The Ecologist Guide to Food

The Ecologist Guide to Food

Author: Andrew Wasley

Publisher: Ivy Press

Price: £9.99

If there’s anything guaranteed to put you off your food, it’s this book. Not that that’s a bad thing. Really, how did we get so disengaged from our food? I read this book with my mouth open, yet too afraid to put anything in it.

There are six chapters that ‘lift the lid on the environmental, political, health and humanitarian issues surrounding our food’: Fruit, Vegetables, Meat & Fish, Dairy, Grocery, and Drinks. 

Depressing stories of those working long hours for little money in horrific conditions stand out most. So while you might always go for Fair Trade bananas, thinking, like me, that the extra expense translates into better working conditions, you’d be wrong. The Ecologist’s former Deputy Editor, Tom Levitt, visited the Dominican Republic and, although some health and environmental problems typical of banana growing were absent, there were still ‘squalid conditions and low pay for many plantation workers – chiefly undocumented migrants from Haiti’. 

Hmmm, suddenly that nice feeling you get from buying ‘Fair Trade’ isn’t so nice. 

This article was taken from Issue 77

There are insights from NGOs and others as to how conditions can be improved, though. Adam Wakeley from the Ethical Fruit Company sensibly explains it’s not about boycotting overseas suppliers, it’s about finding alternative approaches: ‘[W]ithout imported fruit, UK prices would escalate to such a level that the poorer in our society would [be unable] to afford a healthy balanced diet.’ Wakeley’s company ensures it works directly with the suppliers so it knows exactly where the fruit comes from. 

And while I don’t eat meat, I always thought that game meat would be something I might try, what with the birds having lived a wild and free existence before being killed. Not after reading this book. Did you realise that many game birds are reared in cramped, factory-farm conditions before being released onto an estate ahead of hunting season each autumn for some ‘gun’ to ‘hunt’? 

This book opens your eyes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you what to do instead, which leaves you a little adrift – though there are a few suppliers referenced in the book that are worth checking out. I suppose the message is that we’ve got ourselves into such a pickle with food that making ‘the right choice’ is supremely difficult. But this book is a very good and powerful reminder of the issues and complexities. And if you’re not currently fussed about where your food comes from, animal welfare, the effect on the environment of your diet or how the workers that pick and package your food are treated, here’s the added bonus – this book is guaranteed to help you lose weight by making a lot of food unpalatable. Seriously, hands down, it’s the best diet book I’ve ever read. 

Matilda Zatorski