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Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment [Hardcover]

David Kirby
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following crusaders against large-scale factory farms, investigative journalist Kirby delves deep to uncover the abysmal conditions of America's food and produce industry; Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, are revealed to be the root cause of current health crises such as swine flu and massive recalls on grocery products. Kirby presents the human side of big-business blunders and coverups. William Hughes keeps the prose engaging by shifting his tone to underplayed yet believable characterizations. He presents the bulk of the material in a straightforward, newsworthy tone capable of presenting the facts without editorializing. An eye-opening account of an escalating problem. A St. Martin's hardcover. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In factory farms, thousands of animals are confined and rapidly fattened for slaughter, generating millions of gallons of animal waste, which is stored in open lagoons and sprayed into the air. Kirby, author of the best-selling Evidence of Harm (2005), profiles three individuals who have been subjected to the stench, mess, environmental contamination, and health risks of megafarms. Rick Dove, a Marine Corps prosecutor, retired early to enjoy the Neuse River near his North Carolinian home but instead became a devoted “riverkeeper” after witnessing massive fish kills caused by pig-factory waste. In beautiful Yakima Valley, Washington, Helen Reddout and her husband joyfully tended their fruit orchards until a megadairy fouled their property, inducing Helen to become a “warrior activist.” The same thing happened to farmer’s wife Karen Hudson in Elmwood, Illinois. Stonewalling government agencies and evasive and hostile factory-farm owners and their corporate overseers ensure that the trios’ battles for safe air and water have been protracted, complicated, and dangerous, hence the magnitude of Kirby’s meticulously detailed yet propulsive chronicle. Thanks to Kirby’s extraordinary journalism, we have the most relatable, irrefutable, and unforgettable testimony yet to the hazards of industrial animal farming.--Donna Seaman

Review

CRITICS GIVE RAVE REVIEWS FOR ANIMAL FACTORY

“Kirby combines the narrative urgency of Sinclair's novel with the investigative reporting of Schlosser's book — Animal Factory is nonfiction, but reads like a thriller. There's no political pleading or ideological agitprop in this book; it's remarkably fair-minded, both sober and sobering. Like Sinclair's and Schlosser's work, it has the potential to change the collective American mind about contemporary food issues.”-- NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, “BOOKS WE LIKE”

“Kirby profiles three individuals who have been subjected to the stench, mess, environmental contamination, and health risks of megafarms. Stonewalling government agencies and evasive and hostile factory-farm owners and their corporate overseers ensure that the trio’s battles for safe air and water have been protracted, complicated, and dangerous, hence the magnitude of Kirby’s meticulously detailed yet propulsive chronicle. Thanks to Kirby’s extraordinary journalism, we have the most relatable, irrefutable, and unforgettable testimony yet to the hazards of industrial animal farming.”-- BOOKLIST – JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSN *STARRED REVIEW*


Animal Factory is a compelling narrative in the tradition of Upton Sinclair, whose 1906 novel "The Jungle" led to changes in the meat-packing industry. It isn't a novel, but it moves along with the urgency of a pot-boiler. What Kirby has done in this journalistic account of animal factory operations across the country is draw back the curtains that have carefully screened from the public the untidy secrets about how meat is produced on a large scale in this country. You'll read about the cramped feeding operations where animals are fattened for market, the pharmaceuticals that go into feed, the alarming practices used to dispose of feces and urine and how animal byproducts sometimes wind up in feed.” -- THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER


“Kirby turns his investigative reporting skills to the human and environmental consequences of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Unlike recent books on this topic that advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle (e.g., Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals), Kirby focuses on the negative impacts CAFOs are having on not only those who live near these operations but also those who may be affected by polluted water originating from waste lagoon spills at these sites. His narrative is immensely readable and should be required reading for anybody concerned with how CAFOs are changing the nature of livestock farming.”--LIBRARY JOURNAL

“Centering on three tales of large-scale factory farming, David Kirby takes the industry to task for its destruction of the environment, its deleterious effect on the family farm and rural America, and its lies, which have led to government inaction. Kirby's descriptions of how the animals are treated is chilling, and I can guarantee that you'll never eat pork with a clean conscience again.” --INDIE NEXT “NOTABLES,” AMERICAN BOOKSELLERS ASSN


“An environment in which there are lakes of putrid slush, foul odors wafting in the breeze and entire rivers turning orange may sound like something out of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road, but it’s a reality for many people who live near industrial farms - the result of keeping thousands of animals in one place in order to keep prices low. In his latest book, Animal Factory, David Kirby follows three unlikely grassroots activists who have opposed big agriculture, from small community protests to the national sustainable movement.”--LEONARD LOPATE, WNYC-FM, NPR Affiliate, New York City


