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Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment Paperback – Mar 15 2011
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“Kirby combines the narrative urgency of The Jungle with the investigative reporting of Fast Food Nation. Like Sinclair's and Schlosser's work, it has the potential to change the collective American mind about contemporary food issues.” ―National Public Radio, Books We Like
“Thanks to Kirby's extraordinary journalism, we have the most relatable, irrefutable, and unforgettable testimony yet to the hazards of industrial animal farming.” ―Booklist
“The writing is brilliant, the people profiled are inspirational in their activism, and the topic is one that so many people remain blissfully ignorant of. Everyone would benefit from reading this book.” ―San Francisco Book Review
About the Author
David Kirby is the author of the New York Times bestseller Evidence of Harm, a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The focus of the book is the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), pronounced "kay-fo". CAFOs have transformed the way food, particularly meat, is produced. These operations generate such high negative externalities that the food these produce costs the same overall as traditional food -- but society as a whole pays for it through taxes, capital losses surrounding the operations, etc.
The book follows several story lines, where the reader meets local residents, fisherman, CAFO workers, CAFO owners, politicians, and meat packing workers. It details the history of problems with these in several different locations. Some of the problems that Kirby explains are: water pollution, air pollution, creation of pandemics, fresh water over-usage, poverty, and exploitation in various forms.
This book may be as transformative as The Jungle by Sinclair Upton, that in 1906 led to changes in the meat-packing industry.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
On this particular topic, I don't think "balanced" is possible. What is "balanced" about dumping tons of sewage into public streams? Even so, the book does somewhat give us the side of the story that the CAFOs (Confined Animal Farm Operators) want to tell.
Over the years, I've read plenty on this topic of factory farms. The author's main points are correct. I disagree with his idea (implied, not explicitly expressed) that Democrats are good and Republicans are bad. I really don't see any difference between the Crips and the Bloods other than their colors and rhetoric.
Toward the end of the book, the author discussed the hope that small farmers and anti-CAFOs had in presidential candidate B. Obama. I find such hope and trust to be naive, as the man's voting record as a senator made it clear he wasn't watching out for anyone other than special interests. The golden rule is that those who have the gold make the rules. So where big money speaks, it creates a monologue. The rest of us are disenfranchised unless we go to extraordinary lengths to be heard.
The point I just made is evident in the various accounts given throughout the book. The frustration expressed by "activist" Rick Dove sums this up several different ways, several different times. I put "activist" in quotes because it's a loaded word that often gives the wrong impression. Dove is no pie in the sky, fact-challenged radical who wants a utopia. Using hard data, empirical evidence, and straightforward logic, this ex-Marine worked hard over many years to stop the immense damage being done by some irresponsible people. I believe all Dove has ever wanted is for people to respect the rights of others.
I would say Dove is really aiming at respecting the commons. The concept of the commons is worth exploring, if you haven't yet done so. It's really what's at the heart of this book.
On the whole, this book is informative. What I liked best, though, was Kirby's analysis of the real cost of food. As with many other things, we often don't see the real cost. It's hidden, often through externalization. The CAFOs reduce food costs at the checkout register, but greatly increase food costs elsewhere. You pay far more than it appears you do at the cash register. I won't try to sum up Kirby's analysis, because he did it so well. Read the book to see what it is.
This book is 452 pages long, with 22 pages of notes/references and a substantial index. It consists of 18 chapters and an epilogue. Though the book is long, I never got tired of reading it. The writing style is short on filler and big on keeping the reader interested. It flowed well.
The book mentions a video you've probably seen, The Meatrix. If you haven't watched it, do so. This will help give you a feel for one of the threads running through this book.
If you want to better understand how much your food really costs, this book will help you do that. I think it's a great addition to anyone's library. But more than that, I think it helps the reader understand an issue that is literally of growing importance.
Animal Factory reads almost like a novel. It is NOT a dry, facts-only, tough-to-read kind of book. It tells the stories of different farmers from throughout the country. It is one of those books that keeps you up late at night, all the while you are thinking, I **have** to get up early for work tomorrow, but yet, you keep reading. And keep on reading...
This book will increase your knowledge and understanding of industrial animal farms, whether it's pigs, cows, or dairy farms. When you do read this book, make sure to read the epilogue. There are some updates there relative to the Obama administration, and the animal industry.
