Do we really need animal products? And how much wild nature do we need on average?

Maybe this article might be useful for the purposes of the discussion:

N. Nitrogen. Atomic number seven. Unnoticed, untasted, it nevertheless fills our stomachs. It is the engine of agriculture, the key to plenty in our crowded, hungry world.

Without this independent-minded element, disinclined to associate with other gases, the machinery of photosynthesis cannot function—no protein can form, and no plant can grow. Corn, wheat, and rice, the fast-growing crops on which humanity depends for survival, are among the most nitrogen hungry of all plants. They demand more, in fact, than nature alone can provide.

Enter modern chemistry. Giant factories capture inert nitrogen gas from the vast stores in our atmosphere and force it into a chemical union with the hydrogen in natural gas, creating the reactive compounds that plants crave. That nitrogen fertilizer—more than a hundred million tons applied worldwide every year—fuels bountiful harvests. Without it, human civilization in its current form could not exist. Our planet’s soil simply could not grow enough food to provide all seven billion of us our accustomed diet. In fact, almost half of the nitrogen found in our bodies’ muscle and organ tissue started out in a fertilizer factory.

I think I remember rightly that industrial processes have doubled the amount of nitrates in global circulation. When the petroleum products which supply that extra fertility get too expensive and/or difficult to extract it’s going to become impossible to sustain that population of 7+ billion human beings no matter what methods are attempted. There’s just no way to get the same amount of calories out of the planet’s solar budget as modern agriculture has been able to do by exploiting the millions of years of solar energy that has been concentrated into oil & gas. So much the better if you ask me!



Civilization turns fossil fuels into people via a convoluted, dollar-exchanging system of Rube Goldberg machines. Even if it was possible to sustain our current population, it would damn innumerable other species (basically all of them but the plagues & invasives we spread around).

Furthermore, how about because of the massive inequality that exists between us & the poor people our system requires to bring us “cheap” food (and other bologna)? We can either keep them poor & continue breeding conflict & make nuclear war not just a possibility, but an inevitability, OR we can allow them to aspire for assimilation into global society as doctors, lawyers, and (god help us) politicians where they are no longer “satisfied” supporting us for minuscule wages. Neither path can be sustained long-term.


So it seems then we agree that animal agricultural industry is not an honorable way for deriving our food. But there would not be acceptance of information I say shows the healthiest way for us does not have us need anything from animals, and they wouldn’t have to be used.

It doesn’t seem you understand my communication if you think I speak for maximizing the human population. I am talking about what is most sustainable, that you might be missing. We don’t need more of humanity, our numbers really should come down. But the most sustainable way of all does not depend on eliminating people, which a way of having people in the environments as predators would, for what is pursued should be more sustainable than living in civilization, which isn’t. And what is more sustainable than civilization can handle all the people living in that way. Being predators in the environments is not that way.

I am not talking about industrial agriculture or any agriculture that civilization used. There are simple natural ways to have things growing that can be most beneficial, people can live in that way for what is most sustainable.

I interpreted this to mean “your way” would support a greater population of humans than “my way”, & that this greater population would be “more desirable”. If I’m mistaken, what were you trying to say?

Could you elaborate on this"non-predatory" and “simple natural” way of growing enough food for 7 billion+ people?

No matter how many times you say this, I don’t see any data to support the claim. Until I do, my own experience & education say otherwise.

p.s. There is no “most” or “more” sustainable, something either is (or is not) sustainable over a given period of time.

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With the original post I was thinking the anthropocentrism could make people choose to let more of the natural environment restore itself since people depend on it. So the anthropocentrism would lead to more nature. I don’t yet see what’s wrong with it unless every form of anthropocentrism leads to more and more of it?

Where do you draw the line if people are behaving anthropocentrically? If they take more then they give? Then horticultural societies can pass if they remain stable in size and have a positive impact on the natural environment? Maybe it will always be hard to remain stable in size but that’s why we need a healthy culture of non-anthropocentrism which would lead to a hunter gathering type of thinking and lifestyle eventually?

I think you nailed it here, and would like to add my take on this.

I sometimes get the impression that many people who see the evils of civilization and see that anthropocentrism has a lot to do with it, still don’t give true weight to that subject. Especially when we fail to acknowledge how deeply all of us are conditioned into the anthropocentric attitude.

For one example, myself: I have been aware for many years of the absurdity of humans believing they are more intelligent, special, etc., etc., than the whole rest of the world, and somehow separate from it. And yet—I still struggle, hard, every day, to break out of my cultural conditioning to the point where I can really get it, in real moment by moment daily life, that the birds I love to see and hear, the misshapen, repeatedly cut trees that I feel bad about, the sun that I feel happy to see come up every day. . .are fully conscious presences that I can communicate with, and learn from. That would of course depend on being able to recognize styles of consciousness other than the familiar human one as consciousness. The problem is that I am less conscious than they are, not innately but because of having grown up in a very sick culture.

