October 7, 2015
I had heard quite a bit of buzz about this book previously, but never actually bothered to pick it up and read it because one of my main concerns that it was going to be someone standing on a soapbox preaching about the volatile nature of eating meat. Instead of being a kind of witch hunt calling out people who aren’t vegetarians it was a more personal account of being a vegetarian and then also went on to examine the more serious issues that many people are content to be ignorant about. After being exposed on multiple occasions and having a passion for cooking food myself, I’ve been lucky, or unfortunate enough to know how much of today’s food is processed and actually gets to the table. Without this background knowledge it would be very easy to not think about these processes. I think Foer did a good job of putting these in context that was familiar and not too far fetched so that many different kinds of people could relate on some level.
One of the main things that this book did for me was to disillusion people about food and the reality of the lives of the animals. Most people have at least somewhat heard about the deplorable conditions that animals endure everyday but when that is not actually something people are seeing in real life and thinking about when purchasing meat. This fact makes it very easy to create a kind of disconnect from these conditions. One of my favorite parts of this book was how Foer used Orwell’s quote from Animal Farm that “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” I think this along with Foer’s dramatic explanation of eating dogs and cats really shows how people are very much concerned with how some animals are treated versus others.
Another thing I greatly enjoyed about this book was Foer being wholly sarcastic and frank. Especially in his “Words and Meanings” section when he defined “Bullshit” as the shit of the bull. Overall I am glad this book was a pretentious attempt to shove vegetarianism and not meat down people’s throats.
October 7, 2015
I like Foer’s writing style. It’s conversational and informative. As a vegetarian, there were several points that I agreed with, even though his goal was not to convince people to be vegetarians, but to be conscious of where their food comes from. Here are some ideas that provoked thought:
George: The question of why we eat some animals but not others is not new. Pigs and cows are crazy cute, so it isn’t the cute factor that keeps dogs from being eaten in America. Maybe livestock animals were chosen for their use as food instead of as companions/protectors? I don’t know. No explanation makes sense to me.
Environmentalism: According to the UN, raising animals for food is one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems. Yes.
Food-borne Illness: the horrible slaughterhouses are the reason bacteria get on our food and make us sick. Hemorrhagic E. Coli actually wouldn’t exist in beef if the cows were grass fed instead of corn fed. Tons of people die from this bacteria every year, but somehow factory farms are still allowed to feed cows corn??
Vegan: The testimonial of the vegan who designs slaughterhouses was interesting to me. I connected with them. I’m a vegetarian, but I’ll eat ethically raised meat. However, I’ve struggled with this. I don’t know if I’m comfortable ending a conscious life just to benefit myself when I have many, many other options for the same nutrition readily available to me. At the same time, I want to support the farmers that raise their animals with love and care, and try to slaughter them as kindly as possible.
October 7, 2015
Earlier this summer, the online environmental journal interviewed the famous zoologist Temple Grandin on the practical ethics of factory farming. She defends some factory farming practices, saying that some things humans find apalling are things that animals actually do not mind; she indirectly points out the problems of anthopomorphizing animals. Here it is.
October 7, 2015
I really enjoyed this book. It is an excellent look at the buried tension between humans and their animal brethren. There is much packed into the text, but my favorite section was that of “Word/Meanings”.
Foer has an insightful and consistently inconsistent way of dealing with our relationship to animals. And of this, he highlights major things:
THE SPECIES BARRIER: For some odd reason we eat some animals while others are taboo. Why do we eat cows? But cricket chips are disgusting? Why is moral likeness assigned to dogs, but not pigs? Why the hell do we kill so much fish in the name of shrimp!? The inconsistency which with we apply this logic across contexts and locales is astounding.
INDUSTRIAL FARMING: As I read more in this class, the more I come to realize that technology is good, industry is bad. And yet, the distance with which we are separated from the slaughtering of pigs etc breaks down the values. Capitalism hides the hurt we do ourselves and others (animals). Profit, or cheap products, takes precedence over suffering.
POLARIZATION OF SIDES: We either care so much to not eat meat, or we do not care at all….is this not strange to anyone else?
October 7, 2015
Jonathan Safran Foer’s book was extremely shocking, controversial, ponderous, but yet very delightful. I enjoyed his memoirs and stories of his family, especially his grandmother. Hearing her stories about surviving the war put into perspective how lucky Americans are with the ease of eating. She was also an insight into the mind set of her generation, a generation that survived wars and the Great Depression, and do not take anything for granted especially the health and sustenance of themselves and their families.
