My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What could have been an informative, decent book on animal welfare and the environmental impact of our current factory farming system is marred by the author’s need to be clever and add some unconventional pages to his book. I ended up just glossing past those pages. There’s no doubt that Jonathan Safran Foer has done his research on the USDA, large slaughterhouses, major factory farms, and smaller back-to-old-fashioned-husbandry farmers. All this information is valuable to make an informed decision on whether or not eating animals is worth it.
Anyone who has been even remotely curious about what goes on in factory farms need only look it up on the internet to discover the atrocities that go on inside those large buildings. The passages in this book bring nothing new to that table other than some specific stories and first hand accounts. What it does bring is the fact that animal suffering isn’t an exception in this system, it’s the norm — something that most people don’t realize. But the book isn’t all doom and blood. There are also some more positive stories of small-scale farmers who do things differently and keep animal welfare more in mind than say, the supplier to KFC does.
One thing I really enjoyed in the book were the italicized chapters which I assume were written by the different people Foer talked to about farming. It was nice to have different voices and views of factory farming but one thing all small farmers agreed on (according to this book) was that our current system of factory farming not only is harmful to the environment and the health of people directly involved in it, but it’s just not going to be sustainable. After reading so many pages of animal suffering and cruelty, it was a breath of fresh air to read about farmers who have made it possible for animals to have a relatively stress-free, almost happy life before being sacrificed to slaughter.
The fight against animal cruelty is something that almost anyone can get behind, but Foer also illuminates something that mainly pulls me from becoming vegetarian: tradition and family. He includes anecdotes of his own family, from his childhood and to his adulthood which influenced his choice to become a vegetarian. I’m glad that someone finally made a point that vegetarianism isn’t a decision primarily made because of ethics, but also culture.
While Foer personally has chosen an animal-free diet as opposed to being a selective omnivore, and what he writes contains his bias around it, reading the book did not change my food habits that drastically, so one needn’t be afraid of reading this book. Sure, parts are graphic, and maybe I’m just desensitized, but I read most of this book chowing down on beef noodle soup. Even the most vehement self-proclaimed carnivore should read this book just to understand what kind of industry they’re supporting by choosing to eat meat.