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Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Posted by Scott Walker | May 21, 2010

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This book has received a lot of attention, mostly on account of its illustrious author but also the difficult subject matter.  Safran Foer begins the book with a deceptively simple premise: he wants to figure out what he should feed his infant son and, uncertain of his own uneven vegetarianism, he chooses to enter the world of meat. His exploration takes him to places—physical, emotional, and ethical—that most of us would choose not to go, and in fact do choose not to go. The meat industry (and industry is the correct term) has been very good at hiding from the meat-eating public what it does with and to animals—and we, the public, have been very good at going along with the deception. We don’t want to know.

In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser declared that if abatoirs had glass walls, Americans would change their eating habits rapidly. Of course, they don’t, and for good reason. Some of the most interesting parts of this book concern Safran Foer’s efforts to witness what actually happens on the way to turning an animal into meat.

Safran Foer’s conclusion—that we shouldn’t eat animals that are raised and slaughtered the way most American livestock is raised and slaughtered—is carefully, clearly, irrefutably argued, and written in a fashion that will keep you reading despite the subject matter. After digesting this book you can only choose to care, or not to care, about the demonstrable cruelty involved in modern farming.  But you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. In its own way, Eating Animals is the window into the slaughterhouse.

Hal Clifford
Executive Editor, Orion

Eating Animals
Jonathan Safran Foer
Little, Brown 2009

Orion’s review of this title, by Amy Irvine, is here.
Michael Pollan’s take on this book and others.

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