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CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation): The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories    edited by Daniel Imhoff order for
CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)
by Daniel Imhoff
Order:  USA  Can
Earth Aware, 2010 (2010)
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This oversized volume presents an unsettling picture of what happens in the feed lots, industrial aquaculture operations, holding pens, egg laying facilities, and slaughterhouses and processing plants that provide much of the meat, fish and eggs so many of us consume.

In thirty essays, a number of leading thinkers on environmental and ethical issues discuss the various problems surrounding concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). The essays are arranged in sections that range from debunking the various myths associated with CAFO, and offering a behind-the-scenes look at actual CAFO operations, to the hidden costs of this type of production, the loss of diversity the practice has caused and the ways CAFO can be 'put out to pasture'.

The rapid growth of the animal factory and industrial food production in many instances is not only inhumane but it also poses serious threats to both the environment and the health of those who consume these products.

What are our ethical responsibilities as eaters, citizens, and producers in reforming a food production system that is so clearly in need of change? What does our treatment of domestic animals say about our society, our government, our food system, and our very way of life? These are two central questions this book tries to answer.

The economies of scale coupled with a pervasive attitude that has resulted in government and individuals either looking the other way or passively accepting the decision to create these factories in the name of holding down prices is, in large part, responsible for this sorry situation.

Although it wouldn't be easy, this current way of doing business in the food industry can be reversed. Whether through a change in existing laws, a demand for a more humane and sustainable food system, a greater awareness of which current practices pose a threat to public health, or a refusal to purchase these products (vote with your fork!), changes can be made.

Yes, this is an expensive volume, but it is an invaluable resource that not only clearly delineates the problems of CAFO but also suggests ways of mitigating them. Whether a consumer, policy maker, farmer or activist, there is information here you should be aware of if you are interested in creating a healthier food supply.

One cautionary note. There are 450 color photos in this book and many of them are quite troubling. Imhoff warns the reader in the introduction that, 'The photos and essays in this book may shock and disgust some, may cause others to call them alarmist and sensational, and may inspire still others to adopt life-changing actions.'

This is not an exaggeration. But perhaps that, in itself, underscores the seriousness of the problem and how completely removed we are from an understanding of how meat, eggs, fish and dairy products are produced for our tables!

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