It seems to me that no plan made from within the disconnected consciousness can ever make much of a difference, and I for one am determined to break out of this mental prison.

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I’ll concede that our desire to survive is just as valid as any other species’ (there exists a certain justified “divine selfishness”), but I see two problems:

  1. In the Economic mindset that prevails in civilization, resource scarcity is generally considered a non-issue - people are use to finding (or creating) alternative resources. People tend to assume human ingenuity can replace “nature”. (And, at least in some ways, who’s to say it hasn’t?)

  2. In this view, only the “nature” that people depend on is seen as valuable and worth protecting. Which is really another two problems:

     A) Human knowledge is limited. We don’t have a complete understanding of which parts of nature we “need”. Heck, Oxygen was only discovered how long ago?And CFC’s damaging effect on the ozone?
     B) “Useless” creatures won’t be valued. Who will protect the banana slugs, salamanders, etc? Surely they have a place in the interconnectedness of all things, tho’ we may not know what it is. 

I think it goes even deeper than that. The very physical structures of our bodies exist to prevent us from becoming overwhelmed with sensory information. Humans have poor taste/smell, for instance, so that we can eat a wide variety of strongly flavored things. It’s a survival strategy, life through ignorance. Our brains do the same thing - blocking out unnecessary smells & sounds & who knows what else hundreds of millions of years of evolution told us isn’t conducive to (“short-term”) survival. The brain is a filter through which we create our reality. Our society simply demands that we take this “reality” far too seriously. They don’t see it for what it is, a survival strategy losing its utility.

Hi Sharp Rock—

To me it is irrelevant to focus on my physical senses being deficient in some way—they are as they are, for this species and this individual. What I know for sure is that I do not make one millionth the use of them that I could, for learning in the world around me, if my attention were not continually diverted into the yakety yak in my head. Until fairly recently I took that inward-turned focus so for granted that I didn’t even realize it was there. But when I started seriously trying to pay consistent attention to the world around me, I began to become more and more aware of that obstacle, and of its character: it is the end result of growing up in a culture which insists, forcefully and constantly from earliest life, that its members (little kids who at first try to resist this assault on their sanity) turn their attention again and again to the tight little world of exclusively human issues.

It is that anthropocentric world spiraling ever more inward on itself which is thrashing around in its ignorance, wreaking devastation on the real world that it is still inextricably embedded in.

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My answer is, how are all the people now living surviving in this world? The answer is that civilization is raping this world, in what is certainly a very unsustainable way for us to be in this world. If every individual were living in simplicity with using what is growing, directly, and taking nothing more, that would be the most sustainable way for them to be here. If they kept using animals to sustain themselves, that would not be a sustainable way for them to be here. Using what is lower in the food chain, namely vegetation, is the most sustainable, it should make sense. But it would be better if there were not so many people. But I was just talking about what is most sustainable, that applies to what situation there is however many people there are living in the world that way. People all using animals for any amount longer, even the same way, will require many people to be eliminated, the world will not sustain that, and wildlife will be gone rapidly while domesticated animals are bred still to accommodate the demand for that. Trying to switch to using the animals in the wild will not help for that.

For natural farming, this can be looked up.

You said,

“Could you elaborate on this"non-predatory” and “simple natural” way of growing enough food for 7 billion+ people?

No matter how many times you say this, I don’t see any data to support the claim. Until I do, my own experience & education say otherwise.

p.s. There is no “most” or “more” sustainable, something either is (or is not ) sustainable over a given period of time."

I was not talking about food being grown for so many people. I mean those logistics would be eliminated, if people went to where they lived in primitive simplicity having what is growing right there that they would need. Natural ways of farming, or horticulture, not what can be called agriculture, is possible among all. Using animals is less sustainable than that.

I have shared the information on how it is the healthiest. It is not lacking anything for that, that any place I share it for others, no one would accept that and it gets disregarded. But the information is valid, it is not my fault that I would show it and you will continue like there is nothing showing it. But everyone will claim their own experience will work best, though they will yet get diabetes, or cancer, or heart attacks or strokes. It is not my fault that they did not consider and change, to not face that. Or, if you wanted to know, you could just look it up.

And what I said would indeed be most sustainable. The other ways may be sustainable, but I don’t think those ways can be counted on, with what this world is soon facing. We need the biggest changes possible, and I would not compromise that message, hoping still more will really change in the right direction.

