Book details

The Modern Savage

Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals

Author: James McWilliams

The Modern Savage

The Modern Savage


About This Book

"A book that everyone concerned about food, animals and the environment should read." —Peter Singer, Princeton Professor and author of Animal Liberation

Page Count
On Sale

Book Details

Just Food author James McWilliams's exploration of the "compassionate carnivore" movement and the paradox of humanity's relationship with animals.

In the last four decades, food reformers have revealed the ecological and ethical problems of eating animals raised in industrial settings, turning what was once the boutique concern of radical eco-freaks into a mainstream movement. Although animal products are often labeled "cage free," "free range," and "humanely raised," can we trust these goods to be safe, sound, or ethical?

In The Modern Savage, renowned writer, historian, and animal advocate James McWilliams pushes back against the questionable moral standards of a largely omnivorous world and explores the "alternative to the alternative"—not eating domesticated animals at all. In poignant, powerful, and persuasive prose, McWilliams reveals the scope of the cruelty that takes place even on the smallest and—supposedly—most humane animal farms. In a world increasingly aware of animals' intelligence and the range of their emotions, McWilliams advocates for the only truly moral, sustainable choice—a diet without meat, dairy, or other animal products.

McWilliams's The Modern Savage is a riveting expose of an industry that has typically hidden behind a veil of morality, and a compelling account of how to live a more economical, environmental, and ethical life.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Griffin



In The News

“In The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, James McWilliams, a historian, makes a philosophical and emotional case for not eating meat at all, and he calls out the locavore movement as built on thoughtless and disingenuous claims...It's hard to argue with the author's points. When it comes to burgers, there are no happy cows.” —Colorado Springs Independent

“McWilliams exposes the pervasive cruelty...and he convincingly presents the only real solution to the problem of industrial animal agriculture: We must stop eating animals.” —Michelle Kretzer of PETA via

“McWilliams' uncompromising call for plant-based food will both rile and rally readers.” —Booklist

“McWilliams is an expressive and persuasive writer.” —Library Journal

“McWilliams offers convincing arguments for animal rights.” —Kirkus Reviews

“I think James McWilliams is far and away the single best writer the vegans have so far produced…One of the most intelligent books I have ever read. His is a powerful voice that will resonate far beyond those interested in animal rights.” —Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Ph.D., bestselling author of Dogs Never Lie About Love

“McWilliams has issued a powerful challenge to the 'compassionate omnivore' movement. The Modern Savage is a book that everyone concerned about food, animals and the environment should read.” —Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation and Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University

“James McWilliams ably demonstrates that we've often underestimated the mental lives of farm animals, and that we need to start taking their interests more seriously. He doesn't skirt tough issues nor does he take positions based on what may be popular at the time. Such a moral accounting would lead to a revolution in both how we produce food and what food we eat.” —Paul Shapiro, vice president, The Humane Society of the United States

“James McWilliams accomplishes something at once simple and profound. He explains in plain, accessible, and highly readable language what follows if we reject factory farming as morally reprehensible animal abuse, as most of us do. First, if animals matter morally, then killing them in any context is always wrong when we have a vegan alternative. Second, consumers of "humane" or "sustainable" animal-based foods will be surprised to learn that animal suffering routinely attends local and small-scale animal farming. McWilliams tells a riveting story while building an unassailable argument for veganism as the answer to our well-justified revulsion towards industrialized animal agriculture.” —Sherry F. Colb, Professor of Law, Cornell University, and author of Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger and Other Questions People Ask Vegans on The Modern Savage

About the Creators

The Modern Savage

The Modern Savage