Absolutely astonishing

He doesn’t point out that these figures relate to chemical agriculture using artificial fertilisers and pesticides – practices that he later says he doesn’t support. I also made estimates for organic vegan agriculture with green manure being ploughed directly into the soil, and for organic husbandry in which green manure is fed to dairy cows whose manure is composted, while pigs and chickens are substantially fed on food waste. Both systems require about 6.5m hectares of arable land to provide a healthy diet for everyone in the country. The vegan system is slightly more efficient in its land use, while the livestock system provides a more varied diet.

Given the rising cost of artificial fertilisers, the need to stop using the fossil fuels from which they are made, and declining insect populations, the organic option is looking increasingly attractive.

He’s talking about trying to use less land for agriculture. And then recommends organic. Yields per acre in organic are lower. Therefore an organic system must use more land.

He covers this up by talking about “organic vegan” or “organic smallholding”. But that’s not the right way to study the effects of something. To check a variable you hold all other ones constant, then see what happens with your one variable.

Chemical veganism uses less land than organic vegtanism. Chemical smallholding less than organic smallholding. Organic just uses more land.

15 thoughts on “Absolutely astonishing”

  1. “I also made estimates for organic vegan agriculture with green manure being ploughed directly into the soil”

    ‘Green manure’ means growing a cover crop then ploughing that in to the soil before planting the actual crop. Which means a) you’re doing twice the operations and thus using twice the fuel, and b) you either plant the cover crop in the autumn and leave it over the winter and grow a spring crop, in which case you get less yield (spring crops yield less than winter ones) or you plant the green cover in the spring and plant a winter crop after it, in which case you’ve lost a growing season, so your average yield is halved. Either way you end up using more fuel and get less yields, even ignoring the fact that green manures are nowhere as effective as artificial fertilisers in increasing yields.

    “and for organic husbandry in which green manure is fed to dairy cows whose manure is composted”

    I’m struggling to understand what this means. If you feed cover crops to dairy cows its no different in principle to what we do now, which is grow specific crops to feed them, mostly maize and rye grasses for silage. Which have the added advantage that the silage can be stored for all year round use. Whereas a cover crop is only really available in any amount during the summer and maybe early autumn, and in no way has the same amount of feed value as a crop of maize or ryegrass. Your cows are going to be very hungry at best, yielding bugger all milk and probably dead from starvation in winter.

    “Both systems require about 6.5m hectares of arable land to provide a healthy diet for everyone in the country.”

    The words ‘healthy diet’ are doing a lot of lifting in that sentence. What it actually means is ‘everyone gets given a turnip and a cup of grains per day’.

    “Given the rising cost of artificial fertilisers, the need to stop using the fossil fuels from which they are made, and declining insect populations, the organic option is looking increasingly attractive.”

    He obviously doesn’t realise that organic farms often use more fuel per acre than non-organic as they have to do more operations on the land in order to control weeds etc. An organic farm may have to cultivate its land several times in order to both germinate new seeds and destroy existing ones, while a non-organic farm just has one pass with the crop sprayer. Similarly an organic grass farm will have to top its land multiple times a year to control weeds, while a non-organic farm just sprays them with herbicide once every few years.

  2. Exactly who is supposed to do all the work? Who is supposed to quit productive employment making his part of a pin or pencil in favour of subsistence farming?

  3. Any claims that the UK could grow enough food to feed 200 million people are ludicrous.
    “Dig for Victory” combined with strict rationing still required imports to feed, just, a population of 50 million. A vegan diet would mean discarding more than two-thirds of farmland (even if using some land more productive as pasture to grow turnips). So have Fairlie and Monbiot misread the decimal point? Or what?
    Jim will tell me that farming is more efficient now – it is – but ten times as efficient?
    Also no mention of all the dietary supplements needed.

  4. Less land for agriculture of lower yields is not a problem if your population is a quarter the size it currently is, or less. These people are actually serious when they talk about depopulation you know.

  5. “Jim will tell me that farming is more efficient now – it is – but ten times as efficient?”

    It depends on your criteria for judging efficiency. In terms of people employed, I wouldn’t be surprised if UK farming today uses one tenth of the labour farming did during WW2, mainly due to mechanisation and ever increasing size of equipment. In terms of production per acre I severely doubt there has been a 10 times improvement in output. Even without fertilisers and chemicals 80 years ago wheat yields were around 1 tonne/acre. Now they are 4 tops, average probably between 3 and 4. Similar figure would be arrived at for milk production, meat production will have seen lower production gains, as the main improvement in beef and sheep would be genetics – how fast they convert what they eat into body weight. But I doubt it’ll be more than 2-3 times as much meat per cow or sheep as 80 years ago. There will however have been a massive increase in the amount of meat production using grains (pork and chicken mainly) so some of the extra grain productivity will feed through into extra meat production. But thats all factory farming so presumably verboten anyway.

