USA: 'Eating Animals` hard to read, only because of subject matter
Pettis: 'Eating Animals` hard to read, only because of subject matter
Kerry Pettis, Enterprise columnist
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Recently a number of books have been published about eating
ethically, factory farming and vegetarian vs. carnivorous lifestyles.
Bestsellers include "The Omnivore`s Dilemma" by Michael Pollan,
"Animals Make Us Human" by Colorado author Temple Grandin, and now
"Eating Animals." These are difficult books to read, not for their
writing style but for the issues they raise and the often-horrific
stories they tell. But, as Foer notes, "We know more than we care to
admit" about these hidden issues.
Foer had been an off-and-on vegetarian in his college years, more
because it was the "in" thing to do rather than out of true
conviction. Then, with the birth of his first child, he started to
think more deeply about the hidden parts of getting meat to the
table. He began to research the question of ethical animal
agriculture; he interviewed stockyard and processing plant employees,
attempted to tour factory farms, and talked with animal cruelty
What he learned appalled him. He decided that "virtually all of the
time one`s choice is between cruelty and ecological destruction and
ceasing to eat animals." One night he sneaked into a turkey factory
farm, finding thousands of baby birds crammed into sheds, many of
them dying. The doors of all the sheds were locked, which puzzled him
since there was no equipment to steal in the sheds, and the animals
couldn`t be efficiently stolen because of the difficulty of
transporting a significant number. He concluded a farmer doesn`t lock
his doors because he`s afraid his animals will escape but because he
doesn`t want strangers seeing what is going on inside the sheds. Foer
notes that in the three years he was researching this topic, nothing
unsettled him more than the locked doors. "Nothing will better
capture the whole sad business of factory farming."
Foer interviewed farmers who are trying to achieve ethical animal
agriculture. He found people who raise "heritage" turkeys that are
allowed free range, ranchers who graze their cattle in open grassland
and attempt humane slaughtering procedures. Such individuals are few
and far between, and are gradually being driven out by the
conglomerates that control factory farming.
In the end, after much horrific and saddening research, Foer commits
himself and his family to vegetarianism. He says this book "is an
argument for vegetarianism, but it`s also an argument for another,
wiser animal agriculture and more honorable omnivory.
"One of the great opportunities to live our values -- or betray them
-- lies in the food we put on our plates."
Kerry Pettis is a retired elementary school teacher and children`s
librarian who has lived in Broomfield since 1975. Reading is her