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The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,109 ratings  ·  137 reviews

The best-selling author of When Elephants Weep explores our relationship with the animals we call food.

In this revelatory work, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson shows how food affects our moral selves, our health, and the environment. It raises questions to make us conscious of the decisions behind every bite we take: What effect does eating animals have on our land, waters,
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 16th 2009 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2009)
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David
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to David by: Khalil
I have been a vegetarian for a number of years, and leaning toward being a vegan. That is to say, I try to avoid milk, cheese, and eggs. So, most of the ideas in this book are not new to me. Most animals kept in captivity for the purpose of food really do suffer. Immensely. There are no two ways about it.

Jeffrey Masson rebuts all of the sayings that meat-eaters use to rationalize their addiction to meat, poultry, and fish. And he makes a every one of the rationalizations sound truly pathetic. Th
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Patricia
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but this book definitely gives me pause and makes me consider.... Actually in the last few years the taste of meat has not been pleasant to me. Animal lover that I am, I dont know why I have continued eating sentient beings. This book gets down to the nuts and bolts of how much of our planet we are using up to feed the livestock which we as Americans love to eat. Now other countries are getting the taste for meat and deforesting in order to raise same livestock. P ...more
Amber Anderson
Nov 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals
When I first picked up this book I thought I already knew everything there was to know on the issue. I was wrong. Especially on the fish chapter of the book. I'm not really into fish. They're so strange, so different, but I respect them and I learned a lot about them. For instance, We share 85% of our DNA with fish (98% we share with primates). Crazy, right?

I also believed the myth that fish have a teensy memory span. Not true. Fish have a memory span of at least 3 months and probably much longe
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Effie
Nov 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: food, non-fiction
I'm not a vegetarian; I like meat too much. I had no expectations going into the book, but I found myself getting annoyed with the author's preachiness. If you believe that animals are on this earth to be eaten, you must be a religious fundamentalist. I'm not, but can you blame early humans for taking advantage of all food sources? I don't buy that we are supposed to be herbivores.
His other opinions were rather annoying as well. All animals have feelings and we must respect them. Whole Foods is
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Sarah Beth
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
An eye opening account of our factory farms. I've been a vegetarian for almost ten years, after reading this I'm considering becoming vegan. The animals used for producing animal products are treated worse than the ones simply raised for their meat. Although, my main reason for being a vegetarian is for my personal health it is hard to ignore or as, the author states, deny, the treat of animals and the environmental effects of being a carnivore.
I have visited enough feedlots, dairy farms and ho
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Lisa
Jun 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
In the vast ocean of books that are currently in vogue regarding the horrors of eating any form of animal product, be it meat, cheese, eggs, this is the one book I didn't want to hurl against the wall. Will I become a vegan or even a vegetarian? No, I'm comfortable with my diet and feel no need to defend myself to anyone. And this is precisely why I got through this book. The author does not lecture, nor proselytize, and it was refreshing to read his arguments for a vegan way of living without t ...more
mis fit
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: vegan, food, environment
I've been a vegetarian for about 13 years now, and I picked up this book because I wanted to finally commit to a vegan diet (over the years, I've gone off and on with veganism too many times to count). The book is a good refresher on most of the arguments for veganism, and I especially appreciated the chapter on aquaculture, which gave me some new info and perspective.

Thinking about all my attempts to go vegan, it's kind of funny-- I often made this excuse "oh cheese is just too good to give up!
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Ron
Nov 09, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a straightforward argument for why people should start eating a vegan diet, cutting out eggs and dairy products as well as meat and fish. In addition to the cruelty of "factory farm" food production, Masson also discusses the environmental damage caused by raising animals such as cattle, pigs, and chickens in such massive quantities. For many readers, this information won't be revelatory, but it'll certainly make you stop and think. ...more
Mazola1
Sep 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is a thinker of considerable originality, a writer of rather modest talent, and a man of strong opinions who does not suffer from a lack of self confidence in the correctness of those opinions. Masson, a complex and fascinating character, is an accomplished Sanskrit scholar who trained as a psychoanalyst and worked with Anna Freud in London compiling her father's writings. Masson edited the definitive version of Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess, a work of considerable ...more
Peacegal
Feb 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Dear Jeff: Please get a better editor. You have some good stuff in here, but you gallop off on so many unrelated tangents as to bury some of your most informative material, and not all readers are as patient or forgiving as I am.

