Jonathan Safran Foer will be reading and discussing his new book, “Eating Animals“, at the Harold Washington Library tonight. Foer has been on a media blitz lately, from appearing on Ellen, to writing a piece in the Washington Post about eating dogs, to name a few. “Eating Animals” is solidly pro-vegetarian, and rehashes the well-known evils of factory farming:
The treatment of animals in today’s factory-farm system is so horrifying, it’s enough simply to know it exists to want it to end. Fittingly, long stretches the book chronicle the unhappy lives of chickens, unable to walk, unable to fly, unable even to reproduce; pigs — intelligent creatures — confined, beaten, and slaughtered; fish gaffed in the eye or the side, writhing gills slit. Vast fields of pig manure seeping into the water table. A million different viral threads stuck in the sick bodies of doped-up chickens just waiting to make the species jump.
While it’s all well and good that Foer wants animals to be treated more ethically, he doesn’t seem to offer a solution to feed the poor and hungry that consume these factory farm meats. When asked on Ellen how he would respond to families struggling to put food on their tables, who resort to buying chicken nuggets off the dollar meal at McDonald’s, these very families who can’t afford to eat any other way, Foer responded with “We can’t afford to eat this way”. Great. Has Foer lost touch with reality? Natalie Portman wrote a piece on the Huffington Post about “Eating Animals” and how reading it converted her into a vegan, and she opens her post stating she hates when people criticize each others choices. I love you Natalie Portman, and you may deny the ivy tower you live in all you want, but please keep in mind that you are far removed from the stink of every day living, of the foreclosures, lay-offs, and lack of health insurance. Not eating meat is the last thing people are worried about right now.
Foer does make some good points, like how the American dream of what a farm looks like in our minds is far removed from reality, that factory farming is a main contributor to global warming, our drugs aren’t as effective now that our meat is injected with anti-bodies, and H1N1 is the result of factory farming. And it is a tragedy that Americans are so disconnected from their food. When I visit my family overseas, I feed the rabbit I will eat later, I collect eggs from a chicken coup, and I cuddle both animals. I tend to think they live a nice life with my Hungarian relatives, and it’s depressing that eating meat has different “consequences” in America.
Jonathan Safran Foer’s highlighting of America’s problem with meat could be called noble, but this is a problem that will take years to rectify. Everyone knows we should be driving fuel efficient electric cars, but we’re not. Electric cars are not able to serve the needs of all or the majority of consumers, and the same applies to organic and sustainable farming. Until someone who is earning minimum wage can afford the products from these organic farms, we really haven’t done anything of consequence. The goal of these organic sustainable farms should be to lower their prices and make themselves accessible to the general public. Not everyone has access to land and the time to tend to their chickens and rabbits, nor do they have the time to go to the “organic” farms highlighted on Foer’s website.
But yeah, go hear Foer read and lecture at the Harold Washington Library tonight, to heckle him, be converted into a vegan, or to get a copy of one of his other books signed.