Eating Animals Book Summary By Jonathan Safran Foer

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Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals (2009) gives readers an intimate look into the modern meat industry.

It examines how this entire production process has been twisted beyond recognition, and presents a carefully researched and balanced perspective on the animal rights debate.

The book also provides an in-depth analysis of how eating animals affects our health and environment, while at the same time exploring the powerful relationships between humans and animals.

Foer takes readers through every aspect of the "farming" industry, from its industrial origins to its ethical implications, and even investigates alternative practices that seek to minimize negative impacts on both animals and our planet.

Informed by experience in slaughterhouses, ethical questions about food preparation and nutrition, Foer shines a light on the forgotten stories of individuals affected by our eating habits —stories that we must confront if we are to make meaningful choices about what we put on our plate.

Eating Animals Book

Book Name: Eating Animals (The (a)morality of our eating habits and traditions)

Author(s): Jonathan Safran Foer

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: Nature & the Environment

Author Bio

Jonathan Safran Foer is a critically acclaimed author who has achieved worldwide success with his bestselling novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Hailing from New York, Foer has established himself as a inimitable storyteller and, more recently, as an activist for animal rights.

Utilizing his skills as a creative writer, he has composed the powerful book Eating Animals that provides readers with thought-provoking insights on this timely issue.

With both insightfulness and sincerity, Foer explores the environmental, ethical and health impacts of consuming animals alike and offers compelling reasons why people should consider eating less meat.

Factory Farming: Agrimony And Abuse In The Name Of Efficiency

Factory Farming

Factory farms have all but taken over the traditional farm landscape in the US, now accounting for 99% of the land-animals farmed here.

And it’s no wonder — these facilities are designed for efficiency, not for life.

Unlike a true farm, where animals get to roam around pastures and enjoy fresh air, factory farms are more like assembly lines with each animal processed in the most efficient way possible.

That means that these animals are bred to grow quickly so that they can be harvested as soon as they reach adolescence.

As a result, these animals suffer from so many health problems due to their unnatural growth that they could never survive if released into the wild.

On top of this, any type of care or respite – even just water and rest – is deemed inefficient by factory farms and thus removed from their environment; automated systems handle herding, feeding and even slaughtering the animals.

And when workers do come into play, they’re usually paid poorly under immense stress which can lead to mistakes or even deliberate cruelty on their part.

It may sound like something out of a fantasy world but factory farms have very little in common with traditional farming practices — there’s unfortunately no grass growing under their feet or sight of real sunshine in their environment either.

The Dark Reality Of Factory Farming: Exploitation, Cruelty, And Profitable Feces-Soaked Chicken Meat

Factory farmed poultry is not just unethical, but also incredibly unhygienic.

Chickens, divided into broilers and layers and bred for either meat or egg production, are subject to extreme growth rate increases due to factory farming methods – growing 400 percent larger and laying eggs twice as quickly.

Because of this, the chickens are totally reliant on factory farms and can no longer survive outside of them.

The conditions inside these farms range from unjust to revolting; birds live in cramped coops with less than one square foot of living space per bird, often pecking at each other out of insanity until their beaks are burned off with a hot blade as a (painful) solution.

This cruelty is only further perpetuated when it comes time for slaughter; carbon dioxide gas used to stun the birds often fails, leaving them conscious and writhing until they die.

What’s worse is that the resulting meat is unnaturally pumped full of liquids such as “fecal soup” – a cooling liquid consisting of bacteria and pathogens frequently found in chicken feces – which adds weight that consumers unknowingly pay for.

In sum, factory farmed poultry should be regarded as both ethically and hygienically revolting.

Factory Farming: What Pigs Have To Sacrifice For Our Dinner Tables

It is no exaggeration to say that hog farming is the height of animal cruelty.

The sheer number of ways that pigs reared in factory farms are made to suffer is appalling and heartbreaking.

For example, their ability to engage in species-specific behaviors, such as building nests and sleeping communally, which is natural for them, is completely suppressed due to the confined and cramped environment they are forced into on multi-tiered facility farms.

Not only are these conditions torturous for the adult hogs, but it starts even earlier with female sows who endure hormonal manipulation and extreme confinement within gestation crates where they can hardly move.

Once the piglets arrive, their tails and needle teeth are removed (also without anesthesia) and most horrifically, their testicles are removed simply because consumers prefer castrated meat.