“Good journalists know that the key to hooking their audience on a complex social problem is to put a human face on it. And David Kirby is a good journalist. In his new book Animal Factory Kirby puts a human face on the threat of industrial meat production to humans and environmental health. Animal Factory tells the story of three people who became unlikely activists against large-scale factory farms and their accompanying stench, waste and cost.”--FRANK STASIO, WUNC-FM, NPR Affiliate, North Carolina


Animal Factory is really a wonderful book, an easy read, and one that you often wrestle with. And I think that, for those of us who are thinking about the future of our world, well, this is one of those books you must read.” --MARK STEINER, WEAA-FM, NPR Affiliate, Baltimore


”Kirby has assembled an amazingly detailed history of his subjects' grassroots struggles. It's an impressive feat of all-consuming, shoe-leather journalism, and his litany of unneighborly insults, like the "stinky, mocha-colored mist" that one mega-dairy inflicts on the property next door, packs a punch. His dogged pursuit of the story has made him unquestionably expert on factory farming and the resistance movement thereof.--THE INDEPENDENT WEEKLY – DURHAM, NC

“Kirby avoids the classic conservationist (lefty) versus business dichotomy (Republican) in focusing on people like ex-Marine turned Riverkeeper, Rick Dove. Animal Factory is a valuable addition to the growing number of works like Food Inc. and The Omnivore’s Dilemma exposing the ills of mass-produced meat and dairy. Kirby uses the stories of the three families, as they move from their local fights to the national scene, to draw readers into the morass of government regulations and lawsuits that surround the CAFO issue.”--EUGENE WEEKLY

“If you want to know about the worst practices of our food system, David Kirby is your man. Kirby has the inside track on all things factory farm, which is why Washington Post's "On Leadership" column recently invited him to write a guest post about President Obama's record on reform in this area. Kirby's right in saying that "Obama should go out of his way to showcase his leadership in confronting the pollution and economic consolidation of animal factory farming."--CHANGE.ORG

"Animal Factory is not a book about animal welfare, or nutrition, or fair labor practices. Instead, it is something that concerns us all, no matter what our political persuasion - the long-term health of people and communities directly affected by factory farms. The scandal of industrial food-animal production is a direct link to the health care debate, making "Animal Factory" all the more urgent. Mr. Kirby has produced a powerful, important book to all those who care about their family's health. – THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sometimes it seems that the only people who truly support CAFOs, or animal factory farms, are those who stand to profit from them. This is made brilliantly clear in Animal Factory, David Kirby’s exposé into the business. Animal Factory follows the stories of three people trying to fight against big dairy and pork operations. These stories are deeply disturbing and might actually make readers sick. The writing is brilliant, the people profiled are inspirational in their activism, and the topic is one that so many people remain blissfully ignorant of.  Everyone would benefit from reading this book and becoming aware of where their food comes from. – SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW

WHAT OTHERS SAY

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr:  David Kirby’s book, Animal Factory, is a beautifully written account of the danger industrial meat and dairy production represents to our health, environment and democratic process.  In a unique and captivating way, Kirby reveals the consequences of animal factories through the eyes of the citizen advocates who have fought the long and hard battle to civilize the barbaric and often criminal behavior of the meat barons. Rick Dove, Karen Hudson, Helen Reddout, Chris Peterson, Don Webb and others featured in the book are real American heroes. Their stories are compelling, true and engaging.  The time has come to end the greedy and destructive practices of animal factories. As the readers of Kirby’s book will learn, nature’s clock is ticking and much is at stake for the planet and all of its inhabitants. Each page of this book is filled with powerful information. It has all the makings of a number one best seller.

Alice Waters: Nature did not intend for animals to live and die in a factory assembly line.  In David Kirby’s startling investigation Animal Factory, he gives a human face to the terrible cost our health and environment pays for this so-called ‘cheap food’. This is a story that is seldom told and rarely with such force and eloquence.

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, Director, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Animal Factory, by David Kirby, documents the scandal of today’s industrial food animal production system in the same compelling way Upton Sinclair alerted Americans to the abuses of the meat packing industry in his 1906 The Jungle. The well being of animals produced for human consumption, the fate of rural communities, the health of farm workers, and the protection of the environment are daily compromised for the sake of profit.

Deirdre Imus: Ol’ MacDonald had a farm – until America’s corporate animal factories plowed it under, packing living, breathing, sensate creatures into sewage plant conditions for your gustatory pleasure.  Now, you’re next.  Bon appetit.

