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Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Jonathan Safran Foer

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3,0321243,063 (4.04)57
Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir and his own detective work, "Eating Animals" explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits--from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth--and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting.
Title:Eating Animals
Authors:Jonathan Safran Foer
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2009), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:sustainability, food

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Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (2009)


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Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Eating Animals is a cultural, social look at farming and factory farming and how we eat meat and why we eat the way we do, why certain cultures have taboos around eating meat and others do not, interspersed with Foer's personal narratives.

Before I do my review of the book, I feel like I should provide a lil context into my own life, which I don't normally do.

I fully believe that we, as humans, pick our battles. Some people feel passionately about ethically-sourced clothing, some about environmental advocacy, some about education for the underprivileged. This does not mean that we are uncaring or callous but we can only focus our energies in a meaningful way in so many things at a time.

What I’ll talk about in my review are my beliefs and my beliefs alone and I have no right to change anyone’s mind or to force my view on anyone else.

You can eat whatever you want. If I, a sometimes-vegetarian were to judge you for your diet, that would be a lil hypocritical, considering how often I get criticised for sometimes eating tofu even though I still regularly eat meat.

Not everyone has the time, the money or the mental energy to the access to eat a vegetarian, vegan or ethical diet. I also want to say that I fully believe in indigenous sovereignty when it comes to hunting and food access so if you hunt animals and provide for your family and identify as First Nations or Aboriginal — you have every right to access land and what it provides in the way you’ve been taught to.

I had toyed with the idea of vegetarianism for a long time and finally entertained the idea in 2017. I could not reconcile the concept of eating meat that was entirely anonymous to me. Raw meat gradually transformed from something inert to something bloody, something odd. I didn’t like that I was so complacent in eating meat for so many years and what right did I have to be at the top of the food chain? Aren’t humans just a part of the world, not the pinnacle?

I started discussing vegetarianism with my vegetarian friends, all of whom were very supportive and were more relaxed about said diet than most of my omnivore friends. They suggested trying the diet for a week, or eating more ethically-sourced meat.

The people who protested my diet change were often omnivores, who said they loved bacon too much, or could never do without turkey at Christmas dinner. Throughout 2017, and into 2018, I still struggle with vegetarianism. I don't want to be an inconvenience to anyone else and I have odd attachments to things with meat in them (like pepperoni pizza).

And so I came into the book with much the same mindset that Foer has or had: I wanted to eat meat, but I didn't want to feel guilt for doing so.

So, I think that's why Foer's writing stuck with me so much and was so accessible, particularly in the beginning of the book. I think it's an excellent book to start with if you want to read more non-fiction because of the interspersed headings, reasonably-sized chapters and many headings.

I did, however, find it a little repetitive at times and certainly felt his bias in others. While I never really disagreed with his bias, sometimes I felt its presence was unwanted, as though he were trying to convince me of a point I already agreed to.

I didn't particularly enjoy the chapters on Thanksgiving and I wished he'd explored the topic of eating and our relationship with food more, not just factory farming. Perhaps then there might've been a more in-depth look at First Nations peoples' relationship with food and that complex, ever-winding web of life -- but that might be another book in and of itself.

The aim of this book is not to shame you or curse you for your ignorance, which I greatly appreciated because I find that activists can be often militant in their causes and ignore other contexts in a person's life.

Foer is a writer, and so he writes. He writes a book filled with searing truths, littered with little sentimentalities that I often find myself guilty of. He asks important questions that are worth thinking about, and asks them in a really thoughtful way.

If you made it to the end of this review, I am impressed. ( )
  lydia1879 | Feb 1, 2020 |
Worth reading. Though I don't think I will become vegetarian any time soon, the arguments for that change are floating in my head. Things to think about. A full review coming soon on my blog. ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
This book has made my heart heavy. It put a lot on my mind and now I hardly know where to start talking about it. It starts as a personal narrative- the author had waffled for most of his life about eating meat or not- and finally decided to do some research on it: why do we eat animals? where does it come from? how are the animals treated? He also tells quite a few family stories, illustrating how important food is in culture and family heritage, emphasizing how difficult it is to change, and to reason out why. A lot of it is about how screwed up the food system is in our country, particularly factory farming of animals. The author took a very close look at all this. He interviewed many: a man who runs a large operation, a small scale farmer who personally knows all his animals, an activist who sneaks into chicken sheds. It's not just about how appallingly the livestock is treated in the poultry, cattle and hog farming industries, it's about how terribly they pollute the environment, how dangerous they are for our health, how wretched the working conditions are for humans employed there. How the power of the corporations enables them to shrug off fines or ignore rules and inspections that don't get enforced. I was shocked to read that over ninety percent of the meat now sold in America comes from large factory farms. Humanely raised animals are so few- not from lack of demand, but because the system makes it so hard for small farmers to function- they would never feed us- not even one city. Apparently even fish isn't a good choice- if you're not worried about mercury poisoning, or alarmed at how devastatingly commercial fishing ravages the ocean (killing hundreds of species for each one they actually keep), farm-raised fish isn't all that better: the conditions on fish farms are just as bad for the animals as those in land-based facilities, and are even less regulated. Foer makes it sound like the only way to avoid being part of all this nastiness and horror is to simply not eat meat. For the first time it sounds like a proper idea to me. This book was written a decade ago- I'd like to think that things have improved, but I'm rather pessimistic about that.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Apr 22, 2019 |
The best book I read during 2014 ( )
  lucaconti | Jan 24, 2019 |
Best for: Anyone looking for both a philosophical and a reality-based discussion about the decision to consume meat.

