January 28, 2013

The Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend

I read the author's first book, "Hit By A Farm", and really enjoyed it. This one however, felt forced and rushed to me, and I didn't find it nearly as informative or entertaining to read. The author raises some good points, but lacks the follow through to really make an impact.

Catherine Friend runs a sheep farm with her partner Melissa. They are low scale farmers, and produce a small amount of sheep bound for the slaughter as compared to larger farms or factory farms. But because of her daily workings with these sheep, Friend decides to take a more in-depth look at the type of meat she's eating in other areas other than lamb. More specifically, she raises the question of whether she should be eating these creatures if they were not raised humanely. As she explores these questions she looks at research from factory farms, methods used to slaughter animals, and the diet of the average American when it comes to meat.

I'm not going to say that factory farms aren't painted harshly, because they are by Friend. She offers data and research to back up her claims and I don't disagree with her either. She also is careful to mention that just because someone is a small scale farmer, doesn't mean they treat their animals well. There is good and bad animal husbandry at all scales of farming. And she doesn't condemn the people eating factory farmed meat, but offers alternatives and says to start small with a goal to change personal consumption. It's easier to take baby steps instead of going full force into something. As someone who was a vegetarian for almost three years (but alas succumbed to bacon) I agree on many of her points. I've thought about going back to vegetarianism not because I don't like meat, but because I can't afford the types of meat I think I should be eating (sustainable, organic, and humanely raised). I like Friend's compromise in saying that just shoot for one meal a week that would have this type of ingredient to make it more doable.

While Friend has many good points, the book does appear rushed though. We're bounced about from facts, to Friend's own farm and animals, to different methods of slaughter, etc. and are never really set on one specific topic for a great amount of time. It's like she was just trying to get everything on paper and the format suffered a little bit. I found it hard to read continuously even though topics like this usually keep me hooked into a book. Additionally, some of the websites she mentions (but not all) didn't work for me when I tried to type them in. Considering the book isn't that old it is surprising, but such is the way of life in the internet world and books should be careful referencing websites because they can be short lived. I did like that she provided a list of questions to ask a farmer about when looking for humanely raised local meat. I fully intend on referring to those questions when I do have an opportunity to buy meat like that.

Some good facts but a very rushed book. It can also cause a lot of contention between farmers who practice the methods Friend doesn't like in this book and on the other side of the spectrum, her thoughts about compassionate carnivores may not sit well with vegetarians who believe any meat consumption is cruel. There really isn't one right answer for everybody though because as with religion, people's thoughts on food are volatile and everyone thinks that they have the right answer. This is one opinion out of many that seeks a middle ground between no meat and all meat.

The Compassionate Carnivore
Copyright 2008
261 pages

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