Title: Animal Factory
Author: David Kirby
Page Count/Review Word Count: 494
I have mixed feelings about this one. I guess I should start by explaining why I read this book in the first place. That’d be because I’m writing a novel that’s set on a factory farm – or a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) as they prefer to be known – and so I read this book as part of my research. I needed to learn as much as I could about how factory farms operate so that I could capture their evils in what’s essentially a political horror novel.
The issue here is that it’s long and fairly repetitive, and it really just follows the stories of several different activists as they repeatedly file legislation. It doesn’t really take us inside the farms as such, focusing more on the excrement that they pour into rivers and which causes the locals to suffer some serious adverse effects. We’re talking death, here. People die because of CAFOs, and yet most people turn a blind eye.
Still, this might not be the best book to read unless you’re heavily involved in the field, and it’s not really a decent introduction into what actually goes inside the facilities. It’s more like a prolonged anecdote, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel your interest starting to wane even if you are using it as research for an exciting new novel.
On the plus side, nobody could argue that it isn’t thorough. The author has clearly put a lot of effort into his research and he’s also undeniably passionate about the subject. I had to give it a 4/5 instead of a 3/5 quite simply because there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s fine. It’s just not amazing. And when you’re starting to read a 500 page piece of non-fiction, you damn well want to make sure that it’s going to be worth your while before you invest the time.
This book, then, probably isn’t the book that will appeal to regular readers and turn CAFOs and factory farms into a subject that everyone in the country has an informed opinion on. It’s more of a specialist read, but it will at least offer some comfort to people who are facing a new facility that’s popped up or is threatening to pop up near to their homes and workplaces.
But it doesn’t really matter whether this book is specialist or not, because ultimately if you do decide to read it then the author is preaching to the converted. If you don’t give a damn about where your food comes from, you’re unlikely to care enough to research it. It’s a shame really, because it’s the ignorant people who most need to read it.
It is what it is. If you’re happy to invest a lot of time reading about litigation and the like then this book’s for you. If not, don’t bother. Try something else.