GOOD

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Compelling Case for (Not) Eating Animals

If we don't eat dogs, should we eat any meat? Should you care about the vegetarian author's latest provocation? I do. Almost everything...


If we don't eat dogs, should we eat any meat? Should you care about the vegetarian author's latest provocation? I do.




Almost everything intersects with animal agriculture. Almost everything we talk about and care about: whether it's the environment; whether it's what it means to be human; whether it's how we treat people; how we treat animals; consumption; America's place in the world. Basically, animal agriculture is the most important example of each of these things and it's not a part of any of these conversations. Jonathan Safran Foer

Early in his new book, Eating Animals, Foer makes the case for eating dogs. While sleeping with your sister might be a taboo for good reason, man does not universally avoid platefuls of dog-although it's clearly taboo in the United States. (Dog is one of the only animals Anthony Bourdain wouldn't eat on his 2001 world television tour.) With 3 to 4 million dogs euthanized annually, why waste all that good dog meat? Foer has a suggestion, a sure-fire recipe from the Philippines: Kill the dog, marinate it, and fry the meat with onions and pineapple.

Foer knows how to create compelling stories. Like his two previous novels, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, he deploys humor-a smart, ironic shtick-to approach difficult subjects. A dead dog is no laughing matter, but his recipe makes us question a more generalized hunger for meat. His case for eating a dog simply raises the much larger questions he's getting at. Just because we can eat meat, should we? And should we be eating animals if they're capable of suffering and, despite this, we force them to live in nauseating, nightmarish factories?


Foer spent a year and a half earnestly traveling to many places that will sound familiar to readers of Michael Pollan or Saveur. He visits heritage chicken farmer Frank Resse, Niman Ranch founders Bill and Nicolette Niman, and free-range pig farmer Paul Willis. He sneaks on to a factory farm. He uses worker testimonies to recreate the macabre drama of the kill room floor and describes how pig runts are "thumped" to death. He writes that longline fishing kills millions of sea animals that are dumped into the ocean dead as bycatch. He finds that animals produce more waste than cities.

The book does not conclude with a simple seven-word diet mantra (a la Pollan's eat food, mostly plants, not too much) that will echo around the blogosphere. It's not that simple an argument. But let's be clear, Eating Animals is not ambivalent, either. Foer knows that food and the meanings we give to food are messy and complicated. On page 13, he writes, "A straightforward case for vegetarianism is worth writing, but it's not what I've written here." The book is rather a perplexing, complicated set of provocations disguised as stories intended to raise more questions than answers.

Foer's doubts about staunch vegetarianism arise from the richness of eating like an omnivore-eating sushi, steak, and fried chicken. While Foer can see the appeal of free-range and humanely slaughtered beef, ethical meat only reaches a narrow demographic (a population about the size of New York City). And ultimately, he finds that eating any meat requires a kind of forgetting about animal suffering that he can't seem to shake. Foer also recognizes the powerful significance of food fellowship, sharing memories of his grandmother's chicken or his family's gefilte fish. When he refuses to eat even a thin slice of humane ham, he's aware that his gesture implies a larger refusal-as if he's rejecting friendship and everything he's just heard about ethical pork.

But Foer does not want to close himself off to anyone. Listening to others is what makes his writing exceptional. He's a vegetarian who can listen to and understand the arguments made by selective omnivores. He listens to a factory farmer. He listens to PETA activists, a vegetarian who works on a beef cattle ranch, and a vegan who builds slaughterhouses.

In the last 20 years, there have been dozens of books exposing the dark side of meat-Eric Schossler's Fast Food Nation, Jeremy Rifkin's Beyond Beef, Gail Eisnitz's Slaughterhouse, or Betty Fussell's Raising Steaks. Eating Animals follows suit. It shows what is so disgusting about meat and doesn't really serve up much in the way of alluring alternatives. (The book's only recipe is the one above, dog.) But, in the end, that's not why we're at Foer's dinner party. You should read it for his acute ability to simultaneously entertain and provoke. And unlike its more polemical forebears, the stories will should reach farther into our minds and stomachs. Be prepared to upset both.

"I DO" illustration from the book, by Tom Manning.

Articles
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet