From Publishers Weekly
Ethicist Singer and co-author Mason (Animal Factories) document corporate deception, widespread waste and desensitization to inhumane practices in this consideration of ethical eating. The authors examine three families' grocery-buying habits and the motivations behind those choices. One woman says she's "absorbed in my life and my family...and I don't think very much about the welfare of the meat I'm eating," while a wealthier husband and wife mull the virtues of "triple certified" coffee, buying local and avoiding chocolate harvested by child slave labor, though "no one seems to be pondering that as they eat." In investigating food production conditions, the authors' first-hand experiences alternate between horror and comedy, from slaughterhouses to artificial turkey-insemination ("the hardest, fastest, dirtiest, most disgusting, worst-paid work"). This sometimes-graphic exposé is not myopic: profitability and animal welfare are given equal consideration, though the reader finishes the book agreeing with the authors' conclusion that "America's food industry seeks to keep Americans in the dark about the ethical components of their food choices." A no-holds-barred treatise on ethical consumption, this is an important read for those concerned with the long, frightening trip between farm and plate.
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Less concerned with what people choose to eat per se, Singer and Mason make a case for how people's everyday food choices affect others' lives. They describe in vivid detail how applying industrial processing principles to animal husbandry has led to cheap foods whose cost savings occur at the expense of animals raised for profit and for product. Using Wal-Mart as an example, they lay out how huge retailers wield enormous power over prices and compel those far up the chain of food production and distribution to make unhelpful decisions. They hold up for admiration a Kansas family that has turned vegan so as not to participate in this particular destructive cycle of animal and human exploitation. They also thoughtfully and critically examine the ethical pros and cons of eating meat in any form. Urban dwellers far removed from the source of the foods they eat will find Singer and Mason's descriptions of food production more disturbing and violent than the quiet, attractive, plastic-wrapped displays in the local supermarket's pristine meat case. Mark Knoblauch
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