Beagles Are Bred by the Thousands on Factory Farms, and It’s Perfectly Legal
Justice•4 min read
Looking for a few intriguing summer reads and podcasts to deepen your understanding of the food system? We've got you covered.
Words by Jamie Bichelman
Keeping up with the issues facing our food system can feel overwhelming. From the nuances of the Farm Bill to avian flu mutations to investigations into global meat and dairy suppliers, there’s a lot of ground to cover in order to stay informed. To supplement Sentient Media’s extensive coverage, we invite you to check out our summer reads and recommendations for podcasts and books to give you the most well-rounded, comprehensive understanding of today’s issues. Plus: Sentient Media’s podcast has a new episode out now with Dr. Jennifer Jacquet on octopus farming.
1. “Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them” by Tove Danovich
The topic of backyard chicken-keeping is a controversial one among vegans and animal welfare advocates. A historic increase in the purchasing of backyard chickens at the beginning of the pandemic amid concerns about food scarcity coincided just a few years later with the worst avian influenza outbreak in history. Combined with ongoing avian flu concerns, domestic chicken-keeping remains a touchy subject for those who care about animal welfare.
Enter Tove Danovich, accomplished freelance journalist and urban flock-keeper, to rile up some feathers and blur the once-clearly-defined lines in the domestic chicken-keeping argument. The book serves as both a memoir of her personal experiences keeping chickens and an in-depth exploration of “the explosive growth of industrial agriculture.” Danovich interviews individuals around the country who touch different facets of the chicken rearing and keeping process, from breeders to trainers, and more.
2. “The Swine Republic: Struggles with the Truth about Agriculture and Water Quality” by Chris Jones
Interested in the truth about Iowa and the Midwest’s water quality? You won’t get it from Iowa’s agricultural and political leaders.
So begins Dr. Chris Jones’s analytical assessment of big agriculture’s devastating impact on the environment in the midwest. The former research engineer at the University of Iowa also served time at Des Moines Water Works and the Iowa Soybean Association. He’s had a front-row seat to big ag’s decades-long overuse of Iowa’s farmlands, which he details in full in this book..
Dr. Jones explores the heartbreaking realities that have befallen Iowa’s richly fertile lands – now teeming with hog manure, dirty water, soil erosion and loss of wildlife habitat. The book serves as a testament to how alarmingly harrowing things have gotten in industrial animal agriculture today.
3. “Animal Liberation Now: The Definitive Classic Renewed” by Peter Singer
Nearly 50 years after the publication of his groundbreaking book “Animal Liberation” in 1975, Singer updates the 2023 edition, looking at factory farming operations throughout Europe, the U.S. and China. As one of the modern-day innovators in animal welfare and bioethics critique, any new and updated works from Peter Singer will be well-worth your time in order to stay up-to-date on the movement.
1. Ghost Herd from KUOW Public Radio and Northwest Public Broadcasting (members of the NPR broadcasting network)
This exciting podcast comes recommended to us by Andrea Learned, a successful climate action catalyst and podcast host with three decades of experience working in corporate and NGO sector sustainability and climate action spaces. The podcast tells the true story of the meteoric rise and crushing fall of Easterday Farms, a mega-successful ranching enterprise in southeast Washington’s Columbia Basin. As Ghost Herd tells it: The Easterday family took a couple hundred acres of farmland in Eastern Washington and grew it into a farming and ranching empire worth millions.
Fast-forward to January 2023 and the family’s youngest son, Cody Easterday, began serving his 11-year sentence in a federal prison.
We won’t spoil too much, but the story of a scheming rancher who scammed Tyson Fresh Meats with a “ghost herd” of 265,000 non-existent cattle – for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in fraudulent revenue – feels every bit engaging as an HBO series finale. The story is easy to follow in six easily digestible half-hour episodes.
Through Our Hen House’s two podcasts (the first of which is co-hosted by activist and author Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, with the second hosted solely by Sullivan, an animal law professor and longtime activist) listeners are educated on the extensive details of every facet of the animal agriculture industry, and those who advocate for the animals trapped within it.
Recent topics include: insight into trials like the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold California’s Prop 12; defining the concept of “total liberation;” stories from former cattle ranchers-turned-vegans; how to disrupt global food systems; and the charges against Alicia Santurio and Baywatch actor Alexandra Paul after they rescued two chickens from a transport truck headed for a Foster Farms-owned slaughterhouse.
With an astounding 700 episodes of Our Hen House and a respectable 96 episodes of the Animal Law Podcast, it’s safe to say this summer listening recommendation may very well last you until Summer 2025!
3. Hope for the Animals from Hope Bohanec
Hope Bohanec is a vegan of three decades, an animal rights activist and an author. Spanning 91 episodes and counting, the Hope for the Animals podcast is another reliable source to gain a comprehensive understanding of the facets of animal welfare activism and environmental awareness not always covered in the media.
Recent highlights include discussions on greenwashing and the myth of “humanely-raised meat” (AKA the “humane hoax”), rewilding and regenerative veganic agriculture, animal ethics and theology, and Black and BIPOC vegan culture.
This post has been updated to include Sentient Media’s new podcast episode.
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