There are a lot of posts on social media trying to convince people to ignore the facts about beef.
These posts are usually well meaning, and often written by people just trying to protect their livelihoods…
…but they’re often full of common misconceptions.
Here’s one broken down.
This post was made by someone British, and so it relates more to the UK than other countries, but the counter arguments are similar.
This isn't true at all.
We can create the same amount of protein with 1/20th of the land if we grow protein-rich plants instead of rearing beef cattle.
It’s not possible to say whether an instantaneous and total switch away from animal products would result in everyone rushing to buy foreign-grown soy-based products.
Markets respond to supply and demand, and as people demand more vegetable protein, local farmers will supply more of it too.
Britain has more than enough fertile land to grow all of the protein the country needs, especially if it’s in the form of vegetable protein.
Also the climate impact of shipping food is usually small relative to the climate impact of what the food is and how it’s produced.
It’s true that much land in the UK could lie dormant (though it’s unclear where the 6 million number came from), but it's a strange misconception that this is a problem.
If these fields were allowed to re-wild, or had forests planted over them, this would be enormously positive for biodiversity and the fight against climate change.
It is true that there would be a lot of pressure on farmers involved in animal products, and this is a big concern, for which we have an idea.
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that areas of industry sometimes suffer when times change.
The silk industry collapsed when we started making clothes from cotton. Horses and carts disappeared when we invented cars.
As a community, we have to change with the times, and help out those who are unfairly affected by big changes. This is why it’s vital that our governments step in to support farmers.
I’ll answer these two together.
If everyone instantaneously become vegan (which isn’t going to happen), then yes, these things might be true, for a short period of time.
The truth though is that, if the food system were set up for plant-based diets, there would be significantly less agricultural demands, and food would be cheaper.
It doesn’t make any sense that bee populations would suffer from an end of animal farming.
Chemical fertilisers are used on crops for humans and crops for feeding animals, and so with an end to animal farming, there’d be a reduction in the amount of crops needed, and a reduction in the overall amount of fertiliser needed.
Also… fertilisers are not thought to be the primary cause of declining bee populations; more problematic by far are insecticides, like neonicitinoids.
Bee populations would definitely benefit from a reduction in animal farming, due to massive increases in spare land, un-needed for growing food for animals.
The argument that soil erosion would increase is completely backwards.
It’s a simple fact that cattle farming is the single greatest contributor to topsoil erosion in the world.
Yes, it’s true that farm animals produce manure, which can be used to fertilise the land…
...but if they’re fed on grains, as most of them are, then they produce less manure than is needed to grow the food they need to eat themselves.
There are methods of farming animals like cows and sheep that can be beneficial for the soil, but they’re expensive and need large amounts of land that could often be reforested instead.
It sounds like a pretty good thing to do to me...
...but if you’re not ready for that, then start by cutting out beef (and lamb!).