Carnivors no more?

| 10 Comments | No TrackBacks

During the first week of my Seminar Camp in 1996 (yes, I'm THAT old!) Jayme* from Canada had become the main chef and since he was a vegetarian, no meat was served for the first 10 days. Only after a significant uproar - people familiar with Seminar Camps know that these things can get dead serious - Rodrigo from Brazil finally cooked a nice Stroganov stew for everybody who wanted some.

When I lived in San Francisco 5 years later I had the idea to live as a vegetarian for a while. I only merely succeeded - couldn't say no to turkey at a Thankgiving invitation - but through delicious Asian food offered in my neighbourhood, I drastically reduced meat from my diet, at least temporaily.

Currently I'm reading "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer and even if the book is a bit of a disapointment - almost none of the notions are completely new to me** - It brought back all the good reasons why it's just unethical to consume meat the way the Western world does. Think methane and global warming, think antibiotics, think animal welfare, think personal health, think industrial meat production, think feed the world, etc...

I do think the topic is important enough to fill a day in every camp or even host a minicamp or mosaic activity on (check suggested theme.). But thinking one step further, and especially in the lines of our new environmental taskforce, maybe we should make it a policy that all CISV camps should be free of meat?

*the guy brought his banjo to camp and plays it professionally these days, apparently.

** If all the reasons mentioned here, not to eat meat are new to you, and you want to be an ethical person, then yes, the book is a must-read!

Enhanced by Zemanta

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


Right. Also, please forbid all leaders to smoke, and since we are at it, the use of cars (carbon footprint, hello?). The use of computers (Same reason, plus they need energy - nuclear power, hello?). Of course the use of any other electronic or electric devices. And yes, there's no reason for actually drinking anything except water, so please: no more juices (tropical fruits? carbon footprint hello!) or milk (poor cows). No eggs or cheese either. Kids don't need that many proteins anyway...

Sorry. Everyone to their likings, but I'd rather have my meat when I feel like it.

I heard Kelly Bowden make a very similar argument around the time the environmental taskforce was first being talked about. She basically said: if CISV is serious about curbing its footprint, and isn't ready to really cut back the amount of flying that happens, it should just go vegetarian. That would really cutback its carbon.

And while such a move reduction be hard to measure: it's true. The amount of resources that go into industrial meat production are mind-bending. We don't (yet) usually talk about carbon and cows in the same breath; it's easier to think about emissions in terms of planes and cars. But there is a very real connection between meat and climate change.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lays out this connection pretty clearly. Just read the first line of this article. They've "estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions."

(And while we're recommending great reading material,) Michael Pollan also makes this case in a brilliant essay from a few years ago. It's a narrative piece in which he describes his experience buying a single cow, and following its path through the entire meat production process. At one point, he calculates that his cow alone, will have consumed 284 gallons of oil in its lifetime.

Sure: we all have our preferences and clearly, many will balk at suggestions like this one for CISV. The question is: whether CISV is actually willing to make sacrifices to become a more sustainable organization.

Well, I am sure there is a whole lot of arguments for not buying/eating meat. As there is a whole lot of arguments for not driving cars, buying cell phones, eating fruit that grows only far, far away, having a fridge, smoking, wearing colored cloths, using plastic bags, using electricity, or having a computer. Just think about the carbon footprint of a computer... not mentioning the other resources going to waste.

The question is not whether we want to allow/disallow all of these things within CISV. The question is rather if we have participants / volunteers who are educated enough to make their own, well-informed decisions. And this holds true not only for ecological issues within CISV...

I’m very glad that Nick brings up Eating Animals and the issue about industrialized food production. After reading Eating Animals, watching Food Inc and listing to Anna Lappé speak this issue has made it to the very top of my agenda.

So please consider these few points for a minute:

Cattle rearing generate 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide emissions and 37 per cent of all human-induced methane emissions. According to Foer himself; ”Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change.” (he has five different sources to back up his argument. I’ll be happy to share if interested).

Consider the industrial scale of bycatch - 145 species are regularly killed in commercial tuna fishing. Many prominent scientists predict the total collapse of all fished species in less than fifty years.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated in 2001 that 84 percent of all antibiotics were used in agriculture and that 70 percent were used only to promote animal growth, not to treat or prevent illness. That means that antibiotics are used 8 times as often in healthy animals as in ill humans.

The list goes on…

So you’re right Flo, there are a whole lot of arguments for not buying meat. And you’re right there are many arguments against flying and using computers. But while flying and the use of computers are both necessary for many of our activities (I realize that arguments can be made against this) I do not think eating meat is necessary for any of them. So I do not think these examples are analogous.

