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Eating Animals [Hardcover]

Jonathan Safran Foer
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 2 2009

Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood-facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child's behalf-his casual questioning took on an urgency His quest for answers ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting. Marked by Foer's profound moral ferocity and unvarying generosity, as well as the vibrant style and creativity that made his previous books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, widely loved, Eating Animals is a celebration and a reckoning, a story about the stories we've told-and the stories we now need to tell.

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Eating Animals + The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
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"For a hot young writer to train his sights on a subject as unpalatable as meat production and consumption takes raw nerve. What makes Eating Animals so unusual is vegetarian Foer's empathy for human meat eaters, his willingness to let both factory farmers and food reform activists speak for themselves, and his talent for using humor to sweeten a sour argument."—O, The Oprah Magazine

"The everyday horrors of factory farming are evoked so vividly, and the case against the people who run the system presented so convincingly, that anyone who, after reading Foer's book, continues to consume the industry's products must be without a heart, or impervious to reason, or both."
J.M. Coetzee

"Stirring....compelling, earnest...Foer brings an invigorating moral clarity to the topic."—Entertainment Weekly

"Eating Animals carefully, deliberately, takes you through every relevant dimension of factory farming...One sees it from the inside, the outside, the moral high ground, the dithering consumer level, through Foer's family stories, from slaughterhouse workers, animal behaviorists, even from defenders of the system... Foer's aim is not to make your choice, but to inform it. He has done us all a great service, and we, and the animals, owe him our thanks."—Dr. Andrew Weil, The Huffington Post

"[Eating Animals] is a postmodern version of Peter Singer's 1975 manifesto Animal Liberation...Foer is the latest in a long line of distinguished literary vegetarians."—Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times Book Review

"Some of our finest journalists (Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser) and animal rights activists (Peter Singer, Temple Grandin)-not to mention Gandhi, Jesus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke and Immanuel Kant (and so many others)-have hurled themselves against the question of eating meat and the moral issues inherent in killing animals for food. Foer, 32, in this, his first work of nonfiction, intrepidly joins their ranks...It is the kind of wisdom that, in all its humanity and clarity, deserves a place at the table with our greatest philosophers."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"A work of moral philosophy...After reading this book, it's hard to disagree [with Foer]."—Geoff Nicholson, San Francisco Chronicle

"The latest from novelist Foer is a surprising but characteristically brilliant memoir-investigation, boasting an exhaustively-argued account of one man-child's decade-long struggle with vegetarianism...Without pulling any punches-factory farming is given the full expose treatment-Foer combines an array of facts, astutely-written anecdotes, and his furious, inward-spinning energy to make a personal, highly entertaining take on an increasingly visible...moral question; call it, perhaps, An Omnivore's Dilemma."—Publishers Weekly

"[Eating Animals] is extraordinarily thoughtful and intelligent, and reads more like philosophy than journalism."—Holly Silva, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Foer's case for ethical vegetarianism is wholly compelling...A blend of solid-and discomforting-reportage with fierce advocacy that will make committed carnivores squeal."—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of the most acclaimed young writers of his generation, a "certified wunderkind" (Time) whose work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. He has earned a National Jewish Book Award, a Guardian First Book Award, and remarkable praise for his first two novels, Everything Is Illuminated (adapted for film in 2005) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. EATING ANIMALS is his first work of nonfiction.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and fairly objective Feb. 8 2010
The author brings a novelist's talent for observation and description to the subject of farmed animals and the people who eat them. It is very engaging and horrifying in just the right measure and I found myself confronted with information I hadn't heard before, despite lots of reading on this topic. I was fascinated with his ethical dilemma and how he took us through it all, both from his point of view and those of others.

His conclusions are not mine, nor is this book the perfect statement of my own philosophy, but I think it is a step in the right direction and it is getting a lot of attention. Martha Stewart had him on her show and she said to her audience, "I think you'll agree with most of what [the author] has to say." Really? I think most of them don't want to hear it. Great quote from J.M Coetzee on the book jacket for those who do dare read it: "The everyday horrors of factory farming are evoked so vividly, and the case against the people who run the system is presented so convincingly, that anyone who, after reading Foer's book, continues to consume the industry's products must be without a heart, or impervious to reason, or both."

