When political leaders around the globe are getting on board the clean energy train why is Tony Abbott still on the coal train?.

Just as there is love at first sight between people, there can be love at first sight between a person and a place.

 A landscape is more than a location, it is one party in a relationship – Vaclav Cílek ,

Coming from a farming family that supplies 50,000 Australians with the milk for their breakfast every day we have come to realise that farming is so much more than food and fibre production. It’s nature that sustains us and our cows.  When Nature thrives we thrive..

Cows walking home Clover Hill

We live in a world that is becoming more and more aware of our environmental impact and we realise that what our family love doing could damage the pristine rainforest we were surrounded by.

We see our role as a food and fibre producer and custodians of the land is to ensure the people we employ, the people we feed and Mother Nature and the animals in our care have a voice

We realise for nature to thrive we had to be prepared to evolve just like nature

As farmers whether we own or lease the land we farm on we have a responsibility to plan for the legacy we want to leave behind. Until we have a plan, a legacy is only a good intention.

For the last ten years I have been accessing funding and expertise for multiple land holders in my region to help them leave the legacy they will be proud of

Along the way I have met many people with very different ideas on what their legacy looks like and how much time and effort and personal funding they are prepared to put into it.

As I put the final touches on the latest partnership report I am seriously despairing about what the current federal government think their land stewardship legacy will look like.

Banksia (1)

I have the joy of working with people like Erin Lake as young person passionate about our landscape 

Renae Marcus and Megan

The dedicated bush regeneration team Michael Andrews CEG  (28)

Regeneration work as part of the project   Michael Andrews CEG  (40)

Protecting the endangered Illawarra Zieria (Zieria granulata)

Michael Andrews CEG  (30)

.and the  Illawarra Socketwood (Daphnandra johnsonii),

Megan

and filming our work to share with the world

I am with the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy on this one and our politicians need to start acting in the interests of the people they represent.

This is what Kelly had to say here

Most Australians want to do the right thing for the environment, but we are seriously lacking in political leadership on protecting nature, life and our shared future.

There are ….local climate action groups working with councils and businesses to reduce their impact on the planet. … Landcare groups restoring creeks and replanting trees on degraded land. …. solar panels going up on rooftops all over Australia. (Did you know one in five Australian households now has solar power?)

….  we should celebrate these acts of leadership which are actively creating a better future.

If only our political leaders would follow suit. Unfortunately political inaction is holding us all back. In fact, some political decisions are driving environmental destruction.

Australia’s environment has never needed a helping hand like it does now. Yet, more than ever, our leaders are turning their backs on our natural places.

…. politicians are making decisions that go against the interests of the people. And right now across Australia decisions affecting our future are being made.

The good news is clean energy is here, ready and waiting, and other countries are deploying it at a fast and furious pace. We just need the political will in this country to move towards a clean and safe future.

At a national level we desperately need multi-partisan support for strong climate change action, after all, it will take more than one term of government and therefore more than one political party to solve climate change.

Most political leaders around the globe are getting on board the clean energy train. It makes me wonder why our Prime Minister is still on the coal train.

I think one of the most important ways to tackle Australia’s environmental challenges is to raise the voices of people in this country who love nature and who want a safe future for their family and friends. That pretty much describes all of us.

Like Kelly my aim is to make it so that our political leaders find it impossible to ignore these concerns.

Surely they can see the management decisions they make now will have impacts far into the future. Surely they care. I look forward to them showing me they do

Want to join me and take a stand and Keep Australia Great Sign the petition here 

Keep Australia Great#aimhigher

Innovators and first followers are a special breed we should all celebrate

Being a dairy farmer can be extraordinarily rewarding but there is no denying its 24/7 and you just can’t turn the cows off and shut up shop and go on holiday whenever you want to.

So just imagine if a technology came along that milked the cows for you.

Well it has – bring on the robots courtesy of the highly innovative team at Future Dairy at Sydney University

Cows that milk themselves voluntarily with the help of robots is only one example of the many technologies that are available to our dairy farmers. At the moment there are 34 robotic milking farms in Australia (with at least another 8 being installed).

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Robotic Rotary Dairy

This represents a total of 135 robots milking around 9,100 cows, producing almost 50 million litres of milk per year. A small proportion of the Australian dairy industry (9.2 billion litres), but definitely growing in interest and adoption.

