Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

Vaclav Smil

Language: English

Pages: 276

ISBN: 1118278720

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Meat eating is often a contentious subject, whether considering the technical, ethical, environmental, political, or health-related aspects of production and consumption.

This book is a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination and critique of meat consumption by humans, throughout their evolution and around the world. Setting the scene with a chapter on meat’s role in human evolution and its growing influence during the development of agricultural practices, the book goes on to examine modern production systems, their efficiencies, outputs, and impacts. The major global trends of meat consumption are described in order to find out what part its consumption plays in changing modern diets in countries around the world. The heart of the book addresses the consequences of the "massive carnivory" of western diets, looking at the inefficiencies of production and at the huge impacts on land, water, and the atmosphere. Health impacts are also covered, both positive and negative. In conclusion, the author looks forward at his vision of “rational meat eating”, where environmental and health impacts are reduced, animals are treated more humanely, and alternative sources of protein make a higher contribution.

Should We Eat Meat? is not an ideological tract for or against carnivorousness but rather a careful evaluation of meat's roles in human diets and the environmental and health consequences of its production and consumption. It will be of interest to a wide readership including professionals and academics in food and agricultural production, human health and nutrition, environmental science, and regulatory and policy making bodies around the world.

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exceptions, remained strong throughout history and across all economic strata. Its expression can be found in continuous hunting of wild animals in societies where the eating of domesticated species was forbidden or in the creation of ingenious dishes using other ingredients as meat substitutes. And as soon as greater opportunities to eat meat had presented themselves, during the era of urbanization and industrialization, average per capita meat consumption began to rise, first during the 19th

occasional cooperative hunting by chimpanzees should be seen as a prototype of later human behavior: an opportunistic arm-swinging pursuit in canopies has little to do with planned bipedal hunting with weapons. I agree with Sayers and Lovejoy (2008) who argue that the chimpanzee referential models for early hominin behavior have been too often misapplied (and that only differences between closely related forms explain their divergence), but the fact our closest primate ancestor is also a hunting

Malaysia led them to modify their original conclusion as they conceded that such an existence was possibly in Asian tropical rain forests with high densities of sago palm and with relatively high densities of wild pigs (Bailey and Headland 1991). For other tropical environments, their original conclusion appears to be justified. Where a zoomass-rich environment presented many hunting opportunities, it was the average body mass of prey that became the key determinant in choosing the targets. The

barns) range from nothing for suckling animals to about 5 L for grazing cattle, around 10 L for beef cattle in CAFOs and 50 L for mature pigs raised in confinement; for growing broilers, the average is about 9 L/100 birds (Chapagain and Hoekstra 2004). Using these rates, Steinfeld et al. (2006) calculated the annual global service water needs to be less than 7 km3 with pig raising being the largest (nearly two-thirds of the total) consumer – but Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2010) ended up with nearly

greenhouse gas. The grand total of 7.1 Gt of CO2 equivalent (with about 70% from extensive livestock practices) was about 18% of total anthropogenic emissions of greenhouses gases in 2004, a surprisingly high share (higher than the contribution from all forms of global transportation) that received some critical appraisal in research literature as well as a great deal of media attention. Some of this criticism was inexplicably wrong. Perhaps most notably, Cattlemen’s Beef Board (2009) pointed

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