161. Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013
From the official website:
Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian.  But on the brink of fatherhood-facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child's behalf-his casual questioning took on an urgency.  This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.  This book is what he found.  Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir, and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many stories we use to justify our eating habits-folklore and pop culture, family traditions and national myth, apparent facts and inherent fictions-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting.  Marked by Foer's moral ferocity and unvarying generosity, as well as the humor and style that made his previous books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, widely loved, Foer's latest tour de  force informs and delights, challenging us to explore what is too often conveniently brushed aside.  A celebration and a reckoning, Eating Animals is a story about the stories we've told-and the stories  we now need to tell.

I'm certainly on of those "others" referred to in the description of the book although I didn't delve into vegetarianism until after getting out into the real world.  It never lasted - the lure of roasted, fried, baked, or BBQ'd animal flesh always sucked me back in.  Eating Animals was suggested by a friend who had it recommended to her by another friend who's a vegetarian.  I love reading along with other people so I said why not.  Always interested in animal welfare (as you know, I have multiple furry family members), I dove right in.  While I didn't begin reading with the hope that it would finally turn me into a non-meat eater, it certainly did its best to encourage me. 
I didn't garner a lot of new information but this book had a big impact on my thoughts about meat.  We've all heard the horror stories about what goes on at large scale factory farms and slaughter houses but Foer lays it out step by gory step, from birth through death and butchering, including atrocities committed by overworked, overstressed, and often emotionally devestated killfloor employees. 
When most of us go to the supermarket, we don't think about where our ground beef or chicken breasts come from, let alone the life that animal "lived" to provide you with a tasty meal.  After reading Eating Animals, I found myself unable to even imagine eating meat for the first week or so.  I had a similar reaction after reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation - I couldn't stomach meat for a month.  I haven't given up meat this time around but I have not bought meat to cook at home since finishing the book (wait, I had hotdogs...that's not "meat" is it?).  Looking at meat while buying groceries now, I instantly start thinking of contributing to suffering and torture of animals we as a society don't feel as cute or adorable enough not to be eaten. 
I realize that I'm somewhat of a hypocrite.  I still eat meat (although not always) if I go out for dinner or have to buy lunch at work but I've altered my eating habits and instead of meat, I stock up on beans and chickpeas for home.  I love my Veggie Patch Chick'n Nuggets in hot sauce.  Butter chickpeas instead of butter chicken.  Veggie soup.  Quesadilla's.  Delicious, nutritious and no one hears the carrots screaming when you chop their heads off. 


Eugene Knapik said...

These days I eat more veggies than ever before and lots of salads, but I have always had a taste for meat. I'm trying to make it a smaller part of my diet but it takes some discipline for me. It seems BBQ is my default setting.

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