General AR Philosophy
Agenda for a New America
The Politics of Vegetarianism
By Vasu Murti
Author of: They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy
Chapter 7 - Conflict and Hunger
Competition for food has inevitably led to conflict and this struggle for survival has been a significant factor in the history of organized warfare. In this respect, meat-eating may be regarded as either the underlying cause of armed conflict or at least one of several factors contributing to the exacerbation of a pre-existing problem. The reason why meat, in particular, has created such problems is that the practice of raising livestock requires a much greater use of resources. The basic problem is simply that people are forced to compete with animals for food--a most precarious situation when food is in short supply.
Half the world's population does not receive an adequate amount of food to eat. Ten to twenty million die annually of hunger and its effects. The Institute for Food and Development Policy reports that, "Forty thousand children starve to death on this planet every day," or one child every two seconds.
The livestock population of the United States today consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire human population of the country. We feed these animals over 80% of the corn we grow, and over 95% of the oats. Less than half the harvested agricultural acreage in the United States is used to grow food for people. Most of it is used to grow livestock feed.
Ronald J. Sider, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, points out that 220 million Americans are eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain-fed livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.
The world's cattle alone, not to mention pigs and chickens, consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people--nearly double the entire human population of the planet. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. According to Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. That same acre of land, if used to grow cattlefeed, can produce less than 165 pounds of beef.
In his book, The Hungry Planet, Georg Bergstrom points out that protein.-starved underdeveloped nations export more protein to wealthy nations than they receive. He calls this "the protein swindle." Ninety percent of the world's fish meal catch, for example, is exported to rich countries. One-third of Africa's peanut crop winds up in the stomachs of European livestock. Half the world's cereal crop is fed to livestock and the United States annually imports one million tons of vegetable protein from Third World nations--just to feed its farm animals.
Bergstrom writes: "Sometimes one wonders how many Americans and Western Europeans have grasped the fact that quite a few of their beef steaks, quarts of milk, dozens of eggs, and hundreds of broilers are the result, not of their agriculture, but of the approximately two million metric tons of protein, mostly of high quality, which astute Western businessmen channel away from the needy and hungry."
Jeremy Rifkin, author of a dozen influential books and President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, writes in his 1992 bestseller Beyond Beef:
"Cattle and other livestock are devouring much of the grain produced on the planet. It need be emphasized that this is a new phenomenon, unlike anything ever experienced before."
"Contrary to popular belief, the poor are getting poorer each year...Increased poverty has meant increased malnutrition. On the African continent, nearly one in every four human beings is malnourished. In Latin America, nearly one out of every seven people goes to bed hungry each night. In Asia and the Pacific, 28 percent of the people border on starvation, experiencing the gnawing pain of a perpetual hunger."
"In the Near East, one in ten people is underfed. Chronic hunger now affects upwards of 1.3 billion people, according to the world Health Organization--a statistic all the more striking in a world where one third of all the grain produced is being fed to cattle and other livestock. Never before in human history has such a large percentage of our species--nearly 25 percent--been malnourished."
"The transition of world agriculture from food grain to feed grains represents an...evil whose consequences may be far greater and longer lasting than any past examples of violence inflicted by men against their fellow human beings."
In the 1970s, United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim said that the food consumption of the rich Countries is the key cause of hunger around the world. The United Nations has recommended that the wealthy nations cut down on their meat consumption. According to Buckminster Fuller, there are enough resources at present to feed, clothe, house and educate every human being on the planet at American middle class standards. The Institute for Food and Development Policy has shown that there is no country in the world in which the people cannot feed themselves from their own resources.
Moreover, there is no correlation between land density and hunger. China has twice as many people per cultivated acre as India, yet less of a hunger problem. Bangladesh has just one-half the people per cultivated acre that Taiwan has, yet Taiwan has no starvation, while Bangladesh has one of the highest rates in the world. The most densely populated countries in the world today are not India and Bangladesh, but Holland and Japan.
Chapter 8 - Economics and Control
The food industry takes in over $150 billion every year--more than the auto, steel, or oil industries. This industry is dominated by a few, giant multinational corporations, who possess extensive political control. Multinationals are buying more land. A study of over 83 countries reveals that just over 3% of landholders control about 80 percent of the farmland.
