By Ricardo Restrepo and Francois Houtart
Food production impacts three fundamental areas. The first is the nutrition of an expanding humanity that transforms its diet with social changes. In the year 2050, a world population of between 8 and 9 billion people can be expected (Soubbotina and Sheram 2000, 16). On the other hand, the urbanization process (FAO, 2013: 4) is transforming the diet, with more consumption of legumes and meat and less of grains (Charvet 2012, 24-25). Second, the production of food impacts on the regeneration or not of the planet in its life cycles that allow its ecosystems to last over time. It is obviously not the only sector, but it has a central role in the conservation, restoration, or not, of soils, water, air, biodiversity and ecosystems. Finally, food production has an impact on the well-being of the subjects of rights that make up the sector.
In this work we develop some considerations about a particular food sector, that of meat, within the framework of Good Living. We will do so in reference to Ecuador, because this country, in its Constitution, insists on the need to respect nature and its rights within the framework of Good Living. We will also make allusions to other regions of Latin America, in particular Brazil and the Amazon rainforest. We will focus centrally on the less explored aspects of coincidental relevance between livestock as a productive base of the alimentary practice of eating meat, and the rights of nature. We will argue that the livestock sector goes against Good Living, because it is a main threat to the sustainability of the planet and respect for animal rights.
The general framework of Good Living and the rights of nature in the Constitution of Ecuador
Good Living is often said to be an alternative ethical paradigm, incorporated in the Constitution of Montecristi. This paradigm has humans at its center, but not only humans, but the rest of nature. Although the Rights of Good Living in the Constitution are a version of a selection of human rights that appear in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is normally believed that Good Living is a biocentric or pachamamic paradigm that takes inspiration from ancestral wisdom to face contemporary problems of racism, discrimination, violence and planetary crises.
The Constitution of Ecuador recognizes the rights of nature, as part of its biocentric guarantee vision. Article 71 of the Constitution says "Nature or Pacha Mama, where life is reproduced and carried out, has the right to have its existence fully respected and the maintenance and regeneration of its vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes." And Article 73 orders that "The State shall apply precautionary and restriction measures for activities that may lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems or the permanent alteration of natural cycles."
Likewise, article 83.6 says that- "The duties and responsibilities of Ecuadorian women and men, without prejudice to others provided for in the Constitution and the law, are: Respect the rights of nature, preserve a healthy environment and use natural resources in a rational, sustainable and sustainable ”.
And article 275 orders that “Good living will require that people, communities, peoples and nationalities effectively enjoy their rights, and exercise responsibilities within the framework of interculturality, respect for their diversity, and harmonious coexistence with nature. . "
According to article 280 of the Constitution, the current National Development Plan for Good Living is mandatory for the public sector. In this Plan, policy 12.2f prioritizes "Promoting international discussion around the Declaration of the Rights of Nature." In its current version in article 3.1.11, it is established “All human beings are responsible for respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth; Human beings, all States, and all public and private institutions must: promote and support practices of respect for Mother Earth and all the beings that compose it ”.
Food practices and promotion of livestock
All these concepts and imperatives contrast strongly with the economic practices and the diet of the people, not only in Ecuador, but also in the rest of the world.
The meat industry has the uniqueness that it can be considered the most polluting in the world and the most destructive of ecosystems: the strongest contributor to the global climate and ecological crisis. Global warming caused by greenhouse gases is one of the main threats to humanity and the planet (Houtart 2012). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we continue to emit CO2 as we are going, we will find the ecological ruin of the planet by the middle of the 2030s. The difference between now and a death of the current ecology of the planet, is the difference between 400 parts of CO2 per million and 405 parts of CO2 per million; or a rise of just 2 degrees Celsius (Mann 2014). The warming is due both to the emission of CO2 or equivalents, as well as the destruction of forests that capture these gases. According to the UN FAO (2006, xxi), 18% of the greenhouse gases emitted globally are from livestock. This is 38% more than the entire transport sector as a whole (cars, ships, airplanes, etc., that is 13%). Already in 2009 the Agroénergie book warned:
Livestock is also one of the main culprits of the aggressions suffered by the environment ... This activity is responsible for 65% of the emissions of nitrogen hemioxide, to the global warming potential, 296 times higher than CO2 and is essentially attributable to manure. In addition, cattle produce 37% of the methane emissions, resulting from the anaerobic fermentation of organic matter in the course of the digestive activity of ruminants. In addition, this gas is 23 times more harmful than CO2. The emission figures attributable to livestock would be 70 million tons of greenhouse gases per year (Houtart 2009 / 2014ª, 39-40).
