Erik Marcus's Blog - Posts Tagged "vegan"

I've decided it would be potentially useful to tell you how I decided to write Meat Market, and the things that led the book to take the shape it did.

To begin, it makes sense to tell you about my first book, Vegan: the New Ethics of Eating. I began writing Vegan in 1996, and I began that book largely out of frustration. I had become increasingly involved in vegetarian advocacy, and a lot of the pro-vegan writing I'd encountered seemed to be making improbable claims. Since I already had a strong background in writing, and there was nothing recent in terms of vegan advocacy books, I decided this would be a project worth tackling.

I was able to get a couple small grants, and using that money I moved to Ithaca, New York; largely because I knew that Cornell University had first-rate agriculture and veterinary libraries.

At the time, a three-pronged argument was the dominant way of arguing for veganism. One prong related to health, another to animal cruelty, and a third to the environment. So my intention was to obtain the most reliable materials for each of these three arguments, with just about everything sourced either from the USDA or the industry's own sources. Vegan ended up taking just over a year to research and write. The book came out in late 1997 and did remarkably well. It has sold about 40,000 copies.

Over the following five years, though, I kept thinking more and more about the points that the book raised. And as time went on, I became increasingly skeptical about whether the most persuasive vegan advocacy should really use the three prong argument. The more closely I looked, the more problematic this seemed.

Most of my time between 1998 and 2003 was spent touring for Vegan, and writing two different books that I ultimately decided not to publish. By 2003, I had become obsessed with figuring out the most accurate and persuasive arguments supporting veganism, and I realized I had no choice but to write a follow-up book.

Meat Market took up two years of my life. I was obsessive about having every page of that book reflect the very best writing and research I was capable of. I'd estimate I spent at least twice as much library time on that book as I did on Vegan. A big part of my focus was coming up with the most important and interesting questions I could, and then doing whatever it took to find answers.

I should also add that there's something uniquely psychologically damaging about having to dig deeply into industry journals, for the sake of investigating and understanding cruel factory farming practices. And, in the same way, rewriting the same sentence about cruelty ten different times also grinds this traumatic stuff like glass shards into your consciousness.

Meat Market's sales pale beside many other books in its niche, but I know that the book has inspired a number of people to take action for animals. Ever since writing the book, I've found that the things I've learned during its writing caused me to be far more persuasive when talking to omnivores about diet. And, as time as gone on, it's clear the book has been a big factor in reshaping much of the vegan movement's overarching rhetoric in favor of a line of thinking that condemns animal agriculture as a heartless, massively untrustworthy entity.

If you're one of its readers, I hope the book has given you a measure of inspiration and confidence when it comes to advocating for animals. Increasingly, I've seen activists embrace the ideas at the core of Meat Market, and I hope there's much within the book that will inspire your own activism.
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Published on December 01, 2010 12:09 • 479 views • Tags: activism, animals, meat-market, vegan