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One Man's Meat

At the end of his review "Meat and Right" (June 1999), Steven Austad asks what kind of egotist it takes to break a 5-million-year-old tradition of killing and eating other animals. A more interesting question might be, What kind of egotist defends his own patterns of consumption despite growing awareness of the harm they may be doing the planet? We know the threat to global climate caused by the sacrifice of rainforests for short-term meat production. We are aware of the huge environmental problems created by the waste products of animals on factory farms. We hear of biological and bacteriological hazards engendered by the use of antibiotics and hormones in animals. We face ethical issues surrounding cloning and genetic manipulation. We know that numerous animal species, already threatened, are further endangered by hungry poachers. We know that our oceans are becoming empty. We also know the amount of usable protein produced by an acre of soybeans compared with that of an acre devoted to pastureland.

We may have hunting to thank for aspects of our species' early development, but today our relationship to our planet requires a rethinking of basics.

Julian Jackson

Brooklyn, New York

Oxygen Dependence

I believe Louise Hose, in "Cave of the Sulfur Eaters" (April 1999), overstates the case by saying that the Villa Luz cave ecosystem depends for energy "not on photosynthesis from sunlight but on an inorganic chemical process." To oxidize sulfur, the cave bacteria need atmospheric oxygen-all of which is manufactured by photosynthesis. Only anaerobic organisms are truly independent of this process. Parallels cannot then be drawn between a sulfur-based cave ecosystem and possible subsurface life on Mars.

John H. …