Have you ever read a book, that you thought, would be okay, but you were mostly sceptical about it? I’m always very critical towards books, articles etc. that talk about the ethical aspects of veganism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much an ethical vegan as I am a vegan for my health and the environment. But I often find the ideas or concepts too “harsh” or too “extreme”, that someone who hasn’t connected to the topic might not be able to relate to them. Often even I feel offended. In my opinion, you cannot show someone how amazing AND necessary veganism is when you bludgeon him/her over the head (figuratively speaking).
With that being said, “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer is nothing like that. It talks about ethics, yes, of course, but through a very understanding perspective. He shows the reader different views from all kinds of different people – and lots of them aren’t vegetarian or vegan.
“Since the world has changed so much, the same values don’t lead to the same choices anymore.”
That does not mean, though, that he is not totally honest. In one of his first chapters, he makes the argument, why we should eat dogs. This is probably the last thing you were expecting from the author right at this point. He understands to shock the reader. His goal is to make him/her think, to enable the reader to think critically about an important topic. Not once does he tell you, how you should think or what you should do.
“Isn’t it strange how upset people get about a few dozen baseball players taking growth hormones, when we’re doing what were doing to our food animals and feeding them to our children?”
I was impressed, how well researched this book is. The book is a journey for Foer as much as it is a journey for the reader. He wrote it because he realised something was off. Something did not feel quite right. His son inspired such thinking in him. What is best for his son? What can I do to make this world a safe place for him? Such questions mark the beginning of his search, which findings he documents in “Eating Animals”. He breaks into a factory farm to see for himself, how the animals are treated. He writes to different organisations like PETA or big food corporations (who by the way don’t answer him). He talks to butchers as well as animal rights activists. He visits farms, that operate differently. Farms that want to change back the way we raise animals, back to “the old days” when they were treated like companions. We provide for your food and a safe shelter and at the end of your life, you give us your meat in return. He talks about why he wants to support such responsible farming methods and why he still ended up being a vegetarian.
THE IMPACT OF THE BOOK
Why did this book have such a big impact on me? I personally think this has two main reasons:
First, Foer’s writing style. It’s brutally honest. He shows you the naked picture of what goes wrong in those industries – but also how people try to change it. He does not write the book in a resigned way, he does not call you to action either. Rather, he gives you the necessary tools to change things if you want to – or not. It’s totally up to you. He does not draw a bad picture of omnivores and he sometimes finds vegans too extreme. He has a very objective way of displaying facts and figures, quoting people and research papers. He gives you lots of sources so that you can do your own research. But throughout his whole book, he does not lose his humour, either. You sometimes smile, cringe, whatever it is right now. But you FEEL something. And that’s the strongest argument of the book – it makes you feel something. It makes you happy, it makes you said and everything in between.
Second, the fact that Foer shows all sides of the story. He does not draw a line between black and white but prefers the grey. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone. It furthers my understanding of all opinions. In the end, I ended up feeling better educated about a topic, I so deeply care about. Forcing the reader out of his/her comfort zone is an achievement in itself. Making him/her feel good about it, is a whole other level, Foer exceeds in.
TO SUM IT UP …
If you want to know anything about where your food comes from, “Eating Animals” is the right book for you. It’s not about making you stop eating meat or other animal products, it’s about educating the reader about such an important topic, that is – to be honest -not ones private matter. So many more things are connected to it. Talking about eating animals is a highly sensitive topic in our society since it’s so deeply embedded in our culture and our personal understanding of oneself. Foer makes an awesome job doing this. He simply gives the reader the necessary tools and knowledge to decide for himself rather than dictating how one should think about it.
If I had to rate “Eating Animals”, I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.
Feel free to leave your opinion about the book – or my review – down below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
“Eating Animals” was written by Jonathan Safran Foer and published by Little, Brown and Company in 2009.
The ISBN is 9780316069885.
If you are interested in reading a sample of the book, you can find one HERE.
An interview with the author (in English with German subtitles) can be found HERE.
You can probably buy it at your local bookstore or at Amazon, Thalia or Book Depository.
You can find my review on Goodreads, too.