Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Company 

Eating Animals is an important book, written and organized in an tremendously skillful way.  I can even honestly say that I enjoyed it.  Despite the fact that I cried half a dozen times and once actually threw up.  (No pork for me, thanks.)  I am grateful for what I learned.  It was worth it.

Safran Foer’s approach to the subject seems to me the ideal one.  Eating Animals is not a diatribe, a rant or a polemic.  His approach is mild-mannered and matter-of-fact.  Many viewpoints are shared, including that of the factory farmer, in a way that is respectful and does justice to each.  Safran Foer, at the start of the book, is an omnivore expecting his first child, contemplating what is right to eat and feed his child, wondering why we eat some animals and pamper others.  By the end of the book, he’s come to some conclusions, but there’s plenty of space and information available for the reader to make different conclusions and choices.

When it comes to factory farming, a polemic is wholly unnecessary.  You needn’t have a jot of sympathy with animal rights activists like PETA – though he does a particularly good job of explaining why their gross-out tactics can be effective.  The relentless brutality and unmitigated suffering of factory farming is enough to shock and repulse  anyone – which is why it is virtually impossible, nowadays, to see where our meat comes from without breaking and entering.

Even if morality, decency and humanity aren’t interests of yours, Safran Foer makes it unnervingly clear how dangerous our food supply is, consisting as it does of drugged bioengineered animals living hellishly in their own excrement.  Turns out that you can hate animals and still oppose factory farming – all you need to know is the history of influenza.

We are part of a system which creates a vast, vicious, and unnecessary mass of brutality and harm.  Most of us, in the back of our minds, already know that.  For reasons of ecology, morality and epidemiology, it’s time we faced the effects of our own choices and actions.

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