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.
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.
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.
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.