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No Happy Cows, by John Robbins

Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Food Revolution

Review By Zoe Keeland

No Happy Cows

Having read and enjoyed The Food Revolution, I picked up No Happy Cows expecting good writing and eye opening information. John Robbins didn't let me down.

In this collection of essays, Robbins writes with intelligence, humor, and humility about the state of our nations food supply.

This is a horrifying subject. The more you dig, the more dirt you find - not to mention slime! But Robbins manages to be positive while providing solid facts.

At 173 pages, I read this book in two evenings, interrupting my family with exclamations of: "Good lord! Did you know...?"

The book is a smooth read, and very enlightening. There is no prose wasted on hand wringing or guilt.

John Robbins transitions easily from one essay to the next, peeling back the advertising and the ignorance to show you what really happens to your dinner before it ends up on your plate.

You could consider No Happy Cows a crash course on the ugly workings of the food industry.

If I were going to debate the merits of a vegetarian diet, I would review my John Robbins books. Then I would bury my opponent under the mountain of facts that Robbins provides.

That is something I really enjoy about Robbins' writing. He doesn't preach, he just provides useful information.

Health care costs are killing us, and so is the food we eat. The American population is fatter and sicker than ever before. And the American way of eating isn't just bad for Americans. It is responsible for a great deal of human suffering and ecological harm elsewhere in the world.

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Corporate food producers are fighting to keep us that way. Fast food chains advertise to children, who nag their parents to buy them sugar and fat laden fast food, which is nutrient poor and comes from unethical sources.

The California Milk Board shows commercials featuring cows grazing in rich green pastures, and then claims it isn't false advertising. The reality is that these cows live short lives in dirty disease-ridden conditions, and some of them never even see grass, let alone eat it.

Lobbyists from the meat and dairy industry press politicians to continue subsidies and vote down regulatory laws that would stop the industry from polluting the environment and raising their animals in cruel and disease promoting conditions, all the while sticking us with the bill for environmental clean up.

I already knew about this stuff, and I'm mad all over again.

If you think it's just meat and dairy you have to worry about, think again. Robbins takes us into the production of my favorite vices - coffee and chocolate. OK, caffeine is bad for you and so is milk chocolate. I knew that. I was resigned to that.

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What I didn't know is that if you're not careful to buy Fair Trade products, your morning wake-up money might be supporting child-slavery on the Ivory coast. Ick. Quite a bit of chocolate also comes from the Ivory coast, so it's the same story for your afternoon indulgence.

Apparently, Hershey Corporation is the worst offender in this matter, which I'll remember next time I'm eyeing the cheap chocolate. It's just not worth it.

That is the message that Robbins brings us in No Happy Cows. All this cheap and easy food that surrounds us is not so cheap. When Robbins lays out all of the hidden costs and consequences of the average American diet, it is obvious to me that the premium I pay for Fair Trade goods and Organic produce is cheaper by far than the cost of shopping by price alone.

I highly recommend picking up your own copy of No Happy Cows.

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