The Cow with Ear Tag #1389

Kathryn Gillespie. Univ. of Chicago, $22.50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-22658-285-6
Gillespie, a postdoctoral fellow in animal studies at Wesleyan University, explores everything from the Washington State Fair to rendering plants that create products like oils and fats in this eye-opening look at America’s dairy industry. Positioning her work among such investigative classics as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Gillespie uses scholarly methods to bring to light the often hidden side of what it takes to produce such foods as cheese and ice cream. She reveals that most states grant food producers certain exemptions from anti-cruelty laws for practices deemed “customary,” which can include castration and cutting off animals’ tails, “all done without anesthetic.” Interviews with dairy farmers and 4-H participants give fascinating insight into the emotional toll sometimes exacted on humans, as attested to by a former 4-H member who recalls auctioning off the steer she had raised. Gillespie also vividly describes the deleterious effects of long-term dairy production on the animals themselves, as demonstrated by the titular cow—“her tail was docked, her hide was covered in scrapes and abrasions,” and “her ribs and hip bones protruded visibly beneath her skin.” Though Gillespie’s language (“masculinist anthropocentrism”) can be off-puttingly academic, she succeeds in ensuring her readers will never look at a glass of milk in quite the same way again. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/23/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-0-226-58271-9
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