Here’s a video of someone diving into the Gulf of Mexico dead zone which is about 8700 square miles and roughly the size of NJ.
Here’s a video of someone diving into the Gulf of Mexico dead zone which is about 8700 square miles and roughly the size of NJ.
Eating Animals provided an interesting take on the unconscious concept we have about the food we consume. We, as humans, are natural predators that are constantly striving to survive like any other species. The concept of vegetarianism is something that one may look at a question is it really worth it. There are multiple ways of looking at it, and from the books perspective our pets are on the highest of all pedestals, specifically cats and dogs. The idea behind that is what Foer explains as, “not eating animals with significant mental capabilities.” (25) But at the same time dogs and cats are being euthanized at an alarming rate. About “three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually… millions of pounds of meat are being thrown away every year.”We are not eating them for the same reasons we wouldn’t eat dogs and cats for the same reason we wouldn’t eat or date our siblings. Foer places heavy emphasis on the emphasis on how we make out what we eat on how we treat it. We have an underlying understanding of sympathy and regard for something that we care for. We generally care about something that can understand that we care. Vegetarians, from what I’ve heard, do not like the idea of something dying in order for them to live. The other idea lies in what they believe and don’t believe goes on in food processing. “For the most part, we do not live in close proximity to the animals we kill.” (98) We have to make the assumption that we are being fed what we are being told we are fed, along with all of the ingredients that are being included. The trust value varies according to the person. We know that there are no guarantees when it comes to money, and places like “Whole Foods” makes a lump sum over the image of being majestic. That is a result of the “factory farm industry (in alliance with the pharmaceutical industry) currently has more power than the public-health professionals,” (141) a result of capitalism. The norms and values on our society are heavy influences on what we eat, but do not have the final say. It is how we take it and what we place values on which will coincide with our diet.
Reflection about Eating Animals
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Everything Is Illuminated, and have always been entranced by his writing craft and storytelling abilities. Whereas his fiction is poignant and meditative and beautiful, this book is hard-hitting, unapologetically argumentative, and rhetorically masterful. I don’t know how anyone could read this and proceed to eat meat for at least a few weeks afterward. Foer made me seriously question my carnivorous predilections and I have been a tofu purist since I started reading about the horrors of slaughterhouses and factory/fish farms.
I found myself fascinated by the ways in which Foer chose to weave story and rhetoric together into a seamless piece of narrative cloth. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of his grandmother and his dog, George. I thought that his analysis of cultural traditions and taboos and how these relate to our ideas and consumption of meat was very compelling. At one point he says that, “The protective emphasis is not a law of nature; it comes from the stories we tell about nature.” I feel that this sentiment is true of anything we are trying to defend or preserve within the natural world. Whether it is sectioning off more national parks or feeding our dead pets to the livestock we eat instead of directly to ourselves, these ideas about protection are entirely invented, mere human constructs. I feel that one of his strongest arguments is that, “Eating animals has an invisible quality. Thinking about dogs, and their relationship to the animals we eat, is one way of looking askance and making something invisible visible.” I found this comparison most unsettling and challenging to my preconceived notions and in this way, I also found it to be the most helpful in supporting his argument against meat consumption.
A group of researchers recently set out to discover the impact of grass fed livestock on climate change and the environment more broadly. Some prior studies have suggested that grass fed animals can boost the sequestration of carbon, however, this group found this effect to be time-limited, reversible, and at the global level, substantially outweighed by the greenhouse gas emissions the livestock generate. The lead author of the study, Dr. Tara Garnett, concluded: “This report concludes that grass-fed livestock are not a climate solution. Grazing livestock are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Rising animal production and consumption, whatever the farming system and animal type, is causing damaging greenhouse gas release and contributing to changes in land use. Ultimately, if high consuming individuals and countries want to do something positive for the climate, maintaining their current consumption levels but simply switching to grass-fed beef is not a solution. Eating less meat, of all types, is.”
This week’s reading had many interesting points about human’s relationship with the animals that we eat for sustenance. I had read parts of Jonathan Foer’s book Eating Animals in my environmental ethics class. I thought Foer had some very intriguing points about how we view ourselves in relation to animals. The first point I thought was interesting was the line that some people draw on the types of meats they will eat. I have seen animal rights billboards with a spectrum of animals, and it asks how far are you willing to go and eat the next type of animal. Where do you draw the line on what animals you will eat for sustenance? For example, in America the most obscure meat I think people eat would be something pretty gamey like elk or buffalo, but there are people in the South that eat alligators. Me personally I have only made it to something like elk, or deer meat. This distinction is also different based on transnational borders, and different countries have different acceptable standards on what type of meat people should eat. For example, people eat dogs in some parts of Asia, and that is definitely a taboo thing to do in the United States, where people would look at you differently knowing if you ate dog or something against the norm. Another example that comes to mind is in Asian countries they sometimes eat shark and whale, which by international laws is illegal because of endangered population numbers of some such species.