And this still isn’t all of it — smaller pigs who grow more slowly than bigger ones may be “thumped” to death, either successfully or not – resulting in pigs running around with gruesome injuries like a detached eyeball hanging from its socket.

Hog farming needs to end now in order for animals everywhere to live out their lives free from cruelty and torture.

The Cruel Reality Of Industrial Fishing: Unimaginable Suffering And Death

Industrial Fishing

Fishing and fish farming have been waging a war of extinction against all aquatic life.

The efficiency of modern industrial fishing methods mirrors that of factory farms in its extreme cruelty – but for some reason, we tend to ignore the suffering of fish as if they were just commodities instead of individual creatures.

This is why scientists predict that all fished species may completely collapse within the next 50 years.

Fish farms can be even worse than traditional fishing practices, with their high death rates that chillingly provoke scenes of agony like salmon bleeding from their eyes, crowded conditions and water so full of parasites it eats away at exposed bone.

And when a wild fish is caught, for hours before slaughter it will often suffer hooked onto a line or dragged along the ocean-floor.

These practices also lead to tremendous collateral damage in the process known as bycatch – an estimated 4.5 million sea-animals are killed each year in long-lines alone, while trawling its most common method is responsible for 80-90% bycatch that goes back into the ocean, dead!

It is painfully clear that fishing and fish farming constitute a war of extinction against all aquatic life.

Factory Farm Workers: Desensitized To Animal Abuse Through Labor Under Stressful And Dehumanizing Conditions

Employees at factory farms and slaughterhouses are exposed to a dehumanizing working environment, one where the only labor is menial tasks such as slaughter.

This can take an emotional toll on employees, leading them to become cruel and sadistic towards the animals they work with.

Evidence of such cruelty has been recorded at chicken and pig farms – workers have been seen tearing off birds’ heads, breaking bones, shoving iron poles into rectums and vaginas, skinning conscious pigs and even playing baseball with baby turkeys.

32% of audited slaughterhouses were shown to have deliberate acts of animal cruelty occurring regularly, making it clear that this is a common issue.

Managers seem to condone these actions too, as there are almost no sanctions nor prosecutions put in place, illustrating just how severe this problem can be.

The Environmental Impact Of Meat Consumption: Pollution, Poisoning And Public Health Concerns

Eating meat has become a cause of concern when it comes to the environment: it’s one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN reports that animal farming is responsible for around 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – that’s 40% more than comes from the transportation sector.

A vegan lifestyle generates seven times fewer emissions than an omnivore diet, and as more people in rapidly growing countries like China start eating meat-heavy diets, those emissions are set to skyrocket.

On top of this, almost 50% of China’s total water consumption goes into animal farming!

The US is facing environmental issues due to overconsumption of meat as well.

Animal feces from factory farms produces 87,000 pounds per second – so much waste that it can’t be processed without doing damage to nearby rivers and landfills.

This mass production leads to lagoons filled with toxins and effluents which frequently seep into waterways and contaminate the air we breathe.

Nearby families end up suffering from sicknesses like nosebleeds and headaches – yet regulations often go unnoticed or unchecked.

It’s clear that eating too much meat is unsustainable for our planet – not only does it emit toxic gases, but produces massive quantities of shift that have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in the US alone!

The Power Of Food Companies To Circumvent Laws To Protect Animals And Advance Their Own Interests

Protect Animals

The meat industry can be a powerful force, often able to influence public institutions and bend the rules to their benefit.

Take the USDA for example: it’s supposed to promote nutritional health of the nation, but it can’t go against its obligation to support the agricultural industry by issuing statements like “eat less meat.”

Even though a vast majority of Americans want strong laws to govern animal rights and protect farm animals from cruel treatment, those in charge cede those demands so as not to upset industry interests.

This further shows that companies have managed get exemptions for common practices that many would consider cruel or even unimaginable.

In addition, they also have been successful at preventing bans on excessive use of antibiotics in livestock which is hazardous and causes antibiotic resistance.

All this is possible due to the immense power wielded by companies within the meat industry.

The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Meat: Animal Suffering And Its Impact On Society

The price of meat is shockingly low in today’s market and it doesn’t reflect the true production cost.

Factory farming has allowed for the prices to remain low due to the endless cycle of mass production and abuse of animals.

