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The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food [Unknown Binding]

J. Moussaieff Masson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Mar 2009
In this revelatory work, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson shows how food affects our moral selves, our health, and the environment. He raises questions to make us conscious of the decisions behind every bite we take: like the effect eating animals has on our land, waters, even global warming; what the results of farming practices - de-beaking chickens and separating calves from their mothers - are on animals and humans; how the health of animals affects the health of our planet and our bodies. As a psychoanalyst, Masson looks at how denial keeps us from recognising the animal at the end of our fork - think pig, not bacon - and investigates each culture's distinctions among animals considered food and those that are forbidden. "The Face on Your Plate" brings together Masson's intellectual, psychological and emotional expertise over the last twenty years into the pivotal book of the food revolution.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc (16 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393073807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393073805
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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"A thoughtful, persuasive text outlining some key reasons for not eating meat, ranging from the personal to the political." "As ever, Jeffrey Masson enthralls us with the truth. This is touching, compelling, honest stuff." Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA "He [Masson] states his case calmly and with clarity, challenging the reader to take responsibility for the impact of the culinary choices they make." Sunday Business Post "...this is a well researched and easy to read book." BBC Wildlife --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason is the author of the best-selling When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love, as well as The Pig Who Sang to the Moon and The Assault on Truth. An American, he lives in New Zealand. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Good, readable book by the well known author Jeffrey Masson. It is both informative and thought provoking. If you are considering a dietary change to a more healthy lifestyle, the Face on Your Plate is a recommended read. It is not pushy or in any way dictatorial or ideological but it provides detailed information about the awfulness of factory farming methods, about which the general public know so little, on which to base your decision making about becoming less reliant on meat. Well worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Jeffrey Masson 2 May 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have a small library of Jeffrey Masson books, and can justifiably be labelled a fan. This book presented new thoughts on the misery that is fish-farming, as well as discussing in more detail the effects on the environment and the horrors of the factory farm, or as the Americans call it, a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), although surely that should be CAKO - no guesses for what the K stands for.

The final chapter describes a day in the life of a vegan, which doesn't sound that difficult the way he describes it!

Read and enjoy, and if you haven't read Masson before, I particularly recommend The Pig who Sang to the Moon, in my opinion the greatest book on animal rights ever written.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You Looking At? 26 Jun 2009
It is impossible to separate The Face on Your Plate from the author, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. He has lived a most interesting life. It can be crudely divided into the Freud Period and Animal Period. In his Freudian Period, Masson was awarded a Ph.D. in Sanskrit from Harvard University. He became Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto. Here, he trained as a Freudian analyst, graduating as a full member of the International Psycho-Analytical Association. Then, he became Project Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, with access to Freud's papers in London and the Library of Congress. He eventually concluded Freud was mistaken when he (Masson) no longer believed sexual abuse caused human suffering to the extent that he (Freud) thought. The Freudian world thought this was heretical. He was fired from the archives. This all led to a book by Janet Malcolm, a lawsuit brought by Masson and a series of books by Masson critical of Freud, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and therapy. Then, in 1995 his Animal Period began with the publication of the international best-seller When Elephants Weep co-authored with Susan McCarthy. This was followed by seven more books about animals, including Dogs Never Lie About Love and The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats. A vegetarian for most of his life; however, since writing about the emotional world of farmed animals in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, he describes himself as "veganish." (p. 139)

The Freudian Masson and the Animal Masson come together in The Face on Your Plate.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Walking in Place is Walking Back 19 May 2010
By Chris Forkasiewicz from radically real.

There is not much new in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's book. He devotes much time to the discussion of issues which have been successfully tackled elsewhere, such as the fact that humans are evolutionarily well-adapted to a vegan way of eating. The entire chapter 5 is devoted to proving that one won't starve as a vegan. Obviously. Also, in chapter 4, he writes at length about how society is in denial of the harm and death it visits upon nonhuman animals. Surely, repetitiousness is necessary given that as we grow up we are fed lies by a culture obsessed with the subjugation of other animals. In this context, fairly detailed descriptions of the horrible treatment nonhuman animals experience in industrialized and other settings are certainly worth recounting over and over again. As a vegan proponent of the abolition of animal exploitation in any setting, I am only worried that discussion of treatment alone invites meaningless reforms easily lost in a sea of torture, not the liberation other animals deserve. Sadly, this is the case with chapters 2, 3, and 4 of Masson's book, where we are taken on a tour of the commodified animals' condition. Even when he does say that "farms" are not there for the animals, but the other way around, such remarks are not elaborated.

