The New York Times recently asked—facetiously, we hope—whether the production and consumption of meat is even worthy of discussion anymore, or whether civilization has (allegedly) progressed to the point that we no longer need animal protein in our diets, livestock on our farmland or producers as part of agriculture.
The narrow answer to that question, absurd as it might sound, is yes: Thanks to the advances of science and technology, we can produce a wholesome food supply without relying on the traditional practices of animal husbandry, dairying and the diversified farming that incorporates both livestock and crop production on site.
We used to call that homesteading, and those who practiced were revered as pioneers.
Now, they’re labeled as anachronisms, evildoers, to some, impediments to the nutritional progress that has delivered us from animal agriculture.
Or so the activist community wants us to believe.
Now, as I’ve argued for decades, vegetarianism is like celibacy: Not for everyone, certainly not anything to be labeled as “natural,” but if that’s your choice, God bless. Nothing wrong with choosing to go veggie, but arguing that we must stop eating meat, that we’re somehow ordained to be vegetarians, that’s inaccurate, illogical and contrary to the historical record of the last several millennia.
For example: Look at the great civilizations in history. How did they sustain themselves? What kind of diets did they consume? And how were they able to ascend to such cultural and scientific heights?
The answer to the last question is agriculture. Without a surplus of food produced by both farming and the domestication of livestock, primitive people never attain the ability to divide up the labor and thus benefit from the specialization needed to support the study of the arts and sciences. Historically, those who lived either a hunter-gatherer or a subsistence lifestyle relying on easily available wild foods, spent virtually their entire existence simply providing for their daily fare.
Are animal foods produced from herding and dairying essential to civilization? Look at three examples of how animal foods fed not just people but progress itself.
The Ancient Egyptians. Although they left less of a written record than other, later empires, at its height, from around 3000 B.C. until the rise of the Persians Empire and later the Romans around 600 B.C. During that time, Egypt ruled much of the Middle East, and its leaders were skilled at provisioning not only their own people—thanks in large measure to the rich farmlands along the Nile—but also the hundreds of thousands of captives and slaves used to construct the pyramids and other monuments that stand as testament to their civilization.