I thought one of Foer’s most important argument points was the fact that people do not know where their food comes from or really that much about how their food is grown and put into supermarkets. Consumers are really not that educated about how the produce and meats get to the supermarkets, and how they are marketed. I thought Foer’s point about “natural” and “organic” produce was interesting that people did not know the exact distinctions that made produce one or the other. When I hear people talk about natural products, and organic produce I will have to think hard about if these people really know what they are talking about. This reminds me of the documentary I was watching last night called Killing the Colorado, which was about the many different viewpoints about the use of the Colorado River to irrigate the desert climate of the American West. One of the farmers who was interviewed was making the point that people do not understand where their produce comes from in the supermarket. California grows produce for the whole country that most of us may not even be aware of. If you eat a salad in New York, chances are the lettuce was grown in California. I just thought it was interesting how little people know about where their food comes from, and how it is produced.
The main idea I took from this book was the effects of the transition to family farming to factory farming. Family farming dominated the culture of producing food, and such until technology advanced enough to allow people to grow food on as little land as possible. Family farming was very small scale and involved small groups of people growing food on their land as available to the family itself. The practice was very family oriented and passed from generation to generation. As technology grows, and population increases the demand for food increases. I thought Foer’s quote, “Do you think family farms are going to sustain a world of ten billion?” This was very interesting because family farming does not yield that much produce, and animals for farming for the amount of time, and effort it takes. With population is as high as it is in today’s time’s the output of food needs to be much higher, and more efficient if we want to feed all of those people. Factory farming is a thing of recent times and tries to raise animals in as little square footage, for the maximum amount of meat that can be sold. With GMO’s so prevalent in today’s food industry it is hard to stay away from introducing GMO’s into the factory farming system. We have modified chickens and breed them for bigger cuts of meat that we use for consumption. Chickens have been so heavily modified that they are only supposed to live for 30-40 days now, and they cant fly or walk because their breast muscles have been modified to increase the yield of usable meat per chicken, these chickens cant even walk for more than a few feet before sitting down because they are too heavy for their legs to handle. In recent times we have learned about the horrible animal rights violations that workers put these animals through. Foer has a quote that workers would kick them around, drown them in their own feces, burn their cigarettes out on them, and other horrible animal rights violations. Foer highlights the facts about factory farming and all the horrible atrocities that go with factory farming these animals. When profit is the only thing motivating growers and farmers, then the quality of life and product for these animals will suffer. I think that the direction to go is to make family farming practices more efficient because the whole community is different from factory farming where farmers and growers actually care about the animals personal well being because they feel an obligation to these animals. I believe this sense of obligation comes from the tight community, and sense of obligation to put out the best product possible.
The EPA has just approved superfund sight in the Meadowlands to improve an oil lake situation in the area. There is standing oil that they have dubbed, “oil lake” that has already contaminated some of the groundwater in the area, but the remediation plan does not address the problem of the contaminated groundwater. The main plan of remediation is to remove the polluted soil and try to remediate the topsoil of the land to allow for growth and improvement. The pollution dates back to 1946, and the company did not start recycling the oil till 1979. So there is a lot of pollution and hazardous materials affecting the environment in the Meadowlands. New Jersey requested the site be funded back in 2002, but it took 15 years for the EPA to decide the problem was bad enough for federal funding.
Eating Animals is a passionate book about Fore’s exploration of the personal, social, political, moral issues, pertaining to the practice of eating animals. Foer presents his discoveries, inner monologue, interviews and experiences with experts and first-hand experiences in an easy to understand way.
Foer doesn’t go to any extremes in his discussion. There is no one agenda he pushes, instead, he looks at the big picture and attempts to create a balance between viewpoints. He explores several stances on eating meat, while still being as impartial as possible. He provides enough information about all viewpoints so that by the end of the book you can make your own educated decision about eating animals. He is also honest about his own struggle with eating meat, which helps the book have a more balanced and realistic viewpoint.
Growing up on a farm, I knew exactly where what I was eating came from. Because of this, I still buy meat only from locally owned farms that have higher standards of care than factory farms. Today, in the United States, we put value on cheap and fast meat while ignoring how exactly the animals have to be raised in order to fill that want. We also live in a society that demands organic, free range and non-GMO food. However, very rarely do people know how little it takes for something to be labeled as meeting those standards. We also fail to look at our own consumer habits. It is hard to demand a product that is completely organic and natural, while also demanding that we have it right now and at a low price. Overall, Eating Animals assured me that I’m doing the right thing by supporting locally owned farms, rather than mass factory farms.
Eating Animals Notes
Eating animal by Jonathan Safran Foer I found to be extremely interesting and informative. I really liked his general writing style of being informative about the meat industry yet writing it as if it were a narrative. Foer numerous points about the meat industry were not new news to me but it did get me thinking about how we produce food in general in this country. Foer starts off the book by reminiscing his childhood with his grandmother’s cooking. Slowly over time, after growing up eating meat he changed to being a vegetarian. I found his argument for the different types of meat people eat to be incredibly fascinating as it is true that the meat people eat does vary drastically depending on the culture you are from. Take horses or dogs for example, in the US people don’t eat either of them because they are considered pets but in part of Europe and South American horse is eaten. In parts of Asia dog is consumed.
