Monday, January 24, 2011

_Meat: A Benign Extravagance_, by Simon Fairlie

Food miles may not be over-extravagant in their energy use, but they are thickly implicated in a centralized distribution system which multiplies our energy expenditure at every opportunity and whose impacts include excessive packaging and refrigeration, waste, traffic congestion, road-building, noise, accidents, loss of local distinctiveness, exploitation and displacement of peasants, excessive immigration, urban slums, deforestation and habitat destruction, removal of biomass from third world countries, the undermining of local communities in the UK, the collapse of UK farming and the blood which is split over oil fields. 
—from Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie
This is Simon Fairlie on the subject of "food miles". I believe that with this one paragraph, he renders irrelevant most of James McWilliams' writings on the subject of food miles.

I've just been reading Meat: A Benign Extravagance. It's a very, very thoughtfully-written book. It's not mostly about food miles, and it's not mostly about meat being an extravagance.

Reducing it to one main idea is doing it a disservice, but if I might: It is mostly about dispelling the idea that livestock are intrinsically "unsustainable". The argument is so convincing that upon reading it, George Monbiot, previously a noted promoter of veganism, changed his mind, and decided that veganism was not the answer.

I plan to do a full write-up on the book when I finish reading it. In the meantime, if you're wondering what to read next, this book would be a great choice.

(submitted as part of the Hearth And Soul blog carnival at A Moderate Life)


a moderate life said...

Hi Alex! Yes, I had read the article by George refuting his previous support of veganism based on reading Simon's book. I thought the book must certainly come out swinging and be extremely well supported by facts in order for such a strong supporter of the vegan movement based on environmental issues to change his mind! Thanks for sharing this on the hearth and soul hop! All the best and hope Boston is treating you nice! Alex

girlichef said...

This sounds like an interesting read, I'll be on the look out for it now. Thanks for sharing your recommendation with the hearth and soul hop this week.

Alex Lewin said...

Thanks for the comments, girlchef and a moderate life! The book is indeed backed up with a lot of facts. It is quite a scholarly achievement, I would say.

Among other things, he THOROUGHLY destroys the factoid some people throw around about meat protein being 10 times less efficient, from a land use POV, than veg/grain protein. I was cheering him along--it was great!