The Worldwatch Institute has released a remarkable report entitled Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment, which lists nation after nation where food deprivation has followed the switch from a grain-based diet to a meat-based one.
Most of the nations that now import grain from the United States were once self-sufficient in grain. The main reason they aren't is the rise in meat production and consumption. In Taiwan, for example, per capita consumption of meat and eggs increased 600 percent from 1950 to 1990. With this change, vastly increased amounts of grain have gone to livestock, raising the annual per capita grain use in the country from 375 pounds to 858 pounds. In 1950, Taiwan was a grain exporter; in 1990 the nation imported, mostly for feed, 74 percent of the grain it used.
In mainland China, the situation is similar. Increased meat consumption has meant less grain available to feed people. Since 1978, meat consumption has more than doubled, to twenty-four kilograms. The share of Chinese grain fed to livestock rose from 7 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 1990.
Beginning over 300 years ago, the Western Colonialist powers established the plantation system in their subject lands. The plantation's sole purpose was to produce wealth for the colonizers - tobacco, rubber, cotton, tea, coffee, cocoa, etc.--all of which had little or no nutritional value. The name subsequently giver to them, "cash crops," is quite appropriate.
Cash Crops became established in world trade, so that even after their emancipation from formal colonial control, Third World countries were "economically hooked" on these crops as their only means of survival. Coffee, for example, the second most valuable commodity in world trade, is the economic lifeblood of fourteen developing countries. Coffee symbolizes millions of acres of agricultural land in a hungry world.
In Central America, Where over 70% of the children are hungry, 50% of the land is used for "cash Crops" (such as lilies). While multinational corporations use the best land to grow their cash crops (coffee, tea, tobacco, exotic foods), the natives are forced to use slopes and eroded land on which it is difficult to grow food.
Since 1960, the rumble of landless people in Central America has multiplied fourfold. American aid goes to prop up Latin America's livestock industry. According to economist Bruce Rich: "No other single commodity in developing countries has ever received such extraordinary outside support."
Nor does this support benefit the impoverished. Over half Of Latin America's beef production is exported, and the rest is too expensive for any but the wealthy to purchase. From 1960 to 1980 beef exports from El Salvador increases over sixfold.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of small farmers lost their livelihood and were pushed off their land. Today, 72 percent of all Salvadoran infants are underfed.
In Brazil, major portions of the Amazon tropical rain forests have been destroyed so that wealthy multinational corporations can produce beef for the wealthy. Corporations such as Volkswagen, Nestle, Mitsubishi, Liquigas, King Ranch, and Swift-Eckrich have bulldozed and burned literally hundreds of millions of acres, replacing the world's oldest and richest ecosystems, home to two million or more species of plant and animal life with a single crop--pasture grass for cattle. And here, the beef produced has not gone to feed hungry Brazilians; it has been primarily exported to Western Europe, the Middle East, and North America. In 1987, the United States imported three hundred million pounds of meat from countries in Central and South America.
With the help of international lending institutions, Brazil has mounted an enormous effort to increase agricultural production, but this has been primarily meat-oriented production and for export. Twenty-five years ago, soybeans were almost nonexistent or Brazil. Today, this crop is the nation's number one export--but almost all of it goes to feed Japanese and European livestock. Twenty five years ago, one third of the Brazilian population suffered from malnutrition. Today, the figure has risen to two thirds.
Oxfam, the international charity, reports that in Brazil huge cattle ranches take up some of the most fertile soil in the whole country, yet 60 percent of Brazilians are malnourished. Oxfam estimates that in Mexico, 80 percent of the children in rural areas are undernourished, yet the livestock are fed more grain than the human population eats! The livestock are exported of course, to satisfy the developed nations' craving for cheap hamburgers.
Only thirty years ago, sorghum was almost unknown in Mexico. But by 1980, it covered literally twice the acreage of wheat. Sorghum isn't grown for humans. It is fed to livestock. Twenty-five years ago, livestock consumed only 6 percent of Mexico's grain. Today, the figure is over 50 percent. This is a trend throughout the Third World. Copying the United States' meat-oriented diet, these poor countries devote increasing percentages of their resources to meat production.