According to a World Watch study, FAO's calculations in this case are an underestimate because they do not include another 25 million tonnes attributable to the production of food animals. Taking this into account, the meat production sector is responsible for 51% of CO2 emissions (World Watch 2009; Taylor 2012). This is mainly because forests, including the Amazon, are in great danger due to cattle ranching. In the last 40 years, 20% of the Amazon has been cut down (Wallace). In March 2015, on the occasion of the international day for the protection of the rainforest, the FAO declared that if the situation did not change, in 40 years time, the Amazon rainforest would no longer exist, but a savanna with some forests.
According to the same source, 70% of the destruction of forests in Latin America is due to the livestock industry, both for pastures as well as for monocultures that produce food for cows and other animals that humans consume. Pimental and Pimental (2003) state that it normally takes 43 kilos of grain (13) and yerba (30) to produce a single kilo of meat. It takes 100 times more water to produce a kilo of animal protein than a kilo of vegetable protein. Organic is not much better. It takes 90 times more water to produce a kilo of organic animal protein than a kilo of vegetable protein (Pimentel and Pimentel 2007; Robinson 2014) and twice the area per ton (Robinson 2014). Livestock constitutes, by far, the number one threat to the Amazon, its biodiversity, its fundamental role in regulating and sustaining the planet, as well as the ancestral cultures that inhabit it. Therefore, it is also a sector that violates the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador.
2.1 The situation in Ecuador
The growing domestic demand for meat was between 1990 and 2008 the main pressure in the Southern Amazon, Manabí Norte-Esmeraldas Sur and Manabí Centro del Ecuador (Castro et al. 2013: V).
Castro et al. (2013) shows the increase in demand, especially for meat, that drives the expansion of livestock in Ecuador. In 2015, the country had 4.5 million head of cattle.
Castro et al. (2013) shows the location of the main livestock pressure on the Ecuadorian Amazon and Coast.
The elimination of 1,870 square kilometers of sustenance for millions of animals due to deforestation for livestock between 1990-2008 (Castro et al. 2013: vi), fits into a general pattern of deforestation in the country mainly driven by livestock and locating Ecuador among the countries with the highest deforestation rates in South America (Mosandl, Günter, Stimm, and Weber 2008).
Citing Wunder (2000), Mosandl, Günter, Stimm, and Weber (2008) state that Ecuador originally had 90% of its territory covered by forest. Citing the FAO, these authors indicate that by 2005, only 39% of their territory was covered by forests (FAO 2006b), which is equivalent to a reduction of 57% of their forests. From 1972 to 1989 cattle pastures expanded by an equivalent of 38,000 km2 (Wunder 2000), which is equivalent to almost all the forest loss in Ecuador during this time (Mosandl, Günter, Stimm and Weber, 2008: 39). Based on data from Sierra (2013: 4) between 1990 and 2008, 1,052 km2 of forest are lost per year in Ecuador. Of these, 968.62 km2 per year are allocated to the aggregate of "Agriculture and livestock". According to the figures of Livestock Policies 03 (p. 3) of the FAO, of the deforested area in Ecuador at this time for agriculture and livestock, 82% is for livestock, which is equivalent to 794.2 km2. In conclusion, livestock is responsible for 75.5% of deforestation in Ecuador, placing the responsibility of this sector slightly higher than the regional rate of 70%. This phenomenon has been accompanied by an increase of 153,400 cows and bulls between 2001 and 2008 that eventually pass through the 180 slaughterhouses in Ecuador for the consumption of the national human species (Castro et al. 2013, 65). In the country, 940,000 cows and bulls are killed per year (El Telégrafo, 2014). Could the destruction of ecosystems and large-scale slaughter be compatible with Good Living? The meat sector constitutes the greatest large-scale violence by one species against others and is perhaps the greatest obstacle to Good Living and with it to a “constitutional state of rights and justice” (Article 1. Constitution of Ecuador).
In 2015, the country began importing bovine breeders from Paraguay and the United States to increase and improve its livestock production, without much concern for the consequences for the ecology and for the various forms of peasant family farming. In fact, the distribution of land in Ecuador is the second most unequal in Latin America. There was no agrarian reform that fundamentally changes inequality. The extension of monocultures and livestock is carried out at the cost, on the one hand of deforestation and on the other hand of reduction of small production units (Agrarian Revolution 2011; Houtart 2014b).
In addition, a source from the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries informs us that the improvements of the breeds will serve large herds and not small farmers who have one or two animals. An export of meat and milk is expected, especially in potential markets, such as Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama, Russia and Peru (El Telégrafo, 05.29.15). The sector will thus contribute to the New Productive Matrix, increasing the State's resources for its public and social investment policies.
The situation of the Amazon
20% of the Amazon has been deforested. Coe et al. (2013) shows the geographic location of deforestation.
Below we see the different proportional contributions of the causes of deforestation in the Amazon, represented in the Brazilian region.
