Where do we go from here?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eating Animals

I have just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, and I will never be the same again. My partner and I became vegans just over four months ago, after several years of being mainly vegetarians. Our earlier decision not to eat four-legged creatures was based mostly on our experiences of driving through the Texas panhandle, seeing, smelling, and being horrified by, the feedlots full of cattle wallowing in mud and excrement along I40 and other highways in the area. We continued to eat the occasional chicken and fish, as well as eggs and dairy, but came to feel worse and worse about the whole thing.

As I have posted here, and on my Facebook page, the ultimate decision to eat neither animals nor any animal products, came about for reasons of personal health, when Gail was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, and we began our research into ways other than invasive procedures and medication to help her recover. I know people, most notably my niece and her partner, who have been vegan for many years now out of a moral conviction that eating animals is wrong. Reading Foer's book has placed me someplace I never thought I'd find myself, squarely in that "eating animals is wrong" camp. It's not exactly the "I'll never eat anything that had a mother and a face" position that my niece holds, but it's getting closer. I love Saffran Foer's writing, have read his earlier books, both novels, and much to my suprise found this nonfiction book equally engaging.  His writing here was as offbeat and captivating as his fiction, and I read it straight through almost without stopping. To quote the book's website:

"Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood—facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf—his casual questioning took on an urgency. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.

This book is what he found. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir, and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many stories we use to justify our eating habits—folklore and pop culture, family traditions and national myth, apparent facts and inherent fictions—and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting."

In the past couple of days I read that  Duke University and Univ. of North Carolina have chosen Eating Animals as the summer reading assignment for their incoming freshmen. It is an excellent choice for young people on the brink of being in charge of their own life decisions. As one of the students on the choosing panel stated:  "For me, it's not just a book about food, It's a book about being really active in making your own decisions."  It delights me to think that Saffran Foer may be instrumental in helping them make some very good ones.(Crossposted to WomenOn)


Neil said...

I will have to read this. I have been thinking about this for some time, though not seriously enough. It seems to me that whatever we choose to do, our choices should at least be informed ones, rather than the lazy product of our habits and ignorance. One can be quite comfortable in his habits and ignorance, so long as his consciousness is not disturbed, or inspired. I guess I am in the mode now of deliberating disturbing my own consciousness. We shall see what comes of it.


marigolds2 said...

And this is a seriously consciousness-disturbing read indeed. Let me know if you do read it, and what you think.