I am writing in response to an article in the July 8, 2021 issue of your paper titled, ‘How plant-based diets could help prevent the next Covid-19.’
What Mr. Boyer says about reducing contact with animals to prevent zoonotic diseases is true. However, his suggestion that we do this by consuming less meat and more plants in our diets is shortsighted and would have terrible environmental consequences.
I’m surprised that he presented this solution without including the caveat of the environmental threats resulting from the loss of pastures and haylands associated with meat production. These grasslands would be converted to annual crop production to provide the crops for increased plant consumption by humans.
Increased acres of annual crops in our area of Manitoba (southwest) means basically more wheat and canola in two-year rotations, crops which when compared to grassland produce more soil erosion, more flooding with the accompanying runoff pollutants, more greenhouse gases (especially from nitrogen production and application), and more loss of biodiversity from the increased use of insecticides and from habitat loss.
This is not news to those who reside in the country and to those scientists who study these environmental problems. Well-managed pastures and haylands mitigate all of these problems and governments are providing millions of dollars to conservation organizations to promote the retention of grasslands and wetlands.
Mr. Boyer has attempted to provide a simple solution to a complex problem, a solution that would do more harm than good because increased cultivation under current agricultural practices will exacerbate climate warming and the environmental and social chaos resulting from a warmer climate will make Covid-19 look like a walk in the park.
Unfortunately, many share Mr. Boyer’s views and this lack of understanding of the ecological goods and services provided by grazing animals will have dire consequences for our future.