This isn’t the first environmental book I have read, so there wasn’t a ton of material that I hadn’t already read or heard somewhere, but Give a Sh*t is an easy read, and it’s been a while since I read many of those other books so this was a good reminder how little some of what we do makes sense.
Ms. Piper is a strong believer in veganism yet maintains an encouraging attitude of “do as much as you can” throughout the book without coming across as judgemental as many proponents of veganism do. I had forgotten just how much of a climate change impact animal production has on the world, and while I enjoy a good BLT it should be a luxury, not my staple diet. Give a Sh*t got me thinking more about the food we eat, and the way animal-based food production has changed over the past century makes me angry. Yes, we get more food output per food input than we did a hundred years ago, but we have externalized so much of food production that it’s not a true comparison. At one point animals were a part of a full system on a farm: they are able to dispose of by-products of grain and vegetable production, provide nutritious food, (especially at times of the year when we might be running out of plant-based food), and make fertilizer that helps grow grains and vegetables. The modern food production system has turned this on its head: we use synthetic fertilizers to grow grains to feed animals, then have to dispose of their “by-products” somehow. By prioritizing meat and dairy society has taken what should be a self-reinforcing system of production and turned it into something with many inputs and externalities. The concept of “oil needed to produce a pound of beef” seems wrong, yet it is something measurable.
From an animal welfare side we have mucked up the system as well. Eating meat means killing animals, and eating dairy means taking milk that should probably be going to a baby animal, and we can choose how we feel about eating those products. But eggs are a by-product of a hen’s life. Hens don’t need roosters to produce eggs, and eating an egg doesn’t have to mean we’re snuffing out a potential life. On the 100-years-ago farm chickens would eat bugs & leftovers around the farm, and we would get tasty eggs as a by-product. Today egg-laying hens are caged indoors for their entire lives in horrible little boxes, so a formerly a guilt-free delicious food has become something that causes animal abuse.
Back to the book: Ms. Piper goes through great ways to live well without having a huge impact on the world, and her lists of brands that offer Give a Sh*t compatible products seem like a great resource.