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Letters :Booking the cooks

Dear Editors

In the August Socialist Standard Pathfinders (Meat In-To Veg) the author asks what will become of the meat and dairy industry in socialism and says: “If socialists expect a large-scale meat industry they will have to face the fact that there is no 'ethical' way to do this.” He or she cites in support an article in New Scientist which argues that free range farming is the most inefficient and intensive factory farming the only logical choice. But the New Scientist article assumes the continuation of capitalist society, with all the constraints and imperatives which it imposes on the sane use of resources when profit is the motive for production. The members of a socialist society would have vastly greater resources to employ – all the resources diverted from the obscene expenditure on arms, the bloated banking system and much, much more.

In an apposite metaphor Karl Marx warned against trying to write recipes for the cook shops of the future. I feel we should take that warning seriously. We don't know what decisions would be taken about food production in socialism and we shouldn't try to second guess them. Personally, I would vote for meat production. I might be on the losing side. A socialist who would vote against needs to recognise that they might be on the losing side instead. But all that should be left for another day, in the interest of creating the broadest base of support for socialism here and now.

Keith Graham, Bristol.

Reply: Fair comment but Pathfinders is a science column with a focus on the future and that is inevitably going to involve some speculation. In this context it is not unreasonable to say that, if the current evidence suggests that socialism cannot realistically provide a contemporary western meat-based lifestyle for its global population, then some level of meat-reduction would be inevitable – Editors.