Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer: Max Kerns


I found Eating Animals to be a great read for anyone that has ever even slightly thought about the food they consume on a daily basis.  It is highly entertaining and resembles the sort of stories one might tall around the dinner table. However, I should warn, this book and food tend not to go together. It is honest and blunt at times but keep the reader actively engaged even when they might not want to be. The dialogue that starts with a new father, concerned for his child, unleashes a journey into the world of factory farms, animal cruelty, and general production of food for the masses. It even goes as far as, to try to explain some of the deep rooted issues we have when it comes to our own consumption of meat. The book suggests that in the end when thinking about food, the almost logical discourse is one of vegetarianism, though it even suggests that the book is not a straightforward case. What the author opens is a dialogue that many can discuss and understand. The systems in place are far from perfect and reading this book helps the individual gain some insight to their own consumption of food with the implications it has on a much larger scale.


I have decided to do my discussions a little different this week as the book covers so many different ideas and topics. I will be using a bit bigger of a brush and apologize if anyone is offended. This is something I have always thought about throughout my life and have questions.


 I was and have been an on and off again vegetarian since I was a very young child. I was even really extreme two times in my life and was strict vegan the longest run was about 3 years.


I do believe that as a member of the human race we should treat animals with better care and conditions. Below are some exploratory questions that I pose in order to better understand my personal ideas.


Some things the book made me think about: (I would like to add this is a very rough draft for ideas for a class discussion, this book made me think quite a bit on the idea of eating animals. I would like to come back to better organize these thoughts, but if you proceed to read this, know these are thoughts simply that came from the ideas in the book.)


Does my dog love me? Or am I in a symbiotic relationship with a food begger..


In several ideas / concepts in the books we are given an idea that eating meat it barbaric, in round about ways, one of the most profound to me was “a case for eating dogs”. I always find it interesting that dog becomes on the most widely used examples when it comes to eating meat vs not eating meat. It is very interesting that every culture has its own taboos on which animals to eat and which we do not eat. Is this something that happens only when a society has options? I am not so sure that pioneers or humans living off the land gave much thought to eating to surviving. So I am curious if this is typically branded from a more modern perspective. I know many religious teachings have implications as well.


So I was thinking as I was lying in bed about my dog and I. Loki has been a wonderful addition and I found the ideas surrounding humane societies, using euthanized dogs and cats to feed farm animals very interesting. I also found it interesting that the author suggests we pull out the middle man and just serve dog, though tongue in cheek.


As I was more over thinking about my best friend I started to wonder if he has the same questions. I am pretty sure he has mapped out how long we would be locked in a house with no food before he turned on me. I would like to think that he has a higher sense of being. However, at the end of the day if I was dead, and he had no food, I am pretty positive he would do what he had to do. This is not much worse than my own thoughts of if it came down to my own survival would I eat my own dog? I would like to think I was above it. However I do not ever recall a time in my life, with food so readily available, ever being so hungry that I myself would have to act on instinct. The different here is, though my dog may be sad or upset I am gone, I am not sure he would feel remorse for eating me. I on the other hand would have an intense guilt for eating my dog. SO, maybe that is why there is a disconnect on the idea of consumption. Possibly we do not want to have these complex ideas come up every time we shove something into our mouths.


 Something about meat?


I have always been interested that when I am a vegan or vegetarian why it upsets so many people. I have never rallied or discussed someone else’s eating habits. I just chose for myself. Then as I talk to people they will inevitably find out there becomes this hostile conversation. Why do you not eat meat? That’s crazy? Humans have sharp teeth for a reason? Then they go on to try and entice me back to eating meat, MMMMM, this steak is so juicy and tender. It really seems odd to me that there is something almost inherent of humans in this way. Why would anyone give a shit what I eat it is not on their plate. (I do not argue because it is often wasted) I will say that is was funny when I was vegan I always cooked thanksgiving dinner. 2 Birds and eight hours later, I still cooked out of tradition for the family, though I added a variety of vegan dishes. I did not tell people that the mac and cheese was vegan, or the potato salad, or even the brownies. Though my mom had to leak it after everyone had their first plate. Then everyone became a detective and tried to decide what they could eat and what they wouldn’t eat, as a stand to all meat eaters. The vegan stuff was not bad for them, they just didn’t want anything to do with it.