Alas, once we find out that humans are the sole beneficiaries of the horrible reality of animal slavery and torture (chapters 2, 3, and 4), what does the author advise we do about it? At this point the book's message becomes incredibly confused, confusing and... simply weak. There are no ready solutions to complex social problems of injustice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY engaging 14 Mar 2009
By Arienette Cervantes - Published on
When I first picked up this book I thought I already knew everything there was to know on the issue. I was wrong. Especially on the fish chapter of the book. I'm not really into fish. They're so strange, so different, but I respect them and I learned a lot about them. For instance, We share 85% of our DNA with fish (98% we share with primates). Crazy, right?

I also believed the myth that fish have a teensy memory span. Not true. Fish have a memory span of at least 3 months and probably much longer (it hasn't been tested further than three months). Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson quotes Culum Brown, (U of Edinburgh biologist) "Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of 'higher' vertebrates, including non-human primates."

Fish are freaky, they made no sounds but their sporadic out-of-water wriggling and flopping seem unnatural and clearly anguish-driven. The author says, "It is a bit puzzling why we feel that something not like us deserves less respect. That it's death is less troubling." Here, here. Some people think fish are vegetables. You know those people who say, "I'm a vegetarian but I eat fish." Those people really need to read this book.

And this book explores the lives of all the animals we eat. Pigs, cows, chickens. Creatures great and small-this book explains why they matter and why we have a moral responisiblity toward them and toward the environment. This book can be heartbreaking but I'm very glad I read it. It had me gasping with surprise which I really didn't expect. I wish it could be required reading for everyone. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the only people that will pick it up will be vegans, vegetarians, or people already interested in vegetarianism. That's a shame because this is really good stuff.
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making me think about going BACK to vegetarianism... 10 April 2009
By Leslie A. Piccioni - Published on
As a *former* vegetarian, I was hesitant to pick up this book. What caused me to hesitate is EXACTLY what this book it about -- if you lift the veil of denial, how can you ever go back? I was a vegetarian from 15 to 27. At 27, I began eating fish again. It never sat well w/me when people described themselves as vegetarians who ate fish (since when is fish a vegetable??). At 30, I began to eat chicken and poultry and since then, I have reintroduced all meat.

To be fair, I was not the healthiest vegetarian, eating a great deal of simple carbs and processed food along with soy/tofu, fruits and vegetables. As a result, my cholesterol was high. People thought I was crazy -- a vegetarian w/high cholesterol? Yup, it was 272 at its highest (at age 30!). I embraced a diet of lean meats/fish & whole foods (nuts, veggies and fruits) and my cholesterol went down to 170.

So, while my heart and my conscience were feeling horribly guilty for eating animals again, my body (and my doctor!) were thrilled.

But, no matter how "healthy" I've become, the horror that I KNOW I must deny in order to eat meat again is there. It's just a millimeter away from my consciousness every minute of the day. The teenager who one day looked down at her plate of steak and realized what she was about to eat is STILL inside of me. The adult who recycles and uses cloth grocery bags KNOWS that supporting factory farming (by eating its meat products) is actually worse.

Masson writes beautifully and with heart. He writes in a way that does not preach, does not judge and does not bore. His combination of facts and figures with personal anecdotes and emotion is for me, the perfect balance.

I can't recommend this book enough. However, I know that it is human nature that many people (omnivores) will hesitate or refuse to read this. As Masson says, this does not mean that they are insensitive people. Rather, they are usually -- often -- well-meaning, conscientious people. But, old habits die hard.

I was cooking a chicken last week and honest to God, I began to cry. I've never been much of a cook, so truthfully, I'm not that used to handling meat. This was prior to purchasing the book. I kept telling myself that with practice, this would get much easier. I tried to "tough it up" and do it and somehow I got thru it. But, as I write this, I have to wonder -- does everyone who prepares chicken cry? Is this a sign that I've come to a point where I can no longer deny my feelings? My concern for innocent animals who just happen to be a different species than me? I really don't know, but all I can say is that without looking for it, I found this book the next week and had a really hard time putting it down.

