environment

Can a former vegetarian still embrace vegetarian ethics?

Right off the bat, I need to tell you: I am not the former vegetarian mentioned in the title of this post. I am a meat eater, full-fledged, all in. My parents are from Mexico and Cuba, raised eating lechon asado (roast pig) and cabrito (goat). And this apple did not fall far from that tree. But I recently interviewed a former vegetarian, and when she began extolling vegetarian ethics and explaining that she still embraced them, I had an a-ha moment. I could embraced them, too! As she spoke of their convictions regarding justice, compassion, and sustainability, I was nodding my head. It was beautiful to realize that we cared deeply about the same issues.

IMG_6307

Here are a few specifics that I think both meat-eaters and vegetarians can rally around:

  • Factory farming is cruel and immoral. Pigs are raised in cages so small they can hardly turn around. They are often raised in windowless sheds, without fresh air, sunlight, or access to the outdoors. Chickens are raised in such crowded conditions that they begin nervously plucking their feathers out. (Rather than changing their deplorable living conditions, factory farmers simply clip their beaks!) Cows are subject to just as many indignities, including being forced to eat and sleep in their own excrement. All of the animals listed above are given hormones and antibiotics to promote growth and to help prevent sickness. Sentient beings should not suffer such inhumane confinement and mistreatment.
  • The deterioration of the planet is alarming. Large patches of our planet are become desert wastelands. Fertility and life are being snuffed out, replaced by exhausted land and animal extinction. Climate change is a huge problem. We must protect our natural resources and cultivate and nurture life on this earth on every level. Something has to change (and it should probably be us)!
  • No one should go hungry. Good food for all can even the playing field. Children learn better when well nourished. Behavior problems, sickness, disease and crime all decrease when there is less food insecurity. We must look for solutions so that all people, all around the globe, can obtain access to clean water and good food.

So, meat eaters, where do you stand? Can you agree with these simple, straightforward values? I certainly can. And so can Lierre Keith, the former vegetarian. Interestingly, she makes the case that one does not have to abstain from meat to address all of the above. As a matter of fact, she is convinced that a vegetarian diet jeopardizes our own health and the health of the planet.

Listen to our conversation Vegetarianism reconsidered and let me know what you conclude. Even if you disagree with Lierre's point of view, I hope you can take pleasure in the fact that, in a world that is increasingly divisive, vegetarians and meat eaters can still find some common ground.

*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast, found on iTunes, Stitcher, and at westonaprice.org.

 

How holistic management is saving the planet

Hypothetical scenario: you arrive at my home and the living room is a wreck. (This is very plausible, by the way.) Picture it totally trashed. Sofa springs are jutting out, dirty plates are crawling with ants, toys are strewn everywhere. You hear that I have ten children (not so plausible, but go with it for a moment) and you nod understandingly, “Ah. That’s the problem. This woman has too many children. That’s why the living room is a mess.” Most people would come to that conclusion, as well. But not Allan Savory. He would not blame the children. He would blame the management of the children. In other words, the children are not actually responsible for the mess; large families do not necessarily have to live in chaos. The responsibility falls on me to train my children properly so that they don’t mess up our living environment. This is a simple illustration to explain the concept of “holistic management.”

Before heading to Zimbabwe to meet with wildlife biologist, author, and speaker Allan Savory, I picked up his tome “Holistic Management.” When I say “tome,” I’m not kidding. Let's just say that this book is the opposite of a light summer read. The point I’m trying to make is that I was struggling to grasp what holistic management really meant. I knew it had to do with saving the earth by restoring its grasslands (about 70% have been degraded), but beyond that, I couldn't quite "get it."

But I knew this much: Allan did get it and does get it. His Savory Institute has hubs all around the world committed to this concept. It goes beyond permaculture techniques (though these are good) and organic fields (also good). And it’s having fantastic results with land and communities that are revitalizing, growing, and thriving.

Allan came to this holistic approach to the land after much trial and error. Decades ago, he thought (as many scientists did at the time) that animals were causing land degradation and that reducing their numbers would resuscitate the land. So they killed thousands of elephants in Africa. We’re talking significant numbers—to the tune of 40,000 elephants. And then, to their dismay, they discovered that they were wrong. The land did not improve.