The average Automatic Milking System (AMS) farm has 268 cows milked through 4 robots (range of 110 and 2 robots to 550 and 8 robots).

These AMS installations cover every commercially available type in Australia (two brands offering single box robots, two brands offering multi box robots and one brand offering the robotic rotary).

The AMS operate across a range of farming system types from grazing with some supplementary grain feeding (82% of farms) to farms where all the cows are housed (12% of farms).

Ciows supplementary feeding

Cows live the luxury life with access to supplementary feed under shelter

Every dairy state in Australia has farmers that are currently operating with AMS and farmer discussion groups where they can share their trials and tribulations and success stories have been established in Victoria and Tasmania as well as the NSW Dairy Innovation Group which discusses all things technology and innovation.

There is no denying the gutsy early adopter farmers should be applauded as new technology invariably comes at a large capital cost with a high new technology frustration cost and a small group of vocal detractors sitting in the wings waiting with glee for you to go broke.

Different farmers adopt technologies for different reasons. So it’s imperative that farmers achieve the expectations behind the technology adoption and there is no denying expectations need to be the right ones too!! Check out the Future Dairy’s Case Studies.

Imagine how excited our industry is to hear the Future Dairy team is in the running for Australia’s most prestigious science accolade The Eureka Prize

Innovators and first followers are a special breed we should all celebrate – the bright minds who wake up every day with big ideas to change the way we live, work and play and the brave people who the test the waters and help the innovators get it right for the rest of us.

Change is hard

I must admit when I played a big role in the management decisions at Clover Hill there were so many times we were tempted to get on board with some of these new technology breakthroughs that were thwarted by lack of funds, lack of room, lack of IT knowledge ad infinitum but never a lack of desire to get the best outcomes for our cows, our team,our business and the land we have stewardship of

Innovators and Early Adopters, both work hand-in-hand to bring new technology into use. Innovators are the great thinkers in the realm of technology; they create the latest and greatest, cutting edge technology, while Early Adopters can see what the Innovators have created, and find the practical application of the new technology and begin using the Innovators’ creations and applying their ideas.

I sit in the stands and watch with fascination and loudly cheer on all the early technology adopter farmers in our dairy industry.

You are a gutsy bunch of people and you deserve every success and you couldn’t have a better support network than the team at Future Dairy

Also hearty congratulations to Professor Snow Barlow another legend in agriculture for his selection as a Eureka Prize finalist

Thanks to Dr Nico Lyons for his assistance with the data in this article

Early adopter farmers are agriculture’s biggest threat

This year as part of The Archibull Prize students in schools across NSW and QLD are studying and reflecting on the biggest challenges facing agriculture in this country.

We have told the teachers and students those challenges are:

  • Climate Change
  • Declining natural resources
  • Food and Fashion Waste
  • Biosecurity

We have left out the most immediate challenge and the most important because the program itself by default addresses this

That problem is consumers are increasingly concerned about the way their food and fibre is produced

Surveys continually back up the following

Consumers want  Safe, affordable and healthy food

Consumers are concerned about

1. environment

2. animal welfare

3. chemicals in food

4. Farmers ability to make a living

I have dedicated the last ten years and the next 20 years of my life to showing consumers that they can have faith in the way food and fibre is produced in this country

I am lucky enough to work with a wonderful team of supporting partners and advocates helping me do this including agriculture’s rising stars

The biggest barrier to achieving major gains in building trust with consumers is our farmers themselves. There is a culture in agriculture that values quiet achievers and frowns upon being proud and loud

Too often I hear those early adopter quiet achievers say that the farmers talking in the media do not represent the majority and are not walking the talk whilst they are at home doing what they do best and don’t need to share it.

Let me tell you early adopter quiet achievers. You are the biggest threat to agriculture in this country and I put it to most of you that like me ten years ago you are very proud of what you do and would be delighted to talk about it if you had the confidence and skill sets to do so.

I have spent the last ten years building my confidence and skills sets and now help others by sharing my journey and providing them with the same technical experts that I was lucky enough to have access to.

Let me share with you what I believe the problem is.