World Resources Center (2012).
We frequently focus on fuels or palm cultivation as threats to the Amazon. However, we see that for Brazil, where most of the Amazon is located, the destruction by livestock is 139 times worse than the extraction of non-renewable fuels. Similarly, while 26 million acres of forest have been cleared for palm oil worldwide (USDA 2013), 136 million acres (214,000 square miles) of forest have been cleared for ranching (Butler 2009). In other words, livestock is a problem 423% more serious than palm for oil.
Meat, hunger and the destruction of nature
Some ancestral communities that live traditionally may argue that their forms of food, which include the meat they hunt, are part of the ecosystem. For the rest of the human beings, who eat cows and have the option of acquiring their food without this violence, the argument does not apply. It is worth specifying that someone poor who is lucky if he finds something to eat cannot be required to leave out meat. This is your only option. Again, this argument does not apply to the rest who eat cow and have a choice. In fact, if more food than is currently grown for cows would be allocated to the 2.2 billion poor in the world (World Bank 2015) or 770 million hungry people (FAO 2014), the problem of poverty. It is notable that the livestock sector is a fundamental cause of destruction of the planet through the destruction of forests and the emission of CO2. By 2030, estimates are that 50% of the Amazon forest, home to 40,000 species of plants, 427 of mammals (for example, the jaguar, anteater and giant otter), 1,300 of birds (for example) will disappear. , eagle, toucan and hoatzin harpies), 378 reptiles (eg, the boa), more than 400 amphibians (eg, poison frogs) and around 3,000 freshwater fish (Da Silva et al., 2005; Lewinsohn TM and Prado PI, 2005). The pattern of livestock production and consumption leads the world to the sixth mass extinction of species, from which the human species is not immune (Ceballos, Ehrlich, Barnosky, García, Pringle and Palmer, 2015).
Another common argument is that we are like the lion, the wolf or the shark, whose nature is to eat meat, which contributes to the sustainability of ecological processes. This could be a suggestion that someone may derive from George Monbiot's documentary How Wolves Change Rivers, where the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone strengthened the entire ecosystem.
However, the first incorrect element of this argument is to think that everything natural is justified, even if it can be understood in ecological terms. For example, our evolutionary history has created capacities in human beings to wage war, enslave, rape, murder other people, and eat other people. Not because evolutionarily we have generated these capacities is it okay for us to use them. In fact, probably everyone who reads this article agrees that wars of aggression, slavery, rape, murder, and cannibalism are activities that should be prohibited and avoided, even though our species has used them in the past. and in some cases they continue to be used (1).
There are two key differences between humans on the one hand, and lions, sharks, and wolves, on the other. One, that the former have no choice but to eat meat. Their brain configuration does not allow them to change their nutrition practices in this regard. Second, they play an important role in regulating and maintaining the ecosystem through their eating practices. In the case of human beings, the practices of eating meat are a fundamental cause of the destruction of the planetary ecosystem.
Knowledge about the effects of animal husbandry on the planet has not yet entered close enough into global ecological consciousness. For example, the Encyclical of Pope Francis, very clear for the defense of the "common home" does not refer to this factor.
Likewise, in their book Nature with Rights: From Philosophy to Politics, edited by Alberto Acosta and Esperanza Martínez, they establish the purpose of descending from theory to practice. About livestock Acosta says:
On the other hand, in the Rights of Nature the center is placed on Nature, which certainly includes the human being. Nature is worth by itself, regardless of the utility or uses that human beings give it. This is what a biocentric vision represents. These rights do not defend an untouched Nature, which leads us, for example, to stop having crops, fishing or livestock. These rights defend the maintenance of life systems, life groups. Their attention is focused on ecosystems, collectivities, not individuals. You can eat meat, fish and grains, for example, as long as I make sure that ecosystems remain functioning with their native species (Acosta 2011: 353-4).
It must be considered that the data of the reality of large-scale livestock farming and its preponderance in the destruction of Nature, the argument of being able to eat meat without damaging the ecosystems is quite theoretical. In practice, the prevalent type of large-scale livestock farming is the main factor in the destruction of ecologies, and based on deforestation data, it has been and is much more destructive of Nature than oil extraction. Almost always, the decision between eating meat or not is between eating meat from that type of livestock or not. If by ecological values it seems important to move to an economy not based on oil, the same values should guide the transition to a diet not based on the consumption of animals.