Allan had the humility and wisdom to go back to square one to determine the root of the problem. (Some scientists did not do this, by the way, and they are still culling animals!) Anyway, Allan dug deep and found that we actually need more animals (not less), since they have a critical role in revitalizing land. Animals disturb the ground with their hooves, and leave urine and manure to fertilize it, and thus help stimulate new growth. So the crux of the problem with land degradation (also known as “desertification”), again, is not the animals themselves, but, rather, how they are managed.

Allan and me in grass

I’ve seen the fruit of this holistic approach first hand this week at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management. Allan took me around the land and showed me “before” pictures (taken at fixed points) that I could easily contrast with the “after” landscape before me. The health and recovery of the land was obvious. I was eager to learn more. Over the course of several days, I peppered him with questions about this approach. asked about the response from the environmental and scientific communities, and much more. I met some of his staff members and community members in Zimbabwe who have seen holistic management successes in their villages and towns. In the process, I gained a greater understanding of holistic management for land, livestock, and even my day-to-day life.

Of course I plan on posting my conversations with Allan on the Wise Traditions podcast this summer! If you just can't wait, though, check out savory.global. Holistic management, I am convinced, is critical for the future of our planet!

*****

Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast (on iTunes, Stitcher, and westonaprice.org). She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.

 

A taboo, proverb, tradition & song in Zimbabwe

"The program sort of links up very, very well with indigenous knowledge systems. The idea of conserving the environment is not a new phenomenon; it's not a new idea. Our forefathers actually had some songs which were so emphatic on environmental conservation. They actually had some proverbs that had a lot to do with environmental conservation. They also had taboos which were so emphatic on conserving certain aspects [of the environment]." John and me

I have been in all sorts of fascinating conversations with people since arriving here in Zimbabwe. But this one caught me by surprise--especially when the person I was speaking to broke into song! It all went down when I was interviewing John Nyilika, a training coordinator for the Africa Centre for Holistic Management. He pointed out how holistic land and livestock management relies on and honors traditional knowledge. The moment he began to speak of ancestral wisdom, my "wise traditions" ears perked up.

Here are some of the ancient truths he shared.

A taboo - It was said that it was taboo when you find two kudus in locked horns and fighting, it was actually taboo to kill both. You were only supposed to kill one. The idea was to make sure that the remaining one would remain in touch with all of the cows, female kudus, around. That taboo ensures conservation.

A proverb - We have traditional healers and they use some roots. The traditional healer will actually tell you to get to a certain tree--say, a marula tree. You just dig the root of the tree and just get a small [piece], say, about 15 centimeters of the root, and cut it off. And if you want to be healed by that root, please make sure to cover up that area and you don't have to look back. After covering up, don't look back and go away. Cover it up and go away. That aspect of covering up was to ensure that the tree would continue growing.

A tradition - If you needed a bark from a certain tree it was suggested that you get to the eastern side [of the tree.] You look for a tree which does't have any scar. Just get to the eastern side, and just get a palm-sized bark from the eastern side. And you also go to the northern side, just get another palm-sized one, you see? And you leave the tree. [This] was to avoid ring-barking the tree and killing the tree. And looking for a tree which doesn't have a scar was to make sure that you don't continue using the same tree, [to avoid that] at the end of the day, the tree would die.

A song - There were also some songs. There were also some weeding and harvesting songs that have a lot to do with environmental conservation. This song which I will sing is on conservation. It can also be turned into a wedding song, but the words can also be used for environmental conservation. "Londolozani, londolozani, londolozani’mvelo londolozani …." In short, it actually says we should not cut trees indiscriminately. We should not burn the forest, and so on. We should conserve our environment. And as people, you know, they will be rejoicing, drinking beer, and singing these songs, and dancing--at the same time, the children will also be hearing these songs. Initially it was just a wedding song, then they put these words to the song to enhance conservation ideas. To "lundulose" means to keep very well and even it goes [applies] to the bride and the bridegroom: you must not abuse her, treat her very well, treat him well.

These certainly sound like wise traditions to me. How about to you?

*****

Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast (on iTunes, Stitcher, and westonaprice.org). She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.