Whenever a friend asks why I choose to adhere to a vegan lifestyle, I ask if I can suggest a book or two to them. While I could ramble on about statistics, sad stories and how animals deserve a full life, something about reading it firsthand seems to pull on heartstrings, compel readers to make a change in their life and, perhaps, turn them into full-time believers of a plant-based diet. After reading a book or two, more than a handful of my friends have made personal lifestyle changes and even passed the books along to others. So, whether you’re curious as to what a vegan diet entails, why someone would ever willingly give up meat and dairy or how animal products are produced, check out these books for answers to your questions.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
This is by far the most popular non-fiction piece about the factory farm industry, the vegan diet and how one makes a personal decision that will impact their family, meal-time and relationships. Foer details his investigation into the U.S. factory farm industry as he debates how a vegan lifestyle may affect his own life and his growing family. He explores the importance of food, family meals, holidays, traditions and cultures from a personal perspective. In doing so, he grapples with how a change in diet for the good of the environment, one’s health and one’s morals comes up against these traditions and the culture surrounding food. With a mixture of personal stories, statistics and journalistic investigation, Foer offers something for everyone in this intriguing piece.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
For lovers of historical fiction, literary fiction, early 20th century American history and muckraking exposes, begin your exploration into veganism with The Jungle. After investigation the Chicago Stock Yards and the Back of the Yards where immigrant families lived, Sinclair decided to turn his interviews and findings into a fiction piece in order to convey his message to the public. He details the corruption of the slaughterhouse and meatpacking industry by creating a horrific and saddening tale of a Polish immigrant family that travels to Chicago to create a new life. Although the book is considered fiction, the details of the stockyards, what workers endure and how animals are killed and the meat products are made have a factual basis to them. This piece serves as a reminder that our meatpacking and slaughterhouse facilities today remain as corrupt as they did over a century ago.
Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail Eisnitz
Although this piece began as an investigation by a Humane Society of the United States’ worker into the treatment of cows in a Florida slaughterhouse, it quickly turned into a much larger investigation by Eisnitz into the slaughterhouse industry nation-wide. During a decade of research, Eisnitz spoke to those at all levels of the industry – some still working and others who had quit their jobs – to uncover the inhumane treatment of animals and workers alike across the United States. This book allows those who work directly with the animals to speak of their experiences, how they have suffered physically, mentally and emotionally and how management has allowed and enforced the maltreatment of animals despite regulations and standards. This investigative piece tells it as it is, hiding nothing and encouraging readers to consider not only the animals but also the workers who suffer due to the corruption of America’s meat industry.
Every 12 Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat
Similar to Eisnitz’ piece, Every 12 Seconds is an investigative work that shares true accounts by those working within the slaughterhouse industry. The main difference is that Pachirat himself goes undercover to work in a slaughterhouse to create this book. He experiences firsthand how inhumanely workers are treated, what it entails to take the life of an animal and what it is like to watch animals suffer on a daily basis. This piece gives a detailed account as to the set-up of this slaughterhouse, how workers are placed throughout and how an animal travels from start to finish through it. Readers will become familiar with Pachirat and his co-workers, the grueling nature of their work and how they learn to cope in order to return to their job each day. This book serves as another reminder that adhering to a vegan diet has a positive impact on many levels. Not only does the lifestyle change save the lives of animals but it also allows one to take a stand against the injustices that workers endure as they process and create America’s meat products.
About the Author
Carrie Gavit is a recent grad of the University of Texas at Austin. She received her MA in Women’s and Gender Studies and studied the U.S. slaughterhouse industry. Follow her @CarrieGavit.
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