Masson makes some decent observations of agribusiness throughout his book, such as:

[W]hen I talk to farmers about how they treat the animals on their farms, I come up against a strange fact: while the general public and most research scientists all acknowledge that farm
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Fiona
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethics
I borrowed this book from the library (I was actually browsing cookbooks at the time). I am not vegetarian however I don't eat a lot of meat as I find it doesn't really agree with me and I admit the thought of eating the flesh of a previously living creature does feel somehow wrong. The author quotes Cesar Chavez early in the book who said if you want to lessen animal suffering in the world you would do better to eat meat and give up dairy and eggs. As part of his research for this book the auth ...more
Rory
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-on
I...I dunno. It wasn't that well written, it didn't reveal any earth-shakingly new ideas/facts/arguments, and I felt patronized by its whispy tone and the assertion that if I only KNEW what was going on, I'd be a vegan. I know a lot about how food is produced--because I read a lot, I'm interested, and I grew up on a non-picture-perfect farm--and I need more than admonishment and gross-out tactics to persuade me about the benefits (spiritual and otherwise) of not eating meat. ...more
Kim Stallwood
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some books are written by authors whose biography and personality are seemingly absent. I say seemingly because every book written is, of course, infused with the author’s character and experience regardless of their visibility. Then, there are some authors whose presence is integral. It is impossible to separate them from their work. Sadly, not all authors are good writers. Many are uncomfortable with speaking in public. This, perhaps, should not be too surprising given their preferred medium i ...more
Sarah Reicker
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it
When you pick up a book with a title such as this and a cover that features an adorable baby calf on a plate, you kind of understand that there is a very deliberate agenda here. And so, I was wary. The first half of the book however was really informative and very well written. It was educational and stripped for the most part of the heart string tugging and guilting, which made it easier to read objectively. It was very enlightening and particularly the section on farmed fish (side note, almost ...more
Mo
I always find it rather hard to rate non-fiction, so I won’t. I feel like it’s more about learning from such a book than judging the writing skills. And this piece of literature taught me a lot!

During the ongoing COVID19-pandemic and consequent lockdown, I have had time to immerse myself in the world of veganism. It started out as a 30-day challenge, but I got really interested after watching debates on YouTube and reading a paragraph on farming in 'Sapiens', written by Yuval Noah Harari. Cons
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Jack
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a short and sweet introduction to animal rights as it relates to our food choices. Masson was 68 when he wrote this but had only been vegan for a few years, so he is well placed to empathise with the understandable reluctance to embrace such a lifestyle while still promoting it vigorously.

This book's strongest asset is that it has been researched rigourously and is rife with footnotes. Masson is a psychoanalyst by profession, which helps him to evaluate the research responsibly. It also
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Liz
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a vegan, I had already heard about/read about a lot of the facts and argument he presents in this book. I also thought some chapters were better than others. But there were two things I really liked. I liked that the author dedicated a whole chapter to discussing the cruelty and environmentally dangerous practices involved in fishing, as I think fish are often easily overlooked in discussions about food ethics. I also like that the author chooses to address the process of denial in one of the ...more
Christine
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book is not too enlightening if you have already read The Omnivore's Dilemma, or any other book that looks at what we eat. While I think the author has a valid lifestyle to promote (I am vegetarian), his argument loses might when he uses overly passionate and borderline inflammatory language to try to win support to his views. The author doesn't seem to get that using that approach will lose more people than win. ...more
Whitaker
Dec 10, 2010 rated it liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Kelly Cage
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes hard for me to read... breaks my heart. People need to know the truth.
Warren Benton
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, nonfiction
This book explores food.  Mostly meat.  Masson is a vegan and grew up a vegetarian.  He states he has never really been fond of meat to begin with.  About 95% of this book is about the mistreatment of the animals that we are eating.  Masson explores the various discrepancies in animals from the wild to animals raised for consumption.  He talks of the different diseases that mass fish farms carry.  He also brings up the inhumane treatment of cows and pigs where they are bread to make offspring an ...more
Andis
Nov 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Authors lack of logic and cherry picking of studies makes this hard read. If the book is intended for already established vegans then fine, but in no way it can help people thinking about changing their eating habits and food choices.

