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Meat - a benign extravagance, Simon Fairlie

Meat - a benign extravagance - is an exploration of the difficult environmental and ethical issues that surround the human consumption of animal flesh. The world's meat consumption is rapidly rising, leading to devastating environmental impacts as well as having long term health implications for societies everywhere. Simon Fairlie's book lays out the reasons why we must decrease the amount of meat we eat, both for the planet and for ourselves. At its heart, the book argues, however, that the farming of animals for consumption has become problematic because we have removed ourselves physically and spiritually from the land. Our society needs to reorientate itself back to the land and Simon explains why an agriculture that is most readily able to achieve this is one that includes a measure of livestock farming.

Meat, animals and dairy have been in the firing line for so long that in some circles, the assumption is taken for granted that there is no case, ever, anywhere, to be made for the role of animals in farming, landcare or diet. This book by Simon Fairlie is a wonderful and challenging correction. As a former Welsh Black breeder who farmed upland wet English hills but who gave up meat years ago (but takes dairy produce), I found this book a riveting read. As an academic who grapples with what land is for and what a sustainable diet might be, I assure you that this book is essential reading. Fairlie's beautifully written, practical yet erudite book covers the terrain that policy-makers now realise needs to be addressed. Fairlie makes the case for not throwing the baby out with the bath water or should that be don't demonise the animal before you know its function and value? --Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London

No-one has ever analysed the world's food and agriculture more astutely than Simon Fairlie - an original thinker and a true scholar. Here he shows that while meat is generally a luxury it is often the best option, and could always be turned to advantage if only we did things properly; but this, with present economic policies and legal restrictions, is becoming less and less possible. Everyone should read this book especially governments, and all campaigners. --Colin Tudge, Biologist and author

This book is a masterpiece: original, challenging and brilliantly argued. Simon Fairlie is a great thinker and a great writer. --George Monbiot, Environmental and political activist, author and journalist

Review by George Monbiot: