Eating Animals

I found this book to stand out not only in writing style, but in Foer’s approach to the topic. Emphasizing on realizations and conclusions that people come by as they get older, and further understand or fail to understand where their food comes from. That food is something that was once cherished by people because it wasn’t easy to obtain, and due to this the prominent lack of food wasted by people in the past is almost compelling in comparison with the amount of food waste that is produced now. This idea that Foer mentions in his first chapter that what we eat and what we do not eat is strongly dictated by the “rules” that our parents ate by and that the culture we live in eats by. From personal experience, I have had to eat foods I leave off my diet when in Brazil, due to the availability of foods in Manaus, the culture, and the fact that foods like salads and chicken fingers where not eaten there. They served the same foods for every meal. Cakes, breads, and fruits for breakfast, rice, beans, beef, chicken, fish for lunch and super. Comparing this to the vast variety of foods available to you no matter where you are in the U.S. I found it hard to find those things I liked to eat, and being someone who is by no means vegetarian, but that doesn’t eat fish, rice, or much of any beef (none anymore) it was hard to find enough to eat.

One of the most important issues to me that was brought up in the book was in relation to animal agriculture. I am an avid animal lover. It doesn’t matter what type of animal nor how ugly or slimy or creepy the animal might seem to other people I can still look past that and appreciate that the presence of some animals or insects is comforting that they are finding a way to live even though we are trying our best to keep them at bay. In relation to this book though, the modern industrial animal agriculture, and the amount of waste products, poor treatment, and damage to the environment farming animals becomes at the industrial level. A level where the short term profit is more important than if what you’re doing is sustainable over the long run, and spending less time and money on growing the animals to create a shorter and shorter time span to maturity.

I’m going to assume most people have either watched or at least heard about the documentary that came out a while ago called, Food Inc. One of the milestone achievements in my opinion that people have made in the movement to developing a better way of raising animals for food, by bringing awareness to the poor living conditions and treatment of the farm animals. Personally this is one reason I would like to give up meat, but one of the stronger drivers for me is the environmental cost of raising animals for food. The amount of land, water, and other resources that go into producing one cow for the dairy industry or the beef industry is staggering. The fact that cows are one of the most highly consumed meats in North America and some countries in South America, while also being the most detrimental to the environment provides us with a very unsustainable future. Bellow I have attached a few charts that is used in many ecology classes and environmental classes that deal with the issues with raising animals for the food industry;

energy-required-to-produce-one-pound1

This chart is proof that the energy we are putting into the beef industry is not sustainable at our modern level, and there are also implications of the effects animal agriculture has on climate change;

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The effects the production of beef has on the environment was a string driving force for me when it came to giving it up, but I understand that it might play a much larger role in other people’s diets. That is why I find cows allowed to feed in more sustainable ways, such as by pasture versus corn, and rotating pastures as a much more environmentally conscious approach to raising cattle for the beef industry.

The rest of the book I found interesting due to the style of Foer’s writing, but not nearly as significant on a personal level as the discussion about our approach to eating meat, and its impact on the environment.

-Ashley Tims

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