October 17, 2008

Book Review: The Compassionate Carnivore: Or How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald’s Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat (Catherine Friend)

I enjoy meat. I do. Always have. For most people, that’s not a issue, but it does make me something of a heretic around the ol’ Elephant office. I do have a definite problem with meat though: the factory farm model of meat production.  Thanks to Catherine Friend’s The Compassionate Carnivore, my resolve to stop supporting the factory farm model of meat production has definitely moved into a full-on commitment. In a similar vein (no pun intended) to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, and the like except that The Compassionate Carnivore isn’t as intense and challenges the reader to recognize where their dinner comes from, and it encourages people to re-think their relationship to what is on their plate. Friend also addresses the environmental impact of meat, something that’s been a bit of a topic of late, pointing out that it is not raising animals for meat that is the problem, that it’s factory farming that makes raising animals in that fashion unsustainable.  This book has several strengths to it, including that it was written by someone who not only eats meat, but also raises sheep for meat as a source of income. In addition, the author offers suggestions and ideas as to where the reader can get more information about what they are eating and where it comes from, including an index, and a list of resources that she used in writing the book.  The Compassionate Carnivore is a book that encourages the reader to develop a sense of compassion for the animals that give their lives for ours without being sentimental or sappy, and is written with a good amount of humor to help lighten what could easily develop into a rather maudlin read. Of all of the food books out there, this is one that should be considered a must read, carnivores and vegetarians included.  Published by Da Capo Books and available from your local, independent bookseller.

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