Eating Animals

Since I enjoyed Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close so much, I figured I had to read Foer’s third book, Eating Animals. That is was a non-fiction work on vegeterianism was not the main reason for me to read it, but I thought that Foer would probably not write a tedious, schoolmarmish, pedantic type of work on this subject and I was right. Besides, Natalie Portman loved it, and she’s one of the prettiest and smartest vegetarians alive (yes yes, celebrity crush much).

His writing style is so refreshing and humorous that he could be writing about basically anything and still entertain me. Vegetarianism, however, is a subject which has always interested me, but in which I never specialized myself. I thought that this was a marvellous opportunity to really get into it and educate myself in a pleasant manner.

This book is very personal because Foer has spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between carnivore and vegetarian, not really being convinced and motivated yet. But when he became a husband and a father, the issue of eating meat became more important because now it was not only his own body he was feeding, but also that of his son (and wife, because in a family it’s easiest to either all eat meat or to not eat meat at all).
Foer asked himself “Why do we eat animals? And would we eat them if we knew how they got on our dinner plates?”

Eating Animals is a mix between literature, philosophy, science and memoir which works really well. It stays interesting and entertaining, though dealing with a scientific subject (normally not really my cup of tea. Don’t talk to me in numbers, I won’t understand you).

I liked that Eating Animals also explored the cultural side of vegetarianism: Foer examined the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits which was very confronting because it was so recognizable. He talked about the power of eating together in group or in the context of family or tradition (thanksgiving for example) which really hit the nail on the head!

Furthermore Foer discusses the atrocities of bycatch, factory farming, what eating animals is doing to our planet. He discusses the difference between animal rights and animal welfare without harshly judging those who do eat meat, but who try to do it in an honest, agricultural way.

His secret undercover missions at factory farms and visits to agricultural farms were really interesting as well because he shows us reality: this is the way it is done there.
I’m glad that he made friends with the honest animal-loving farmers and tried to understand what those people are doing (although he obviously did not change his mind).

One of the problems with the book I personally did encounter was the fact that it was focused on America whereas I live in Europe. I know that European farms and slaughter houses are probably equally horrifying, but it was still hard to really grasp this as Foer only talks about America. He did mention that a lot of American factory farmed meat was shipped to countries such as Belgium – sigh – but I am still curious about how the overall meat market works here… Maybe I should go looking for a European novel on the same subject, but I fear that it will not be as comprehensively, philosophically,clearly, and humorously written as Foer’s work. Usually, people like us – people who have studied arts or humanities – are not as good in understanding and explaining scientific material.

I am, however, glad I read this book, and although I’m not going to change into a vegetarian right now (I’m allergic to waaay too much fruit and vegetables to change my diet just like that.It’s a shame, but I just can’t. O … and I do love chicken, bacon, minced meat, etc. … sorry) I will definitely never ever buy eggs that are not free-range anymore (I don’t think I ever did. But I will pay a lot more attention to it now) and try to buy as many biologically farmed meat as possible.

A few days ago, we ate one of our own chickens (something we do a few times a year) and it made me think of this book. Foer talks about agricultural farmers who raise their animals well and try to slaughter them as humane as possible. He still won’t eat it, but he also acknowledges that IF people should eat meat, this would be the way to do it. It made me feel a bit less guilty about eating our chicken, but at the same time it made me feel even more hypocritical since I did not know – and did not want to know – which chicken it was and I absolutely did not want to see it getting slaughtered. I still tried to seperate the animal from the meat, which is probably the main reason why so many people are ok with eating animals: they don’t think about the animal when it was alive, they just see a tasty piece of meat lying on their plate.I’m not a city girl who doesn’t know where her food comes from (I have visited several farms in my life and I live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farms), but even people like me ignore the link between happy living creatures and the meat they eat.

Anyways, this novel is super interesting, even when you are not a vegetarian (or not planning to become one). I do think it is important that people know these things and start eating their food more consciously.

Have you read this book? Or what do you think about vegetarianism in general? Tell me in the comments!

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