Why now and then a pork chop is better than veganism

Imke de Boer
Does the animal still fit on our plate?
northern book; 128 pages, € 19.90

Fleur Jongepier

The author

Imke de Boer is Professor of Animals & Sustainable Food Systems at Wageningen University. She is a self-proclaimed ‘food system thinker’ who looks at the future of our food system from a zoomed out perspective. In 2022, she and her team won the Rockefeller Foundation’s worldwide competition with their Food Vision 2050 plan.

the pork chop

Why do I love animals so much and eat them too? Why do I not eat horse or dog meat, but eat chicken breast or a pork chop? These are questions that Imke de Boer asked herself as a student, and which she rightly assumes are questions that many of us struggle with. What is on our plate has a huge impact. Our food system, writes de Boer, is ‘responsible for about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and is the main cause of biodiversity loss’. Currently, every minute “an area of ​​about 27 football fields is still lost to deforestation” in order to use the land to produce food. On many farms, piglet tails are removed because piglets begin to chew on each other out of misery. If a virus shows up somewhere, all animals are killed, even the healthy ones. Thousands and thousands more. Not to mention zoonoses – diseases that pass from animals to humans – and the emergence of pandemics. Reason enough to thoroughly review what is usually on the Dutch plate in the evening.

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Is veganism the future?

In fact, one would think that the answer to this book’s question of whether the animal still fits on our plate would simply be a loud and clear ‘no’. That is not De Boer’s answer. She argues for a much more plant-based diet and describes what consumers, farmers and supermarkets can do. She criticizes that ‘we have started to produce what we want to eat, instead of eating what the earth can offer us, that is, what the earth buys’, and that it really needs to change.

At the same time, De Boer also mentions that when we feed animals with residues that people cannot or will not eat, they return valuable nutrients to the food cycle. Dar would not be possible if we all became vegans. We need ‘nutrients from fertilizer to keep our soil fertile’.

De Boer outlines a scenario where it is actually conceivable to ‘produce milk, meat and eggs with respect for our planet’. Then we should all consume radically smaller animal products, much more locally, and deal more wisely with manure, animal welfare, nutrients in the soil and import / export of livestock. It actually seems possible, everyone has a kitchen garden and free range chickens and once a week a chop from farmer Jan (tine) fifteen minutes away. But you wonder if it would not be less utopian to bet on a vegan future.

Why not read this book?

It is clearly a book written by a scientist: the argument is supported by scientific information, explanations, sources and footnotes. By the way, it’s too many footnotes – “veganism” or “DNA” should not be explained. It’s not that bad. The book is a little dry at times. It is precisely when De Boer writes in a more ‘dialogical’ way, and reacts to reactions from, for example, friends and colleagues, that the book begins to come to life.

Why read this book?

With the hay bales currently in flames next to the road, this book is coming at an excellent time. It may be a little dry, and manure processing or nutrient cycling may not be the sexiest topics, but De Boer is right in that we can no longer ignore the question of whether the animal still fits on our plate. It is commendable that she does not shy away from trying to convey the complexity of that question to the reader. It all depends on everything when it comes to food, and realizing it is step one.

Also read:

Veganism saves the world … or does not?

Anyone who renounces animal products should act with knowledge.

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