Eating Animals, a novel written by Jonathan Safran Foer, documents one mans conversion to vegetarianism as he investigates the origins of his meat and the world of factory farming. Although on the surface on may feel that this is another book written by a vegetarian, shaming or ridiculing omnivorous individuals, like me, who enjoy the savory and satisfying flavors of meat. However, I do not feel that this was the goal of Foer’s writing. Rather, though this book, I think he is trying to shed some light many of the negative aspects of our world’s food production system such as the mistreatment of animals that occurs in factory farming and commercial fisheries.
Factory farming and industrial fishing is a mindset. The ultimate goals of these places are reducing production costs to the absolute minimum, ignoring or “externalizing” costs such as, environmental degradation, human disease, or animal suffering. Eventually, due to the high demand of these products, nature becomes an obstacle to overcome. according to Foer, factory farming possibly accounts for more than 99% of all animals used for meat, milk or eggs. As for industrial fishing, we have depleted large predatory fish communities worldwide by at least 90% over the past 50–100 years. It doesn’t help that the so-called “bycatch” is actually much more than the actual fish: typically 80% to 90% (and up to around 98%), which is tossed back (dead) into the ocean.
I personally don’t ever see myself giving up meat because I feel that it is a natural part of the human diet and it is very difficult to acquire all the necessary proteins your body needs by consuming vegetarian and especially vegan diets. However, I agree with Foer’s main point that it is important to know where your food comes from and how and in what conditions the animals you are eating were raised. Not all factory farming is bad just as meat is not bad for your health in the right portions. We should certainly eat less of it, and we should be as humane as possible in weighing up the balance between nutritional need and animal suffering. We need to consider the environmental impacts but we also need to think, in a way Safran Foer never does, about the impact of cheaply available animal proteins upon the mass population, rather than just the affluent middle-class portion of it. Overall, Eating Animals offers up required reading for anyone who strives to be more conscious what they’re eating and practices they are supporting with their food choices.