Reading the book Eating Animals was incredibly fascinating to me and really broke down the morals and values vegetarians hold and explained why people really eat animals. As a Sociology major, I thought it was interesting to see the inner thoughts behind the explanations of why we eat what we eat. This was not a book about why vegetarians are better than carnivores, it was an unbiased book exploring the truth behind why we eat what we eat.
Jonathan Safran Foer reflects on his past experiences with his food choices from his childhood to college years to fatherhood. He talks about how his grandmother encouraged him and his brother to eat everything and be thankful for the food in his life. He grew up with the typical morals of not harming a living creature which he felt conflicted over when his vegetarian babysitter criticized his eating chicken as hypocrisy. From that point on, he debated on eating meat and even went back and forth from being a vegetarian and a carnivore which he and his wife both had in common. He then concludes the chapter talking about a war story. Foer was starving and was desperate for food when a farmer saw his desperation and offered him some food, pork. Foer refused the pork since he is Jewish and is restricted by his religion from eating pork. His argument for his decision is summed up into his wise words “If nothing matters, there is nothing to save.” (Foer 17).
Foer also talks about animals we love vs animals we eat and the explanations behind them. He talks about how dogs are named Man’s best friend and how it is not only a taboo to eat dogs but it is illegal in most of the United States.
He points out that there are taboos that exists about against eating animals and not just dogs. He summarizes this perfectly. “The French, who love their dogs, sometimes eat their horses. The Spanish, who love their horses, sometimes eat their cows. The Indians, who love their cows, sometimes eat their dogs.” (Foer 25). He is basically talking about how emotional connections really establish the morals of what we think is appropriate to eat and what isn’t. It is quite interesting how we love dogs so much but are okay with eating cows and yet in other countries they love their cows so much so they resort to eating dogs. Foer says that while he is not a “dog person”, he loves his dog George because she eats, dreams, and thinks just as Foer does and from that, he feels a deep emotional connection with her. Foer’s main point is that what we chose to eat is based on our feelings on the animals not just how cute we think they are but how similar they are to us as living creatures.
Foer discusses thrown around words and defines them in his honest and somewhat sarcastic tone. All of these words involve the comparing and contrasting of human definitions and animal definitions, some of them defining the human attitudes on animals. An interesting example of this is the word downer which in terms of humans means “someone or something that is depressing” and in terms of animal means, “an animal that collapses from poor health and is unable to stand back up.” (Foer 56). He compares and contrasts animals and humans somehow through words we didn’t even think were associated with either such as stress or suffering. He says these definitions are a way to really break down the true relationship between what we eat and what we think.
Foer concludes this book by summarizing his thoughts on factory production and vegetarianism. He talks about how while it is probably easier to accept factory production, it is rather inhuman and would be giving into the system if he accepted it. To be vegetarian is to accept the life around you and respect your own morals and values even though it’s much harder.