In Mexico, land that was once used for growing corn for Mexicans is now used for the production of fancy vegetables for U.S. citizens; the profit is 20 times greater. Hundreds of thousands of former farmers have found themselves landless. Unable to compete with the large landowners, they first lease their land to make at least some money from it; the next step is to work for the big firms; finally, they find themselves migrant workers, roaming in search of work so their families can survive. Such conditions have led to repeated waves of rebellion.
Throughout Latin America, land availability is a prominent social issue. Revolutionaries as well as reform-minded moderates have made land reform a major issue. Yet in many Latin American countries, forests are being leveled in order to create pastures for cattle grazing land. In a region where land availability is a central social issue, existing land is being gobbled up by livestock agriculture. The resulting social tensions have resulted in civil wars, repression and violence.
In 1975, Columbia's best soil was used to produce 18 million dollars of flowers. Carnations brought 80 times greater profit than did the former crop, wheat. Our food security is not being threatened by the prolific, hungry masses, but by elites that profit by the concentration and internationalization of control of food resources. In Guatemala, 75 percent of the children under five years of age are undernourished. Yet, every year Guatemala exports 40 million pounds of meat to the United States. It borders on the Criminal!
Chapter 9 - Why Hunger?
Many of us believe that hunger exists because there's not enough food to go around. But as Frances Moore Lappe' and her anti-hunger organization Food First! have shown, the real cause of hunger is a scarcity of justice, not a scarcity of food.
Hunger is really a social disease caused by the unjust, inefficient and wasteful control of food. In Costa Rica, beef production quadrupled between 1960 and 1980, but almost all this beef is exported to the United States, and what does stay in he country is eaten by a tiny minority. Though more and more Costa Rican land is being turned over to meat production, the population is not eating more meat for the change. The average family in Costa Rica eats less meat than the average American housecat.
In country after country the pattern is repeated. Livestock industries are consuming feed to such an extent that now almost all Third World nations must import grain. Seventy-five percent of Third World imports of corn, barley, sorghum, and oats are fed to animals, not to people. In country after country, the demand for meat among the rich is Squeezing out staple production for the poor.
The same trend can be found in the Middle East and North Africa--increases in grain-fed livestock require more imported feed. Twenty years ago, Egypt was self-sufficient in grain. Then, livestock ate only 10 percent of the nation's grain. Today, livestock consume 36 percent of Egypt's grain. As a result, Egypt must now import eight million tons of grain every year.
Twenty-five years ago, Syria was a barley exporter. But in the intervening years, livestock has consumed increasing amounts of the country's grain. Now, despite a phenomenal 1,000 percent increase in the land area devoted to producing barley, Syria must import the cereal.
Because of its reliance on livestock agriculture, Israel's economy depends heavily on groundwater use. You can't make the desert bloom through sheer hard work; it requires water. Today Israel is heavily dependent on water from the West Bank, and the Israeli press is full of talk of retaining the West Bank in order to protect water supplies from encroaching Arab wells. One analyst gloomily concludes that the water in the West Bank region--which the Israelis captured from the Arabs in the 1967 war--is "fast becoming the most ominous obstacle to any peaceful settlement in the region."
Any economy that relies on meat production is in serious trouble. Any social system which persists in putting an emphasis on meat production will be progressively weakened until it as destroyed or until its policies are changed. The amount of time which will pass before a serious social disaster sets in, of course, will vary from region to region. In the case of the United Stages, which still has abundant agriculture resources, there are probably many decades left. In the case of Africa, the disaster is there today.
Regardless of social system or ideology, any country that emphasizes meat production is going to make its food situation worse. In the richer nations, food may simply become somewhat more costly. If the livestock industry is subsidized by the government--as is the case in both the United States and the Soviet Union--then other areas of the economy may suffer, as they are sacrificed go keep agriculture afloat. In the poorer nations, food may become unavailable to many and starvation may result.
