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Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
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Oct 24, 2010

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Read from October 20 to 25, 2010

A mostly-thoughtful discussion of the ethical and environmental implications of eating animals. There is nothing factually new to me in this book; I have read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal and most of Michael Pollan's oeuvre, and I opted out of the industrial food chain many years ago. And I think I'm not the right audience, because, honestly, I am not disturbed by the question as to whether I would eat dog. Of course I would eat dog. Or cat, even, although not my own.

I appreciate the inclusion of writings by people on both side of the meat debate, but it seems to me that often the argument for carnivory is dismissed without examination. For example, hunting is dismissed: "Some have tried to resolve this gap [the abstraction vs reality of killing an animal for food] by hunting or butchering an animal themselves, as if those experiences might somehow legitimize the endeavor of eating animals. This is very silly....Killing an animal oneself is more often than not a way to forget the problem while pretending to remember."

This is a sweeping trivialization of hunting that is unwarranted and completely ignores the motives of real hunters. Hunting and active fishing (such as spearfishing) makes it very clear to one where that meat comes from. It is also a healthful and environmentally sensible way to eat (although not sustainable for the entire population of the earth, nor practical for urban dwellers). Similarly, the existence of beef and lamb that comes from animals grazed on marginal lands that cannot be farmed, or even the comparison of environmental effects of well-managed grazing vs farming, is waved away.

I agree that factory farming is an environmental and ethical disaster. I disagree that the only solution is vegetarianism. I help butcher the animals my husband shoots during hunting season, and I buy meat only from local ranchers who do not send their animals to feedlots, and I am satisfied with this.
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