  6. What still isn’t acknowledged is that mass for mass animal protein provides more essential nourishment than plant material. Therefore a considerably larger amount of land will be required to provide enough plant material to replace animal based food, than is required to provide that animal based food. Although producers of vitamin and mineral supplements will do a roaring trade.

    Plus: a lot of animals, sheep, goats, cows, poultry graze on land not suitable for arable farming, therefore that means comparatively even more land will be required.

    And where does the manure come from once we have no more farm animals… Humans I suppose who surely will be producing plenty of it and methane?

  7. @ Jim,
    Thanks!
    Yes, I was forgetting to consider efficiency in terms of production per man rather than just per acre/cow.
    Even so, no way do we get ten times the amount of food from the less than one-third of farmland that is arable.

  8. a lot of animals, sheep, goats, cows, poultry graze on land not suitable for arable farming
    This is bollockios of course, for what do these grazing animals eat but grass, and how is grass not a crop. But suppose this is true then take steps to improve the land.

  9. Try growing corn on Welsh hillsides, Bongo. Also, I am definitely not an expert but I think grass will grow with less encouragement than fruiting crops like wheat?

  10. The non/poorly arable land wouldn’t actually be a problem… Not with modern greenhouses.
    You can produce 24/7/365 in cycles with those, and even grow stuff the soil/climate isn’t suited for, etc. There’s even ones run on recycling fermenters to get a fair part of the necessary nutrients back in to limit the necessary input in “chemical” fertilisers/nutrients.

    There’s the minor thing that the Greens/Ecofascists/Vegans hate them with a passion, and that for us normal folk the actual taste of the produce is …what can be expected of mass production..
    But technically feasible? Yes. Definitely economically feasible.
    And super-doubleplus-bonus points for “Despoiling Nature”.

    The Vegan Ecofascists already have their Solution. They simply don’t want it where they can see it.

  11. “This is bollockios of course, for what do these grazing animals eat but grass, and how is grass not a crop. But suppose this is true then take steps to improve the land.”

    Try planting (and then harvesting) a crop of wheat on the side of Snowdon, then come back to us about exactly where you can and can’t grow arable crops…….

  12. In California a lot of ranching is done in a mixed oak and grass forest. The oaks being a local evergreen species. This naturally leads to beef roasted over an oak fire; very much recommended. This ecosystem exists on steep hillsides, hence the nickname for cattle being “sidehill gougers”. Farming this would be impossible.

  13. As USA proves MMT doesn’t work, Sri Lanka has proved organic farming doesn’t work

    Prince Charles, the WEF quizling who advocates it must be angry. Wrong sort of organic farming? Charlie boy must have been spitting nails as he read out three acts on GM crops in Queen’s speech

    Good piece. Blows holes in establishment msm narrative and sinks it. Not once have msm mentioned straw that broke camel’s back: ban on fertilizer and go green woke organic

    The soul of a people
    .
    Omar Khan with an update on the situation in Sri Lanka, where violence has been prompted in part by the ruinous and authoritarian response to Covid.
    .
    “…and then disastrously overnight banned chemical fertilisers, destroying a harvest, livelihoods, undercutting rubber and decimating the tea industry in literally one fell swoop. We ended up importing rice!
    .
    “…The US and UK have pivoted full throttle to the Ukraine, with the Wall Street Journal suicidally calling on the US to “show it can win a nuclear war.” Really? And what grand global achievement would that be? And by what calculus is that remotely a risk worth running?
    .
    What a world we may be in for! As per CJ Hopkins, “apocalyptic (pseudo) pandemic, intramural proxy wars, climate change hysterics, mandatory gene therapy (for your own good), digital currencies (centrally pulling the plug).” Sounds a tad nutty until you see “liberals” cooing over swastika-tattooed self-proclaimed Nazis now renamed “defenders´ and realising we are in serious Orwellian transition…”
    .
    As the “brilliance” continued unabated, the private sector was meticulously mum. Its outrage though finally grew in overdue stridence as all the bills started coming due,..”
    .
    https://www.ft.lk/columns/The-soul-of-a-people/4-734811

  14. @Bongo

    1. Humans can’t digest grass

    2. Yeah, wheat could be grown on steep slopes, rocky ground etc, but it would have to be sown, nurtured and harvested by hand. Probably agile children

    3. Then, no roads there, wheelbarrow it to road. Greenhouse on hill-side/mountain – same problem

    Better to let animals do the work

    Try thinking before posting

  15. @ Bongo
    Arable land is that suitable for growing crops (to feed human beings).
    Heather and grass do not count as crops in this context

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