Since ending animal farming is one of the most urgent challenges for humankind, I immediately purchased a copy of the book and read it in a couple of weeks. In a nutshell, Reese’s book is a thorough overview of why we should end animal farming and how we can try to achieve this goal within the next few decades.
Unfortunately, the book is also a little more than a thorough overview of the topic, meaning that the author just piles up a series of fairly known facts about animal farming, lacking more original insights. At times, it feels like a “positioning book”: a book written just to position the author as an expert in a burgeoning field.
Anyway, The End of Animal Farming by Jacy Reese is still a fairly interesting read in many aspects. Here, I put together three reasons that make it a worthy reading experience and three reasons that might compel you to put another book in your shopping cart.
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- “A big reason we’re going to see the end of animal farming is that it doesn’t have to mean the end of meat,” writes Jacy Reese. Reese is hinting to so-called clean meat and to meat alternatives like plant-based meat. He elaborates extensively on these topics, detailing what the potential future of food innovations might be.
I enjoy the flavor of meat a lot. At the same time, I’m fully aware that animal farming is utterly wrong on so many different levels. Clean and plant-based meat might allow me to have a crispy chicken breast without screwing up the planet. It would be a way to kill two birds with one stone. Or actually to leave the two birds well-alive.
Reese does a great job in inspiring his readers (and in making their mouths water) with the idea that a different, sustainable kind of meat is possible.
- Effective Altruism. “The most basic argument of this book is that we can take the scientific approach used in fields like medicine and apply it to social change,” announces optimistically Jacy Reese in the first pages of The End of Animal Farming.
The evidence-based approach is another great feature of his book. For the readers who are not familiar with the concept, Effective Altruism (henceforth EA) is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and rationality to find ways to do good more effectively.
Particularly popular in Silicon Valley, EA proposes a practical approach to the world’s problems. Inspired by this vision, Reese’s book tackles the issue of animal farming scientifically, leaving little room for ideological debate.
- Partially a consequence of the evidence-based approach, Reese doesn’t shy away from making concrete examples of what works and what doesn’t in animal welfare campaigns.
For example, he praises undercover investigations of animal farms that “exposed and publicized the implications of the modern ‘machine in a factory’ approach to farming animals’, emphasizing how “almost everyone who cares about the issue does so” because of them.
At the opposite, Reese criticizes certain PETA shocking media stunts that drew a great deal of short-term attention at the expense of the movement’s long-term credibility. The fact that it always relies on concrete examples allows Reese to be precise and to the point.
Don’t read it
- Reese doesn’t want to be mistaken for a rigidly dogmatic vegan that does crazy things to advance his plant-eating cause. However, there’s still a certain kind of indigestible fanaticism that filters through his book. For example, at one point of The End of Animal Farming, Reese praises an animal welfare advocate in these terms: “In his fifteen years of advocacy work, he has never taken a sick day and has only missed work for one vacation, a few funerals, and to volunteer on election day for various candidates – including his dad”.
The health benefits of a vegan diet are definitely nullified by the terribly unhealthy decision to take just one vacation in fifteen years (letting alone the ill-advised idea of volunteering at your dad’s electoral campaign)
- I think that if you decide to write a book instead of recording a podcast or shooting a documentary, you should, well… pay attention to your writing. Reese’s prose tends, at times, to be a bit too formulaic and repetitive. The usual essayistic setup that starts a chapter with an anecdotal fact gets a bit monotonous after a while.
- As I mentioned, The End of Animal Farming is all in all a fairly complete recap of what’s going on in the movement. At times, it gets too specific for the general public while other passages are too obvious for readers that are already familiar with the topics of the book.
It’s always difficult to strike a balance but I guess having a more specific target group would benefit the cause that Reese wants to advance.