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Organic Consumers Association

Meat: A Benign Extravagance: The Best Book of the Year on Food and Farming

As a first time reader of Simon Fairlie`s work, I found Meat to be an all embracing experience and definitely in the top 5 books I have ever read.

In this, his latest book, Mr Fairlie examines the role of livestock in the British countryside and as a onetime vegetarian, he pulls no punches. Whether you are a committed vegan or a carnivore and just want your prejudices caressed, then this is not the book for you. However if you are prepared to have your beliefs subjected to the utmost scrutiny, then this book will be a thorough workout.

The book is a veritable cornucopia of references and research on the whole world of food and land use and yet it is somehow irresistibly readable. Anything you ever wanted to know about sustainable agriculture is somewhere in "MEAT." It is incredible to believe that this is the work of just one man.

We are led through some of the absurdities of our time, such as the British government`s almost superstitious banning of the use of pig swill and meat and bone meal which now tends to be replaced with soya shipped in from cleared rainforest land. Fairlie`s answer is simple, recycle our food waste properly into feed for pigs and poultry and use grazed grass for ruminants.

Fairlie talks of preserving the country`s "default livestock" which is how he describes those animals which are necessary to hoover up our waste food(pigs and poultry) and graze our land only fit for grazing together with building fertility in arable rotations. He also thinks that after oil, the equation will be tipped again in favour of animals as we value once more their traction, leather, wool and fat together with animals ability to heat a rustic house and move nutrients to where they are needed.

Very few escape his attention, not the least The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, whose  " Livestocks Long Shadow" is so comprehensibly disassembled as to be revealed as either a work of gross incompetence or ideological fiction. Carefully he takes us through the fraud used to calculate the FAO`s claim of livestock being responsible for 18% of green house gasses and shows us how this damagingly discredits climate science.


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