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Why You Should Eat Yak Instead of Beef

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Posted on Sep 27, 2011
AP / Jae C. Hong

A cow munches on what’s left of Texas in a drought-stricken field.

By Christopher Ketcham

I first comprehended the awfulness of the ranching industry when the cows of Moonlight Meadows, high in the La Sal Mountains of Utah, surrounded me and began shitting. They had been trucked in from the canyons of the lowland desert countryside, near the town of Moab, to graze summer long on the free grass in the mountains—public grass, as this was land protected in trust for the American people by the federal government, under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service. But none of it was much protected; the feces were the visceral evidence of this.

Along the trail the cows had laid big diarrheal pies, ice slippery, landmine-like, which splashed onto socks, legs and shorts. Where the trail steepened, the shit was treacherous. Soon I was surfing in it and finally was thrown like a clown on a banana peel. I lay there feeling stupid and looked around at the hundreds of cattle in the field nearby, one of many herds strewn in the mountains. A mother turned her ass to me and fired a big green load of diarrhea. Another cow pissed in an arc like a fire hose.

The cows evacuated thus onto the land and into the air, sometimes onto one another’s backs and into eyes, the shit where it had dried swirling in dust devils when the wind kicked up and where it was sloppy and wet running in streams, in puddles, in steaming black pools. The stench was ammoniacal, sulfurous, and as I lay there in my dung-splash wallow, it was, quite suddenly, an unbearable experience: not just the smell of bowels evacuating, of creatures destined for the slaughterhouse as death on the hoof, but the cultural and political travesty it represented, the ecocidal meaning of it.

Cows are terribly destructive creatures, especially in arid climates. Livestock are considered by a quorum of scientists as the No. 1 cause of species extinction, topsoil loss, deforestation and desertification in the American West. They muck or stomp or gorge out of existence streams, whole watersheds, rare grasses and shrubs, entire ecosystems in micro. Their big heavy hooves trample the soil, eroding it often beyond repair. Just as the cow is an invasive species, an exotic in the West—an import of Spanish missionaries in the 16th century—it brings invasive weeds that triumph in its midst: the water-greedy tamarisk, for example, along with the greedier Russian olive and the useless Russian thistle, better known as tumbleweed. A 1998 study from the Journal of Arid Environments found that a hundred years of livestock grazing on public lands near the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was more damaging in terms of long-term development and recovery of flora than multiple nuclear bomb blasts.

More than 300 million acres of public lands in 11 Western states—lands owned by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, collectively, by all Americans—are given over to the resource destruction of the cattle industry. That’s 40 percent of the landmass of the West, 12 percent of the landmass of the lower 48 states. The ranching industry controls this domain with massive subsidies from state and federal government. Even private insurance lenders such as Metropolitan Life, Mutual Life and Prudential, which in recent years have issued more than $1 billion in questionable loans to ranchers who used federally issued grazing permits as collateral, are now silent players in the subsidized ruination of Western public lands.


Square, Site wide
Public lands grazing in fact imposes a direct cost to taxpayers of more than $120 million a year, and estimates of annual hidden costs reach much higher, to between $500 million and $1 billion. The U.S. government, at the beck of ranchers, clears forests; builds roads, cattle guards and fences; diverts streams; blows up beaver dams; “improves” habitat; monitors the health of livestock; and, through the aegis of the Orwellian-monikered Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, excises “undesirables” from the wilderness. These undesirables, poisoned, shot and trapped, include some 80,000 coyotes, 70,000 prairie dogs and 33,000 beavers annually. The result is continued enclosure, monoculturing and the effective privatization of the American commons—all funded by the taxpayer.

Democratic and Republican Congresses alike have defended these subsidies as the cowboy’s divine right, though in fact federal grazing provides just $1 out of every $2,500 of taxable income in the West, and just 1 out of every 1,400 jobs. Ranching on public lands in the West contributes minimally—less than 3 percent—to national beef production, as most American beef is husbanded in the temperate East. Meanwhile, the industry in the last 20 years has consolidated into fewer and fewer hands, those rich operators who can survive the exigencies of the globalization of the beef trade and the rampant land value speculation that has overtaken much of the scenic West. Today, 10 percent of the cattle operators in Montana, to take just one example, own 50 percent of the cattle in the state. These new cattle oligarchs, lobbying government to maintain their power, are the modern incarnations of the legendary barons who helped win the West in the 19th century via coercion of whole cities, corruption of officialdom, collusion with railroads and Eastern banks, rampant violence, the ecocide of buffalo and the genocide of Native Americans. The power of political cowboyism today extends even to cowing the big green conservation groups—the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council—that have refused to tackle head-on the environmental damage from ranching.

