I don't know what the editorial policy is toward factory farming at the very conservative Washington Times, but the paper apparently gives free rein to its book reviewers, even when covering politically controversial hot-button issues
On April 23, The Times ran a very favorable account of Animal Factory - The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, which reviewer Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, author of Mencken: The American Iconoclast, said "reads like the script of a gripping documentary."
It wasn't something one would necessarily expect to read in this particular newspaper, which The New York Times has called a "crucial training ground for many rising conservative journalists and a must-read for those in the movement." But if a conservative newspaper can write warmly in favor of factory farm reform - something that Barack Obama promised on the 2008 trail - maybe it can emerge as a truly bipartisan issue.
Industrial-scale, corporate-backed farming, the review states, "is something that concerns us all, no matter what our political persuasion: the long-term health of people and communities directly affected by factory farms - otherwise known, in Orwellian lingo, as 'concentrated animal-feeding operations' (CAFOs)."
And, Rodger wrote, "each of us can introduce one organic food element to one meal per day. Organic eggs and milk, for instance, contain higher concentrations of vitamins, so you get more bang for the buck."
A pitch for organic eggs? In The Washington Times? Who knew?
Then again, why wouldn't conservatives be concerned about factory farming? Nearly all of the anti-CAFO activists featured in Animal Factory come from Republican backgrounds. And, as Rodger noted, the "externalized costs" of CAFOs include pollution and disease - which should worry everyone, (one reason why National Public Radio gave the book an equally positive review), and "loss of property values, plus federal subsidies, buyouts and farm bill giveaways," which are bedrock conservative issues.
Rodgers gets her digs in at the Obama people, and rightly so. "Efforts to include leaders from agribusiness and the federal government, especially from the Obama administration, were less successful," she correctly notes, "and their silence is a resounding absence in this book."
"The scandal of industrial food-animal production is a direct link to the health care debate, making 'Animal Factory' all the more urgent," the reviewer reminds us all, no matter what side of that burning topic we occupy. "Mr. Kirby has produced a powerful, important book to all those who care about their family's health."
I do not know what Ms. Rodger's personal politics are, but I am grateful for her and to The Times - not only personally and professionally, but because it brings this important message to an extremely important group - Powerful Republicans in Washington, DC and beyond.
As for reining in the excesses of industrial animal production, maybe that is the golden bipartisan issue that has thus far eluded President Obama.
The Full Review Can Be READ HERE
A Q&A in Time Magazine Online Can Be READ HERE
David Kirby is Author of "Animal Factory - The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment." (St. Martin's Press).