Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is a thoughtful examination of where food, (meat and meat products specifically), come from. Most Americans are quite divorced from the fact that the “meat” in their sandwich, was once an animal. Most of the meat we eat doesn’t even resemble or remind us of its origins. Cold cuts, nuggets, hot dogs, individually frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s easy to eat it and forget, but when what we eat affects our health, the environment, other living creatures, and probably grossly contradicts our beliefs, shouldn’t we take the time to remember?
I have been a meat eater all my life, but I still remember the reluctance I felt as a child, seeing the red juices of a medium rare steak on my plate. “Is it blood?” I asked my mother.
“It’s a steak. It’s meat – just eat it,” she answered, waving a hand in the air.
“But, what animal does it come from?”
My mother’s fork and knife clink loudly against her plate. “We don’t need to discuss THAT at the table. Just eat!”
I’m sure many children have similar memories of the first time they realized that “meat” meant “animal”, and feeling revulsion. But like me, most children are told, “just eat”, and we do.
After reading this book, I don’t think I can “just eat” anymore. If the animals we call food were raised and slaughtered humanely, I think my love of meat would win at the end of the day — but in today’s world of “factory farming” and “agribusiness”, animals are raised not as living creatures, but as a commodity. Little thought is given to the miserable lives and deaths they face. Not to mention how the unnatural hormones and antibiotics the animals are pumped full of, end up in our bodies, adversely affecting our health.
Despite my strong feelings after reading it, Eating Animals is not an outright case for vegetarianism. The author takes pains to represent and research every imaginable aspect of the topic, and fairly so. This book is without a doubt, one of the most important books of the year, and a necessary read for all consumers.
I can’t tell you if a week from now I will conveniently “forget” what I have read, if I will file it away in a quiet part of my mind where I can ignore it so I can enjoy the food I love without guilt – but at this moment in time, I see the book as life changing and it’s hard for me to imagine anyone being able to read the book and continue eating mindlessly, with no thought as to where their food came from, and wrestling with that knowledge.