The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment
By David Kirby
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312380588, 512pp.)
Publication Date: March 2, 2010
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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 invaded by foul odors 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.
DAVID KIRBY is the author of Evidence of Harm, which was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
CRITICS GIVE RAVE REVIEWS FOR ANIMAL FACTORY
“Kirby combines the narrative urgency of Sinclair's novel with the investigative reporting of Schlosser's book — Animal Factory is nonfiction, but reads like a thriller. There's no political pleading or ideological agitprop in this book; it's remarkably fair-minded, both sober and sobering. Like Sinclair's and Schlosser's work, it has the potential to change the collective American mind about contemporary food issues.”-- NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, “BOOKS WE LIKE”
“Kirby profiles three individuals who have been subjected to the stench, mess, environmental contamination, and health risks of megafarms. Stonewalling government agencies and evasive and hostile factory-farm owners and their corporate overseers ensure that the trio’s battles for safe air and water have been protracted, complicated, and dangerous, hence the magnitude of Kirby’s meticulously detailed yet propulsive chronicle. Thanks to Kirby’s extraordinary journalism, we have the most relatable, irrefutable, and unforgettable testimony yet to the hazards of industrial animal farming.”-- BOOKLIST – JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSN *STARRED REVIEW*
“Animal Factory is a compelling narrative in the tradition of Upton Sinclair, whose 1906 novel "The Jungle" led to changes in the meat-packing industry. It isn't a novel, but it moves along with the urgency of a pot-boiler. What Kirby has done in this journalistic account of animal factory operations across the country is draw back the curtains that have carefully screened from the public the untidy secrets about how meat is produced on a large scale in this country. You'll read about the cramped feeding operations where animals are fattened for market, the pharmaceuticals that go into feed, the alarming practices used to dispose of feces and urine and how animal byproducts sometimes wind up in feed.” -- THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
“Kirby turns his investigative reporting skills to the human and environmental consequences of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Unlike recent books on this topic that advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle (e.g., Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals), Kirby focuses on the negative impacts CAFOs are having on not only those who live near these operations but also those who may be affected by polluted water originating from waste lagoon spills at these sites. His narrative is immensely readable and should be required reading for anybody concerned with how CAFOs are changing the nature of livestock farming.”--LIBRARY JOURNAL
“Centering on three tales of large-scale factory farming, David Kirby takes the industry to task for its destruction of the environment, its deleterious effect on the family farm and rural America, and its lies, which have led to government inaction. Kirby's descriptions of how the animals are treated is chilling, and I can guarantee that you'll never eat pork with a clean conscience again.” --INDIE NEXT “NOTABLES,” AMERICAN BOOKSELLERS ASSN
“An environment in which there are lakes of putrid slush, foul odors wafting in the breeze and entire rivers turning orange may sound like something out of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road, but it’s a reality for many people who live near industrial farms - the result of keeping thousands of animals in one place in order to keep prices low. In his latest book, Animal Factory, David Kirby follows three unlikely grassroots activists who have opposed big agriculture, from small community protests to the national sustainable movement.”--LEONARD LOPATE, WNYC-FM, NPR Affiliate, New York City
“Good journalists know that the key to hooking their audience on a complex social problem is to put a human face on it. And David Kirby is a good journalist. In his new book Animal Factory Kirby puts a human face on the threat of industrial meat production to humans and environmental health. Animal Factory tells the story of three people who became unlikely activists against large-scale factory farms and their accompanying stench, waste and cost.”--FRANK STASIO, WUNC-FM, NPR Affiliate, North Carolina
“Animal Factory is really a wonderful book, an easy read, and one that you often wrestle with. And I think that, for those of us who are thinking about the future of our world, well, this is one of those books you must read.” --MARK STEINER, WEAA-FM, NPR Affiliate, Baltimore
”Kirby has assembled an amazingly detailed history of his subjects' grassroots struggles. It's an impressive feat of all-consuming, shoe-leather journalism, and his litany of unneighborly insults, like the "stinky, mocha-colored mist" that one mega-dairy inflicts on the property next door, packs a punch. His dogged pursuit of the story has made him unquestionably expert on factory farming and the resistance movement thereof.--THE INDEPENDENT WEEKLY – DURHAM, NC
“Kirby avoids the classic conservationist (lefty) versus business dichotomy (Republican) in focusing on people like ex-Marine turned Riverkeeper, Rick Dove. Animal Factory is a valuable addition to the growing number of works like Food Inc. and The Omnivore’s Dilemma exposing the ills of mass-produced meat and dairy. Kirby uses the stories of the three families, as they move from their local fights to the national scene, to draw readers into the morass of government regulations and lawsuits that surround the CAFO issue.”--EUGENE WEEKLY
“If you want to know about the worst practices of our food system, David Kirby is your man. Kirby has the inside track on all things factory farm, which is why Washington Post's "On Leadership" column recently invited him to write a guest post about President Obama's record on reform in this area. Kirby's right in saying that "Obama should go out of his way to showcase his leadership in confronting the pollution and economic consolidation of animal factory farming."--CHANGE.ORG
