Harry Cresswell

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer


A real eye opener on the factory faming industry. This book will make you seriously consider your meet consumption. If not for ethical or moral reasons then at least for the benefit of your health.


Food serves two parallel purposes: it nourishes and it helps you remember.

There is something about eating animals that tends to polarize: never eat them or never sincerely question eating them; become an activist or disdain activists.

It raises significant philosophical questions and is a $140 billion–plus a year industry that occupies nearly a third of the land on the planet, shapes ocean ecosystems, and may well determine the future of earth’s climate.

We have waged war, or rather let a war be waged, against all of the animals we eat. This war is new and has a name: factory farming.

More than any set of practices, factory farming is a mind-set: reduce production costs to the absolute minimum and systematically ignore or “externalize” such costs as environmental degradation, human disease, and animal suffering. For thousands of years, farmers took their cues from natural processes. Factory farming considers nature an obstacle to be overcome.

Children confront us with our paradoxes and hypocrisies, and we are exposed. You need to find an answer for every why—Why do we do this? Why don’t we do that?—and often there isn’t a good one. So you say, simply, because.

“Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer

Chickens once had a life expectancy of fifteen to twenty years, but the modern broiler is typically killed at around six weeks. Their daily growth rate has increased roughly 400 percent.)

The average shrimp-trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures overboard, dead or dying, as bycatch. (Endangered species amount to much of this bycatch.) Shrimp account for only 2 percent of global seafood by weight, but shrimp trawling accounts for 33 percent of global bycatch.

Cruelty depends on an understanding of cruelty, and the ability to choose against it. Or to choose to ignore it.

How much do I value creating a socially comfortable situation, and how much do I value acting socially responsible?

the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, around 40 percent more than the entire transport sector—

omnivores contribute seven times the volume of greenhouse gases that vegans do.

[Animal agriculture] should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.

We live in a world in which it’s conventional to treat an animal like a hunk of wood and extreme to treat an animal like an animal.

No one fired a pistol to mark the start of the race to the bottom. The earth just tilted and everyone slid into the hole.

What the industry figured out—and this was the real revolution—is that you don’t need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable.

The highest rates of osteoporosis are seen in countries where people consume the most dairy foods.

The entire goliath of the food industry is ultimately driven and determined by the choices we make as the waiter gets impatient for our order or in the practicalities and whimsies of what we load into our shopping carts or farmers’-market bags.

That is the reason the factory farm system is failing and won’t work over the long term: it’s created a food industry whose primary concern isn’t feeding people.

At one level, this is the result of the normal process of corporations pursuing profit by making sure they have access to resources their competitors don’t. There is, obviously, a lot of money at stake here: billions of dollars, which could either be spread among a handful of megacorporations or among hundreds of thousands of small farmers. But

The factory farm has succeeded by divorcing people from their food, eliminating farmers, and ruling agriculture by corporate fiat.

Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?

At the end of the day, factory farming isn’t about feeding people; it’s about money.

If animal agriculture has become a joke, perhaps this is the punch line: even Bill Niman has said he would no longer eat Niman Ranch beef.

This is not in the end a complicated position. Nor is it a veiled argument for vegetarianism. It is an argument for vegetarianism, but it’s also an argument for another, wiser animal agriculture and more honorable omnivory.

This is not in the end a complicated position. Nor is it a veiled argument for vegetarianism. It is an argument for vegetarianism, but it’s also an argument for another, wiser animal agriculture and more honorable omnivory. If we are not given the option to live without violence, we are given the choice to center our meals around harvest or slaughter, husbandry or war. We have chosen slaughter. We have chosen war. That’s the truest version of our story of eating animals. Can we tell a new story?

The three years I spent writing this book, for example, saw the first documentation that livestock contribute more to global warming than anything else; saw the first major research institution (the Pew Commission) recommend the total phaseout of multiple dominant intensive-confinement practices; saw the first state (Colorado) illegalize common factory farm practices (gestation and veal crates) as a result of negotiations with industry (rather than campaigns against industry); saw the first supermarket chain of any kind (Whole Foods) commit to a systematic and extensive program of animal welfare labeling; and saw the first major national newspaper (the New York Times) editorialize against factory farming as a whole, arguing that “animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse,” and “manure… has been turned into toxic waste.”

I’ve restricted myself to mostly discussing how our food choices affect the ecology of our planet and the lives of its animals, but I could have just as easily made the entire book about public health, workers’ rights, decaying rural communities, or global poverty—all of which are profoundly affected by factory farming.

To accept the factory farm feels inhuman. To accept the factory farm—to feed the food it produces to my family, to support it with my money—would make me less myself, less my grandmother’s grandson, less my son’s father. This is what my grandmother meant when she said, “If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”

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