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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought
This is a very readable book about the complex web of interdependence between humans and our food, whether it be animal or vegetable. Not highly editorialized, it is nevertheless a call to examine more deeply our relationship to food. Cerulli is not defending the meat industry -- throughout the book he is in agreement with the general consensus that the meat industry is...
Published on February 14, 2012 by G. Hinds

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I can see why the NYTimes called this "touchy-feely"
Tovar Cerulli seems like a very thoughtful, articulate person and he's certainly a good writer. However, I had a bit of hard time getting through some sections. About halfway through the book, I started to find myself skimming the first sentence of each paragraph to get through some of the more anecdotal parts. And I guess it's to be expected that a Buddhist, former...
Published 11 months ago by proletariat


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, February 14, 2012
By 
G. Hinds (boston, ma, usa) - See all my reviews
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This is a very readable book about the complex web of interdependence between humans and our food, whether it be animal or vegetable. Not highly editorialized, it is nevertheless a call to examine more deeply our relationship to food. Cerulli is not defending the meat industry -- throughout the book he is in agreement with the general consensus that the meat industry is highly problematic. But he points out eloquently that things are a bit more complicated than "meat bad, veggies good," and not just because of the nutritional pitfalls of plant-based diets. To simply avoid meat and reach for tofu at the grocery store is still to be out of touch with our food and everything that went into bringing it to us -- including, yes, the death of animals. Cerulli's search for a better way to stock his fridge is useful and informative, in much the same way as the documentary "No-Impact Man."

I found the book clear, insightful, and very beautifully written. The point about the complexity of the web of interdependence is well-illustrated and reenforced throughout but not heavy-handed. There's a lot of interesting information on the history of hunting and wildlife management, as well as the wide spectrum of philosophical stances and approaches found among hunters. There's definitely an element of suspense as well, whether you happen to be rooting for man or deer.

For the record, I have known the author for many years. I am not a hunter. I have been a vegetarian, and am a vegetarian sympathizer.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different look at hunting and food, February 21, 2012
Tovar's story is relatively unique in itself. To simply read about his journey of transformation to veganism and back, would have made this a good book. But the deeper look into his own relationship with food and his impacts on the natural world around him provides us with an opportunity to look a little deeper into ourselves. Best of all, he accomplishes this without preaching or self-righteous dogma.

"This is how I see it," is basically what he says. It's never, "this is how YOU should see it."

He just presents the opportunity, and the reader can hardly help but take it.

It's not a completely comfortable book, especially for the long-time hunter. Tovar tips some sacred cows in his quest to find answers, and he asks some pretty tough questions. For example, he challenges the often contorted logic that hunters need good PR, so we should be ethical and safe. Shouldn't we be ethical and safe anyway? Good PR will logically follow.

In his very thoughtful approach to the decision to kill a deer, and in the efforts that culminate in his first success, Tovar sheds a little light on the thought process that many of us long-time hunters have come to take for granted. To me, at least, it was an opportunity to look back at my own choices and decisions and take stock of where my personal ethics come into play. I think there's a lot of value in a book that makes you stop to think without telling you what you should be thinking. And this is what makes The Mindful Carnivore a great book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some big ideas to chew on..., February 20, 2012
By 
Al Cambronne (Gordon, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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I've just finished Tovar Cerulli's newly released The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, and I highly recommend it to just about anyone who eats and reads. No matter how you'd label yourself--hunter, nonhunter, antihunter, vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, or just an omnivore with dilemmas--this is a book worth reading. And once you've finished it, you may begin questioning those labels that once seemed so simple and clear. But apart from all the big ideas in this book, it's just a good read.

As Cerulli tells a deeply personal story of his own journey from vegan to hunter, he connects his experiences to larger themes having to do with meat, meaning, and the karmic costs of every food on his table--including the brown rice, tofu, and organic vegetables. As you'll immediately guess from the book's title and cover, Cerulli is now something of a venison evangelist. But he wasn't always. After reflecting on the compassionate words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, he became a vegetarian at age 20. Soon, after learning more about the modern egg and dairy industries, he went completely vegan. Eventually, however, he began to have second thoughts.

"I realized," he writes in his bio for a recent panel discussion, "that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless. Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn't what we ate but how that food came to our plates. A few years later, my wife--who was studying holistic health and nutrition--suggested that we shift our diet, and my health improved when we started eating dairy and eggs. It improved still more when we started eating chicken and fish."

Two years later, Cerulli picked up a rifle and stepped into the deer woods. When he did, he also brought with him a vegetarian's values and sensibilities. This was not a decision he made lightly, and it's one he still thinks about quite a lot. He is indeed a mindful carnivore.