I wish everyone could read this book. I wish there were a law that said if you choose to eat meat, you MUST read this book first. I think people need to be making fully informed decisions about what they eat. If people are "ok" with what might be in their meat, if they're "ok" with the way the animals are UNDOUBTEDLY mistreated, and if they're "ok" with the fact that they are contributing to the pollution/destruction of the planet, then that's their choice. But, I think MANY, MANY people -- especially young ones -- would seriously reconsider their eating habits (dairy/eggs included) if they truly knew what was behind them.

Do not hesitate to get this book!
62 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and important book on a complex moral problem 24 April 2009
By Ted Kerasote - Published on
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is well known for exploring the emotional lives of animals, and in two previous books, "Dogs Never Lie About Love" and "When Elephants Weep", has presented a very convincing case that there are few differences between what we and non-human animals feel. In "The Face on Your Plate" he extends this argument to the animals we eat--particularly farm animals and fish--bolstering his case with a wealth of new scientific evidence showing that even dumb-looking turkeys and cold-blooded salmon are more thoughtful, introspective, and emotionally rich than any of us have imagined.

However, whereas his previous books inspired delight at the emotional landscape that we share with other animals, "The Face on Your Plate" provokes discomfort, as it was designed to do. No matter one's dietary preferences, it's impossible to read Masson's descriptions of cows separated from their calves at birth, of salmon mindlessly swimming away their lives in fish-farm pens, and of chickens and pigs sequestered in the equivalents of concentration camps without being repulsed by the profound cruelty associated with the making of our food.

What then can someone who reads this well-documented book do to rectify this situation? We can turn our backs upon it and ignore the cruelty, as Masson points out that many of us do, or we can follow his lead and become vegans. This is the central theme of the book: that the vegan lifestyle--consuming no meat, dairy products, or eggs--not only reduces the suffering of other sentient beings, but also helps to alleviate global warming while spreading agricultural resources to hungry humans instead of to methane-belching livestock. To sweeten his point, Masson spends the latter part of his book extolling the culinary delights of veganism as well as its health benefits, suggesting that we take a very pure line: it would be best if we gave up all animal products, even honey.

Some readers may find him a bit precious in this regard--do bees really care about their hives being "robbed"? I did not find this to be the case. Once you engage the map Masson draws--that all animals have feelings--(and it's hard not to), it's difficult to fault the logic of his position, especially when he bolsters it with such good biology, impressive logic, and admirable passion. All that acknowledged, I wish he had also discussed the notion that veganism may not be the only morally and environmentally sound way of eating, and, in fact, may not be universally adoptable. His not addressing these issues seemed like an omission in an otherwise wonderfully thoughtful and provocative book, and I hope that he and others will participate in the conversation that I would like to open up. (Full disclosure: I say this as someone who hasn't brought factory-farmed animals into his kitchen for over thirty years and also does not use dairy products.)

This discussion would begin with the challenges veganism poses for those of us who do not live where many vegetables and fruits grow. For example, I had to grin while reading Masson's glowing accounts of his papaya breakfasts, avocado lunches, and tofu dinners--he grew up in California and lives in Auckland. But while reading these passages, I could see ten feet of snow outside my windows in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and this was in April. If one of Masson's points is that veganism allows us to eat locally and low on the food chain, so as to reduce our carbon footprint, the practice must also acknowledge the inherent transportation costs and increased carbon footprints of transporting these kinds of foods to distant, faraway places that have short growing seasons.

A better choice for people in these places, at least environmentally, might be to eat locally grown wheat instead of tofu and keep a pig or two. Of course, keeping livestock, even if the animals can roam, fails one of Masson's most telling critiques of the relationship between humans and farm animals: that we betray the trust of those whom we feed when we kill them for food.

Years ago, I myself faced some of these quandaries when I adopted vegetarianism for three years: I felt uneasy about eating produce grown faraway because of the costs involved in transporting it. My solution was a different one than the one advocated by Masson: I went back to hunting the animals who lived nearby me. In three of my books ("Bloodties", "Heart of Home", and "Merle's Door"), I've explained this position to greater and lesser extents, and I'll briefly summarize its main points here.