And hey, if wearing colored clothes had the same impact as eating meat I would be all about having colored-clothe-free camps.

With all this said I agree with you. I will much rather see CISV educate than prohibit. (And knowing the decision making process of our organization I don’t predict a full ban of meat in any near future).

But are we really educating about this issue? I’ve been in my share of educational CISV activities and I’ve never participated in any activities about meat production, industrialized farming, factory farming or anything of it’s like. And in every of these activities the majority of food served have contained meat. Is that an educated message?

So maybe CISV isn’t ready to sacrifice meat completely (and maybe we shouldn’t) but can we at least start educating about meat?

…..And by the way, it is a myth (created partly by the meat industry) that we need animal products to meet our daily protein intake.
One serving of kidney beans contains 15g of protein while one serving of chicken contains 6g of protein (in the US they recommend 0.8g of protein pr. kg bodyweight pr. day.)

At last some good discussions again.:)

Having been at the same Seminar Camp as Nick I remember the food discussions vividly. In addition to the vegetarians taking the lead in the kitchen - the days when meat was asked for it was typically too late; whereas our vegetables were fresh our meat was frozen. Defrosting it takes too long at 9pm when somebody finds out that it would be about time that we had some dinner. :) But what a melee when we went to the shopping mall and we could see Burger King in the distance. :D

As for CISV - I agree with Flo - we need to be careful what we want to ban or oppose. The world is full of good causes, but if we want to be an inclusive organisation we cannot afford to say no to all sorts of things. One day it is meat, the next air travel, some years ago fundraising was bad (where would the money come from?). What about consumerism in general? How come we all sit at AIMs with the latest and greatest in computers - preferrably of the expensive kind featuring a glowing apple. (Why are we at AIM in the first place?)

Now the question is naturally how relevant the question is - we have yet to be able to agree to basic rules around alcohol consumption in any effective way. And if the discusson around alcohol is a good measure - by the time we would get to a vote there would be no organisation left...

My IPP in Norway was meat free for (mainly) the simple reason of cost. Looking at the budget, and the fact that fruit/veg and bread products were all being donated, they just told us sorry, no meat. Thanks mostly to the cooking talents of Elizabet Lewis, no one seemed to care. So maybe this doesn't have to be the kind of thing we quibble over at AIM, but just point it out to hosting chapters that this takes a big cost out of their budget. Educating kids about meat production can be a great addition, but maybe having them realize they don't really miss the meat would also have a lasting effect.
Of course, there is the route that inadvertently turned a lot of people vegetarian at my Summer Camp. Go on an excursion to the Gobi Desert, take along a goat, and surprise! goat barbecue for dinner.

Sarah; The Seminar Camp of Nick and myself also got tons of vegetables donated. Funny looking "refused" vegetables taste the same as normal ones.

Now; if one does not get it donated then it starts to get more tricky - vegetables in Norway can be silly expensive if you have to buy them. We can offer cabbage, potatoes and carrots, add ample bread to the diet and we are back on the the "kids starve in Norway" discussion. :)

Sadly - in many places the cheapest you can get is cheap, fatty and processed meat and fish.

I think most people would agree that educating about the impact of meat consumption is something CISV should do. CISV as an organization that works as an example for ethical living is something most people have trouble agreeing on: Having policies on how to travel, what to eat, where to host camps in order to reduce our negative impact not only on the environment but also on human rights issues (i.e. by buying from "evil companies" or "evil countries") is a very tricky area - I agree.

The main reason I think this is more than a stupid ("devilish") idea, is that it is be a low cost, buying vegetarian food only could even reduce the food bill without jeopardizing the nutricional value. I would also guess that not very many people (except maybe Flo) would abandon CISV if we were run vegetarian.

Generally, I feel that CISV has been a little easy on itself, hiding behind the "inclusion argument". Why not show a little more profile? It doesn't have to be such a tricky area as publicly showing disaproval of the war in Iraq, but how can we educate our participants to be "active citizens", if the organization itself is so very passive?

It is probably more useful to focus on green eating rather directly on being vegetarians. Depending on where you host an activity what is most "green" can differ - in northern Norway in winter I would not be surprised if reindeer and fish has less of an impact than tomatoes and lettuce (which will have to be grown in greenhouses and shipped in with a truck). Small-scale / short travelled food is also greener than fish-filets that have gone via China for fileting, or factory-farmed beef.

Overall though; short-travelled food and/or organic food is likely to cost significantly more than what is currently consider the norm - get it as cheap as possible, fish, meat or vegetables. Higher cost is directly contradicting our growth goals.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick published on April 19, 2011 2:10 PM.

Conflict barometer. was the previous entry in this blog.

Introducing BaSCoS. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.