I love Jonathan Safran Foer. His Everything is Illuminated (2003) is one of my favourite books ever, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2006) is also a very good read. So when Eating Animals came out, I was naturally on alert, although this time it’s not fiction but reality, and a rather gory one at that. I waited a while until the paperback came out and then another while until I could justifiably go out and buy yet another book – but the other week I finally caved.
As I write this, I’m still under the influence of having just finished his incredibly powerful investigation into the reality of where our meat comes from (or rather, American meat, but the differences to Europe are probably and unfortunately minor).
It’s not just the facts about the treatment of commercially farmed animals and its environmental impact that got me, but also the philosophical considerations Foer shares as he sets out to explore the meat industry in order to find out whether he should raise his son on a vegetarian diet.
Of course, as one would expect, he decides that he should.
One of Foer’s main preoccupations is that despite his own vegetarianism, he supports ethical farming initiatives. This stems from his idea that the choice for (no) meat is an entirely personal decision and he’s just there to help people make an informed choice. So far, so good. But at the same time, he also doesn’t exactly make the choice of becoming an ‘ethical carnivore’ sound attractive, and makes the potential ethical omnivore (including myself) feel quite inferior.
Another concern that I have with the book, as with any ethical living book, is that he is preaching mostly to the converted, or the about-to-be-converted. Most hard-core meat eaters probably wouldn’t even go near it for fear it might make them want to give up their favourite fare, or because they think ethical concerns about eating animals are bullshit in the first place.
Have I made up my mind about my own diet after reading Eating Animals? No. My boyfriend and I are currently trying to reduce our meat consumption and to buy local and family-farm meat by buying from family-owned butchers. The former is going quite well so far, while the latter is not, mostly due to the butchers’ incredibly inconvenient opening hours that are just not suited to the lifestyle of two workaholic academics. For us – especially him, as a Spaniard he previously ate incredible amounts of meat – this is quite a big step. I think we’ll leave it at that for the moment, although I will certainly double my efforts to eat as little meat as possible.
Have you tried eating ethically? Feel free to share your experiences!
German title: Tiere essen
Eating Animals has not been translated to Spanish yet (coincidence? I don’t think so).