09 February 2010

Thoughts on Eating Animals

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Jonathan Safran Foer discuss his new book, Eating Animals. Jonathan came to Amsterdam and spoke at an event sponsored by the John Adams Institute. Here's a brief summary of the book, from the website:

Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood—facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf—his casual questioning took on an urgency. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.

I've interviewed animal rights activists in the past. I've watched their horrific videos and read their literature. I've never been a big meat eater and I did cut back in the past few years, but always caved when the moment came where a vegetarian choice was hard to come by.

It sounds trite to say that this book changed my whole perspective, but it did. After years of sporadic exposure to the horrors of the industry, this philosophical, fact-filled, quiet exploration into all aspects of eating animals finally did it. Without graphic pictures or ranting rhetoric. And I'm not alone.

Most people I talk to about this roll their eyes or look uncomfortable. I mention the huge costs to the environment and to the welfare of slaughterhouse workers, not to mention the endless torture animals are put through. I keep it light (if that's possible), but I've heard the declaration "I don't want to know" uttered on a number of occasions.

But that's a start, right? People know there's something wrong, at least, even though for now they choose ignorance. I get it. Life's complicated. Why complicate it further?

I dare you to read this book, and decide why it is indeed worthwhile to reconsider your food choices. I dare you.

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