Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
on 10 June 2011
Like many people concerned with the difficulty of feeding the world and keeping GHG emissions down, I assumed that meat was all bad and, being a carnivore, ate it with a vague feeling of guilt. Fairlie's fantastic book set me to right. It is a work of perfect erudition - and by "perfect", I mean it is a cunning mix of his decades of personal experience as a livestock farmer, his involvement with "the Ecologist" magazine, and a very wide reading list. This is what scientific writing looks like when it is done by enlightened amateurs, not tenured specialists.
The result is a work that changes one's perceptions of how a crucial part of our world actually works. Fairlie discusses the role of animals in many contexts, from the evolved farming systems of temperate climes, their role in poor communities, their function as soil nutrient transporters, to their impact on deforestation, climate change and more. Throughout, he reviews the literature to pinpoint the many dodgy numbers upon which the public debate regarding animals' impact on our world is based. He points out the little-discussed, but deeply disquieting, consequences of a livestock-free world; compares the potential of various agricultural systems on Britain's ability to feed itself; and salutes the cleverness and intelligence of the farming systems developed over centuries around the world to ensure humans live in long-term sustainability with their local environment.
The conclusion he comes to is inescapable: in most situations, at most times, animals are an essential component of the sustainable farming mix. They are indeed a benign indulgence.