You can break farmers up into the following demographics

  1. Innovators
  2. Early adopters
  3. Early Majority
  4. Late Majority
  5. Laggards

Interestingly enough you can break consumers up into the same demographics. Looking at mainstream technology – love this graph but can’t understand why it wasn’t the girls who were the innovators. See postscript

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In agriculture the early adopters get their information from the experts and other farmers follow by having conversations with and witnessing the successes of the early adopters. We have all heard the stats –  9 out 10 farmers learn from other farmers.

Agriculture’s big problem is early adopter consumers have great difficulty accessing agricultural experts or early adopter farmers prepared to share their journey so they get their information from the internet. In a lot of cases that’s a very scary thought. Dissemination of information in the community occurs in just the same way as it does in the farming community. Early adopters (or thought leaders) are highly respected by their peers and listen to what they say.

So I rest my case. Like it or not Early Adopter Farmers is time to come out from behind the bushel and it you were like me and want to build your confidence and skills sets –  lobby the organisations you pay levies to for the access to technical experts to help you Because in reality this is the only way you can save your fellow farmers from extinction.

Self driven extinction by our lack of across the board acknowledgment that the consumer is King and Queen and without their support we are wasting our time and money and our physical and emotional energy

Postscript.

I just love twitter my question as to why girls weren’t the innovators re the iPhone the brains trust on Twitter tells me and you will love this-  its because boys watch porn online that’s why they are innovators. Bit confused but amused

Now there is a research topic for the scientists – Online porn the driver of innovation

Agriculture to sell hope not despair

When given the choice between hope and despair, it is a fact that hope is the attitude most likely to support, encourage, and even create a positive outcome. Despair energizes only the things we fear.

When I was looking for a graphic to help tell this story I came across this very compelling image and I am still in two minds as to whether it’s too confronting (will ruminate on this)

garden_of_hope_and_despair_by_virgard-d30cadx

Garden of Hope and Despair by Virgard 

From an early age growing up on the farm I learnt that too often agriculture sells despair in preference to hope and as I grew older and more committed to giving back to the landscape that feeds and clothes us I found myself gravitating towards people in the natural resource management sector who always sell hope.

Agriculture is changing the way it portrays itself and that change is being driven by our many bright minds coming up through the ranks in Gen X&Y agrifood and fibre

Rural and social entrepreneur Josh Gilbert who is also Chair of NSW Young Farmers is a great example of a young person in our sector who is selling hope and raking in the rewards for both himself and the sector at large

Josh is now looking for agriculture’s rockstars to join him in spreading the great stories of agriculture that inspire while fostering innovation and breaking down the existing silo’s within agriculture via his newest venture Tractor Talks.

Tractor Talks

Tractor Talks is a really great opportunity to showcase people who have new and exciting ideas and are leading the way and can inspire others. We need a huge shift away from the negative culture stereotypical stories that hinder progression, new thinking and self-pride.

It’s a great platform to listen to on the go and I really hope it serves as an incubator for agricultural innovation. I want a beef farmer to hear what an oyster grower is doing and think- we could apply something similar in our industry. I want a young farmer to hear that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that people have succeeded from similar backgrounds. And what I really want most is for the podcast to help draw people together, as one united industry right around the world…… says Josh

To kick-start his journey and give him added confidence that others believe in his ideas Josh has been announced as a 2015 Young Social Pioneers (YSP) scholarship awardee for Tractor Talks. You can listen to the first episode HERE

Via this article in The Land

Passionate youth agriculture advocate Josh says  “Tractor Talks is designed to tell agriculture’s exciting stories and encourage other farmers with innovative ideas and great stories to get involved and be stars of their own success stories,” Josh said.

Now on  iTunes the Tractor Talks podcast will feature interviews with successful and inspiring agricultural professionals, exploring their motivations, industry visions and practical tips for farmers across a broad range of business and farming topics.

Josh’s YSP scholarship, sponsored by Optus, will see him take part in three residential touchpoints in Sydney. Alongside 49 other Pioneers he’ll connect with experts who provide support to amplify Tractor Talks, build networks of support and develop business skills and capabilities to drive a successful, purpose-driven venture.

