Industrial farming is driving the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, says leading academic
Industrial agriculture is bringing about the mass extinction of life on Earth, according to a leading academic. Professor Raj Patel said mass deforestation to clear the ground for single crops like palm oil and soy, the creation of vast dead zones in the sea by fertiliser and other chemicals, and the pillaging of fishing grounds to make feed for livestock show giant corporations can not be trusted to produce food for the world.
Asked what people could do “as a consumer” to try to avoid contributing to such problems, Prof Patel said people needed to think on a bigger scale.
“‘As a consumer’ you are only allowing yourself a range of action. ‘As a consumer’ you can buy something that’s local and sustainable, that’s labelled as organic or fair trade,” he said.
“But ‘as a consumer’, you don’t get to do a whole lot of good. As a citizen, as a decent person, you can demand more from your government, from one’s employer, from yourself.
“Be more aware of your power as part of a society where we can change things. We have this power to change things in the future. What we have to do is make that change.”
He said some people thought being a vegetarian avoided contributing to the extinction crisis.
“I’m vegetarian but it’s not enough. If you are vegetarian and you walk around with your halo of virtue but you are eating tofu that comes from Brazilian soy, then you’re just as complicit in all of this as if you are eating the beef fed on Brazilian soy,” Prof Patel said.
Vegetarianism did not provide a “pure and simple” route out of the problem.
“Capitalism is involved. The capitalist will take your vegetarianism and make money from it with the same kind of techniques they’ve honed in meat manufacture,” he said.
Instead, Prof Patel argued it was time to switch to a world in which resources were shared and looked after, harking back to the days when people had access to common land.