I'm vegan, and I've read my fair share of animal welfare/health/wellness/sustainable living-focused literature. However, most of it leaves me thinking well, no wonder people hate vegans because it tends to be overly sensational, shame-y, preach-y, and generally not super effective. Eating Animals broke that mold, and I would genuinely recommend this book to everyone I know.
Simply put, Eating Animals presents a case against factory farming. But it does so in a way that relies on facts and not scare tactics. It talks to family farmers and engages with the question of whether or not there is an ethical or less bad way to consume meat. It also talks about the nuances of food consumption, from respecting culture to the awkwardness of rejecting a Thanksgiving dinner, to the collective history of sharing a meal with loved ones. I believe that our food choices should be looked at through these overlapping lenses, rather than just thinking oh, I'm vegan. I'm better than you. In order for people to even think about the possibility of reducing their intake of a food that has been the center of a family meal for decades, presenting the option through these lenses is vital.
None of this is said to downplay the fact that factory farming is one of the most cruel, disgusting, corrupt, and truly evil industries that exists in the world (and particularly in the USA) today. Animals are mutated, raped, beat senseless, and often slaughtered while still alive. There is little to no regulation, and terms like "natural" and "free range" continue to dupe even the best-intentioned Whole Foods buyers. Family farmers are being reduced to essentially nonexistence, and at the rate we're going, consuming the meat from these farms will give most of us disease, obesity, diabetes, and a higher percentage of allergies than any generation that has ever lived. Not to mention that the environmental pollution caused by these farms (both from methane/waste/actual chemical emissions) is several times larger than the pollution caused by the entire transportation sector combined. Yes - planes, trains, cars, buses - do not compare to the environmental damage caused by these death factories.
I think if everyone had to see or even read about the reality of where their food comes from, things would be vastly different. But the fact is, people don't know and don't care to know. People like the comfort of being removed from the killing part of their meal and going straight to the I've got a piece of medium rare steak on my plate part of the meal. And from a social justice perspective, factory farming should definitely be a part of the conversation. I've got lots of friends who won't buy from Amazon or Apple because they're becoming corporate monopolies that exploit their workers, etc. But if I bring up the topic of eating meat, it's suddenly abrasive - too personal, not relevant, and kind of rude. Yet the rate of PTSD in factory farm workers is literally higher than that of war veterans. The turnaround rate for kill floor personnel is nearly 100% - they have to re-hire new people almost every year, and it's almost always undocumented immigrants who are paid close to nothing and are grossly overworked. The factory farm industry also pays the FDA to never tell people to eat less of anything, arguing that the messaging will hurt the American economy. What is more, these animals from birth to death live in cages of their own feces, are pumped with hormones, never see the light of day, and arrive to the slaughterhouse almost always with broken bones, heart conditions, and bacterial infections. And we EAT that. And by giving our money to the meat and dairy industry, we continue to allow this to exist. Being mindful consumers shouldn't just come into play when it comes to what chain stores we support. What we put on our plate needs to enter the conversation as well, and I hope anyone who picks up this book starts to think about how these small everyday choices really can change the bigger picture.