In Ethiopia and Mozambique, we have two cases of very poor countries which have relied heavily on livestock agriculture with tragic results. In both countries, thousands have died and tens of thousands more are in danger of dying. In both countries, livestock agriculture has played a key role in crippling the ability of the food system to produce food. Ecological disaster is not new in Africa. Northern Africa, once the granary of the Roman Empire, was reduced to a barren wasteland by the pastoral nomads which entered the area after the Empire's collapse. The march of the Sahara desert southward, preceded by large herds of livestock animals, has been observed for decades. Numerous independent observers have confirmed that soil erosion today is rampant in Africa. The destruction has been savage. Fifty years ago, 40% of Ethiopia was covered with trees, while only 2% to 4% is covered with trees today.
So the famine in Ethiopia during the 1980s should not have been a surprise. Many blamed the drought, the civil war, or governmental incompetence in pushing the country over the edge into starvation; and certainly these factors played a role. but we cannot ignore the ecological realities which are the underlying conditions responsible for Ethiopia's getting to the brink of disaster in the first place. Overgrazing by cattle has played a key role in Ethiopia's decline.
Incredibly, while the people are starving, Ethiopia today has a larger livestock population than any other country in Africa, though it is only ninth in total land area!
Similar problems have affected Mozambique. Here we have a country which recently liberated itself from colonialism. Yet Mozambique then proceeded to import beef from abroad to satisfy the demands of the urban elite for meat. Perhaps even worse, they are intensifying their production of corn--one of the most erosive of all plant foods--and feeding it to their cattle! This is a recipe for disaster and a most depressing pattern throughout many third world countries. They throw out colonialism, but they keep or even intensify the colonial system of food production
Chapter 10 - Meat and Water
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are also experiencing serious problems related to meat production. In Poland, prior to the worker's riots in 1979 over rising meat prices, the per capita meat consumption was nearly as high as it was in the United States. In 1979 the government allowed the price of meat to rise, and the workers expressed their intense dissatisfaction.
Meat consumption has placed a severe strain on the Polish economy; the Polish economy simply cannot sustain the level of meat consumption which approaches the "American" level. The Commonwealth of Independent States' well-publicized agricultural difficulties only arise because it tries to feed its citizens a Western-type diet high in meat and animal products. The former Soviet Union would not have the slightest difficulty in feeding itself from its own resources, but grain has to be imported for their cattle.
Most news reports on shortages and hunger in the former Soviet Union emphasize the lack of meat, which is really an unnecessary luxury and not a necessity. Meat consumption has severely aggravated the country's problems. In 1991, Worldwatch noted: "Since 1950, meat consumption has tripled and feed consumption quadrupled. Use of grain for feed surpassed direct human consumption in 1964 and has been rising ever since. Soviet livestock now eat three times as much grain as Soviet Citizens. Grain imports have soared, going from near zero in 1970 to twenty-four million tons in 1990, and the USSR is now the world's second largest grain importer."
Development funds have irrigated the desert in Senegal so that multinational firms can grow eggplant and mangos for air-freighting to Europe's best tables. In Haiti, the majority of peasants struggle for survival by trying to grow food on mountain slopes of a 45 degree incline or more. They say they are exiles from their birthright--some of the world's richest agricultural land. These lands now belong to a handful of elite; cattle are flown in by U.S. firms for grazing and re-exported to franchised hamburger restaurants.
And what about the United States? Half the water consumed in the U. S. goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock. Huge amounts of water are also used to wash away their excrement. In fact, U. S. livestock produce twenty times as much excrement as does the entire human population, creating sewage which is ten to several hundred times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage. Animal wastes cause ten times more water pollution than does the U. S. human population; the meat industry causes three times more harmful organic water pollution than the rest of the nation's industries combined.
Meat producers are the number one industrial polluters in our nation, contributing to half the water pollution in the United States. The water that goes into a thousand-pound steer could float a destroyer. It takes twenty-five gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, but twenty-five hundred gallons to produce a pound of meat. If these costs weren't subsidized by the American taxpayers, hamburger meat would be $35 per pound!
The burden of subsidizing the California meat industry costs taxpayers $24 billion. Livestock producers are California's biggest consumers of water. Every tax dollar the state doles out to livestock producers costs taxpayers over seven dollars in lost wages, higher living costs and reduced business income. Seventeen western states have enough water supplies to support economies and populations twice as large as the present.