The program is an initiative of The Foundation for Young Australians and supports Australia’s best and brightest emerging young change-makers: social innovators, thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

Josh said the networking, mentoring and the chance to take home $10,000 in seed funding make the scholarship a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“There is also the opportunity to get nationwide publicity, which is essential in sharing great agricultural stories with our consumers and the world,” he said.

Josh is looking forward to being inspired at the touchpoint sessions.

“I think it’s going to be a great way to ensure that Tractor Talks remains relatable to the general public, while also keeping the agricultural messages and tips at the podcast’s core,” he said.

“Connecting with 49 great minds from across the country is more than I could have ever wished for. This makes the whole course a great experience, along with the opportunity to change aspects of Australian life and be a part of the exciting Australian start-up scene.”

The first Tractor Talks podcast will showcase Liverpool Plains farmers and founders of ‘The Conscious Farmer’ beef brand Derek and Kirrily Blomfield.

Josh is a role model to all generations in agriculture, his passion, commitment and motivation is something we can all aspire to. He recognises the importance of and grabs every opportunity to cultivate influential community partnerships for the best outcomes for youth in agriculture.

Josh is selling hope and the world is buying .

CALL TO ACTION: If you know one of agriculture’s rockstars whose story will inspire others by featuring on Tractor Talks Josh wants to talk to you

Contact Josh Gilbert

Email: contact@gilbertjoshuam.com

Mobile: 0432 260 024.

Twitter:    #agrockstars

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TractorTalks/

#Meantweets. Farmers unite and celebrate – don’t give the bullies oxygen

Twitter can be great fun and yesterday I was enjoying some great cheeky banter between our dairy farmer tweeps and their networks when some-one send me a twitter feed with the comment “I see the bullies are at it again”.  It appears there was a side conversation happening.

Twitter can also be sad. Because of these side conversations there are a lot of wonderful people who are small farmers or farmer supporters who don’t feel welcome or feel they will be attacked in these side conversations. These disenfranchised people become twitter watchers rather than active participants so everyone else on twitter misses out on the wealth of knowledge they could share with us

Some-one else who saw the side conversation sent me this wonderful post Am I a Farmer.

I am reblogging it today as my tribute to all of those wonderful people who support farmers. The bullies will never go away. They live in their own little world where they self justify but please be assured the rest of us salute our passionate supporters

Everyone who loves the land and advocates for a a fair return on investment for the people who feed,clothe and put a roof over our heads has skin in the game. Today Savvy Farm girl helps celebrate your selfless contributions

Savvy Farm Girl blogs here and below is a reprint of her post Am I a farmer

This question, or a variation of it, has been posed to me multiple times over the past month, and it seems like a day hasn’t gone by I haven’t thought about it: “Do you consider yourself a farmer?”

At the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Conference in Toronto last month I was asked the question by a young woman in the audience. I responded, “yes, for the most part I do,” then continued to elaborate as to why I felt this way.

In many of the circles I frequent day-to-day, whether it be at work or with friends, I am as much a farmer as my parents, brothers, and my farming friends (real and online). In fact, I may be the only “farmer” they know. Many farmers likely have friends like this. My friends don’t know so much about the specifics of farming, but they know I do and if they want to know about dairy or grain farming, I’m the person they ask. They definitely don’t care that my income is not derived from the farm. Some have visited our farm after knowing how much I care about it, and they saw the same passion in my family. For them, knowledge and passion might be enough to justify why I fit the term.

Yet, for farmers it seems to be different. It feels like there are those among us that believe unless you earn your living from the land directly, you don’t “deserve” to call yourself a farmer. It leads to an “impostor syndrome” of its own. Even if I work with farmers in my job, if my family is all farming, I spend most weekends there, helping in the barn or field, I read almost exclusively about the agriculture industry and think of nearly nothing else; I am not a farmer in the eyes of other farmers.

Why do we do this to each other? Is it because we think you must have “skin in the game” to truly understand or care about the industry? Or are we just scared? Scared those who have time to commit to an industry may indeed make an impact and cause it to change? Status quo is so comfortable and farmers are often so busy with the day-to-day, there is little time to challenge it.

