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We Need a New Narrative About Eating Animals
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestselling novels Everything Is Illuminated, named Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the winner of numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Here I Am, and a book of non-fiction, Eating Animals. Foer was one of Rolling Stone's "People of the Year" and Esquire's "Best and Brightest." Foer was also included in The New Yorker magazine's "20 Under 40" list of writers. Foer attended Princeton University in New Jersey, where he studied Philosophy. It was while at Princeton that Foer was able to take an introductory writing course under the tutelage of novelist Joyce Carol Oates. Oates noted Foer's talent at an early stage, informing him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy." Of Oates, Foer later said:
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestselling novels Everything Is Illuminated, named Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the winner of numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Here I Am, and a book of non-fiction, Eating Animals. Foer was one of Rolling Stone's "People of the Year" and Esquire's "Best and Brightest." Foer was also included in The New Yorker magazine's "20 Under 40" list of writers.
Foer attended Princeton University in New Jersey, where he studied Philosophy. It was while at Princeton that Foer was able to take an introductory writing course under the tutelage of novelist Joyce Carol Oates. Oates noted Foer's talent at an early stage, informing him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy." Of Oates, Foer later said:"She was the first person to ever make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that."
Question: How do narratives we tell ourselves affect our relationship to food?
Jonathan Safran Foer: Well, you know, it might not have been true five years ago, it probably wasn’t true 10 years ago or 15 years ago, but now, most people have some sense of what the factory farm system is. They might not know the breadth of it, that it’s 99% of all of the meat that’s sold in the supermarkets and restaurants. And they might not know that the, sort of, environmental destruction that results from it. And they might not even know of the extent of the animal cruelty or the human health effects. But if you ask most people, you know; do you think most meat comes from a place you’d like to visit or not? They would say, probably not. Probably not a good thing.
And every day we’re given more and more reasons to worry about where our food comes from. Right now there’s an egg recall, half a billion eggs. There’s been e-coli tainted beef a number of times in the last couple of years, people are dying from it. We now know very, very firmly that animal agriculture is the number one cause of global warming, and yet very few people, including people who are normally quite political and quite moral and moralizing, talk about it. And even fewer people act on their concerns about where food comes from. And I think it’s because food is not just fact and it’s not just reason; it’s culture, it’s personal identity, it’s what our parents and our grandparents fed us. How we think of ourselves, how we want to think of ourselves, and it’s always attached to some kind of a story. And that confuses things. The Thanksgiving turkey confuses things. The Christmas ham confuses things. Every family has its own version.
But what we need is a different way of talking about meat that is itself a story. It’s not an argument or a work of journalism, but something that involves this messiness of being human beings and that is what I tried to do with this book.
Question: What responsibilities do we each have a modern individuals?
Jonathan Safran Foer: Well I think different people feel these responsibilities differently. So somebody who is very active in environmental causes might think about meat in a way that’s different than an animal lover or a pet lover would. And that person might feel about meat differently than a doctor would. But what we can say is that Greenpeace doesn’t serve meat anymore at of its functions, Al Gore has advocated eating less meat. The United Nations has said that animal agriculture is one of the top two or three causes of every significant environmental problem on the planet. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Disease Control has said that we need to stop raising animals in the way that we are because it’s making antibiotics less effective and also propagating Swine Flu and Avian flu and anyone who knows anything about how animals are treated is repulsed by it. It doesn’t take being an animal lover. I myself am not an animal lover. I don’t particularly care for chickens to be honest, or cows or pigs. But there are some things that are sort of below the line of very basic human decency and the farm system that we have is.
Recorded on August 26, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Eating meat is a part of our cultural and personal identity—think Christmas hams or Thanksgiving turkeys—but the factory farming system is not sustainable.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
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