on average I wear a shirt about once a week. I’ll have that shirt for a minimum of at least three years. So 3×52 is 156 and we now divide 713 by 156 and we get?
4.5! So if you wear that shirt once a week, you’re wasting 4.5 gallons of water each time you wear it, or 0.64 gallons if you factor that into a daily basis.
4.5 or 0.64…either way you slice it.
Second up is a brand new car! Which of course is ridiculous to even compare in the first place, because while most people can afford a hamburger, most cannot afford a new car! But, let’s do the math!
I recently leased a new car, which I will have for at least three years. According to her statistics, that car wasted 39,090 gallons of water. Now even though the car will probably be on the road for 15-20 years, for fun, let’s do the math for ten years.
So 10×365 is 3650. And now we divide 39,090 by 3650 and we get?
10.7 gallons. So even if the car was only in use for ten years, the car used FAR less water than just one hamburger…keep in mind, a car is your primary mode of transportation, where as a hamburger fills you up for a few hours.
And now for her crown jewel of a statistic -according to her- the people of NYC (though probably most of the water wasted is not directly their fault) waste 36 million gallons of water due to water leaks.
What she fails to account for is the 8.3 million people that live in NYC. So if we divide that 36 million, by the 8.3 million that live there, what do we have?
4.33 gallons wasted per day, per person. Which is still 106 gallons less, per day, per person than a single hamburger.
According to Radke, if we really cared about water conservation, we should stop wearing clothes, driving cars and using water altogether.
The real numbers show us that if we stop eating beef, we’d save 110 gallons of water a day, per person…times that by the amount of Americans (314 million) and we’d save 34,540,000,000 billion gallons of water, per day in America. Allow me to remind you, that’s using the beef industry’s numbers.
The true facts and statistics show that cutting meat out of our diets, would be the single biggest water conservation effort our planet has ever known. Of course that doesn’t even factor in the other benefits including: saving our rain-forests, reducing water & air pollution, cutting methane emissions, and curbing animal welfare issues.
Here is an updated graphic, with the actual water usage on a per day, per person basis (the way these numbers need to be shown, because no one wears a t-shirt or drives a new car just one time…unlike a hamburger).
If any representative from the meat/beef industry wants to challenge me on what I’ve written, I’ll happily accept an invitation to a debate.