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Entirely true, but do we want to?

Summary:
As with every other interest group looking to make use of a crisis the vegans and vegetarians are telling us that we should stop eating all that meat: Instead of killing animals, exploiting workers, and despoiling the environment, we can feed ourselves sustainably and help heal the earth through community-oriented plant-based agriculture. Farmland that is currently growing monocrops with petrochemicals for animal feed can switch to producing legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and other crops directly for human consumption. Suburban lawns can be turned into gardens, and in urban settings, food is already being grown on empty lots, in school and church yards, on rooftops, in food forests, in containers and planting boxes, and even in abandoned buildings re-configured

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As with every other interest group looking to make use of a crisis the vegans and vegetarians are telling us that we should stop eating all that meat:

Instead of killing animals, exploiting workers, and despoiling the environment, we can feed ourselves sustainably and help heal the earth through community-oriented plant-based agriculture. Farmland that is currently growing monocrops with petrochemicals for animal feed can switch to producing legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and other crops directly for human consumption. Suburban lawns can be turned into gardens, and in urban settings, food is already being grown on empty lots, in school and church yards, on rooftops, in food forests, in containers and planting boxes, and even in abandoned buildings re-configured into vertical farms.

Using expensive urban land, rather than cheap rural, to grow food is a recipe for impoverishment. The vast labour requirements of small scale farming as opposed to industrial will also make us poorer. And organic agriculture is going to be very difficult indeed in the absence of the dung from those animals no longer being reared. But yes, it’s all possible, at a price.

To put it bluntly: it’s time to get used to eating less, or no, meat.

Ah, but that’s to miss the important question - do we want to?

The aim and point of our having an economy in the first place is so that we humans get more of what we desire. This is the purpose of trying to get richer. What it is that we desire is an individual decision - utility is always personal. It is entirely true that many things are possible the question is instead which of the possible things meets our desires best?

Given that the vast majority of us happily chow down on the products of industrial farming, that the progress of civilisation itself can be marked by the manner in which food becomes cheaper - requires less labour, so that there are more people available to build civilisation - it would appear that for that vast majority of us the current system works. Works in the sense of sating, as best can be done given scarce resources, our desires.

Given that this is the very reason to have an economy it would be more than a little odd to discard the system, no?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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