This debate between Simon Fairlie and George Monbiot organised and hosted by the Dartington Trust was held at Schumacher College, Dartington earlier this year.
Simon and George have been debating meat eating, veganism, rewilding and now precision fermentation of food for many years. Both speakers offer very persuasive and different visions of where our food should, in their opinion, come from.
George Monbiot is an author, Guardian columnist and environmental activist. His best-selling books include Feral: Rewilding the land, sea and human life, Heat: how to stop the planet burning; and Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis. George cowrote the concept album Breaking the Spell of Loneliness with musician Ewan McLennan. His viral videos include How Wolves Change Rivers (viewed on YouTube over 40m times) and Nature Now, co-presented with Greta Thunberg (over 60m views). George’s latest book, Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet, was published in May 2022.
Simon Fairlie worked for twenty years variously as an agricultural labourer, vine worker, shepherd, fisherman, builder and stonemason before being ensnared by the computer in 1990. He was a coeditor of The Ecologist magazine for four years until he joined Tinkers’ Bubble community in 1994 where he managed the cows, pigs and a working horse. He now runs a micro dairy at Monkton Wyld Court, a charity and cooperative in rural Dorset. Simon is a founding editor of The Land magazine, and he earns a living by selling scythes. He is the author of Low Impact Development: Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside (1996) and Meat: A Benign Extravagance (2010) and a memoir, Going to Seed (2022)
This debate was about the sustainability of livestock farming in view of the environmental crisis and not limited to striking the balance between agricultural sustainability and maximising agricultural production capability. However, interesting perspective may be further obtained by cross referencing with an older article Can Britain Feed Itself? by Simon Fairlie published in 2007 in Issue-4 of The Land Magazine which, in posing the question of whether or not Britain could feed itself within its existing agricultural acres, compared different farming systems such as Chemical with Livestock (no good), Chemical Vegan, Organic Vegan, Organic with Livestock, Livestock Permaculture & a system (referred to as “Mellanby’s Basic Diet 1975”) in which the population would hypothetically be restricted in their consumption to a basic diet (less meat) based on the analysis by Scottish ecologist Kenneth Mellanby in his 1975 book “Can Britain Feed Itself?”
Can Britain Feed Itself? by Simon Fairlie (2007), The Land Magazine