A meaty issue
1st October, 2008
Our excessive appetite for meat is taking a heavy toll on the planet, but as Simon Fairlie explains, the arguments used to depict omnivores as environmental super-villains are far too simplistic.
Anyone whose social or working life is spent partly among environmental campaigners and partly among small-scale organic farmers has to adjust to two contrasting diets.
At functions put on by the green movement, you can expect a vegetarian, or even a vegan table, with a high proportion of pulses, grains, nuts, colourful vegetables, olive oil, tofu, margarine and soya milk. Often a significant proportion of the food is imported.
At a farmer's do, on the other hand, you are more likely to be served home-reared beef or lamb, home-cured ham or homemade sausages. The vegetables will be of a more local complexion, and you can expect to find cheese, butter and full-cream milk, rather than their soy-based substitutes.
Aside from any health or animal welfare considerations, the environmentalist's diet is based on the principle that grains and pulses have, on average, a lower environmental impact than meat or dairy products. It is hard to dispute this, and for six years, when I lived in the city, I too was vegetarian, partly for this reason.
The trouble is that if you leave the city and move on to a farm, the vegan or vegetarian diet can start to make less sense, especially if the farm consists mainly...
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