Marshall's Reviews > Meat: A Benign Extravagance

Meat by Simon Fairlie
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M 50x66
's review
Sep 19, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: ecology, non-fiction, politics, science

This book advocates that meat has a rightful place on the farm. It's falsely cited as a case against veganism. This author isn't against veganism or vegetarianism, and clearly believes it has its place. It's more accurate to say he's very strongly against what you might call a sort of totalitarian approach to veganism, the idea that we must transform the entire world to vegans, eliminating all animal products entirely. There's an interesting chapter that paints a pretty bleak picture of what such a world would look like, followed by a chapter showing what kind of world he's advocating. It's certainly not what most meat lovers would have in mind. It's extremely rural, almost luddite.

This book sure was painful to trudge through. It's very, very dense. The author isn't a scientist, but damn does he know his farming. I scarcely understood much of it, but enough to get his gist. Here's an example of how this book reads: "During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1945, the average number of animals put down per outbreak was just 1.5. Since the slaughter policy was reintroduced in 1963 there have been nearly half a million pigs slaughtered at an average of 275 per outbreak. In 2001, there were 16 outbreaks, in which 74,000 pigs were slaughtered - an average of 4,625 per outbreak." Got all that?

But I think it was worth reading. At least parts of it were, and the rest worth skimming. The two aforementioned chapters, and especially the chapter on global warming, which is the real reason I read it. There is one U.N. study quoted everywhere, that 18% of human-caused green house gases are emited by livestock raised for food. I believed this for a while, but I had a little niggling feeling something was wrong when I never found any other studies to confirm this surprisingly huge number. This book breaks down that number, and everything that went into creating it, in excruciating detail. He spells out all the flaws with it, and adjusts the number to what he thinks is more accurate. When added up, he gets 10%, which sounds more reasonable to me anyway.

I was so persuaded by this book, and found it so impressively researched, that I'd love to give it four stars, but it was just too painful to read. Every page was a slug-fest, and by the end I felt exhausted, not enlightened. So I'm settling on three stars. Definitely read it if you love numbers and understand farming and permaculture fairly well. Otherwise, just read the chapter on global warming, and then read The Omnivore's Dilemma instead.

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Reading Progress

September 19, 2010 – Shelved
September 19, 2010 – Shelved as: ecology
September 19, 2010 – Shelved as: non-fiction
September 19, 2010 – Shelved as: politics
September 19, 2010 – Shelved as: science
May 31, 2011 – Started Reading
June 23, 2011 –
page 139
September 28, 2012 – Finished Reading

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