Petro’s radical animalism clashes with ancestral knowledge and conservation

“We know that this will take time, it is too progressive a process. But it has to be done. We are indebted for having done this before because we have a very anthropocentric way of relating to animals”, explains Morales.

However, since they published the proposal they have received criticism from environmentalists, scientists and conservation experts.

“Antispeciesism is very individualistic, and biodiversity is not individualistic. If people become vegan and we believe that there is not going to be an impact on biodiversity, it speaks very poorly of the foundation of those concepts,” says Cesar Rojano, veterinarian and coordinator of an anteaters conservation project in Barranquilla.

The risks of the animalist proposal

The proposal in which most of the ideas presented in the document land is to discourage livestock, and that according to the vision of not using or killing animals, could lead to its disappearance. The new model would be based on agro-ecotourism in animal sanctuaries and vegan diets.

For five experts from various areas consulted for this story, what is underlying is a problem about how the relationship between people and animals is conceived. In this case, it is an urban look and in which domestic animals are mainly concerned, but where biodiversity and the relationship that species have with each other are left out.

“For an agrarian, poor and unequal country with so many food security problems, veganism is absurd. With such a culturally diverse country, many communities depend on animal meat,” says Lozano.

According to Dane data, in Colombia 670 thousand families live from livestock. 42 percent of those families are small ranchers with fewer than 10 animals on their farm. At the same time, livestock is the activity that occupies the most land in the country, with 38 thousand hectares according to the ICA. And it is precisely because the land is used without much control for livestock that it is one of the main causes of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

That is why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already said that meat consumption must be discouraged to avoid environmental collapse. And in Colombia, the government and Fedegan himself have raised the need to move to a livestock model that is less harmful to ecosystems, that occupies less land and that coexists with the forests, although there is a lack of mechanisms to ground it. But they have not said that livestock farming must disappear.

In part because doing so would imply enormous logistical challenges in a country with a high dependence on this activity, especially in the poorest regions, and because it could lead to a food crisis worse than that of the 2.4 million people who are already poorly fed, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

“Some human populations are still facing difficulties in overcoming malnutrition, and meeting protein and micronutrient needs from foods of non-animal origin can be very difficult for these populations,” experts from the Humboldt Institute who prepared a report told La Silla. analysis document on the animalist proposal.

What the animal activists are proposing is that livestock activity be changed for agro-ecotourism in animal sanctuaries and that short-cycle economies be promoted, such as legume and vegetable crops.

For Rojano, who lives in Córdoba and works with communities in the north of the country, it is a proposal that goes against the communities, the same ones that Petro put as protagonists in his government plan. And that, as we said, incidentally puts conservation at risk because communities are part of ecosystems and biodiversity.

As experts from the Humboldt Institute explained in the Socioecological Transitions document, people’s relationships with nature are interdependent, and “in this sense, it is necessary to propose biodiversity management explicitly linked to human well-being, to be applied in the middle of the processes of change, which seek to maintain the social, ecological and economic viability of the territory”.

The proposals imply not only a transformation of the agrarian economy, but also to adapt the land that for years has been used for the cultivation of other products.

A concrete example is what it costs to transform a hectare of land in which there are only cattle for one in which there are also trees and some crops, which is still a proposal that already exists. According to the estimates of Felipe Ochoa, a zootechnical expert in livestock, the process could be worth 11 million pesos per hectare.

“In an Andean area it is possible to grow vegetables and legumes, but if you take the short-cycle scenario to the Orinoquía, the Amazon or the Caribbean, it is not possible to grow vegetables and legumes in the way the proposal is conceived. You are moving from food sovereignty to a process of colonizing productivity,” he said.

The proposal of the animalists pretends that in a possible government of Petro there is a census of domestic and street animals, when it has taken years for institutions like Humboldt and the MinAmbiente to make an inventory of our biodiversity.

It is “an environmental ordering around sentience. And it’s problematic because most animal suffering occurs in nature,” says attorney Lozano. Although there is already some consensus on animal suffering, and legal tools to deal with it, “any policy that prohibits animal suffering implies contradicting the ecosystem balance and conservation,” he adds.