Perhaps we are saying the same thing in different ways. To me, mind & body are “opposite” sides of the same coin; neither exists in isolation from the other, & civilization (intentionally or otherwise) shapes both. The dichotomy itself sounds like a civilized construct.

Back to the topic at hand, where do we draw the desirable line between anthropocentrism & misanthropy? Is “what can we do to sustain billions of people?” even a question worth asking - or just another product of our societally twisted minds?

And I would suggest you do this, as it is incapable of feeding our population (especially in the necessarily fertilizer-free, wildlife-rich world I assume we would both like to see).

In an overtly simplistic sense, yes, yes it should. But that’s not how the world works. Giant pandas, for instance, eat ludicrous amounts of bamboo because their stomaches can’t digest it properly (they have the digestive system of a carnivore).

All of which are possible on a plant-based diet. All of which are extremely rare among hunter-gatherers, some of whom consume diets consisting of ~90% meat.
How about those living in the arctic circle, what kind of “horticulture” should they practice?

It’s fine if you want to ignore our questions, no need to keep talking in circles. But thinking you know it all is the surest sign you don’t, my friend.


Thank you for providing this opportunity to clarify what I have been trying to say.

On your first point—I completely agree that mind and body are one thing: my “body” is the me that can be seen by others, my “mind” is my subjective experience of being that body. And I completely agree that any dichotomy between them is a civilized construct; if I gave the impression of believing in it, I take it back. In fact, as I see it the assumption of a disembodied mind is one of the very pillars of civilization, along with the assumption of human separateness and superiority.

Regarding your reference to misanthropy: if I gave any such impression I take that back too. I am human, and want to be a healthy member of a healthy species, which can only come from a healthy relation to the world we are a part of. I believe that civilization is a terrible sickness that has been growing in our species for a long time, and believe most fervently that we are learning from it, and beginning to get well (even though that may be hard to see on the surface).

“…the topic at hand…”—I realized that my earlier posts could be considered “off topic” for the original title of this thread, but it had already ramified in so many directions that when I saw something in DomesticatedLevi’s post that rang a clear bell I just jumped in there—it didn’t feel right to start a new topic.

On your last question—I too can see that the number of us in the world today is frighteningly out of balance, but that is just one of the countless frightening consequences of civilization, like the horrible treatment of other animals which has been a central subject of this thread. Of course we all do the best we can to make some kind of difference from where we’re at, but I don’t think we can figure out what to do about any of this mess all by ourselves (that would be a truly civilized pretension). For really substantial answers we must turn to the larger intelligence of the Earth, which we have held ourselves apart from for so long. The only way I can see to do that is through my physical senses, which are my bodymind’s connection to the whole rest of the world.

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Thanks for clarifying. I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth or take issue with going “off topic”, but rather to ask: how can we go back to a smaller population? (Without wishing our fellow humans ill or simply waiting for a crash).

I look to tribal & alternative customs for inspiration, but -for example- I don’t believe I have any friends interested in “sharing” a wife, let alone children. Perhaps economic hardship could change this. Perhaps I am just a freak. Who knows?

There must be some way we can soften our return tho - which I do believe was the impetus of the OP’s suggestion for horticulture (see, we are on topic!).

I see this as a major logical fallacy. As SharpRock says, there is no such thing as “more” sustainable - it either is sustainable or it isn’t. And the fact remains that even if everyone in the entire world went vegan, we would STILL be living unsustainably - because it’s not just about the food. It’s the oil and gas our society uses to power factories, the logging (which is NOT all because of animal foods, billions of people use unrecycled toilet paper) and mining, the vast amount of water used to create consumer goods and grow crops, etc etc etc.

It just isn’t possible to distill the problem of humanity exceeding the carrying capacity of the land down to eating animals. This is completely irrational. Though I understand how comforting it can be to feel that the world’s problems could just be solved by a simple individual choice. And how empowering it could be to know that by making one daily choice, I am now absolved of being part of the problem of modern-day humanity.

But it’s just not true.

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Back to the original question of the thread, my firm belief based on everything I’ve researched about diet and nutrition is that we evolved to need animal foods in our diet, period. This goes way beyond B12 - the majority of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, etc our bodies need come from animal foods.

Before you string me up or post endless links of vegan propaganda pieces (I was going to say articles, but the vast majority of the ones I’ve read skew science to serve an agenda, so I’m sticking with propaganda), hear me out. Yes, plant foods are rich in vitamins & minerals, etc. But by and large they do not exist in the FORM our bodies can utilize. Yes, our bodies can convert many/most/all (not sure?) into forms that we CAN use, but we just don’t do this efficiently compared to true herbivores.

