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The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 16, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065952
  • ASIN: B0058M9I3U
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,108,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Each bite of meat involves the killing of an animal that did not need to die, Masson (When Elephants Weep) reminds readers, and if the advocacy of a completely vegan diet (neither milk nor eggs, in addition to giving up meat and fish) is not particularly new—even Masson acknowledges that he is following the path laid out by authors like Temple Grandin and Michael Pollan—the passion with which the argument is made is immediately apparent. Masson explains the scientific background in simple, effective prose, pointing to the vast environmental damage caused by the modern agriculture-industrial complex, then slams the emotional point home by underscoring the plaintive cries of a calf separated from a mother cow or the psychological stress that hens endure when thrust into small cages. Masson argues that a vegan diet is sufficient to provide us with all the nutrients we need to thrive, using his own daily menus as an example, but his most powerful argument calls upon the power of empathy and a refusal to put animals through suffering. It probably won't convert many confirmed meat eaters, but it should provoke serious deliberation about how our food choices reflect our values. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Masson’s newest volume marshals the historic arguments against eating meat and adds to them contemporary concerns about the environment. He recounts the amount of energy that goes into the production of meat and poultry, and he finds even the consumption of milk objectionable on the basis of its nutritional shortcomings and its inefficient use of natural resources. Lest the reader believe that fish consumption is morally acceptable, Masson presents arguments that fish are as sentient as any other animals. He waxes rhapsodic over all manner of fruits and vegetables but stops short of advocating the raw-food diet now being advocated by the most radical vegans. Masson finds the spread of grocery chains such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s a heartening sign. An extensive bibliography and a long list of Web sites that deal with vegetarian and vegan issues are particularly helpful. --Mark Knoblauch

More About the Author

Masson has had at least four lives: first as a boy raised to become a "spiritual leader" (see his denunciation of such a life in My Father's Guru). While in the middle of his disillusion, he became a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto. At the same time he trained to become a Freudian analyst. Upon graduation he became Projects Director of the Freud Archives, and was scheduled to move into Freud's house in London when fate intervened: Masson found documents which seemed to show that Freud was right in believing that many women had been sexually abused as children, and that he was wrong to give up this belief, perhaps impelled by societal displeasure at his discoveries. Saying this publicly turned Masson into a psychoanalytic pariah, and he gave up both his professorship and his analytic career to delve into the far more fascinating world of animal emotions. Two of his books, WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP and DOGS NEVER LIE ABOUT LOVE, were New York Times best-sellers. He became vegetarian as a result of his research, and later, when he looked into the feelings of farm animals, he became even stricter, and no longer eats or uses any animal product (vegan). Harpercollins published his most recent book: THE DOG WHO COULDN'T STOP LOVING: HOW DOGS HAVE CAPTURED OUR HEARTS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. He lives on a beach in New Zealand with his two sons, Ilan and Manu, and his German wife, Leila, a pediatrician who works with children on the autistic spectrum (using the bio-medical approach), Benjy, a golden lab, and three cats. They often travel to the States, Europe, and Australia. He is now fascinated in the "us/them" phenomenon, between humans but also between humans and animals.

Customer Reviews

Mr. Masson asks us to think about the life of the animals we eat.
Lynette R. Fleming
I really don't know, but all I can say is that without looking for it, I found this book the next week and had a really hard time putting it down.
Leslie A. Piccioni
This is an incredibly important book that should be absolute required reading for anyone who eats...which is all of us.
Lorelei T.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Arienette Cervantes on March 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up this book I thought I already knew everything there was to know on the issue. I was wrong. Especially on the fish chapter of the book. I'm not really into fish. They're so strange, so different, but I respect them and I learned a lot about them. For instance, We share 85% of our DNA with fish (98% we share with primates). Crazy, right?

I also believed the myth that fish have a teensy memory span. Not true. Fish have a memory span of at least 3 months and probably much longer (it hasn't been tested further than three months). Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson quotes Culum Brown, (U of Edinburgh biologist) "Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of 'higher' vertebrates, including non-human primates."

Fish are freaky, they made no sounds but their sporadic out-of-water wriggling and flopping seem unnatural and clearly anguish-driven. The author says, "It is a bit puzzling why we feel that something not like us deserves less respect. That it's death is less troubling." Here, here. Some people think fish are vegetables. You know those people who say, "I'm a vegetarian but I eat fish." Those people really need to read this book.

And this book explores the lives of all the animals we eat. Pigs, cows, chickens. Creatures great and small-this book explains why they matter and why we have a moral responisiblity toward them and toward the environment. This book can be heartbreaking but I'm very glad I read it. It had me gasping with surprise which I really didn't expect. I wish it could be required reading for everyone. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the only people that will pick it up will be vegans, vegetarians, or people already interested in vegetarianism. That's a shame because this is really good stuff.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Leslie A. Piccioni on April 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a *former* vegetarian, I was hesitant to pick up this book. What caused me to hesitate is EXACTLY what this book it about -- if you lift the veil of denial, how can you ever go back? I was a vegetarian from 15 to 27. At 27, I began eating fish again. It never sat well w/me when people described themselves as vegetarians who ate fish (since when is fish a vegetable??). At 30, I began to eat chicken and poultry and since then, I have reintroduced all meat.

To be fair, I was not the healthiest vegetarian, eating a great deal of simple carbs and processed food along with soy/tofu, fruits and vegetables. As a result, my cholesterol was high. People thought I was crazy -- a vegetarian w/high cholesterol? Yup, it was 272 at its highest (at age 30!). I embraced a diet of lean meats/fish & whole foods (nuts, veggies and fruits) and my cholesterol went down to 170.

So, while my heart and my conscience were feeling horribly guilty for eating animals again, my body (and my doctor!) were thrilled.

But, no matter how "healthy" I've become, the horror that I KNOW I must deny in order to eat meat again is there. It's just a millimeter away from my consciousness every minute of the day. The teenager who one day looked down at her plate of steak and realized what she was about to eat is STILL inside of me. The adult who recycles and uses cloth grocery bags KNOWS that supporting factory farming (by eating its meat products) is actually worse.

Masson writes beautifully and with heart. He writes in a way that does not preach, does not judge and does not bore. His combination of facts and figures with personal anecdotes and emotion is for me, the perfect balance.

I can't recommend this book enough.
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62 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Ted Kerasote on April 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is well known for exploring the emotional lives of animals, and in two previous books, "Dogs Never Lie About Love" and "When Elephants Weep", has presented a very convincing case that there are few differences between what we and non-human animals feel. In "The Face on Your Plate" he extends this argument to the animals we eat--particularly farm animals and fish--bolstering his case with a wealth of new scientific evidence showing that even dumb-looking turkeys and cold-blooded salmon are more thoughtful, introspective, and emotionally rich than any of us have imagined.

However, whereas his previous books inspired delight at the emotional landscape that we share with other animals, "The Face on Your Plate" provokes discomfort, as it was designed to do. No matter one's dietary preferences, it's impossible to read Masson's descriptions of cows separated from their calves at birth, of salmon mindlessly swimming away their lives in fish-farm pens, and of chickens and pigs sequestered in the equivalents of concentration camps without being repulsed by the profound cruelty associated with the making of our food.

What then can someone who reads this well-documented book do to rectify this situation? We can turn our backs upon it and ignore the cruelty, as Masson points out that many of us do, or we can follow his lead and become vegans. This is the central theme of the book: that the vegan lifestyle--consuming no meat, dairy products, or eggs--not only reduces the suffering of other sentient beings, but also helps to alleviate global warming while spreading agricultural resources to hungry humans instead of to methane-belching livestock.
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