Peacegal's Reviews > The Vegan Sourcebook

The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak
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Feb 17, 2010

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Read from January 19 to 23, 2016

THE VEGAN SOURCEBOOK wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was for the most part interesting, with a fascinating history of the vegan movement (it's far older than you may imagine), as well as a nice collection of recipes.

Stepaniak has collected a lot of information here on the ways animals are used in various industries, animal advocates are likely to refer to it when writing letters or using online discussion boards. There is something to learn here even for seasoned advocates, although they should take heed of the book's 1998 copyright and double-check to ensure the information remains pertinent. I found this passage on mice used for experimentation interesting:

Knockout mice have had one or more key genes "knocked out." As a result, they suffer from various types of afflictions...The ghastly nicknames chosen for different mouse models reflects a lack of compassion for creatures doomed to a life of suffering based on their genetic structure. "Flaky" is the name given to a type of mouse that develops severe skin problems. "Stargazer" refers to to those mice afflicted with an epilepsylike disorder. Such names indicate a callous disregard for these sensate life forms.

I looked it up, and yes, researchers can still purchase patented breeds of mice with these rather tasteless nicknames and many more. It makes sense that if you're performing fatal experiments upon an animal, you're probably going to keep your distance from that creature's suffering, and derisive names like "Flaky" no doubt help with that.

Other passages in this book are problematic, however. At one point, the author asserts that horses are slaughtered "for pet food or glue." That wasn't true when the book was written in the late '90s or for at least two decades prior to that. It was once true that glue was primarily made from the boiled hooves and hides of animals, but today, more durable and cheaper chemicals have mostly replaced these ingredients. And Americans eat more than enough chickens, cows, pigs and other animals that their unwanted and condemned body parts can supply the dog and cat food trade. Rather, when this book was written, horses were being slaughtered in the US and their meat was exported to countries such as Belgium and France for human consumption. A smaller number were killed to feed exotic animals in captive situations.

In another passage, the author claims that "vegans are divided on spay/neuter" of pet animals. I found this statement quite confusing. It is true, there are some serious disagreements within our community, most visibly of abolitionism vs. pragmatism, but I struggle to see spay/neuter as a controversial issue. Every animal rights and welfare group, large and small, supports spay/neuter to reduce the number of animals killed in shelters and abandoned on the streets. It may not be "natural," but nor are human-created breeds of animals who look nothing like their cousins in the wild, many not even capable of surviving on their own. If we reject spay/neuter as "unnatural," we also must reject any kind of medical care at all, or even feeding and watering our pets or keeping them in the home. Such a person would be rightly prosecuted for abandonment of a pet.
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