My Vegan Ethical Education in Four Books

Organizing my books after a recent move, I revisited my ethical education in animal rights. When I first began studying animal rights and veganism, I grabbed every book I could get my hands on to further understand the issues involved and inform my activism. Below is a brief overview of four of the books I find most insightful  when it comes to considering the rights of animals.

Cover of the book "Fast Food Nation".New York Times best selling book about the rise of the fast food industry Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser is a well-written investigative report of how the fast food nation we now live in developed and took over first America and then the world. Schlosser’s book expertly explores  the fast food industry and in the process sheds a light on such aspects as the messiness that is factory farms and the dangers involved in working in the meat industry.



Cover of "Sexual Politics of Meat"

Carol J. Adams’ book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory was among one of the first specifically animal rights themed books I ever read. Adams pioneered the feminist comparison of the dismembered non-human animal body to the dismembered human female body in this text published in 1990.  Adams’ work encourages a greater understanding of the value of intersectionality and need for understanding of over lapping oppressions.  Her website provides a slide show of some of the books main ideas.


Book cover for "Introduction to Animal Rights" I find Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? by Gary L. Francione published in 2000 to be the best introductory text of a rights based philosophy.   Our society’s “moral schizophrenia” is of primary importance to Francione in understanding our treatment of human vs. non-human animals, viewing the crux of the problem as the status of animals as property.  Francione argues, “although we claim that we may prefer humans to animals when necessary but that it is wrong to impose unnecessary suffering on them, the fact is that the overwhelming portion of our animal use can be justified only by habit, convention, amusement, convenience, or pleasure.  To put the matter another way, most of the suffering that we impose on animals is completely unnecessary however we interpret that notion.”  This book concludes with twenty common animal rights questions and answers well worth reading.

Cover art for "Making a Killing" In Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights Bob Torres applies a Marxist criticism of the market economy towards our treatment of non-human animals, making interesting connections between different political philosophies.   He writes, “Animals are nothing more than the means to the end of profit in contemporary capitalist production. Their particularity, their interests in not suffering, their desires to be free and to live as beings in the world are all subjected — en masse — to the productive ends of agricultural capital.” Torres examines ways in which animals are treated as commodities and in the process alienated through capitalism.

My vegan ethics book list skews heavily toward animal rights politics, though other vegan ethics book lists might include books thematically related to the environment,  food politics or health issues.  The texts I’ve selected were the most educational in forming my view of animal rights theory and my practice of vegan living today.

And just for good measure, some other books I’d encourage you to read:

By Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen lives in Brooklyn and is a Contributing Editor for Autostraddle and writer for The Line Campaign. Follow her on twitter @jamiejhagen and visit her personal website for more of her work.

3 replies on “My Vegan Ethical Education in Four Books”

Thanks for posting this! I’d been meaning to read up on the subject lately, and these are some great starting points. I think that I need some background info to talk about when people ask why I’m vegan (I get some people asking me repeatedly, because apparently my answers are too general/vague).

I LOVED The Sexual Politics of Meat. I bought it at a used bookstore a few years ago. A friend of mine who was dabbling in photography borrowed it and planned to recreate some meat/sex themed photos (he planned a meat dress picture long before Lady Gaga was around) and he never gave me the book back. Now he can’t find it. Damn him.

A new Twentieth Anniversary edition to the Sexual Politics of Meat was just published! I read the book years ago, before becoming the educated and active feminist I am now. This summer I plan to re-read the book with the new forward and expect to appreciate the book in a way I didn’t before learning what now know of feminism.

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