14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Important Book I Have Ever Read
I have never submitted a review to amazon. similarly, I have never read a book that has significantly changed me or my outlook. I take ages to read things and often I abandon books if they don't captivate me. I have read countless books on knowledge, philosophy, even self help. Usually, after doing so, I have resolved to change my habits or lifestyle but never followed...
Published on 10 May 2011 by Annabel Maud
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little preachy but a thorough investigation
So the big selling point for Eating Animals seems to be that it's not an attempt to convert you to vegetarianism. Instead, it's supposed to be a more unbiased look at factory farming and the meat industry, and how what you choose to eat impacts society and the environment. I was initially quite sceptical about this claim, and Jonathan Safran Foer's vegetarian views shine...
Published 20 months ago by H. Whitehead
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Important Book I Have Ever Read,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)I have never submitted a review to amazon. similarly, I have never read a book that has significantly changed me or my outlook. I take ages to read things and often I abandon books if they don't captivate me. I have read countless books on knowledge, philosophy, even self help. Usually, after doing so, I have resolved to change my habits or lifestyle but never followed through for any length of time.
This book is different. I devoured it within days, went vegetarian instantly and continue to think about it often. I am not a fruit loop or an activist. In fact I tend to be quite lazy with my morals. I am strong minded and have always eaten meat. So I am the last person to be `converted.'
Foer's writing is gripping, elegant and beautifully structured. It doesn't preach, undermine or patronise. It is thoroughly researched, balanced and investigative. Journalism at it very best.
I have now purchased 5 more copies of this book to give to my nearest and dearests. Again, a real first. I wish it were taught at school.
If you read one book this lifetime - read this!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little preachy but a thorough investigation,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)So the big selling point for Eating Animals seems to be that it's not an attempt to convert you to vegetarianism. Instead, it's supposed to be a more unbiased look at factory farming and the meat industry, and how what you choose to eat impacts society and the environment. I was initially quite sceptical about this claim, and Jonathan Safran Foer's vegetarian views shine through quite clearly to me. That said, it's a thoroughly enlightening glance at the world of slaughter and certain aspects simply cannot be distorted by the opinion of the author.
My one and only experience with vegetarianism involved my four year old self innocently proclaiming that I wanted to be a vegetarian. My parents lovingly yet firmly denied this request, mentioning something about protein and canine teeth. Perhaps I wasn't particularly vehement about this life-style choice because I just mentally shrugged and finished my chicken; presumably I'd just seen a piglet I liked that day or something. The point is that for me, vegetarianism was always something that happened to other people.
Although I don't actually eat meat often, I can't say I've ever seen it as wrong. The opposite in fact - I believe humans are meant to eat meat, just as thousands of animals eat thousands of other animals in the wild. Fortunately, that's kind of the point of this book. In Eating Animals, Safran Foer doesn't even state that he thinks meat-eating is wrong - it's the method in which that meat is obtained that's at issue.
According to this book, more than 99% of the meat you see on the shelves anywhere, be it supermarket or butcher, came from a factory farm. We're talking huge, dark buildings storing thousands of animals. They can't move out of their own faeces, eat food that's good for them or get treatment for the painful sores that cover them. They've been genetically engineered to be unable to breed and have weak, stunted bones than can barely support their own weight.
A lot of Eating Animals isn't about vegetarianism just for the animal's sake, although obviously that plays a part. Instead it mentions how the farmed animals are pumped with so many antibiotics to prevent all the illness caused by the squalor they live in, so you end up consuming the same antibiotics via their meat. That's why humans are slowly becoming less susceptible to drugs - you're ingesting them without knowing.
Additionally, I learnt how chicken corpses are left to dangle in vats of hot water, filled with the blood, faeces and pus that dropped off all the other chickens before them. The water opens the pores, and in goes all that lovely mixture. So the meat is inflated to seem bigger by the water retention, but... just think about what you're eating.
