Like any revolution, dietary change depends on two things: knowledge and action. Use these books and documentaries to arm yourself with knowledge, if you’re ready to leave the standard American diet behind. A healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical table awaits!
If you’re a book lover interested in the health, environmental, and ethical implications of personal food choices, start here!
Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer) — outstanding philosophical work, asking ‘the vegetarian question.’ Why do we eat animals? Why some kinds of animals, but not others? Should we eat animals, or should we not? Why or why not? Foer is an amazing writer, and it’s a quick read for such a weighty subject. Factory farming is thoroughly explored, along with the connection between food, family, and culture. I recommend this book at a ‘5-star’ level to anyone who has ever considered going vegan or vegetarian; and even more strongly to anyone sure that they never will. For those who choose to eat animal foods, it’s important to know why sourcing matters. Anyone who sees food as an ethics issue, even a little bit, no matter what kind of diet you plan to follow: definitely read this book!
In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan) — omnivore oriented; I disagree with Pollan on some ethics issues, but this is a good primer about many problems related to modern eating. Central premise: “Eat food, not edible food-like substances. If your great-grandma wouldn’t recognize it as food, it probably isn’t.” Pollan does a much better job of saying that, though, and provides a good overview of the corporate takeover of our food system, along with good insight and advice about building a better food paradigm in one’s own kitchen.
Veganist (Kathy Freston) — great summary of all the reasons plant-based eating makes sense, with an emphasis on ‘leaning’ into healthy habits rather than seeing it as an all-or-nothing scenario. It’s set up as chapters you can read separately, or out of order, depending on what interests you the most: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, environment, farm animal cruelty issues, weight control, lower grocery costs, fitness, and quality of life are all covered. In the final chapters, Freston also offers excellent advice on making the transition to plant-based eating at whatever pace feels comfortable. Highly recommended.
Harvest For Hope (Jane Goodall)– excellent primer on food issues facing the modern world; omni-friendly, though Ms. Goodall is primarily herbivorous herself. Includes GMO issues, environmental degradation, factory farming cruelty, and other things that everyone who eats food should know about.
Fast Food Nation (Eric Schlosser) — about much much MUCH more than fast food! Schlosser covers all the dark corners of our food production system, including corporate manipulation of farmers, food contamination issues, animal cruelty, worker exploitation, slaughterhouse conditions, and everything else that Big Ag hopes you never hear about. Omni friendly.
Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to curl up with a good book. No problem!
Grab a bowl of popcorn (ideally without the artificially flavored butter-colored grease), dim the lights, and feed your brain!
Food, Inc. — omnivore friendly, but will make you think twice about where your animal foods are sourced. If you’re new to food issues, this is a great introduction to why so much of what we’re doing is a bad idea. Health, environment, ethics: it’s all covered. Food ethics 101!
Forks Over Knives — drawing heavily from the work of cardiologist Caldwell Esselstyn and nutrition scientist T. Colin Campbell, this documentary addresses ‘the elephant in the room’ of modern health care: all our Western killer diseases are diet-driven. Coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer — billions of dollars are spent each year on research and treatment. But when people simply shift to a plant based diet, these devastating diseases are prevented or even reversed. Highly recommended for anyone interested in health and diet; super-duper recommended if you’ve ever thought of going veg!
The World According to Monsanto — full length documentary available on youtube; if you’re new to biotechnology issues, this is a must-see. Everyone needs to understand the GMO debate, since it has such sweeping implications for global food production as well as domestic environmental impacts. Warning, though: this film will make you angry! Plan to follow it with a comedy, and/ or a good stiff drink.
There’s also a new documentary called Vegucated making the rounds, reviewed earlier this month on EDB:
Vegucated makes more apparent the tie between eating vegan and making a conscious decision not to support industrial agriculture…
Vegucated “follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks.” These are every day, real people who have never really been exposed to the “hidden sides of animal agriculture.” And the transformation these folks undergo is very relatable.
To Be Continued!
What are your favorite food ethics resources? What have I left out, that made you think about what’s on your plate and why?
Knowledge is power, information is beautiful, and sharing is encouraged!
Image credit: Creative Commons photo by SLU Madrid Campus.