"Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer (2009)
"The impression the pig industry wishes to give is that fields can absorb the toxins in the hog feces, but we know this isn't true. Runoff creeps into waterways, and poisonous gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide evaporate into the air. When the football field-sized cesspools are approaching overflowing, Smithfield, like others in the industry, spray the liquefied manure onto fields. Or sometimes they simply spray it straight up into the air, a geyser of shit wafting fine fecal mists that create swirling gases capable of causing severe neurological damage. Communities living near these factory farms complain about problems with persistent nosebleeds, earaches, chronic diarrhea, and burning lungs. Even when citizens have managed to pass laws that would restrict these practices, the industry's immense influence in government means the regulations are often nullified or go unenforced."
"Eating Animals" is a book that examines the links between cultural norms, meat consumption, and industrialized animal husbandry. It's not an easy book to read, and some of the sections describing day-to-day life on a factory farm are downright horrific. It's a well written book, even if it's sometimes hard to discern whether the author is advocating veganism for all, or just wants to highlight the extreme cruelty involved in the factory farming industry.
To be sure, factory farming has become a problem of near-apocalyptic proportions. I say this not only from the perspective of animal cruelty, but also from a concern about public health, and a genuine worry over the state of our environment. Forget whatever SUV your neighbor is driving. Forget your worries about what petrochemical companies are doing. Factory farms are far more toxic, far more harmful to the environment, and far less regulated. Factory farming is an industry that affects everyone within the developed world, and it is moreover an industry that requires much closer scrutiny.
This aside, the author's arguments against meat consumption are more general, and generally less effective. His arguments from history bring to mind a host of counterarguments. His nutrition-based discussions are never fully realized. And his environmental arguments don't often provide the fullest picture of how land is used, how vegetable farming often works in tandem with factory farming, and how sustainability can be achieved. I'm not saying that there aren't strong arguments for vegetarianism (or veganism) out there, but I think the ethical, nutritional, and environmental ramifications of meat consumption could have been argued in a much more comprehensive fashion.
With all this in mind, I would still recommend "Eating Animals." It is a book full of revealing details. It is also a book that makes you think. People often say "you are what you eat," but "you are where you eat" might be equally true.