Steve Ells, Founder, Chairman & Co-CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill: Hurray to David Kirby for exposing the horrific conditions that are so prevalent at America’s factory farms.  When I first confronted the realities of factory farming some ten years ag...

About the Author

DAVID KIRBY is the author of Evidence of Harm, which was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. 


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1
Rick Dove loves the Neuse. The cloudy river, two million years old, seems to possess a spiritual quality that he finds irresistible. The Neuse was named after the Neusiok Indians, who thrived along its southern banks before the English began exploring Pamlico Sound in 1585. By the mid-1700s, the Neusiok were nearly gone.
The Neuse is born outside Durham and runs in a southeasterly direction until it reaches New Bern, two hundred miles away, at the juncture of the Trent River. There the water goes brackish, then spreads out for several miles wide before crawling through a forty-mile tidal estuary that empties into Pamlico Sound. At roughly ten miles across, it ranks among the widest river mouths in the continental United States.
Rick always loved rivers. He grew up next to a little tributary of Bear Creek near Dundalk, Maryland—just five miles southeast of Baltimore. As kids, Rick and his buddies would splash around in the creek during the sweaty months of summer. But one afternoon in the 1940s, that dreamy world came to an end. Rick’s mother took her six-year-old by the hand and led him down to the water’s edge. She pointed to a new housing development built upstream. When those people flushed their toilets, she said, it went right into the creek.
“You can’t swim here anymore, Rick,” she sighed, kissing his forehead.
The six-year-old frowned at the prospect of swimless summers to come. Then his face lit up. “Don’t worry, Mom! It’s okay,” Rick said. “We’ll just go over there and tell them to stop!” Many years later, he would remember that day as his start as an environmentalist.
As Rick grew older, his maritime vistas expanded beyond polluted Bear Creek to Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore. His dad built warplanes for the Glen L. Martin Company (now Martin Marietta) and his mom ran a dry cleaning business. Rick and his dad were able to embark on many fishing trips to remote inlets of the sprawling bay.
Rick earned his law degree at age twenty-three from the University of Baltimore in 1963. But the Vietnam War was rumbling, half a world away. Rather than risk being drafted, Rick applied for the marines’ four-year officer program in Quantico, Virginia. He wanted to “take orders, and learn how to give a few,” he likes to say. Officer boot camp was sixteen weeks long and nearly half his class dropped out—but Rick held on and graduated as a second lieutenant.
In 1964, Rick married his childhood sweetheart, Joanne Rose Tezak, and, after he passed the Maryland bar, Rick and his bride were stationed at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, where he worked as a judge advocate in a law office. Soon after that, Rick signed up as a career officer in the marines. He was then sent to a big naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, where he and his platoon guarded against demonstrators protesting U.S. nuclear ships docking in the harbor. Rick was grudgingly impressed by the passionate activists.
Rick did two tours of duty in the Vietnam War and took incoming missiles on his first night in-country. Eventually, he ended up working as a defense counsel in a supply depot called Red Beach, not too far from Denang. There he defended marines who had been court-martialed for murder, fragging, and rape.
By 1972, Rick was stateside again, working as a marine liaison to Congress during the final years of the war. He and Joanne lived in Washington, D.C., and adopted two children, Todd and Holly. In 1975, Rick transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, fifteen miles southeast of New Bern, on a wide bend in the Neuse River.
The fishing, Rick quickly learned, was incredible. The Neuse feeds river water and nutrients into the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds estuarine system, a vast nursery for 90 percent of all commercial species caught in North Carolina. Its feeder streams and shady backwater creeks provide spawning areas for herring, shad, and striped bass. Much like salmon, these fish live as adults in the open sea but swim upriver when it comes time to spawn.
Rick became the staff judge advocate for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, and in 1983 the family settled into a Mediterranean-style home right on the Neuse, in the prosperous subdivision of Carolina Pines. Rick built a wooden deck and a good-size pier out on the water, and purchased his dreamboat: a twenty-three-foot riverboat with a 200 horsepower engine manufactured by Hydro-Step Corporation. Designed to carry extra weight, she was perfect for crabbing, when a full cargo could reach two thousand pounds or more.
Life could not have been sweeter. America was at peace, and the river was swollen with bass, flounder, crab, and shrimp. They were so bountiful, Rick couldn’t give them away to his neighbors. Now a colonel in the marines, he told Joanne that one day he would retire from the Corps and launch a fishing business right from his backyard. Rick loved the Neuse so much that when he was transferred to serve as a military judge at Camp Lejeune, fifty-five miles to the south, he chose the two-hour daily commute over moving off the river.
