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on October 17, 2013
A powerfully written discussion about food production, food choices, and the importance of consciously considering how our food is grown, treated, and delivered. Singer's opening line: "We don't usually think of what we eat as a matter of ethics" (p. 3). Gulp. He's right, I was, still am sometimes, an unconscious purchaser and consumer. I was convicted after reading this book to be more conscious, more educated, more deliberate in understanding what I'm eating, where and how it was grown, and the practices surrounding it. This is the power of this book! It's a tough commitment to live up to. Admittedly, there are days when I fail miserably (sigh). But I'm no longer unconscious and this is a start.

Singer's device of using three families with three differing approaches (Standard American Diet; conscientious Omnivores, and The Vegans) was useful in illustrating a continuum of choices and awareness but also in illustrating the challenges of each, and the difficulties we have in making wise, informed food choices. The power of Singer's book is in the way he presents the complexity of decision making (for example - buy local but if their food practices are unethical, is it wise to buy local?!) - these are not two dimensional easy choices, even when trying to pull the thread - it can be difficult to ascertain practices of food producers, and then there's the practical - at the end of a long work day, I just want to get supper on the table.

While reading I felt as though Singer was trying to present information in a conversational way to get me to thinking, to raise awareness - the balance between information, questions, and sympathy with the challenges of ethical decision making when we perhaps don't have all the facts, it's not black and white, etc. was really helpful in being able to digest and consider the material (i.e., I didn't feel preached at and like a loser because I don't always know or consider...smile).

The section labeled Where to Find Ethical Food included good URLs and additional reading on a variety of topics.
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on July 23, 2015
For quite some time I had been concerned about the effects of my eating habits, however I had been overwhelmed with all of the information and options that were out there. I had many questions: Are all animals wrong to eat? Is there anything wrong with milk and eggs? What does cage free, humane certified really mean? What are the reasons (other than health claims) for going organic?

This book blends philosophical arguments, thoroughly researched evidence, and hands on experience to provide excellent insight into these questions.
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on May 27, 2013
I ordered this book for an English class I was taking at Cypress College in Cypress, California. It opened me up to the reasons why some of us are choosing a certain eating lifestyle. Also, some of our reasons behind our choices are unsupported. We make the decisions to "eat healthy" based on public perceptions and beliefs without digging deeper and verifying facts. Reading this book paints a clear picture that a lot of our "healthy" choices may benefit us in the short term but be hurting the "health" of our surroundings in the future.

A well-written read from Singer. I highly recommend.
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on June 26, 2016
Interesting read! This was recommended by a college professor and it opened my eyes. It inspired me to become a vegetarian (lasted about 9 months) but definitely worth the read.
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on March 16, 2016
This book was great in an informative aspect. Be cautious before reading, it'll make you change your way of eating and, make you look at food differently.
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on April 3, 2015
Thank you for the page numbers--it makes citations for class so much easier. I also enjoyed the use of family narratives to describe the American experience (even though it ranges much farther than these authors could possibly go).
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on April 19, 2016
I have read a lot in this area and was surprised to find new information and argumentation on this well-trodden ground.
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on October 12, 2015
Opens your eyes to the horrors of factory farming. A bit idealistic in the end however. I will be more dedicated to a lifestyle as conscientious omnivore.
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on January 17, 2017
Peter Singer is an inspiration to me
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on July 26, 2012
Like the school bully who gets in his hardest kicks once you're down on the ground and have essentially given up, this book drives home a message in powerful, painful punches. "For modern animal agriculture, the less the consumer knows about what's happening before the meat hits the plate, the better... one of the best things modern animal agriculture has going for it is that most people in the developed countries are several generations removed from the farm and haven't a clue how animals are raised and processed." (p.11) With this, Peter Singer lobs the ball in the air and then proceeds to light the court on fire.

Some of it is hard to read. "For ten hours we grabbed and wrestled birds, jerking them upside down, facing their pushed-open [$%&@], dodging their spurting [$%&@], while breathing air filled with dust and feathers stirred up by panicked birds." (p.29) I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The dairy cow section was hard to read too, and I admit to my ignorance here. I suppose I thought dairy cows just made milk. I've thought that to be a humane way to farm with cows, and you can imagine a gawky 8-year-old boy straddling a three-legged stool in some ancient barn as the sun rises over the meadow, milking the lone family dairy cow before heading out to school. My quaint image was shattered when Mason informed me otherwise, painting a picture of a cow bellowing for the calf taken from her, and then we're told the calf is dead within a few days, "his body was lying on the farm's compost pile." (p.58) Oh, do I HAVE to keep reading?!

I didn't believe the part about the "drop kicking" of chickens (p.27) so I looked it up on the Internet. Not too hard to find the Pilgrim's Pride video... and in watching it, my husband asked of me, "why are you watching this?!" I told him how disgusting this all was, that I could never buy a Tyson food product again (how many "bad lists" are they on, anyway?). For Pete's sake, where could I find a humanely raised chicken to eat? Then my husband asked if we should add fryers to our egg-laying hens this year.

The gloves came off in the final round of the book. The last 50 pages of The Ethics of What We Eat delved hard into omnivore versus herbivore - with the authors' call to action clearly being for all us to convert to vegans in order to achieve ethical eating bliss. The language was harsh, reminding us that the industrial food model is "systematically abusive" and that "discomfort is the norm, pain is routine, growth is abnormal, and diet is unnatural." (p.242) Even Pope Benedict XVI is brought into the argument, being quoted on hens becoming "caricatures of birds" (which is also lyrically descriptive - Singer is a very good writer).

The pages devoted to freeganism, or dumpster diving, were also interesting, and my mind brought up images of documentary coverage I had seen on TV a while back. While I generally don't have a problem with this - I'm not, say, grossed out by this or repulsed by the idea of eating wrapped food from the garbage... I think most parents have salvaged something incorrectly thrown away at one point or another - but I also posit that it isn't a practical way for a family to eat on a regular basis. I'm not going to pack up my kids late at night (or leave them home alone) to go sort through urban trash bins looking for stuff to pack in tomorrow's lunch boxes - so it's a bit laughable that this passage is essentially included in the call to action on what readers should do to make more ethical choices.

The concrete What Should We Eat chapter tries to lay a clear foundation with simply-stated guidelines like "look for farmers' markets and buy directly from local farmers" (p.275). But the authors loaded too many heavy concepts, which shattered the foundation, and for me, rendered the final section ineffective.

However, I really loved this: "It's this whole American thing about having cheap food. It's a fallacy. That guy thinks his food is cheap, but you and I are subsidizing that cheap food by paying for the social and ecological issues that are occurring in that community." (p.98) That's the real story behind much of this whole food ethics/politics/sustainability issue, and I hadn't seen it articulated so well until this passage.

If you're up for it, this is a fantastic book worth reading. But if you find yourself nauseous, or lacking an appetite while strolling through your local supermarket, or offended by any of the [real] horror stories described in detail throughout the book... I warned you.
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