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 Jonathan Safran Foer: Eating Animals
Name: martin Permalink: https://tierrechtsforen.de/1/7645/7649

Datum: 08.11.09 15:02
Dieser Beitrag wurde 14915 mal gelesen

[Siehe auch die deutsche Rezension]

Foer, der in seinem zweiten Roman einen veganen Protagonisten benutzte, erzeugt mit seinem Buch "Eating Animals" einiges Aufsehen. Nur ist das (auch) nur Populärliteratur und der unvegane Autor findet Veganismus toll, ihn selbst zu praktizieren hält er jedoch nicht für nötig.

Hier eine Renzension mit einem aufschlußreichen Interview und ein guter, zusammenfassender Kommentar. Fazit: Das Buch zu lesen kann man sich sparen.

Katie Drummond

On not Eating Animals: Q&A with Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer is a novelist, a father, a concerned citizen. He is not an animal rights activist. That was my conclusion upon finishing his new book, Eating Animals, and it was his emphatic emphasis when we spoke last week. “I didn’t write this book as anything other than a father who wanted to know how best to raise my son,” he says.

With that in mind, I have to give Foer’s book – and his intensive, dogged research that spanned three years, thousands of miles and hundreds of pages – more credit than criticism. Eating Animals is described in early reviews as “academically rigorous” and “philosophical.” But it isn’t, when compared to literature that offers straight-forward, concisely argued explanations of animal rights. The book is also not a 300-page vegan mantra, despite what Natalie Portman might have you think: he’s transitioning to veganism, but Foer himself still eats dairy products. Which is difficult to understand, given the first-person encounters with animal agriculture he experienced during his research.

Foer, like any novelist, sets out to tell us a story: this one is about him, his family, and how their experiences and dinner plates are paralleled across the country. His book is beautifully written and undeniably well-researched: Foer traveled to animal sanctuaries and factory farms, spoke to animal advocates and ardent omnivores, and then tried to patch it all together. Which means he doesn’t exactly come out with many answers – but there’s enough vivid recounting here to (I hope) turn the stomachs of many a reader.

I can only hope that those readers don’t stop at Eating Animals. It is not, and was not intended to be, a definitive guide to the issues surrounding animal advocacy and animal rights. Safran offers sad truths, poignant descriptions and interesting interviews – he does not offer an exploration of animal rights that will yield a well-informed, lifelong commitment to veganism. When he does touch on the truths underlying deeper questions, though, Foer comes close:

We treat animals as we do because we want to and can. (Does anyone really wish to deny this anymore?) The myth of consent is perhaps the story of meat, and much comes down to whether this story, when we are realistic, is plausible.

It isn’t.

This book is all over the news lately, and I think I might be the only journalist whose critique of Foer is not that he went too far – but that he didn’t go far enough. I closed this book wishing it had been an all-out bid for veganism. But that’s not what Foer intended. So, for the steps he doesn’t cover, please see here. And for more from Foer, please read on.

[Question] Eating Animals offers a decided take-down of animal agriculture, and the consumption of animal products. But throughout, you refer to yourself as a ‘vegetarian’ – I think the word ‘vegan’ is used maybe twice. I’m wondering if that was a conscious decision, a matter of syntax, or something else?

[Answer] The book is called Eating Animals, not Eating Animal Products. I took on a lot, and I wanted to keep the scope as narrow as I could to keep some thread running through it. The topic is already so big, and the book is certainly not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. But personally, when I went into writing the book, I was vegetarian. Through research and writing, that transition to veganism started. Even now, I still sometimes eat dairy and eggs – never at restaurants, but at home, from a farmer I know, maybe.

[Question] But the stance in your book seems to firmly draw the line on how we conceive of animals. How do you reconcile a non-vegan lifestyle with knowing what you do now about consuming animals and ‘animal products’?

[Answer] Personally, I know that veganism is what I want to do. It makes the most sense to me. But, on a more general note, I think it’s important to remember that knowing is different than feeling. Reason plays a large part in how we consume, but it’s not everything. There are some very good, kind, upstanding people I know, who are aware of the facts, but who eat meat. That’s what makes this so complicated: how we consume overlaps with so many parts of our lives.

Still, my basic stance on the issue is, I’d say, forgiving – but still quite firm. I am transitioning to veganism, and I don’t like, run home and eat 1,000 eggs or something.

