Since I first saw the documentary Cowspiracy in early 2015, I keep reading books about animal agriculture. I read several books on the subject before I published my own in February, and I’ve read several more since. I’m past the point where I need further convincing, so why do I continue?
(Imagine significant time passing between asking myself this question and coming up with some answers.)
Okay, here are some answers. First, animal agriculture, a.k.a. factory farming, has been kept under wraps for too long, so there are many truths about it that need to be brought under public scrutiny.
Second, each of the books I’ve read so far has reinforced the others and, as well, added new insight or approached the subject from a new and different perspective. I continue to learn more from each, and certain nuances of my values and conclusions continue to be challenged, even though I’ve made the most basic decisions already.
Finally, these books tell about more than just factory farming. They examine the implications of modern industrial-age capitalism on an overpopulated planet. They raise questions of human nature: compassion and cruelty; confronting unpleasant truths versus turning a willing blind eye; whether or not humans are superior to other animals and thus entitled to exploit them; whether how we treat other animal species has bearing on how we treat one another. This is deep stuff.
So here is a brief personal bibliography of books I’ve read thus far – or plan to read soon. I’ve listed them alphabetically, because it’s impossible to rank them by worth. I’ve also written a few words about each, so potential readers can decide which they want to pursue and in what sequence. I’m confident that any one of these books will cause readers to examine their habits and beliefs in a new way.
Fortunately for humanity and the planet, there is a wealth of information available today on the history and the incredible complexity of animal agriculture. It’s all out there just waiting to be digested by the broader population.
Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet – Dr. Richard A. Oppenlander
This is highly readable, concise discussion of the impacts of the food we eat upon climate and the environment.
I own Comfortably Unaware on my Kindle but haven’t read it yet; it’s in my near-term backlog.
Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
This is a deep, fresh, philosophical look at the practice of eating animals. The author is an accomplished novelist, and this book is both thoroughly researched and brilliantly written. It challenges the views of anyone who eats anything, even vegetarians and vegans.
I’m in the midst of reading Eating Animals now, and I’m finding it amazing. I continue to learn more about animal agriculture.
Eating Earth: Environmental Ethics and Dietary Choice – Lisa Kemmerer
This book focuses on three aspects of our relationship with animals: factory farming, fishing, and hunting. The author explores the ethics of these practices, employing a wealth of facts, data, and graphics. Eating Earth is thoroughly researched, and Kemmerer presents all her findings concisely, in a way that is visually appealing. If you thrive on data, you will love Eating Earth.
Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food – Gene Baur
Gene Baur has dedicated his life to building awareness of what’s behind the meat and dairy products we consume, through his nonprofit farm animal rescue organization Farm Sanctuary. This book is a thorough look at animal agriculture – with emphasis on animal treatment – as well as the author’s personal story.
I am honored to know Gene personally. From his three decades as an activist, he has developed keen insights into human behavior that transcend our relationship with animals.
If Pigs Could Talk: The Case for a Plant-Based Diet – Roger Gloss
Yes, this is my own book, published in February 2017. It’s intended as a concise handbook (70 pages), an introduction to the entire array of problems resulting from factory farming, and a roadmap to help readers who wish to move to a plant-based diet. For anyone new to the subject, If Pigs Could Talk is a great place to start. You can find it here.
Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat – Howard F. Lyman with Glen Merzer
Howard Lyman spent much of his life as a cattle rancher in Montana. Mad Cowboy is his personal story. He explains why he no longer eats meat and tells the story of his transition from farmer to politician to activist.
The Sustainability Secret: Rethinking Our Diet to Transform the World – Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn
This is the book version of the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. Published subsequent to the release of the film, the book covers all the issues in the film, but in greater detail. While the documentary builds a strong case against the environmental destruction from animal agriculture, the book reinforces it.
What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins – Jonathan Balcombe
The world of fish, beneath the oceans’ surface, is even more hidden from most of us than what goes on in factory farms. Jonathan Balcombe challenges our notions of how different fish are from us, and examines why this matters.
I’m pleased to count Jonathan among my acquaintances. He owns a signed copy of my book If Pigs Could Talk and has spoken highly of it. My signed copy of What a Fish Knows is unread as yet; it’s in my near-term backlog. Stay tuned.