It's a graphic book, filled with Safran Foer's own experiences and also witness accounts of workers from factory farms. That said, I'm squeamish but it didn't really disturb me until he talked about cattle being skinned while it was still alive. I thought about posting a quote to demonstrate, but then... no. Perhaps not. So this book won't keep you up at night, just give you something to think about perhaps. I do admit to skipping the few pages about fish farming, but there are enough fish eating each other in my nightmares without having to suffer through reading it for enjoyment, thank you very much.
'We just swing them (piglets), thump them, then toss them aside. Then, after you've thumped ten, twelve, fourteen of them, you take them to the chute room and stack them for the dead truck. And if you go in the chute room and some are still alive, then you have to thump them all over again. There've been times I've walked in that room and they'd be running around with an eye-ball hanging down the side of their face, just bleeding like crazy, or their jaw would be broken.'
It can be quite heavy on the facts and figures, which makes it a little bit of a chore sometimes. Especially in the chapter about the transmission of viruses (like Swine flu), I had to force myself not to skim-read. I suppose it shows the research that has gone into this book and it does add to the seriousness. I couldn't help but feel it could have ended a few chapters earlier too though. Each chapter (and they're not short) towards the end seemed to round off the whole thing perfectly, but no - it carried on. After a while it got a little repetitive.
It's also a little preachy in places, talking about shame and guilt a lot, but then again, surely it's a worthwhile topic to preach about? I just wish he wouldn't condemn the people who are trying to help - like the family farms and vegetarians who don't push it on all their friends.
Another thing that's worth noting is that Jonathan Safran Foer is from the US, and the statistics and stories mentioned are all American. I mean, I doubt it would be any different over here in the UK, but it doesn't specifically mention.
I've been thinking about where I stand on this. Obviously the idea of factory farms are abhorrent, and as Safran Foer says, if consumers continue to fund their unethical treatment, of course it will continue. On the other hand, genuine family farms are few and far between, and access to humanly obtained meat is difficult.
Eating Animals is worth a read, but it's not an easy book. Although it's written in a very easy, accessible tone, the abundant figures can occasionally make it slow going. Just be prepared - you think you know where your food comes from, but you really, really don't.
99 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)When I received an advanced copy of Eating Animals, I wasn't going to read it. After reading an excerpt ran in the New York Times Magazine (called "Against Meat"), I had to check it out. I've never been a vegetarian. I did read Michael Pollan's Omnivores Dilemma, though, and it's hard not to question whether one should eat meat after reading him. While Pollan made me more intellectually interested in food issues, Eating Animals shook me.
This book is loaded with incredible facts about animal agriculture, but it is more than anything a deeply personal (and often hilarious) meditation on what it means to consume animal products. Foer doesn't make, in the end, a firm case for vegetarianism, rather he provides a heartfelt and moving account of his own exploration into these issues. He makes it impossible not to care about what you eat without telling you exactly what you should eat.
Whether you enjoyed Foer's previous books, whether you're an omnivore or vegan, whether you've wondered about these issues in the past or never gave it a second thought, Eating Animals is a must read. You might be enraged or inspired, but you won't be disappointed.
98 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Places We Hide From,
As for the criticisms from some folk on this page, I work for a vegetarian campaign group so know that there aren't as many differences between US and UK/European farming methods as some critics would like to think. For example, the sow farrowing crate is still in use in the UK - it causes immense suffering to these highly intelligent and sensitive animals but is allegedly slightly more humane than the US gestation crate - a couple of inches perhaps? (Thankfully it is destined to be phased out after a lot of campaigning). But most animal abuse is not being phased out. There is also a lot of nonsense talked about organic and free-range meat, frankly. Recent and verified undercover footage by the UK's Animal Aid has exposed appalling cruelty to animals - in Soil Association approved slaughterhouses, not only the usual suspects. So much so that there is a call to put CCTV in abbatoirs to try and stop the abuse. If we are honest and go beyond our comfort/self-interest zone, I think many of us know that animals go through hell. RSPCA Freedom Foods, for example is another scam - the abuses within many of their approved 'farms' have to be seen to be believed. If you don't believe me, check Viva!'s undercover footage. Basically, farmers aren't monsters, but they are human and under pressure from supermarkets and the like to deliver cheap meat, eggs, milk and so forth. It's always the animals who suffer. That's the bottom line. It's a brutal business and it all too frequently brutalises those who work in it. Even the more ethical M&S, Waitrose and such cannot be guaranteed. What do people th ink happens to a worker's head when s/he kills or 'processes' animals day after day? Massive brutalisation and desensitisation, that's waht. Frankly, unless you actually sit by an animal while it is being killed, its quick and painless death cannot be guaranteed. It's time to stop kidding ourselves. Our diet contains suffering and death. It also contributes to world starvation, water depletion on a terrifying scale, ditto deforestation, fresh and sea pollution, desertification - and of course, CO2 emissions on an unparalleled level. It also contributes to the massive rise in heart disease, most cancers, diabetes type 2, obesity and all of the delights of the Western diet.
