I feel the need to throw in here as I've been on both sides of the coin. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, a partner got me into it and I heard nothing but bad about the way meat was raised and I wanted to minimise suffering created on my behalf so I ate a lot of grains, soy, dairy to copensate( I know right? ). I even spent a year eating nothing but discarded food when I lived in Hobart just to avoid all responsibility my food choices would have on the world.
I then read The Omnivore's Dilemma and the day I finished it I decided that if I ever hit something with my car, I was going to eat it out of respect. That same day I was driving back into Lorinna and hit a huge wallaby and that night after gutting it and cutting it up with Bill's instruction, I ate it's liver and heart. It felt good to take personal responsibility for my actions and I felt like I had reinserted myself into a drama that I had previously wanted to stay out of but the thing is, you cannot remove yourself from it, you can only burden someone else with it.
The further I went down the rabbit hole, the more I learned about the realities of agriculture and realised that meat is not bad, factory farmed meat is bad. Soy and grains are not harmless. Many vegetarian substitute soy for meat and that has seen the destruction of countless millions of acres of rain forest in the Amazon but right here where I currently live, it surrounds me like a sea of bean plants along with the other industrial favourite...corn. The midwest is unrecognisable to what it was only 70 years ago. There used to be countless small, diversified farms growing crops on a rotation along with cattle, pigs, poultry, etc for fertility. Before that it was an oak savannah biome with tall grass prairie under mature trees and dotted with wetlands and lakes. 98.7% of the wetlands have been drained to grow crops. The vast majority of the trees have been cleared to grow crops. Even most organic farms are huge, cleared tracts of land growing crops in a monoculture and although it is less bad than farming with toxic chemicals, the suffering is still there.
Every time a farmer tills a field, the micro flora and fauna are killed at the surface and the carbon that was safely stored in the organic matter in the soil is oxidised into C02 in our atmosphere. The habitat for countless native animals, insects, bird, amphibians is destroyed for the sake of food for humans. This is what annual agriculture is at its base, destroying intact perennial ecosystems to grow food for humans.
There are better ways to grow food at scale, no till planting, using cover crops, rotating with animals to close the fertility loop, growing annuals in alley between fruit and nut trees, etc. These practices are few and far between because there is virtually no premium to the farmer to practice such things as there is a lack of awareness by the consumer to demand them. Every dollar spent on food is a vote and if we as humans aren't going to be responsible for producing our own food, we are consumers and the most power we have as consumers is what you spend your money on. I realise that it's not good enough to simply stop encouraging practices I disagree with by not buying them, I find it far more powerful to put your money toward the things you DO want to see. If people don't want to eat food with the just the least amount of suffering but rather food that is actually helping regenerate the damage done to the land and ecosystems in the past, they need to spend money with farmers taking on that task.
We gave regenerative farming a red hot go here in the belly of the beast (the midwest of the US) but unfortunately due to my father's mental illness and actions, we are no longer able to stay here and farm so we are heading back to Tasmania to continue our path here. I look forward to discussing this further with anyone open to engaging in this incredibly important topic.