Customer Reviews


4 Reviews
5 star:
 (2)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sane, common sense reasons to adopt a meat and dairy-free diet
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...
Published on 15 Sep 2009 by Helen MacAllister

versus
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Walking in Place is Walking Back
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...
Published on 19 May 2010 by M. Bearne


Most Helpful First | Newest First

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sane, common sense reasons to adopt a meat and dairy-free diet, 15 Sep 2009
By 
Helen MacAllister (Scottish Highlands) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Jeffrey Masson, 2 May 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You Looking At?, 26 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food (Hardcover)
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. As would be expected in a book on this topic there are the obligatory chapters on the environmental impact of intensive animal agriculture (Chapter One: "The Only World We Have"); on animal welfare (Chapter Two: "The Lives They Lead"); and on fish farming (Chapter Three: "The Fishy Business of Aquaculture"). These chapters are researched, documented, written and argued well. Woven throughout are the author's personal experiences (e.g., raising vegetarian children, visiting farms, researching and writing books about animals). The writing style is informed and informal, emotional and empathetic. It never preaches, which it could so easily do, and, it has to be said, books of this type often do.

Of the two remaining chapters, the least interesting one is Chapter Five: "A Day in the Life of a Vegan." As may be expected by the title, Masson shares with us information and tips about, well, a day in the life of a vegan. After 30 plus years of veganism, Masson clearly did not write this chapter for the likes of me! So, I suspect, this chapter will be of much more interest to those who are aspiring and becoming or are already vegan.

The Face on Your Plate is well worth reading; however, what makes it required reading is Chapter Four: "Denial." This is where Masson, the psycho-analyst, and Masson, the vegan, come together in a fascinating exploration of the reasons why we choose to not see the face on the plate let alone willingly look into the eyes that look out at us. Whether it is in, first, the individual and a reluctance to admit the inevitable fate that befriends us all (death) or whether it is, second, societal and when we look back and ask with hindsight, "Why the Holocaust? The Gulag? The Killing Fields? Why Srebrencia? Why Rwanda? Why Darfur?" (p. 150), Masson suggests denial is a relatively recent phenomenon. Enter Masson, the psycho-analyst, or, as I should say, Masson, the critical psycho-analyst.

[quote]The reason that denial played such an important role in Freud's psychological theories is that for Freud, repression was the very cornerstone of psychoanalysis. No repression, no neurosis, no therapy, no profession. It was also, let me be the first to admit, an enormous step forward compared to the psychology Freud inherited in Vienna during his time.[quote] (p.155)

Masson explains denial as a "specific psychic defense against an overwhelming reality" and a "technique for survival, indeed, the defense mechanism of the twenty-first century." [Emphasis in original] (p. 153)

Denial, then, is a "convenient overarching mechanism" which we employ to avoid thinking about something. (p. 160) The denial about animals as food frequently begins with our parents. They reluctantly betray us when, as innocent children, we ask where meat comes from. "Could it be that the disgust [felt about eating meat] is in fact a displacement?" he asks. "In time we overcome this, as we increasingly swallow the prevailing attitudes toward food in our culture; but some may be left with a lingering feeling of guilt." (p. 139) We live in a "willed ignorance" of denial. Knowing what we know but denying it. (p. 147)

But can denial ever be justified? Is it better to live in denial of our inevitable death? Should we worry about tragic chapters in the history of humanity that we have no control over but agonize over in hindsight? What about tragedies happening now? The former is truly beyond our control but, he writes, "we can stop killing animals. What is amazing about all these defense mechanisms is how powerfully they work just below the surface of our awareness." (p. 152)

"We must remove ourselves from whatever blind hides our vision," Masson concludes, "and look out at the horizon to face what we see there. We owe animals no less. We also owe ourselves no less, it turns out." (p. 165) The "face" of this author not only informs the reader but also engages with his personality. Time will tell whether The Face on Your Plate will take its rightful place as the authoritative book of its kind. But there can be surely no better way to describe the author's mission.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Walking in Place is Walking Back, 19 May 2010
By 
M. Bearne (Aberdeen, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food (Hardcover)
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. But here, strictly speaking, Masson offers his readers a series of contradictory messages and lets them choose what most comfortably sits with them. Having tried to bring their consciences to life through a stimulating and empathy-arousing narrative, he then allows them to maintain their animal-oppressing habits if they don't feel like changing them. He shies away from unabashedly standing for what his own argument leads him to believe is right -- for veganism in one's own life choices and total opposition to animal exploitation. At a time when abolitionist veganism is becoming more and more popular among animal advocates and people in general, his suggestions are reactionary and counter-productive. He is clearly driven by his many openly-mentioned friendships with prominent members of the Animal Welfare Industrial Complex (a big business sector making money on nonhuman animals while professing to be working for their benefit) - John Mackey, Neil Barnard, Michael Greger etc. Take Mackey as an example: he is the CEO of Whole Foods Market, a chain of supermarkets that profits from the sale of animal flesh, milk, and eggs, while packaging those products as "ethical". Hardly a favor to the oppressed.

