Monday, January 10, 2011

A Look At Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer lulls you into Eating Animals with a story about his grandmother:

It was my grandmother who taught me that one tea bag makes as many cups of tea as you're serving, and that every part of the apple is edible. (3)
After the g'ma story, the gloves come off. I wanted to stop reading this book so many times and I was relieved when I came to the end.

Where to start?

With factory farming? Tuna "bycatch?"

The fact that animal agriculture is one of the main reasons for climate change?

Language is never fully trustworthy, but when it comes to eating animals, words are often used to misdirect and camouflage as they are to communicate. (45)
As Foer points out, don't believe the hype about your free-range chicken since the chicken might have had access to a small door but probably never wandered out.

If you didn't' get enough information about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Michael Pollan's The Omnivores's Dilemma, there's more information here. I also learned about CFE (Common Farming Exemptions):

Common Farming Exemptions make legal any method of raising farmed animals so long as it is commonly practiced within the industry. In other words, farmers -- corporations is the right word - have the power to define cruelty. If the industry adopts a practice -- hacking off unwanted appendages with no painkillers, for example, but you can let your imagination run with this -- it automatically becomes legal. (51)
I did like Foer's account of sloppy slaughter at a kosher slaughterhouse. The Jewish community did not stand by silently.

I remember seeing Foer on The Ellen Show and he said that if you want to tour a grape factory it's usually not a problem but try to gain entry to a slaughterhouse and you won't get very far. Foer wrote many letters to Tyson Foods. The author appealed to them from his status as a new father but his letters went unanswered.

I can't remember where I read it in the book but Foer says that most of us know that if we see footage from a slaughterhouse it's going to be akin to a horror movie. The author includes incidents of animal torture in the book and he recounts one instance where a worker literally rubbed brine into the wound of animal. And when workers aren't doing sadistic things to animals, they just might urinate on the production line.

Other things that you'll read about in Eating Animals:

  • Artificially Low Meat Prices

  • Branding

  • Broilers vs. Layers

  • Chickens Injected With Broth

  • E. Coli

  • Fecal Mists

  • Frankenstein Genetics

  • H1N1

  • Salmonella

  • Social Hierarchy of Pigs

  • Unhappy Meals

  • Foer covers a lot of ground and, during the course of his research, he talks with many folks in the industry, including a vegetarian farmer, PETA member, factory farmer and turkey rancher.

    In the end, Eating Animals makes me not want to eat animals -- at least not ones that are factory farmed.

    I started reading Koren Zailckas' memoir Fury but I think that I need to switch gears. I'm in need of something lighthearted. Suggestions???


    1. Fecal mists. OMG! I've already significantly lowered my meaty consumption, but I'm about to take that down another notch. Up until about 3 months ago, we went the Amish market to buy "organic" meats, ya know? But I didn't even need that anymore. I'm saving money and eating better by not eating as much meat, PERIOD! And so my kinda-vegetarian life continues.....

    2. Yum Yucky,

      At one point, Foer talks about liquefied waste (massive amounts) and how toxic they are. A Michigan worker fell in such a lagoon; several people tried to help him and they all died, as the author wrote, in pig s@^t...

      I'm with you on taking it down another notch and kudos on your kinda-vegetarian life and all the changes you've been making.

    3. I agree-reading this kind of stuff is SO hard You want to know, but you don't want to know :( It's like "what have we allowed to happen to our food supply??!"
      i believe that some animals are for eating, but the way that they are bred,fed,housed,treated, and slaughtered is such an atrocity and makes them theoretically inedible. yet we eat them :)(

    4. p.s. fun fact: michael pollan is the brother of tracy pollan (michael j. fox's wife)

    5. Heather,

      I couldn't agree with you more about the food supply and how the animals are bred...

      Thanks for the fun fact. I had no idea about the sibling factor. Of course, I now have that Family Ties theme song going through my head. "What would we do baby, without us? Sha la la la"

    6. @Ms. Bad Mama Jama,

      Heather did say it perfectly.

      And me? I have quite the dilemma right now...

    7. Tyson is the devil. Well, not THE devil, because they're not the only ones. I want to control where my food comes from more and more.

    8. Same here about the control...

      Reading that they slaughter 2.2 billion chickens annually gives me the willies.