Eating Animals [Book Review]

Title: Eating Animals
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Nonfiction
ISBN: 0316069906
Pages: 267
Year: 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown
Source: Personal collection
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Barnes and Noble):

Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood-facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf-his casual questioning took on an urgency His quest for answers ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir and his own detective work, Eating AnimalsEverything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, widely loved, Eating Animals is a celebration and a reckoning, a story about the stories we’ve told-and the stories we now need to tell. explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting. Marked by Foer’s profound moral ferocity and unvarying generosity, as well as the vibrant style and creativity that made his previous books,

Other Books I’ve Read By Author: Everything is Illimunated

Why I Picked Up This Book: Like Foer, I’ve struggled with the decision to eat meat so I thought his book would be what I needed.

My thoughts:

I often recommend a book because I think others will enjoy it. This is not a book you enjoy. It’s a book you need to read in order to make the important moral, environmental, and health decisions involved every time you eat meat. I don’t intend to be preachy. I simply feel that ignoring the truth is worse than making the informed decision to continue eating meat. Like Foer, who says this book is not an attempt to turn everyone into vegetarians, I don’t really care what anyone’s ultimate decision is – I just want everyone to have all the information before they make it.

Prior to reading this book I was a partial vegetarian. I discussed my philosophy here. I am now a complete vegetarian. After reading this book, I simply can’t eat animals any longer. At least not the way they are “farmed” and slaughtered in 21st century America. And I thought I was doing something good buy not eating beef or pork, but it turns out poultry really gets the worst treatment. Chickens may not have the “soulful eyes” of pigs or cows, but they’re certainly living creatures that deserve at least some respect for being such.

Most people don’t want to know the things Foer discusses in this book. People want to be blissfully unaware of what brought that piece of bacon to the breakfast plate. But I think if we are going to factory farm animals and then inhumanely slaughter them, the least we can do is acknowledge our role in the process.

I’m going to post quite a few memorable passages because I think they capture the essence of this book better than any review I give it can. I’m not going to give you all of the enlightening facts (go look up fecal soup), but please, consider reading this book or another like it or at least doing a little research before eating your next chicken wing or hamburger. Or at the very least watch the Colbert Report interview below.

Memorable Passages:

“But there is something unique about the ways in which we fall in love with animals.” 22

“Isn’t it strange how upset people get about a few dozen baseball players taking growth hormones, when we’re doing what we’re doing to our food animals and feeding them to our children?” 112 (Frank Reese, poultry farmer)

“We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory – disavowed.” 143

“…the food – how it tastes, the functions it serves – either does or does not justify the process that brings it to the plate.” 164

“Since I encountered the realities of factory farming, refusing to eat conventional meat has not been a hard decision. And it’s become hard to imagine who, besides those who profit from it, would defend factory farming.” 196

We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference.” 252

Will I Read This Author Again?: Yes

Other Reviews:

Buy It Now: Amazon; The Book Depository; Powell’s

Jonathan Safran Foer on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jonathan Safran Foer
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Skate Expectations

14 thoughts on “Eating Animals [Book Review]

  1. Nymeth March 1, 2010 / 3:04 pm

    I love Foer, so this has been on my list ever since it came out. I know it’ll be a difficult read, but also a necessary one.


    • Michelle March 1, 2010 / 10:52 pm

      Difficult by necessary describes it well.


  2. Jen - Devourer of Books March 1, 2010 / 11:11 pm

    I have this on thr TBR pile. I alreafy know most of this stuff, I am hoping I’ll be able to get my husband to read this so he’ll be okay with more vegetarian meals.


    • Michelle March 2, 2010 / 3:14 pm

      I want my husband to read it as well. He’s not thrilled with my decision and I want him to understand why I made it. He’s been a good sport with the no pork or beef the last few years, but this is going to be tough for him.


  3. Maria March 2, 2010 / 3:23 am

    That’s sounds like a very interesting book! I think it’s very important that we know how our food ends up on our plate… I’ve been a vegetarian for almost two months now and I probably heard of most of the issues with the meat industry but will definitely be reading this…


  4. Vishy March 2, 2010 / 5:17 am

    Interesting review! Looks like this book is creating waves with the frank facts it provides and the tough questions it asks.


  5. Eva March 3, 2010 / 3:06 am

    >>But I think if we are going to factory farm animals and than inhumanely slaughter them, the least we can do is acknowledge our role in the process.

    This is me pounding on my desk in agreement, British parliament style. 😀


  6. BookishlyFab March 4, 2010 / 9:31 am

    I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma last year, and that really opened my eyes. I didn’t really change much after reading it other than just feeling really guilty about everything I was eating.

    We did get into a local CSA for this upcoming season so that will be a step in the right direction. I don’t plan to become vegetarian, but I do buy my eggs and as much meat as possible from a local farm (so much tastier). I don’t have a problem with eating animals. I just think they should be treated like living creatures, and the only way to make sure that happens is by going to the farm and seeing for yourself.

    I probably won’t read this particular book because I picked it up at Barnes & Noble, and it seems to cover the same material as The Omnivore’s Dilemma.


    • Michelle March 4, 2010 / 9:36 am

      I want to join a CSA but our seasons run November-May so I’ll have to wait till later this year. I still plan on eating eggs and dairy, so I need to start looking for the best options for those.


  7. erik March 5, 2010 / 2:28 pm


    • Michelle March 5, 2010 / 2:37 pm

      Someone certainly likes to speak through youtube videos. 🙂


      • erik March 5, 2010 / 2:46 pm

        It is the time of Web 8.6, a glorious new era in which we have no original ideas only those that we assimilate from the Youtubes and sometimes the “Wiki”


  8. Dominique March 6, 2010 / 6:41 pm

    This sounds like a really thought-provoking read. Well done on making such a difficult decision! I’d like to read this too because I’ve often thought of cutting meat out of my diet but never done anything about it.


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