Nothing could keep Rick from the Neuse, not even when he began forgetting things after spending his days on the river in the fall of 1986. It wasn’t simple memory loss, like forgetting where you put your car keys. He couldn’t remember which courtroom he worked in, or find his way back to chambers from the law library. Rick was convinced he had a brain tumor. But doctors found nothing wrong with him. He took some time off to recuperate, and within three weeks, the problems abated and he returned to the bench.
At the same time, Rick began noticing that some of the menhaden in the Neuse were turning up dead, with open, bleeding lesions on their silvery flanks. It would be years before he understood the connection between his memory loss and the ghoulish fish kills.
In June 1987, Colonel Richard Dove turned in his retirement papers and walked out of Camp Lejeune’s main gate, leaving the Marine Corps behind. Rick could have waited five years for full retirement benefits. But all he wanted was to grab his son, Todd, jump in his boat, and go be a fisherman on the Neuse.
Rick and Todd rigged up the boat into an operable commercial fishing vessel. They bought a seventeen-foot fishing skiff that was ideal for crabbing and christened it the Little Dipper. Rick rented a store in nearby Havelock and opened a fish market, Todd’s Seafood. The catch was consistently generous and the customers voracious. Business boomed.
For two years, Rick lived in bliss. But in the autumn of 1989, he again noticed dying fish turning up in his own seafood catches. The lesions began appearing on menhaden, but quickly spread to other species.
Then the sores started to appear on people.
One day Todd pointed out to his dad a couple of puzzling red spots on his hands and lower leg. Rick didn’t think too much of it—until he found similar spots on his own forearm the next day. Within days, their wounds had grown into weepy open sores, and no antibiotic seemed to make them go away. Rick and Todd realized that anywhere they got wet, they got lesions. Whatever was killing the fish was now stalking them.
Then, in 1990, more than two million fish perished in the Neuse River from August through October. These are the months that the menhaden gather for their annual exodus to the Atlantic. Rick knew that the massive fish migration is nature’s way of exporting excess nutrients out of the Neuse River Basin. Throughout the year, young menhaden gorge themselves on tons of plant material that end up in creeks and streams feeding the river and estuary. In the late summer or early fall, a billion or more menhaden converge to swim en masse out to the ocean. Once there, they breed and then die, releasing stored-up nitrogen and phosphorus into the open waters. But when millions of fish instead die prematurely in the Neuse, those excess nutrients remain where they are.
Rick began to hear other fishermen around New Bern speaking of odd experiences on the water. Their problems went beyond skin sores. Some suffered from memory loss and worse. Some guys were passing out in their boats, then drifting for miles unanchored and unconscious. When they finally came to, they did not recognize their surroundings and could not remember where they had launched their boats. Once ashore, they had no idea where they’d parked their vehicles. The hapless fishermen would wander aimlessly around, trying to sort through a cloud of confusion to find their way home.
Rick realized that his own memory troubles had returned. He was missing business appointments. It was out of character for a disciplined marine.
What, then, was happening to the Neuse? Rick began reading every book he could find on the history of the Neuse River, Pamlico Sound, and fishing along the Carolina coast. He learned that fish kills had occurred for centuries. When colder seawater creeps in under warmer river water, it can create a condition called a salt wedge, which can turn water into a hypoxic (low oxygen) or anoxic (zero oxygen) death trap for fish.
Salt wedges can kill a few thousand fish at a time. But not millions. And the history books said nothing about fish with gaping sores in their sides. Rick sailed his boat up and down the river, visiting with old-timers—some whose families had settled here in the 1700s—to probe their recollections. No one had ever heard of anything like these fills kills.
By 1990, Rick and his family closed Todd’s Seafood and reluctantly gave up eating local fish. In 1991, he began downsizing the fishing operation, save for some six hundred crabbing pots he kept going. It wasn’t much, but it brought in some income. Eventually, Rick stopped doing that, too. “If I won’t eat it myself, how the hell can I sell it wholesale?” Rick told friends. “My conscience won’t let me do this anymore.” The Little Dippe...

From AudioFile

David Kirby exposes "confined animal feeding operations"--CAFOs--focusing on the neighbors of these mass producers. They tell of having the smell of fermenting livestock waste drift into their windows and ruin their lives. They describe watching the vast pools of feces and urine drain into waterways, polluting drinking water and the environment. Fish in nearby rivers and estuaries downstream become sickened by opportunistic bacteria, and antibiotic-resistant e. coli contaminate edible crops. William Hughes's narration captures the growing anger of the corporate giants' human victims by giving them personalities and voices. His subtle characterizations keep him in the background, while allowing the grim facts to instigate an appropriate outrage in listeners. Without being unpleasant, writer and narrator personify the formidable reality threatening us all. J.A.H. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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