Accordingly, right after Masson presents, it would seem, an argument for animal liberation, he says "but if you must eat meat, eat this meat", "if you must drink milk, drink milk from this farm". No one needs either flesh, milk, or any other animal product to live an optimally healthy life, and Masson himself presents convincing evidence for that. He stops short of his own conclusions, ultimately settling for a morally bankrupt humane exploitation argument. But there is no such thing. Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised -- at one point he admits to actually being less than vegan. What he means by that is that he'll occasionally accept foods which he knows contain milk or eggs from his hosts or when others (non-vegan others) are anxious to eat when the ordered food finally comes at a restaurant. Suddenly animal suffering becomes trivialized and effectively disappears from the picture. The "face" is no longer "on his plate".

Masson depoliticizes veganism, depicting it as a matter of purely personal preference. He thus misses a major point of this ethico-political way of life -- it is after all a lived daily boycott of animal exploitation, and not just a cure for a troubled conscience. While nobody wants to be socially alienated, it makes sense to reject animal products precisely when others are watching. I may well be that other people will dismiss a vegan as a nuisance, but a well-stated and lived protest is both possible and worthwhile.

Moreover, while it is impossible to be a complete vegan in a society in which other animals mean so little as to become parts of automobiles, frivolous drug testing, and just about everything else, it is decidedly not vegan and not serious to unproblematically accept animal products in one's life when it's not a matter of survival-necessity (some life-saving drugs, or using public transportation), but of social conformity and ill-conceived politeness. Like I said, Masson admits he's not "entirely" a vegan, but I think that, given what he has apparent intimacy with nonhuman animals, he should make the effort to be one. Otherwise, just as with different strands of vegetarianism and `ethical meat', he not only remains confused himself, but keeps confusing those who read his work.

Ultimately, his earlier descriptions of how rich nonhuman animals' lives can be amount to a confusing "do what you want as long as you're informed about it" prescription. Empathy is nothing without action and discipline. And it is precisely because human oppressive habits are so strongly embedded in our lives that we need liberatory education to be clear and to-the-point, not convoluted. Unfortunately, Masson follows a group of people who believe we should not be open with people we address. After all, they might turn our message down. Yes. They might. They might not. But they will know clearly what that message is.

Having presented an overview of non-controversial studies of dietary veganism, he acknowledges it as a matter of common sense: "You don't really need advanced degrees in biochemistry or medicine to know how to eat well and healthily". If that is so, he says, "why then have not more people adopted the vegan way? That is a good question, and not easy to answer, but I suspect it has something to do with exposure". To be exact, it has very much to do with lack of exposure in the sense the public has not been challenged to consider veganism in a serious way. It has been presented (in The Face on Your Plate, for instance) both as something good for you and difficult, with the serious moral argument behind it effectively watered down and down-played. Masson is to be congratulated on his great health at the age of 67 (as of writing his book). But to suggest that veganism works for everyone to noticeably improve their well-being is misleading. When I became a vegan, I really felt no different than before - I was still fit and healthy. Had I gone vegan to improve my physical well-being, I might have soon after reverted to eating "normal". So might others, if they fail to understand the moral and political importance of what they practice. Furthermore, contrary to the author's unwillingness to openly recommend it to his readers, veganism is relatively easy to practice and rather quickly becomes second nature. It is also cheaper to find good and simple vegan food than Masson lets one think in ch. 5. The Face on Your Plate further diminishes the chances of veganism becoming his readers' way of living by directing their attention away from it. Throughout the book, Masson sells vegetarianism as a wholly respectable alternative for people who don't feel they can go "that far". If he truly wants a vegan humanity (perhaps he does, although he seems afraid to even dream of it), then this is not the kind of exposure veganism desperately calls for.

Insofar as Masson shows interest in politics at all, he repeats what has by now become conventional wisdom, hinting at a couple of projects. Critical insight is barely present. For instance, it is true that a European Union regulation banning battery cages enslaving hens today would be an unprecedented step. In reality, however, the EU reform cannot possibly be implemented as planned (by 2012), if it ever will be. The member countries have the practical power to neglect the legislation altogether by claiming they don't have the resources to implement changes. Additionally, the legislation is impossible to enforce: effective oversight would cost too much for anyone to want to pay for it. The producers can choose whether to switch to "cage-free" production or opt for "enriched cages". Both, as many now understand, are terms amounting to no real improvement. In new cages hens still can't even spread their wings, while the removal of cages would leave them trapped by the tens of thousands in one huge cage per farm, where they would peck each other to death. Unless, as it usually goes, their sensitive beaks were first trimmed without anaesthetic. Masson knows this. He admits that "free-range" can and does mean just about anything: "'free-range' or 'cage-free' are subjective terms that mean whatever we choose them to mean (...) In the United States no organization regulates the use of these terms". In Europe matters are no different. Moreover, with demand for cheap eggs unswayed, they will be imported from elsewhere, so the meager legal protection for hens within the EU will only cost hens elsewhere to endure more misery.

