Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: A Review
Always a touchy subject, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals is yet another book which explores the dark underbelly of our food system. Before the birth of his son, like many of us, Safran Foer considered himself to be a part-time vegetarian at best. He knew there was sure what it was. His investigation took him to a stranger’s poultry farm, in the middle of the night, dressed in black. It saw him interviewing farmers, past and present, slaughterhouse workers, members of PETA, cattle ranchers, meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. He even interviewed a vegetarian rancher.
What makes this book different is that it doesn’t have a specific agenda. That is to say, that it does not set out to guilt omnivores into giving up on steak. Meat eaters need not be afraid. Although Eating Animals is, ultimately, an argument for vegetarianism it is not Safran Foer’s only argument. He understands that a move towards global vegetarianism is altogether unrealistic. His fundamental argument is for a “wiser animal agriculture and more honourable omnivory”.
Arguably, what makes this book so interesting is its philosophical approach. Safran Foer includes persuasive arguments from individuals whose ideas are ordinarily in direct conflict with one another. While the differences in opinions do matter to their advocates, ultimately they are on common ground. When compared to arguments that defend factory farming, these differences become immaterial. Readers are not told what to think, nor are they judged on their decisions. They are merely asked to respond. Jonathan Safran Foer says that “not responding is a response – and we are equally responsible for what we don’t do”.
If you are going to read one book on the factory food system, make it this one. It is extremely well-researched and strongly written. It does not judge, nor preach. It is educational, well-balanced and insightful and, hopefully, it will change the way you eat forever.