Monday, February 21, 2011

Book: Eating Animals

I just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. I was initially drawn into reading this book because I liked the idea of looking at the issues involved in meat eating from the perspective of a new father deciding how to raise his family. It wasn't quite the personal reflection I anticipated and there were aspects of that which I felt worked extremely well, while there were others that I didn't like as much.

Perhaps my favorite moments in this book were the letters from a wide range of people involved in farming. A letter from a someone directly involved in factory farming, one from a man who works for PETA, letters and discussion with a couple who runs a natural ranch one of whom is a vegetarian, and a letter from a vegan who is helping design a chicken slaughterhouse. My favorite was from a chicken farmer describing how much he loves his chickens and how they communicate. Each provided their own personal reflections on what they do, why they eat meat or don't, and the result of this was a book that was intensely personal but in a broader sense.

On the other hand there are quite of a few descriptions of the processes involved, the conditions and so forth, issues that while important, are ones that I've made myself familiar with over the last 10 years of being vegetarian. So it was during these sections I got a little bored and my interest in the book waned somewhat. This is reflected in this chart of my status updates from goodreads, which stretches out over time in the middle.:
But ultimately, I appreciate the way he talked about this information, that the way we farm has changed so drastically in such a short period of time, with a huge impact on so many aspects of our lives.

There were a few things that bugged me a little here and there. At one point in the beginning he makes a random dig at cat people, for example. But those are small, I suppose. He managed to tackle the subject in a way that shows a lot of shades of gray, more complexity to the issue than it is often allowed, while also reflecting upon personal and broad implications of the choice to eat meat. I think the structure of stepping back for most of the book to talk about facts and listen to other points of view made this book feel a bit more honest. Stories about his own family meals and ideas about food at the beginning and end brought back the personal perspective I was looking for. So I ended up giving a rating: 4 of 5 stars, which they say is "I really liked it." 

I actually read the hard copy of this book, which I bought at a small book shop in Hyde Park in Chicago, right before I got my kindle actually. I still do that from time to time. I did miss the highlighting you can do on an e-reader so easily as there were some noteworthy facts presented, and I have to wonder if reading it that way would have affected my enjoyment of some of the information. I think my next read will be Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel which I've already put on my kindle. 

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