Our future diet will be shaped by diverse forces. It will be shaped by novel technologies and the logic of globalisation, by geopolitical tensions and the evolution of cultural preferences, by shocks to the status quo – pandemics and economic strife, the escalation of the climate and ecological crises – and by how we choose to respond. It will also be shaped by our emotions. It will be shaped by the meat paradox.
'Should we eat animals?' was, until recently, a question reserved for moral philosophers and an ethically minded minority, but it is now posed on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves, on social media and morning television. The recent surge in popularity for veganism in the UK, Europe and North America has created a rupture in the rites and rituals of meat, challenging the cultural narratives that sustain our omnivory.
In The Meat Paradox, Rob Percival, an expert in the politics of meat, searches for the evolutionary origins of the meat paradox, asking when our relationship with meat first became emotionally and ethically complicated. Every society must eat, and meat provides an important source of nutrients. But every society is moved by its empathy. We must all find a way of balancing competing and contradictory imperatives. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the origins of our empathy, the psychology of our dietary choices, and anyone who has wondered whether they should or shouldn't eat meat.
Rob Percival is a writer, campaigner and food policy expert. His commentary on food and farming has featured in the national press and on prime time television, and his writing has been shortlisted for the Guardian's International Development Journalism Prize and the Thomson Reuters Foundation's Food Sustainability Media Award. He works as Head of Food Policy for the Soil Association. The Meat Paradox is his first book.
"In all the best ways, The Meat Paradox complicates the ongoing debate between omnivores and herbivores. It's a funny, reverent reminder that meat has always been central to our story as a society."
– Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food
"How can humans simultaneously love animals and love to eat them? In The Meat Paradox, Rob Percival takes on this question, combining great story telling with the latest findings in fields ranging from psychology and neuroscience to anthropology and moral philosophy. Whether you are an omnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, this book is a page turner that will spin your head around."
– Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals
"Passionate, sophisticated, urgently important and compulsively readable. Percival's enquiry dives into deep time, into other dimensions and ranges across the continents in a search not only for our relationship with meat, but our relationship with ourselves. It's an exhilarating and salutary record of our stuttering conversation with the non-human world, and a robust interrogation of our whole way of being."
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Human and Being a Beast
"The Meat Paradox is utterly brilliant, in the range of its erudition, the power of its argument, its revelatory profundity and its compelling storytelling."
– Jay Griffiths, author of Why Rebel
"A fearless exploration of the question that has shaped human evolution and could determine whether we survive as a species into the future: Should we eat animals? Making an important contribution to the debate that goes deep into the question of whether we humans evolved to be omnivores, The Meat Paradox asks whether we should continue eating meat in the face of the climate catastrophe. Percival takes a detailed look at the history and the arguments and ultimately answers the question of how to be an 'ethical omnivore'."
– Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat
"An even-handed and nuanced exploration of our deeply complex moral relationships with other animals, The Meat Paradox is a compelling journey into the evolutionary past, potential future, and conflicted psyche of the planet's most dangerous and empathetic predator: us."
– Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance
"In searching for the answers to a complicated question, this beautifully written book will take you to some unexpected and fascinating places. Written by someone who clearly cares deeply about animals and our planet, it provides much needed nuance in an often polarized debate."
– Tobias Leeneart, author of How to Create a Vegan World: a Pragmatic Approach
"Brilliantly provocative, original, electrifying"
– Bee Wilson, Financial Times