Only more or less valuable part is descriptions of commercial growing methods and some mentioning of meaningful alternatives, but even then it is applicable to California and similar places.
Ideas, like "eat locally and seasonally" sounds wonderful in Australia, but
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Benjamin Torres
It is a nice condensed collection of arguments in favor of veganism. There wasn't almost anything I hadn't heard before, but the chapter about denial was very good and eye opener, and overall a very nice read.

Being a vegetarian for over 5 years and adopting veganism everynow and then, a lot of the topics in this book felt like old news and not super exciting, but considering the still high demand for animal products in our society, and the moral and ecological implications it has, it is plain to
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Millie Backway
Apr 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
I found this book so intriguing and well articulated. It makes some really thought provoking points across the many facets of what eating meat means for our own health as well as the health of the environment and the animals we consume. This is achieved without getting too wordy or statistic heavy so it remains accessible throughout.
It is rather short book(with 45 pages of references and 30 of recommended further reading), supported with well researched evidence that sets out to make you aware o
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Grace
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have just recently finished about six months of a vegan experiment and have added animal flesh back into my diet. I probably should have read the book either before the plant based experiment or during it. I didn’t get the grand health benefits that most experience (like my husband) on the plant based diet but reading this book on the morality of eating animals has got me thinking. The author does this in a pretty objective way and interjects his opinions clearly making the distinction clear. ...more
Kelly
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Depressing. I was a vegetarian in my late teens/early twenties and am slowly trying to resume a meat-free lifestyle. I've never felt that I'd be able to commit to veganism, but I've joined a CSA to ensure that the eggs, cheese, and yogurt I'm eating are animal welfare-approved. Still, after reading The Face on Your Plate, I have to wonder if the animals providing my "animal welfare-approved" products are made to suffer, albeit to a lesser degree. I'll definitely be thinking twice about what I'm ...more
Sharon
Mar 11, 2021 rated it liked it
This book explains in detail how our reliance on food grown on factory farms is deleterious both to our environment and our health. This includes meat, dairy and plant foods, but Masson’s emphasis is on animal products including eggs, milk and honey. He is advocating for a vegetarian or, even better in his opinion, a vegan diet but the information contained in the book is useful to anyone who wants to eat in a healthier way. In his zeal to make his point Masson can be repetitious but otherwise I ...more
Emel
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This wasn’t an easy read for me. I bought the book a couple of years ago and had to put it aside for a long time - I’d thought it was going to be casually informative and found it way too radical! But I’ve slowly come around to a different way of thinking and finally felt ready for this book. I’m surprised - and gutted - to learn about eggs, dairy and aquaculture. It’s given me a lot to think about and some real motivation for change.
Kate
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Informative, yes. Although almost ten years old, I did appreciate the amount of research that went into prepping this book. That being said, the ending chapters soured the book for me and became very preachy of the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, basically bashing all who do not participate. I think there is an effective and ineffective way to encourage others to reduce their meat intake, and I don't think bragging about the superiority of one's lifestyle is the way to do it. ...more
Abby
Apr 06, 2021 rated it liked it
There was, I think, some really good information in the early chapters, but the final chapter was poorly written and demonstrated such a misunderstanding of what “organic” means and what its potential benefits (an unfortunately common occurrence in books about animals rights) that it makes me questions the factuality of the rest of the book.
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He has written several books books critical of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychiatry as well as books on animals, their emotions and their rights.

He currently lives in New Zealand with his wife, two sons, three cats and three rats.

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126 likes · 77 comments
“We are not encouraged, on a daily basis, to pay careful attention to the animals we eat. On the contrary, the meat, dairy, and egg industries all actively encourage us to give thought to our own immediate interest (taste, for example, or cheap food) but not to the real suffering involved. They do so by deliberately withholding information and by cynically presenting us with idealized images of happy animals in beautiful landscapes, scenes of bucolic happiness that do not correspond to anything in the real world. The animals involved suffer agony because of our ignorance. The least we owe them is to lessen that ignorance.” 19 likes
“What struck me whenever I visited a farm was how much more sophisticated was the life the animals were capable of living than was assumed by those exploiting them. The more we are willing to see about their lives, the more we will see. Humans seem to take perverse pleasure in attributing stupidity to animals when it is almost always entirely a question of human ignorance.” 14 likes
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