This book changed my life. I am now more committed to safe food production and animal welfare! It has caused me to dig deeper and continue to research the health and environmental issues regarding food production in this country. I hope it will do the same for you.
But what you may not realize is that factory farms hurt people, too: entire communities, in fact. The book Animal Factory (a must read for all concerned -vores) reveals how the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are destroying the local community's air and adding to global warming. The manure, traditionally a source of fertilizer, gets sprayed all over, leaving toxic residue on houses, cars,--everywhere! It pollutes rivers to the point that the fish die in droves. Fishermen get sores and memory lapses from the toxins! Overuse of antibiotics creates harmful bacteria that don't respond to antibiotics. Novel viruses like the H1N1 swine flu flourish and spread. The community loses jobs because illegal workers must be hired to cut costs.
The animal factories are caught in the system, as they need to show profit for shareholders. Yet, a commission's report cited in this book demonstrated that the only reason these factory farms are profitable is that the externalized costs (such as the environmental cleanup) are not paid by the farm, but by the public taxpayer. The corporations are taking advantage of the system and lax laws at the expense of the people.
Also, Americans demand cheap food. People in the USA spend about half the percentage of their incomes on food as they did in 1966. But cheap at the checkout doesn't translate into cheap in the long run. Activist Helen Reddout points out, "If you look at the actual cost of protein in the supermarket, and then factor in the corporate welfare system, and the cost of damaging the environment, creating antibiotic resistance, and sickening people who live nearby, and then if you consider the inferior product we are getting as a result, then in that sense, we have the most expensive food in the world."
This book takes us on a journey of activism, a very detailed journey starring ordinary people that were brave enough to fight back, get media attention, change some laws and raise awareness in mass consciousness that this is not just a problem, but a major crisis. These activists (which include Rick Dove, Helen Reddout and Karen Hudson as star reformers) bravely fought despite death threats, drive-by obscenities, nasty comments from neighbors, and working long hours without pay.
The book even includes the arguments used by CAFOs to defend their cruel animal policies of keeping them trapped in tiny spaces in which they often can't even turn around. They claim the animals need to be separated so that they don't establish a pecking order and fight, as well as compete for food. (By such logic perhaps all humans should be confined in prisons.)
The best thing we can do is to boycott factory farmed meat and buy it only from reputable sources, including small farmers. All meat should come from animals that are free range, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, vaccine-free. Pay double the price, if need be, for maximum quality, but just eat less. Vote with your dollar. When this idea catches on, just as organic food caught on, big stores will start providing it.
The author, an omnivore, offers us six baby steps toward a more sustainable animal diet at his website.
Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet
Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn't Work
Animal Factory does not aim to make a vegetarian out of the reader, something I think a lot of people will fear given the title, but on the contrary, it's more about what to look for when choosing healthy and sustainable meats, protecting the environment and people; and what can happen when the government fails, repeatedly, to do it's job.
I recommend this book to anyone who cares about their health, their community, the environment and loves a good David vs Goliath story of citizen activists. The true cost of factory farms is long-reaching and merely getting low-cost meat at the grocery can't be the only thing that matters.
Family farms matter, animal quality of life matters, the environment matters, health matters and sustainability matters. Buy this book and change your way of thinking, and be healthier for it.
Two percent of U.S. livestock facilities raise 40% of all animals. Each year the U.S. produces over a ton of 'dry matter' (water removed) animal waste for every resident. Animal feeding operations produce 100X the waste treated in human sewage treatment plants. Human sewage is treated to kill pathogens, animal waste is not. Hog manure has 10X-100X more pathogens than human waste. Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than cars, per a UN report.
People in the U.S. now s pend about half the percentage on food as in 1966. However, this doesn't cover the cost of externalities. 'Non-factory' foods cost 68% more, per a limited survey conducted by the author in a NYC market.
Important issues. However, the book is way too long, due to its anecdotal style. At times, one suspects the author simply left a tape recorder on and transcribed everything. After awhile the material becomes boring. The book lacks a synthesis of overall impact, especially regarding antibiotic usage. I realize the problems are real, having driven by numerous pig and dairy farms. However, I have recently become leery of 'investigative reporters' because of their lack of understanding involving the subject topics. I would much prefer something shorter written by an individual with scientific and statistical credibility.
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