I'm a vegan of 10 years so perhaps it's obvious why I'd give this book 5 stars. However, I was also vegetarian for 15 years, went back to eating meat (for fairly spurious reasons) before finally going vegan. In other words, I understand the places in the human heart that resist confronting the reality of what we eat. I also come from a Northern UK (Scottish and Yorkshire) family - basically, I grew up on lard! - so my changed eating patterns caused all sorts of reactions amongst family and friends. Another vegetarian writer, Carol J Adams, said that without even meaning to, the very presence of a veg*n at the table draws attention to who is on our plate.
I'm now a vegan cook - I teach, write about and cook great vegan food. It's really not about 'giving up' and things have changed amazingly since the 70s and 80s, believe me. Don't be afraid to try to reduce or omit animal products from your diet. You'll feel and look better, and can eat with a clear conscience.
76 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down! Such a well written and thought provoking book.,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)This book isn't your typical book about why we shouldn't eat animals, it is filled with colourful characters from a vegetarian cattle rancher, to a turkey farmer, to a vegan helping to build a slaughterhouse. It is a book that addresses the reality that what we eat affects us and ultimately shapes our world. Foer's thoughts are so perfectly articulated and to me, his insights are truly original and devastatingly emotive.
I literally could not put it down and I would sincerely recommend it to any and every one.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and difficult, memorable read,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)I had been putting off reading this book because I, rightly, anticipated the intellectual and emotional 'work' that reading it and confronting the information within would necessitate. 'Eating Animals' is highly readable and compelling, it is also full of terrible and unforgettable descriptions of cruelty inflicted upon animals in the farming industry. It made me cry on multiple occasions and I remained spellbound and sure that I needed to keep reading the book and face up to the contents. Safran Foer is one of my favourite authors, he makes a strong, damning and passionate case against factory farming, not leaving 'wiggle room' for those who may be undecided. As someone who hasn't eaten meat in 20 years I found parts of this book extremely uncomfortable and distressing, I'm not sure how someone who did eat meat would receive this. I finished the book feeling shellshocked and sad, I am glad that I read it but Safran Foer does not provide any easy solutions or comfortable ways forward. I have a head full of information about the inhumanity of modern farming and I'm not clear how I can do anything about this.
I would recommend reading the book if you are interested in the arguments and information around eating animals, I would also recommend not reading it before bed, it is not comforting, rather agitating in a necessary way. I'm not sure whether anyone who doesn't already know where they stand on factory farming will read this but it has certainly given me pause and a host of information to support my previously more vague, instincts that eating animals is not necessary or kind.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food is Power... Are You In Control Of Yours?,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)No matter who you are, you need to eat and eat you do, several times a day. It's something you can't avoid doing, but you as a consumer are the most powerful ally or enemy of the factory farming industry. Which one you are is entirely your choice. This book gives you the knowledge you need to make that choice.
I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years but since reading this book my conviction in vegetarianism was renewed and I've become a vegan. I no longer want to support the meat industry in any way. Buying meat and animal products is giving financial support to the industry and I fully withdraw my support.
