Jonathan Safran Foer Illuminates The Meat Industry

“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.” It’s the thesis of novelist and writer Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, Eating Animals (Little, Brown), and a maxim his grandmother once told him. It was how she explained to her grandson why, when she was starving almost literally to death during the Holocaust, she refused to eat pork offered to her by a kind stranger. It wasn’t Kosher. She was at death’s door, scavenging, eating things she wouldn’t, years later, tell her grandson she’d eaten. If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.

Eating Animals is not a case for vegetarianism (though Foer certainly advocates giving up meat, or at least cutting back), but an explanation of how Foer himself – a new father, a sometimes-vegetarian since childhood – decided to find out once and for all where he stood, ethically, emotionally, physically, politically, on eating animals. “Obviously, so much of being a parent is lying to your kids,” Foer half-joked at a recent reading hosted by Hunter’s MFA program in New York City. But the food Foer and his wife, novelist Nicole Krauss, put on the kitchen table as their son grew up – and how it got there – was not something Foer was willing to lie about.


To research his book, Foer spent three years traveling the country to look at how we run our massive meat industry, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions by a long shot (an unbelievable 51% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat and dairy industries, according to Worldwatch Institute). Foer saw it all: everything from factory farms where chickens were raised in spaces no bigger than the small square of his book jacket (here Foer held up the green hard-cover edition for effect), to family farms where animals were treated with utmost reverence. “I went to farms where they treat the animals better than I treat my dog,” said Foer.

And it’s true that the ranks of consumers lining up to support healthier and more ethical meat and dairy standards are growing. Free-range and cage-free egg sales are shooting through the roof, but Foer has trouble with the weak labels and standards guiding shoppers. “Free-range means nothing,” said Foer. “I could have 10,000 chickens under this podium and sell the eggs to you and call them free range.”

It’s the gruesome images that stick with Foer. Turkeys genetically modified so that they can’t breed on their own, for example. “Is that a symbol of bounty?” Foer asked the audience rhetorically, just days after Thanksgiving. “I don’t want it in my house,” he said of factory-farmed meat. “But more than that, I don’t want to give my money to it. I don’t want to support it.”

Which is not to say that Foer is a tiresome purist or a preacher. He’s nothing of the sort. He and his family celebrated Thanksgiving this year with another family – friends whose daughter was dead-set on having turkey appear on the feast table. Foer told her to go right ahead and cook a turkey. If his son, who’s being raised veggie, one day comes home and informs his parents that he’s eaten a hot dog, Foer says he’ll ask how it tasted and leave it at that.

For now, Foer’s taking it all the way. If you can believe it, he even tried to turn his family’s dog vegetarian. In answer to an audience member’s question about the ethics of feeding animals to animals, Foer talked about the veggie-dog experiment: “It did not work. I can explain to you what I mean by that afterwards.” Foer’s settled for a presumably less diuretic, non-factory farmed brand of dog food he and Krauss discovered at Fairway Market.

XCVMC4JU9ANA

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored

22 months of war - condensed in a 1-minute video

No, the Syrian civil war is not over. But it might be soon. Time for a recap

Strange Maps
  • The War in Syria has dropped off the radar, but it's not over (yet)
  • This 1-minute video shows how the fronts have moved – and stabilised – over the past 22 months
  • Watching this video may leave you both better informed, and slightly queasy: does war need a generic rock soundtrack?
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

content.jwplatform.com
Videos
  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less