We'll see. Human beings have an amazing capacity for rationalizing their own actions.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Respect for the Animals We Eat Dec 13 2009
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
This book is a collection of personal stories and philosophical reflections - some humorous, others troubling - the author uses it to make a very significant point about our somewhat questionable relationship with the animal world around us. As top of the food chain, we have come to rely on certain domestic animals like cattle, chickens and pigs for our main food sources. This heavy reliance on red meat or animal protein has become a traditional part of our North American culture as reflected in the millions of animals slaughtered each year in readiness for our dinner tables. This dependence on meat as a mainstay of our diet, while not altogether healthy, is not the issue that Foer focuses on here. While a Vegan in his dietary preferences, Foer does show some understanding why most of us come honestly by our need for meat: a desire for flavour, an instinct for herding, and the need to provide for one's family are some of the key compulsions. Having made that point clear, Foer launches into a discussion of how present society has come to mistreat animals it raises to eat. From the floors of the modern food factories and slaughter houses of America comes an updated version of the horrors of the meat industry described in Upton Sinclair's 19th century "Jungle". Based on Foer's sources, the meat we normally consume on a daily basis has been raised under some of the most appallingly cruel conditions known to humankind. Turkeys clubbed and electrocuted, thousands of pigs squeezed into small, poorly-ventilated pens, and calves forced to live in their own execrement are all conditions that speak to an industry that puts profit ahead of humanity. Read more ›
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Foer's first book of nonfiction is not a rant against meat eaters, but more of a philosophical and meditative investigation on what it means to eat meat in today's society. Through the device of "storytelling" Foer examines the cultural, environmental, ethical, social, and political issues with consuming meat from factory farms, which account for 99% of meat consumption in the U.S. (I'm sure the figure is similar for Canada). His discussion of eating as storytelling was really interesting, in that what we eat tells stories about us as people, but also that storytelling centres around food consumption (think of big family dinners).

To be fair, I'm already a vegetarian, so perhaps some of this book was preaching to the converted. However, I think that anyone with a stomach will get something out of this book. Foer allows farmers, PETA activists, and industry workers to tell their own stories about factory farming and conditions on today's farms and what happens to the animals. In this way, the book is more powerful than other accounts of factory farms and the food industry because (I can't resist saying this) you get it straight from the horse's mouth.

Foer also offers some interesting philosophical and moral discussions of his own, surrounding why we find it inhumane to eat the family dog, but not slaughter other animals. What constitutes "suffering", and which is more important to us: the knowing or the eating. The knowing being knowing about the conditions of the farms where our food comes from, and the eating being the love of consuming of that food. For me, the knowing is more important than the eating, but for many others the eating is more important than the knowing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential book for conscious people Jan. 14 2010
I've been advocating for animal welfare for over two years now, and to do so, I needed to base my sayings upon solid facts and texts. This book is one of the best I've come to read both in interest and in argumentation quality.

This is so because the author uses not properly an argumentation but the presentation of what has found on the field and in his extensive research and text-reading on the subject. He presents his own experience as a person that want to know what's really happening to things he consumes and that therefore must investigate in places where he is not necessarily welcomed. He also presents social situations that a person concerned about animal welfare and environmental issues related to meat production may encounter. This is a breath-taking informative kind of writing. I warn you that there is actually no plot in this book but our own existence as consumers, which is big enough to motivate you to read the whole story.

It doesn't get a 5-star rating because it is not perfectly complete. It lacks some aspects like the situation of individual farmers as beings behind the big companies that own the production and their desire and/or capacity of returning to a smaller form of agriculture. It could have talked more about the international and globalization context in which agriculture is now part of, which might explain, but not excuse, some of the behavior encountered in farmers.

Ultimately, I recommend this book to any single person who eats or has eaten meat, which is virtually everyone. If you want to say that you know what you are eating, you have to read this book, especially if you're an American.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I read now I am vegan!
Published 9 days ago by Valerie Pegg
5.0 out of 5 stars I would highly recommend for anyone thinking of vegetarianism
A must read for EVERYONE. Jonathan provides unbiased, researched accounts of the animal/farming industry. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Melanie Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read!
An absolute must read! If you eat, this book is for you. Brilliantly researched and humorously written! Well-done Mr. Foer.
Published 1 month ago by Susanne Biro
5.0 out of 5 stars CAFOs are bad, so is grass fed & local. Stop eating animals.
I read this 2 years ago while doing a paleo style diet. Ever since I did not want to support the mainstream animal farming industry, but I still chose to consume animal products... Read more
Published 3 months ago by caiti
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for omniviores
I would recommend this as required reading for anyone who consumes animals or their products, to understand exactly what they are supporting thereby condoning by their choices. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Roslyn Wilford
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous discussion, done with respect and relentless integrity
Foer has a relaxed, conversational presentation, with dialogue wandering all over the cultural map. He meets with ranchers, slaughterhouse owners, animal rights activists and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brian Griffith
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Read
Eating Animals

I recently finished the book "Eating Animals," by Johnathan Safran Foer. Before I go any further I'd like to state for the record that I am not a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Donald McKenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars You MUST read this!
This book is very well written -witty, interesting and honest. A real eye-opener to what really goes on in the farming and fishing industries. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Elaine
5.0 out of 5 stars Not preachy - just the facts. You make your own mind up.
I'm on month two of my journey thanks to this book. It was informative and not at all preachy. The author presented the facts from all sides, very diplomatically and objectively. Read more
Published 22 months ago by N. Rea
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that has changed my life!!
Never before have i been so motivated to make a difference! as a mother to 2 young girls (1.5 $3 years old), a yoga teacher, and someone who cares deeply about our (beautiful! Read more
Published on April 30 2012 by Imola
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