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 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.
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