Anti-Spoiler Alert: This post does not contain any gross stories. Nor is it trying to prove a point by jabbing fingers. It’s just a tease, really. Ready?
I am halfway through “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer.
A good friend gave me his first novel, Everything is Illuminated, which I devoured winter quarter of last year. And I bought and read his second, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, earlier this summer. I blew through it as if maybe the next page is hiding a twenty. No? Surely, this one! No? The next? Of course, there wasn’t any money hiding in the book. But reading a good book is like slowly accumulating a vast fortune. Once you have finished reading it, you can give all of the money away and magically retain it at the same time. Foer’s first two books are breathtaking and unsettling. Unsettling, as the topics are respectively the Holocaust and September 11. A good artist finds beauty in tragedy and meaning in the meaningless. Foer does this while demonstrating an acute eye for detail and the drive to change how readers expect words to appear on paper.
In Eating Animals, Foer pulls the lid off of factory farming so that we can get a good look inside. He does this by telling stories that incorporate facts, opposing opinions, and humanity. I can understand Stories. And the stories that he relates are occasionally hideous. I will leave out details because you should read it for yourself. If I were to simply tell you everything he says and my reaction to it all, that would be preachy. And that is the beautiful thing about the book: it doesn’t gripe. Foer knows that telling the truth should be enough.
Halfway through, I’m fairly sure I’ll become a vegetarian. Actually, no I won’t. There are still real farms that raise real animals in humane ways, although these farms are few and far between. From now on, I’ll be seeking out meat grown by family farms—the kind of place that comes to mind when you hear “farm,” with the barn, fields, and rooster, waking everyone to face the approaching day. The kind of place that currently accounts for 1% of the meat we eat, according to Foer’s sources. If you want to know the dirt about the other 99%, a.k.a. the majority of meat we eat, you know where to find it!