Eating dogs is crazy, right?… Foer made some compelling arguments about the treatment of different animals in different cultures. The French love their dogs, but eat horse; the Spanish love their horses, but eat cows; the Indians love their cows, but eat dogs. This section of the book made me think of Specieism, similar to racism and sexism, humans in all parts of the world can be specieists by loving one animal and eating another. What makes dogs so special? Obviously it isn’t their intelligence, pigs are just as smart, other animals are just as cute. “If we let dogs be dogs, and breed, we would create a sustainable, local meat supply with low energy inputs that would put even the most efficient grass-based farming to shame.”
The way Foer talks about dogs made me reevaluate the treatment of cows and pigs. However, I don’t feel bad about the treatment of chickens, call me a specieist… Treatment of animals should consider ecological implications, the way factory farms are in production have caused human and environmental damages. Organic farming is better for the environment but still is not “humane.” Humane treatment of animals before we kill and eat them? Businesses are profit driven, humane treatment is a high cost. It would be near impossible to make the factory farms that produce 99% of the countries meat, become humane meat producers. The story of the Paradise Locker Meats cow that escaped and ran for miles was very touching, until it was caught and killed. The factory owner, Mario< had an interesting view on animals. He is running a business and needs to make money, but has a fascination with a pig escaping and starting its own feral colony in the woods.
Eating Animals is not necessary, eating the same animals isn’t environmentally healthy or morally right. Americans only eat 0.25% of the known edible substances, it is outrageous only 3 main animals are produced and eaten. But This book also makes me question the morality of eating animals in general.
October 7, 2015
I found this to be actually a good read and it made me think way more on the food that I eat. Jonathan Safran Foer talked about the difficult and complex topic of the ethics and public health dangers of meat production in the United States in a way that is mostly pleasant to read. In the book when Foer talked about heavy subject he would bring people in to interview, For instance, animal rights activist, a factory farmer, a traditional pig farmer, a traditional poultry farmer, a couple who runs an ethical cattle ranch, a hardline vegetarian, and several factory farm workers. I thought this was pretty cool how Foer let these people have there own voice to speak and tell there side of the story and what they think. The reason for this book and why he wrote it is to make a point about the factory farm system does what is necessary to “feed the world.” Consumers demand huge quantities of meat and want to be cheap. One of the things that I really liked how Foer talked about was how he acknowledges the difficulty presented by social culture and tradition. How can something as good as sharing a traditional meal with loved ones be connected with something as evil as factory farming? he really talked about the culture differences and how some thing are acceptable in some parts of the world,but in other places it would be frowned upon.
October 7, 2015
I found the second half of Nature more interesting and thought provoking than the first. I think a big part of this had to do with the examination of perspective that Coates provided through various examples and the people he referenced. I think Ronald Hepburn analysis that we all perceive and evaluate natural objects and objects of art differently is a testament to what the first part of this section was about. He went on to describe that when viewing art there is often a sense of detachment that is not present when experiencing it. Hepburn also mentions that nature involves immersion that reminded me of learning languages and how immersion is one of the best ways to quickly and effectively learn a non-native language. That connection, to me at least, speaks to nature being this intrinsic thing that we could possibly get by without but the very essence of it, just like the essence of language – communication- will always need to be part of our everyday lives. Hepburn also mentions that nature offers a greater possibility for imagination because it was not created deliberately. I think this refers to the fact that nature is not a construction of human want or will.
Later on in the second part when Coates is discussing the future of nature he brings up a point that is relevant to this idea of human made things. This means that the hole we have created and expanded in the ozone layer falls into this category of man made things. Not only is that artificial but we have begun to alter the weather, making the rest of the planet almost artificial as well because it is affected by something that we have altered. Even plants can obtain patents, which in 1980 was ruled on by the Supreme Court, voting in favor of corporations that the genetically engineered plants are technically “products of human invention rather than of nature”
Overall, I think Coates made good use of the second half of this book. From pointing out that nature, like many things, is interpreted differently by different people such as the English seeing it as a pleasant countryside and Americans seeing it as wilderness, that no one is necessarily wrong. However he does wrap up the book with a kind of apocalyptic ideology and his writing is laced with phrases like: human corruption, nature’s death, population growth as the source of nature’s problems.