by Adrian Adamo
The day I first heard of Jonathon Safran Foer’s Eating Animals started out just like any other normal day. I got home from a long day at work, flopped on the couch, and flipped on the T.V. to see who or what was dancing with Ellen on her show today. To my surprise, it was Anne Hathaway, and she didn’t seem to be in the dancing mood. She was very serious, and was talking with Ellen earnestly about this book she had read that changed her life forever. She was insistent that we go out immediately and read Jonathon Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, something she made seem like a life or death situation. I’m pretty sure she was actually there to promote a movie or something, but she obviously didn’t do a stellar job of that seeing as I can’t even remember the name of the film. She just kept yapping on about this book, to the point where I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Normally, I’m wired to ignore such heinous advice to turn off the T.V. and go buy a book, but when the crown princess of Genovia tells you to do something, you do it.
From the description of the book by many urgent celebrities and book reviewers, I knew Eating Animals told of the horrors of factory farming and the moral dilemma that meat-eating has become for an increasing amount of people. A longtime omnivore, I struggled with the prospects of reading such a book. I know myself. I cried in the first ten minutes of Food, Inc. An animal lover from birth, I knew I could easily be swayed to forgo meat altogether if I was exposed to the truth. At the same time, there’s never been a time I didn’t love eating meat. I’ve been known to ribs for breakfast, for goodness sake. I don’t know if it even gets any more dedicated than that. To add insult to injury, it was summer, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to give up cookouts or burgers or the famous grilled chicken salads my dad made for us outside on the picnic table.
Nevertheless, as you’ll soon come to realize, the book nerd in me usually wins out, and this time was no different; I dived into Eating Animals with as much enthusiasm as I would have a juicy steak. Immediately, I was both disgusted and intrigued by this book. At any point in time you could find me gagging at the graphic descriptions of the horrors taking place to animals in factory farms, or telling all of my friends/family/strangers on the street about the benefits of family farms.
The reason this book is so engaging is that it is written in a real person’s point of view. Jonathon Safran Foer isn’t some stuffy old philosopher fiddling with his monocle and lecturing us on the morality of eating meat. Foer makes a point to mention his struggles with his herbivore lifestyle. He talks openly about his relationship with food, from his childhood eating literally everything placed in front of him, to slipping up on a vegetarian diet many times, to where he is today. He spent years doing research on the American meat industry; from supervised visits of both family and factory farms, to badass break-ins on the most cruel factory farms in our country. Foer is honest about how seeing the suffering the animals go through affected him, which in turn brings the reader in to trust his judgment.
To be fair, this book is not for the faint of heart (or stomach, for that matter). Once you read exactly the manner in which baby chicks lose their beaks to prepare them for being killed, or the number of turkeys per year that are bred literally to die for our Thanksgiving meal (never having see the sun or even been able to turn around in a cage before having their beaks severed off with a hot blade and no painkillers, being thrown into a truck with no food or water and driven to a slaughterhouse) or the inhumanity thrust upon pigs and cattle as they are literally tortured hours before being slaughtered for no reason, you may think twice about your moral choices in what you put into your body.
But the morality issue is not the only issue with factory farming Foer touches upon. Even if after all that you still choose to eat meat, Foer makes a case for the chemicals literally pumped into these animals to prep them for the American meat market. Chemicals we never would allow near us, not to mention in us, had we known. Normally, we don’t choose to eat steroids, or other toxins, but we do, unknowingly, every day, if we eat meat that is literally mass produced in factory farms. He argues for the health of the American people, whose crime is mostly merely ignorance.
But by reading this book, one can claim ignorance no longer. Eating Animals opens the eyes of every reader to a disgusting and cruel system that disregards the lives of both animals and the humans they feed. This book is an absolute must-read to educate oneself on the horrors of one the biggest industries in our country today, and the food we willingly put into our bodies on a daily basis.
It may sound hypocritical, but I still eat meat long after reading this book. I know many that have, and I know many that haven’t. I don’t think, however, that that was Foer’s goal. He isn’t asking for a complete stave off of meat from the American people, it simply isn’t realistic. He is asking for people to educate themselves on the horrors of what is happening under their very noses, and to make a conscious decision about where and how they get the food that they allow into their bodies. While I personally could not give up meat forever at this point in my life, it does make me wonder where the meat comes from that I eat on a daily basis here at school. Having read Foer’s book, I can probably guess, and I wish I didn’t want to know.