To say the content of Eating Animals is thought-provoking to the point of being life-changing would not be an understatement. Anyone intrigued and challenged by what-to-eat quandary needs to read this book.
I fancy myself a conscious citizen. I recycle avidly, I bring a reusable bag for the salad I purchase every day at lunch, I belong to a community-supported agriculture program, I'd rather pay more for food of known origin than settle for whatever they sell at my local grocery store - you get the idea.
When it came to eating meat, though, my consciousness wavered - should I or shouldn't I? In the end, I always gave in: I love sushi. I love anything that comes from a pig. Sometimes a hamburger is the best thing in the entire world.
This struggle is hardly unique to me, and something to appreciate about Eating Animals is that the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, isn't writing to condemn meat-eaters as murderers. Rather, he had the same issues, concerns and oscillations, and this book was a chance for him to explore what the right decision for him was and what the right decision for our world should be.
There are many reasons why we should not eat meat, and while JSF doesn't have any arguments for abstaining that someone who's pondered the should-I-or-shouldn't-I question (or someone who's read The Omnivore's Dilemma) hasn't heard before, they are all worthy of hearing again: There's the obvious and abominable cruelty to animals both in their lives and their deaths, the horrifically low standards of cleanliness at slaughterhouses, the ecological and environmental damage, the agriculture conglomerates' concern for profit over ethics - the list can easily go on.
We've established why we should not eat meat, so let's quickly review they arguments for why we should: 1. It tastes good. 2. It's natural to eat meat - humans have been doing it for millions of years.
The book's response, which I wholeheartedly agree with, is as follows:
1. Sex feels good, but we don't condone raping people to get our fix. Why should we condone violence and cruelty just because we want a grilled chicken for dinner?
2. There's absolutely nothing natural about either a) the animals produced at factory farms or b) the methods by which the animals are bred, raised or slaughtered.
I don't have a counterargument for either of these points.
That said, the commitment to vegetarianism isn't easy, especially because not all meat is the same. Well, 99% of it is - but what about the farmers, small in numbers though they may be, who raise their animals ethically? I'm not sure I see anything wrong with eating their animals.
The question of non-meat animal items also arises. Think of how many things eggs are in. Do I really want vegan cake on my next birthday? And what about cheese? I just read that cheese is third-largest agricultural contributor to global warming, right after beef and lamb. Should cheese be stricken from my diet, too?
So where, then, does responsible eating end? Clearly, this is an issue I'll continue to struggle with.
Side note: As for an actual review of the book, it's not happening. Message = trump card.