I should be preparing for company for Memorial Day, but instead I'm writing an admittedly half-thought-out and hurried post on books and reviews -- namely, that many books on veganism appear to be reviewed only by vegans. As I write this, three children are whining for my attention, the laundry needs folded, the dishes need to be done, and it's pouring rain; my thoughts are interrupted constantly by what most people call "real life".
But heck, I want to blog! Real life, you'll just have to wait.
The prejudiced reviews are a real problem. I want to read more books on the subject -- but I also want to read the good ones and one way, traditionally, to know which books are good is to look for reviews. If all reviews come from people already committed to a vegan philosophy, then of course those books espousing veganism are touted as being the final argument, and there must be no need to say more. There must be nothing to criticize. There must be nothing wrong with veganism. Or, to put it the other way, there must be everything wrong with non-veganism.
It troubles me that, for instance, a forthcoming book with a provocative title (Meat is for Pussies) appears only to have been reviewed by other vegans (who, judging by the reviews I've read, think the book is nothing but pure truth).
I haven't read the book (but I plan to). It may be, indeed, that it's wonderful. The problem, however, is that without more "objective" reviewers, to outsiders (read: non-vegans) it appears hopelessly prejudiced.
I imagine that there are two predictable vegan responses to my concerns. One, the mainstream media ignores us. (Lately? Not so much.) Two, the only people who will read this and review it positively are committed vegans. (I'm not so sure; it seems to be that even non-vegans are starting to recognize that veganism has something to teach everyone, even if many many people will decide it goes too far.)
Vegans take hits from critics all the time for being extreme, utopian, unrealistic, judgmental. Non-vegans take hits all the time for being selfish, speciesist, cruel, uncaring. Both sets of labels are harsh and only contain, at best, kernels of truth. Most vegetarians or almost vegans or plain old omnivores that I know are, if they have any expendable time or income, doing thoughtful things to lessen their impact on the environment, for instance -- including making new food choices on a regular basis. And many vegans I've met are extremely sweet people who try very hard to appreciate where others are coming from. However, some of the more vocal proponents of veganism take pride in mincing no words and they come across about as militant and evangelical as leaders of a movement can be. That understandably closes the ears of many, many people.
I've been having an "argument" of sorts over on a google blog group called veganviews. The argument is the typical one: whether something short of veganism (like I espouse) is possible and whether vegans can even get their heads around it, given that they philosophically are opposed to use of animals for any type of human consumption. (The answers, according to vegans, are no and no.)
It's obvious that veganism challenges some of the core assumptions of our collective cultures, most notably the idea that people are somehow "above" animals and can therefore raise, breed, and use them for our benefit. (As you know, I take the position that limited and careful use should be OK -- but that to get to that place requires massive social changes; it falls short of the vegan ideal.)
Can veganism be reviewed thoughtfully by a non-vegan? I think it can. Too bad that so many of the books written by thoughtful vegan researchers are not reviewed (so far as I can find) by non-vegans, and are reviewed only in small, alternative places unlikely to be known to most people (making it even less likely that a non-vegan will even know of them).
Do you know of books (other than Skinny Bitch and The China Study and Eating Animals) which espouse veganism AND have been reviewed (even critically!) by non-vegans, particularly in major presses or news outlets?
If so, I'd love some book recommendations and the names of the reviews that go with them.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.