I should warn you, I’m writing this while (still) sick so I’m not promising much coherence. Oh, this sickness has nothing to do with this book or its content. It has to do solely with the fact that I live with someone who kindly shared his germs with me. That’s love, friends.
First thing first: I love animals. I also eat meat. Is this contradictory? Should I, or do I, feel guilty for what I eat? I mean, I also love tomatoes and I find few things in this world that can topple a perfectly ripe peach from its first-place spot in my heart, but I don’t experience any sort of shame whenever I bite into its flesh. And yes, it is called flesh. I don’t get squeamish about that either.
Second things second*: I will read anything. This is not to say that I won’t give up on anything, but I’ll give any form of writing a shot. Topics don’t matter. Authors don’t matter. If it’s compelling and written well, I’ll read it to the end. If not, I drop it. Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s a new stance I’m taking because the stack of books I’ve got in the wings far exceeds the amount of time I’m able to devote to reading. Such is life. Sometimes I break my rule and continue reading in order to get the author’s conclusion or see how the plot finally unfolds, but not always.
The book in question on this go round is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I definitely read it to find out Mr. Safran Foer’s opinion on the whole damn thing, which he researched and wrote about because he and his wife were about to have a baby, and he felt responsible for what that child was going to eat.
Sounds good, yes? It is responsible for anyone to care about what they eat and where it comes from, that isn’t my issue. My issue is that Mr. Safran Foer doesn’t write solely about that. For example, he delves his history as a waffling vegetarian, and how, as someone who never liked dogs in the first place, inexplicably falls in love with a dog named George, and how, as a dog owner, he has a greater appreciation of the animal, even though he will never know what is going on her head, and that, by the way, people in other countries eat dog, so why don’t we?
While some of his argument is interesting and is well-written, some of it is superfluous and irritating. Do we really need a “classic Filipino recipe” for stewed dog? And no, by the way, I’m not citing this because half of me has relatives who may or may not have eaten Benji, but because it’s unnecessary. I would’ve found the instructions on how to make Chinese-style braised puppy not only gratuitous, but also sensationalistic; the recipe is included to get a rise out of the reader, and that is a cheap ploy. I don’t buy into the argument that Mr. Safran Foer is writing here in a Swiftian, A Modest Proposal-esque fashion either. Mr. Swift wrote satire as a means to insult the powerful; Mr. Safran Foer writes here for shock value. If I had borrowed the audiobook of Eating Animals and Mr. Safran Foer were reading his own words on the recording, I would say that is tone is smug. And that self-satisfied vibe wholly pervades the entirety of Mr. Safran Foer’s “introspective” sections of the book.
How I wish Mr. Safran Foer had spent his time exclusively writing about the American meat industry and its impact on the global state of the environment and that we as consumers have an obligation to eat out meat responsibly. All of that I find interesting. All of that I thought was well-written. Give me more facts about how the animals we eat have been bred strictly to die, having done nothing with their lives other than produce significantly more meat than their predecessors. Tell me how “efficiency” has made meat more economic, and how it is cheaper to kill worthless male chicks** than keep them alive. Explain the ridiculousness of our country’s legislation in regards to our food. I want to learn about that.
Everything else, however…
I’m intrigued to know the true cost of my food, and the implications of what I eat. We cannot deny that in order to eat meat — be it pork, beef, poultry, seafood or game — an animal is killed. In the same vein, we also must address the fact that, within an international culture that demands meat on its plates, animal husbandry is a necessity. There is simply no way that tomorrow (or in the next year, or in the next decade) every single meat-loving person on this earth will decide to exclusively consume responsibly- and humanely- raised livestock. People simply can’t afford it.