Another point made in the book is how very little people understand where our food comes from. My family does own a produce farm and I constantly surprised by the customers we get in the market who do not understand how the seasons change who food we have for sale. We do not raise any animals on our farm but we do sell meat from a local family own farm. At one point of the book, the author compares family farms to commercial farming and this reminded me of how family farms operate whether it be meat or produce. Both have been turned into large scale practices that the public has little interaction with leading to lack of understanding of food production. One of the big things we do on our farm is education for children and families. We want people to be able to go out into the fields and pick their own food and understand how it is produced.
Over the years it has come to light about how poorly the animals can be treated and there have been pushes to change the industry. Unfortunately, the labeling of items as cage free or free range has lead to new misunderstandings and misconceptions about the conditions the animals are kept in. As much as I dislike the farming industry and what it has turned into, I probably will not turn vegetarian any day. My outlook on it is that yes there are many issues with the industry that can and should be changed but realistically getting everyone to stop eating meat is unrealistic. I think that better education of what we eat and a better understanding of how it got to our plate would be a good start in changing an industry that needs help.
Often times when we watch wildlife shows on tv, there is at least one scene of an animal killing another. A recent study looked at the percentage of organisms committing murder within their own species. According to the FBI database, there were 16,000 murders in the US but humans do not even rank within the top 30. Some of the organisms in the top 30 include wolves, lions, various monkeys and various lemurs. Within the top 50 were some species typically considered peaceful such as wild horses, gazelle and deer. The most murderous specie was found to be the meerkat with about 20% being killed be another meerkat. Humans were found to be unique as they are a part of a small group of organisms that routinely murder adults of their own species as anthropologist Richard Wrangham said “humans really are exceptional”.
Foer’s Eating Animals is an interesting, if ultimately discursive, investigation into the factory farming industry, and it was a nice departure from the traditional pro-vegetarian polemic. The piece covered a wide variety of topics, though none of the facts he presented were particularly surprising for me. I’ve watched enough documentaries on factory farming to be aware of the abhorrent treatment of animals and dubious sanitary conditions to be found in those facilities. However, it was unique of Foer to discuss the possible harms and suffering that factory farming can confer onto humans. According to Foer, “scientists now argue that the primordial source of all flu strains is migrating aquatic birds such as ducks and geese” (Foer 127). In the cramped, unsanitary conditions of the factor farms, influenza and other diseases, like E. coli, are easily transferred to our food. Furthermore, the antimicrobials pumped into the animals to prevent this are ultimately producing more antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. This, if nothing else, should be a call to action for most omnivores. If one doesn’t care about a practice that leads to animals suffering, then they likely will care about a practice that can cause human suffering.
Indeed, this rationale should apply to me, for I am oriented primarily toward an anthropocentric worldview, as I believe most individuals covertly are. Nevertheless, I am not convinced by this argument, or any other presented in the book, to abandon eating animals. In fact, I’m not even inspired to wholeheartedly condemn factory farming. Of course, I find the practices of most factory farms to be absolutely reprehensible and repulsive. At one point, Foer identifies particular cases of the worst excesses of sadism in the industry, writing that “The investigation documented workers extinguishing cigarettes on the animals’ bodies, beating them with rakes and shovels, strangling them, and throwing them into manure pits to drown” (Foer 182). As I see it, this sort of behavior is obviously cruel and unacceptable. Why, then, do I remain unconverted to Foer’s position? The most obvious answer is the efficiency and practicality of factory farms. Though obviously biased, I generally agree with the quoted factory farmer when he states that “From China to India to Brazil, the demand for animal products is growing…Do you think family farms are going to sustain a world of ten billion?” (Foer 96). If we want to address human suffering via hunger, we need an efficient and cost-effective way of feeding the world.
This position, however, has its own defects. As stated before, factory farming can be a source of great human suffering by way of disease. This introduces the question of how to weigh the human suffering caused by factory farming against the suffering that factory farming can reduce. Furthermore, should we factor animal suffering into said equation? Hence, we have the introduction of ethics into the whole analysis of the factory farming practice, if it wasn’t already casting its shadow over the issue to begin with. With regard to ethics, I am philosophically inclined to reject the notion that ethical facts, understood to be universal and binding, exist. Logically speaking, I find ethical or normative statements to merely be linguistic expressions of visceral, subjective emotional responses to actions or events. However, these expressions cannot be rendered true or false (how does one verify an ethical statement?), making them essentially meaningless. Thus, while I find factory farming practices to be disgusting and inhumane, I recognize that this is merely an emotional reaction that isn’t binding on anyone. It is neither “ethical” or “unethical” to eat meat; either one meets it with personal approbation or reproach.
Ultimately, then, Foer’s analysis is fascinating and provides a great deal of real, empirical facts about factory farming. What it doesn’t convey is facts about whether one should or should not eat meat. Though this is controversial, I don’t think anyone could construct a logical argument either way. However, in a sense, this affirms an idea presented at multiple points in the book: food and meals as part of a story about us. One’s emotional reactions to how one gets one’s food is part of that person’s story, and that can be a wonderful thing. Where we stumble into dicey philosophical territory is when we interpret our stories to be commandments for the behavior of others. That is to say, when we try to impose on the stories of others.