[Question] So much of your book touches on the economic implications of consumption – supporting meat and dairy industries, for example, or factory farms, with our dollars. Where do you draw the line? Something like buying a vegan meal at a non-vegan restaurant – you’re eating vegan food, but there’s still a murky financial exchange there.

[Answer] I don’t think there’s a clear-cut, clean way to draw the line on these questions. And I think that’s part of the problem: people are turned off when issues are turned into black-and-white, all-or-nothing. Because this isn’t: it’s complicated, and nobody always gets it right. Nobody.

I guess sometimes I think you can get a smaller thing wrong but a larger thing right. Like, you eat at a non-vegan restaurant, but at the same time, you strengthen friendships with your dinner companions and maybe start a few conversations about your decision to avoid animal products.

[Question] You did three years of research on the book, so I assume you encountered every approach to animal advocacy out there. But I noticed a glaring absence – abolitionist animal rights doesn’t come up, even though activists who align themselves with those ideas are a growing presence.

[Answer] I was just trying to record my own thoughts – as a father, not as an activist or an expert. I have tremendous respect for what those people are doing. Tremendous. I have no idea whether they respect me, and I’m inclined to suspect they don’t.

[Question] Your book will no doubt be a big seller. But do you think it will actually spur change?

[Answer] Changes will take place, there’s no doubt. Whether because of my book or not. There are a lot of straws, and one day there will be enough to break the camel’s back. That’s a terrible analogy, but I guess I hope I can add a few straws.

Demographics are shifting. Around 18 percent of college students self-identify as vegetarians. In ten years, that 18 percent will be our politicians, writers, great thinkers. I think vegetarianism is becoming an aspirational identity: more people identify as vegetarians than actually are, as opposed to a decade ago, when more people were vegetarian than identified as such. People want to do the right thing.


Zur weiteren Erläuterung: Peta dürfte jedem ein Begriff sein. HSUS könnte man mit dem Tierschutzbund vergleichen: übelster unveganer, reformistischer Tierschutz.

Dan Cudahy

Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer

The latest book buzz on the Internet, particularly among both traditional and new welfarists, is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Indeed, many vegans(?) who condone others’ animal exploitation by condoning welfarism are either eager to read it as soon as possible or are raving about it.

As for those of us who have read a couple of reviews of Eating Animals (1, 2) and completely reject others’ animal exploitation by rejecting welfarism, we see it as just more of the same old incoherent nonsense (albeit, allegedly “beautifully written and well-researched” nonsense) that serves as society’s moral paradigm regarding attitudes, beliefs, and behavior toward sentient nonhumans and is continually promoted by welfarist organizations like HSUS and PETA.

This speciesist paradigm I’m referring to suggests, if not states explicitly, that we should treat some species (like dogs and cats) better than other species (like pigs and chickens); that humans are somehow “special” (superior to all other species in a way that ‘justifies’ breeding-and-killing them, ‘nicely’); and that animals are 'things' and commodities for us to exploit and intentionally kill, as long as we do it 'nicely'.

Sound familiar?

It sure sounds familiar to me, which is why you won’t catch me wasting any more of my time on Eating Animals beyond typing this blog update. It’s no wonder the book is a big hit among the “happy meat” crowd. Perhaps if or when Foer comes around to reject the hip and popular welfarism of the day instead of promoting it, I’ll be interested in reading what he has to say. Until then, if I want to read welfarist drivel, I’ll visit the websites of PETA and HSUS.


Adam Kochanowicz faßt es nochmal anschaulich zusammen.
The tragic lust for activist popularity

Is it me or do animal people see animal rights not as a social movement but more as an awkward younger brother whom they want to see get more friends in a new school?

For instance, despite thorough analyses of the failures of welfarism, my peers have defended the work of animal organizations' reforms and sexist protests in the name of popularity time and time again. Why are we not concerned with the message we are sending to the public instead of how public the message may be?

On the same topic, I'm wondering why anyone is excited about Jonathan Safran Foer and his new book, "Eating Animals." In the book, Foer rejects animal rights and proclaims we have a duty not to give animals moral personhood but continue to ensure animal owners take good care of their property. The book is marketed as a guide to respecting animals in our food choices, yet outright defends our use of them.

