On Eating Animals

(Or ‘Why I am a vegetarian’ part 2)

eating-animals-foerThere are many books about eating meat, but few are written as witty as this one. If you want to know how meat is produced, read Eating Animals. If you want to stay ignorant and keep pretending you have never heard of factory farms, read no further. I believe Foer’s book was not written to make you a vegetarian, but to enable you to make informed decisions about your diet.

After reading Eating Animals from Jonathan Safran Foer I considered buying fifty or so copies and offer them as gifts to my friends and family. Not because I wanted everyone to become a vegetarian, but because this  book offers a wealth of information on factory farming and I felt everyone should have access to it. Most people know already that these factory farms (also referred to as meat factories) cause animals to suffer, but that’s not all: this way of meat producing is a threat to personal health, general health and the environment.
Ultimately, financial restraints and the fear of being pedantic made me change my mind. The best next thing was to encourage people to read the book by writing about it on my blog.

Like Jonathan Safran Foer, I have been an on-and-off vegetarian for years. As a child it never occurred to me there could be anything wrong with eating meat, but when I met vegetarians, heard stories, spoke to doctors and did my own research, it became an issue in my life. Whose side should I be on; the meat defenders or the vegetable freaks?

With all the information in Eating Animals about viruses, bacterial infections, torturing and toxic pools of shit, it wasn’t difficult anymore to pick my side. (For the information I am referring to: please read the book.)
Of course it is never too smart to trust the facts from one side only, but Foer quotes many different sources and I am convinced that what he writes is true. Not even the meat industry people are denying his facts – they are just denying that these facts should matter. But to me, they do matter and they matter so greatly that I hope I’ll never eat factory meat, dairy or eggs again and others will act alike.

To avoid any confusion: I am not arguing that animal rights should be our number one priority in saving the world, but I hate it when meat defenders say: ‘So many people are suffering – we can’t afford to waste our concern on animals.’
First of all: the issues are very much related. If the West would consume less meat, there would be more grains left to feed people who are hungry. Secondly: there is not much I can do in my daily routine to help cure Malaria – but I can do something to minimize animal suffering: I can stop eating factory meat.

Anyone thinking about giving up meat will wonder why humans eat animals to begin with. I came up with this:
1.    Because we were designed to eat animals (look at our teeth!). Sure, as a last resort. When there is nothing else to eat, even cannibalism is acceptable to survive. But when you have enough highly nutricious vegetarian food – why bother?
2.    Because we need animal protein. As a matter of fact: we don’t. Children excepted, we don’t even need dairy. Much research has been done and the only thing contemporary vegans might lack is Vitamin B12 – eating yeast will take care of that (or for vegetarians, eating eggs and organic cheese.)
3.    Because animals exist so we can eat them. Anyone who would truly believe that, shouldn’t protest when cats and dogs are being eaten too.
4.    Because it tastes good.

Well, I’m not sure about you, but the combination of my own health, the global environment and the wellbeing of animals, is more important to me than taste.

Foer published his book on the meet industry just before Thanksgiving – probably not a coincidence. On this American holiday, 45 million factory turkeys are being eaten and I assume Foer’s most modest expectation was, that those who read the book would at least think about what they were eating this year. I leave this small text here, just before Christmas, not to judge,  but in the hope to inspire the same type of reflection.

PS 1. I have not tried to write a review. I just wanted to raise the topic of eating animals and to make people aware of the existence of this book. More critical notes on the way this book was written and constructed can be found here: The Newyorker / New York Times / LA Times.

PS 2. Ik heb dit stukje in het Engels geschreven, omdat ik Foers boek in het Engels las en ik vooral met niet-Nederlandstaligen over dit onderwerp heb gesproken – voor wie moeite heeft deze tekst te begrijpen: ik raad het boek Dieren Eten van Jonathan Safran Foer van harte aan.