Format: Paperback
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9780141031934
Price: INR 450

“Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist.” – Natalie Portman

In his third book, Jonathan Safran Foer questions his own eating practice when he is at the brink of being a father. From an author whose previous two books, ‘Everything in Illuminated’ and ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ were sort-of quirky self-realisation books, ‘Eating Animals’ is a drastic shift. The practice of eating meat has repeatedly and increasingly been a source of debate for vegetarians and animal activists, all of whom point out the practices of an industry that elevate profit above quality, animal welfare, and consumer health.

Stemmed from these questions,

“I simply wanted to know for myself and my family what meat is. Where does it come from? How is it produced? What are the economic, social and environmental effects? Are there animals that it is straightforwardly right to eat? Are there situations in which not eating animals is wrong?”

Eating Animals’ has been far from a personal quest for Foer.

JonathanFoer writes that the bioengineering of chickens (to yield more meat in a shorter time), combined with horribly cramped living conditions (eight-tenths of a square foot per bird) leads to

“deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases, and weakened immune systems.”

He says that farmed fish suffer from “the abundant presence of sea lice, which thrive in the filthy water” of their enclosures and “create open lesions and sometimes eat down to the bones on a fish’s face.” And he contends that cattle are not always efficiently knocked out before being processed at the slaughterhouse, and as a result “animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious.

The human cost of factory farming — both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more, the environmental effects of the mass production of animals — is staggering. Foer details the copious amounts of pig shit sprayed into the air that result in great spikes in human respiratory ailments, the development of new bacterial strains due to overuse of antibiotics on farmed animals, and the origins of the swine flu epidemic, whose story has gripped the nation, in factory farms. Anybody who eats meat, and wants to continue doing so, should read this book for these sections alone.

Though Safran confirms that this book will in no way attempt to change you to vegetarianism, it explicitly aims to do exactly that. This may be the greatest drawback of the book, along with the sentimentality that Foer often addresses the issue with. Foer passionately details how eating animal pollutes not only our backyards, but also our beliefs. He reminds us that our food is symbolic of what we believe in, and that eating is how we demonstrate to ourselves and to others our beliefs.

But nevertheless, every meat eater must know how it works. There is no doubt that we have become too divorced from our food production system. We need to know what eating meat means. And for solely that reason, this book must definitely be read.

“While it is always possible to wake a person who’s sleeping, no amount of noise will wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”

Overall Rating: 8/10

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