For most of my life, eating meat was the most normal thing in the world. You said your prayers before you went to sleep, you raised your hand in school, and you ate that turkey sandwich for lunch.
Of course, there were times as a kid when I asked my parents about whether it was “mean” to “eat a dead cow,” but this was usually shut down with “don’t talk about that at the dinner table.” Or, the day I announced around age 9 that I didn’t want to eat the chicken my mother made for dinner because I thought it was wrong, “well, good luck making your own dinner.”
I always knew, as did the rest of my family, and anyone else who eats meat, that what we were putting in our mouths were pieces of dead animal. Gross to think about, sure, but, I thought, it’s only natural to eat animals. The food chain, right?
When I pictured the lives of the cows, chickens, pigs, or whatever that lived before they made it onto my plate, I had a vague notion of an idyllic farm, with pastures, green grass, and of course, the inevitable slaughter– but quick and humane, a necessary evil. Perhaps reminiscent of scenes from Little House on the Prairie. Every so often I’d overheard a passing remark about how “you don’t want to know how meat is processed”, but I brushed it off– it couldn’t be wrong to eat meat, clearly it was no big deal. After all, it was normal. Everyone did it. You NEED it for protein. And my family bought cage-free eggs!
But then I learned the truth. I only learned this truth recently, very recently, in fact, just a few months ago, and ever since I have learned it, the thought of eating animal products causes me to feel sick to my stomach.
It turns out that the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of animals raised for food live out their lives in horrifying conditions on factory farms, genetically engineered to grotesquely unnatural degrees, packed into tiny spaces, before they are murdered in gruesome ways. And apparently, no one is aware, or they just don’t care –> or they can suspend their empathy just enough to enjoy that slice of bacon with just a twinge of guilt.
Imagine my shock when the veil of cognitive dissonance was lifted and I realized that in a society where we profess to abhor animal cruelty, detest those who abuse their pets and observe with patronizing adoration farm animals in petting zoos, simultaneously implicitly endorse the systemic torture of millions of animals every single day and that all those ethical labels don’t mean a thing. Imagine how horrified I was when I realized the thousands of deli sandwiches I’ve eaten in my life and the sadistic industry I was fueling in all of my blissful innocence!
About the Book
Title: Eating Animals
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis (from Goodreads) (truncated):
“Faced with the prospect of being unable to explain why we eat some animals and not others, Foer set out to explore the origins of many eating traditions and the fictions involved with creating them. Traveling to the darkest corners of our dining habits, Foer raises the unspoken question behind every fish we eat, every chicken we fry, and every burger we grill.“
I never seriously considered veganism or vegetarianism throughout most of my life, unconsciously absorbing the negative propaganda and ridicule about hippie vegans and whatnot throughout media and popular culture. But the meat industry (just like the abortion industry, but I digress) is one of those things where, until you REALLY contemplate it, it seems normal and necessary and not bad. But then when you start to think about it, then it seems more and more morally untenable. And then when you research it, it becomes hard to believe the truth was right under your nose this entire time.
I will have to get on my soapbox another time to dive more into my thoughts, but for now, I want to focus on this book review. In Eating Animals, Foer attempts to answer that age-old question: is it okay to eat animals?
Throughout the course of the book, though, it becomes apparent, in my opinion at least, that the issue of whether or not to eat meat can be split into distinct moral dilemmas. Deciding it’s morally wrong to eat factory-farmed meat is different from deciding it’s wrong to eat meat at all. I’m still deciding where I am on that second moral quandary, but as for factory-farmed meat, which is around 99% of all meat (and dairy, and eggs) that you eat– I think it’s definitely wrong to eat it.
Foer goes into excruciating detail about the conditions of animals on factory farms as well as the speciesism that informs the way we think about pigs vs. the way we think about dogs, for example. It’s a very eye-opening book.
In short, I will be recommending this book to everyone who thinks I’m turning into a crazy vegan.
Have you read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer? Are you vegan or vegetarian? Why or why not? Feel free to share in the comments.
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