May 2024: Blood, Bone and Gore

As the human population grows, the need for protein expands with it. Which is why we have chosen the ethics of mass-producing and consuming our fellow-creatures as our theme this month. In this selection, Jonathan Safra Foer takes a personal and political journey into the heart of darkness that is industrial livestock farming, Rob Percival explores cognitive dissonance, Ed Winters makes the case for veganism, George Monbiot investigates some of the many workable alternatives to industrialised meat production and consumption, Brazilian novelist Ana Paula Maia serves up a wild fictional dish which is definitely not for the squeamish, and a visceral and urgent poem by Rebecca Hawkes speaks from a farmer’s perspective.

Non-Fiction

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer’s hard-hitting yet deeply personal examination of the meat industry in the USA explores the brutal landscape of modern food production. Driven to dig deeper into his own ethical and environmental dilemmas, Foer dismantles the facades of the meat industry, exposing the ugly realities that lurk behind the neatly packaged cuts.

Drawing from his own experiences and extensive research, Foer presents a compelling case for reconsidering our relationship with food and the creatures we consume, challenging readers to confront the uncomfortable truths of factory farming, and questioning the moral implications of our dietary choices. At the same time he charts the environmental devastation wrought by mass livestock production, highlighting the staggering ecological footprint of meat consumption, and he champions the farmers and activists striving to create a more compassionate and sustainable food system. Through their stories, he invites readers to imagine a future where ethical considerations guide our food choices, making Eating Animals not just a condemnation of factory farming but a call to action.

The Meat Paradox: Eating, Empathy and the Future of Meat by Rob Percival

In our past as hunter-gatherers, we were predators. But in an agricultural age, our relationship to the animals we kill for their meat has undergone a slow but radical transformation. In his unflinching study of how this shift plays out in the modern psyche, Rob Percival explores how our capacity to empathise with suffering animals clashes with our willingness to consume their flesh. In doing so he challenges us to confront the uncomfortable truths that lie on our dinner plates and to grapple with the moral implications of our appetites – making this an essential read for anyone struggling with their conscience.

This is Vegan Propaganda! by Ed Winters

In his merrily titled call for veganism to become a dietary norm rather than an exception, Ed Winters argues cogently that the choices we make about our food can help alleviate the climate emergency, many infectious and chronic diseases, and the exploitation of both humans and animals. And that “veganism will come about as a result of the traits in humans that we are most proud of – ingenuity, intellectual honesty, progressiveness and self-reflection – while rejecting many of the traits that are most damaging – stubbornness, wilful ignorance, violence, selfishness and apathy.”

regenesis

Regenesis by George Monbiot

With the human population increasing and food production predicted to double by 2050, the veteran environmentalist and campaigner George Monbiot’s cogent argument for saving the Earth’s ecological systems through regenerative agriculture is a must-read for anyone who wonders how mass starvation can be averted in the coming decades. Joining the dots between soil detoxification, alternatives to meat, GM foods, animal cruelty and social justice, Monbiot sets out an exciting, nourishing vision of what is already possible.

Fiction

Ana Paula Maria - Of Cattle and Men

Of Cattle and Men by Ana Paula Maia

Ana Paula Maria’s 99-page work, translated from Portuguese by Zoe Perry, won the 2024 Republic of Consciousness Prize. Described by judge by the judges as “both a tightly focused, utterly gripping human story and a devastating universal parable for our times” and “a gut-punch of a novel”, the action is set in a slaughterhouse in an isolated corner of Brazil where cows begin to disappear, seemingly by suicide.

Books for Children

AmandatheTeenActivist

Amanda the Teen Activist: Feathers & Freedom by Catherine Kelaher

Can one girl and her friends save the lives of hundreds of factory farmed hens? When Amanda Cotter is dragged to Australia, away from her best friend and her dog, she thinks things can’t get much worse. Well, that’s until she finds herself hiding in a caged egg farm after her first day at Woollybutt High. As she looks into the eyes of a trapped hen, Amanda realises that if she gets out of here, nothing will be the same again. Will she be able to prove to her dad that one 13-year-old activist really can make a difference or will her efforts get herself and the hens in more trouble than ever before?

Sprig the Rescue Pig by Leslie Crawford and Illustrated by Sonja Stang

Things aren’t looking good for Sprig, who is packed into a fast-moving truck with dozens of other pigs. He doesn’t know where they’re going but his nose knows there’s something better out there. So with one dramatic leap, Sprig sets out on a pig-centered adventure that leads him to his new best friend, a girl named Rory. Inspired by true events, this light-hearted tale introduces kids to an intelligent and inquisitive pig who finds his way to a good life.

This beautifully illustrated bedtime story has been widely praised for inspiring compassion for animals.

Poetry

Poem of the Month

Dry Spell

by Rebecca Hawkes

even pissing doesn’t make water sounds
a frazzled sizzle in the dirt like frying
bacon

sheep with nothing to do but keep grazing
nibble the dust in every direction ochre

too listless to eyeball their shepherd
as you zip yourself up to mutter fuck this
    bloody place

your family has stopped burning things
but the kids are picking through scorched
rubbish remnants

paper metal glass plastics the four crucial
human elements
incinerated into clots of mingled non-
sense treasure

your children’s fingers softened with pale
ash and pricked
by incandescent filaments like witches’
spindles

you miss the freedom of burning
when your lived filth disappeared like
magic

and the rich black smoke plumed higher
than the mountains
its close smell comforting as the half-re-
membered beard

you used to press your small wet face into
but if tears or memories
could water the grass this bloody place
would be so green

you’d have to grit your teeth and spit
against its charity
while lambs ballooned from moistened
earth like mushrooms

instead you evaporate among all your
rusted tools and no matter
how tightly the children cling they cannot
close both arms around you

This poem, like many in the collection Meat Lovers, by Rebecca Hawkes, foregrounds the relationships and contradictions in the relationships between human and animals. Others highlight the relationship between animal and farm machinery. Formerly, this jolting poem with its unsettling indents and irregular stanzas reflects the discomfort of the drought, the relentlessness of the situation suggested with the lack of punctuation and it’s language sizzling as the piss in the dirt.

Rebecca Hawkes grew up on a sheep and beef farm near Methven, New Zealand and knows her animals intimately yet writes without sentimentality. She has had poems widely published in Aotearoa County journals, her debut chapbook Softcore Coldsores published in AUP New Poets 5 in 2019. Meat Lovers was her first full-length collection.

Contact our Librarian if you would like themed book lists to support teaching about climate change.

We’re always looking for contributors to our growing collection of literature to explain and explore the climate and biodiversity emergency. If you’re a writer or poet and would like to share your work or ideas, please get in touch! Contact mattroselibrary@gmail.com for prose or poetsrebelxr@gmail.com for poetry.