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

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:


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.


Look for my review tomorrow.

The Sunday Salon 2-28-10

Just a normal recap this week.

On Sunday, I went to my first book club meeting (as discussed last Sunday). We met at the movie theater, saw Shutter Island, and then went to Panera to discuss.  I think it went pretty well.  Two members loved the book, one was less than thrilled with it, and I was somewhere in the middle. So it made for a decent conversation. Next month we’re reading/watching Alice and Wonderland. Thanks to everyone who left comments on last week’s TSS.

I finished Eating Animals this week and I decided to finally become a real vegetarian. Of course the next book I picked up was Julie and Julia which is just filled with meat (including a rather disgusting description of bone marrow). Actually, it might be turning me off meat even more. But more on that when I write my reviews.

I posted my review of Genesis, teased you with a couple lines from Eating Animals, joined the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, and added too many books to my TBR list.

On Wednesday, Ben and I went to the U.S. Men’s Soccer game in Tampa. It was cold, rainy, and I was wearing everything I would wear to go snowboarding back in Michigan (aside from the jeans).  Ben’s the one that likes soccer, but the overkill on the clothes kept me warm and dry enough to actually enjoy the game. The US beat El Salvador 2-1 scoring the winning goal in stoppage time.

We also learned that Ben needs to have knee surgery (3rd time if anyone is counting) as a result of his own soccer playing. He scheduled it for March 12 so thoughts and prayers for him would be much appreciated.  He’s not looking forward to yet another long recovery.

On a bright note, Spring Training starts this week and I will be at the Phillies opening day on Thursday and the Tigers game in Lakeland on Saturday. Here’s to hoping that nice Florida weather I was promised when I moved down here will actually show up.

Teaser Tuesday 2-23-10

“For corporations like Smithfield, it is a cost-benefit analysis: paying fines for polluting is cheaper than giving up the entire factory farm system, which is what it would take to finally end the devastation.”

– p. 178 of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer –

I think I’ve used Eating Animals in a previous Teaser Tuesday but I put it down for awhile and now I’m finishing it. And there are so many good teasers in this book.


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser Tuesday

“In the past fifty years, as factory farming spread from poultry to beef, dairy, and pork producers, the average cost of a new house increased nearly 1,500 percent; new cars climbed more than 1,400 percent; but the price of milk is up only 350 percent, and eggs and chicken meat haven’t even doubled. Taking inflation into account, animal protein costs less today than any time in history. (That is, unless one also takes into account the externalized costs – from subsidies, environmental impact, human disease, and so on – which makes the price historically high).

– Page 109 of Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer –


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!