Good vegan reads part I

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Tell someone you’re vegan for health reasons, and that usually requires no further explanation. But I’m not vegan for health reasons. I’m vegan for ethical reasons. Back when veganism was a relatively new thing and people found out I was an ethical vegan, instead of the “Yo, that’s cool! Mad respect for dat!” response that I felt I should have gotten, I was hit with:

“What’s wrong with eggs and milk? The chickens and cows don’t die.”

“If things weren’t tested on animals, you would be dead.”

“You know you can’t drive on roads because there are animal products in asphalt.”

“So you care more about animals than people? You know there are people that need help too, like the poor, the oppressed,etc. ”

“But meat tastes soooo good. I love bacon.”

I quickly discovered that I didn’t have logical arguments and sound information to back up my veganism other than I cared for animals, which to most people just sounds like “bunnies are cute”. I needed to read. These are some of my favorite books (new and old) related to animal rights/veganism.

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Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?  by Gary Francione

This is THE definitive read on the theory of animal rights for me. Francione, a Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, intelligently provides a clear and logical argument as to why non-human sentient beings should be included in our moral community. This book is worth it for the “Twenty Questions and Answers” appendix alone which basically addresses common issues like the use of animal tested prescription medications and the “tradition” of eating meat. From the forward by Alan Watson, “Although he [Francione] tackles some of the more difficult philosophical problems that inform animal ethics, his presentation is extraordinarily clear and accessible to any reader interested in the topic”. My copy is all written in and I reference this book a lot.

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MAD COWBOY:  Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat  by Howard F. Lyman

I have a signed copy of this book(!) because I had the honor of seeing Howard Lyman speak at the University of Colorado in Boulder back in the early 2000’s. Lyman is the ex-Montana rancher that went on The Oprah Show and influenced her to stop eating beef which caused the livestock industry to get their panties in a bunch and sue Oprah back in 1998.  The case got dismissed. This book chronicles Lyman’s journey from hard-core animal eater and rancher to hard-core vegan. It’s autobiographical while full of factual insider information about the beef industry. The night I got this book was the first time I had vegan nachos and they were really good.

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MAKING A KILLING: The Political Economy of Animal Rights  by Bob Torres.

Bob Torres, along with his wife Jenna Torres used to be big in the vegan community hosting a podcast and publishing another book I like (which I gave to someone), Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World.  They seem to have since fallen off the face of the earth, but Bob Torres’ book is among one of my favorites. Torres provides parallelisms between other forms of oppression in our society and animal exploitation. He explains in a logical manner how animal exploitation is perpetuated in our society because of decades and decades of socialization in a hierarchical capitalist world.


Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, And Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz.

This one was one I wished I owned, but I checked it out from the library. Shocking, disturbing and difficult to read at times, this really made me realize how horrific the meat industry is for animals and humans alike.  This book chronicles Eisnitz’s altruistic efforts to expose the inhumane treatment in slaughterhouses across the country. Her book covers 3 main aspects of slaughterhouses: (1) the inhumane treatment of animals (2) the terrible working conditions for slaughterhouse workers and (3) the corrupt role of the USDA and how this affects meat as food.

Heavy reading? An astounding YES. But I’d rather know than not know.

Stay tuned for Part II.

26 thoughts on “Good vegan reads part I

  1. A Tablespoon of Liz

    These all look like awesome books! thanks for the list. I love reading about animal rights and where our food comes from and stuff like that, so I’ll definitly be checking these out!

  2. Molly

    All wonderful books! I think it’s awesome that you’re educating yourself so that you can provide intelligent answers to people. It can be frustrating sometimes with some of the things people can say and ask.

    I’ve read the first two and especially love Gary Francione’s books. He makes such terrific, solid arguments. Bob and Jenna Torres are the reasons Mike & I went vegan together. It was their podcast that convinced us both (while we were on a road trip, nonetheless!). 🙂

  3. Kylie

    Thanks for this! I went vegan so long ago (20 years) that I haven’t really read all the new stuff out there. I still have (mostly) vegetarian cookbooks that I adapt (as opposed to vegan cookbooks).

    I’ve decided to just start telling people, “I don’t like meat,” since they seem to think saying, “I like meat,” is adequate justification.

    We’ll have to connect at Vida Vegan Con. I’m really excited for that. I blog about so many things… being vegan is just part of me, so it’s part of my blog, too… but I’m really excited to meet all the amazing vegan bloggers out there (like you) and learn more about blogging as an art and skill.

    Have you read Carol J. Adams’ “The Sexual Politics of Meat”?

    1. luminousvegans Post author

      I own the “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and started to read it once, but just couldn’t get into it. Not because of the topic, but the writing style. I will someday give it another go.

      1. Kylie

        It’s the 20th anniversary and the author is touring–maybe you will get to see her do a presentation and skip reading it. I also did a post about TRYING to see her presentation a few months ago. It’s light on the synopsis, and heavy on complaining about how hard it is to do things with kids!

  4. Cadry's Kitchen

    Great suggestions! I haven’t read Gary’s book, but it sounds like a fascinating and compelling read. It is so strange how Bob and Jenna suddenly disappeared off the planet! When I was vegetarian and transitioning to vegan, I listened to their podcast regularly. I read Mad Cowboy, but what I like most of all from Howard Lyman is just listening to him talk. He was in the documentary Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home (, and I’ve also heard him speak on podcasts and whatnot. He has such a down-to-earth quality about him that is very relatable. Of course, that he worked in animal agriculture and then turned his back on it makes his story even more enlightening.

    I completely agree that many people have a much easier time dealing with those who are vegan for health reasons than ethical ones. It can feel like you have to have an insurmountable amount of knowledge when you first go vegan to handle the naysayers and/or people who are sincerely curious. That’s why it’s great that these books are out there to give people the tools and answers they need. Like you, I am vegan for ethical reasons. I think that being vegan can be a really healthy way to live, and that’s wonderful. However, I’m vegan because it’s the most consistent way to live in line with my values of compassion and aims to not cause suffering when I have another choice.

    1. luminousvegans Post author

      Well said! I haven’t watched Peaceable Kingdom yet, but N has. It definitely gives me hope that even the most hardiest meat eaters I know can possibly make a change when I think of Lyman.

  5. Hannah (BitterSweet)

    I’ve found that ethical vegans are still greatly misunderstood. Although the movement is much more accepted and understood, if it’s not done for health reasons, outsiders tend to have a hard time wrapping their minds around it. I started as an ethical vegan and merely benefited from the health side-effects, so it’s been tough to find others on the same wavelength. It’s exciting to have more intelligent arguments for the sake of the animals themselves. I just hope that a wider audience will be more willing to actually consider them.

  6. Pingback: Whole Foods for a Well Vegan «

  7. jess

    great list of reads! one that i always recommend & lend is Gristle by Moby & Miyun Park – a collection of essays proving a great intro to many of the ethical, enviro and health factors surrounding veganism and it’s a quick and easy read to boot.

  8. Maggie Muggins

    Thanks for posting this, I still have trouble coming up with logical responses to a few omnivore comments and “go fuck yourself” doesn’t really go over well. Reading Slaughterhouse really opened my eyes to a different side of the meat industry, I would really like to read Introduction to Animal rights, it sounds like something I could benefit from.


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