Book Review: A Bold Return To Giving A Damn by Will Harris

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I first discovered Will Harris on the Joe Rogan podcast #2062, where Will appeared with his daughter Jenni to discuss his story and fight to bring his family farm out of the industrialised food system, and back to its former regenerative peace with nature.

Regenerative Farming

Regenerative farming and animal welfare practices is something you cannot help become aware of as you move towards a healthier lifestyle. Grass fed beef or pasture raised chickens and eggs are becoming more important for consumers, for both animal welfare and human health reasons.

But this was never a question before the industrialisation of the food system. Prior to the 1950’s, all farms were regenerative, and all animals were raised on open pastures living happily until slaughter.

Big-food and big-agriculture stole that goodness from us when they moved the food system towards maximisation of profit and quantity, rather than caring for the land and animals with quality.

Monocrop lands of corn, soy, peanuts and sugar beets were not seen prior to the 1950’s, as farmers would rotate their crops and animals, instinctively knowing this was the best way to take care of their land and produce. My school history class in the 1980’s focused on the agricultural revolution which began some 12,000 years ago, when humans began to control their food supply to feed ever growing communities.

But something happened after World War 2 which is plain to see when you step into any supermarket today. Rows and rows of cheap meat, coming from animals produced in a subsidised system to ensure maximum financial returns. It has stripped control from the farmer who just has to feed his product into the big-food system, and receive a fixed return for that produce. This system rewards farmers for the weight of their produce, rather than the quality of it, which drives ever more optimisation of yield and quantity, not care and quality.

White Oak Pastures

Will Harris is a 4th generation farmer of White Oak Pastures located south in the state of Georgia. It was his father who moved the family farm into the industrialised processed system during the 1960’s to 1980’s when big-agricultural was at its most influentially powerful. Companies such as Monsanto continued to invent new products which would innovate farming and make the jobs of farmers easier. Products such as pesticides, fertilisers and growth hormones.

Nobody questioned this transition as the science shown was clear, and the science showed that these products would super boost productivity, reduce waste, and ensure a regular supply of product into the growing centrally subsidised industrialised farming system.

The farmers of these generations were not to blame for this transition, as they would never have considered the unintended consequences of this change. For every consequence which came from the use of a product, these companies invented another product to overcome that consequence, in a never ending spiral to the bottom, squeezing the last cent and life out of the system. 

In the same way my Mum was told all of the processed foods she would cook for me in the 1970’s and 80’s were “better” than the old methods of cooking, because this is what the adverts said. This is what these great established companies such as Nestle told us. Therefore it must be true, right!? Wrong, very very wrong.

It was only through the vision of Will Harris who had more than one epiphany while looking at his industrialised farm, who saw the damage to the soil and the ecosystems which used to thrive when he was a child, that he realised he had to move back to the old ways. He had to find a way to save his heritage. And possibly what he did not realise, a way to save the future of farming and potentially the human race.

Because something I strongly believe is: If we continue pushing the limits of our land, squeezing every last penny without any thought to its recovery, without any thought to the care of our animals we share this planet with, then we are doomed as a species.

This book is his story, his family’s story, and his continued battle against big-food and big-agriculture to restore the land and the food we eat back to its proper place of respect, and to where it should belong; in our consciousness.

Face The Animals You Eat, They Gave Their Life For You

I truly believe this is an existential crisis, and we need people like Will to wrestle the control back into our hands and out of faceless multinational organisations who have no care or concern about what we as humans should find important.

We should care about the survival of the land we are handing down to our future generations. And we should respect the animals who give their lives so we may eat.

This book is a revelation, and anybody who has any interest in this subject must read it. We can no longer be blind to the suffering of animals in our food system. We must remember that those plastic wrapped packages of meat came from an animal that gave its life for you to eat. To be squeamish and not want to face this is a 21st century privileged problem I used to be guilty of.

When I am in Europe I often hear people say things like; “I cannot eat that fish/meat if it has bones in it”. This meat comes from an animal that gave its life for you to eat. It had bones as it used to swim or walk around. And somehow in the west, we have become squeamish about these things because they are “ewww” for want of a better word.

But we need to stop being so blind. We need to get back to respecting nature. We need to visit the farms and animals where our food comes from and look these beautiful animals in the eye. To thank them for their sacrifice, and remember they are living too. 

Today I am writing this in the Philippines on New Years Eve 2023 when we will eat a feast of roasted lechon (pig) tonight. I saw this pig and looked her in the eye. I thanked her for her life before she went off to be slaughtered. I heard her scream briefly as she gave her life, And when we eat her later, everyone will know where she came from, and how she gave her life so we could feast with our extended family and village neighbours.

By remembering and being aware of this, we do not have to become vegans for welfare reasons. I for one am an omnivore who eats a lot of meat, eggs and fish. But I cannot eat anything in good faith that comes from the food production system. 

Once I learned where this industrialised meat was coming from, I could not “un-learn” it. So now if I would try to eat a chicken from KFC as an example, it would get stuck in my mouth. I wouldn’t be able swallow it because I know how that poor chicken would have lived its life.

I’m sure this is one of the reasons there has been such a swing towards veganism. Because many people correlate all meat to be within this system. But that’s just not the case. Through wise shopping and research there are places to buy humanely raised meat, eggs and fish. You just need to be willing to spend a little more money, and do a little more research.

For the Hong Kongers reading, this is how I buy my meat, fish and eggs. 

How To Buy Humanely Raised Meat & Eggs In Hong Kong

I’ve known about the animal welfare issue in our food supply for many years, so have worked hard to find the right sources for my protein. It’s not easy. You really have to understand what to look for.

There are some very basic rules I try to follow to help with this, which I list below:

From Big Chain Supermarkets

USA, China and Thailand meat & eggs: This is a sweeping statement, but the fact is 99% of the meat coming from these countries are from the industrialised system. This is often why the value for money is good. Unfortunately, humanely raised animals cost much more than animals who are squeezed together unable to move in miserable lives. I therefore avoid any products from these countries.

UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan meat & eggs: Again, we go with a sweeping statement, but animal welfare levels in these countries are higher, and there is less coming from industrialised systems. This does not mean everything coming from these countries is raised with better welfare. But if you read the labels carefully, and look for pasture raised, grass fed/grass finished, you should be in a safe place.

From Independent Online Suppliers

With online suppliers, you may still have to choose between grass fed and grain fed options, which somehow distort the desired outcome. These four suppliers seem to focus on humanely raised animals to make your choice easier:

From M&S Food

Yes I know this is a bit of a cheat, but we are all living busy lives, so by choosing M&S Foods you know your food is being sourced from farmers who have animal welfare at their heart. You don’t have to look at the labels when you buy M&S. You know they have done the research and sourcing for you. So you can be confident you are eating meat, fish and eggs which come from animals who have been treated with love throughout their lives.

Read this book to help you live wiser, live with conscience and gratitude; live stronger, live longer.

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