Food and sex:


I also find it funny that after years of working in the restaurant industry the way the sexes eat. Par example, when a man and women on a first date go to a restaurant, the man normally orders steak or a burger, and the women normally has a salad. I have seen this time and time again. Is this meat thing driven by an alpha male genetic idea? Women also tend to when not “really” friends play into these roles, oh I want a steak, but I will just have the salad, and the boss lady orders the meat and they all giggle and say oh your being so bad. When a man is in a group of men and orders a salad he is an “insert not so friendly word here” and when men are together there always seems to be a food challenge. So is there a hierarchy of meat?




How rare does it need to be to excite?  Just another curiosity I have, there seems to be this excitement to meat and blood. Does it remind one of the fight verse beast? I know that in my humble lifetime I have seen numerous accounts of people reacting oddly to rare food. Even a little too excited. One of my friends used to tell me when he was hunting that when he killed a deer he would cut a piece from it to taste the fresh kill. We are no longer friends but I always wondered why? I mean there has to be a blood connection here somewhere or there would not be overwhelming sells of vampire related stuff. Is there something about being the top of the food chain? Is it the desire to be beast like? I am unsure. I mean why do people spend hours watching the majestic cheetah take down the gazelle. Does it go to something deeper in the human condition a sadistic nature? Is it equally upsetting when a bear mauls a person, as when a person kills a bear?


Food Factories:


I think we can all agree they are bullshit. However, maybe what should be called into question is the way we eat really being the bullshit part of it more so than the practice. It is all supply vs demand after all. So in my head when I logically think about my food consumption, I think how different it must be from the typical food consumption of my grandparents and great grandparents. I look at how they ate. Normally meat was purchased to last much longer. You would purchase a part of an animal that normally included the skin and bone. Meat was not eaten at every meal, though different parts were used. The entire part of the animal had some use. Normally in my mind from being small, meat was eaten as a main course on special night normally the weekends, then the rest of the week a stock as used in various other ways to feed the family. I do not think it was ever assumed that one would eat an animal at every meal. There is also a difference when someone has to slaughter the family cow to survive versus a 5 minute exchange at any of the various fast food venues.


I also think it is odd that we condemn the behavior of worker in the factory farms, and before you go crazy, please hear me out. I understand that the violent acts the do seem crazy to anyone not working in a food factory. I can only imagine the conditions that these humans work in. It would only seem appropriate that if the conditions the animals live in is detestable than the working conditions could not be much better. I also think working in these conditions, the smells, the sounds, the ideas of coming face to face with what you eat has to have a toll on any individual. I helped one of my grandfather castrate a baby pig, and believe me the scream is something I still remember quite vividly. There has to be some sort of disconnect.


Also in addition, how humane is humane? How softly does one kill the animal? Does one lay it down and sing it to death while we feathering its belly? It is silly to me that we make examples out of workers that are destroying these animals for fun, but have no regret sending the burger or steak or chicken or tuna back that was not made to perfection, because everyone attached to the food network knows what perfection is. That meat was not given a goof life and killed for nourishment, it had one bite taken out of it and thrown in a garbage can and a new life was taken. The numerous amount of food that is thrown away just because one wants a taste of it is also a factor.


So riddle me this, if you are taking the animals life via a wood chipper that doesn’t always get the job done on first pass, or by stomping its head into a concrete block, what is the difference? It just seems to me that if I am not the one taking the animals life for my consumption with my own two hands, then I should not be surprised if someone else does it in a manner that I disagree with. Sorry this is just my belief.


Population is the real issue:


When the dialogue goes to vegetarianism I always wonder about the plants as being living things as well. I also wonder more about the dialogue of eating plants only vs meat. It seems to me that there is likely still some balance. I read about how much food could be made with fields that if we didn’t use them for grazing. However, I never truly understand this point and might be somewhat ignorant. It only seems to me that I do not graze constantly. There is a bit of science to the amount of consumption that needs to be done by a human to perform certain activities. I consume for energy. I am pretty sure that grazing on a field of grass is not going to work as an alternative. Now I also know that there are plants that I can eat that are very vitamin rich and other sources of protein in the plant kingdom. Though to feed the mass of people, would there not still need to be fields placed? This leads to less biodiversity and cutting of trees. If we speed this process up and say either we ate all the animals, or went to a vegetarian diet. With the way the population is growing wouldn’t we still need to do the same things? Would there not be outcry in the future to save the green? As that is already a concern? So is the real question we are posing here one of responsibility of the human population. I think that is a much more important question and one that unfortunately opens another dialogue altogether.


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