As far as I know, Cerulli is also the writer who first coined a delightful neologism that appears to be sticking: the "adult-onset hunter." The term is appearing more often, and so are the hunters it describes. Cerulli is one, and I am myself. If you're one, too, then this book is definitely for you. I suspect that most of us adult-onset hunters are the kind of people who tend to think just a little too much about where our food comes from.

And even if you've been hunting all your life, you'll find fascinating the ideas that Cerulli explores in The Mindful Carnivore. Today fewer than 15% of Americans hunt, and some surveys suggest that as few as 5% of us get out in the field regularly, year after year. Hunters are definitely a tiny minority. When they find themselves feeling besieged and persecuted, they'd do well to reach for some fresher, more useful intellectual and philosophical ammunition than the usual stale, warmed-over José Ortega y Gasset they've been trotting out for the past half-century or so. They could do no better than The Mindful Carnivore. (In the book, and then later in his notes, Cerulli also mentions several other works that will be of interest to his hunting and nonhunting readers. He's been thinking about these questions a lot, and it's clear he's also been discussing and reading about them a lot.)

I hope that even a few open-minded vegans will give this book a chance. But in the end, Tovar may find a larger audience among open-minded nonhunters who are already mindful omnivores. And who knows? Once they've finished reading The Mindful Carnivore, they may come to view hunters and hunting differently. They may even come to view the meat and vegetables on their own plates differently. I hope their neighbors who do hunt will invite them over for venison, vino, and some interesting conversations about what all this means.

I have to agree with the Kirkus Reviews, which described the book as an "entertaining and erudite meditation." It's an enjoyable read that will also give you some big ideas to chew on. (Sorry.) I'm afraid other reviewers have already used this and nearly every other possible food or meat-related metaphor, leaving me only the most obvious: The Mindful Carnivore is definitely food for thought.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and intelligent book about where our food comes from., February 2, 2012
By 
jpltpl (Cambridge, MA) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book. I love reading about food and where food comes from, so this book was right up my alley. Cerulli is a careful, thoughtful writer (and eater!) and clearly cares about doing the right thing where animals and humanity is concerned. Well done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very very well-constructed book, March 13, 2012
This review is from: The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance (Kindle Edition)
I've been quite fascinated by the questions about where our food comes from over the last couple of years and documentaries such as Food Inc and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals have only added to my interest. Although I have weighed up my carnivore lifestyle numerous times over the last decade, I still keep returning to the meat counter or section. So, what would Cerulli's The Mindful Carnivore teach me about my attitudes?

I really don't know what I expected about the book but it raised some real questions that I had never expected to address. Cerulli spends a lot of time considering hunting: hunting for food, hunting for sport. I have never hunted - I have no desire to hunt - but I'm aware of the hypocrisy I would present if I looked down on anyone who hunted for food. Surely it shows more respect for the produce you eat than a schlep to the meat counter does?

Cerulli interweaves this tale of his personal history with food and, specifically, meat with factual information, personal anecdotes, quotations from various sources both pro and anti-hunting and both for and against vegetarianism.

All in all, this is a very very well-constructed book but neither aims to preach nor to condemn but simply to detail one man's quest for answers about this particular and what he has discovered on the journey. At times touching, at other times disturbing, this is an incredibly emotive book, yet still manages to keep a tight hold of the facts.

**I received a copy of this title in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All views are my own.**
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earnest Exploration into the Context of Living, March 5, 2012
By 
Keith J. Champney Jr. (Southborough, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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Tovar Cerulli writes with deep introspection regarding his own relationship with what he eats as well as environment which he lives. He writes with humor and humility. He weaves his own autobiographical account with its historical, social, and environmental context. By following his narrative from a boy who fishes for food, to a vegan who grows organic vegetables, to a hunter who kills with great ambivalence, the reader will learn about the history and ethics of vegetarianism, agriculture, and hunting in America.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More that what it appears to be, February 20, 2012
I started reading this and could not put it down. To say that it is about hunting is so very limiting. This is an intimate look at how we can choose to be in this world - the choices we make and the emotional responses we have to those choices. It takes the reader from the edge of disturbing to the relief of laughter with extremely private insights all along the way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still mostly vegan, but LOVED this book!, August 17, 2013
I am an open minded, female, Michael Pollan-reading near-vegan and will remain mostly vegan after reading this book. But I am so glad I read this book! I never had an opinion for or against hunting because I was well aware that I didn't know enough about the subject to have an opinion. However, now I am pro-hunting! (Though I won't be hunting myself since my husband and I don't make much money and whole foods veganism - beans, rice, tofu, nuts/seeds, produce - is far, far more affordable than paying for organic, humane, and sustainable animal products or hunting classes, gear, licenses, etc. Plus, I don't desire to eat meat or care for the taste of it, which makes hunting pretty pointless for me, lol. Hunting is definitely a part of a future sustainable food system, as are animals in general, but to a small degree. I'm still convinced Americans need to change their diets to eat far less meat and far more plants, as Michael Pollan suggests. Anyway, I digress!

