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The dawn of a new consensus?

2010 September 7
by sampablokuper

I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to [completely] stop eating meat. (Source)

I didn’t think I’d ever see it happen, but George Monbiot is now advocating a low meat diet and agricultural economy in preference to a vegan or vegetarian one, which means he and Anthony Bourdain have moved into roughly the same territory.

Monbiot’s shift is based on the conclusions presented in Simon Fairlie’s new book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance. It is important to note that neither Fairlie nor Monbiot nor Bourdain appear to condone the current Western model of industrial meat farming. Indeed, Fairlie calls the feedlot beef industry one of the biggest ecological cock-ups in modern history, so his book isn’t an excuse to go and splurge on cheap steak at the supermarket. Not by a long way.

So what can you, dear reader, do to accommodate this new consensus into your shopping habits? Boiled down to a couple of sentences, here’s our take. If you have available to you a source of livestock products that are locally raised on an appropriate diet, enjoy those products in moderation. If not, continue to keep your consumption of animal products minimal for as long as it takes to change the status quo.

But wait, that’s not the whole story. Remember our strapline: Better for you, for livestock, and for the planet. There are reasons other than the efficiency of our planet’s agricultural economy in favour of avoiding meat. First among these is animal welfare. Fairlie’s model may be efficient, but it retains the possibility of animal cruelty, especially at the slaughterhouse. A second reason is personal health: present evidence suggests a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet could be better for people than one containing meat, particularly red meat.

It seems there’s still plenty of room for more detailed research into balancing these three pillars of a healthy approach to farming and eating!

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