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A reader from Abilene, Texas has a lab-grown bone to pick with me. I’m not sure I buy all of this, but it makes for interesting reading:

Jonah,

You wrote:

“After all, the suffering of farm animals would be sharply curtailed if not eliminated. Forests wouldn’t need to be cleared for cattle and billions(?) of acres of forest land around the world could be allowed to revert to wilderness, improving the quality of our air and water.”

Please tell me this was tongue in cheek.

If, on the outside chance that you really do see things this way, I have two words for you….

Apical Dominance.

This is a term all conservatives should know about when discussing environmental issues such as overgrazing, deforestation etc.

Let me describe it briefly. In most plants there is a thing called a node. This is the place that new stems or leaves sprout from. In the tip of leaves, there is a region which produces a hormone which suppresses new growth in the node that its attached to. When you clip off the end of the leaf, that hormone is is temporarily removed from the plant’s system, and growth at the base node is no longer suppressed. In shorthand, this is why the grass you plant in your yard spreads runners more actively when you mow it often.

Why does this matter? Because this happens in nature when herds of ungulates graze on grassland. Grass reproduces through either sexual or vegatative means. Since grazing forms the principal stimulus to vegatative reproduction via the interruption of apical dominance, the absence of grazing actually impedes the propogation of plant species.

The bad science of modern environmentalism doesn’t discern between grazing and overgrazing, one of which is good and necessary, the other obviously bad. In any case, the idea that if cattle were removed from the environment, air and water quality would axiomatically improve, is, bullshit. Which as you know has its own merits. In fact, the elimination of grazing, which seems to be the objective of a lot of folks, would actually cause the damage that is cited as a reason to eliminate it.

Further, anyone that studies rangeland will tell you that tallgrass prairies contain a significantly broader diversity of life than an old growth forest, mainly because of the arboreal shade which prevents low growing species to flourish.If you want to improve the biodiversity of a forest, by all means cut it down every now and then.

As for the suffering of farm animals, consider this. Whenever you go outside at night in a cold winter rain in D.C. remember that there are millions of farm animals that live outside in such conditions all the time, registering no complaints. If you seriously consider the daily life of a cow or a hog (and everyone should from time to time!) you’d have to conclude that a modern feedlot, ugly as it is to your average city folk, is like a night at the Plaza for these critters. In fact, anyone who spends much time around cattle or hogs knows that to the extent they can exhibit what we would call happiness, you’ll see it no more clearly than when they are in front of a feed trough awaiting execution.

Have a nice new year. Reading your stuff has been a wonderful addition to my 2002.




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