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Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (Plume) Paperback – March 1, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Rifkin drives home the moral paradoxes of meat eating, issuing an important call to nutritional sanity and environmental ethics.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Rifkin (Biosphere Politics, p. 460, etc.), who seems to turn out environmental calls to arms on an assembly line, now turns his guns on beef--in this survey of the cattle culture's destructive role in the modern world and in history. Citing the works of others, Rifkin points to paleolithic bull and cow cults, to the clash several millennia ago between peaceful matrilineal agriculturalists and nomadic cattle herders who arose around the Ukraine and spread throughout the Old World, and to the North American West--where native populations and the buffalo they lived off were displaced and slaughtered to make room for the cattle industry, much of it financed by British interests, and where US taxpayers continue to subsidize beef ranchers and packers. None of this is original; and readers of vegetarian and animal- rights literature will already be familiar with the points addressed in Rifkin's subsequent indictment of our multinational- driven cattle culture with its devastating effect on the economies of developing countries; on the lives of starving Third World populations; and on the health of affluent populations who ``gorge'' on beef, tropical forests, the water supply, soil, and the global atmosphere. Animal Factories (1980) by Jim Mason and Peter Singer, as well as Food First (1977) and other works by Frances Moore Lapp and Joseph Collins, are among the widely read works that are more forcefully and solidly argued. Nor are Rifkin's modish touches of punning deconstruction truly eye-opening. Rifkin's vision of a future ``beyond beef'' is only that, absent strategies or specifics. Still, by putting all this readably together, he might well win a new and different audience. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There are many excellent points made when Rifkin finally makes room for them (parts 3-6), but the quality of his reference sources continues to be dubious in some, though certainly not all, instances. The book finally hits its stride and makes its import observations in parts 4 (Feeding Cattle and Starving People) and 5 (Cattle and the Global Environmental Crisis). If the information here doesn't direct the reader toward a vegetarian lifestyle (or at least to rethinking the centrality of meat in his/her diet), he or she may be a pretty hardened case of wanton self-indulgence and thoughtless hedonism. We must hope that sometime soon, western consumers might become as interested in the welfare of human beings and of our entire planetary home, as they are in self-pleasuring. In fact, the reader may want to read this portion of the book only (chapters 22-32) before moving on to a better book -- MAD COWBOY: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat, by Howard F. Lyman.
Depending on the crop, plants can provide 5 to 26 times as much protein per any given unit of land, than can beef. In 1984, when thousands of people were dying for lack of food in famine-ravaged Ethiopia, feed crops produced there were being shipped to livestock producers in Europe! The affluent 'first world' continues to orchestrate, in large part, the starvation of hundreds of millions of the worlds poorest people, and does so in a way not only embarrassingly decadent, but demonstrably stupid: "In 1917 the Allied Powers threw a naval blockade around the German-occupied territories of northern Europe. The Danish people were particularly hard hit by the blockade. With its normal food supply routes cut, the Danish government was forced to enact a rationing program based on increasing the intake of potatoes and barley and virtually eliminating meat. Overnight, some three million Danes were turned into vegetarians, with some interesting results. During the year of rationing, the death rate from disease fell by 34 percent." p170. This was cited in the journal of the AMA.
Interesting stuff, but read Lyman's book instead.
That, in addition to this book now being well over a decade old, makes me very reluctant to recommend. There are better, newer books that have the same point of view that are better written. And this is coming from a reviewer who has not eaten beef since 1997.
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