What I’m Reading: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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I’m currently making my way through a rather difficult book – Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you remember my post from a few weeks ago about vegetarianism, you probably can recall I mentioned factory farms. Eating Animals takes an inside look at factory farming as well as why humans beings eat animals – the stories that drive us, the nostalgia that will always play a part in our eating habits, the societal exceptions we no longer even pay attention to. Surprisingly, this book isn’t purely advocating for a meat-free diet. It is not preachy in any way, and Foer states explicitly that he is not trying to turn anyone vegetarian. His purpose in writing this book was merely to bring to light how truly wrong some of our farming practices are when it comes to animals.

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Foer himself always oscillated between carnivorism and vegetarianism growing up. As a child, he always felt there was something a little wrong about eating meat – he thought about the animals he knew, and didn’t understand how it was not okay to hurt a dog, but perfectly fine to eat a chicken. Once he had a child of his own, he decided to figure out exactly what we in America eat, and this book was born. He visited factory farms and did mounds of research, and the results are frankly frightening.

Nothing inspires as much shame as being a parent. Children confront us with our paradoxes and hypocrisies, and we are exposed. You need to find an answer for every why – why do we do this? Why do we do that? – and often there isn’t a good one. So you simply say, because. And whether or not your face reddens, you blush. The same of parenthood – which is a good shame – is that we want our children to be more whole than we are, to have satisfactory answers. My son not only inspired me to reconsider what kind of eating animal I would be, but shamed me into reconsideration.

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Within this book are facts about chickens, pigs, cow, fish, and every other type of animal we know as food. Foer’s friendly and informative tone really makes it easy to reconsider our own eating habits, and it’s not just about being mean to the animals. It is about what is right.

Needless to say, jamming deformed, drugged, overstressed birds together in a filthy, waste-coated room is not very healthy. Beyond deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases, and weakened immune systems are frequent and long-standing problems on factory farms.

As I see it, God gave animals to man. Whether or not Adam and Eve ate animals while in the garden, eventually animals became one of our main food sources, and this was okay by God. But that doesn’t mean we can manipulate their genes, stuff them into cages where they can barely move, torture them with painful deaths. Animals were created by God and given to man, and therefore I believe should be given the sort of lives they were created for. Cows should be allowed to graze, chickens to peck and roam, pigs to be curious and play. 

It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals.

Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat lover, I definitely recommend this book. It will make you think, reconsider. And this is a good thing.

Do you eat chicken because you are familiar with the scientific literature on them and have decided that their suffering doesn’t matter, or do you do it because it tastes good?

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