This is one of the most powerful books I have read in awhile. I say this because this is the first thing I have read in the past two or so years concerning what one could call environmental issues that actually angered me or moved me. As an environmental studies major I read plenty about these issues. But more often then not, I tend to be less aggressive of an environmentalist and am more forgiving of humanity. I used to be someone that thought of people as an “invasive species” or “pest”. I used to think historical peoples were better and respected nature. But study pushed me away from these ideas. In fact, I recently came to the realization that from a purely objective view on nature, that environmentalism didn’t matter because we can’t hurt the earth. Yet reading this book I felt those older feelings inflame in me. I felt compelled. I even worry that now I will have to struggle to reconcile my actions to my beliefs. When I forget to bring my reusable coffee thermos and use a disposable one, I am able to forgive myself and under stand that my action really makes a tiny even negligible difference in the world. But the pork roast I planned on making this weekend? I’m not so sure. This is where I discovered why I am an environmentalist still. As I child, I developed the view from my love of nature and my naive desire to save it. But when I realized it didn’t necessary need to be saved I remained strongly influenced by the ideals of sustainability for reasons I couldn’t quite explain. I just called it my moral standing. But now I see that the morals in question in a large part are about people. The species which I previously saw as the pest of the land. Of course non-animals are extended in that but there have been arguments made that they are people as well. I think acid rain is wrong not for the long term ecological effects it has but on the effects it has on peoples today. I was disgusted to read of the toxification of rivers and the cultivating of diseases because of its link to human suffering. So I guess I am an environmentalist because I oppose needless suffering in peoples and other animals today. I never saw myself as a humanitarian.
How does the animal agricultural system in the U.S. compare with the systems and processes of other countries?
Is less meat really not better?
The correlation that vegetarians have less of certain health problems is not proof of causation as any statistician knows. Vegetarians more likely to be health conscious as shown by their consciousness about meat. They also may be more concerned with eating healthy as they replace meat with other protein and nutrient sources. My problem with the correlation does not undermine their statement that the vegetarian diet is as healthy as the meat eating diet but simply the statement that is it healthier.
As a final note, I found that my anger was strengthened not as I thought about the farms themselves (though that made me reasonably angry and unhappy) but the thought of others’ reactions to what I read in this book. For example, I thought of a conversation with one of my friend’s mothers. My friend was making fun of his mother’s “free range and organic” chicken in the fridge. He explained that organic didn’t actually mean anything because there was no standard necessary to label something as organic. His mother didn’t care and shrugged it off as her stubborn child trying to undermine her. I imagined what it would be like explaining to her that free range had essentially the same lack of meaning. To me this fact is even more shocking than the true meaning (or lack of one) of organic. But I imagined that again she would not care. And this made me very upset. More upset than I have been as an environmentalist in awhile.
The sum of all of this is that I will continue to think about this book for some time. I need to continue to think about it.
Here is one related to the book and could very well undermine the entire purpose.
First this takes animal welfare and rights completely out the picture when it comes to eating meat. It also makes meat an entirely business based production. Plus the environmental impact is huge. Just looking at green house gases, the industry could eliminate most of the gases emitted from the industry that emits the most. That sounds significant!
Here is an article from the Washington Post that is very skeptical of the innovation.
Here is an article from Wired that is totally pro-lab meat.