Jonathan Safran Foer’s first nonfiction book explores the philosophy, practicality, and all-around cultural reasoning behind eating meat. An on-again, off-again vegetarian for years, Foer tackles the questions of dietary consciousnesses after the birth of his son. Faced with making dietary decisions for his first child, Foer begins his journey into contemplating, with a genuine curiosity, the consumption of meat, putting the question as honestly to himself as to his reader.
For much of the book, Foer maintains a fairly moderate voice with regards to the practice of eating meat, balancing descriptions of his grandmother’s signature chicken dish, which he will always remember having enjoyed as a child, with his first realization that the meat on his plate was once a living animal.
For his interviews, Foer thoughtfully chooses complex individuals whose relationship with meat is not exactly black and white, such as a vegetarian who raises animals for slaughter, a vegan who builds slaughterhouses, and a young animal activist who sneaks into farms to put suffering animals out of their misery. Foer includes letters from various workers in the meat industry, many of them deeply troubled by the numerous violations of humane slaughter laws that they have witnessed. Hairs are proverbially split between various activist camps as Foer explores the difference between animal rights and animal welfare advocates. Through his own research and toured visits, Foer exposes the lies about animal welfare that are perpetuated under terms like “cage free,” “free range,” and “organic.”
Many factors of our now completely meat-dependent society are addressed in detail: the environmental dangers of our continuous consumption, the poor quality of our meat relative to that of previous generations, and why meat prices are able to remain comparatively low.
Eating Animals is a well-crafted meditation on right and wrong that doesn’t rest on the opinion of the radical animal activist or the consistent carnivore. Foer raises more questions than he answers, particularly about the stories we tell with the food we choose and what we owe to the health of our children.
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