“The traditional three arguments in this field are around health, ethics and the environment – I just wanted to have a fourth perspective, which was economics,” he says. “If I can reach people through another set of arguments they may not have heard before then there’s just one other way to open the door.”
The figures Simon puts forward are so big as to defy comprehension: he says the externalised cost of America’s animal food system is US$414bn annually. Three-quarters of that is expenditure on healthcare relating to the “epidemics” of obesity, diabetes and heart disease that Simon says are driven by high rates of consumption of meat and dairy.
As we all know it’s sugar, an entirely vegan product, which produces those things. Thus the argument must be wrong, right?
Consumption has skyrocketed because, Simon says, of the system of government subsidies, legislation and regulation he outlines in Meatonomics that allows animal food producers to keep output high and retail prices artificially low. If the industry were forced to cover its total costs, instead of imposing them on taxpayers, animals and the environment, a US$4 Big Mac would cost about $11, he says.
Hmm. That’s from a lawyer trying to do economics. Not willing to pay for the book but would like to see his model there.