I picked up this book based on outstanding reviews in VegNews Magazine and other sources. I was in fact taken by the writing from the very first page. The author draws you into his life and conflict about eating animals in a very personal way which i have enjoyed. But i can’t help feeling that he tries very hard to find excuses for the meat industry, although he makes none for the factory farming, thank God.
My favorite chapter of the book is the one devoted to the idea of eating dogs! Yes, it may shock a lot of westerners to read this chapter but it is really the author’s way of showing the absurdity of most people’s way of treating some animals as pets and others as just merely food. He makes a good point of showing that millions of companion animals are being killed in the appalling US shelter system and that these dead animals could feed thousands of people. He demonstrates the weirdness of the distinctions we make between species of animals and the absurdity of our food systems as it is presently. There are in fact entire sections of the book dedicated to graphic descriptions and testimonies on how animals are being killed in the most horrific ways just to satisfy our dietary habits.
What annoys me with this book, however, is the tendency the author has to point out that he is a vegetarian and at the same time somehow approves of the way the animals are treated in systems other than factory farming (which is near nonexistent). He points out that it is still a cruel system in some respect but gets too deep into the friendliness he feels for these farmers, however well intentioned towards the animals they may be. The one testimony that actually made me breathe a bit better in all of this is the one from the vegan woman from PETA when she points out the not really answered question in this book: Why eat meat in the first place?
I still have not found many books pointing out the absurdity of eating meat (aka animal flesh) at all. I am still waiting for the person (except maybe with Skinny Bitch!) that will point out that we DON’T NEED MEAT TO SURVIVE, that our bodies are healthier without it (hence the fact that we are natural herbivores and just made the choice of being omnivores). The fact that the author shows up in “humane” slaughterhouses to show a “better” way of treating the animals does not impress me at all. In the end, these poor creatures are still being castrated (which he points out), and killed. His reaction to seeing and almost petting a live animal and knowing it is going to die a minute later is proof that we are not natural meat eaters. A real carnivore wouldn’t get squeamish at the idea of blood and death. In fact, in nature, carnivores are attracted to blood and flesh and they have the teeth to tear it apart! We are not them! And if someone pretends otherwise, he must seek a doctor right away.
In the end, the author makes a valid point for vegetarianism versus eating animals. But his motivations, no matter how well founded, are not strong enough if he still somehow defends the killing of animals in some parts of his mind. On the other hand, i loved his de-construction of some parts of Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and how he counters the arguments presented in that book. This is a book in fact that i couldn’t finish as it made me angry. Michael Pollan is an apologist for the meat-centered, global warming causing, disease prone, diet. There is no place for meat eating in the global warming century, which Jonathan Safran Foer points out very well.