First of all, this is an incredibly well-written book. Its pacing and organization are spot-on, and the language is beautiful and engaging. I'm sure tFirst of all, this is an incredibly well-written book. Its pacing and organization are spot-on, and the language is beautiful and engaging. I'm sure there were a billion more related points/stories Mooallem could have integrated, and I'd be willing to bet he did tons of research he didn't end up including. I'm sure it was hard to decide what belonged and what didn't. The end result feels right-sized.
Second, it was just so interesting! There are not many nonfiction books that, upon finishing, make me want to turn right back to the first page and start rereading; this one did....more
99% of all land animals eaten or used to produce milk and eggs in the United States are factory farmed. I can understand arguments on both/many sides99% of all land animals eaten or used to produce milk and eggs in the United States are factory farmed. I can understand arguments on both/many sides of the issue of eating meat *in theory* (I really can!), but I can’t find any to justify the way we’re currently doing it. Food choices are tied to very legit emotional, traditional and cultural factors, which Foer explores in the book, and so discussions about them can rile people up like very few other issues. Although the book focuses largely on animal welfare issues, even people who don’t care about animals should read it to learn about the many-faceted reasons it’s important for us all to opt out of the factory farm system.
If you care about the environment, read it to learn why animal agriculture is the #1 cause of climate change, making a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined.
If you care about hunger, read the ways in which 1/3 of the planet is dedicated to livestock, or how 98% of the global soy crop as well as 756 million tons of grain and corn per year is fed to farmed animals instead of people.
If you care about the ocean or biodiversity, read it to discover how 4.5 million sea animals are killed as bycatch in longline fishing every year, including roughly 3.3 million sharks, 1 million marlins, 60,000 sea turtles, 75,000 albatross, and 20,000 dolphins and whales, and how it is routine for trawling operations to throw more than 90 percent of captured sea animals, dead, back into the ocean.
If you care about economic injustice, read it for the ways in which the handful of companies controlling meat production are consolidating power and money into the hands of a few by trampling family farms and rural communities, and rewriting laws to justify their greed.
If you care about human rights, read it to understand the unacceptable conditions for workers in industrial meat production (which, again, is 99+% of meat production in the U.S.).
If you care about public health, read it to understand why the WHO, OIE and USDA report that industrial farming is creating perfect conditions for a global pandemic similar to the 1918 flu, or how it is erasing the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans.
If you care about clean water, read it for the ways in which the 87,000 pounds of shit per second produced by farmed animals in the U.S.have already polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states.
But focusing on these numbers in my review is doing a disservice to the ethos of the book, which is about storytelling rather than statistics, and giving a voice to people on all sides of the issue. Fifty years ago Foer might have come to different conclusions about the moral question of eating animals, but the rapid proliferation of factory farming has changed us and our environment in unprecedented ways and it is the duty of U.S. citizens to become informed.
A side note to pescatarians, or vegetarians who occasionally eat fish: I learned a lot in this book about how even the threadbare laws that sometimes provide a modicum of oversight to the way a beef cow lives and dies do not apply at all to either farmed fish or wild-caught fish. “Although one can realistically expect that at least some percentage of cows and pigs are slaughtered with speed and care, no fish gets a good death. Not a single one. You never have to wonder if the fish on your plate had to suffer. It did." (193)...more