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30 March 2010

Book Review: Animal Factory by David Kirby

Title: Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment
Author: David Kirby
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 2, 2010
Hardcover: 512
ISBN: 978-0312380588
Genre: Non-fiction/Agriculture


About the book

Swine flu. Bird flu. Unusual concentrations of cancer and other diseases. Massive fish kills from flesh-eating parasites. Recalls of meats, vegetables, and fruits because of deadly E-coli bacterial contamination.

Recent public health crises raise urgent questions about how our animal-derived food is raised and brought to market. In Animal Factory, bestselling investigative journalist David Kirby exposes the powerful business and political interests behind large-scale factory farms, and tracks the far-reaching fallout that contaminates our air, land, water, and food.

In this thoroughly-researched book, Kirby follows three families and communities whose lives are utterly changed by immense neighboring animal farms. These farms (known as "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations," or CAFOs), confine thousands of pigs, dairy cattle, and poultry in small spaces, often under horrifying conditions, and generate enormous volumes of fecal and biological waste as well as other toxins. Weaving science, politics, law, big business, and everyday life, Kirby accompanies these families in their struggles against animal factories. A North Carolina fisherman takes on pig farms upstream to preserve his river, his family's life, and his home. A mother in a small Illinois town pushes back against an outsized dairy farm and its devastating impact. And, a Washington state grandmother becomes an unlikely activist when her home is covered with soot and her water supply is compromised by runoff from leaking lagoons of cattle waste.

Animal Factory is an important book about our American food system gone terribly wrong -- and the people who are fighting to restore sustainable farming practices and save our limited natural resources.

My Review:

Animal Factory by David Kirby is a well written, researched and documented book regarding the potential damages of industrial pig, dairy and poultry farms to not only humans but also to the environment. He writes a passionate and compelling novel, and it is one sided and fairly narrow in focus even with him following three communities. A more balanced book would have gone farther with me than just a personal narrative about the evils of Industrial animal farming. However, Kirby's journalist skills are impeccably thorough and quite compelling. Animal Factory is a book to make people stop and think before buying meat, dairy and poultry products. Kirby follows three communities and while I applaud his thoroughness, I would have preferred to read a book a little less one-sided, however I do like the fact he does not blame the farmer, or even the industry, but points to a systemic failure. I applaud Kirby for writing what he does about more sustainable meat, dairy and poultry markets, farms not industries. While I would have preferred a more balanced approach, Animal Factory is well written and if a person is on the fence about the meat and poultry industry, this book will probably decide the case for you and I believe that is what worries me about this book. However, I do agree with Fred Kirschmann's point in the book (page 443), that the system is broken; from farmers to consumers we are all caught in the same system. Did Kirby convince me to once again become a vegetarian, no. I know a lot of wonderful farmers and I shall continue buying meat and poultry, and continue to stay vigilant about what meats and poultry I purchase. Animal Factory is an excellent book for consumers who want to stay informed, make better choices, and/or help to bring farming back to the farmers.

About the Author:

David Kirby is a Huffington Post contributor and author of the New York Times bestseller Evidence of Harm, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for Best Book, and finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein award for Excellence in Journalism. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit

For more information, view David Kirby's Web site.

I received a complimentary copy of Animal Factory by David Kirby from FSB Media. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


1 comment:

Emidy said...

Wow, very interesting book choice. This is great to inform people about what they're eating and where it comes from - I'm sure it's a good book to read. I'll be looking out for it!

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