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A day would come, Percy Shelley predicted in 1813, when “the monopolising eater of animal flesh would no longer destroy his constitution by eating an acre at a meal”. He explained: “The quantity of nutritious vegetable matter consumed in fattening the carcass of an ox would afford 10 times the sustenance if gathered immediately from the bosom of the earth.” Two hundred years later, mainstream agronomists and dietitians have caught up with the poet. A growing scientific consensus agrees that feeding cereals and beans to animals is an inefficient and extravagant way to produce human food, that there is a limited amount of grazing land, that the world will be hard-pressed to supply a predicted population of 9 billion people with a diet as rich in meat as the industrialised world currently enjoys, and that it’s not a very healthy diet anyway. On top of this, livestock contribute significantly towards global warming, generating 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions, according to one much-quoted estimate from the United Nations. Now that the problem has been identified, the challenge is to persuade people in wealthy countries to eat less meat. That might seem a tall order, but governments have successfully persuaded people to quit smoking through a combination of public information, regulation and taxation.