To anyone who’s already done a bit of reading on factory farming and animal welfare, Jonathon Safran-Foer’s book Eating Animals is unlikely to say anything all that new, but what it will do is present the old arguments in a new and impassioned way.
Safran-Foer is happy to admit that the arguments against eating animals are deeply subjective, multifaceted and often hypocritical, and this is reflected in the structure of the book itself, where the author’s own polemic is interleaved with often conflicting, personalised accounts from animal rights activists, factory farmers and vegans (among others).
This narrative style lends the book an engaging and readable quality that so many of the more stern treatises on the subject lack, and it’s for this reason—coupled with the author’s already well-established reputation as an author with Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—that I hope Eating Animals will reach as wide an audience as possible.
Buy it. Then read it. And then encourage others to do the same.
Here are some bits that had me reaching pen-ward:
“Not responding is a response—we are equally responsible for what we don’t do. In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers around a knife.”
“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t enough, what is? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience to say not now, then when?”
“However much we obfuscate or ignore it, we know that the factory farm is inhumane in the deepest sense of the word. And we know that there is something that matters in a deep way about the lives we create for the living beings most within our power. Our response to the factory farm is ultimately a test of how we respond to the powerless, to the most distant, to the voiceless—it is a test of how we act when no one is forcing us to act one way or another.”
“When we lift our forks, we hang our hat somewhere. We set ourselves in one relationship or another with farmed animals, farm-workers, national economies and global warming. Not making a decision—eating ‘like everyone else’—is to make the easiest decision, a decision that is increasingly problematic. Without question, in most places and in most times, to decide one’s diet by not deciding—to eat like everyone else—was probably a fine idea. Today, to eat like everyone else is to add another straw to the camel’s back. Our straw might not be the backbreaker, but the act will be repeated—every day of our lives, and perhaps every day of the lives of our children and our children’s children.”