Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were

Philip Lymbery / Bloomsbury Publishing / 384 pages

In Dead Zone, Philip Lymbery takes readers along as he explores the lives of elephants in Sumatra, jaguars in Brazil, and barn owls in the United Kingdom, and examines the driving forces behind their dwindling numbers. While the author recognizes climate change and other well-known causes of biodiversity and habitat depletion, he digs deeper to reveal a less publicized root cause: factory farming.

Each chapter of the book highlights a particular species that is impacted by intensive animal agriculture. Lymbery seeks out animals in their natural habitat (or what is left of it), and talks to members of communities that are also impacted by factory farming. In Sumatra, for instance, the author met with frightened and exasperated villagers who had lost crops to raiding elephants—a relatively common occurrence as the elephants are pushed out of their forest homes. According to Lymbery, almost half of Sumatra’s dense forests have been replaced with monoculture palm plantations, and the destruction continues. Palm oil and kernels are shipped across the world to feed factory-farmed animals, as well as create processed foods and beauty products for humans. Low prices fuel demand for these products, which leads to deforestation and threatens elephants and local communities.

Dead Zone beautifully debunks the assertion that factory farms are needed to feed the world’s growing population by showing the consequences of factory farming and how, if we continue down this path, we will end up depleting our world of its resources. Lymbery believes that consumers have the power to change the system with their purchasing habits, such as reducing meat consumption and buying pasture-raised, higher-welfare animal products. Readers also hear from farmers and experts who offer their own solutions to monoculture cropping and factory farming.

The book is an eye-opening look at the interconnections between humans, nonhuman animals, and the environment we share. It paints a dire picture of factory farming and how it impacts the state of our planet. Fortunately, Dead Zone also provides hope through examples of farmers renouncing intensive agricultural practices and committing to sustainable farming. These examples demonstrate the resilience of the Earth and how land and biodiversity replenish when farmers work symbiotically with the land and animals.