Wildlife, being free, has not entered into a compact with humans. Species like deer, elk, moose, and bison view humans as they view wolves, coyotes, bears, and mountain lions--we're another predator to be wary of. Therefore, when one hunts them, one isn't betraying a trust, as is the case when one kills a domestic animal who one has cared for. One is engaging animals who are as suspicious of humans as they are of the other predators who eat them, and one meets them on their home ground, not in an abattoir.

If one hunts locally, one's carbon footprint is also small. In "Bloodties", I employed the same scientist whom Masson quotes--Dr. David Pimentel, of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University--to calculate the fossil fuel costs of three different diets. The first consisted of the elk I annually shoot and eat in Jackson Hole, an elk whom the Yellowstone ecosystem has grown in the same way since Pleistocene times, without hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. The second diet was a calorically equivalent amount of potatoes grown just over the Teton Mountain Range in Idaho, and the third was a calorically equivalent amount of rice and beans grown in California. For the elk, Dr. Pimentel and I factored in the cost of my driving to and from nearby roadheads, the manufacture of my rifle and clothing, and the electricity to run my freezer. For the potatoes, it was the cost of producing and running the farming machinery and trucking the potatoes from Idaho to Jackson Hole. For the rice and beans, it was the use of fertilizers, irrigation, and farm machinery, canning the beans, and transporting them and the rice 900 miles to Wyoming.

The results of this exercise were instructive: My hunting an elk costs planet Earth 79,000 kilocalories annually. If I ate 150 pounds of elk in the form of potatoes, the cost would be 151,000 kilocalories. For rice and beans, it would be 477,000 kilocalories. Clearly, eating what your home place grows cuts down on your carbon footprint.

But there was another message buried in the data that Dr. Pimentel and I generated, and it was a counterintuitive one. Eating a big charismatic animal like an elk can be, when all is said and done, the dietary choice that causes the least amount of suffering, if one lives in a cold, northern place, where many vegetables aren't native.

The reasoning goes as follows: When crops such as wheat, rye, and sugar beets are harvested (to name but a few crops for which this holds true), rabbits, mice, snakes, and ground-nesting birds are killed by the harvesting machinery. Wildlife is also lost in oil spills (think seals, whales, and sea otters), and wildlife is then killed on our highways when our food is transported from farms to stores. Who hasn't seen the carnage?

In addition, deer love salad greens as much as we do and must be fenced out of farms. Fencing, of course, puts the problem of marauding deer onto someone else's farm. Eventually, the deer have to be "controlled," a euphemism that means killed, usually by public hunters. There would be no agriculture, organic or otherwise, if deer were given free rein to eat as they would.

This ongoing cull of innocent wildlife from the wellhead to the farm to the grocery store is almost universally ignored, yet it goes on every day. Tellingly, being a vegan doesn't remove one from the process of wildlife being killed so that one may live; it simply shifts the deaths over the horizon and makes them invisible, unless one takes the time to think about what is entailed in growing food upon and transporting it through landscapes that still belong to wild animals, not only to us.

One of the reasons I returned to hunting after having tried vegetarianism was, first, to be more personally honest about the wildlife deaths that were supporting me and, second, to see if I could reduce them. Both Masson's and my data show that if you eat locally you reduce the wildlife deaths associated with your diet. If my home place grew elk, well, that's what I should eat and diminish the wildlife deaths implicated in bringing vegetables to Wyoming. I also based my return to hunting on a Buddhist notion concerning the taking of life to survive: One ought to take as few lives, as few consciousnesses, as possible, since all consciousnesses are equal. Thus it's better to eat a yak, or a water buffalo, or an elk rather than five hundred chickens, or ten thousand shrimp, or, as is the case with all of us who buy food in a grocery store, indirectly killing so many cottontail rabbits, mice, and songbirds, who are the collateral damage involved in growing and transporting our produce. In the final analysis, as a Buddhist would say, each of these beings has a consciousness that is lost and a face you must acknowledge.

Because I kill the elk myself, and take her apart with my own two hands, and carry her meat out of the mountains on my back, there is indeed a face on my plate. She's not someone I care to deny or am squeamish about acknowledging. She is the face to whom I give my thanks, the being to whom I send my blessing, for having brought me through another year. Every hunting-gathering people with whom I have lived and traveled, whether they were Inuit in the Arctic or Bushmen in the Kalahari, similarly acknowledged the animals whose lives they took so they could live.

