Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review: 'The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists Are Building an Animal-Free Food System' by Jacy Reese

The End of Animal Farming by Jacy Reese
‘Animal farming will end by 2100’

Jacy Reese is the Research Director and co-founder of Sentience Institute, a nonprofit think tank researching the most effective strategies for expanding humanity’s moral circle. He previously served as Board Chair and as a researcher at Animal Charity Evaluators. His writing has appeared in Vox, Salon, and Quartz, and he has presented his research to academic and nonprofit audiences in over 20 countries.

In his Introduction Jacy not only address the topic at hand but also allows us to sense the humanity of this important world citizen: ‘This is not a book about the problems of animal farming. Scores of compelling books, documentaries, news articles, and scientific papers have detailed the damage animal farming does to public health, agricultural workers, rural communities, the national economy, the global food supply, our air and water, and, of course, farmed animals. This is a book about exactly how we can solve those problems. So much has been written exposing and condemning the animal agriculture industry that technology theorist Tom Chatfield listed “eating meat and factory farming” first in his predictions of what our descendants in centuries to come will deplore about today’s society. Journalist Ezra Klein, author Steven Pinker, business magnate Richard Branson, science educator Bill Nye, and Indian politician Maneka Gandhi have all made similar forecasts, based primarily on concern for farmed animals. In 2017, the BBC even produced the mockumentary “Carnage” based in the vegan world of 2067. It took a critical and humorous look at Britain’s unpleasant history of eating animals. It might seem surprising that the plight of these neglected creatures—by numbers, around 93 percent of farmed animals are chickens and fish—is so compelling an issue, given the fact that humans are still plagued by disease, oppression, war, racial and economic inequality, and other pressing social issues. However, even if we ignore the harms animal farming causes to humans, a bit of reflection exposes a compelling moral urgency. Consider these three facts: First, there are over one hundred billion farmed animals alive at this moment—more than ten times the number of humans. Second, over 90 percent (over 99 percent in the US) of these animals live on industrial, large-scale “factory farms” enduring atrocious cruelty such as intense confinement in tiny cages, brutal mutilation and slaughter methods, and rampant disease and suffering from artificial breeding for excessive production of meat, dairy, and eggs. Third, today we have scientific consensus that these are sentient beings with the capacity to feel great joy and suffering. If we put these facts together, then we see animal farming as more than an abstract system of machinery and livestock. Animal farming is the moral catastrophe of one sentient being with a heartbreaking life story, plus another sentient being . . . plus another . . . plus another . . . plus another . . . more than one hundred billion times. Historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of the books Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, went so far as to suggest that animal farming is “the worst crime in history.” You might feel cautious about this opposition to all animal farming: If there’s a small percentage of the animal agriculture industry that’s not factory farming, shouldn’t we support that segment instead of abolishing the whole thing? What’s wrong with buying eggs from happy hens? I will share my views on this topic at length in chapter 6, arguing that we should oppose all animal farming, but note that most of this book’s arguments don’t rely on that viewpoint. Food advocates of all viewpoints are still united against the vast majority of modern animal farming, and you could read the rest of this book as The End of Factory Farming with little issue. The future is brighter than you think.

In this warm, caring conversational manner Jacy writes the chapters to inspect the following areas – The Expanding Moral Circle, Emptying the Cages, The Rise of Vegan Tech, How Plant-Based Will Take Over, The World’s First Cultured Hamburger, The Psychology of Animal-Free Food, Evidence-Based Social Change, Broadening Horizons, and The Expanding Moral Circle, Revisited. 

In a book with so much to digest, reliance on the author’s synopsis is helpful – ‘Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals brought widespread attention to the disturbing realities of factory farming. The End of Animal Farming pushes this conversation forward by outlining a strategic roadmap to a humane, ethical, and efficient food system in which slaughterhouses are obsolete--where the tastes of even the most die-hard meat eater are satisfied by innovative food technologies like cultured meats and plant-based protein. Social scientist and animal advocate Jacy Reese analyzes the social forces leading us toward the downfall of animal agriculture, the technology making this change possible for the meat-hungry public, and the activism driving consumer demand for plant-based and cultured foods. Reese contextualizes the issue of factory farming--the inhumane system of industrial farming that 95 percent of farmed animals endure--as part of humanity's expanding moral circle. Humanity increasingly treats nonhuman animals, from household pets to orca whales, with respect and kindness, and Reese argues that farmed animals are the next step. Reese applies an analytical lens of "effective altruism," the burgeoning philosophy of using evidence-based research to maximize one's positive impact in the world, in order to better understand which strategies can help expand the moral circle now and in the future. The End of Animal Farming is not a scolding treatise or a prescription for an ascetic diet. Reese invites readers--vegan and non-vegan--to consider one of the most important and transformational social movements of the coming decades.’

This is a fascinating and important book, one that deserves our immediate attention and thought alteration. Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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