Monday, February 15, 2010

Occam's Razor

This article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch has greatly irritated me. It basically states that farmers should plant "grassy buffers (to) help protect soil, water and humans from animal antibiotics". Scientists have noted that 30 to 80 percent of an antibiotic given to an animals ends up as waste. These antibiotics find their way into the soil and water tables. Thus, we (humans) are exposed to increasing numbers of them which, in turn, make our antibiotics less effective. Never mind just the general awfulness of ingesting a never ending stream of antibiotics in our system. Now scientist are feeling extra clever because they have discovered that by planting these grassy buffers, they help dissipate the drugs in the soil. Sure, it is great that they have realized (again) how wonderful plants are, but wouldn't it by a whole lot more effective and healthy just to institute better farm practices? Perhaps we should look more into sustainable, non-CAFO cattle production? This used to be the norm and, I don't believe, there were any worries about antibiotics in the soil. Perhaps the simplest solution is the best one.


Charlie Talbert said...

Animals in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are routinely given high doses of antibiotics to prevent their deaths prior to slaughter. Any animal, humans included, cramped together in spaces so tightly they can hardly turn around, forced to stand or lie in their own waste, is of course susceptible to virulent disease.

I don’t think “[looking into] more sustainable, non-CAFO cattle production” is going to bring change. The public relations departments of these corporate facilities will tell you, “Sure, we’ll look into it”, but they have no reason to change until people stop purchasing their products.

They will tell you, in a nice way, that they bear no responsibility for the environmental devastation they cause, or the animal suffering. They are “only following orders” of a consuming public acutely conscious of monetary costs. Meat has never been cheaper.

For those consumers concerned about the moral costs, industrial animal agriculture uses marketing that emphasizes humane treatment. See

The Commission on Social Witness is sponsoring one of the contributors to (and appearing on the homepage of), Howard Lyman, at a workshop at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Minneapolis in June. He’s a former Montana cattle rancher and a UU himself.

Bridgett said...

Amen, sister. Instead of cleaning up a mess, why not just stop making the mess?

And you only have to have brisket from a cow raised humanely with no antibiotics and no hormones and no feedlot to wonder what the heck we're thinking. Goodness it's so much better.

plaidshoes said...

I will take your word for it, Bridgett!

Charlie - I have actually been a vegetarian for twenty years. I don't think I could ever actually eat meat again. Even if they found the most humane way ever to process it. I can't stand the thought of something dying just for me to eat it. BUT, my husband is firmly not vegetarian and subsequently feeds the kids meat. Therefore, I try as hard as I can to make it the best meat possible. I agree that the CAFO people will always try to spin it their way. That they are humane, the population wants cheap meat,etc. I do believe, though, that small ranchers want to produce the best quality meat, and they try to do it anti-biotic free. I try to get spread the importance of supporting those farms. I will always advocate for a meat-free lifestyle, but realize that even when the battle is in your own home, you don't always win. No matter how much education you provide.

That is very exciting that Howard Lyman will be at GA! I have read his books. If I can scrape enough money to get there, I will definitely attend his presentation. I am glad you all are bringin him in.

Charlie Talbert said...


A book you might want to consider asking your husband to read is Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffran Foer.

You may have seen it reviewed in the press over the last several months. If nothing else, it's a study in effective writing technique. He is an accomplished author, although this is his first book of non-fiction.

The birth of their son caused him and his wife to go vegetarian. It's a very moving story.

You can get an idea of his thoughtful, non-judgmental communication style from this interview last December with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.

Best wishes.

plaidshoes said...

Thanks for the tip, Charlie! I will look for the book. Wish me some luck ;-)