Overgrazing of cattle leads to topsoil erosion, turning once-arable land into desert. We lose four million acres of topsoil each year and eighty-five percent of this loss is directly caused by raising livestock. To replace the soil we've lost, we're destroying our forests. Since 1967, the rate of deforestation in the U. S. has been one acre every five seconds. For each acre cleared in urbanization, seven are cleared for grazing or growing livestock feed.
One-third of all raw materials in the U. S. are consumed by the livestock industry and it takes one hundred times more fossil fuel energy to produce meat than it does to produce plant foods. A report on the energy crisis in Scientific American warned: "The trends in meat consumption and energy consumption are on a collision course."
Just in the last twenty years alone, Texas has used up one-quarter of its entire supply of ground water. Most of that water was used to grow sorghum to feed cattle. Half the nations grain-fed beef is produced in the High Plains regions of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico.
The enormous amount of water needed for this share of meat production comes from the Ogallala Aquifer. Fifty years ago, the great Ogallala Aquifer remained virtually inviolate, hardly touched by the amount of water being pumped out of her enormous reservoirs. But with the advent of factory farming and feedlot beef, the amount of water drawn from the Ogallala has risen dramatically. At present, over 13 trillion gallons of water are taken from this aquifer every year, and the vast majority of that is used to produce meat.
It took nature millions of years to form the great Ogallala Aquifer. And she still contains as much water as any of the Great Lakes. But the American meat habit is taking its toll on this priceless wonder of nature. Water tables are dropping precipitously. Wells are going dry. And water resource experts are estimating that at the current rate of water consumption, the Ogallala Aquifer may be exhausted in 35 years. If this happens, the High Plains of the United States will be completely uninhabitable to human beings.
Chapter 11 - Violence
Meat-eating contributes to the fear in the world by putting us in a position in which there is not enough to go around. But that's not all. Meat-eaters ingest residues of the animal's biochemical response to the horrors of the Slaughterhouse. Programmed to fight or flee when in danger for their lives, the animals react to the slaughterhouse in sheer terror. Powerful biochemical agents are secreted that pump through their bloodstreams and onto their flesh, energizing them to fight or flee for their lives.
Like screaming air rain sirens, these chemical agents produce instinctual panic. Today's slaughterhouses virtually guarantee that the animals will die in terror.
The Maoris would eat the flesh of a slaughtered enemy in order to possess the enemy's courage and strength. The people of the lower Nubia, likewise, would eat the fox, believing that by so doing, they would be possessed of his cunning. In upper Egypt, the heart of the hoopoe bird was eaten in order to acquire the ability to become a clever scribe. The bird would be caught and its heart would be torn out and eaten while it was still alive. On the other hand, certain Native American tribes would not eat the flesh of an animal who died in fear, because they did not want to take into themselves the terror of such an animal.
When we eat animals who have died violent deaths we literally eat their fear. We take in biochemical agents designed by nature to tell an animal that its life is in the gravest danger, and it must either fight or flee for its life. And then, in our wars and our daily lives, we give expression to the panic in which the animals we have eater died.
"Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they look upon the murder of man."
---Leonardo da Vinci
Chapter 12 - Historical Comparisons
According to Howard Lyman, former Senior lobbyist for the National Farmers Union, "Family farmers are victims of public policy that gives preference to feeding animals over feeding people. This has encouraged the cheap grain policy of this nation and has made the beef cartel the biggest hog at the trough."
The Bible contains numerous examples of conflict situations that are directly attributable to the practice of raising livestock, including contested water rights, bitter competition for grazing areas, and friction between agriculturalists and nomadic herdsmen. The more settled agricultural communities deeply resented the intrusion of nomadic tribes with their large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. These animals were considered a menace. Aside from the threat to the crops themselves, large herds of livestock caused much damage to the general quality of the land as a result of over grazing.
It was ostensibly for this reason that the Philistines, whose primary agricultural pursuits were corn and orchards, sought to discourage nomadic herdsmen from using their territory by filling in many of the wells in the surrounding area. One of the earliest accounts of strife among the herdsmen themselves is found in the story of Lot and Abram:
"And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together; for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle." (Genesis 13:5-7)
Abram moved Westward to a region known as Canaan, while Lot journeyed to the east, finally settling in Sodom. Such peaceful agreements, however, were not always possible. There are several references in the Bible to clashes between the Israelites and Midianites. The Midianites were wealthy Bedouin traders who owned large numbers of livestock, as did the Israelites, who brought their herds with them when they left Egypt.
