I have not mentioned this before, but as of new years day 2012 I have been a devout pescetarian. A lifestyle choice seemingly so unknown, Microsoft Word’s spellchecker does not think it is a word. As a reward for lasting four months, last weekend I decided to read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. The book is recommended by a number of notable reviews, and there are even some stories on the Internet claiming it was responsible for Natalie Portman becoming Vegan. I figured it would help me reaffirm my convictions, and possibly give me some ammunition to try and convert my mother. However, it has taken me a step beyond that. I think I might be ready to become a full vegetarian.
Eating Animals can best be classified as a mixture between a memoir and investigation, as Foer takes us through the knowledge he gleaned while researching what he should feed his newly born son. It is absolutely packed with details of the operations of commercial sea fishing, farmed fishing, and the factory farming of chickens, pigs and cows. Foer provides sometimes-gruesome details of the inner workings of factory farming and slaughterhouses (using both his and other first hand accounts). But he also goes on to find (and contrast) what he deems to be more “moral” methods of farming, and provides a few examples and case studies of farms attempting to do the right thing by animals. Foer’s detailed investigation and analysis is also punctuated by a few absolutely thought provoking letters (both for and against) that were sent to him by members of the farming industry.
Foer describes, in vivid detail, his experiences breaking into a turkey farm, and at a slaughterhouse. He ponders the question of why some animals are ok to be eaten, while others are not. He ponders why some animals are ok to be mistreated while others are not. He highlights the similarities between some much-loved animals, such as our family pets and the (now deceased) famous Berlin Zoo polar bear Knut, and the animals that we eat. Foer ponders why so many fail to take action against the gigantic ecological disaster that is factory farming, or the increased risk of bird and swine diseases becoming immune to medication before being transmitted to humans. All in all, I took more than 15 pages of notes out of this book.
Overall it cannot be escaped that Foer is a vegetarian, and despite giving a fair shake to a few of the farmers that he visited, his disgust shines clear. Personally, I became a pescetarian because I was sick of the idea that an animal had to live (read: suffer) and then die, purely that I could enjoy myself for a few moments. Overall I have nothing against the idea of killing animals to eat them, I had a problem with animals suffering for a long period of time so I could enjoy myself for a short period of time. I decided that I could continue to eat fish because for the most part the fish I eat (Tuna) comes from the ocean, where they do get to live normal lives. However, Foer pulled the wool from my eyes, and showed me that fish do in fact suffer enormously whether they are farmed or not. I have to have a long think now whether or not I can continue to eat fish in good conscience.
I would recommend this book to anyone, and in fact have already done so. Within half an hour of completing this book I had already sent an email to my mother, urging her to read it. I was almost 80% of the way towards being a vegetarian, and even I read things that absolutely astounded, shocked and disgusted me. This is precisely the wake up call many people need.
I will leave you with this quote from the book:
“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 motivating, what would be? 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?”
Title: Eating Animals
Genre: Food, Vegetarianism, and Morality
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Pages: Est. 353 pages (Kindle)
Amazon Price (Kindle Single): $9.68 (AUD)
Josh’s Rating: 4/5