On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans [7/10]

Chef and food critic turned smallholding farmer in Tasmania and television explorer of farming, meat, and modern agriculture, Matthew Evans could never not have written “On Eating Meat: The Truth About Its Production and the Ethics of Eating It.” This is a dense, sometimes chaotic, but always fascinating and extremely personal look at the worst and best of modern meat production. Evans decries mass-production, “the animal is a production factor only” beef and chicken farming, writes about his love of pigs, and digs into the nuances of ethical meat eating, as he sees it. Evans’s honesty is impressive. He often describes himself as “conflicted” and describes in vivid language the sadness in killing his farm animals for food. Any reader will find plenty to agree with and plenty to rail against; in my case, I question his analysis concluding that veganism kills as much life as meat eating (though he is correct to decry excessive moral absolutism and grandstanding), yet I applaud his “take no prisoners” judgement that feral cats need to be wiped out. In the end, “On Eating Meat” offers no simplistic rules but asks for honest dialogue: “the place and time for this conversation is, rightly, before we go out to eat.” I highly recommend this book to prod such conversation within yourself. For example, I’m a vegetarian to cut carbon footprint, and I’m sure Evans’s chapter questioning my underlying assumption is wrong but he argues well, using evidence, and I’ll be spending time over the next months working through “On Eating Meat” as carefully as I do the major climate change references.

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