After learning he was to be a dad for the first time, Safran Foer began to ask himself those niggling questions that are too often ignored or suppressed. How is this McDonalds burger so cheap? Why do we get diseases from ill-prepared meat? Should I feed meat to my child?
What results is a moving, well-researched and insightful look into what we are eating and where it came from.
I have to be honest, when I first read the title I thought it was too provocative and likely to put a lot of people off reading it. Even in having the book on my desk at work I received a lot of raised eyebrows, and the old classic line, “But you grew up on a farm?!”
And therein lies the issue, and precisely why the title is perfect as it is. When people read the title ‘Eating Animals’, the automatic assumption is this book is a case for vegetarianism. Why? Because people already know there is something inherently wrong with the way we eat in today’s world. We got to this point thanks to blind consumerism, reckless advertising and poor regulations. Ignorance is key and the title of this book is a giant slap in the face to wake us from our stupor.
Often to educate oneself on the ethics of animal agriculture it can be alarming and upsetting for the reader – put simply, this is because modern day animal agriculture is alarming and upsetting. However, Safran Foer does not use shock tactics to force the reader to feel something. Instead, he takes you with him on his journey for answers.
Eating Animals covers the entire realm of this topic, from the processing of an animal through the factory system, to the efforts small business farmers are making to return customers to a more ethical form of farming, to the deeply ingrained social interactions that come with sharing a meal, a meal most commonly containing meat.
Eating Animals was released in 2009 and out of curiosity I searched for reviews of the book during this time. Disappointingly I found a number of negative reviews on reputable sites such as the Guardian, NY Times and Independent. These were written by apparently intelligent people who had unfortunately let their own bias get in the way, with unrelated comments giving away the fact they had only skim-read the book, at best. Offended by the prospect of confronting their own ethics, they chose to produce a sub-standard, misinformed review that contains little of the book’s substance and more of their discomfort in their own skin.
Having already been vegetarian and eating a predominantly plant-based diet I felt that I was doing enough. But after reading this book I have realised there is always more that we can be doing. Education is key and the more people are educated on the origins of the meat they are eating and the process it took in getting from animal to plate, the more hope we have for a better and brighter future.
Even a decade later, this book is more important than ever.
Rating: I give this book a 5 out of 5. You must get a copy today, and once you are finished give it to a friend or family member. You will not regret it.