This book is done in a very stylistic and unique fashion. The story of eating animals is told through may perspectives, through Foer’s own eyes as a new father turned vegetarian, through a married rancher couple’s eyes (one being vegetarian), through a vegan slaughterhouse designer’s eyes, through factory farm worker’s eyes, through a PETA employee’s eyes, and more. With such a melting pot of perspectives the book became much more seemingly unbiased and purely informational.

I thought it was clever how Foer decided to dedicate pages and pages of his book strictly to making points visually. One place in particular that sticks out to me is when he sets aside 5 pages, right before a new chapter, that just repeatedly read, “Speechlessness / Influence.” He then follows this up with this statistic, “On average, Americans eat the equivalent of 21,000 entire animals in a lifetime–one animal for every letter on the last five pages.” Hearing large numbers, though it can be both mind bottling and eye opening, can also sometimes be overwhelming and not accurately depict the number in understandable terms. The imagery he created using those 5 pages made it very clear just how many animals the average American eats in their lifetime.

Foer touches on social issues many vegans, vegetarians, and conscious eaters have to face like table fellowship. Food is something that connects us to our friends and family, we feed people to show love and we reminisce about times shared together, often involving food. This romanticizing of food and the way we think of and use food in our daily lives creates a strain when we do begin thinking of food differently and moving away from the foods we have learned to love and ingest unquestioningly since birth.

“How much do I value creating a socially comfortable situation, and how much do I value acting socially responsible?”

Just as Melanie Joy did in her book, Why We Love Dogs Eat Pigs And Wear Cows, Foer also talks about the environmental issues with factory farming. Global warming, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, all of these huge problems that were not necessarily caused by factory farming, but are contributed to astronomically by factory farming techniques.

“Most simply put, someone who regularly eats factory-farmed animal products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from it’s meaning.”

He covers and defines the terminology used in the animal industry and exposes the actual psychology of why we keep letting these atrocities fester without interruption.

[ANTHROPOCENTRISM] “The conviction that humans are the pinnacle of evolution, the appropriate yardstick by which to measure the lives of other animals, and the rightful owners of everything that lives.”

He goes over things like, what words like “Organic” on a label really means.

“For meat, milk, and eggs labeled organic, the USDA requires that animals must: (1)be raised on organic feed (that is, crops raised without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers); (2) be traced through their life cycle (that is, leave a paper trail); (3) not be fed antibiotics or growth hormones; and (4) have “access to the outdoors.” The last criterion, sadly, has been rendered most meaningless — in some cases “access to the outdoors” can mean nothing more than having the opportunity to look outside through a screened window.”

Another important point the author talks of, especially in reference to all the different perspectives, feelings, and stances people have about factory farming and using animals for food, is animal welfare vs. animal Rights. Some people, as long as they believe the animal isn’t being abused or treated cruelly, are more concerned about animal welfare. People advocating for animal rights on the other hand aren’t satisfied quite so easily.

Memorable Quotes:

    • “If we were to one day encounter a form of life more powerful and intelligent than our own, and it regarded us as we regard fish, what would be our argument against being eaten?”
    • “More than any set of practices, factory farming is a mind-set: reduce production costs to the absolute minimum and systematically ignore or “externalize” such costs as environmental degradation, human disease, and animal suffering.”
    • “Silently the animal catches our glance. The animal looks at us, and whether we look away (from the animal, our plate, our concern, ourselves) or not, we are exposed. Whether we change our lives or do nothing, we have responded. To do nothing is to do something.”
    • “Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change.”
    • “Imagine being served a plate of sushi. But this plate also holds all of the animals that were killed for your serving of sushi. The plate might have to be five feet across.”
    • “Our situation is an odd one. Virtually all of us agree that it matters how we treat animals and the environment, and yet few of us give much thought to our most important relationship to animals and the environment. Odder still, those who do choose to act in accordance with these uncontroversial values by refusing to eat animals (which everyone agrees can reduce both the number of abused animals and one’s ecological footprint) are often considered marginal or even radical.”
    • “Why is taste, the crudest of our senses, exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses?”
    • “What the industry figured out — and this was the real revolution — is that you don’t need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable. The animals have paid the price for our desire to have everything available at all times for very little money.”
    • “Think about it: Do you eat chicken because you are familiar with the scientific literature on them and have decided that their suffering doesn’t matter, or do you do it because it tastes good?”
    • “It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed
    • “Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”

*Don’t forget our next book for National “Vegan” Reading Month is Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully – which will be discussed next Thursday, March 20th!*