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By Tobysgirl, October 2, 2011 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

“Livestock are considered by a quorum of scientists as the No. 1 cause of species extinction, topsoil loss, deforestation and desertification in the American West.”

Can we NOT blame cattle for HUMAN greed and actions? I believe HUMANS are the No. 1 cause of all the above, including allowing ranching on public lands in arid regions. The best thing any of us can do for the environment is to stop reproducing ourselves.

I really don’t think I care about the state of the author’s shoes.

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By garyl, October 2, 2011 at 4:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Before we get too enamoured of Polyface Farms… Visitors to the place have reported horrid conditions, including rabbits in sweltering hot metal cages suspended above manure pits. Polyface uses chickens that have been bred to grow so fast that they’re adult size at onl 7 weeks old - still babies. The hyper-fast growth rate puts enormous strains on their organs and skeletal systems. The chickens - as on factory farms - are denied their usually doting mothers and fathers.

Polyface claims to be efficient, but when you factor in the trucked in chicken feed, that claim is washed away.

Like virtually all farms in the West, the animals at Polyface have been bred to overproduce flesh, eggs, or milk, and they are denied most of the lifespans. 

The factory farms and overgrazing that everyone hates are a result of demand for cheap meat, milk, and eggs. As long as we’re killing 25 million “food” animals every hour in the US alone, factory farms and overgrazing are nearly inevitable. And our appetite for fish is decimating fish populations, to say nothing of the huge toll on “bycatch” species.

Rather than pretend we’re being humane when we kill for pleasure or profit - the very antithesis of humaneness - let’s get out of the mass-murder businesss. Studies such as EPIC-Oxford show that vegans fare quite well, and for most people in the first world, it’s an easy switch, once you get past the psychological barriers.

The notion that we need to kill domesticated animals is incorrect. Veganic gardening is taking off and shows great promise, and the Hunzas and Native Americans are just two of the populations that have gotten high crop yields without using domesticated animals. Moreover, it’s doubtful that the huge monocrops fed to livestock will ever use manure, as it’s too impractical at that scale. Lastly, if it truly were necessary to use domesticated animals (usually non-native and human-engineeered in practice!) to raise crops, it doesn’t follow that we have to kill them as soon as they’re full-grown.

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By buduranusx2, October 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

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By Lennerd, October 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So, my plan to open a chain of fast-food burger joints in Tibet and eventually the whole world is on track: Yak-in-a-Box.

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By Maani, September 30, 2011 at 9:07 am Link to this comment

Since we’re on the subject…LOL.

Cannabis hemp was originally a mainstay of the U.S. economy.  It was grown here, and was used for, among other things, clothing, “linen,” our first currency (which was later made from cotton fiber, and then from a mix of cotton and paper), and, perhaps most interestingly, our first national flags.  All were made from hemp fiber.

As for cow shit, it is also the best growing source for psilocybin mushrooms.

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By Mongol Reader, September 30, 2011 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here in Mongolia yaks are one of the major domestic
animals. Overall we have 43 million domestic sheep,
goats, yaks, cows, horses etc for our 2.6 million

It is a DISASTER. The desertification is out of
control. Flora and fauna going extinct. All kinds of
human sicknesses. Yaks are a big part of the problem.

This is why in only three years, the number of people
eating vegetarian and vegan full time and part time
has gone from almost zero to about 300,000 people.

Join Us Please. Do it for reasons of compassion for
all beings, to stop global warming, protect your and
your children’s human health, and, yes, to save

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Gabriel's avatar

By Gabriel, September 30, 2011 at 12:06 am Link to this comment

@ grokker and everyone

There’s one part of husbandry everyone is missing ... and that’s humans.

Ever since the Freemasons / Europeans showed up in the Americas they built their geometric structures, spread like wildfire, brought their destructive animals and plants, decimated the indigenous population - plant and man .. with no regard for anything but themselves.

Now that land, air and water are getting scarce they promote the destruction of everything that’s not of their making. We can clearly see this with so called Immigration .. Indigenous / Native American people are treated as dirt, a thing to be managed by nefarious idiots = Freemasons / Templars / Judeo Egyptian Christian followers.

They know nothing of how to use Indigenous Permaculture to grow food or anything good for that matter.

Furthermore there are many indications they are about to manage the rest of people by mass genocide so only they themselves are left on this planet.

As if they haven’t tried before LOL.
Here are some of their exploits:
AIDS, Hanta Virus, Ebola, H1N1 and related, pathogens added to vaccinations, chem-trails, deforestation, massive corporate farms, mad cow disease, crude oil products, making hemp/cannabis illegal, TSA, IMF, World Food Bank which distributes GMO food, Monsanto and similar, over 2800 labs in USA creating all kinds of pathogens and viruses, crude oil and chemical based fertilizers, microwave ovens, internal combustion engines, central banks and just about everything created for public consumption.

