I thought that Eating Animals had an interesting take on the discussion of vegetarianism, but it mostly focused on whether it was humane and whether you could stomach (nudge nudge) the practices that the meat industry utilizes, rather than the actual impact that the meat and dairy industry have on the environment.
One thing that I thought was interesting was the idea that nobody really anthropomorphized animals and kept them as companions until there was a middle class, when, like the discussion from last week about gardens, they became a sign of extravagance and accomplishment. This was interesting because it’s like the idea that gardens are like small farms, and pets are like small scale livestock, but we get no real use out of these like we do, farms and livestock, and put a lot of money into them and their care. I was on the other hand shocked by the ecological impact of euthanized dogs, and for that matter, the amount of discarded livestock animals. Neither of these were things I didn’t know about, they were just things I never thought about that have a really large impact on the environment.
I thought that Foer’s story about his son at the aquarium and realizing that the aquarium didn’t give him as much joy as it once did because he knew more about the aquarium trade and its ecological impacts was very similar to my experience with zoos. When I was younger I loved going to the zoo, seeing the animals that I always wanted to see in the wild, but through volunteering at the zoo and learning more and more about different conservation methods, I have seen the disinterest and boredom that many of the animals experience from being kept in a cage, and have, like Foer, imagined myself in their place, and I think that companies like zoos, that have such an integral role in the education of future generations about animal welfare, have a duty to treat the animals better.
Something I think Foer did a good job of bringing up was that there is a large lack of knowledge as to where people’s food comes from, and a large amount of misinformation and misinterpretations about the food choices that are healthy and what the body needs to survive, as well as confusion around words like “natural” and “organic” and their implications. On the other hand, there is a lot of misinformation about factory farms and what they look like, Foer adds to this misinformation, he goes to the worst of the worst factory farms and describes the worst of the worst factory farms. There are many “factory farms” that don’t look anything like the ones he described. This is not to say that the ones he describes are not abundant or that the practices he talked about don’t take place, it’s just important that people get the real picture and not the biased one, and Foer definitely describes a biased picture.
Something that he brings up that I found odd was the lack in change of price of dairy and meat products in the last 50 years despite the increase in demand, and how this is due to the more “efficient” practices being used in regards to the growth of the animals and the lack of care for the individuals. I didn’t know that there was such a small difference in prices over that time, but it doesn’t surprise me because meat and dairy industries have such a large impact in the government and can basically do and say what they want without repercussions.
I would have been interested in learning more about the actual numbers related to the ecological impact of livestock, but that wasn’t Foer’s point in writing the book.