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Book Review of: Animal Factory

The looming threat of industrial pig, dairy, and poultry farms to humans and the environment

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Review of Animal Factory, by David Kirby (Hardcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

The book isn't objective. However, the author doesn't pretend that it is. Reading it felt like having a discussion with someone who had a particular viewpoint and was trying to persuade me to agree with it. The persuasion wasn't the cheap shot kind, and there were no leaps of logic. Nor did the author rely on disinformation (though many of his sources are noted for doing so). And, the author did present opposing viewpoints.

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.

 

 

 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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