As you can see this is clearly a plan to destroy everything in their path in just about every way possible.

We can see the level of descent by the number of demonstrations around the planet, now including ones of taking over Wall St.

So how do we restore Earth to it’s Natural state?
Create a counter culture that rejects the Elites plans and their whole society, creates Permaculture, uses passive ergonomic technology, expands native fauna, reclaims land air and water, reclaims deserts, expands forests and jungle, provides food for up to 20 Billion people and still be highly respective of nature.

The hippies had it right. Using permaculture a family of 6 can life off 1 acre of land ... and still have much left over to share. Tesla tech can provide free energy to all. Electric and vortex based cars. Wireless can give everyone access to everyone else. Dome buildings can provide comfy homes, better climate control, much stronger structure and easier to maintain.
Eat smaller game than ourselves: rabbits, chickens, deer, fish etc.
And yes, use Hemp / Cannabis as one of the main crops.

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By grokker, September 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm Link to this comment

One factor not often taken into account when considering animal husbandry is the enormous amount of water it takes to produce one pound of meat. Depending on whose statistics you go by, one pound of beef can require 3000 - 5000 gallons of water to produce. This is comparable to taking a 7 minute shower everyday for a year using a low flow shower head at 100 gallons per week times 52 weeks. Potable water is rapidly becoming a scarce commodity in this world. The consumption of animal flesh should be phased out if only for this reason.

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By cwbystache, September 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe the author should stop “yakking” long enough to read what other scientists say outside this mysterious “quorum” he mentions ... “Ranching, Endangered Species, and Urbanization in the Southwest: Species of Capital” by Nathan Sayre of UC Berkeley (he also wrote, “Working Wilderness: The Malpai Borderlands Group and the Future of the Western Range”) would be a start; there are many others.  I wonder what Christopher Ketchum thinks of The Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit to protect that very weed he hates and whose spread he blames on cows, the tamarisk? Seems the organization that is the quintessential hater of the American Cowboy and Cow now considers the “water-greedy” invasive an essential component of the riverine ecosystem of the aridlands if the subspecies, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, is to continue in existence (see, “Eradicating Tamarisk Trees May Endanger a Bird Species”  There is quite the bibliography of works by scientists and working ecologists that might lead one to a different conclusion than this author’s “quorum”.  More and more I think that that what all this is really about, though, is that I get to wake up every day out in these wilds, be with the wildflowers and the migrating warblers (which I can identify down to species by voice alone) and ibis and hummingbirds, hear the Poorwills at night, be horseback and view the canyons and the prairies while I look for strays, smell the pines or the creosote bush (depending on what season, and where I’d be cowboying)—and, well, Christopher Ketcham doesn’t get to, and since he can’t, I expect he doesn’t think anyone else should be allowed to.  Yes I raise cattle, no, I don’t see the post-cowpocalyptic world he here describes though something worse appears the closer I might drive towards the kind of urban area so many armchair “environmentalists” inhabit and from whose messed-up-forever environment they launch their brickbats at me, now they’re comfortable in and can take advantage of a completely artificial world that came to them at the cost of destroying a once-marvellous environment that existed under their house or apartment building. I do often slip in cowshit like a clown on a banana peel the way Ketcham has, though.

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By Gabriel, September 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment

@ MeHere

Not so, politics and politicians have little to do with the actual culprits causing problems world wide. The real culprits are Greed and Quest for Power.

This means it’s Businesses and global Elite that have set an agenda to destroy our planet. They hide behind many layers of investments, claims to property they don’t own, fictitious or made up entities, religion, media, spread of fear, wars, divide and conquer doctrine, etc.

It’s easy for us to stop them:
- stop buying their crap / boycott them
- put them under a microscope
- expose them for liars they are
- blockade their operations
- send their pollution back to them
- shut down their operations
- send them to publicly watched gambling rehab
- use laws already on the books to seize their operations, property and all they have stolen ... especially shut down their Deep Underground Military Bunkers

Most of all , replace their system with a Just one. A system that treats everyone as equals. One that respects Nature and Earth as our primary provider to our existence.

Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness and Justice for All ... and I mean ALL, not only the elites.

