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Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory
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Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  376 ratings  ·  53 reviews
This book is a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination and critique of meat consumption by humans, throughout history and around the world. Setting the scene with a chapter on meat's role in human evolution and its growing influence during the development of agricultural practices, the book goes on to examine modern production systems, their costs, efficiencies and ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by Wiley-Blackwell (first published March 4th 2013)
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Marco Regina Definitely read it (if you haven't already). Also, just reduce the amount of meat you eat, book or no book it is not rocket science what impact meat…moreDefinitely read it (if you haven't already). Also, just reduce the amount of meat you eat, book or no book it is not rocket science what impact meat has on the planet. (less)

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Lisa Lawless
Nov 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a slow read due to the many, many numbers, measurements, facts, figures, and explanations. Smil went to great lengths to ensure that he was comparing apples to apples before drawing conclusions. In the end, he believes animals should be raised for meat because meat is nutritionally beneficial and because so much by-product from making other foods can be used as animal feed rather than being wasted. That being said, he outlines suggestions for raising animals for meat in much less ...more
Keith Akers
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Smil is a smart guy, he's extensively researched the subject, and he doesnt make stuff up (like Gary Taubes). But hes an awful writer. In this case his book contains enough footnotes and is so difficult to get through even with a sympathetic reader, so that no one is going to be able to untangle this mess and identify if and where, exactly, he went wrong. Yes, you can profit from this book, but youre going to have to exert the kind of attention that is normally reserved for a graduate-level ...more
Carly Bruce
Nov 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
I am always on the lookout for solid arguments against veganism. This one, like every other I have encountered, flounders. Our ancestors ate meat tho is the best rationale the author has for why we should eat meat. He acknowledges that humans can be perfectly healthy without exploiting animals but just says humans like meat too much to stop so, therefore we wont stop... so therefore its justified for us to continue. Circular reasoning much? ...more
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Let's see....I can't really say I read it in full, rather skimmed parts to get a sense of this book. The author, a prolific researcher and academic of international renown, and a professor emeritus at the U of Manitoba, has attempted to analyze rigorous research from a wide range of fields related to the evolution and consequences of modern carnivory. It is well laid out in sequence, with the concluding section is an examination of " Possible Futures". The book is relatively unemotional and ...more
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Carnivory. Given the perfect storm of interdisciplinary complexity and passionate rhetoric on both sides of this debate, the question of meat-eating is a daunting topic to approach. With such a diverse bundle of issues (nutritional aspects, environmental impact, animal rights, etc), I've been on the look out for someone with serious academic cred to speak with authority and objectivity on this. Vaclav Smil! Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of ...more
Brian Matthew
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow. I brushed through this one today and boy oh boy. Lots of interesting data about the past and all the way up to present day. Historically I've been quite the carnivore and it's extremely difficult for me to not eat a small amount of bacon once a week (although I try to eat uncured, natural). Within the last year I've shifted my diet to a higher consumption of vegetables and less red meat. I'm a huge sushi fan. And I find myself victim of the "truffle grass fed medium rare burgers" from time ...more
Mohammad Noroozi
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a person who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, I have been looking for a book which dedicated itself to look at the actual facts known about meat and its consequences on our health, on society, and on our environment. This was that book for me.

The other readers have commented/complained about the density of numbers and references in Vaclav Smil's book. I admit, the reading will be slow, and it will probably be hard going at times. That said, personally, I appreciated that this was written like a
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
As others have already noted, this reads more like a lengthy research paper than a book. For readers more inclined towards mainstream "pop science" books, this type of text could prove rather daunting. For myself, the more number heavy the text became, the more likely I was to skim through those paragraphs. However, I appreciated the use of statistical analysis throughout, as it gave me the confidence that Smil has done the necessary research for such a complex and layered topic.

What I most
Mar 02, 2016 rated it liked it
if only Smil was a better writer and found a better editor :?
Fascinating insights and very laboriously created book - like most of Smil's books.

Cattle / Beef is extremely inefficient when you consider water use, 'evapotranspiration', waste, gases and stuff like, 40% of live weight goes to other pet feed and fertilizer
Chicken and Pig seem surprisingly efficient - quick turnaround
But efficient production is still lacking in the world.

The book gives no simple answer to questions, but
Deyth Banger
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blinkist
"June 26, 2017
50.0% ""So, while vegetarianism is common in some Asian cultures, there is no Western culture with a rate of vegetarianism and veganism higher than four percent. Although these numbers could go up, vegetarianism will never replace meat eating or become a common practice in the West.""
June 26, 2017
50.0% ""Thats because vegetarians are hard pressed to ensure their diets include enough metals. Since one kilogram of vegetables isnt nutritionally comparable to one kilogram of
Ken Chau
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Smil is an internationally acclaimed academic, whose research stretches from energy, food, demographic and public policies. And in this book he does not pretend not to be an academic, the arguments are well argued with a strong empirical backbone.

Ranging from anthropological, historical, biological, demographics, nutrition sciences and agricultural policies, this book is very comprehensive and attempts to answer the question "Should We Eat Meat"? To give a bit more context to this question, the
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I was really excited to read this book; it's been a while since I made the choice to stop eating red meat for environmental reasons and I thought this book would help fortify my decision and maybe even give me some more information to share with people who ask me about my choice. And the book did do that for me, for the most part, though it wasn't the easiest or most enjoyable read.