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This is exactly why my family has empowered me to speak on their behalf. I’m not on the farm everyday and if I was, I couldn’t do what I do or it would be exceptionally harder. For more reasons than just having the time too; physically, our farm is located further from the “hub” of Ontario agriculture than many others are and rural broadband can be unreliable. My parents also taught us to do what we love and for me, it’s all about talking – public speaking, networking, socializing, debating. I love them all. I’m not sure our cows nor my brothers would care for me to be at the farm everyday. Usually, they’re done listening to me after a weekend.

At the end of the day, “farmer” is still a label. It’s more than an occupation, because it also encompasses a lifestyle and a connection to the land many of us will never shake, but it is still a label. For me, it’s more important I uphold the values which were instilled in me growing up on a farm and do work which betters the lives of farmers I grew up with and the community I grew up in. This betterment could take many forms, but if my talents are used to their fullest by telling my farm story and speaking up for other farmers in pursuit of common goals, isn’t that what’s more important anyway? The income stream is just a means to achieve a goal and should not define who we are

Who is Savvy Farm Girl – you can read all about the wonderful and gutsy Jen Christie here

Who is Savvy Farmgirl?

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My name is Jen Christie. Thank you for checking out Savvy Farmgirl!

I grew up on a dairy and grain farm outside a small, rural Ontario town. As a kid, before I could head off to swimming lessons or the movies, the barn chores had to be done, the rocks picked or the hay unloaded. The work wasn’t easy but at the end of the day, it was rewarding to know you had accomplished something and we saw the fruits of our labour daily on the dinner table. Today, our 6th generation family farm is a busy spot, and I enjoy spending my free time there in the barn with the cows or in the tractor cab in the field.

So, that’s the farm girl. What about the savvy part?

I love marketing. I love networking. I love social media. I love challenging the status quo.

In my undergrad, I lived the mantra; “don’t let your schoolwork get in the way of your education.” I didn’t get it all right, but when other students went to the Agri-Marketing Conference competition in the U.S. to compete and party, I went to meet industry marketing leaders and be enlightened by the speakers. I learned about social media at one of those events before Twitter probably even existed.

These events gave me a deeper appreciation for marketing and cultured my fascination with branding. Working for one of the most widely known brands in the world, let alone, agriculture, allows me to see brand power at work everyday.

For me, social media’s power is amplifying brand promises. Hiding behind an avatar online is even more difficult than it is to hide behind a glossy advertisement. Those who aren’t leveraging social media are being passed in the marketplace by those who are connecting with customers who want to do business with them. Understanding that it’s no longer possible to be perceived as the best, brands literally have to be the best at what they do in the eyes of those who love them is creating a great opportunity in every industry today. Including agriculture.

For me, this means constantly challenging the status quo in agriculture. We can always be better and there is literally nothing that can’t be improved in our industry. When I decided to go back to school for my EMBA and my father asked why, my response was; “If I’m not going forward, I’m going backward.”

This mindset has created an insatiable curiosity about the definition of sustainable agriculture and the social licence with which farmers operate. It perplexes me the world has as many obese people with too much to eat as it does hungry people, dying from not enough to eat. Agriculture plays a role in changing this dynamic, and I believe it’s all of our issue to own and address individually, in our home and on our farms.

I love the lifestyle farming has and continues to offer our family. I seek to promote this everyday in my career, my community through speaking opportunities and online. If you’ve followed my blog or think this sounds like something you’d like me to work with your organization on, let’s chat. I’d love to see how we can work together

Mr Eastwood you have not made my day

According to the Australian JBS Australia boss Brent Eastwood remarked on a panel at the Global Food Forum this week that it was hard to get good talent on the land and that ‘many had good faces for radio”

I have been giving this a lot of serious thought beyond the amusement that Mike Logan’s follow up comment generated. See footnote at bottom of post

I grew up in a large regional town which at that time was underpinned financially by the agricultural dollar. The farmers came to town well dressed and to me as a person growing up in that town were highly respected. If some-one had asked me whilst I was growing up which industry demographic had the best faces for TV I would have said without a doubt  agriculture.

Ben Egan

There is no shortage of young talented and ‘beautiful’ people in agriculture just like cotton farmer Ben Egan 

I remember when I first started going out with Michael ( now 5th generation farmer) my girlfriends gave him a heart throb rating of 9.5/10.  I causally asked him ( as young girls do) ‘Do you think I am pretty.? To which in all seriousness after looking me up and down he replied  ‘You are average”  Whilst I would have preferred he said that I made Cindy Crawford pale into insignificance when I walked into the room  as no-one had ever remarked otherwise I took his comment at face value not overly perturbed as I had no desire to enter a career where looks define you.

