Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating AnimalsSome of you may remember that one of the few books I never finished was ‘Everything is Illuminated’ by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I gave up after about 60 pages when I realised that I could neither appreciate nor even understand what on earth was going on.  Happily, ‘Eating Animals’, a non-fiction work by the same author about, well, eating animals, is infinitely more readable despite its rather gruesome content.

The ‘horsemeat scandal’ currently dominating the news in the UK makes this book timely reading.  I am sure that some of these ‘revelations’ will come as no surprise to Jonathan Safran Foer who describes the factory farm process in vivid and repetitive detail in this book.  It is clear that nobody really likes to think about where their food actually comes from or how it ends up on their plate.  I think the episode of the British sitcom ‘Peep Show’ in which Jeremy accidentally runs over a friend’s dog and then attempts to barbecue and eat it in order to hide the evidence is one of the few examples in which this taboo is explicitly dealt with even in the realm of more alternative comedy.

The author stated that he does not intend this book to be specifically a manifesto in support of vegetarianism although it does often come across like that anyway given the realities of modern factory farms which appear to have absolutely no redeeming features.  However, I still think that Safran Foer could have provided a slightly more balanced argument and also a more global one which doesn’t just apply to the situation in the United States. 

If you are already thinking about becoming a vegetarian then this book will probably provide the final push towards that decision.   On the other hand, I still don’t believe that individuals choosing to become vegetarian will solve widespread problems such as the inefficiency of fishing or the incorrect labelling of meat content.  It is not as though I can send a note to a farm asking them to slaughter one fewer chicken today just because I decide I don’t want to eat it anymore.  

Overall, ‘Eating Animals’ is a very interesting book with a passionately argued case.  Just don’t read it over dinner.


Filed under Books

12 responses to “Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

  1. Being a vegetarian, I may have to pick up this book. I made this decision last year due to the fact that in my opinion, animals were dying needlessly. Not only did I have a problem with eating the flesh of an animal, but how they were treated while there alive, in factory farms, specifically. Good article. I may have to pick this up.


  2. You should check out Foer’s second novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It’s much more accessible/better written than Everything is Illuminated. Also, the book is much, much better than the film, which is a travesty.


  3. Sounds like how I felt after watching Food Inc.


  4. Great review of Eating Animals…As for Everything is Illuminated, I totally agree that the book, especially the first part, is confusing and cluttered. I did, however, love the movie (perhaps in part because I was a Russian Lang and Lit major in college); I liked the humor and twisted language jokes, albeit amidst a serious topic.


  5. James Kennedy

    Haha! Or read it over a vegan dinner and you’ll be okay. Better, even.

    And Everything is Illuminated was such a good film! I’ve just put it on my reading list and will review it soon. I hope the book isn’t *too* muddled.

    “I still don’t believe that individuals choosing to become vegetarian will solve widespread problems such as the inefficiency of fishing or the incorrect labelling of meat content” is a weak argument. You know why! 😉


  6. I just started reading ‘Eating Animals’ and am enjoying it so far. I have read ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ and enjoyed that as well (though the movie wasn’t very good – they never are!) I definitely agree with you about how fitting it is for all the scandal going on in Europe right now. So sad 😦


  7. It’s a better option IMO to go to a local source of sustainable food. Supporting local, humane farmers actually DOES make a difference because it causes businesses that use human practices to grow based solely on their humane practices. Visit local farms until you find one you like and buy from them! You may not stop a farmer from killing one more chicken… But instead you help another farmer raise one more that is humane and natural.


  8. I already have my own phobias regarding food and how it arrives to my plate, so I’m very much avoiding this in order to remain alive.


  9. Hello again, and thanks for the ever-entertaining blogs!

    I read this around a year and a half ago, and along with a few other things I’d seen and read around the same time, it led me to becoming the pescatarian I am today, (and a little smug I am, too, at the current horse-meat scandal…although I have eaten horse-meat before, when I lived in Japan!)

    Personally, I absolutely adored ‘Everything Is Illuminated’: in the vein of ‘Clockwork Orange’ or ‘Trainspotting’, the pleasure derived from mastering practically a second-language in the book is enhanced by the heart-breaking content. I’d encourage you all not to give up on it!!

    I was lucky enough to mee(a)t Jonathan Safran Foer at an event last year: feel free to read the review here!


  10. bean's book blog

    I think Michael Pollen does a better job with this subject. His book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, while focusing on the industrial meat industry, doesn’t feel heavy handed on a vegetarian diet. He learns more toward pushing us to explore options, including small farms with humane and healthy treatment of animals. His other books (In Defense of Food, The Botany of Desire, and his most recent one call Cook) are also excellent.

    I started buying my meat from a local farm with a closed herd that is mostly grass-fed. I’ll never go back to grocery store meat.


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