If you're looking for the answer to the title of the book, I recommend skipping to the last chapter. Here, Smil
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a book rooted in facts and realities, not in predetermined posturing and sermonizing. This is a book that looks at benefits of meat eating as well as at the failures and drawbacks. The author doesn't advocate any particular practice or point of view but merely presents the best evidence to its logical conclusions. To my mind, this book is haphazardly written and has soporific effect as I painstakingly tried to leaf through the pages of the book. Much of the book is crammed with numbers, ...more
Marco Regina
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a vegan I was really interested in reading an objective book, analyse data and learn something I most likely didn't know before.
This book had all of the points above. Vaclav Smil knows his things. I was actually impressed with the outcome of the book as it is something I never thought about.
I am still not sure about the chapter where he mentions that plant proteins are not complete proteins, as many recent studies actually showed the opposite, but other than that it's an interesting read.
Mainak Jas
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an important book to read but I deducted one star because the books is promiscuously dense with numbers in some parts. One has to skim through these parts to get the gist of what Smil is trying to convey. Still, it is a fascinating tour through the history of meat production, its role in human evolution and options for rational consumption and alternatives for the future. What I really liked about the book is that it takes a pragmatic approach to meat eating rather than an ideological ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Super insightful read into modern agribusiness, and a hint into it cost, not only to our wallets, but also the environmental impact as well as the depletion of resources. My interest in the book came from its appearance on Bill Gates' reading list, and while I would recommend it to anyone with even a modicum of interest in the topic, this isn't a beach read. It reads much more similarly to a textbook, and should be read with minimal stimuli because of the amount of information covered, and the ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is pretty much like a long research paper full of facts and data points. While Smil injects a huge objective side to the whole story, the book lacks a soul, a perspective, a story to bind it all. I'm sure Smil could have written a fantastic dissertation but writing a book with a compelling narrative is a different ball game and Smil seems, a tad out of sorts. A decent read, I wanted a more compelling and subjective view either in favour of meat eating or against it. A neutral approach ...more
David Mytton
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smil is not an author for casual readers. I particularly like his pragmatic and evidence based approach to topics and he always takes a very methodical approach to the subject hes investigating. This is a true scientific analysis of the real numbers, what they mean and how they compare, where existing literature is wrong and what the means for a conclusion. I can tell why Bill Gates loves reading everything Smil puts out! ...more
Sivakumar Thangavelu
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The only reason I gave 4 stars for this book is because of the way its written. If Smil has even tried to put some effort in visually depicting all his insane depth of data (through tables / graphs / charts etc), I would give this book a 6 out of 5. Vaclav Smil has to learn a thing or two from people like Hans Rosling in presenting his data in a more consumable way! ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of the question posed in the title, with lots of surprising insights and refutation of common misconceptions. However, the book is extremely dense with statements of numerical figures, making it hard to read, and the writing style does not have a great sense of flow.
Claudio Noguera
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This one is hard to read, there are just too many data, which makes it difficult to follow the story. In fact, I would say there is no story, only the fifth (last) chapter, where the author explains his positions.

In short, yes we should eat meat. But maybe not so much as we do today in affluent countries.
Diogo De Oliveira
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
The reader might feel overwhelmed by the amount of numbers and multiple sources, without any graphs or comparative tables. Nonetheless the writer's work is to be respected: a deep and reasonable research into the impacts of meat consumption. Do not expect a deep scoop on the impacts of being vegan or vegetarian, though. The book focus on meat.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Pretty good message overall but failed to hit the mark in terms of health impact. Mostly talked about environmental and societal impact. It stayed pretty safe, at times tiptoeing the line between pro and antimeat but staying well within the promeat consumption camp. Interesting facts about how meat production actually affects us both directly and indirectly.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book because of the author Vaclav and he doesn't disappoint you if you are looking to read about facts of non veg diet because that's all this book will provide you. it's great book, if you want to have arguments on non veg vs veg diet.
Mallen Baker
Great book, if you can cope with ploughing through some fairly dense facts and figures. Smil's methodical non-ideological approach to the evidence makes this a highly useful resource, and even inspired me to make my own video on the same topic.
Melinda Overton
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is packed with data so it was a bit overwhelming, but a lot of great information without bias. You do not have to have a scientific mind to enjoy this book, but its definitely worth highlighting some things while reading so its easy to look back to! ...more
Dani Ollé
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
As usual Vaclav Smil overwhelms the reader with relevant data and information to study a decisive topic using a global perspective. A lot of insights on the implications of meat eating by 7 billion humans.
Abhishek Kona
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is not a book but a report. The book is very dry to read with so many stats that you forget what was the point the author was making. It is a collection of stats. Not much of writing in this one.

The book could have been more interesting if the author used some charts to make his points.
Cristiano Alkaim
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting analysis, on an issue that impacts society, ideology and environment.
Haris Odobasic
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In short, eat (bio) meat but in moderation.
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Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy.

He has published 35 books and more than 400 papers on these topics. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and the

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