Take omega-3’s, for example. Plant oils are rich in omega-6’s, naturally. The problem with just eating omega-6’s is that we evolved to have a certain balance of omega-3’s to omega-6’s, because the former are anti-inflammatory to the body while the latter are inflammatory. Too many omega-6’s, and you have chronic inflammation problems (like the majority of people in modern societies).

Yes, there are some plant sources of omega-3’s, and all plants have some amount of omega-3’s. But the plant form of omega-3’s is ALA, which is not the form our bodies can use. We need EFA’s or DHA’s, and while our bodies can convert ALA into EFA, it only does so at an efficiency rate of 8%. Cows and other grass-eaters, on the other hand, convert ALA at a rate of 100% efficiency. They were, quiet simply, designed for it.

Not only were we not designed for it, but we were designed to be dependent on herbivores to be our intermediary, converting nutrients from the plant world into the forms that we need to survive. If we had evolved to eat plants exclusively, we would convert the nutrients ourselves just fine - but we don’t.


Alright, it gets ugly when one of us will talk down to the other. I am not going to go there, none of us should. It is misdirected to say I claim I know it all. I have a number of qualified doctors and as convincing studies as any, to refer to, regarding health this way. And you suggest that continuing to use animals is the sustainable way, that using vegetation isn’t, since we can’t just say more or less sustainable, so it would have to be shown how the same number will live sustainably still using animals. Do you hunt for all your meat? Or are you using meat from animal agriculture? I show already there isn’t sustainability with that animal agriculture. And I show wildlife is drastically diminishing. So how is either of those sustainable, but not using vegetation? And you can’t really mean that the pandas are not living in a sustainable way, do you? There are many more edible plants available than there are animals which also eat, from the primary nutrition with the original amino acids, fats/oils, and carbohydrates, to use. And there are vegetable foods we can digest, not such as bamboo.

Yes, we need less people for what is sustainable. But we don’t have that now. And civilization is not sustainable. How are you going to live in the sustainable way? With use of animals?

No, what I referred to about diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes can all be avoided, and also reversed, with the healthiest way of eating I referred to, not with being a know it all, but from those doctors who have saved many patients lives this way, and the convincing studies.

I am not talking about native people living around the arctic, I am talking about me, and such looking for what is really sustainable for us, like me. It sure doesn’t apply if your plan is to live among the native people around the arctic, or where people can only depend on catching animals, with no alternatives. But most of us won’t come to that.

Growing useful vegetation among other natural vegetation that is compatible will work.

What questions have I ignored?

I’ve read a good article about people rewilding arable land to grazing land with free-roaming herds : link to article.

"Letting arable land lie fallow and returning it to grazed pasture for a period – as farmers used to, before artificial fertilisers and mechanisation made continuous cropping possible – is the only way to reverse that process (soil depletion), halt erosion and rebuild soil, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The grazing livestock not only provide farmers with an income, but the animals’ dung, urine and even the way they graze, accelerates soil restoration. The key is to be organic, and keep livestock numbers low to prevent over-grazing.

In direct contrast to grain-fed and grain-finished meat from intensive systems, wholly pasture-fed meat is high in beta carotene, calcium, selenium, magnesium and potassium and vitamins E and B, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – a powerful anti-carcinogen. It is also high in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is vital for human brain development but extremely difficult for vegans to obtain.

Much has been made of the methane emissions of livestock, but these are lower in biodiverse pasture systems that include wild plants such as angelica, common fumitory, shepherd’s purse and bird’s-foot trefoil because they contain fumaric acid – a compound that, when added to the diet of lambs at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, reduced emissions of methane by 70%."

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I think if you live far away from the equator and your trying to not have your food shipped from far away it’s reasonable, maybe even necessary, to eat meat. Sometimes winter is really long and that kale isn’t really enough, this makes me think of Ishmael when Daniel Quinn was like “the plant eaters store food for the predators”
Frank primal answers I think that eating animals can be extremely sustainable and in a lot of cases downright necessary because we have pushed out a lot of predators and have only taken out herbívora where it has been necessary, a lot of natural places have an unbalanced relationship there. Also I’m only talking from experience in living in Northern California and there being an extreme surplus of rabbits at some times and in Texas having animals like the Axis deer be introduced and now with no natural predator also having a severe surplus, I think eating meat can absolutely be sustainable. That being said, this does nothing to address the issue that we cannot feed the people of this planet and be anywhere near sustainable and much less regenerative which is what we surely need. People cannot go on eating meat in the conventional way of modern culture. But individuals can find ways to sustainable eat meat often times in a way that can also help tend local ecosystems. I honestly don’t see why the topic of eating meat is an issue. Practices that regenerate the land should be sought out and practiced, ones that don’t should be left behind, including eating meat and vegetables and drinking water if that means your getting it from a plastic Fiji bottle.

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