4. From Good Living to animal rights
In addition to concerns about ecology, another aspect of the production of the license must also be added, namely the treatment of the animals themselves. Various ways of understanding animals as subjects of rights against torture, violence and death have developed. From this perspective, the problem is not only the possibility of regeneration of the planet, but also the destruction of beings that deserve respect as subjects of rights with a certain level of consciousness, sensitivities and interests. From utilitarian perspectives, for example, the most influential now is the work of Peter Singer (1975) with his book Animal Liberation. For utilitarianism, happiness is the fundamental good and happiness is calculated taking into account the balance between harm, suffering or dissatisfaction of preferences and well-being in any situation. The harm, suffering or satisfaction of preferences among all must count equally. Since the damage, suffering and dissatisfaction of the most basic preferences of animals are severely applied to them with the meat industry, for little use for homo sapiens, the right thing to do is not to continue doing so. Eugenio Zaffaroni (2012), with his La Pacha Mama y el humano, in Latin America is an important thinker in this sense. The interpretation of rights in the Constitution of Ecuador, from the capabilities approach, has had an important influence. For this reason, the work of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum is integrated into the National Development Plans. For them, the central issue of justice is that the capacities of individuals and groups flourish. When a social system truncates its flourishing, there is an injustice.
In this perspective, the collective rights of the animals with which we interact are not important only from the perspective of the collective right of the species to exist. Individual rights are also important. The cannibal could claim that as long as other humans remain to reproduce, the rights of nature, which includes humans, would not be violated. Like violence against other humans, violence against these subjects of sensitivity, interests, rights and capacities, of other species, must be avoided.
In 2011, through the Popular Consultation, Ecuador banned performing art that involved the death of an animal in its purpose, thus eliminating the death of bulls in bullfights. The justification for this prohibition is that it involves sacrificing a subject with the capacity for suffering, interests and sensitivity for the trivial interest of humans to see the show. Similarly, taking into account that there are plant options for healthy human nutrition, it is necessary to move to the elimination of meat from the human diet since this food practice is based on the trivial interest of a flavor that can be substituted.
Good Living in the Constitution is one of the most famous concepts of Ecuadorian constitutionalism. Perhaps for this reason too, it is one of the most enigmatic and about which a lot is now theorized. While there is substantial disagreement among people who are attracted to this concept, a few things are common:
- Not only the human being and his interests must be considered when making decisions
- There are other subjects of rights that matter, especially in the biological world
- We are one more species among other species that evolution has generated
- Aspire to live in a world with harmony between species
- It aspires to live in peace and harmony with nature, for the indefinite prolongation of human cultures and biodiversity (Ramírez 2012: 17)
- Aspire to live without violence (Huanacuni 2015).
Respect for homo sapiens derives fundamentally from the recognition that we are beings with sensitivity, interests, the capacity for happiness, suffering and sociability. With this, a foundation is found to avoid the domination of one gender over another and one race or ethnic group over another, domination that has generated the oppression of women, gender diversities, slavery, wars of extermination and aggression, and the Holocaust. . But this rationale for respecting certain populations also applies to many other beings of other species, evidenced by the similarities in their neurological and behavioral bases. The cow, the pig and the shellfish writhe in suffering with the shot in the head, the slaughter, the drowning and exsanguination that precedes human dinners.
In both utilitarian and capacity frameworks as well as Good Living, the decency capacity of human beings prevails to treat these subjects as members of other “nations” sharing the planet. This implies changing behaviors that involve the destruction of life-sustaining ecosystems as well as violence against the 7,000 animals that “developed” human beings consume on average in life. In the United States, the number of land animals that are killed to meet domestic consumption is more than 7 billion.
This table indicates the number of animals euthanized for US consumption in 2013 alone, with figures from USDA (2014a; 2014b) and Counting Animals 2015).
Prospects for a food change consistent with respect for the rights of nature
In this work we have explored aspects of a central food practice of humans, the production and consumption of meat, in light of its impacts on the ecology of the planet in the ethical framework of Good Living suggested by the Constitution of Ecuador. We suggest, based on the most reliable data available, that this practice is highly violative of the rights of nature recognized in the Constitution of Ecuador and deserves urgent treatment since it is the main destroyer of forests in Latin America, as well as emitter of greenhouse gases, which the best estimates estimate will cause more and more serious damage for all. Likewise, we suggest that the Good Living framework invites us to think of other animals as subjects of rights, not only as species but as individuals, which constitutes another powerful reason to change the prevalent practice of eating meat.
In any country in the world right now, a government that bans meat food and production would be quickly overthrown. However, the government can and should implement policies that do not encourage this practice, that discourage it, that report on its origins and consequences, that suggest and encourage alternatives. When people are sufficiently sensitized, a democratic government that believes in justice must, just as it has done with killing bulls for show, prohibit them from being killed for their taste.
Notes: 1 Thornhill and Palmer (2001) in their Natural History of Rape trace the evolutionary role of rape. Would we change our ethical criteria if that study is true and suddenly defend the right of men to rape women? Of course we will do better to adopt attitudes, actions, and policies that prevent men's sexual domination over women, regardless of this story.
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