"Animal Factory is not a book about animal welfare, or nutrition, or fair labor practices. Instead, it is something that concerns us all, no matter what our political persuasion - the long-term health of people and communities directly affected by factory farms. The scandal of industrial food-animal production is a direct link to the health care debate, making "Animal Factory" all the more urgent. Mr. Kirby has produced a powerful, important book to all those who care about their family's health. – THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Sometimes it seems that the only people who truly support CAFOs, or animal factory farms, are those who stand to profit from them. This is made brilliantly clear in Animal Factory, David Kirby’s exposé into the business. Animal Factory follows the stories of three people trying to fight against big dairy and pork operations. These stories are deeply disturbing and might actually make readers sick. The writing is brilliant, the people profiled are inspirational in their activism, and the topic is one that so many people remain blissfully ignorant of. Everyone would benefit from reading this book and becoming aware of where their food comes from. – SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW
WHAT OTHERS SAY
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: David Kirby’s book, Animal Factory, is a beautifully written account of the danger industrial meat and dairy production represents to our health, environment and democratic process. In a unique and captivating way, Kirby reveals the consequences of animal factories through the eyes of the citizen advocates who have fought the long and hard battle to civilize the barbaric and often criminal behavior of the meat barons. Rick Dove, Karen Hudson, Helen Reddout, Chris Peterson, Don Webb and others featured in the book are real American heroes. Their stories are compelling, true and engaging. The time has come to end the greedy and destructive practices of animal factories. As the readers of Kirby’s book will learn, nature’s clock is ticking and much is at stake for the planet and all of its inhabitants. Each page of this book is filled with powerful information. It has all the makings of a number one best seller.
Alice Waters: Nature did not intend for animals to live and die in a factory assembly line. In David Kirby’s startling investigation Animal Factory, he gives a human face to the terrible cost our health and environment pays for this so-called ‘cheap food’. This is a story that is seldom told and rarely with such force and eloquence.
Robert S. Lawrence, MD, Director, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Animal Factory, by David Kirby, documents the scandal of today’s industrial food animal production system in the same compelling way Upton Sinclair alerted Americans to the abuses of the meat packing industry in his 1906 The Jungle. The well being of animals produced for human consumption, the fate of rural communities, the health of farm workers, and the protection of the environment are daily compromised for the sake of profit.
Deirdre Imus: Ol’ MacDonald had a farm – until America’s corporate animal factories plowed it under, packing living, breathing, sensate creatures into sewage plant conditions for your gustatory pleasure. Now, you’re next. Bon appetit.
Steve Ells, Founder, Chairman & Co-CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill: Hurray to David Kirby for exposing the horrific conditions that are so prevalent at America’s factory farms. When I first confronted the realities of factory farming some ten years ago, I knew that I did not want Chipotle’s success to be based on the exploitation that I saw. While few people actually have the chance to see firsthand where their food comes from, Animal Factory provides a vivid account of the system and the harm it causes.
Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production: This book puts a human face on a well hidden national scandal: the effects of large-scale raising of animals on the health and well being of farm workers and their families, local communities, the animals themselves, and the environment which we all share. By examining how CAFOs affect the lives of real people, Kirby makes clear why we must find healthier and more sustainable ways to produce meat in America.
Bill Niman (Founder, Niman Ranch) and Nicolette Hahn Niman (Author, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms): The industrial production of farm animals is a grim saga of pollution, health risks, and animal misery. Yet in Animal Factory David Kirby has put together an ingenious book that is highly readable and engaging. The heroes of his book are fighting for a better America -- one in which waters are safe to drink, air is safe to breathe, and traditional family farmers are the sources of our food. Anyone who reads this book will be drawn into their cause.
David Wallinga, MD, Food and Health Director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: Animal Factory tells how big agribusiness' industrial meat production is leaving our communities foul with unhealthy air, awash in untreated sewage, and increasingly buffeted by bacteria made resistant to the antibiotics. Anyone in search of why America's health care system is going bankrupt will find part of the answer in these pages.
Frederick Kirschenmann, President of Kirschenmann Family Farms: David Kirby' s new book points to a deeper story than may be apparent to some. It is easy to blame the farmer, or blame the industry for the unintended consequences of our food system. But there are deeper systemic issues which give rise to these problems that we now need to address. Our "fast, convenient, and cheap" food system gave us benefits that many found praiseworthy. But we failed to anticipate the unintended costs to health, to communities, and to the environment. Perhaps it’s time to reinvent a food system that is resilient, affordable and health-promoting for both people and land. Perhaps Kirby's new book can serve as part of a wake-up call for us all to become food citizens to that end.