Nicolette Hahn Niman was an environmental lawyer who became a cattle rancher, and didn’t eat meat for 33 years. For both the ecosystem and human health, she argues, it’s how animals are farmed that matters
After refusing to eat meat for 33 years, Nicolette Hahn Niman bit tentatively into a beefburger two years ago. She had become a vegetarian because she was concerned about animal welfare and the environmental cost of meat. Unlike most vegetarians, she had experience of the dire conditions on factory farms during her career as an environmental lawyer campaigning against pollution caused by industrial meat production in the US. Then she married a farmer.
Hahn Niman’s journey from vegetarian activist to cattle rancher to writing a book called Defending Beef may be driven by love, but it is also informed by a lawyerly desire to stick up for small farmers besieged by the growing ethical and environmental clamour against meat. The burger turned out to be an unexpectedly delicious brief pleasure, but it was the 18 years working on the ranch alongside the man who grilled it – and raised the cow – her husband, Bill Niman, that inspired her.