Eating Animals: My Story

Tomorrow I am going to post my review of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Before I really began reading this book, I wrote down my views on eating meat at that point and  my own personal history/struggle with eating animals.. They have changed due to the reading of this book, but I will discuss that with my review. So here is me as of January 2010:

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Currently, and for the last two years or so, I have become a partial vegetarian. I gave up beef and pork but I still eat poultry and fish.  And I still eat dairy.  People are very confused about the line that I’ve drawn even though we all draw a line somewhere.  Even the most hardcore carnivores among us would turn their nose at a serving of dog, right?  My line is actually much clearer: no mammals.  But somehow this puzzles people even more than straight vegetarianism.

It was a long road to get to this place and I fully expect my place on the vegetarian-carnivore spectrum to change in the future.  I grew up in a meat and potato family.  Every night.  My dad once bought half a cow and a freezer to store it in.  It was 1995 when I first questioned eating meat (I actually  grew up down the street from a veal farm and somehow managed to not understand what all those baby cows were for until I was in my late teens. I think if I had known, I would have become a vegetarian at an early age).  I was in 7th grade which meant reading A Day No Pigs Would Die, dissecting fetal pigs, and the theatrical release of Babe.  This combination led to my renunciation of pork for almost 6 years.  I even wanted a potbellied pig as a pet (and convinced my Grandpa to get me one at a 4-H fair but my mom caught him just as he was about to exchange money with the seller).  I’m sure there were some instances during that period that I ate pork, but they were rare.  And I went on random no beef diets from time to time as well.  When I was 13, I went to South Africa and we were served all kinds of exotic meat.  I ate the giraffe and the wildebeest but still refrained from any pork.  I was a pretty committed kid even if I wasn’t really sure why I was doing it.

And then I went to college and started dating my now-husband.  In college, I ate what was given to me because I had no money.  I often ate the vegan meals in the cafeteria, but outside of that dorm, it was a no-holds-barred diet. And Ben loves his meat.  He got me to eat steak which I had never really liked and to eat it pretty consistently.  So for the next period of my life, I really wouldn’t refuse any kind of meat.

And then one day, I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore.  I stopped eating beef for 3 reasons: (1) the environmental impact – if you can’t give up your car, the next best thing to do is to stop eating beef; (2) the world hunger impact – the amount of food we give to a cow to feed one person could feed 10 people if we gave it to them directly; and (3) the cruelty issue – the part of my conscience that had been nagging me since 7th grade finally took hold when I saw a news piece about a “farm” abusing its cows.  I gave up pork too because it made sense to do together and even though I ate it, I never really liked it and I still think pigs are adorable.

Throughout all of this, I consistently ate poultry with a few caveats.  I won’t eat at KFC because of its cruelty issues.  Same with Tyson chicken.  I can send you all video links if you want but will not subject anyone to them in this post unasked.  I tell people I want to be a vegetarian but I’m just not ready to take that step.  If I lived on my own, I might do it sooner.  And if I cooked more often I might do it.  But those are my excuses and I have to live with those choices until the day I decide to be a vegetarian.  And then, of course, I’ll have to consider the next step of becoming vegan (but how I would miss my ice cream!).  And I’ll always have to consider going back to being a regular, old, meat-eating American.

This is all my way-too-wordy explanation of my state going into Eating Animals.  I wanted to post this first because it would be too lengthy to do in a review and because I wanted to do it before my thoughts were tainted by the book.

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Look for my review tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Eating Animals: My Story

  1. nomadreader February 28, 2010 / 5:55 pm

    I’ll be looking forward to your review tomorrow! I do take a radical stance on eating meat. I think it’s hypocritical to not eat dogs because they’re our pets when we eat the pets of other cultures. I am a meat eater, but I am only a local meat eater. I only eat local dairy products too, although I make the occasional exception for delicious international organic cheese. I want to be a vegetarian in spirit, but it’s never worked for me. I’m a foodie, and I look at processed food with disdain. I simply love food, and I’ve worked in enough great restaurants to not be able to eat anything but the fresh, local and typically organic. Regardless, I admire vegetarians. I do recommend a somewhat related book about general healthy eating and living: Empowered by Sheryl Ellinwood.

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    • Michelle February 28, 2010 / 6:06 pm

      Thanks for the book rec. I’ll check it out. I think the whole thing is a personal decision and everyone just has to be comfortable with their choices. But part of the problem is that people don’t have the whole truth.

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  2. Dominique February 28, 2010 / 6:32 pm

    I found this post really interesting. I think it’s really admirable that you’ve not been eating mammals and not going to stores like KFC. I’ve often struggled with this issue, but being poor and still living at home has meant I’ve never done anything about it. I’m looking forward to reading your review.

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  3. Eva February 28, 2010 / 10:18 pm

    You know, I’ve been a vegetarian for almost eight years now, and these days it’s SO much easier to eat out as a veggie. Usually, there are at least a couple entrees for me to choose from, whereas in the early days sometimes I had to construct a meal from sides.

    I just recently read Eating Animals too, which made me go back to eating vegan. So I’m curious what effect it’ll have on you.

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  4. Vishy March 1, 2010 / 4:08 am

    Interesting post on an interesting topic! I liked very much you line : ‘People are very confused about the line that I’ve drawn even though we all draw a line somewhere.’ It expresses the complexity of the issue quite well. Looking forward to reading your review.

    Like

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