None of this should be taken as my attempt to recruit new hunters. Hunting works for some individuals, in certain places, and I only offer these personal anecdotes to demonstrate that hunting may be a morally and environmentally sound alternative to veganism.

It may also suit the needs of those who can't be vegans for physiological reasons, which is another topic that I wish Masson had touched upon rather than asserting that most children will display disgust when they learn that the meat on their plates comes from an animal. Again, my own experiences have been different in this regard. If children are not biased one way or the other, I have seen that some of them will turn away from meat, becoming vegetarians and vegans, while others will continue to eat it happily, even when they know whose face it belongs to. Why?

I believe this is because eating is not strictly an intellectual choice. More often than not, it's a cellular one that happens at the level of our guts. Physiologically, some of us can't digest the standard vegan staples, such as soy, oats, and legumes. The emerging science of neutrogenomics, which maps our individual genetic makeup, and then recommends an ideal diet to alleviate disease and promote long-term health, is at the forefront of giving a genetic basis to what most of us know intuitively: certain foods feel good in our bodies and others do not. For some of us, meat remains in the "good" category.

This should come as no surprise. Humans didn't begin to cultivate crops, or farm in any way, until about 14,000 years ago. Before that time all of us were hunter-gatherers, eating a diet of vegetables, roots, and meat, the proportion of meat in our diets varying from about 35 percent in the tropics to nearly 100 percent in the Arctic. It is hard to imagine that in the space of a few thousand years we have become obligate eaters of soy and grains, and that these have become a natural human diet, as Masson sets out to prove. Instead, the great majority of us are omnivores--not cultural omnivores, but biological ones--and omnivores eat some meat.

What we do with this evolutionary fact of life is another matter entirely, and it is here that Masson's book is of profound significance. His parsing of the moral implications of our diet are a goad to our conscience; they are a Buddhist master's striking us on the back with a baton and saying, "Pay Attention!" as we nod off.

For some of us this "pay attention" may mean following Masson's example and becoming vegans; for some it may entail raising our own livestock; for others it could mean incorporating an ancient hunting-gathering lifestyle into our own; and for some it may mean searching out domestic animals who are raised under far, far better conditions than they presently are. Whatever the case, Masson has moved the ethics of eating into new ground and has provided one choice, veganism, that will temperamentally and geographically suit a great many readers.
58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice, well-meaning person, but. . . 5 Dec 2009
By Suzanne Ubick - Published on
I came away from this book liking Masson's authorial persona,which appears to be genuinely good-willed and enthusiastic, but unable to get into the flow of the book. From the introduction onward, I kept stumbling over material presented as earthshaking that was plain incorrect. For example, Masson is instantly converted to not eating honey by an old Jain mantra about killing tens of thousands. Since the 1851 invention of the Langstroth hive, bees have not been killed in order to take the honey. The ancient Jain saying refers to the old practice of burning bees out of a tree trunk or cave hive. Bees get on a roll when there's empty space; they are biologically driven to fill it with comb and fill the comb with honey, regardless of the hive's actual needs; an old wild hive may contain honey so ancient that it has turned black and crystallized. While respecting Masson's sensitivity, it is hard to imagine that common sense would not ask how beekeepers stay in business if they kill all their bees every year. There are greedy beekeepers who take every last super of honey, and give the bees sugar to carry them over the winter and spring, but there are also very good beekeepers who leave enough supers for the bees and simply sell the surplus.

Again, Masson says that in the wild, anybody attempting to milk a cow would be gored by the bull. A few minutes' research on JSTOR or EBSCO would have turned up the information that in the wild, bulls stay with the cows only during the breeding season, spending the rest of the time in bachelor herds or solitary splendour. Bulls do not protect the cows against predators, but against the sexual attentions of other bulls.

Masson's research into hominid evolutionary diets appears to be limited to a single conversation with Stephen Jay Gould - who is not infallible. The mineral content of the bones and teeth of fossil hominids show clearly that meat-eating was a significant part of the diet, and the almost-vegan lineage(robustus group) went extinct.