Intensive (battery-cage) exploitation of hens and other animals is increasingly proving to be economically inefficient, forcing exploiters to reinvent their practices. Eliminating battery cages is one of their own ideas. But thanks to the costly campaigns paid for by the reformist animal welfare organizations, producers will now sell "free-range" eggs as abiding to the strictest "animal protection" standards. This help convince the public they "care about animals" and stop or belate real liberationist demands. The European Commission cites studies indicating that the added cost of producing an "enriched cage" egg will be less than 1 eurocent. If welfarists think this is economic pressure, they ought to think again!

Speaking of welfarists, they are the only other winners - they have already celebrated their own campaigns as a success, called them "a victory for hens", and are trying to solicit more donations. In fact, the discussed campaign has been an enormous waste of resources that might otherwise be put into promoting new paradigm-shifting values through veganism and anti-industry organizing. After all, can one really praise anything less than freedom from any oppression for nonhuman animals?

On the upside, Masson does a good job bringing the readers up-close with other animals. As in his other books, he encourages an interspecies reconnection, and such imaginative reconnection to the Other is of fundamental importance to practical ethics. Beyond our prejudices there await living, breathing sensitive beings that we have rarely known more than we needed in order to swiftly use and kill them. His writing style is accessible and clear, which makes him an important figure with a talent to help readers discover nonhumans as beings-in-themselves. Unfortunately, it abounds in misplaced euphemisms which prevent his audience from connecting the dots, and are designed to make the author seem more acceptable in their eyes.

Radicalism, however, is an inherent quality of animal emancipation - a struggle pointing to the very heart of this oppressive civilization. His effort to seem moderate is bound to fail. He will still be perceived as a radical, just one without the guts to say what he really means. This is a mistake many self-proclaimed animal protectionists make: in trying not to be controversial, they sell the animals they claim to defend out. They do that by (in action, not declaration) conceding to their very exploitation and promoting half-measures which, instead of clearly condemning it, serve to make it seem more benign to the general public. Masson contributes to this regrettable trend by saying: "If you must eat fish, you would do both yourself and the planet a favor to eath only wild or free-range". Obviously, you don't do the fish a favor by eating her. He later states that he thinks it is unacceptable to take the life and body of a sentient being if he need not do so in order to survive, but this is now just one more unheard cry, adding to the general confusion. When we are afraid to boldly express what we stand for, we are nor perceived as a well-organized force we have the potential to become. Of course, matters of strategy and tactics are crucial, and we need to play our cards right, but the fact that many of us seem to have forgotten what other animals deserve is disastrous.

Throughout the book Masson expresses disbelief in the ultimate success of the animal liberation movement. In fact, he does not even belong in it. Rather, he belongs to the reformist movement seeking, at least nominally, to improve the conditions of animal exploitation without openly questioning the very legitimation of its institutions to exist. He seems to belong to a party of resignation, defeatism, and centrist catch-all politics devoid of any revolutionary potential. With no clarity of message, the movement loses any anti-systemic edge and through what looks like collusion becomes part of the system of exploitation itself, in which everyone professes to care for other animals, but no one dares to unequivocally demand their freedom. Even if nonhuman animal liberation seems unlikely today, we must not trade away the truth and justice of what we know is right for pragmatic purposes. When we do, our ethical and political will wanes. We are left with no moral ground to stand on, other animals are left with no one to defend them. And being fragile animals ourselves -- with very limited time on our hands -- we should know better what to do with it.

I think that veganism as an ethico-political stance has a bold role to play in the reformulation of the values upon which this civilization rests. New values that will one day shape the spirits of people will propagate through exposure that is concise and clear in what it affirms and what it negates. The Face on Your Plate fails to serve such an educational purpose. On a prescriptive level it is a mish-mash of ambiguous suggestions. The one undeniable value of the author's narrative is the turning of sentient nonhumans from tools of human use back into emotional beings. Let me end this review on a positive note, and leave you with one of the few passages from the book which has serious liberatory and revolutionary potential:

"The family farm conveys an image of a good life for humans and other animals alike. I doubt such a place ever existed anywhere, except in the human imagination. After all, how ideal could a place be when its raison d'etre is to kill the occupants."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food
The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food by Jeffrey M Masson (Hardcover - 5 Jun 2009)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews