EATING ANIMALS by Jonathan Safran Foer

For the last two weeks I have been enjoying life meat free.  I never thought that was possible.  Here’s why I no longer eat animals from America’s factory farms.

This review originally appeared on The Englewood Review of Books website.

 

“99% of the meat sold in the United States today comes from a factory farm.”

In the 1970s, my missionary parents uprooted us from the barefoot paradise of Papua New Guinea and planted us in Southern California.  My mother, suffering a bizarre set of health issues, began looking for answers in healthy eating practices.  While other kids ate Twinkies and Ding Dongs, Mother read Adelle Davis books on nutrition and force-fed us cod liver oil.

Perhaps because of this, my need to fit in urged me to become a steak-loving “normal” person. Food, for me, was always more than mere sustenance; it was a visceral, beautiful, even creative thing. But as far being a political statement or a critical health issue, well that was strictly for the weirdoes.

Reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals was the first time that I seriously considered that the Chicken Parmesan in front of me or the meat neatly stacked in my refrigerator was once a living thing.  And confronted by the horrors of modern animal farming, as recounted in shocking detail by Foer, I had to face certain facts: factory farms are disgusting and dangerous for our health.

Foer made a three-year investigation into the sickening story that is American meat, describing with ghastly precision the disease, deformity and eventual mutilation of animals that defines factory farming today. I was filled with revulsion as Foer chronicled his grisly experience and quickly came to understand why Ellen DeGeneres has called Eating Animals “one of the most important books [she’s] ever read.”

The story is heart-wrenching, repulsive and barbaric.  One learns that the idyllic family farms we picture in our minds (think Charlotte‘s Web) have been transformed into secretive, highly secured factories lined with rows of “confinement pens” where animals languish, never seeing real daylight.  Foer admits to clandestinely breaking into a turkey farm to discover locked pen doors, gas masks on the walls, chicks with blackened beaks, and both dead and living birds matted with blood and covered in sores.  He details dozens of eerily similar stories indicting the farming of pigs, chickens, cows and even fish:

“The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”

In a riveting (if also occasionally, rambling) narrative, Foer contends the meat industry is corrupt, with structures supporting the consumer-driven “need” for cheap meat.  Foer notes that prices haven’t substantially increased since the mid-fifties, and that the “efficiencies” of the factory system are the source of this “benefit.”  I was stunned to learn that only 1% of the meat we consume comes from family-run old-fashioned farms.  The rest is from factories where biodiversity is replaced by genetic uniformity, and the antibiotic-laced animals may be contributing to strange flu like symptoms ravaging millions of Americans.

With gritty specifics, allowing for many perspectives, Foer draws personal conclusions, while making it clear that our collective actions can change these practices.  But only by agreeing individually to stop purchasing factory farmed meat.

In this philosophical horror story, I was confronted with my “need” and realized I can no longer be a part of supporting this corrupt system.  A “normal” evangelical Mom, I am choosing to no longer eat animals unless they come locally and humanely from a farm.

We the collective consumer must make conscious choices, even sacrifices.   Foer says it well, “We are defined not just by what we do. We are defined by what we are willing to do without.”  We need to put meat in the middle of the plate of our public discourse.

Melody

What’s changing, so that I can be writing!

This is such a busy time for folks with kids.  We are living the last month or so of school and for whatever reason my kids seem to teeter on the brink of things this year academically, spiritually, emotionally — this has been a challenging and demanding year.  With summer looming, there will be any opportunities to stick our feet in the river and less time to write.

I am thinking about that tension.

I’m starting to work more seriously on writing projects. As I listened hard at the Festival of Faith & Writing  and looked at my writing life and habits, I realize that I need to cut back on some things before I can ever dream of space to write every day.  (I know I have a lot to tell you about that experience, the festival.  We’ve been back a week and there’s been no time!)

Projects that I’m working on:

I am working on a book review of the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer for The Englewood Review of Books and hope to do more of those, both for Englewood and other publications.

I continue to write for Provoketive magazine:  This included a review of  the book Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson, a piece titled The Accidental Stay-At-Home Mom and others, but by far the most popular essay was The Voice of the Feminine.  That content is not repeated here on my blog  so you will have to pop over to there to read it.  I hope you will.

I am working on a short series of articles on “The F word and the Church.” (Yeah, that F word: feminist.)

I am really excited to hear that I will have some poem in a book about fear titled Not Afraid to be published around August, 2012 by Civitas Press.  (This is the same press that published my essay on Depression in their book Not Alone which is available now. If you know someone who suffers from depression this book may help.  I have been told by many people that it has been a good, honest resource.  I also have many pieces on my blog about my personal trials with the black dog of depression.  They are collected here. )

What I want to change:

One thing that I find to be soul crushing and destructive for me is Facebook.  Being at-home with such great flexibility to my schedule  I see that I allow many things to interfere with the “work” of writing and with spiritual growth.  Facebook is such a time waster for me.  I’m inherently curious, nosy kind of person and the fact that I can vicariously follow along other’s lives is bad for me.  That’s where the soul crushing part comes in.   It’s like high school insecurity all over again.  So I’ve been tempted to quit completely.

Image by JJ Pacres on Flickr

But at the Festival of Faith & Writing I heard over and over that writers must have online presence and following.  We have to nurture that and  be able to “prove” our popularity to a publisher.   But the flip side of that is that it is just not good for me!

If I don’t have time

to think,

to be,

to write and

to allow the Holy One to mold and move me (not really in that order.)

So I’m backing off of social media  for a season — except here.  I’m really going to try to do this moderately.  When I got hooked on Farmville (of all things — proves I can get addicted to anything!) I had to quit cold turkey and I did.  I don’t want to do that with Facebook because I don’t like being an all or nothing person.  But I’m going to try to limit my time there.  And set some writing goals for the next few months.  I look forward to sharing those with you.

Another thing that I learned at the festival was that I need to hone the purpose of my blog.  Mine has multiple messages and intents.  I have been known to write about:

  1. family (dysfunctional and otherwise.)
  2. God and devotion, faith and (dis)belief
  3. women in the church, feminism as a Christian’s option
  4. various justice issues
  5. my alcoholism and addictions
  6. my church – Blackhawk Evangelical Church
  7. poetry on all these topics
  8. prose on all these topics

Is there anything in particular that you come here to read?  Where do you see my passions and strengths converging in helpful ways?  Would you add more of anything?

Grace & Peace. Melody