Herding is Human

The war against animal agriculture, now spearheaded by fundamentalist vegans, is an attack on human diversity. Were it to succeed, it would wipe out streams of detailed knowledge and expertise about how to thrive – self-sufficiently – in almost all the landscapes and climates on Earth. This knowledge has been gradually accumulated over many thousands of years and is irreplaceable. It’s where we truly connect to our non-human relatives. Eradicating it would reduce everyone to dependency on processed, factory produced “food” and additives, and on the corporations which make them.

This is because healthy human nutrition from plants alone is only approachable in particular climates and landscapes, and even there important food supplements are needed. If everyone was restricted to this diet, the elites in charge of the manufacturers and supply chains would control human life.

Whether the elites would themselves live off the stuff they make is open to question. They could ensure some healthy food is still grown normally, including from animals, but it would likely be priced well beyond the reach of ordinary folk. Bill Gates, for example, now invests heavily in fake meat and dairy, promoting it vigorously whilst tucking into the real meat he loves.

Predicting the end of animal agriculture is nothing new. It was initially a fundamentalist Christian ideology, preached over 100 years ago, with the objective of cutting sexual desire! Were it ever realised, it’s no exaggeration to suggest it could signal the end of human life. After all, our adaptability and inherited knowledge are the only reasons our species survived and spread over the world in the first place, including into many climates still viewed by urban dwellers as hostile. Animal domestication has been central to human societies for tens of thousands of years.

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. Isaiah 65:25.

Whilst expertise in mechanics, science and industrial processes can be acquired from books, the flora and fauna we depend on is so subtly and delicately interrelated that it’s best seen at least as much through generations of direct experience rather than solely classroom skills. Those who depend throughout their lifetimes on their own herding or hunting often rely on something which leans as much towards the instinctual as the learned.

The risks in losing this vast body of expertise should be obvious. In spite of endless predictions, no one knows what the world will look like in a century or two, and wiping out knowledge of animal agriculture, as well as the myriad breeds it has produced, is bound to limit severely the options open to our descendants. There are many parts of the world where herding is the only realistic means of human survival and millions rely on it. The dependence on camels in the Sahara, reindeer in north Eurasia, horses in Central Asia, llamas and alpacas in the Andes, and goats and sheep in many environments is well known. Areas where crop growing is impractical or impossible, particularly upland and arid regions, can support herding. Human life in vastly different climates can also depend on hunting, from tropical forests to the Kalahari to the Arctic, and of course more millions throughout the world rely on fish. Those who think that crops can replace these ways of life seem unaware of the reality in such places. As the climate changes, there may be many more zones in the future where humans can only survive if they live at least as much off animals as from plants.

Loita Hills, Kenya.

In spite of all this, ending animal agriculture is now vigorously promoted by the mainstream media. Paradoxically, this is especially noticeable in apparently progressive forums, and where the propaganda is heavily funded by corporations and foundations, including by Bill Gates. The UN and World Economic Forum support his dystopian dream and, as with most “good causes” nowadays, it’s inevitably presented as the key in fighting climate change. Studies, and especially headlines, are routinely trotted out to support that highly dubious claim, often funded by corporate interests or their foundations and repeating one-sided or massaged data which can seem convincing at first sight.

Lots of people, particularly the young, swallow all this as an article of faith, and embrace the notion that ending all animal agriculture is about compassion for animals, as well as fighting for climate. They rightly cite the undeniable horrors of massive industrialised agriculture but seem unaware or unconcerned that in much of the world animal agriculture is a very different thing indeed, practised on a much smaller-scale and in the hands of local people who have derived sustainable livelihoods from it for millennia, and all this with little or no reliance on polluting industry.

Those local people are, luckily for all of us, the real key to why the end of animal agriculture is unlikely ever to be realised. However much the elites seek to manipulate people and agendas, human beings remain individuals with their own beliefs and dreams just as much as they are conditioned social creatures who can, sometimes all to easily, succumb to short-term fashion and peer pressure.

Even the most vigorous and violent attempts at imposing total control over any population inevitably fosters a resistance where, eventually, a plurality of belief and action is rekindled. Such human spirit, or whatever one calls it, proves time and again the overwhelming and resilient strength in human diversity.

Alps, Europe.

The key lesson of history is that there is no single right way to live and be, and there is nothing in history to suggest any single way of life is ever likely to dominate totally. That simple fact will save humankind from the dream of those who want to end all animal agriculture. It’s really a nightmare which points not towards an innocent and childish Garden of Eden of healthy plant-based diets and compassion for all creatures, but to the end of most human life. Indeed, that may well be what some campaigners seek. As 1980 Earth First! chants make clear, some fundamentalist environmentalists believe, “Billions are living that should be dead,” concluding with the whoop, “Fuck the human race.” Perhaps the original stimulus, a fear of and disgust with human sexual desire and reproduction, is not so far away.

Stephen Corry worked with Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, from 1972 to 2021. Twitter: @StephenCorrySvl.