Monday, December 08, 2008

Global Warming, Bovine Flatulence and Related Matters

Last year, RedEye (published by the Chicago Tribune) published a cover story which reported that a major cause of "global warming" was flatulence from livestock, particularly cows. That topic has been widely covered on the web.

I just did a web search using the word "flatulence" and the phrase "global warming" and I got 112,000 results. That doesn't mean that it's true, of course, but it does suggest, at the very least, that a lot of people are talking about the issue. The fact that a reputable publication like the Chicago Tribune reported it as fact also suggests that people who believe in the aforementioned theory are not limited to members of the "lunatic fringe".

Here's a link to a rather humorous commentary which I happened to find when I randomly clicked on one of the links I got when I searched on the aforementioned terms. I thought that the part about the possibility of a "flatulence vaccine" which might theoretically cause massive bovine starvation was particularly thought provoking.

What if the use of the proposed "flatulence vaccine" results in the starvation of numerous cows (by making it impossible for them to digest their food properly), thereby killing them in a manner which (unlike normal animal husbandry) does not result in the creation of meat which is fit for human consumption? What if this results in a significant decrease in the amount of available protein with which to feed human beings? Will not the starvation of numerous human beings as a result of the decrease in available meat cause every bit as much human suffering as that which might theoretically be caused by global warming itself? Could the cure, in this case, be worse than the disease?

What if the vaccine doesn't work? Should we deliberately kill the cows ourselves and have a giant meat-a-thon in order to insure that the excess meat does not go to waste and that the cows have not died in vain? That would certainly be enjoyable for meat lovers, and it might also make sense from the standpoint of reducing the amount of gas caused by eating the beans with which vegans often compensate for the lack of animal protein in their diets, if such vegans could be induced to change their dietary habits. But that's highly unlikely. It's more likely that such a strategy would outrage the vegans, even though they make up a substantial portion of the liberals for whom belief in global warming is irrefutable dogma. So it seems to me that such liberals are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they are really serious about eliminating the global warming which ostensibly grieves them so, then the logical course of action is to encourage the killing and subsequent consumption of the sources of bovine flatulence --- but of course, they can't do that, because their opposition to the eating of meat is often motivated by the (ludicrous) belief that killing a cow for the purpose of eating it is as immoral as killing a human being. More immoral, in fact, when you consider that many of these same liberals endorse the killing of human beings, when those human beings happen to be unborn children (and, in some cases, newborn infants who have survived their parents' attempts to abort them).

I've always wondered what vegans think would happen to domestic cows, pigs and chickens if people all converted to the vegan lifestyle overnight. Do they honestly think that farmers would continue to feed their livestock, shelter such animals from the weather in their barns and chicken coops, and furnish those animals with excellent and expensive veterinary care? Where's the economic incentive for people to do such things, if they cannot eventually get a reasonable return on their investment by killing the animals and selling the meat and poultry to people who want to eat such food? As far as I can see, there is none. Farmers don't provide care to their animals for noble, altruistic reasons. They do it because they can turn a profit, and because there is a market for meat.

If indeed farmers ceased to provide care for their cows and pigs and chickens, what alternatives would such animals have? Well, we could theoretically release them into the wild, where it is highly likely that most of them would perish (as a result of predation, starvation or disease), on account of the fact that they are poorly adapted for the purpose of fending for themselves.

That's assuming, of course, that we could do so without causing serious environmental damage in the process. Maybe there are people who can honestly picture a world in which feral cows and pigs and chickens compete with wild animals such as moose and caribou and bears for the available space in wildlife sanctuaries such as Yellowstone Park, but I personally think that a person would have to be an idiot to see that as a viable option. Most likely, the wild predators living in such parks would feast on domestic farm animals until they were fully sated, and then most of the rest of the farm animals would slowly die from starvation and disease.

Admittedly, feral horses survived the experience of being released into the wild, and in fact, became the legendary "mustangs" of the west. But anyone who's ever observed a cow standing in the field, content to chew its cud and moo moronically all day long knows that there is a huge gap between cows and horses in terms of intelligence and independence. And while there may be those who insist that pigs are very "intelligent" creatures, I can't help but ask, "Intelligent in comparison with what?"

Besides, it's a well-known fact that hog farming causes harmful pollutants to run off into nearby streams and other water sources. Relocating those animals to places such as Yellowstone wouldn't eliminate that problem. Rather, it would merely insure the slow environmental destruction of our few remaining wilderness areas.

As for the mustangs, it should be pointed out that the total number of mustang horses now living is but a small fraction of the number of domestic animals currently receiving care from American farmers with a vested interest in the upkeep of such animals. (One website I just visited states that there are currently 7 billion livestock animals in the United States!) Yet, the Wikipedia listing for mustang horses states that the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) "considers 27,000 individuals a manageable number, but the feral Mustang population currently exceeds 33,000." If indeed those excess 6,000 mustangs are considered to be unmanageable, imagine the effects of turning 7 billion livestock animals loose in the wilderness! To say that this would cause chaos and unimaginable environmental damage would be an understatement.

There aren't enough zoos in the world to care for more than a tiny fraction of the domestic cows, pigs and chickens now living. So that isn't really a viable option, either, at least not in terms of preventing a huge reduction in the number of living domestic farm animals. It could prevent those species from becoming extinct altogether, but that's all.

Another option in such a scenario would be to simply kill (i.e., "euthenize") all farm animals, in a manner which would be incredibly wasteful since their meat would not be eaten. It's difficult to see why killing animals in such a manner would be any more "moral" than killing them for the purpose of eating them.

But perhaps I've overlooked one viable option. Perhaps vegans would propose that we simply refuse to allow animals to copulate and reproduce (or that we impose birth control measures on them in some manner), so that it would be possible to reduce or eliminate such animals over a relatively short period of time without the necessity of killing them. This would have the added benefit of eliminating the sources of flatulence from livestock, thereby eliminating their contribution to global warming.

While we're at it, we could also forcibly sterilize all of our wildlife, since wild animals fart, too.

And why stop at animals? People fart, too, especially if they limit themselves to vegetable sources of protein such as beans. It doesn't seem to bother most liberals that countries such as China employ forced sterilization for the purposes of keeping the birth rate down, so forced sterilization of human beings would be one additional way to substantially reduce the "greenhouse gases" caused by flatulence. Never mind that the "choices" which liberals claim to value so much would be severely curtailed. After all, eliminating greenhouse gas takes precedence over human liberty, right?

My point is that liberals tend to think with their emotions, not with their brains. They tend to argue against certain ingrained practices without giving much serious thought to the ramifications of their arguments.

Perhaps the biggest cause of unnecessary environmental gas is the gas liberals emit every time they open their mouths to speak. Such people would do well to worry much less about an alleged problem which, at worst, is only a potential threat to human lives --- namely, global warming --- and to worry far more about eliminating practices, such as legal abortion, which currently take millions of innocent human lives every year, day in and day out.

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