The best thing about this book is how incredibly well-written it is! He is a gifted writer and I would love to read more of his writing. I realized right away that this wasn't going to be the kind of book that's full of statistics and persuasive arguments, which I partly expected, but I wasn't let down. (Although I would have been interested in statistics about how many animals are killed as a side effect of growing crops in different areas of the country, not just New England. I've never been ignorant about the fact that animals die as a result of growing crops, but I'd be interested in seeing how many deer or other animals die as a result of small, local farms where I am in the bay area of California.) All of his stories were engaging and I was always impressed at his ability to write each piece in great detail and as if it were happening right then (meaning he didn't give away what happens in the future). I also really appreciated his honesty and humility. He's obviously put a lot of thought into the subject and we get to benefit from it. Just a couple things I didn't like:

1) I would have liked to see more writing at the end summarizing his current views and discussing ideas about a sustainable and humane food system for the future, and how hunting can fit into it. I would have found his opinion interesting. I felt the book ended too quickly.

2) I would have appreciated if he had made it clear that although he and others weren't healthy on a vegan diet, plenty of other people are. I understand how frustrating it must be for ex-vegans to hear from other vegans that they just did veganism wrong and that veganism is healthy for everyone. I believe people when they say they tried to be healthy as a vegan but feel better eating animal products and I think those people should continue to eat the amount of animal products their bodies require to feel good (but not excess, for health and ecological reasons). But the fact is that a lot of people do feel better and are healthy on a vegan diet. I personally have been vegetarian for 11 years and mostly vegan for 5. I tried eating meat twice during that time to see if I would feel any different (despite the fact that I feel perfectly healthy), and both times I actually felt worse after eating the meat, even though I was very open-minded to the experience. I just couldn't believe how heavy it felt in my stomach and how long it felt like it was sitting inside me.

3) Very minor, but I wasn't a fan of the title. It wasn't really a vegetarian's hunt. He was an omnivore through most of the book. So he wasn't a carnivore either, someone who eats only meat. I wish the title had been something like, "The Mindful Omnivore." Although maybe that would be too close to the title of Michael Pollan's book, and perhaps he was trying to attract vegetarian readers with the title. In any case, I didn't feel it was a good fit.

I read this book because I am interested in truth, and want integrity in my eating. My eyes were opened in many ways for the good, and reading the book led me to find other interesting perspectives, such as the book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, which I am excited to read. I hope everyone will read this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I can see why the NYTimes called this "touchy-feely", November 1, 2013
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Tovar Cerulli seems like a very thoughtful, articulate person and he's certainly a good writer. However, I had a bit of hard time getting through some sections. About halfway through the book, I started to find myself skimming the first sentence of each paragraph to get through some of the more anecdotal parts. And I guess it's to be expected that a Buddhist, former vegan from Vermont who describes himself as pro-feminist and even cites a number of texts written by feminist scholars, as well as Buddhist philosophers such as Thich Naht Hahn, wouldn't write from the perspective of a more stereotypical hunter--which is I guess is why I bought this book. I wanted a unique perspective.

In fact, as a male non-hunter, I bought five books on the "why" of hunting all at once, and read the two written by women, "Call of the Mild" and "Girl Hunter," first. Then I read "The Mindful Carnivore." I figured these two female authors and a male former vegan would provide a really unique, thoughtful perspective on the subject--and they did. At least Cerulli and Lily Raff McCaulou did--not so much Georgia Pellegrini. Her book was more about getting driven around on a golf cart or ATV by the billionaire owners of huge privately owned nature preserves, shooting animals that were RAISED in-house to be hunted, and then getting drunk on expensive scotch and eating gourmet food afterward (seriously?!?........stay away from "Girl Hunter" by the way).

"The Mindful Carnivore" was certainly worth reading and I'm glad I did. Knowing basically nothing about hunting, I learned quite a bit. It was just a bit too sensitive for me. At times a little out there. I have to say after having read Cerulli's book, I'm really looking forward to what I imagine will be a much more masculine perspective from Steven Rinella. I think once I finish his two books--completing the five I purchased together--I'll have a lot better idea of what it means to be a hunter, from multiple perspectives, which was the goal. I've been curious about hunting ever since I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" several years ago and I want to get away from factory farmed food--particularly animals. If you feel the same, this book is certainly worth the cost.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Reading, February 20, 2012
Cerulli brings an interesting take to the debate over hunting and vegetarianism, and how both impact our environment. Filled with anecdotes from his life as a child right through to the present day, the story of his path to becoming an avid hunter is a personal and informative analysis on trying to understand our place in the natural world.
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