Please tell me Mr Eastwood has been misquoted. Do looks and talent go hand in hand. Does agriculture only attract people with faces for radio.?

I must admit I get pretty cheesed off when agriculture continues to apparently delight in growing the myth that we cant attract the best and the brightest young people despite Australia’s leading agricultural demographer Neil Barr showing us this is absolute rubbish.

Time to get our act together agriculture and talk about the facts, not perpetuate the myths and find the dollars to invest in and up skill the people we have so we can retain them

As an aside – Mr Eastwood and I must socialise in different circles because there are plenty of ‘beautiful’ people in my agricultural crowd  but then beauty is in the eye of the beholderaudrey-quote

Footnote

The Australian April 17th 2015 in Andrew Mann’s  MARGIN CALL column

Dirty, smelly, ‘sexy’
The twitterati were out in force at the GFF but it was a clear no contest
as to who produced the tweet of the day.
In a panel of the nation’s top food processors lamenting about how hard it was to get quality talent on to the land, JBS Australia boss Brent Eastwood remarked how many in
agriculture had “good faces for radio’’, to which Dairy Connect chief executive Mike Logan added by way of explanation that “It’s dirty, it’s smelly, it’s hot”.
It prompted this tweet from the Camm Agricultural Group’s young dynamo Bryce Camm: “Are we talking about the porn industry or Ag sector? Sounds pretty sexy to me!’’

Should humans eat animals? Warning reality check ahead

This excellent post Communicating Matters of Life and Death by Judy Kennedy resonated with me this morningreality-check

Image source 

I grew up on a cropping, sheep and cattle farm in Central NSW. I raised every motherless lamb I found. My father too was a home butcher but I couldn’t go anywhere near our ‘home abattoir”.  As I get older the death of animals in my care affects me more and more emotionally. I cried for a week when the fox killed my chooks. Such a waste of life he only took 3 of the 30 he killed.

I know I over sensitised my son to death. He was even discouraged from keeping lizards as pets as I didn’t believe we had the necessary expertise to ensure their well being.

On the dairy farm I have seen both Michael and Nick shed tears when an animal they were attached to died.  We got the vet in to euthanize animals that we could not save and ensured that everyone who was hired knew that a respect for our cows and animal wellbeing was their first priority.

Running the Young Farming Champions program where agriculture’s wonderful young ambassadors who are excited about sharing their journey with people who aren’t lucky enough to have been surrounded by agriculture growing also too find sharing the farm cycle of life story with non-farmers daunting and are very committed to doing it well Our champions take their stories into the community and take the community on the journey of modern and innovative farming practices and show that we too have strong emotional values that underpin the way we do business. These relationships create accessibility to an agricultural industry that is open, transparent and available to consumers.

Pivotally our Young Champions are lucky enough to have access to the brilliant technical specialists Ann Burbrook and Greg Mills who can smooth the path for them and give them the skills to do this in a way they are comfortable with. NIDA trained actor/director.

Ann is a vegetarian and provides a great insight into why she made this choice. Ann like all of us is a consumer and understands that 99% of the cow is used by humans in some form of another and she respects that. She wears leather shoes and carries a leather handbag She has no problem with people who choose to eat meat. It’s just her personal choice not to.

I admit I am far too oversensitive to death and empathise with some animal liberationists and like Milk Maid Marian I am a proud animal activist myself. But it  is very important to put humane human consumption of animals as an energy source into perspective. Whilst I do my very best to block out the fact that something else died so I could live I am comfortable that it is the cycle of life and its common sense. Ecosystem

It’s at the heart of a balanced ecosystem. Less than 6% of this wonderful country is suitable for growing crops and our sheep and cattle are stewards of the landscape not covered by native vegetation. I respect people’s right to have access to nutritious affordable and safe food whether they choose to eat animals or not.

But let’s not kid ourselves if we all became vegetarians, humans will compete for the same food animals do and animals will be smart enough to know when its a matter of life and death they will be eating us

dog_eat_dog Image source