Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Meat : A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie

Meat book

The Ethicurian recently posted a thorough and thoughtful review of Simon Fairlie’s “Meat: A Benign Extravagance”, a book that has been floundering on our nightstand for weeks. It sounds like a rather heavy read, but rewarding in its analysis of the effects of meat production and consumption on the planet.

Mainstream culture and news abound with broad statements about our food system and the choices we make about what we put on the dinner table. Surely you’ve heard that if you want to save the planet, you should eat a vegan diet, since raising livestock contributes significantly to carbon emissions and thus to climate change. Or perhaps you’ve been told that organic agriculture can’t possibly “feed the world.”Who’s right? What, ultimately, is the best way to produce food in the world today, to both feed our growing population without destroying the earth it depends on?

In Meat: A Benign Extravagance, recently released in the U.S. by Chelsea Green, UK writer, editor, and farmer Simon Fairlie picks apart study after study in wonkish detail and shows why easy answers are hard to find.

Continue reading the review here.

Another good read is Fairlie’s Time Magazine article: “How Eating Meat Can Save The Planet

Leave a comment here for a chance to get your very own copy of the book!

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27 Responses to “Meat : A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie”

  1. Would love to read this! Jenna Woginrich wrote a similar article for the Guardian and it sparked a lot of debate among the vegetarian/vegan community. I write a lot about these sorts of topics and relish any oppty to learn. Thanks for this site. I adore it!

  2. This sounds really interesting. I am an omnivore, but I try to only eat meat that was raised sustainably, so I don’t eat a lot of meat since it is so expensive. I would love to read more about meat-the good, that bad, and the ugly. Thanks!

  3. They both sound like very good reads…Thanks!

  4. We are meat eaters, but know who raised or raise ourselves all our meat. My husband grew up on the farm and has definite opinions about raising animals responsibly. I am always interested in what is being said about farming practices. Thanks for the review.

  5. Thanks for the link to this review, it seems like an enjoyable and informative book. Hopefully the local public library in meat-centric North Dakota won’t ban such a subversive text as this and I can get my hands on it.

  6. I am an omnivore myself, dating a vegetarian, and working towards making sure all my meat is locally raised. This would be a great book to read.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by chelseagreen, Rhonda Fearns. Rhonda Fearns said: Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie […]

  8. I’m an open-minded ethical vegetarian and environmentalist, and I’m always interested in new, well-substantiated perspectives. It’s a fascinating topic!

  9. Sounds like an interesting read. Will have to get a copy, if I don’t win one here! 🙂

  10. Jessica Willaims Says:

    This books sounds like it makes a compelling argument. I can’t wait to read it, and hopefully pass the word on to my friends and family.

  11. Looking forward to reading this book. Just added it to my wish list:)
    Thanks for the review!

  12. Ah the big question. Can organic and sustainable methods actually feed the planet. Would love to read this to find out the author’s thoughts.

  13. I would love to read this!!!

  14. Richard W. Bender Says:

    I’m writing my own book on sustainable practices, eat primarily wild game and self caught fish for meat and this good looks like a good resource.

  15. The meat issue is one that I struggle with just about every day. I avoid eating meat and really do not like cooking meat. My husband still eats meat so sometimes he will have an Italian beef sandwich or even meat tacos that become to much for me to resist. They smell so good and sometimes I just want to stop having to be an example. But then, when the plate is empty, I feel guilty thinking of the animal who died so I could have 10 minutes worth of taste bud joy. More and more I am able to resist, but the conflict itself is very exhausting.

    This book sounds like one that might give me more to figure out where I really stand on this issue and if there is any hope to finding some peace.

  16. I would love to read this book.

  17. I teach aspiring chefs gastronomy and food history at one of the leading chef school in Canada and this very topic is something we spend A LOT of time on. I am currently revamping curriculum and would love to read this!

  18. Always one to welcome a balanced view, having been a vegetarian for 25 years, caught between militant vegans and militant meat-eaters! I have only just started eating meat again, about a month ago, when our first livestock went to slaughter. I am loving every mouthful of lamb, bacon, ham and pork knowing the animals were happy, well looked after and grew (in part) on a neighbourhood’s waste food.

    I look forward to reading this book.

  19. I’d love to win this one!!! Love the site.

  20. Lesa McMahon Says:

    I would love to read this book. I have always been interested in how our food production affects the Earth and it’s living systems.

  21. This is crazy. No matter how much we might argue that this, that, and the other thing is sustainable, ethical, etc… the bottom line is a living, breathing, feeling creature suffers and dies. And BTW – meat is not meant for human consumption. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. We could easily feed the planet NOW if we weren’t wasting so much land to raise livestock and not crops.

  22. I’d love to read this! Thanks for posting a pertinent book review and a great online meetinghouse.

  23. I would love this book for my library! Thanks!

    websurfergirl19 AT hotmail DOT com

  24. Unfortunately Mr. Fairlie did not take the time to interview some of the key players and researchers in the soil carbon community. And some of his information is out of date. Research and experience are – at an accelerating pace – changing the way we think about animals, pastures and the potential for carbon sequestration. (That is not to say we do not have lifestyle adjustments to make. Fossil fuel consumption must still be reduced.) The Soil Carbon Challenge of the Soil Carbon Coalition seeks to document – at the grass roots (!) – changes in soil carbon under different management scenarios.

  25. Michele Koenig Augeri Says:

    I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian 26 years ago out of pure squeamishness and the conviction that if I couldn’t kill it myself I had no right to be eating it. I now find myself confusing people by advocating for sustainably-raised, grass fed, humanely butchered meat (although I still have zero interest in eating it myself.

    The reality is that people are going to eat meat – and most prefer to do so – so we might as well find ways to make meat-eating as humane and environmentally benign as possible. From a carbon standpoint, the open cooking fires used by half the planet to cook what little meat comes their way is much more detrimental than the meat itself.

    I’m interested to read this book (LOOOVE Chelsea Green!) and – as I am a public librarian – add it to the library’s collection.

  26. As an avid reader of such publications (from “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to “The Face on Your Plate”), I would be willing to examine Fairlie’s rigorous scientific interpretation of the role livestock could play in our present food supply. No doubt, it’s not too different from what authors like Lierre Keith (The Vegetarian) have argued, but, unlike the latter, Fairlie’s appears to have been extensively researched. I enjoy reading various views on the subject, as an “enlightened” gastronome.

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