Meat Hand

The most disgusting meat dish ever, and that’s saying quite a bit. (Via BoingBoing.) Link.

Natalie Portman Reviews Eating Animals

The Huffington Post has published a Natalie Portman review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. The lead sentence:

Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist.

Wow. I think she liked it. Her review contains this great paragraph:

I remember in college, a professor asked our class to consider what our grandchildren would look back on as being backward behavior or thinking in our generation, the way we are shocked by the kind of misogyny, racism, and sexism we know was commonplace in our grandparents’ world. He urged us to use this principle to examine the behaviors in our lives and our societies that we should be a part of changing. Factory farming of animals will be one of the things we look back on as a relic of a less-evolved age.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Eating Animals will sell in excess of 100,000 copies. But what’s really needed is for Eating Animals to become the next decade’s Omnivore’s Dilemma—the default book that everyone reads about food.

If that happens, it’ll be game over for factory farming. It falls on our shoulders to try to make this happen. So the question is: what can you do to get Eating Animals into many more hands? (Via Crossfield.) Link.

Soy May Reduce Hip Fractures

I haven’t looked at the study yet, but it’s worth knowing that the American Journal of Epidemiology has published a paper that ties soy intake to a 36 percent reduction of hip fractures in women. It’s a big study too: 63,000 people participated. (Via Messina.) Link.

Meat Industry Fights the Bad Fight Over Meatless Mondays

Here’s a great article in The Atlantic exposing the meat industry’s blundering, bad faith efforts to torpedo the meatless Monday program. Baltimore’s public schools implemented this program at the beginning of the school year, and it’s off to a great start.

So, naturally, the meat industry is responding with fear-mongering media appearances:

[The American Meat Institute’s] Janet Riley gave Dobbs a figure: 75 percent of American children, she said, are not getting enough protein. I was visiting Baltimore the day of the Dobbs taping, and asked her the following day by phone share the source of the number. She promised to email it, but never did.

The meat industry certainly understands that Meatless Mondays act as a wedge, introducing healthful foods into otherwise barren school lunch program menus. Once kids start eating and enjoying their meatless meals on Monday, it’s certain they’ll want these foods on other days of the week.

Today Baltimore; tomorrow Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco? It takes only a few activists to make this happen. And the meat industry knows it. (Via Starkman.) Link.

Top Climate Authority Condemns Meat

It’s looking like the meat industry’s day of reckoning will soon arrive, thanks to growing concern over climate change. One of the world’s top climate experts, Lord Stern of Brentford, is shining the spotlight on the meat industry’s contribution to greenhouse gases:

Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.

Strong words, but at least he’s not likening meat eating to drunken driving. Oh wait, he is:

He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.”

Stern believes that meat prices could increase greatly after December if nations take concerted action in Copenhagen to reduce greenhouse gases. (Via Maxwell.) Link.

Reassessing WorldWatch’s Greenhouse Gas Claims

Last week, I blogged about a new WorldWatch article that suggested that as much as 51 percent of earth’s greenhouse gas impact may be caused by animal agriculture. That’s much higher than the seminal 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow [PDF link], that pegged the number at 18 percent.

Now, my friend David Steele at the University of British Columbia has been kind enough to analyze WorldWatch’s numbers, and contribute a write-up of his findings to Steele found that the WorldWatch authors identified several important contributors to global warming that weren’t previously considered, but that some of the resultant analysis put the greenhouse gas figures too high. He’s re-crunched the numbers and has concluded:

Based on my adjustments of the numbers Goodland and Anhang have provided, my conservative reanalysis of their claims indicates that animal agriculture contributes a minimum of 30.4% of worldwide greenhouse gases in CO2 equivalents.

Fingering animal agriculture for at least 30 percent of global warming is a big deal, and these look to be the most reliable figures yet published. Link.

Peter Singer Calls for 50 Percent Tax on Meat

Here’s a piece by Peter Singer published by The New York Daily News in which he’s calling for a cigarette-style 50 percent tax on meat. Singer writes:

…the reasons for a tax on beef and other meats are stronger than those for discouraging consumption of cigarettes, transfats or sugary drinks.

And, as is usual for Singer, he backs up his argument beautifully. This dialog is not going to lead anywhere positive for the meat industry.

Interestingly, the Daily News headline for this piece labels Singer’s tax proposal as “radical.” Are cigarette taxes radical too? If not, why not? Link.

Eating Animals

As the author of two books on this subject, I couldn’t possibly be more impressed by what Jonathan Safran Foer has accomplished in Eating Animals. It’s by far the best book on agribusiness and vegetarianism I’ve ever read. In fact, had a book half this good existed fifteen years ago, there’s no way I’d have written Vegan or Meat Market: I wouldn’t have felt there was a need.

When I started reading this book, I braced myself for a big letdown. I suppose that’s a natural consequence of having read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and watching some of my main concerns addressed in a derisive and superficial manner.

Like Pollan, Foer has a gift for fluid and engaging storytelling. But Foer’s coverage of the ethical issues associated with agribusiness is vastly superior to what Pollan can muster. Not only is Foer’s writing first-rate, the research that went into this book was a massive undertaking. I write on this subject daily, and still learned things on every page.

Foer’s research takes several forms. It’s obvious that he’s read all the key books on the subject, and has waded deeply into agribusiness journals as well. He has also sneaked into factory farms, and his accountings of these terrifying and disturbing visits are not to be missed. And, finally, he’s done an exceptional job of visiting and evaluating those few animal farms that are sincerely concerned with maintaining the highest possible animal welfare.

Eating Animals particularly excels in examining a topic I covered in Chapter 3 of Meat Market: the question of how much cruelty can be removed from animal agribusiness, and how much added expense removing that cruelty would entail. It’s clear from his book that Foer deeply admires those few people who are seeking to replace factory farms with a food system in which the animals get a life comparably fulfilling to that enjoyed by a well-cared for dog or cat. Yet, tellingly, even the best of these systems don’t inspire Foer to abandon his vegetarianism.

Foer’s ability to acknowledge and vividly describe the shades of gray that accompany various animal production systems delivers a more detailed and accurate picture of animal agriculture than any previous mainstream book. In my review of Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, I wrote, “Michael Pollan is a talented writer, and had he only put this manuscript out for proper review this book could have been a masterpiece.”

Well, in Eating Animals we have a book that was put out for proper review, and is legitimately a masterpiece. It’s honest, accurate, persuasive, meticulously researched, and beautifully written. This is a watershed book concerning the ethics of eating, and it’s a must-read for everyone who cares about the ethical dimension of our food choices.

At long last, we, and the animals, have a bestselling book that gives both veganism and conscientious omnivorism a fair hearing.