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Cows v. Capitalists: Visions of a Post-Carbon Economy (Review of Simon Fairlie, Meat: A Benign Extravagance)

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Abstract: But in undertaking to defend meat-eating (and he does defend it, albeit only under specific ecological conditions), Fairlie does more than make a case for the occasional steak from a grass-fed cow at the end of its useful life as a walking manure-spreader on a diversified farm. In the alternate universe methodically constructed and meticulously defended by Fairlie, some amount of animal agriculture is not only environmentally benign but the lynchpin of an alternative society and economy based on non-fossil-fuel energy – including the kind provided on the hoof. In Fairlie’s view, the modern energy crisis, and the reason agricultural reform may be the remedy for it, derives from the fact that “economies of scale [in production] are more than offset by diseconomies of distribution.” Fairlie argues that fiddling around with the sources of the energy we generate and transmit, from oil and coal power to natural gas or even solar panels and fuel cells, does not address the structural problem created when the Industrial Revolution separated the majority of the people from the majority of the resources.

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