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By MeHere, September 29, 2011 at 11:43 am Link to this comment

Switching to yak meat may be a smart thing to do.  But in the end, it is a political
issue. If, for example, one day the big ranchers find that they can do better
business with yaks, they may keep using the public lands to raise them and continue to benefit from legal loopholes—as long as they keep their politicians “well fed.”  It’s the same with the production of other foods.  Until we support the type of leadership that can curtail the use of food packaging, we will keep recycling till we are numb with minimal or zero environmental impact.

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By Leefeller, September 29, 2011 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

Up Yaks and down yurts, bad news for Yaks!

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By BS, September 29, 2011 at 7:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I LOL’D.  Nice opening.

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By tony_opmoc, September 29, 2011 at 6:52 am Link to this comment

I don’t know about American Bullshit, but English Cowshit is Lovely. My wife and I often go walking in the Countryside and have never had a problem with it or the Cows.

Last year one of our favourite fields was full of Dairy Cows. This year it was full of a most beautiful crop of wheat.

Animals are part of the natural order, and humans have been eating them for an exceedingly long time. As long as they are treated well, they never complain.


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By Gabriel, September 29, 2011 at 6:33 am Link to this comment

@ Evolve
Nice addition to collection of facts smile
Here is a better copy:

In order to comprehend the extent of destruction by big business [rape pillage and murder] one must see the rest of documentaries that go along with above linked video, listed in related section. It’s only a start as all businesses that have franchises or are global run on the same destructive principles.

Many savvy users have used Mozilla Firefox and Video Download Helper to build databases of documentaries to watch and study with their kids. Many of these databases fill 10’s to 100’s of very big Hard-drives [1TB to 10TB or larger].

Make sure to also get for your protection while browsing.

Once one watches about 3 months of these a realization happens that opens one’s mind to see close to full Corporate plan for this planet and how to repair their damage.

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By suzanner, September 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You forgot to mention another “undesirable” wild animal that is being decimated
by welfare cattle ranchers-the American Mustang.  1/3 of all wild horses were
removed from their federally protected herd management areas last year by the
BLM at the cost of millions and millions of dollars. We are down to less than
25,000, some say more likely less than 20,000 left. Often thousands of cattle are
moved into the wild horse protected areas as the horses are being trucked off to
long term holding facilities all over the US. 

Only in America do we ship wild horses to cattle pastures and feedlots and let the
cattle roam free on wild horse protected lands.

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By Evolve, September 28, 2011 at 10:05 pm Link to this comment

Before anyone contemplates beef or yak or any other animal protein as a source for nutrition, I strongly suggest viewing Earthlings, a free documentary available on Google, you tube and other sites. 

Warning: it’s not going to be easy; learning the truth is seldom a simple process, but it’s worth viewing every frame.

A number of people refer to Earthlings as the ultimate must-see free movie for meat lovers:

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By Wikileaks for Nobel, September 28, 2011 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

The optimally ecological alternative is vegan.

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Gabriel's avatar

By Gabriel, September 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

@ SoTexGuy
i can’t help it if you’re the one who picked on Cannabis and missed the rest of what i said

besides, there’s no way only “yak” is going to fix the problem of destructive cows. So, plz learn how to read and quit compartmentalizing and start seeing the big picture ... as a full plan to fix it all.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it .. it’s called additional info smile

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By ssupak, September 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

There is a way to raise beef that is beneficial to
the environment. I personally know of many ranchers
(albeit, in upstate NY where it is decidedly not
arid) who’s cattle fertilize the grass that they eat,
and using field rotation, they do not have a weed

In Virginia, to use a famous example, you could learn
a lot on this subject from Joel Salatin, of Polyface
Farms fame, who uses a rotation process that is
extremely beneficial to his environment.

So, the problem is not the cows, but how the ranchers
handle their cows. Huge feed lots are obviously
destructive to the environment, as is over-grazing
(especially on public lands). But there are people
who do this right, whose efforts are actually
helping. And, the grass-fed beef is much healthier.

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By Memory Stick, September 28, 2011 at 11:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Scientists have learned that the active ingredient in Cannabis Oil kills many cancer cells:

Hemp Seed is high in protein and Hemp Oil has Omega 3 acids, the deficiency of which is one of the big reasons so many Americans age early and with so many health problems

Hemp can be used to build a house, feed the inhabitants, clothe them and provide gas for their engines (the first diesel ran on peanut oil)

The USS Constitutions sails were made from Hemp.

In 1942 the US Government made a film called “Hemp for Victory” to motivate US Farmers to grow hemp during the war. (it’s on Youtube)

Many people prefer to remain ignorant and/or ridicule others when finding out what they’ve been told all their lives has been a big helping of balderdash.

It is fun to watch!!

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By SoTexGuy, September 28, 2011 at 10:55 am Link to this comment

For Gabriel ..

