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Book review: Project Animal Farm by Sonia Faruqi

News Icon 24/06/2015

Project Animal Farm

by Sonia Faruqi (Pegasus Books, New York, 2015)

People love stories about people. All too often, books about how we treat animals miss this point. Not so with Project Animal Farm. Full of surprises, it charts a four year journey into the belly of industrial agriculture. New York investment banker turned investigative journalist, Faruqi, seems to have fallen into a hidden world the industry would rather you didn’t see.

Brought up with a picture-book image of farming, this self-proclaimed city girl finds herself at a loose end on a dairy farm. From there, the unexpected happens…

Haunted by the sights, sounds and smells of factory farms, Faruqi writes about getting drawn into the lives of those who run them in an intensely personal tale. She recounts characters she meets on farms in eight countries, from America to Asia and the Middle East. She meets a family farmer scared of becoming a big farm and the treadmill they seem to be on; “with all the high-volume, low margin bullshit, farmers just keep on getting bigger and bigger.” She gets laughed at uncontrollably by a psychotic abattoir worker. She sees supposedly organic dairy cows in Canada tethered and zapped with electricity for trying to defecate in the wrong place.

“You can gauge a farm’s compassion” she writes “by your family’s reaction – outsiders form the litmus test.” How true. Through Faruqi’s writing, we get to see those who open their doors and those who don’t. Green fields or barbed wire fences, the contrast couldn’t be stronger.

Her journey ends with a thoughtful set of ideas for putting things right; common sense solutions to help bring about a better future for food, animals and the people who work with them.

What I really liked about the book was how it felt like reading a story never meant to happen. How one thing led to another, driven more by fate than design. A ‘project’ born out of happenstance, not planning. And with it comes a unique and honest take on food and farming. Written in the most vivid and engaging way, this remarkable book demands to be read by anyone who cares about where their food comes from.


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