Like many adolescent boys, former psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson and his friends used to take their BB guns into the woods. But, as he explains in his book The Face on Your Plate, their aim was different than most.
“My friends and I would take our BB guns, go into the forests of the Hollywood Hills, and shoot above the tree branches to scare away the birds when we knew hunters were preparing to kill them.”
Masson’s ingrained compassion came from growing up in a vegetarian home. After heading for Harvard, however, he began eating canned tuna. His inability to cook at college prompted what he vowed would be a temporary change.
But it wasn’t until he wroteWhen Elephants Weep and The Pig Who sang to the Moon that Masson realized what a “slippery slope” the canned tuna had set him on.
Then, as he researched The Face on Your Plate, the full scope of the devastation our addiction to animal foods has caused struck him. He shares his findings in an unflinching look at its impact on the Earth, the oceans and all living creatures.
The heart of his message is a dire warning: Our level of fish consumption is unsustainable:
“For all of recorded history, humans have used the ocean as a resource for food. There has always been a sense that the ocean was so big, so deep, and so vast, that it could never be exhausted. … Today we are fishing in ways nature never expected, and any numbers of fish species are now so vulnerable they are listed as critically endangered, not to mention those already gone extinct. … We now have the technological capacity to do to fish exactly what we did to the buffalo and the passenger pigeon.”
(The passenger pigeon went from billions to zero, completely extinct, in just 50 years).
But this mindless abuse doesn’t stop with wild fish. Masson also exposes the fate of farm-raised fish, as cruel as that of factory-farmed cattle, pigs and chickens:
From 5,000 to 70,000 farmed salmon spend their entire one- to two-year lives crowded in sea cages measuring from 36 to 60 feet square and 15 to 60 feet deep. (Wild salmon swim freely for up to 16 years.)
While circling endlessly through clouds of feces, pesticides, chemicals and dyes, they’re fed almost constantly. The goal is to get them to a 2- to 10-pound market weight in the shortest possible time.
Beginning a week to 10 days before they’re “harvested,” the miserable salmon are completely deprived of food. Starving them, Masson explains, clears their guts of contaminants that would make them inedible.
And where does the now-vegan author direct the blame for these savagely destructive practices? Squarely at the feet of consumers:
“If we don’t have children, perhaps we don’t need to know everything about child rearing. But here is the thing: we eat every day. We put our forks into something or someone three times a day. We cannot disengage ourselves, even if we wanted to. We are involved in agriculture on a daily basis. We vote with every meal. We make a difference with every bite. We cannot choose to ignore this issue, thinking it has nothing to do with us.
It has everything to do with us.”
“Us,” as in me and you!