Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eating Animals ~ Book Review and Giveaway!

So I was confronted with the animal sympathies and sensitivities of my youngest daughter Bronwynn unexpectedly at the dinner table several months ago. Now as I have been very open about I am not a vegetarian or vegan. I am an omnivore and though I try to be a selective one I often fail at buying only local, family farmed meats. My 5 year daughter looked ominously down at her plate and begged askance with concern in her eyes, "Where does chicken come from?" She asked with a nervous tremble in her voice. With trepidation I responded honestly, as my husband and I are firm believers in being frank, open, and honest with our children. I did not delve into the details, I felt she may be a bit too young for the hows and whys, but it struck me that I may have to start preparing vegetarian meals for Bronwynn and investigate alternatives that would suit both her tastes and her nutritional needs. As a university student my best friend and roommate was a vegetarian and because we most often ate together I guess I had lived a semi-vegetarian lifestyle by default.

It was shortly after this revelation that Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals debuted and I quickly jumped at the opportunity to review a copy! I thought perhaps it would give me insights into my dilemma with my daughter but more importantly it truly taught me to reflect on what I put on my plate and the plates of my family members with an even greater basic knowledge of where my food was coming from. Knowledge is empowering...although in this case one may be tempted to say ignorance is bliss! Though I have not been entirely converted to vegetarianism I am aware that what was on my plate may not have been what I thought it was or at least not where one envisions it has come from.

Now I am no dumby! I am a very educated woman and not being a city gal I know about farms, or at least I thought I did. I did know that factory farms existed but I think like many I turned a blind eye to the knowledge of what they represented for fear of the truth. Having been enlightened by the details of Foer's book I know the details that were lacking. The factory farm industry goes beyond animal cruelty, and environmental pressures, and extends into genetically altered animals that no longer function as the original animals they resemble, unhygienic conditions, a breeding ground for viruses, and the over use of antibiotics and hormones.

"The very genetics of chickens, along with their feed and environment, were now intensively manipulated to produce either excessive amounts of eggs (layers) or flesh, especially breasts (broilers). From 1935 to 1995, the average weight of "broilers" increased by 65 percent, while their time-to0market dropped 60 percent and their feed requirements dropped 57 percent. To gain a sense of the radicalness of this change, imagine human children growing to be three hundred pounds in ten years, while eating only granola bars and Flintstones vitamins." (Foer 2009:106-107)

This system of food production is unhealthy for both animals and humans and exists under the guise that factory farms are the only way to provide meat to feed the masses.

If you read Eating Animals--and I highly recommend you do--your eyes will open to the myths created by an industry more concerned with the mighty dollar than the mighty deed of feeding the world!

Foer is not preachy and does not believe everyone should be converted to vegetarianism--though this is his current personally preferred diet. When he learned he would be a father Foer began to ask questions, questions he felt were important to his new life role as father. He believed the answers he sought were of value and that what he discovered was worth sharing with others.

"No doubt there are different conclusions about the world in which we live and the foods that should be on our plates, but how much of a difference do these differences make? The idea of a just farm system rooted in the best traditions of animal welfare and the idea of a vegetarian farm system rooted in an animal rights ethic are both strategies for reducing (never eliminating) the violence inherent in being alive. They aren't just opposing values, as is often portrayed. They represent different ways of getting a job done that both agree needs doing. They reflect different intuitions about human nature, but they both appeal to compassion and prudence." (Foer 2009: 221)

Thus was born Eating Animals. A story that may make your blood curdle, or your stomach turn at times. A story of a human moral dilemma which is brilliantly balanced and fair while honest and forthright. A story of unspeakable horrors but written with wit and humour. This is not a heavy read but rather a light and accessible book focused on a heavy subject.

"Our decisions about food are complicated by the fact that we don't eat alone. Table fellowship has forged social bonds as far back as the archaeological record allows us to look. Food, family, and memory are primordially linked. We are not merely animals that eat, but eating animals."
(Foer 2009:194)

My daughter's concerns have dwindled and still she continues to eat animals but I am now prepared for the day the teen aged Bronwynn comes to me to ask where our meat comes from. On that day I will tell her about the wealth of knowledge I gained through reading Eating Animals and at that time I hope to be a very selective omnivore. I am already thankful for the family farmed beef my friends produce and sell to us. I am in the process of seeking family farmed poultry and hope real chickens and turkeys still exist somewhere in Canada! As for the rest I will have to solve my own personal dilemmas. As one of the traditional turkey farmers interviewed by Foer, tells "those who say it's just too much to pay for a turkey, I always say to them, "Don't eat turkey." It's possible you can't afford to care, but it's certain you can't afford not to care."

Would you love fonder for a fascinating conversation? Are you interested in making informed choices or just educating yourself regarding the food on your plate? 5 winning Northern Mama followers will find this book disturbing but informative. Everyone should read this book!

To Enter:

  • Be a Northern Mama Follower or Facebook Fan {Required}

Extra Entries:

  • Subscribe via email
  • Grab my button
  • Follow me on Twitter @Northernmama35 and tweet about this giveaway
  • Blog about this contest with a link back here {please leave me the link to your post with your comment}

{Please leave separate comments for each entry.}

Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents. Giveaway closes December 16, 2009 10:00pm CT. Read Giveaway Rules for details.


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36 comments:

  1. And that is why we are pro-hunting!

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  2. I am a follower. I'd love to read this - have you read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan? It is eye opening as well...

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