Review: Project Animal Farm


I can’t tell you how many times I slammed this book shut in frustration after reading a chapter, a page, a paragraph. Sometimes it wasn’t in frustration. It was in horror.

Can’t. Read. Another. Gut-wrenching. Passage.

“We left that first farrowing room, and entered the corridor again. It was lined with pails filled to the brim with newborn casualties of castration, stillbirths, and other deaths. In the pails, the hundreds of dead piglets looked like globs of pink Jell-O floating in a creamy custard of blood.” (A passage from page 68 of 390.)

The author, Sonia Faruqi, says she couldn’t bear to look at them, but she had no trouble writing about them — and dozens of other animal farming atrocities during her four years of slipping into one and another animal farm across Canada, the U.S., Indonesia, Mexico and more.

It wasn’t until page 118 (of 350) that I met a farmer who believes in quality of life for farm animals. And as soon as I caught my breath and felt hopeful, Faruqi took me to a slaughter house with desensitized employees immune to the pain they inflict on animals under their care. And then I got to, mercifully, come up for air again in Indonesia, following Faruqi and her twin sister to rural villages where the thought of factory farming is foreign, and every family has “a flock of children and a flock of chickens,” both well cared for.


Faruqi is a former investment banker — and also a vegetarian, although she never comes across as judgmental of those who eat meat. While she was traveling from farm to farm, country to country, she was analyzing her findings like a spreadsheet, trying to make logical sense of it all. She marries her findings from her boots-on-the-ground farm visits with business details about the farmers, the companies and the conglomerates behind the farms. She connected the dots of the takeover of Virginia’s Smithfield Foods by China’s largest pig meat producer.

“For all practical purposes…North America…is becoming Asia’s pig factory farm.”

Once I got past the brutal passages — are they there for more than shock value? — I settled in and learned about what is really going on behind the scenes of the meat I consume. Faruqi offers some broad — and lofty — animal welfare solutions. Whether or not they’ll be adopted is yet to be seen. There is a lot of work to do.

People who eat animals — me included — must first care enough about the lives of the animals they eat to seek out only ethically raised animals. That may mean eating less meat. There is a movement afoot to shine a spotlight on the atrocities of factory farming. This book wants to be part of that movement.

I hated this book in the beginning. I didn’t enjoy reading about what Faruqi was seeing. But it affected me. And I want to do what I can to improve the lives of the animals I eat. Where I didn’t give much thought before, I’m thinking long and hard as I stand in the grocery store, weighing the options in front of me. And somehow I think Faruqi would consider that a win.


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2 replies
  1. Sonia Faruqi
    Sonia Faruqi says:

    Thank you for the review, Gwen! Glad you liked the book. I’d like to answer a question you pose:

    Q. “Are [certain passages] there for more than shock value?”
    A. The intention behind Project Animal Farm isn’t shock value, but the truth, as I observed it, heard it, smelled it, sensed it. And as you and others are reading it.

    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Thanks for commenting, Sonia, and for writing the book. As hard as it was to read, I can’t imagine what it was like to stand there and witness some of the things you saw. I hope my readers will seriously consider reading your book. It’s eye-opening.


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