A Discussion of “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

By ROBERTA AND REBECCA KELLER

The entirety of Eating Animals is devoted to providing convincing arguments that support not only the ethical treatment of animals, but more so the benefits of vegetarianism in every aspect of society.  The book begins with an extremely affecting story that leads the audience to question all of their beliefs about why we eat what we do.  Foer explains that as a child, his grandmother continually associated weight with health, and eating as much as possible became a ritual of every visit to his grandmother.  She would hoard food that would never be used, make the same recipies time after time, and, most notably, narrate the importance of food from the perspective of someone who had been through the hardships of starvation.  With his grandmother’s stories in mind, the author was able to personally come to the realization that food is a culture, and in doing so admit that America’s food culture borderlines scary.  In fact, Foer argues this further with a telling illustration of the fact that Americans choose to eat less than .25% of the known edible food on the planet, while large populations of the world are starving.  

One of my personal favorite sections of the book is an in-depth analysis questioning why America as a society does not eat dogs.  Dogs, though regarded as pets in the United States, are delicacies in certain cultures.  They are just as intelligent as a pig, yet eating a dog is extremely taboo.  Meanwhile, an alarming number of dogs are euthanized every year, and then buried.  He argues that this is a waste, as is so much of the factory farming industry, because animals are being killed and not used to feed those in need.  

Foer uses this as an opening to the topic of factory farming.  A very large portion of the book is dedicated to Foer’s personal experiences with factory farms.  In order to convey the severity of animal abuse, Foer describes his trips, many of them illegal, to farms across America in vivid detail. One of the most influential stories describes one of Foer’s escapades to a factory farm where he was able to witness the terrifying conditions that the average factory farm raises chickens in.  The livestock are fed a variety of mostly inedible objects along with a slew of antibiotics.  It has gotten to the point where antibiotics are necessary to keep the animals alive.  These factory farmed animals cannot produce on their own, many are not able to walk or fly as they should, and nearly all of them are abused and treated unethically throughout their entire lives.  This is just a grossly understated example of the information the novel is devoted to sharing.

The present food industry may be producing more food now than ever, but besides this fact, nearly every part of the industry is going downhill, specifically the meat producing industry.  Another extremely impacting account in the book compares our fishing industry to war, and with quality evidence.  Fishermen use the same technology that is used to search in underwater bombing equipment to find, capture, and kill millions of fish every year.  An alarming number of these fish are actually just bycatch that are unnecessarily slaughtered.  Yet, in this war, Foer argues that we are destroying an enemy that is defenseless against us, an enemy who has done us no harm, for a few seconds of pleasurable consumption.  The overarching theme that the author is trying to convey is defended well in these examples.  If we as a society do not empathize with the animals, including ourselves, it can only get worse.