A new book, called “Meat: A Benign Extravagance”, by ecologist Simon Fairlie, has turned around current thinking about the effect of meat production on the carbon footprint, and argues for the benefits of meat production, reports the Cape Argus.

Fairlie says that farming with and eating meat “is OK”, and in fact benefits the planet.  He explains that for 30 years the generally accepted view has been that meat-eating is bad for the planet in terms of climate change, and bad for the human race, having led key climate change authorities to propose vegetarianism as a means of solving the planet’s climate problems.

If one follows a vegetarian lifestyle, one has to obtain proteins and fats, in the form of soya, peanut butter, nuts and pulses, impacting on the carbon footprint, whilst fats and proteins could come from farms closer by, with a lesser impact on the environment, he says.   He further argues that the original 1:10 conversion ratio of 10 kg of grain is required to produce 1 kg of beef is an outdated statistic from more than 200 years ago, being closer to 1:7.   For every 1,4 kg of vegetables that one could eat, 1 kg of beef can be produced on a small farm.  Fairlie also argues that humans cannot eat grass, and that cows are an efficient means of ‘transforming’ grass into products that they can eat: milk, butter and cheese.   In addition, they produce natural nutrients in the form of manure, which goes back into nature.

Fairlie is critical of  battery chicken farming and of large-scale cattle production, calling it a “moral and environmental disaster”.   He says that we eat too much meat, because it is so cheap.   He calls for all farming to be organic, and for the government to prevent supermarkets from taking an ever greater cut of the food production cost.

His personal lifestyle includes eating meat twice a week only.  He advocates eating offal, and eating smaller portions of meat.  “Eat local, eat less, is my recipe” he says.  “Support your small farmer.  You’ll enjoy the meat more too”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage