I Eat Vegan Books: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

February 12, 2010 by Keri

Eating Animals hit my reading list some time ago, but I’ve only recently finished the book.  I think this book may have taken me longer to read than any other of it’s length, not because it’s too long or boring, but simply because there is so much information to digest.   Where I normally would have spent hours reading, I found myself only reading a few pages and then wanting to discuss or think about what I’d just read.  The problem I often faced is that it’s rare to come across someone willing to discuss issues such as factory farming, genetically modified livestock, and the logistics of slaughter, even among those who already don’t eat meat.  Not only did the heaviness of information slow my reading process, but I actually think writing this post about the book once I was finished had me slowing my pace.  There is a lot to say about Eating Animals that is difficult to say without simply being repetitive and typing passages of the book.  I recommend you pick up a copy whether you’re a die-hard meat eater, a long-practicing vegetarian/vegan, or  curiously somewhere in between.  No matter what you choose to eat, everyone has a right to know where their food is coming from and make an educated decision.

Jonathan Safran Foer begins Eating Animals by explaining how the foods we eat represent who we are and the stories we tell.  There is nothing more socially bonding than food; just think about “breaking bread” with family, how many religious rules and ritual revolve around food, and even how in school who we ate with at lunch and which lunch table we sat at was so socially defining.  And there are very few social gatherings that don’t revolve around eating or at least find a way to include it.  The problem is people have stopped wondering what it is that they are actually eating and where the food and its components may have come from.  It is flat-out shocking to me that no one has any idea what they are eating and not only that, but that most people don’t want to know.  Try lending this book out to someone that hasn’t heard of it; they don’t want to read it.  Try telling someone even the simplest, least gruesome of facts from its pages; people look at you like you’re crazy for considering the information relevant.

Through Eating Animals the author goes on a journey to discover the origins of the foods he is considering feeding his son.  While the book doesn’t necessarily try to be a straightforward argument for vegetarianism, Foer finds that it’s impossible to escape cruelty in raising animals to consume; even the most earth and animal-friendly ranches committed unnecessary torture through branding or castrating, despite their best efforts at “humane meat production”.  The author solely gives credit to one turkey farmer for his absolute dedication to raising cruelty-free turkeys in the most natural way possible, but even that turkey farmer admits the distress he faces at sending his birds to slaughter.  Mainly, the focus of Eating Animals is pointing the finger at the practice of factory farming and how detrimental it is to public health, the environment, and the suffering animals it produces for food.

Having researched much of this information myself in the past, and being a documentary lover, I can’t say that all of the information was necessarily new to me, but it gave me a chance to reinforce what I already knew from a different viewpoint.  There are a few things that really stuck with me after finishing the book.  First, the way animals have been genetically modified to fit our food desires rather than evolutionary necessity really struck me.  I was unaware that no supermarket turkey is produced outside of artificial insemination.  Animals being bred to not be able to breed- how is that sustainable?!  Chickens are unable to walk a few steps without plopping down from exhaustion or even from leg fractures due to their unnatural weights.   Another excerpt that struck me is the author’s argument for eating dogs.  He discusses how if we’re so concerned about feeding people and producing cheap meat, then why are we euthanizing homeless dogs and throwing them in dumpsters?  We’re throwing away perfectly good meat if feeding masses and affordability are the arguments for factory farming.  I’ve always felt like if you can’t eat a dog- and  I’m not even saying your dog, just a dog- then why do you feel comfortable eating other animals with similar intelligences or any animal at all?  I don’t know how to draw that line.

Eating Animals is an extremely well-researched book filled with information relevant to anyone who eats anything, as well as plenty of “food for thought” and room for discussion.  There is just far too much to think about and discuss to even begin to include it all in one post.  If you have read the book, what did you think?  Did it change your mind about anything?  Also, what are some other great books on the topic of consuming meat or food mass production?

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I Eat Trees is a blog featuring my adventures in all things vegan. My favorite recipes, snack food finds, and restaurant trials are all on the menu so enjoy!


  1. Jenn says:

    I started this a little while ago, and I’ll have to pick it back up again. Nice review.

  2. Keri says:

    Thanks- It’s a really great read- a lot of info to process!

  3. Jason says:

    Hi Keri,

    Thanks for the review. I saw Foer on The Colbert Report and the segment made me cringe.

    Have you read the World Peace Diet by Dr. Tuttle? If not, please check it out. He may still have the PDF copies available for download.

  4. Keri says:

    Hi Jason,

    I agree. No one goes on Colbert Report for serious discussion, but still cringe-worthy.

    I just found the World Peace Diet online and read some of the reviews; it looks amazing. Thank you very much for the recommendation and I will definitely be picking up a copy if he doesn’t have it for download.