This is a very belated post. I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life months ago, and I’ve been meaning to give a review.
The book is basically a memoir of Kingsolver and her family’s experience of living as very self-sufficient locavores over one year. They grew their own heirloom vegetables, baked their own bread, canned sauces and veggies, etc. For people who are passionate about knowing where their food originates and how it comes to their plate, this book would be an interesting read.
However, this wasn’t exactly a vegan-friendly read and it is hard for me to recommend it. The family raises their own poultry, and slaughters them in their backyard. Parts are relatively graphic. I do want to say one thing, however – I would much rather have people eating pasture-grazed meat than factory farmed. At the same time, though, it’s still completely unnecessary and cruel.
There is one major reason I don’t want to recommend this book too strongly: Kingsolver’s ridiculous rant on vegetarians and vegans. Up until page 220, I was very happy reading this book – after all, I worked at a farm market for six years and I love learning about how food is grown. But the few pages the author devotes to hating on vegetarians ruined the book for me. I wish I could reprint the whole section here, but here are a few excerpts:
Most of us, if we know even a little about where our food comes from, understand that every bite put into our mouths since infancy was formerly alive. The blunt biological truth is that we animals can only remain alive by eating other life. Plants are inherently more blameless, having been born with the talent of whipping up their own food… Strangely enough, it’s the animals to which we’ve assigned some rights, while the saintly plants we main and behead with moral impunity.
To believe we can live without taking life is delusional. Humans may only cultivate nonviolence in our diets by degree.
I’m unimpressed by arguments that condemn animal harvest while ignoring, wholesale, the animal killing that underwrites vegetal foods. Uncountable deaths by pesticide and habitat removal – the beetles and bunnies that die collaterally for our bread and veggie-burgers – are lives plumb wasted. … without it [animals for food] our gentle domestic beasts in their picturesque shapes, colors, and finely tuned purposes would never have had the distinction of existing. To envision a vegan version of civilization, start erasing from all time the Three Little Pigs, the boy who cried wolf, Charlotte’s Web, … Next, erase civilization, brought to you by the people who learned to domesticate animals.
Those are just a few things Kingsolver says. Her argument is weak at best. She uses as ammunition a few points that anti-vegetarians have been saying for years: plants have feelings, there wouldn’t be pigs if it weren’t for people eating meat, blah blah blah. I don’t think I can express how disappointed I was in Barbara Kingsolver as I read those words. Like I said before, it ruined the book for me.
Plants do not have a central nervous system. Nor do they have a brain with which to process feelings. Therefore, they do not feel pain and are not sentient. The plant argument is tired and redundant and unfounded in science. I wish people would stop using it. It’s hard for me to take someone seriously who even brings it up.
Also, how were animals domesticated? Humans took them out of the wild and bred them. Without humans, there would still be animals, although they wouldn’t be quite what we have today. Another silly claim.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the book. I love food, and I love how it is grown. I just hope people don’t read it and believe the myths Kingsolver puts forward about veg*nism.