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Laurie David

Laurie David

Posted: November 11, 2009 06:39 AM

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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A young, self-effacing, quiet, humble novelist from Brooklyn has written a powerful, groundbreaking book that might very well save our lives and the planet, if only everyone would read it.

Don't be afraid. Don't be put off by its title Eating Animals, or assume you already know what's inside it. You don't. I didn't.

Author Jonathan Safran Foer, just 32 years old, draws on his family history (his grandmother survived the Holocaust by scavenging), and his experiences as a young father debating what to feed his first child, in order to shed light on our relationship with our food supply. He took time away from his work as an acclaimed novelist and short story writer, best known for Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, to send this earth-shattering message to the world.

This book is a game changer. Eating Animals offers an impassioned argument against animal cruelty and for a more informed, responsible relationship with our food, the life-giving sustenance we rely on for our existence.

Are you wondering about where this crazy swine flu pandemic originated? Read this book. Wonder why everyone you know is always getting sick, often with weird one-day stomach bugs? Read this book. (Did you know there are 76 million food borne illnesses reported every year?) Wondering why health care costs are soaring, and why every illness and malady - cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity - is on the rise? Read this book.

What we choose to eat matters tremendously, Foer argues, and not just for our own personal health but also to the core of who we are as human beings. While he extensively details the facts about the dangers of eating factory-farmed animals (which includes 99 percent of all the meat sold in supermarkets and restaurants), Foer also points out that the food choices we make now will influence whether our kids and grandkids inherit a healthy or unhealthy planet.

As most people know by now, raising livestock for human consumption is one of the leading causes of global warming. The United Nations reported in 2006 that livestock operations account for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transportation sector.

Making a different choice for dinner is the most powerful individual thing we can do to reduce global warming, as Foer points out. How big a sacrifice is that? To just reduce what we are consuming, say by going meatless one night a week as a starter? Remember our grandparents' dinners. Meat was a special once-a-week treat, for economic reasons and availability reasons. Today we are going in the opposite direction eating it sometimes three times a day, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The more we eat, the more factory farms have to produce, the further we get from core values of stewardship and morale responsibility.

How we treat our chickens, pigs, fish and cows affects everyone. Whether you eat animals or not, they have an impact on your life in the pollution they create, and the unhealthy impacts they can have on our friends and family members who do eat animals (including asthma, heart disease, cancer and more). Ever noticed how other countries whose diet is not meat-based have much lower incidences of these illnesses?

This isn't about turning the whole population vegan, and Foer doesn't go that far.

It's about moving out of our massive state of denial about how our food is being produced today. In researching the book, Foer says he "came face-to-face with realities that as a citizen I couldn't ignore, and as a writer I couldn't keep to myself."

Foer doesn't pretend to have all the answers, but he poses all the right questions that we should ask ourselves every time we put fork to plate. It is past time to stop being co-conspirators with the industrial agriculture business. We are killing ourselves with what we are eating and what we are feeding our kids. And because of our demand for meat we are aiding and abetting the horribly cruel, unsanitary, unsustainable and pollution-spewing factory farm system. A system completely shrouded in secrecy because if Americans saw the process, they would never take another bite.

I believe this is one of the most important books ever written. Read it, and quickly pass it on to your friends and family. You'll wish he had written it a long time ago. Bon appetit.