A Focus On Nature

Books and Reviews

Book Review: The Ethical Carnivore

Louise Gray tells a remarkable story of her goal to only eat animals she had killed herself, in order to experience first-hand where our meat comes from. As someone who is attempting to eat more ethically I was instantly intrigued!

We follow Gray’s journey as she shares her personal experiences in fishing and hunting, as well as her visits to multiple farms over the course of the year to determine how one can become an Ethical Carnivore. Gray sets the scene with vivid, beautiful descriptions of the surrounding landscapes, the animals themselves and the amazingly supportive people who have given up their time to help her on her quest.

I have the utmost respect for the author as I believe many people would struggle with many of the tasks she has accomplished in order to bring to light many of these meat-related issues. Her reaction to facing the difficult task of killing animals is one that many people will both relate to and admire. She thoughtfully discusses each of these personal moments, whilst filling the book with a multitude of well-researched and balanced facts about the meat industry. In addition, she touches on more unusual methods of obtaining meat such collecting fresh roadkill with Alison Brierley, a fascinating woman and an advocator of letting nothing go to waste.

This is not a book you can mindlessly read. It is one to read slowly, to take time to reflect on the messages Gray is trying to send. It is arguably a very heavy book at times, but that is to be expected when writing about the killing of animals; the message is so important. It makes you profoundly think about your own eating habits and the impact you have on not just the animals themselves, but the environment and local, sustainable farmers who are rapidly going out of business when competing with large intensively-farmed, cheap supermarket meats.

In a world where the majority of people are disconnected from their food, more and more people are now willing to understand more about this sensitive subject and make more informed choices. As a consequence, demand for local, free-range and organic meat is increasing and the concept of eating less or no meat is gaining considerable popularity.

Global issues such as climate change and overfishing are also mentioned in detail, as they are some of the biggest threats we face today. Facts presented in the book shocked me, such as 18% of global greenhouse gases are contributed by livestock farming, more than all vehicle exhaust emissions put together.

Gray also highlights the inefficiency of raising livestock in general and the argument for vegetarianism and veganism. It is a well-known fact that less acres are required to feed people with plant based food but this is balanced with the perception that some livestock can be raised on land unsuitable for crop growth. It is the mass produced, intensively farmed animals which are argued against here. A description of a visit to an abattoir underscores the harsh reality of our modern, gluttonous diet. There isn’t any real need to eat as much meat as we do, yet it is a luxury we are now accustomed to and feel entitled to, regardless of the consequences. In fact, we eat five times the amount of chicken than five years ago and the amount of red meat we consume is well documented as being detrimental to our health.

There are so many issues touched upon in this amazing book and I thoroughly recommend it. It is a vital bit of reading for anyone who wants to reconnect with their food, who wish to find ethical sources of meat, or for anyone who also would like to source their own meat as Gray did. People making informed choices will lead to a push for more sustainable, less intensively farmed livestock such as many case studies highlighted by Gray. Your money is a weapon for change. Choose local meat. Choose venison. Choose to hunt sustainably. Choose to eat less meat. Your choice does make a difference. Spread the word.

Sophie Barrell is an ecologist and trainee bird ringer. You can follow her via Twitter at: @S_Barrell

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