Animal concerns are concerning

The point of this article is to get you, the animal-lover, -advocate, -activist, however you identify yourself, to think critically about the message put out by the animal movement not to be content merely with the luster of popularity and exposure. Let's take a look at Foer's Eating Animals homepage where a special button appears called "Talk Turkey." The site tells us:

This year as you plan your holiday meal, consider the animal that is so often at the center of the table. What do we know about it? How was it raised? What was it fed? How was it killed? Is it even possible to find these things out?

Despite Foer's reference to this animal as an "it," these kind of statements often get animal people excited. They like the exposure, that someone is speaking up for the Turkey and (one may wrongly assume) their geeky younger brother, veganism. But is that really Foer's intention? Look closer at the above quotation. Foer (or whoever wrote this) wants you to think about this turkey in terms of how she dies, not that she dies.

If we were talking about a family somewhere in the United States choosing to put a cooked labrador retriever puppy on the table for Thanksgiving, should we as animal people have a conversation with this family about whether or not the dog was locally-sourced or allowed to roam free before his life was was ended for a single meal? Would we honestly be having a conversation about how the puppy was raised, what he was fed?

Reading on,

If our holiday meals are supposed to serve as a reflection of our gratefulness, can a turkey that spends its life crammed by the tens of thousands into giant warehouses, on antibiotics, that has been bred to suffer-as is true for more than 99% of turkeys sold in America-be the choice we feel best about?
This holiday season, consider the turkey. Take this conversation in any direction you'd like. The most important thing is that our choices be deliberate.
There's nothing more powerful than an informed conversation.

There's much to be said about this statement, including the speciesist phrasing "can a turkey that..." instead of "can a turkey who..." but let's get to the point. Foer isn't interested in animal rights and I'm sure he'd readily admit this. However, as candid as he may be about this fact, his work really isn't much different than the supposed "animal rights" work passed around these days. Foer's work appeals to our consumer rights and interests as being the dominant factor.

In other words, "Yes," Foer appears to say, veganism is a good thing, but it's treated merely as one way to reduce suffering. There's really nothing wrong with what we do to animals according to Foer. He tells us to "take this conversation in any direction" that we'd like. He only wants us to think twice about the treatment of animals if it is irrelevant to their being Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, I know. Foer's book isn't meant to be an "animal rights" book. Foer himself repeatedly acknowledges it is mostly an account of his experiences. However, the book does appeal as a "way of thinking" about animals to the public and Foer's website takes on the role of an educator ushering us to organizations like the HSUS who regularly works with the industry to help increase profits from adopting "improved" standards.

Understand Foer is just a single example of this way of thinking. In fact, his position is no less radical to that taken by other "vegan" organizations like "vegan" outreach who have repeatedly referred to veganism as "fanaticism" and deflected any argument to say going vegan is a moral imperative as "purism."

To these organizations, veganism is one equally important option as making really no significant change in our lives through using animals who are supposedly treated better before their death. My friends, the issue is not treatment, it's use. To call ourselves or anyone else an animal rights activist for campaigning for better treatment should prompt us to give out awards to pretty much every individual who profits from animal exploitation. Animals are property; as with any form of property, it is in the interests of the property owner to take good care of their animals, shipments, services, whatever it may be. Better treatment is not animal rights, it's business and many, if not most, animal organizations are helping the industry to do business.

"Gradual steps in the right direction"

Yes, go ahead and say it. Exposure for people like Foer may not get everyone going vegan, reforms which at least make animal treatment better, and people going vegetarian....it's a gradual step in the right direction, baby steps, an incremental approach.

I've heard it before; I've believed it before, but lemme tell ya, working toward a goal and taking incremental steps doesn't mean encouraging our peers to do something wrong in a right-er way because we believe our other option is nothing. If we take animal rights seriously, we need to stop making excuses. Our commitment to animal rights means that veganism is the verb of the movement. Fighting for better treatment of animals fights for more consumer-appealing suffering of animals. Such a fight does not take gradual steps in the right direction and never will. If you want to make significant change for animals, go vegan, tell your friends to go vegan and no matter how stubborn you believe they may be, don't encourage them to find a more comfortable way to exploit animals.

As for Foer, he seems like a nice, albeit confused, person. I don't have anything against him personally, but I do take an issue with his book's claim to publicly represent a constructive ethical narrative on our use of animals for food. If you're looking for honest animal rights reading, I highly recommend books like Introduction to Animal Rights, Making a Killing, Vegan Freaks, or Animals, Property, and the Law. That goes for you too, Jonathan.


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