Anytime I see a book with a title akin to something like Eating Animals, I get nervous. Nervous because I presume that this is going to one of those fear type of books, similar to those food documentaries like Super Size Me or Food Inc. We’ve all seen books or documentaries like that. The type of documentaries try to scare or guilt you into changing your habits. Are these documentaries and books mmotivational through their use of fear? Yes. Do they make constructive arguments? Sometimes. They can give many interesting, gruesome facts, but I tend to see the main argument as pointed finger telling us how cruel and terrible we are. I don’t know, maybe I’m just pessimistic about pessimistic media.
Luckily for me, this book made it clear through the introduction and first few chapters that this was not going to be that type of book. Jonathan Safran Foer begins with a story about his grandmother and how her struggles fit in with her ideas about eating in the present. Instead of going right away into how our food industries are a moral, environmental disaster and instead shows how our own history impacts how food is used now a days. World hunger has always been a big deal in our culture. In the past, most families lived on small amounts of food, food that was often low in quality. So those blue-collar farmers, workers and those in positions of power (and didn’t abuse it) saw these problems and wanted to keep their children and their children’s children never have to worry about where their next meal would come from. So changes in the way food is produced changed to reflect that. We found more efficient ways to create large amounts of food as well as efficient ways to ship and sell it. This history is why Jonathan’s grandmother constantly weighed him, to make sure he was getting enough food. With the advent of efficient farming methods, all we want are larger portions since we know it can be created. We want to follow food trends, we want interesting, exotic food combinations along with the food we’re used to. Our quest for greater food production has also made our way of getting it morally controversial. Jonathan has thought this way too which accounts for the many times he has justified a life style of veganism and meat-eating.
Yes, I completely agree that the methods of animal agriculture has many, many problems. Large, industrial animal farms are terrible and hearing about it makes me sick and we need to change this immediately. We feed our animals antibiotics and other drugs that make them sick just so that, by the end of their short, miserable life, the meat will be healthy for humans (at least that’s the goal). We are also very wasteful with the food we do eat. However, I am still not a proponent of veganism for I believe that meat is essential for a healthy and balanced life style. We are omnivores, we eat both meat and plants. Our bodies went through evolution for that opportunity. It’s useful for muscle growth. While there are ways that we can gain protein through vegan meals, it would never fully compensate for the protien, iron, and other benefits meats can give. What I do believe in is that for the health of our planet and the sake of the intelligent animals we eat, that they be raised with respect and not in such bulky numbers. While I believe we need meat to be healthy, we don’t need a lot of food. If food portions in countries like the U.S. decrease, then there is plenty of food for everyone if it’s portioned out correctly. These changes are unlikely to happen, especially to those whose greed out ways their own morals.
The news that I found this week was an article written by an advocate of the food and agriculture program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. The article is about comapnies that have or have promised to use less or no antibiotics on chickens. This step forwards in livestock harvesting was promoted through conciese buyers of antibiotic fed chicken. Now their is a call for turkey, pork, and beef producers to do the same.