Origin of the current conversation: An exploration of the animal/plant divide

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Contemporary agricultural and dietary narratives often – and
increasingly so – represent plant-derived foods as mostly beneficial
whereas animal source foods are depicted as mostly harmful.
Yet, both sides of this poorly informative plant/animal binary
represent a very large and heterogeneous food group, of which
the elements can be either benign or harmful from an ethical,
environmental, and/or health perspective. It is unhelpful, therefore,
to base opinion (or worse, public policy) on such simplistic
categorisation. Doing so may distract from addressing some of
the urgent challenges related to the production of plants (for
example, with respect to water scarcity or biodiversity losses
due to monoculture cropping), while unjustifiably vilifying the
animal husbandry systems at the more sustainable side of the
spectrum. The latter is counterproductive, as such systems not
only have net benign impacts on the environment and provide
ecosystem services, but they also contribute to the production
of foods that (1) are rich in important nutrients (many of which
are more difficult to obtain from plants and are already creating
worldwide deficiencies), (2) allow for the upcycling of inedible
materials and valorisation of food waste, (3) have important
cultural significance, and (4) create livelihoods. That being
said, the livestock sector will obviously also need to intelligently
confront a wide range of problematic practices that are currently
undermining the sustainability of future food systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-47
Number of pages3
JournalNew Zealand Science Review
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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