The ubiquitous protests for meat eating are untroubled by the bigger picture. The ones I hear most are addressed in this excellent book:
'But it tastes good'
- if we want to do something, that does not confer the right to do it at the expense of all else. When else is it okay to disregard morality in favour of what you think might feel or taste good. Would you see someone attractive and say 'well why can't I rape them?', 'I didn't like the look of that person, so I punched them.' or 'I wanted that laptop so I stole it.'
and 'that's what animals are meant for, what would we do with them otherwise'.
- That's what the slave traders used to say. Abuse of other people or animals is not what they are 'meant for'.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, very thought provoking,
It's true, like some of the other reviewers have said, that this book does not talk about British standards for factory farming, but a lot of what goes on in the States still goes on over here, even if we have marginally higher standards for animal welfare. I don't think that this diminishes from how good the book is.
Very interesting, and will definitely make you think more about the meat that's on your plate.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An incredibly important book,
Despite the book's brilliance there are huge ommisions which puzzle me and which I may relate in part to his own remaining eating choices. The first is his avoidance of any discussion of milk, butter and cheese. There is no discussion of the way in which the dairy industry is the bride of the meat industry. Another weak area of the book is fish. Fish are squeezed into two or three pages. I suggest reading THE END OF THE LINE by Charles Clover, or see the film for more background on this. Finally, because of his emphasis on suffering, there is no mention of the parallels between the techniques and consolidations of the meat industry and those of seed companies like Monsanto. I suggest watching THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MONSANTO for more on this.
However, these are small quibbles, and for what it's worth I, for one, have already changed my eating habits considerably as a result of reading this book. Any stack of printed pages which can do that is a testament to the power of the pen and if it turns out that we one day look back to 20th century eating habits and animal cruelty practices of our species with the same disgust that we now feel towards the practices of Nazi Germany then this book will have been one of the voices of common sense to help bring about an end to the current animal holocaust.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life changing book,
This review is from: Eating Animals (Paperback)I haven't quite finished this book but it is a brilliant read and if I had my way it would be on the curicullum for teenagers.
I watched an undercover doc made by an animal rights group around 1995 on channel 4 - I don't think it was on a factory farm and I can't remember much about it but one memory that does stick in my head was seeing pigs being herded into a slaugtherhouse and them being beaten with metal poles and kicked by their laughing 'guardians', I felt that they were absolutely terrifed and all so we could sate our apetite. I still get upset when I think about it - and coincidently, the one story that has upset me over all the others in this book is about how one worker treated pigs and how he is definately not an exception but the rule. After watching the doc on channel 4, both my son and I (at the time he was 13) were so horrified and felt so guilty that we vowed to give up pork, after a few weeks it semeed silly to just not eat pigs and so we became vegetarians and still are. I am so thankful for that undercover doc because without watching that I might still be ignorant and implicit in eating animals.
This book is not for the faint hearted and I can see why meat eaters would not want to read it - afterall, willful or unfillful ignorance plays a large part in their decisions and values. As he says in the book, of us all "what did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?". For people who think there is no alternative to eating meat, think it might be too hard to give up or just think it too expensive or too hard to seek out ethical meat then I can understand their reluctance to be totally ignorant about where their meat comes from. I say, I can understand their reluctance but that is not really true because, to me, willful ignorance (of race, gender, religion or anything) is an unforgivable trait!
As I said, I have been a vegetarian for almost 20 years and this book has certainly opened my eyes to the absolute horrors that these poor living, breathing animals go through just so as we can have a bit of what we fancy.
This is a sad book, an horrific book, an emotive book - a book that will stay with you for the rest of my life. I would like to thank the author because it has made me view the meat in my supermarket and the people who eat that meat in a completely different light.
Before this book when someone asked me how I felt about them eating meat I would say that if their conscience allowed it thats fine but my conscience does not allow me to eat meat. After reading this book when someone asks me how I feel about them eating meat I will say that when they are in full possesion of the facts (and not some edited version their minds allow) then they should let their conscience decide, until then I think they are totally wrong to do so.
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Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (Paperback - 27 Jan 2011)