I have been vegan for a little over a month now. It has been a lot easier than I anticipated. Part of what has made it easy for me so far is books like Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. Before I was vegan, I worried that I would see pizza or a cupcake and want it so badly that it would be hard to deny myself the pleasure of eating it. Nope. Here’s why. Once I know what animals had to go through so that I could have that pizza, it becomes entirely unappetizing. Stomach turning, really.
Stomach turning is a good description for most of this book too. It is an excruciating read and I almost didn’t finish it. Great recommendation, right? But I do recommend it. I didn’t like reading it, but I am done sticking my head in the sand.
Eating Animals is more compelling than some of the other books I have read about veganism and animal rights perhaps because it doesn’t set out to be compelling. It is a retelling of the author’s inquiry into where his food comes from. He doesn’t begin with an agenda, but as he learns about how animals are bred, raised and slaughtered the information he encounters speaks for itself. It speaks of a system that is both cruel to animals and harmful to humans. The conditions in which animals are born and in which they live their unnaturally short lives is simply heartbreaking. Most of the animals we eat are modified so much from their natural state that they have chronic pain and cannot reproduce without human intervention. Their living genetics, living conditions and diet are so unhealthy, that they have to be medicated from birth to keep them healthy enough to eat. Their deaths are brutal and regulations are minimal. Slaughtering best practices are nearly impossible to uphold due to the pace at which animals are moving through the assembly line slaughterhouse and, frankly, even the best practices are horrific. The impact that industrial agriculture is having on humans, even without considering the health consequences of consuming grotesque amounts of animal protein, should be enough to deter all of us from eating factory farmed meat and eggs. The industry creates dehumanizing work conditions, damaging environmental effects (two words – fecal mists), and the spread of viral and bacterial illnesses that could reach pandemic proportions.
I learned as I was reading this book that Jonathan Safran Foer is not a vegan. In fact, he’s not even a vegetarian. I felt… judgey about that, but I am trying not to be. At least he knows. At least every time he brings his fork to his mouth, he knows exactly what the animal at the end of that fork experienced before it ended up on his plate. My guess is that this knowledge affects how often he eats animal products and where he gets them from. Maybe if everyone had this knowledge, we would all eat less meat and make more responsible purchasing decisions. Maybe. I don’t know, but I like to believe that is true.
So, read this book or another one like it. For a more inspirational read that still packs a knowledge packed punch read something by Victoria Moran. To learn about the health benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet, watch Forks over Knives and learn about the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Acquire the knowledge and then decide, but please don’t just default to eating what’s easy without thinking about it.