No, I don’t know the healthiest babies are born to mothers who use Cannabis, in oil form or otherwise.. and I suspect that there are a lot of people and including health professionals who likewise are unaware of that..

Yet I suggest you view my earlier post as a tribute to the inclusiveness of the TD venue and a plea for this important subject to not be marginalized with personal fringe issues..  Not as an attack on the sacredness of Hemp and Cannabis..

I thought the Herb was supposed to have a calming effect? smile


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By Bacilo de Koch, September 28, 2011 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

LOL!!  What a load of cow pie.

The author obviously has an aversion to the cow after they soiled his socks and
spoiled his hike in the pristine nature.  Maybe he should have stayed in the city.

Yes Christopher.  Cows shit.  As do you.

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Gabriel's avatar

By Gabriel, September 28, 2011 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

@ SoTexGuy

Actually I’m NOT a “Cannabis user”. My info comes from 1,000’s of studies as part of History. But I soon might be if the medical profession can’t figure out an answer for my afflictions due to pollution.

Farmers in my area recommend it and use it for their protection of crops and many other uses. And that’s why I did a lengthy and comprehensive study into it.

Did you know the healthiest babies on Earth, all of Earth, are born to Jamaican mothers that eat Cannabis Oil and are surrounded by it?

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By SoTexGuy, September 28, 2011 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

Only on TD can an informative article on a real problem of human over-
consumption/exploitation of nature become a platform for Cannabis users.

Have fun, play safe.

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Gabriel's avatar

By Gabriel, September 28, 2011 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

This is not the only time in history cattle and domesticated lowland animals have been a problem. Deserts areas of Africa, Middle East and Asia have seen destruction by cattle and tend to be the main cause.

It was the Elites who practiced such husbandry for their own well-being while the rest suffered. Especially during the reign of the Bull. In order not to get killed by their subjects they used Cannabis/Hemp to replenish the land, keep the animals healthy and provide an all around remedy to rest of population.

Once the number of Elites grew so did the population of cattle, but amount of land stayed the same. Milk was the most prized part as it provided for making a potent psychedelic drink.

Bad husbandry has replaced common sense in the Americas as Buffalo and other native animals have been nearly exterminated by nefarious Europeans.

In order to replenish such destruction a plan of permaculture is needed. One of the main plans that can provide the initial natural base for a good layer of compost is Hemp/Cannabis.

Hemp/Cannabis is a bug repellant, it’s own fertilizer, retains water for later use and distribution, grows like mad, provides a canopy and protection for other plans, keeps the local carnivores docile and away from people, and keeps all animals that eat it healthy. It also loves fresh cow shit.

Besides the 1,000’s of remedies for just about anything that may ail an individual it’s a great replacement for today’s destructive industry.
Such as: fiber/rope, concrete construction, Big Oil, Big Pharma, almost all oil products, clothing, fiber grass products, almost anything that you have in your home that’s not metal. And it will do a much better job than what you have now. It will also last much longer.

Hemp/Cannabis cleans up pollution in some very interesting ways. It converts pollutants to benign materials for it’s own use as fertilizer. Over number of years of Hemp/Cannabis growing in an area most pollutants seem to disappear.

Only other option is to kill off ALL high range cattle wherever they are found, to use them as temporary fertilizer, and replace them with indigenous animals to Americas.

The smartest thing would be to use a combination of both ideas.

If we don’t so something properly and immediately we will all die soon from lack of air, food and pollution. Big business and destructive business be damned, this is a matter of life and death for Us and our planet.

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By SoTexGuy, September 28, 2011 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

Good article.. I’m intimately aware of the issues of grazing on public lands. It’s as bad as the author tells us, maybe worse.

Here in Texas of course there is virtually no public land. Yet the cattle industry controls huge swaths of the state. ‘Ranchers’ enjoy laws and tax loopholes and more that work to enrich the industry at the expense of the public.. The same kinds of environmental abuses occur, mostly behind fences that keep out
prying eyes.. with the added plague of many thousands of non-native animals brought in and let out into nature for the exotic trophy business..

Some, like the Nilgai, an 1000LB plus Indian antelope that is very tough and mostly disdainful of fencing.. now roam free in Texas.. on wildlife preserves, parks and private lands as well. A dangerous and destructive nuisance in their own right.

But there’s no stopping it.. Imagine trying to make any changes to this government/business partnership.. Fifty learned researchers, a hundred passionate wilderness lovers and and odd assortment of vegans and animal cruelty people charge Capital Hill.. to be met with just one old cardboard cut out of the Gipper.. in his full cowboy outfit, rearing on the cardboard horse (a Pall Mall in his fingers).. That would be it.. we lose.


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