Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday's Vegan Accessory: Books About What People Eat

In honor of Professional Vegan's first-ever giveaway, Friday's vegan accessory is my pick for top 5 books that make you think about what you eat: where it comes from, how it is cultivated, how it "matured," how it died, how much pollution it added to the planet, how eating it fits with your notions about life and earth. In no particular order and with no particular endorsements beyond the praise and critiques below:

(1) Matthew Scully's Dominion:The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy -- I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, this one of my favorite books because of its all-encompassing inquiry into "man's" (as Scully terms it) abuse of "his" God-given dominion over animals. Scully straight-away rejects arguments about rights, liberation, and ethics as applied to animals and focuses on "man's" capacity to use "his" power to bring mercy the animals "he" is in a position to control. In the realm of inquiry into the suffering of animals, Scully does a superb, detailed job. On the other hand, this is one of my least favorite books because of Scully's rejection of arguments about rights, liberation, and ethics, rather than simply setting the arguments aside and creating a robust alternative (whether it is primary or supplemental) argument. Reading the book, constantly having to substitute "human" in for "man," which Scully continues to use when he writes how people living today should act towards animals, alienated me often. In that alienation, I kept thinking about how his arguments, that in the end amounted to "being nice" to animals, easily could be translated to certain groups of people (i.e. his infamous "men") "being nice" to other certain groups of people (which has and continues to play out in society), and, primarily, that his arguments amount to a broad argument for reigning in the current status quo before it gets out of control and "man" loses "his" grip on dominion -- which essentially is an argument for continued domination, which is entirely antithetical to why I became vegan. Regardless, the book does enlighten as to the suffering of animals.

(2) Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, edited by Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum -- I am a lawyer; thereby, I am compelled to include a collection of essays, some of which come from legal scholars. I love the book because it is (very) academic, providing a throwback to my days as a student, and because each essay is its own entity, each to be returned to and considered anew without having to take up the entire book.

(3) Jeffrey Masson's The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food -- I've blogged about this book before. It's one of the most recent books about veganism to hit bookstores and I was delighted to see it in my local Borders last weekend. To highlight, my favorite part is where Masson terms himself "veganish" and discusses how he, seemingly the master of vegan, sometimes slips up.

(4) Peter Singer's Animal Liberation -- no list would be complete without Peter Singer. Indeed, Matthew Scully must contend with Peter Singer in Dominion, which he does almost immediately. Written in the 1970s and revised in the 1990s, Animal Liberation is one of the founding, if not the founding book of the modern animal rights movement. Not to be missed.

(5) Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal -- my favorite aspect of this book is its discussion of the meat industry's domination (as opposed to "dominion") of its workers, particularly its female workers: low wages, horrendous working conditions, rampant sexual harassment, immediate termination upon pregnancy. In fact, I first read Fast Food Nation because of an article in Bitch magazine about feminist vegetarianism; and I have found that article conveniently pdfed online here! And, of course, you have a chance to win this fabulous book, along with the FOOD, INC. movie companion book, in Professional Vegan's first-ever giveaway.

See this post for more information about the giveaway, remember that entries end Thursday (June 18) at noon EST, and don't forget to see FOOD, INC., which opens today in NYC, LA, and SF, and elsewhere throughout June and July.

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