“I don’t really feel like reading a book about animal cruelty today,” I told myself before starting Eating Animals. But start best-selling novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s first nonfiction book I did. And before I knew it, I was swept up in one of the most riveting reads of my life.
The author begins with stories of his grandmother. He affectionately refers to the Holocaust survivor as “The Greatest Chef Who Ever Lived.”
In one of the book’s most moving passages, he recalls a Saturday afternoon conversation in his grandmother’s kitchen:
“Over pumpernickel ends and Coke, she would tell me about her escape from Europe, the foods she had to eat and those she wouldn’t. It was the story of her life… and I knew a vital lesson was being transmitted, even if I didn’t know, as a child, what that lesson was.”
She described for him the hell on Earth she went through in the last days of World War II:
“The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer… saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.”
Jonathan began questioning his grandma about that moment. In her answer was a lesson that — decades later — led him to write Eating Animals.
“He saved your life?”
“I didn’t eat it.”
“You didn’t eat it?”
“It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”
“What do you mean why?”
“What, because it wasn’t kosher?”
“But not even to save your life?”
“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”
With his own son’s birth, he decided to answer the nagging question of what food he and his family should eat. He investigated the subject with all the passion of a detective on the trail of a serial killer.
His unflinching writing style had me turning to the book’s well-documented notes, simply because some of his discoveries were so disturbing. For example:
“Scientific studies and government records suggest that virtually all (upwards of 95 percent of) chickens become infected with E. Coli (an indicator of fecal contamination)…”
I was initially concerned that the book would read like a tasteless brochure handed to me by a State-Fair radical. But Foer’s descriptions of animal cruelty are so compelling that they drew me in like a best-selling crime novel.
They’re so powerfully written, in fact, that I think the radical vegan passing out literature from now on will be me! As uncomfortable as it was to hear the ugly truth, I needed to read Eating Animals.
That our culture so willfully ignores these abuses is unconscionable. I believe that for future generations, Jonathan Safran Foer will count as a hero for shining a light on our hideous sin.
Don‘t be left in the dark. Read this book!