I think every American should read Foer’s Eating Animals. The book is insightful, not too preachy, factually based (although, I’m certainly biased to agree with things he proposes), offers a pretty well rounded perspective, and is well arranged and readable. It’s easy not to think about where food comes from, but Foer’s familial and cultural connections to food made him especially curious about the origins of the meat he eats. I think deep down, we all have those sorts of connections to food. Most people consider food a part of their lives that holds meaning – and rightfully so, we need it to survive, but eating is much more than that.
Most people have heard about animal abuse and inhumane conditions in “farms,” maybe they’ve even seen videos on the news. But it’s easy to allow yourself to be disconnected from these activities, even to think that those circumstances are isolated. I think the main value of Eating Animals for me is in the way Foer breaks down the realities of animal’s lives and conveys how de-animalizing (like.. dehumanizing!) current animal raising and slaughter practices are. I first read this book in high school after some seriously eye opening conversations with some vegetarian family members and close friends. I stopped eating meat around that time, and have been more or less vegetarian for about three and half years now. Since then, I’ve developed a less rigid perspective on vegetarianism than I’d held before. This works for me because I still feel good about how I eat, but also don’t feel that I’m missing out on much. Rereading this book after several years was a reminder that the food choices I make still aren’t perfect. Reading what Foer had to say about his early vegetarianism, I wonder if that’s the stage I’m in now…
I eat eggs and dairy products, but rereading this book was a clear reminder that the lives of the chickens and cows those foods come from are still miserable. Because I haven’t been actually eating meat, it was easy for me to think I was doing my part to reduce suffering in the world somehow. In some ways, I still feel that way, but the lives of “layers” are just as manipulated and unpleasant as any other factory farmed animal’s life is from the day they’re born to the day they die.
The most challenging part of reading this book for me is that I really struggle to understand how such twisted practices could come about. People do care about what happens to animals and want to respect them – at least, I’d like to believe they do. But, it’s easier to raise and slaughter them in ways that don’t acknowledge the respect they deserve. It’s easier to sweep abusive practices under the rug. It’s easier to claim that all of the wrongdoings of the industry are necessary to feed the world. I’m still wrestling with these ideas, so I’m looking forward to what our class discussions can illuminate about them..