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Does Your Family Eat Animals?

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The Harrison Patch (Harrison, NY) March 26, 2011

Does Your Family Eat Animals?


Jonathan Safran Foer's book, "Eating Animals," could convince you

that the amount of suffering surrounding factory farming outweighs

the benefits of eating meat.


By Jaclyn Bruntfield


In Eating Animals, author Jonathan Safran Foer describes a letter he

received after he sent a friend a note with pictures of his newborn



Foer's friend replied, simply, "Everything is possible again."


Indeed, when you bring a new, beautiful life into the world, things

do feel quite ideal. You want to be a better person for your child,

and you want them to have a better life than you may have had.


But along with those thoughts also comes a sense of panic. On the

ride home from the hospital after Aden was born, my beau and his dad

were having a debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I

started sobbing in the back seat as I thought about all of the

possibilities my son's life held, and how the world-and the people in

it-are so often all too cruel. The dichotomy of holding my son's tiny

little hand on that ride home while thinking of all the unpleasant

realities he might realize over the course of his life was

heartbreaking to me.


And the news of the world hasn't changed much today: Japan is facing

a dire nuclear crisis, Libyans are facing the beginnings of a civil

war, and here in America, things may not be as bad, but we're

nevertheless polarized and disunited by every imaginable trait.


In Eating Animals, which was published in 2009, Foer takes an

interesting perspective in studying yet another horrifying aspect of

our modern world: the factory farm industry.


When he found out he was going to have a son, Foer set out to decide

whether or not he could, in good conscience, feed his son meat.


"Feeding my child is not like feeding myself," he says. "It matters more."


He goes on:


"This story didn't begin as a book. I simply wanted to know-for

myself and my family-what meat is. I wanted to know as concretely as

possible. Where does it come from? How is it produced? How are

animals treated, and to what extent does it matter? What are the

economic, social and environmental effects of eating animals? My

personal quest didn't stay that way for long. Through my efforts as a

parent, I came face-to-face with realities that as a citizen I

couldn't ignore, and as a writer I couldn't keep to myself. But

facing those realities and writing responsibly about them are not the



While Foer does an admirable job of presenting the information he

gathered objectively, he also makes it clear that he is a vegetarian

because the amount of suffering experienced by factory farmed animals

is too great to ignore.


And this issue of suffering, which is the framework of Foer's

philosophical argument, is why I've chosen to become a vegetarian.

(Though I must clarify that I do plan on occasionally eating meat,

but only if I shake hands with the farmer.) Of course more strict

vegetarians might oppose this decision, but my argument is that I

have no problem eating meat a few times a year if the animal lived a

happy life and was slaughtered humanely. We luckily have many farms

here in the Hudson Valley that adhere to such transparent practices.


What's so disconcerting about factory farming is that there is no

transparency. For instance, Foer writes that when you buy a package

of chicken breast at the grocery store, you'd hardly know that that

meat may have come from a sick chicken. That sick chicken, as Foer

explains it, is thrown into a concoction insiders call "'fecal soup,'

for all the filth and bacteria floating around." Foer also notes that

those sick chickens are immersed in the same tainted chlorine bath as

healthy ones.


Other reprehensible scenarios Foer unveils in his book include cows

being skinned alive after stun guns malfunctioned, pregnant pigs

being unable to move in their cages and disabled baby piglets being

killed because they're deemed unfit by management to be turned into



But of course the factory farming corporations-Tyson and Purdue for

poultry and Cargill for beef and pork-don't want us to know about the

absolutely revolting conditions by which animals end up neatly

packaged in the supermarket. In fact, Foer points out that his

multiple requests to corporations asking for tours of the facilities

were ignored.


American consumers, and as Foer explains, an increasing number of

people in other countries, are meant to be disconnected from the

process of producing meat for many reasons. Chiefly among them,

though, is the endless quest for profit by big agribusiness. If

people knew the process by which they came to eat chicken parmesan or

a juicy steak, they'd likely think twice about buying such foods.


And of course while those corporations are raking in billions of

dollars a year while sending their minions to influence federal

agriculture policies, the primary issue of suffering transcends

multiple aspects of society. From the environment, to workers' health

to public health issues, the suffering caused by factory farming is

on a global scale.


As a parent, I've read enough information in Eating Animals and

beyond to convince me, like Foer, that big agribusiness does not care

about my child's health. And for this reason, when I go to the

supermarket, I choose not to support them anymore by no longer buying

their product.


My decision is a personal one, but what you decide to feed your

family is your choice. If you're not at the point where you could go

vegetarian, decreasing your meat consumption even a small amount

would give less power to these companies. Every little bit helps when

it comes to ensuring that the products we buy help to maintain our

health, rather than diminish it.

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Authors Notes.

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