Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review of 'Meat: A Benign Extravagance'

Well, it won't be surprising if any of my vegetarian and vegan friends don't like this book much, but it's a shame if they don't read it. It's epic in scope, fabulously well written, and full of amazingly useful detail about agriculture, carbon emissions and energy budgets. It's astonishing how much research it represents.

Ultimately whether you agree with the author's conclusions depends (I think) on the extent to which you think it's ethically acceptable to kill and eat other sentient creatures - it's not an argument with which he engages at all. But if you are vegan or vegetarian for sustainability reasons then you really ought to spend some time with this book.

It's worth noting that he argues for a 'default' level of meat consumption - he agrees it's not a very good name - by which means a diet with much less meat, based on the amount of animal protein available because of the other ways in which animals are useful in agriculture - traction, restoring soil, consuming waste, etc. He isn't standing up for cheap factory-farmed meat (or eggs or dairy).

In passing he deals with lots of other arguments about carbon sequestration, forestry vs. grassland, and about different visions of a sustainable future for humans - it's worth noting that plenty of 'ecologists' including James Lovelock describe a future dystopia in which humans are shut up in nightmare cities and fed a load of factory-produced feed, and elsewhere nature reservations allow 'Gaia' to regenerate safe from us (but perhaps not from enjoyment by our betters).

BTW if you are at all interested, there seems to be pdf available for download.

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