Eating Animals – Jonathan Foer

Foer has taken us on a long journey through the way we think about animals (and especially the way he thinks about them) and the way our most eaten animal products are produced. While reading this book, although I’m sure he included the word “produced” never came to mind. Most of the time, Foer said “kill” of “slaughtered” when talking about the step in produced when meat is made. Or at least that’s when I think meat is made. I’ve never really thought of a cow as meat (like I’ve never envisioned that thing standing there as a slab of meat). I’ve thought of a burger as meat and I’ve thought of raw cow flesh as meat, but for reasons I really can’t explain, seeing a cow on a farm doesn’t conjure the term “meat.” To get back on track, Foer took us through chicken, pork, beef and fish production, as giving us a glimpse of how it all works and what are the problems with each. He said that most people have an idea about factory farming and that it is bad, but that’s pretty much all that is known. People still eat the stuff, even though there may be a small nagging feeling that it’s not good (for humane, environmental reasons – it certainly tastes good and that’s why I eat it).

In the first part of his book, Foer discusses what an animal means. It is a difficult definition to come up with, seeing as there is a scientific perspective, religious perspective and many cultural perspectives. What gives certain animals prevalence over the animals we eat, and not only eat, but subject to factory farming techniques? He provides us with an argument for eating dogs in America:

“Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually. This amounts to millions of pounds of meat now being thrown away every year. The simple disposal of these euthanized dogs is an enormous ecological and economic problem. It would be demented to yank pets from homes. But eating strays, those runaways, those not-quite-well-behaved-to-keep dogs would be killing a flock of birds with one stone and eating it, too.” (27)

So what is blocking us? Why do we Americans have this taboo against dog meat? I don’t ever recall thinking about dogs as meat to eat. It’s just so ingrained into my way of thinking yet this idea sounds crazily effective. That would be a lot of meat to offset other forms of food production and could feed even more people. So, why not?

Later on, Foer provides us with a glossary of words pertaining to the food industry. The one that struck me as most important, and pretty funny was “environmentalism.” Under the definition of “bullshit” it says to “see: environmentalism.” This term is thrown around a lot these days, and it always seems to make me think of someone fighting for the earth and that one day we will have it back the way it was. However, Foer’s tone of voice about environmentalism leads me to believe some of the skepticism behind it. He defines it as a concern for the preservation and restoration of natural resources and the ecological systems that sustain human life. It’s just a concern. The idea of environmentalism is just a concern, a worrying of these problems. Where the doing? Environmental activism? Wouldn’t that just be acting on the concern we have? Where’s the acting directly, immediately, completely on the problems?

When Foer talks about the pig farms and all the waste the animals produce and where it goes, the first thing that popped into my mind was the Simpson’s Movie scene with Spider-pig. When Homer dumps the silo of pig poop into the lake, the water immediately turns brown and is polluted. Do you think people would stop eating pork if they knew this? What if they saw this? Speaking of which, why do we call pig meat “pork.” Pork makes me think of a pork chop, not of a pig. Why if cow meat call beef? But then on the other hand fish is called fish and chicken is chicken. Everything else seems to be called what the animal is called, but why are pig and cow meat called something different? It has a detaching effect, I think. When I was little I put two and two together and figured out chicken came from chicken, but it was a little harder to figure out that pork came from pig. But, what does it matter? I know where the stuff comes from, but it doesn’t stop me from eating it.

Getting back to poop and pollution, Foer talked about Smithfield and its huge incident involving the New River in North Carolina. Twenty million gallons of lagoon waste was spilt into the river. What did people do? Some were mad, but people forgot. So it was back to business for Smithfield, seeing how the monetary fines didn’t matter. Why are people so easily able to forget, or even forgive, when something like this happens? It even benefited the company.

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