Livestock require vast areas of land for grazing. They also need water, which has never been abundant in that region of the world. The strain thus placed on the land's resources is mentioned in Judges 6:4: "And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth."
The depletion of resources created by the people arid livestock moving into this territory is described in Judges 6:5 by a singularly appropriate simile: "For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers." Another passage informs us that after a particularly vicious battle with the Midianites the Israelites augmented their herds with the livestock of their slain captives. This included 675,000 sheep and more than 72,000 beeves.
A strikingly frank reference to the casual relationship between flesh eating and war, in terms of land use, is found in Deuteronomy 12:20: "When the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, 'I will eat flesh,' because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after." (See also Numbers 31:32-33)
A similar straightforward reference to the relationship between flesh eating and war can be found in Plato's Republic. In a dialogue with Glaucon, Socrates extols the peace and happiness what come to people eating a vegetarian diet: "And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them."
Glaucon remains skeptical that people would be satisfied with such fare. He asserts that people will desire the "ordinary conveniences of life," including animal flesh. Socrates then proceeds to stock the once ideal state with swineherds, huntsmen, and "cattle in great number." The dialogue continues:
"...and there will be animal's of many other kinds, if people eat them?"
"And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before? "
"And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?"
"Then a slice of our neighbor's land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?"
"That, Socrates, will be inevitable."
"And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?"
"Most certainly," Glaucon replies.
Critics of Plato, reading the rest of the Republic, have complained that what Plato gives us is a militaristic or proto-fascist state, with censorship and a rigidly controlled economy. Plato would hardly disagree with these critics; what they have overlooked is that the state which he describes is not his idea--it is merely a consequence of Glaucon's requirements which Socrates himself disavows. Greed for meat, among other things, produced the character of the second state Plato describes.
The history of the European spice trade would seem to suggest that there is indeed a relationship between war and large-scale consumer demand for foods not required by what Plato refers to as "natural want." Spices were of vital importance to meat preparation before the process of mechanical refrigeration was developed in the 20th century, meat was usually preserved by the process of salting. Using various combinations of spices to offset the saltiness of meat, thus making it palatable, became a popular practice in medieval Europe.
The demand for spices was a significant factor in European colonial endeavors. Competition intensified, contributing to the exacerbation of serious disputes that already existed among various European nations. Efforts in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Dutch, Portuguese, English and French to expand their spice trade resulted in warfare, as well as the subjugation of native peoples by these imperialist powers.
Shepherds have traditionally been depicted in both art and religious and secular literature as a peaceable lot. However, there were inevitable disputes between farmers and shepherds over territorial rights. This Situation was aggravated by the fact that sheep posed an even greater threat to the land than cattle because they clipped grass closer to the ground, sometimes tearing it out by the roots. The Spanish sheepowner's guild known as the Mesta dominated Spain's political affairs for several centuries (AD 1200-1500) and was the source of much internal strife within that country.
The Mesta's sheep not only destroyed pastureland by overgrazing but were also allowed to rampage through cultivated fields. The peasant farmers could hardly expect the monarchy to rectify this injustice since sheep raising dominated medieval Spanish commerce and was the government's principal source of revenue during this period.
There was considerable animosity among shepherds, cattlemen and crop farmers in 19th-century America. The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged more people to settle in the West. The very nature of livestock raising in the United States at that time required vast areas of land for grazing and moving the animals along designated trails to their final destinations. Hence the proliferation of farming communities became a serious threat to the livestock industry. This situation became worse when the farmers put up barbed-wire fences, a practice that began in the 1880s.
Aside from the conflict between livestock herders and farmers, there were bitter feuds between cattlemen and sheepmen, including such conflicts as the "Tonto Basin War" in Arizona, the "Holbrook War" in Montana, the "Blue Mountain War" in Colorado and the "Big Horn Basin Feud" in Montana.