Comment: A Vegetarian Turns To Meat   Leave a comment

And not just any vegetarian: Simon Fairlie, the editor of the British environmental magazine “The Ecologist”. In truth what’s new is not that Fairlie has gone back to eating meat (his vegetarian period was for six years, in his university days) but rather that he has written a book about it. Just out is Fairlie’s new book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, challenges the idea that a diet with meat in it is necessarily worse for the environment than one based on cereals and vegetables. Ever since Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet For a Small Planet it’s been received knowledge that simply in energetic terms meat is immoral, in that it takes (to use Lappe’s figures) eight kilos of grain to make one kilo of beef.

It’s this figure that Fairlie challenges, saying that it’s based on the use of grain to fatten up cows–which are ruminants, and should be eating grass anyway. Building on a naturalistic argument, Fairlie (who raises his own goats) argues that grass-fed meat can actually be less environmentally destructive than cereal farming, in that a pasture requires no tilling, pesticides, fertilizers, and can actually build topsoil. Fairlie’s critics (friends of his among them) point out that this is fine for grass-fed meat, but that the world’s consumption is satisfied mainly by grain-fed, not grass-fed meat.

Fairlie’s book is not notable for its originality. Both Michael Pollan (in The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Nicolette Hahn Niman (in Righteous Porkchop) make similar arguments. The novelty is the fact that a former vegetarian (and environmentalist) makes them.

Grazie a Manuel Barbato per la segnalazione.

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