book review: Project Animal Farm

project animal farm

Project Animal Farm By Sonia Faruqi.
Pegasus Books| July 2015|390 pages |$27.95| ISBN: 978-1-60598-798-9

Rating: *****/5*

“The Miller mindset that we owe animals no more than food, water, and shelter is flawed.”

Even when you know that there’s mistreatment among dairy and animal farms, as I do, this remains a shocking and detailed expose into the disheartening and mostly cruel world of food production. I dare any meat eater to read this book and not think about the farm to table process. Author Sonia Faruqi worked on Wall Street after graduating from Dartmouth College. When the market plummeted and she lost her job, she decided it might be interesting to volunteer on a farm for a bit. A vegetarian, Faruqi visited a dairy farm, a pig farm, a chicken farm, an organic farm, a pastoral farm and a slaughter house in Canada. She then traveled to Indonesia, Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore and Belize and then Vermont [primary agricultural state in New England] and California [second in the nation in animal agriculture behind Texas]. Both Vermont and California have no AG GAG laws—laws which prohibit undercover investigations on the conditions of industrial agriculture operations) to visit farms and factory farms there.

“Certain forms of enjoyment are dependent on drinking a drug of ignorance. Where suffering exists, it’s always there in the shadows, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. Our method of acquiring wealth says more about us than the wealth we acquire.”

Faruqi writes about her experiences at each farm with meticulous details and vivid descriptions. Interspersing her personal experience with facts and figures, Faruqi provides an eye-opening, devastating and shocking explanation of why the food industry must change. At these various farms, she witnessed animals living on top of each other, never getting outside, animals dying from abhorrent conditions. The farms reeked of ammonia as animals stood in their own waste. Dead animals often weren’t located for days because of the over-crowding. In the egg industry, the norm is to slaughter hens at 18 months old. Hens are de-beaked with a hot blade. Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark banned this barbaric practice. Animals get artificially inseminated and are bred with particular strains that serve one purpose: to feed the masses. Chickens have abnormally large breasts that make it difficult for them to move. Faruqi writes: “Artificial insemination is not only unnatural, but harmful. Millions of dairy cows today all over the world are the descendants of only a few dozen bulls. This is the equivalent to passing a complex, swirling pot of genes through a needle pinhole. Such narrow genetic limitation never occurs in nature, because the long-term survival of any species depends on genetic diversity.”

Most factory farmers don’t need to interact with the animals or spend any time near the cages. Using a smart phone and various apps animals can be feed, watered and monitored. 70% of antibiotic use in the United States is in farm animals. Americans spend 10% or less of their salary on food while Europeans spend 50% of their salary on food. Throughout her journey, she meets people with various approaches to farming. Some extremely kind, some who treat animals as products. A few get stressed out by their jobs. Others turn the other way and ignore the negative impact farm life takes upon the animals. Interestingly many of the farm workers or owners are vegetarian. Faruqi notes: “I realized that I’d hardly ever heard about vegetarianism more than I had in this animal farming community that I happened to stumble into. It can’t be a coincidence that some of the people closest to the system of meat production are boycotting meat.”

“When animals suffer, people also suffer. Many farms I investigated were in the throes of disease.”

One question I have is why we are crueler to animals than Europeans. Why does Europe have many more sensible and humane protections for animals and farms? Americans love their cats and dogs but it’s completely different when it comes to how that hamburger or chicken breast arrived at the grocery store. Most choose not to think about it or to just think that the way it’s always been done is fine.

If you don’t care about the animals maybe you care about your carbon footprint: “a single factory farm can generate as much waste as an entire city.” While Project Animal Farm commands the reader’s attention through its well-written prose, conversational style and thorough research, it’s so disturbing at times I had to leave it for a bit. The United States remains one of the worst offenders in humane treatment and protection of animals in the food industry.

Some other tidbits [and there are plenty, so read the book]:

— hens are slaughtered at 18 months
— 9 out of 10 sows in the United States and Canada spend their lives in crates.
— about piglets at a pig farm, Faruqi writes: “From head to hoof, they lived marinated in manure.”
–the veal industry is a by-product of the dairy industry. If you support the dairy industry you support the disgusting practice of “raising” veal. Male calves aren’t wanted by the dairy industry and are sold to veal farmers.
–eight and a half billion chickens, 239 million turkeys, 112 million pigs, 32 million cattle and 2 million sheep and lambs were killed for human consumption in the United States and Canada in 2013. “It is impossible not to view the raising and butchering of animals for food as wasteful and hopelessly inefficient.” Approximately 50% of an animal is actually consumed.
–in Malaysia [population 30 million] there are 500 KFCs, 300 Pizza Huts and 300 McDonalds. Malaysians eat more fast food than Americans. 1/3 of Americans eat fast food once a week while 3/5 of Malaysians eat fast food once a week.
–Mexico [population 122 million] has 240 Walmarts, 150 Sam’s Clubs, 30 Costco, 500 Dominos, 380 McDonalds, 300 KFCs and 180 Pizza Huts.

–review by Amy Steele

Sonia Faruqi will be reading and answering questions about Project Animal Farm at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington on Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 6pm.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Pegasus Books.

purchase at Amazon: Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food

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