The book by Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating animals, is an aesthetic attempt to explain the reasons for vegetarianism’s emergence and popularity. Nowadays American nation, as well as many other world nations, suffers from several eating disorders which are presupposed by cultural, economic and mental factors. Eating Animals tells people about the conditions of growing animals at meat-packing plants and poultry factories, gathering milk products, eggs, etc. The information that the author presents does not only reveal the severe truth of animals keeping but also discovers important information about the influence of such food on people’s health.
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The author’s work is notable not only because of the information it provides; it is also an impressive piece of the literary convincing book. Speaking about the reasons for its success, one may find several distinctive features which make the book highly persuasive.
Firstly, it is the genre: aesthetic narration, enriched with the author’s personal memories and vivid, captivating style. His own experience, presented in the Eating Animals creates the feeling of closeness between the writer and his readers; they find out his grandmother’s story, her heavy hunger experience and how it influenced her life. Touching details, such as grandmother’s habit to cook a chicken with carrot and feed the family members to satiety, allow readers to become familiar with the author’s childhood and family life.
At the same time, the form of the book also plays a great role in the fulfillment of the book’s aim. The author uses title pages for each chapter; short-spoken, laconic slogans: the maximum information, worded in the shortest and neatest expression, sinks deeply into readers’ minds.
Besides figures, tables and other statistical elements Foer supports his data with visual explanations which form impressive images in readers’ imagination. For example: “There aren’t reliable statistics available about downers (who would report them?), but estimates put the number of downed cows at around 200,000 a year — about two cows for every word in this book” (Foer 56). The image, depicted by Foer, creates an impression that a reader holds in his/her arms a terrible weight of responsibility for many of the severely treated animals.
Child’s point of view is explicit, obvious and impressive, which Foer efficiently shows by means of his childhood memories:
When I was four, we fostered a cousin’s dog for the summer. I kicked it. My father told me we don’t kick animals. When I was seven, I mourned the death of my goldfish. I learned that my father had flushed him down the toilet. I told my father — in other, less civil words — we don’t flush animals down the toilet. (Foer 15)
In his book, Foer shares emotions that struck him while he visited the stock farm. Chickens live there, surrounded by their dung in coops which are equal to the double-page spread. Sows locked in their cages without any possibility to move freely go mad, chew rods and lick their urine. Cows pass through the terrible procedure of slaughter: each worker kills more than two thousand animals a day. Sometimes he/she misses the mark and then a living animal is chewed up and dressed.
Moreover, all animals are repeatedly pricked all around with downers, which negatively influences the health of those people who eat such meat. Of course, the information, provided in the book, makes it important not only from the point of view of ethics; Eating Animals also offers useful facts, concerning health questions. Many parents became concerned about their children’s health. At the same time, the author tells, that he also wrote the book, thinking about upbringing his little son. A tangle of personal experience, impressive facts and skillfully composed form of the book explains its popularity. Many people changed their way of life thanks to Eating Animals. At the same time, Foer does not try to turn all the people into vegans at once. He says that giving up even one portion of meat per week may change a lot. People should change their lives gradually, step by step: “compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us” (Foer 320).
Still, speaking about meat consumption, there are more questions, than answers. Many of us like eating meat dishes. At the same time, I do not believe in vegans’ statement, that human beings are not predators. We eat meat as well as fruits, vegetables and other products. At the same time, in contrast to beasts, humans have invented such a category as morality. Since ethical appearance, such questions as severe animals’ treatment remain unsolved. Even if we leave meat-eating behind (which is impossible in the current situation), there will still remain questions of plant-eating which are matters of concern of other, more radical than vegetarians and vegans, groups.
The threat of eating unhealthy products does not prevent the majority from consuming such food. Nowadays we eat not only harmful meat; chips, cola, hamburgers, even chocolate, and almost all kinds of food that contain some unhealthy substances, such as preservatives, coloring agents, aromatizers, etc. People know about this fact, but still, consume the products. At the same time, they almost do not have any reliable choice, as long as the majority of our products are in this or that way processed. Thereby, many Americans do not pay a lot of attention to the questions of healthy diets and the second tool, which may convince them, is ethical aspects.
It is true, that many of us just do not think in what conditions a chicken they eat was grown. In this situation, the Eating Animals may change their outlook and open their eyes to the terrible state of “living meat”.
In fact, the problem which is the cause of Foer’s concern is only a part of the biggest problem, the dilemma of the consumer society which has developed so much, that starts eating its own members. Profit-pursuit incites large private and governmental enterprises to controversial steps. People, defrauded by advertising, empty promises, ambiguous inscription on packing, buy such products. At the same time, there are a lot of more significant things than choosing the best egg in a supermarket; all of us have to care about our families what means earning money, doing some housework, etc.
The thing which a human should and even must follow is the understanding and acceptance of responsibility for his/her actions. The moral dilemma will not disappear, though it is just what each of us must do as long as we want to remain a human: “Cruelty depends on an understanding of cruelty, and the ability to choose against it. Or to choose to ignore it” (Foer 63).
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Eating Animals impressed me, though did not inspire me to become a vegan. Still, I am not sure, that I will not remember the book when I will eat some meat. At the same time, I am now aware of where food products come from and will have the possibility to choose, what to buy and where.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.