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Book Review

Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money

Erik Marcus, author of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, has written a new book, Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money.


Meat Market: What It Is

The book is divided into three parts:


1. Animal Agriculture

Part 1 is a thorough, well-documented look at factory farming and slaughterhouse practices and the suffering they cause. It has been many years since someone has performed an exhaustive expose of factory farming and slaughterhouse practices in a book. In about 50 pages, Marcus does so succinctly.


2. Dismantlement

Part Two is a critical look at efforts to change or eliminate animal agriculture. Marcus, himself, did not became an activist for years after he became vegan. He now wishes that he would have become active for farmed animals as soon as he stopped eating them. In Meat Market, he provides an argument as to why people should get involved, no matter what their diet, in helping “dismantle” animal agriculture.

But Part Two is not just about why people should get active, it is also a critique of the movement to help farmed animals and suggestions for how we should go about doing things better. Marcus takes a look at the vegetarian, animal rights, and animal welfare movements, discusses the benefits and limitations of each, and then decides a fourth option is needed: a dismantlement movement that will more efficiently attack animal agriculture where it is most vulnerable. Marcus says that dismantlement can be viewed either as a separate movement or within the context of the current three movements.

Marcus believes the dismantlement movement should start with the following four campaigns:

  • Reaching young people about vegetarianism

    In promoting vegetarianism, Marcus argues that the traditional three-pronged approach (health, environment, animals) should be replaced with a one-pronged approach – animals. This is for a variety of reasons but a major one is because he believes the health and environmental arguments tend to be overstated. In the appendices, he discusses which environmental arguments are sound and which are not.

  • Reforming school lunch programs
  • Ending grazing subsidies
  • Replacing the USDA with the National Institutes of Health in providing nutrition information

3. Supplementary Material

Part Three is essays by activists and appendices on many topics. The activist essays are to show the many different ways people have found to help farmed animals. An essay by Vegan Outreach’s Joe Espinosa and Marsha Forsman, Leafleting for Vegan Outreach, is included.

Marcus has appendices looking at the three environmental issues that he argues are typically overstated in arguments for vegetarianism: cycling grain through animals, water resources needed to produce meat, and water pollution caused by factory farming. He then discusses the two issues in which significant environmental damage does occur: cattle ranching and fishing. He also includes an appendix for hunting, animal testing, and slaughterhouse worker conditions.


Meat Market: My Opinion

The first thing to note about Meat Market is the great deal of detail that Marcus has taken the time to uncover in describing factory farming, its effect on the environment, etc. The second thing that impressed me with Meat Market is the amount of careful thought Marcus puts into each of the sections.

Part One on factory farming is an invaluable piece both for activists to know the latest facts and to give to anyone who is willing to read about what they are supporting when they buy animal products. I would have preferred pictures of farms and slaughterhouses, but Marcus decided not to include them.

As someone who has long felt that the three-pronged approach should be replaced with a focus on the animals, I was very interested in reading what Marcus had to say on the subject and found his arguments insightful.

I enjoyed reading Marcus’ opinion on activism. I agreed with much of it, was challenged by some, and disagreed with some. But in all cases, his opinions were sophisticated – the work of someone with a lot of experience and careful reflection.

I highly recommend Meat Market as one of the most important books for farmed animals in recent years.