This book has made my heart heavy. It put a lot on my mind and now I hardly know where to start talking about it. It starts as a personal narrative- the author had waffled for most of his life about eating meat or not- and finally decided to do some research on it: why do we eat animals? where does it come from? how are the animals treated? He also tells quite a few family stories, illustrating how important food is in culture and family heritage, emphasizing how difficult it is to change, and to reason out why. A lot of it is about how screwed up the food system is in our country, particularly factory farming of animals. The author took a very close look at all this. He interviewed many: a man who runs a large operation, a small scale farmer who personally knows all his animals, an activist who sneaks into chicken sheds. It’s not just about how appallingly the livestock is treated in the poultry, cattle and hog farming industries, it’s about how terribly they pollute the environment, how dangerous they are for our health, how wretched the working conditions are for humans employed there. How the power of the corporations enables them to shrug off fines or ignore audits and inspections that don’t get enforced. I was shocked to read that over ninety percent of the meat now sold in America comes from large factory farms. Humanely raised animals are so few- not from lack of demand, but because the system makes it so hard for small farmers to function- they would never feed us- not even one city. Apparently even fish isn’t a good choice- if you’re not worried about mercury poisoning, or alarmed at how devastatingly commercial fishing ravages the ocean (killing hundreds of species for each one they actually keep), farm-raised fish isn’t all that better: the conditions on fish farms are just as bad for the animals as those in land-based facilities, and are even less regulated. Foer makes it sound like the only way to avoid being part of all this nastiness and horror is to simply not eat meat. For the first time it sounds like a proper idea to me.
This book was written a decade ago- I’d like to think that things have improved, but I’m rather pessimistic about that. However, there are at least two restaurants near me that specialize in farm-to-table fare, we are definitely going to patronize them although it’s expensive (for good reason) I will just eat out less. As if I did much before, anyway.