Again, Masson quotes a New Zealand dairy farm worker as saying that a pretty young heifer calf "knew" she was going to be killed the next day (pp90-91). Cattle definitely respond to their herdperson's body language. The young woman in Masson's story was distressed by her knowledge that the calf would be killed the next day. The reason the calf stared at her so intently was not because of psychic knowledge of impending death; the worker's attitude and body language were different and the calf was puzzled so it was keeping her in full sight in case she did something dangerous. The "Clever Hans" effect is well-documented; when a "clever" dog or horse or pig seems able to do arithmetic and tap out the correct answer, it fails as soon as the owner is asked to give the animal a problem to which s/he is given the wrong answer. The performing animal picks up its cue from its trainer's reaction when the correct number is reached; if the trainer thinks the answer is, say, 3, that's where the animal stops even if the correct answer is, say, 5.

Masson is again incorrect when he says that humans have a digestive system just like that of chimpanzees; our gut is much smaller in proportion to our body mass, our small intestine is longer in proportion, and our colon visibly less sacculated and much smaller in proportion. Our teeth are very much smaller, our tooth enamel is considerably thinner, our jaws are weaker, and our chewing muscles are negligible in size and power. Chimpanzees spend about five hours a day simply chewing, and the bulk of their food is bacterially fermented and digested in their very large colons. Richard Wrangham (Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human) argues compellingly that this change in the human digestive system resulted from cooking, starting with Homo erectus, not from vegetable-eating. Many vegetables are only digestible when cooked, e.g. potato, mature beans, ripe grains.

Masson reveals a glaring disconnect with reality when he engages in discussion of how a single acre, planted to permaculture principles (p45) could support 30 families. The permaculturists with whom I'm familiar cite 10 people per acre.

The vegetables Masson suggests growing are all warm-season vegetables; for much of the world, they'd produce food for only a few months of the year. Fruit trees are bare in winter in cold or dry regions.Masson's scenario is viable only in the tropics in terms of year-round production. Further, without significant irrigation, it would work only in the damp tropics. For much of the year in most of the world there would be nothing to eat unless
1) polytunnels or similar constructions were used, and even then the daylength would strictly limit the crops that could be grown, unless large amounts of energy were used to supplement the lighting and bring the heat up to the temperature at which ripening enzymes kick in, or
2)large surpluses were produced during the growing season and frozen, canned, or dehydrated (using large amounts of energy, and large amounts of such materials as metal (cans), glass (bottles), and plastic (bags for frozen and dried foods); keeping the food frozen would require freezers and yet more energy; dried foods would have to be rehydrated, requiring yet more water, or
3)food was imported from other areas - with obvious drawbacks.

Masson appears to be unaware that mushrooms are not a plant crop; to be produced in significant quantity, that is, sufficient to feed more than a few people, climate-controlled buildings must be erected, using large amounts of energy to maintain the right temperature, large amounts of water to maintain humidity, and large amounts of fertile growing medium.

Masson appears to be unaware of the growing trend toward perennial cows. These are dairy animals which are sustainably milked for several years between calves; once lactation has been initiated, a cow will continue to give milk for as long as she is well nourished and milking is carried out regularly, even once a day. Current research suggests that an intercalving period of five years is feasible. It is also perfectly possible for good dairy breeds to feed their own calves and still produce viable amounts of milk. My cows were separated from their calves overnight, partially milked in the morning, and grazed all day with their calves at foot. Each cow gave 15 to 20 litres of milk each morning; this was on veld grazing supplemented with lucerne hay, mill sweepings, salt, and dolomitic limestone. Higher yields would have followed had they received more feed, but this was already more milk than I needed. Calves weaned naturally at between 6 and 7 months old when their mothers started butting them away each time a questing muzzle reached under their bellies. My land was definitely not arable, and its condition improved visibly year by year under careful management.

Non-human animals are, of course, sentient; the word means that they are able to perceive their environment through their senses and process this information in order to respond appropriately to the stimulus. Animals other than humans feel pain. Animals other than humans experience emotions. It behoves humans to ensure that non-human animals are treated properly.
There is no doubt that most commercial farming methods and slaughter practices are inhumane to the point of active cruelty to the animals concerned. There is no doubt that many Westerners eat more animal source foods than are necessary.There is no no doubt that agribusiness is responsible for enormous environmental damage and pollution. There is no doubt that some people do well on a vegan diet.

