Friday, May 21, 2010

Lyman vs. Niman Debate

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, VN Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria, VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig, and VN Chef Chas Chiodo
What: A conversation between former and current cattle ranchers
Where: David Brower Center, Berkeley, Calif.
When: May 20, 2010
Why: Can you be a 'good environmentalist' and still eat meat?

The Scoop: VegNews expanded both its circle of compassion and outreach last night by co-hosting, along with the Earth Island Institute, a conversation between former cattle rancher Howard Lyman and Nicolette Hahn Niman, attorney and wife of rancher Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch.

Ari Derfel, Nicolette Niman, and Howard Lyman

Ari Derfel of Berkeley's Gather Restaurant moderated the debate, held at the Goldman Theatre inside Berkeley's state-of-the-art David Brower Center. The much anticipated, long sold-out event filled the auditorium plus an overflow room, where those lucky enough to get seats watched via closed-circuit TV.

Every seat in the house was filled

More than 90 minutes of facilitated discussion plus a healthy dose of audience Q&A left the equally divided audience with plenty of fodder for thought. Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy and No More Bull!, claimed that the greenhouse gases nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide, inherent in meat production—whether free-range or factory farmed—are destroying the environment and threatening the planet's health. Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop and herself vegetarian, argued that 85 percent of the land used in the US for grazing livestock is unsuitable for growing crops. Both agreed that factory farms, or CAFOs, should be eliminated.

Derfel closed the evening, the first in a series of monthly Thursday night discussions being organized by Earth Island, with what he called a classic Berkeley moment: Where else could you find a former cattle rancher turned vegan activist debate a vegetarian rancher? Probably nowhere, making this educational evening all the better.

Earth Island's Kevin Connelly, Niman, Colleen Holland, Joseph Connelly, and Lyman


Savvy Vegan said...

Hello Joseph and Coleen-
Nice seeing you on the Holistic Health cruise in March. Will there be an opportunity to view or hear the Lyman vs. Niman debate? Thanks- Tofu Cat

Barb said...

Ditto...I too would love to listen to this debate if/when a video is made available. Please keep us informed. Thank you, Barb Dunsmore

Yoga With John said...

Would love to hear the audio, any way to listen in?

p.s. that land unfit for crops is blm land, public lands where wildlife used to roam free... the lands are leased fro tiny sums, and they poison the critters that interfere with the grazing cattle who trash the wild fauna... creating erosion and wastelands...

peace. -j

Alec said...

Thanks for hosting this debate. I'm vegan, but I think we need to reach out to meat eaters and producers too. Too many vegans shutter themselves in self righteousness.

I do think Nyman's arguments are misleading. Nyman-style production represents a miniscule fraction of meat production in America. Meat eaters might hear his views and think that all meat is sustainable. It's not.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty bummed that my seat IN THE THEATER was not guaranteed even though I had purchased my ticket well in advance. The "overflow room" was really where those who didn't get to the event super early were forced to sit, whether or not they had reservations. I noticed about 20% of the super tiny theater's seats had reservation signs on them.

The screen quality in the overflow room was so bad it hurt my eyes.

I agree with Alec that Niman's remarks were misleading. I found it troubling that the moderator didn't facilitate factual discussion; he seemed more interested in coddling Niman.

All in all, a disappointing event.