This has been my favorite book that we have read so far (I can’t necessarily say I enjoyed reading it since I found myself cringing during many parts of the book). I like how honestly Foer rights. He doesn’t have an attitude of reprimand, but understands the complications that go into the decision of being a vegetarian, the effect community (like his college campus, his wife, or whether or not he was out in public or not) has on his vegetarianism. I think the book got harder and harder to read as the facts piled up, but I now feel less removed from the food I have been eating.
1-17: “Food, for her, is not food. It is terror, dignity, gratitude, vengeance, joyfulness, humiliation, religion, history, and, of course, love” (5). Hearing Foer’s grandmother’s struggle food food helped me to become more reflective on my own food waste and wants versus needs.
24-74: It upset me how logical the argument for eating dogs was, because I fully understood the reasoning, but it went against all of my emotions. The lack of laws against animal abuse in the factory farming industry do not make sense, and Foer makes a good point that the animals are treated “… with cruelty so extreme it would be illegal if inflicted on a dog.” I think why dogs are not eaten in many countries comes down to what Foer defined as sentimentality; realistically, all animals deserve the respect we give our companion animals, but emotionally, more people have a real connection with dogs rather than farm animals or fish, so tend to protect dogs more.
30: “If we were to one day encounter a form of life more powerful and intelligent than our own, and it regarded us as we regard fish, what would be our argument against being eaten?” Related to this question, in Environmental Ethics, we had a class activity where half of the class were “Alphas,” aliens who needed to experiment on another life form to stop the spread of a disease, and humans, who defended themselves against being used as test subjects. When the Alphas countered that they would die if they did not experiment on us because we are the only suitable test organism, I found it hard to justify that they shouldn’t kill us, since that is the same rationale Americans, including me in certain cases, use for experimentation on animals. That realization was very humbling and made me wonder if breeding mice, for example, like the alphas wanted to breed humans is ethical. I think if this saves human lives, it can be justified, but at the same time, when I see the experiments in progress I turn away because it does make me feel guilty, much like people ignore the place their food is coming from and much like how Reese felt conflicted upon sending his animals away to be processed. I like how this book challenged me to no longer ignore the cruelty being done to animals in factory farms.
60: “It should provide no more peace of mind than “all-natural,” “fresh,” or “magical.” The juxtaposition of the words the food industry uses like “all-natural” and “fresh” with the word “magical” puts into perspective how the meaning of those words has become something abstract. I found this entire section of definitions very disconcerting because simple words like “intelligence” became more complex and words like “all-natural” that are supposed to hold so much meaning can no longer be trusted. Language is powerful, and big industries are using that power to manipulate buyers. It was also discomforting to hear about the power factory farms hold, over organizations like American Medical Association, CDC, Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization (139).
96-144: Foer was well researched and I appreciated how he gave first-hand accounts from people from a variety of professions. Hearing from the vegetarian rancher and vegan slaughterhouse builder were especially interesting perspectives. He also does a good job of addressing common misconceptions, like the argument that it is necessary to eat animals to obtain enough protein, and portraying both sides of arguments for and against eating animals. It is important to not ignore how effective meat is at delivering a protein diet to those who cannot afford to buy other, more expensive sources of protein. Foer’s explanation of the economics of food and the reality of feeding billions of people really put into perspective an important part of the controversy over eating animals. I had been so focused on the inhumane aspects of a factory farm with respect to animals that I did not consider the inhumane conditions for the factory farm workers (132). It was interesting to hear both sides of the argument about the resources that farming vegetables and farming meat use. I found it shocking that 1/3 of the land surface is used to feed livestock (148) and it seems logical that the grain and soy being used to feed animals (211) could be used more effectively to feed the hungry. I have volunteered at Feed my Starving Children, and they use grains and soy to make nutritious meals (for pennies per meal) to save people who are going hungry around the globe. At the same time, plowing and planting crops also damages the environment, grazing animals help maintain grasslands, and manure can help fertilize soil, but factory farming has taken away these benefits (219). The $26 billion in land degradation due to industrial faming (173), the pollution “…160 times greater than raw municipal sewage” (174) and the illnesses that go along with them (180) were other shocking facts to hear.
262: Foer’s explanations of the seating arrangements around a dinner table reminded me of an event I went to called the Oxfam Hunger Banquet that put into perspective the disparity of wealth around the world. Before we entered the room, we were handed a slip of paper telling us our level of wealth/poverty, which reflected the proportion of wealth distribution throughout the world. We listened to stories of people in that position of social status, and we ate the type of meal that they would have to eat (I was labeled as someone in poverty and sat on the floor to eat rice and beans while others sat at a table with a table cloth, candle and flowers eating steak).
63: What is your definition of “human”?
199: “Where should I respectfully disagree with someone and where, for the sake of deeper values, should I take a stand and ask others to stand with me?”
11: Foer touches throughout the book on the meaning food has for people including health, pleasure, history and values. What does food mean to you?
Here is a link to a website that explains and gives examples of zoonotic pathogens.