In a nutshell: When he realizes he is going to be a father, Mr. Foer decides to examine the food he eats and the morality of it.

Worth quoting:
I underlined and starred so many lines that I could put here, but I think this one sums the entire question up for

“Whether we’re talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But that’s not the question. Is it more important than sushi, bacon, or chicken nuggets? That’s the question.”

Why I chose it:
I’ve been vegetarian (and even vegan) at a few points in my life. I pretty much never cook meat at home. Lately I’ve been wondering if I can justify my decision to even intermittently eat meat, so when I saw this book at Shakespeare and Co in Paris, I decided it was time to jump in again.

What does it mean to choose to consume meat in the US (or UK) these days? What has it meant for the last 50 years? Realistically, unless you are raising your own meat or purchasing it from one of an infinitesimally small number of family farmers, your meat is coming from a factory farm. And even if you do purchase it from a ‘humane’ farmer, that animal is still being killed in an unimaginably cruel slaughterhouse. We know this, and yet we (unless the person reading this is vegetarian or vegan) still consume meat. And eggs. And dairy.

Why? This book explores the reasons we give, in beautifully written prose. Seriously, I’ve read many a book in my day about vegetarianism and veganism, but none have affected me in this way. They all have some variation on the same statistics, the same horror stories. The same glimpses into slaughterhouses, the same reminder that the workers in these facilities are often paid poorly and treated horribly. They tell us how pigs are much more like dogs than we’d probably feel comfortable knowing as we bite into our BLTs. How fish are much more intelligent than we’d probably imagined, and how both farmed and wild-caught seafood are just utterly horrible for the environment. How ALL of this factory farming — on land and sea — is destroy our world.

The book doesn’t provide an easy out, and I love that. Mr. Foer opens and closes his book with anecdotes about family meals. He describes the best (and only) meal his grandmother — a holocaust survivor — makes: chicken with carrots. He recognizes, and explores deeply, how food matters to us all culturally. How so many of our memories involve meals. And he asks if that is enough to justify consuming meat? What about if we are 100% certain that the meat was raised humanely (which is nearly impossibly to do)?

I’ve gone back and forth on this. I’ve read many an article about how pushing a vegetarian — or vegan — life on everyone can be culturally and economically insensitive. When vegetarians and vegans point out how poorly factory farm (e.g. all farm) animals are treated, they’re often responded to with the fact that people who pick our fruits and vegetables are treated poorly, so why don’t we care about them. Which is a completely insincere comment, given the shit labor standards that cover slaughterhouse workers.

Here’s where I’ve landed, once again, and after reading this book: I cannot justify consuming meat. Me. A woman with no medical issues, who has access to sufficient money and time to prepare an all-vegetarian diet. I do care about the welfare of animals. And I do care about their rights. I care about the environment. I care about public health (side note: Mr. Foer’s section on antibiotics and flu pandemics is one area that other similar books don’t cover nearly enough). And by choosing to not eat meat, I can be closer to living my values. I just had become complacent, and this book helped push me back on the right path.

As I write this review, my cat Tigger keeps jumping in my lap. My partner and I adopted him and his brother Jameson 6 1/2 years ago. They’re our buddies, our friends. We love them dearly, and even brought them with us when we moved to London. I can’t imagine life without them, and I certainly can’t imagine eating them. So how can I justify eating their animal friends? And why do I keep trying to? Because burgers are tasty? Sure. But, as Mr. Foer asks, is that taste more important than the life of another animal? Of course, this raises the question of how to feed them humanely. Cats are obligate carnivores, so chances are that the meat I need to feed them was procured in an inhumane fashion. I don’t know how to square that circle, but I’m going to try. ( )
  ASKelmore | Aug 21, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Animal rights advocates occasionally pick fights with sustainable meat producers (such as Joel Salatin), as Jonathan Safran Foer does in his recent vegetarian polemic, Eating Animals.
"A straightforward case for vegetarianism is worth writing," writes Foer, "but it's not what I've written here." Yet he has, though the implications of what eating animals really entails will be hard for most readers to swallow.
An earnest if clumsy chronicle of the author’s own evolving thinking about animals and vegetarianism, this uneven volume meanders all over the place, mixing reportage and research with stream-of-consciousness musings and asides.
"Eating Animals” is a postmodern version of Peter Singer’s 1975 manifesto “Animal Liberation,” dressed up with narrative bells and whistles befitting the author of “Everything Is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”
What makes Eating Animals so unusual is vegetarian Foer's empathy for human meat eaters, his willingness to let both factory farmers and food reform activists speak for themselves, and his talent for using humor to sweeten a sour argument.
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for Sam and Eleanor, trusty compasses
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When I was young, I would often spend the weekend at my grandmother's house.
"... A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me." "He saved your life." "I didn't eat it." "You didn't eat it?" "It was pork. I wouldn't eat pork." "Why?" "What do you mean why?" "What, because it wasn't kosher?" "Of course." "But not even to save your life?" "If nothing matters, there's nothing to save."[pp. 16-17]
The entire, complex saga of Agriprocessors ... by the Orthodox blog FailedMesiah.com [p. 287 as a note for p. 69]
See FarmForward.com for details on how to find non-factory-farmed animal products. [p. 310 as a note for p. 172]
Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, "Rubashkin's response to the 'attack on Schechita,"" shmais.com, December 7, 2004, http://www.shmais.com/jnewdetail.cfm?... (accessed November 28, 2007). [p. 325 as a note for p. 230]
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