We check out the latest book on food and what we eat...
Time Out Bahrain staff
Jonathan Safran Foer
4/5 Little, Brown At least two of the last decade’s most important books have been about food. In 2001, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation made the case against fast food. Five years later, Michael Pollan extended the critique to industrial agriculture with The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Both books have altered consumption and industries. With Eating Animals, celebrated novelist Safran Foer hopes to complete the trilogy with an impassioned case for vegetarianism. With a gentle but unflinchingly moral tone, Foer voices the inconvenient but inescapable truth that his two predecessors have sketched but never quite articulated: the process by which meat comes to our tables is immoral and insane, and the only response for a concerned individual is to opt out. ‘We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference,’ Foer argues.
The broad strokes are nothing new: big business run amok, pursuing profit at everyone else’s expense. But the specific facts of factory farming are just as undeniable as they are easy to ignore. Foer’s investigation uncovers details that we all have an obligation to face. A sampling: the bird that many people enjoy for Thanksgiving or Christmas was all but certainly dipped, along with its compatriots of varying infection, in something called a ‘faecal soup,’ a practice that, among other benefits, adds weight to the meat that the producer can then charge you for. It’s this and similar practices, Foer claims, that probably got you your last ‘24-hour flu,’ which likely wasn’t the flu at all, but food poisoning incubated by the stifling bacterial hothouse sheds in which we store our food when it’s still alive. Then there’s the environmental impact of factory farming, which produces 40 per cent more greenhouse gases worldwide than transportation.
Grammatically speaking, you can take the ‘animals’ of the book’s title as either subject or object – the animals that are eating or being eaten – and in part it’s Foer’s gently literary take on the issue that makes this book different from the mainstream food journalism that has preceded it. More than a litany of rhetoric and distasteful facts, this book is about the stories we tell about ourselves and our food. Eating Animals has the potential to make the world a better place. Your job – at least for starters – is to read it. Pete Coco