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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eating Animals

I came across this book after watching a video of the author being on The Ellen Degeneres Show (linked to from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet blog) and was immediately interested. I've always been one of those people who cares so much about animals, so much that I can't even hear stories of peoples dogs who have died, or watch any of those nature movies from Disney or Planet Earth... because I'm sure an animal may in any way be hurt in the film (even if it's the cycle of life... I just can't handle it).

But I've never been a vegetarian. I've been too afraid to read books that have shed a lot of light on the subject, again, because I think it will disturb me too much. Then I thought, why am I so afraid? If there are things that will make me uncomfortable in these books... am I not better after having known them? So I can make more conscious decisions. It's almost like turning a blind so as not to get hurt. So I finally picked up this book. I'm not saying I will be vegetarian once I finish this book, but just knowing I'm more away will help me make better decisions. I thought I would share with you my goal of reading this book. Ha ha, I don't expect to be finishing this very soon as I have about a hundred projects under my belt, but I am very excited to see what it has to say.

You can view the video of the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, of Eating Animals on Ellen here:

and his second interview with her here:

I've only read the first few chapters, but here are a few interesting excerpts from it:

"She (George, his dog) lowered her eyes and lumbered away from me, down the hall - not a silhouette so much as a king of negative space, a form cut out of the domesticity. Despite our patters, which are more regular than anything I share with another person, she still feels unpredictable to me. And despite our closeness, I am occasionally thrilled, and even a bit scared, by the foreignness of her. Having a child greatly exacerbated this, as there was absolutely no guarantee - beyond the one I felt absolutely - that she wouldn't maul the baby. The list of our differences could fill a book, but like me, George fears pain, seeks pleasure, and craves not just food and play, but companionship. I don't need to know the details of her moods and preferences to know that she has them. Our psychologies are not the same or similar, but each of us has a perspective, a way of processing and experiencing the world that is intrinsic and unique. I wouldn't eat George, because she's mine. But why wouldn't I eat a dog I'd never met? Or more to the point, what justification might I have for sparing dogs but eating other animals?" -Page 24

The whole book isn't based on this emotional plea for vegetarianism, it is more based on the truth of animal farming, but this paragraph struck home to me.

The author talks about the bond his wife and him shared about being on and off vegetarians their whole life, "Eating animals, a concern we'd both had and had both forgotten, seemed like a place to start. So much intersects there, and so much could flow from it. In the same week, we became engaged and vegetarian. Of course our wedding wasn't vegetarian, because we persuaded ourselves that it was only fair to offer animal protein to our guests, some of whom had traveled great distances to share our joy. (Find that logic hard to follow?) And we ate fish on our honeymoon, but we were in Japan, and when in Japan... And back in our new home, we did occasionally eat burgers and chicken soup and smoked salmon and tuna steaks. But only every now and then. One whenever we felt like it. And that, I thought, was that. And I thought was just fine. I assumed we'd maintain a diet of conscientious inconsistency. Why should eating be different from any of the other ethical realms of our lives? We were honest people who occasionally told lies, careful friends who sometimes acted clumsily. We were vegetarians who from time to time ate meat." -Page 9

"Almost always, when I told someone I was writing a book about 'eating animals,' they assumed, even without knowing anything about my views, that it was a case for vegetarianism. It's a telling assumption, one that implies not only that a thorough inquiry into animal agriculture would lead one away from eating meat, but that most people already know that to be the case. (What assumptions did you make upon seeing the title of this book?) I, too, assumed that my book about eating animals would become a straightforward case for vegetarianism. It didn't. A straightforward case for vegetarianism is worth writing, but it's not what I've written here. Animal agriculture is a hugely complicated topic. No two animals, breeds of animals, farms, farmers, or eaters are the same. Looking past the mountains of research - reading, interviewing, seeing firsthand - that was necessary even to begin to think about this stuff seriously, I had to ask myself if it was possible to say something coherent and significant about a practice that is so diverse. Perhaps there is no "meat". Instead, there is this animal, raised on this farm, slaughtered at this plant, sold in this way, and eaten by this person - but each distinct in a way that prevents them from being pieced together in a mosaic. And eating animals is one of those topics, like abortion, where it is impossible to definitively know some of the most important details (When is a fetus a person, as opposed to a potential person? What is an animal experience really like?) and that cuts right to one's deepest discomforts, often provoking defensiveness or aggression. It's a slippery, frustrating, and resonant subject. Each question prompts another, and it's easy to find yourself defending a position far more extreme than you actually believe or could live by. Or worse, finding no position worth defending of living by." -Page 13, 14

A true story about Jonathan's grandmother.
"The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn't know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.
'He saved your life.'
'I didn't eat it.'
'You didn't eat it?'
'It was pork. I wouldn't eat pork'
'What do you mean why?'
'What, because it wasn't kosher?'
'Of course'
'But not even to save your life?'
'If nothing matters, there's nothing to save.' " -Page 16, 17

I loved what he says in his interview. It's all about the small steps we take in our world, in our environment and in our food choices. He said, humans aren't perfect. He said that he himself doesn't idle, turns the lights off before he leaves the house, but he also took a plane to get to the interview, and that is one of the worst things you can do. He said he can understand everyone won't become a vegetarian after reading his book, but people who can't do something as simple as removing one serving of meat a week... that is something he can't (and I can't) understand.

"If all americans removed one serving of meat a week it would be the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the road"

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