However, it is distinctly naive and indeed irresponsible to attempt to extrapolate these facts into a Universal Law of Veganism for the entire human population of Earth. There is no doubt that some people fail to thrive and others become seriously ill on a vegan diet (Google Dr. Michael Klaper Vegan Health Study or go to for peer-reviewed papers documenting vegan ills).

There is also no doubt that large areas of Earth are completely unsuitable for crop farming as well as for intensive grazing of livestock. Each region, and even each microregion, has a unique suite of potentials and productivity. For some zones, the best usage could be sustainable harvesting of game animals; for some it might be intensive permaculture production of vegetables. The vegetable waste could support small numbers of chickens, without ever impinging on the human food stream, and whose eggs would complement the vegetable diet. Chickens, kept in humane conditions such as in orchards, would be beneficial for insect control and cleaning up of fallen fruit. My personal experience with chickens is that hens have no attachment to their eggs until such time as daylength and environmental temperature catalyze the brooding instinct. Wild birds lay few eggs a year, producing only one or two clutches; modern hens (I'm referring not to the fragile hybrids used in batteries, but to traditional breeds like Cuckoo Marans) will lay 200 or more eggs/year and still hatch out a clutch of eggs. In areas suited to grain-growing, crop stovers would be well utilised by small numbers of ruminants, like dairy cows and goats, or sheep.

Nature has never evolved an ecosystem in which animals have no part, and there is no ecosystem in which there are no carnivores and no scavengers. Nutrients are recycled endlessly through the cycle of life/death.

Each person has the right to make his/her own decision as to what s/he will eat, and that decision should be respected. Those who choose to make use of animal source foods have enormous power to shape the conditions of livestock farming; each person who cheerfully pays $6/dozen for eggs from pastured poultry makes repeated strong statements to both the CAFO operators, who lose this business, and the holistic farmer, who is enabled to stay in business. Each decision to pay more and eat less creates a shift toward cruelty-free farming. The power of the purse is another truth beyond doubt.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Book 5 April 2009
By Marti Kheel - Published on
While Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living, Jeffrey Masson's message in The Face on Your Plate is that the unexamined meal is not worth consuming. The sad reality is that most people know little or nothing about the lives of the animals who arrive on their dinner plates; nor do they know about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment or the harmful effect of animal products on human health. The Face on Your Plate provides readers with the information they need to make fully informed ethical choices about their meals. Masson takes us on a behind the scenes tour of animal agriculture and lets the facts speak for themselves. He reaches the overwhelming conclusion that veganism is the ideal diet in every respect.

The Face on Your Plate arrives at a propitious time, given the increasing number of organic food advocates. But Masson goes one step further. He is not a proponent of "sustainably" raised meat. Drawing on his previous research on the emotional lives of animals, he encourages us to tap into our capacity for empathy, recognizing that other-than-human animals value their lives just as much as we do ours. While vegetarians and vegans are accustomed to responding to queries about why they eat as they do, Masson poses the more interesting question: Why do people eat meat (or other animal products)? His overriding thesis is that the consumption of animal products exists because of a systematic denial of the suffering that underlies the production of animal products.

Masson's book has something for everyone. He offers a plethora of little-known facts and astute observations about the impact of animal agriculture that will be new to many, even the well-informed vegan/animal advocate. How many people know, for example, that the level of stress that pigs endure on factory farms is so intense that sows are becoming increasingly anorexic? His discussion of fish is the best I have seen and worth the price of the book alone. Among the many mind-boggling facts he presents is that a pesticide used in the 80's and 90's to control the common problem of lice infestation on ranch-farmed fish contained a nerve toxin considered to be one of the most toxic chemicals in the world.

For those who hear the "v" word and immediately want to run, I encourage you to hear Masson out. He is not out to castigate meat eaters. His mission is one of opening doors so that people can understand the larger story behind the food on their plates. Lest you anticipate a dry set of statistics that lull you to sleep, or send you into despair, I can assure you that you will not be bored or depressed. Masson is a terrific writer with a gift for weaving factual information together with anecdotes drawn from his own life. In addition to sharing his personal trajectory toward veganism, he gives practical tips to help those who feel daunted about how to make the transition to veganism. His ultimate message is one of hope, leading us on a path toward better health and wellbeing for all. The Face on Your Plate is a superb book that deserves to be widely read.
Marti Kheel, author Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective [...]
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