When you work hard for three long years, researching and writing a non-fiction book and hoping that it might be well-received, if not a financial windfall (few of us expect to retire on any of our books), critics' reviews become a form of psychic currency.
And though I cannot use the following kind words to buy (sustainably produced) groceries, these excerpts from what the media is saying about Animal Factory nonetheless provide me with a much-needed form of personal sustenance.
I hope you don't mind if I share some of them. I am moved and humbled by their eloquence:
"Kirby combines the narrative urgency of Sinclair's novel with the investigative reporting of Schlosser's book -- Animal Factory is nonfiction, but reads like a thriller. There's no political pleading or ideological agitprop in this book; it's remarkably fair-minded, both sober and sobering. Like Sinclair's and Schlosser's work, it has the potential to change the collective American mind about contemporary food issues." --NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, "BOOKS WE LIKE"
"Kirby profiles three individuals who have been subjected to the stench, mess, environmental contamination, and health risks of megafarms. Stonewalling government agencies and evasive and hostile factory-farm owners and their corporate overseers ensure that the trio's battles for safe air and water have been protracted, complicated, and dangerous, hence the magnitude of Kirby's meticulously detailed yet propulsive chronicle. Thanks to Kirby's extraordinary journalism, we have the most relatable, irrefutable, and unforgettable testimony yet to the hazards of industrial animal farming."
-- BOOKLIST - JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSN *STARRED REVIEW*
"Animal Factory is a compelling narrative in the tradition of Upton Sinclair, whose 1906 novel "The Jungle" led to changes in the meat-packing industry. It isn't a novel, but it moves along with the urgency of a pot-boiler. What Kirby has done in this journalistic account of animal factory operations across the country is draw back the curtains that have carefully screened from the public the untidy secrets about how meat is produced on a large scale in this country. You'll read about the cramped feeding operations where animals are fattened for market, the pharmaceuticals that go into feed, the alarming practices used to dispose of feces and urine and how animal byproducts sometimes wind up in feed." --THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
"Kirby turns his investigative reporting skills to the human and environmental consequences of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Unlike recent books on this topic that advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle (e.g., Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals), Kirby focuses on the negative impacts CAFOs are having on not only those who live near these operations but also those who may be affected by polluted water originating from waste lagoon spills at these sites. His narrative is immensely readable and should be required reading for anybody concerned with how CAFOs are changing the nature of livestock farming." --LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Centering on three tales of large-scale factory farming, David Kirby takes the industry to task for its destruction of the environment, its deleterious effect on the family farm and rural America, and its lies, which have led to government inaction. Kirby's descriptions of how the animals are treated is chilling, and I can guarantee that you'll never eat pork with a clean conscience again." --INDIE NEXT "NOTABLES," AMERICAN BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION
"An environment in which there are lakes of putrid slush, foul odors wafting in the breeze and entire rivers turning orange may sound like something out of Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, but it's a reality for many people who live near industrial farms - the result of keeping thousands of animals in one place in order to keep prices low. In his latest book, Animal Factory, David Kirby follows three unlikely grassroots activists who have opposed big agriculture, from small community protests to the national sustainable movement." --LEONARD LOPATE, WNYC-FM, NPR Affiliate, New York City
"Good journalists know that the key to hooking their audience on a complex social problem is to put a human face on it. And David Kirby is a good journalist. In his new book Animal Factory Kirby puts a human face on the threat of industrial meat production to humans and environmental health. Animal Factory tells the story of three people who became unlikely activists against large-scale factory farms and their accompanying stench, waste and cost." --FRANK STASIO, WUNC-FM, NPR Affiliate, North Carolina
"Animal Factory is really a wonderful book, an easy read, and one that you often wrestle with. And I think that, for those of us who are thinking about the future of our world, well, this is one of those books you must read." --MARK STEINER, WEAA-FM, NPR Affiliate, Baltimore
"Kirby has assembled an amazingly detailed history of his subjects' grassroots struggles. It's an impressive feat of all-consuming, shoe-leather journalism, and his litany of unneighborly insults, like the "stinky, mocha-colored mist" that one mega-dairy inflicts on the property next door, packs a punch. His dogged pursuit of the story has made him unquestionably expert on factory farming and the resistance movement thereof.--THE INDEPENDENT WEEKLY, DURHAM, NC
"Kirby avoids the classic conservationist (lefty) versus business dichotomy (Republican) in focusing on people like ex-Marine turned Riverkeeper, Rick Dove. Animal Factory is a valuable addition to the growing number of works like Food Inc. and The Omnivore's Dilemma exposing the ills of mass-produced meat and dairy. Kirby uses the stories of the three families, as they move from their local fights to the national scene, to draw readers into the morass of government regulations and lawsuits that surround the CAFO issue." --EUGENE WEEKLY
"If you want to know about the worst practices of our food system, David Kirby is your man. Kirby has the inside track on all things factory farm, which is why Washington Post's "On Leadership" column recently invited him to write a guest post about President Obama's record on reform in this area. Kirby's right in saying that "Obama should go out of his way to showcase his leadership in confronting the pollution and economic consolidation of animal factory farming." --CHANGE.ORG