Jonathan Safran Foer on: Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer

Over this past week The Guardian has been posting extracts from Jonathan Safran Foer‘s first non-fiction book: Eating Animals.

The American author has been an occasional vegetarian (some years vegetarian, some years omnivore, occasionally vegan) since the age of 10.

With the birth of his first child Jonathan pondering the responsibility of making dietary choices on his son’s behalf and he began to urgently explore his eating choices. His journey led to visits to factory farms in the middle of the night, ponderings on favorite meals from his childhood, and the questioning of some of the most elemental questions regarding the morality of eating animals. Combining philosophy, literature, science, memoir, his own detective work, and his personal feelings, Eating Animals examines the different ideas that Americans use to justify their eating habits, and offers a critique of America’s inhumane factory farm system.

Before the extracts there was this first article in which Jonathan Safran Foer took a look at himself and his decision to finally go veggie:

Jonathan Safran Foer: Why I lost my appetite for meat
For years he was happy to be a 'selective omnivore'. So what made the author give up eating meat for good?

“Perhaps the first desire my son Sasha had, wordlessly and before reason, was the desire to eat. Seconds after being born, he was breastfeeding. I watched him with an awe that had no precedent in my life. Without explanation or experience, he knew what to do. Millions of years of evolution had wound the knowledge into him, as it had encoded beating into his tiny heart.

Now, at four, he is able to carry on quite sophisticated conversations, and increasingly the food he and his one-year-old brother Cy eat is digested together with stories we tell. There are thousands of foods on the planet, and the question of why we eat the relatively small selection we do requires some explaining. That the parsley on the plate is for decoration, that pasta is not a “breakfast food”, why we eat wings but not eyes, cows but not dogs.

Children confront us with our paradoxes and hypocrisies, and we are exposed. You need to find an answer for every why – Why do we do this? Why don’t we do that? – and often there isn’t a good one. So you say, simply, because. Or you tell a story that you know isn’t true. And whether or not your face reddens, you blush. The shame of parenthood – which is a good shame – is that we want our children to be more whole than we are, to have satisfactory answers. Having children not only inspired me to reconsider my approach to eating animals, but shamed me into reconsideration.”

» Read the full article

Next up is harder reading for those of you who still do eat meat because it describes in detail on how animals are slaughtered before it becomes that bit of steak/cutlet/fillet/wing on your plate:

Jonathan Safran Foer: How cows become beef
Some of the animals are bled, skinned and dismembered while conscious

It isn’t hard to figure out why the beef industry won’t let even an enthusiastic carnivore near its slaughter facilities. Even in abattoirs where most cattle die quickly, it’s hard to imagine that any day passes in which several animals (tens, hundreds?) don’t meet an end of the most horrifying kind.

» Read the full article

Jonathan Safran Foer: The truth about factory farming
In this disturbing extract from Eating Animals, the novelist reveals the unpalatable truth about factory-farmed poultry

This is a farm

It’s hard to get one’s head around the magnitude of 25,000 or 30,000 birds in one room. You don’t have to see it for yourself to understand that things are packed pretty tight. In its Animal Welfare Guidelines, the US National Chicken Council indicates an appropriate stocking density to be eight-tenths of a square foot per bird. Try to picture it. Find a piece of printer paper and imagine a full-grown bird shaped something like a football with legs standing on it. Imagine 25,000 of these rectangles in a grid. Now enclose the grid with windowless walls and put a ceiling on top. Run in automated (drug-laced) feed, water, heating, and ventilation ­systems. This is a farm.

» Read the full article

Jonathan Safran Foer: the truth about fish farming
In the extract from his book Eating Animals, the novelist reveals how intensive rearing of sea animals in confinement is essentially underwater factory farming

Modern fishing techniques are destroying the ecosystems that sustain more complex vertebrates (such as salmon and tuna), leaving in their wake only the few species that can survive on plants and plankton, if that. As we gobble up the most desired fish, which are usually top-of-the-food-chain carnivores such as tuna and salmon, we eliminate predators and cause a short-lived boom of the species one notch lower on the food chain. We then fish that species into oblivion and move an order lower. The generational speed of the process makes it hard to see the changes (do you know what fish your grandparents ate?), and the fact that catches themselves don’t decline in volume gives a deceptive impression of sustainability.

» Read the full article

Eating Animals website

– Buy the book via the Guardian book shop
– Buy the book via Amazon

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