The costs, such as treatment of waste, use of antibiotics, spread of viruses, and animal suffering have all been taken for granted.

Traditional family farms that took care of their animals naturally with traditional methods where they could feed on grass or run around in the sun would never be able to produce enough meat per capita while keeping low prices – it simply wouldn’t be profitable.

So instead we sacrificed animal welfare in order to maintain cheaper rates.

We crammed them into small spaces filled them with chemicals, essentially torturing their flesh – yet cannot even bear to face the unspoken truth behind our dinner plates.

The price of meat should factor in all these hidden costs too and reflect more accurately its unethical production methods, however as long as factory farming exists at this monstrous scale it will be impossible to do so.

The Unhealthy Consequences Of Factory Farming: Unprepared For A Global Doomsday Event

It’s well understood that factory farming is bad for our health today and tomorrow.

Consumer reports tell us that 83% of chicken meat sold in the US is contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter, resulting in 76 million cases of food-borne illness annually.

And to make matters worse, with factory farms overusing antibiotics – administering 25 million pounds a year for non-therapeutic uses – there’s an increasing chance of antibiotic resistant strands of disease emerging from them.

In addition to contemporary concerns about our food’s manufacturing causing sickness and suffering, there’s also a looming specter of another pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects an influenza pandemic at some point in near future and it could be down to factory farming again.

Diseases from chickens, pigs and other animals can spread easily when they’re cramped together in unclean conditions with no medical care: researchers found that up to 70% of factory farmed pigs have respiratory diseases by the time they reach slaughter – conditions ripe for viruses to mutate into something even more deadly.

The Spanish flu pandemic which wiped out between 50 and 100 million people 1918 can be traced back to avian influenza, transferred from birds to humans via some sort of mutation process — now considered a likely result of unsanitary factory farm conditions.

With these warehouses popping up all over the place, it looks like we could face similar consequences again soon if we don’t take action soon and put an end to this cruel industry once and for all.

We Should Care About The Suffering Of All Animals, Not Just Dogs

All Animals

There is no rational justification for treating dogs differently from pigs, chickens and fish when considering the suffering inflicted upon them.

Dogs certainly have evolved in ways that make us feel a special bond with them and their intelligence has helped many of us to empathize.

But the same is true for other animals we may not consider as close companions, including pigs, fish and chickens.

Pigs, for example, display learning capabilities that surpass those of chimpanzees, while fish can form relationships, use tools and interact socially.

Chickens are also incredibly intelligent, at least as much as mammals such as primates.

Therefore, it stands to reason that when it comes to physical and emotional pain caused by humans, these creatures should all be considered to an equal degree – regardless of our sentimental attachment to dogs or any other animal species.

Vegetarianism Is The Most Ethical And Rational Choice For Anyone Concerned About The Environment And Animal Welfare

It’s almost impossible to be truly ethical when it comes to our food choices, unless we choose to become vegetarian.

That’s because most of the meat that people eat today is factory-farmed and not necessarily “ethical.”

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer drives this point home: if we really want to demonstrate our values and prevent meat industry giants from wielding power, then the only rational choice is to stop buying factory-farmed products and opt for a vegetarian diet instead.

Though there is such a thing as non-factory farmed meat, even these products often end up in the pockets of the same companies that produce factory-farmed meats – making it hard to know whether or not your money is truly going to an ethical source.

At the end of the day, vegetarianism should still be seen as one of the simplest ethical choices we can make when it comes to what we put on our dinner plates each night.

Even if there are other options available, they may require more research than some people are willing or able to do.

Wrap Up

Eating Animals, a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, sums up its key message as this: producing meat for human consumption via factory farming is ethically wrong, damaging to the environment, and contributing to current and future health problems for humans.

The book addresses how the current meat industry works; most animals are kept in factory farms with unsanitary conditions and are subject to immense suffering.

Fishing and fish farming too have detrimental effects on aquatic life.

Employees of these factories become brutal and sadistic due to the nature of their work.

Furthermore, eating meat is environmentally unsustainable.

The cost of production is concealed in order to make it as cheap as possible, yet it presents serious risks when eaten by us humans–it’s responsible for making us sick today and may eventually cause the next global pandemic.

Yearn no rational or ethical justification for treating specific animals differently from one another–even if a dog is kept differently from a pig or chicken or fish– eating meat still remains irrational and unethical overall.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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