Ginny Messina's Reviews > Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, & Money

Meat Market by Erik Marcus
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Sep 19, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: animal-rights
Read in September, 2008

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First, a small disclaimer: Erik Marcus is a friend, and I wrote one of the activist essays in this book. I don’t have any financial interest in the book, however, and my review here pertains only to its first part, written by Erik—-not the supplementary materials.
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Written primarily for activists, this is well worth reading for anyone who cares about how farm animals are treated. It’s a super quick and easy read. That’s because Erik has a talent for distilling big chunks of information and compelling arguments into just a few pages that get the important ideas across.

The first part outlines information that most animal activists know: Agribusiness is dependent on practices that cause horrible suffering to billions of farm animals. What will be surprising to many is that the worst suffering is not found in meat production, but on egg and dairy farms. And, in fact, eliminating poultry, eggs, and dairy products from the diet is far more important in reducing animal suffering than giving up beef and pork. (Which makes me think we need some new way to describe people who don’t eat eggs and dairy, but still eat animal flesh—since this would actually be a more effective choice than lacto-ovo vegetarianism.)

Erik suggests that those who choose to eat animal products—-which includes most Americans—-have a moral imperative to seek welfare reforms for farmed animals. But, for many reasons having to do with economics and with the enormous political power enjoyed by agribusiness, welfare reform can only go so far. Buying organic foods, cage-free eggs, and range-fed beef helps reduce animal suffering in only the smallest ways, if at all. This brings us to the central theme of the book, which is that suffering of farm animals will never be eliminated or even reduced in any meaningful way, until animal agriculture as we know it is “dismantled.”

This approach depends on growing an activist movement aimed first and foremost at exposing the cruelties of modern farming. It’s not as though this isn’t already happening. But Erik has some important insights about process and focus. He counsels against being overly provocative (ala PETA) while noting that it’s no easy task to find the right message—one that is persuasive without being too wimpy or too offensive. He wants us to stop wasting time on the wrong messages—-particularly about animal rights and also about the health aspects of a vegan diet. (As a vegan dietitian, I couldn’t agree more about the “health argument;” its foundation is shaky at best, and it is unlikely to ever be compelling enough to help many animals in the long run.)

Erik makes a plea for activists to be well-informed, to be kind and to avoid anger when arguing a point. He speaks against militancy but sees a place for “open rescues,” conducted with the same principles that guided Ghandi and civil rights activists.

He advises choosing campaigns wisely, beginning first with three programs that greatly benefit animal agriculture and that can be changed easily (well--relatively speaking) School Lunch, USDA nutrition guidelines, and grazing subsidies.

The books ends with some ideas about personal activism that should help anyone feel at least a little bit empowered and motivated. The epilogue is a section with the heart-breaking title “The Unluckiest Ones,” about some specific cases of animal abuse that stand out even in an industry that is routinely horrific in its treatment of animals. (This section is positioned at the end so that one can read it or not; I chose not to.)

This is the third time I’ve read this book, and I never fail to find it inspirational and thought-provoking. Erik Marcus provides important guidance and ideas for changing the cruel reality of farm animals’ lives.



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Lisa Vegan Ginny, I didn't know that you participated in this book! Bumps it up further (in my mind) on my to-read list.


Rachel Ginny, I remember the essays at the back, but I didn't make the connection that you were one of the authors. Good for you! I loved this book. This is the book that motivated me to go vegan and become an activist. All at once! Really powerful stuff.


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