Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Review: Eating Animals

Eating AnimalsEating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness, let me just say that I checked this book out from the library and now I need to go buy a copy, re-read it and underline a bunch of facts and points Foer makes. He starts off by saying not to be put out by the title of the book. He is not telling you to eat or not eat animals, he is smearing talking about his experience and research he did when learning about eating animals in our modern time. His writing appealed to me through his wit and sarcasm which both made you laugh and think at the same time. Yes, I found it very clear when he was being sarcastic despite his words only being written and no voice influx to go off of.

There were so many noteworthy points and observation he made in his book that I discovered I had several pages of thoughts and excerpts outlined out for my review and thought that might be too weighty of a blog post. So I am going to try to bullet point a few and make it easier to review.

1. DINNER PARTIES. He talks about how eating is such an important social ritual in our culture and family. How it is hard for people to go over and eat dinner at a friend’s house and have eating restrictions such as “no meat” or “I am vegan”. He also addresses Michael Pollen and his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and how it fares along the same line only that restriction is “only grass fed, organic, family-farmed meant please.” Interesting when you put in perspective the taboo “no meat” clause compared to the “sustainable meat” clause.

2. FARMS. He talks about the difference between eating family-farmed meat, which was the usual years ago, verses the factory-farmed meat we are eating today and the unenforced ethical practices that are suppose to go along with the raising and slaughtering of animals. (Yes, the result is not pretty and he sites a lot of sources here which is hard to read.) He quotes that less than 1% of the meat in this country comes from family farms.

3. SEAFOOD. So I gave up meat, but I still eat fish…for now. He talks about by-catch, “Perhaps the quintessential example of bulls#*t, bycatch refers to sea creatures caught by accident — except not really "by accident," since bycatch has been consciously built into contemporary fishing methods. Modern fishing tends to involve much technology and few fishers. This combination leads to massive catches with massive amounts of bycatch. Take shrimp, for example. The average shrimp-trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures overboard, dead or dying, as bycatch. (Endangered species amount to much of this bycatch.) Shrimp account for only 2 percent of global seafood by weight, but shrimp trawling accounts for 33 percent of global bycatch. We tend not to think about this because we tend not to know about it. What if there were labeling on our food letting us know how many animals were killed to bring our desired animal to our plate? So, with trawled shrimp from Indonesia, for example, the label might read: 26 pounds of other sea animals were killed and tossed back into the ocean for every 1 pound of this shrimp…Imagine being served a plate of sushi. But this plate also holds all of the animals that were killed for your serving of sushi. The plate might have to be five feet across.” He tells a story about sea horses that made me quite sad and I had to set the book down to really think about where my sea food comes from and the sacrifices to get them to my plate.

4. CHEMICALS. Bet you didn’t know how tastey they were? “In the United States, about 3 million pounds of antibiotics are given to humans each year, but a whopping 17.8 million pounds are fed to livestock—at least that is what the industry claims. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has shown that the industry underreported its antibiotic use by at least 40 percent. The UCS calculated 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics were fed to chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals, only counting nontherapeutic uses. They further calculated that fully 13.5 million pounds of those antimicrobials would currently be illegal within the EU.” “Of course consumers might notice their chickens don’t taste quite right—how good could a drug-stuffed, disease ridden, shit-contaminated animal possibly taste?—but he birds will be injected with “broths” and salty solutions to give the what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell, and taste. (A recent study by Consumer Reports found that chicken and turkey products, many labeled as natural, “ballooned with 10 to 30 percent of their weight as broth, flavoring, or water.”)”

5. DISEASES. In referring to the H1N1 virus, “Scientists at Columbia and Princeton University have actually been able to trace six of the eight genetic segments of the (currently) most feared virus in the world to US factory farms.”

6. INHUMAN TREATMENT. I will spare you the details because honestly most people don’t want to hear it. I, being quite a stubborn person, wanted to know what I was eating and where it came from. If you care you will read, if you don’t you won’t, but I believe we all know that what goes on is not good. He compares some of the treatment to how we would treat dogs and why they are treated differently. A very valid point especially considering the number of people who actually eat dogs.

7. ENVIRONMENTALISM. I posted a quote from this section in one of my “Think About It Thursdays” so you can check here that out if you would like.

Really a great book that was so compacted with facts and knowledge and things that make you go “hmmm”. I am not saying that reading this will change your mind about eating animals, but it will make you think.

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