Eating Animals (The Book), An Opinion

I just finished Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Had I not capitalized and italicized the words “eating animals,” you may have interpreted that previous sentence differently. His book largely confirms what I had known prior: factory farms are no good for anyone but the owners, and especially no good for the animals they produce.

I won’t launch into a tirade on the evils of factory farming here. Foer does enough proselytizing in his book. Much as I critique local theatrical productions, I shall comment briefly on the form and the quality of his writing, for one can have the most righteous cause but without eloquence be heard by no one. Or the complete opposite, such as Hitler (who was a vegetarian, by the way).

Eating Animals is chock full of good information and research. This information alone makes the book worth reading. Foer has a conversational style that I like to call accessible — meaning not heady or overly intellectual. His approach is down-to-Earth and factual without trying to be too preachy. He emphasizes individual choice but towards the end starts to halfheartedly advocate activism for what you already know to be ethical and moral high ground. Unfortunately this book’s narrative style just doesn’t cut it for me. The chapters are divided into a series of vignettes and are not entirely consistent, almost as a byproduct of the contemporary tendency towards catering to increasingly shorter attention spans. The final chapters of the book particularly lose cohesion and the reader’s interest as Foer reiterates or restates what he has already said: that factory farming is bad. At this point the reader most likely agrees (if he is a normal, rational human being), or has been turned off by the book and closed its covers many pages ago (a less likely outcome).

I am of the opinion that great writing should not only educate (or inspire, or whatever happens to be the genre’s primary goal) but elevate. Like a good movie, good writing should take the reader to another plane of thought, consciousness, intellectual stimulation, inspiration, or what-have-you. I’ll admit the only word I did not know in the entire book was sagacity and is somewhat disappointing being that I do not read very many books lately.

So I applaud Foer for having the passion and dedication to bring this issue to the forefront of our society. Odds are that you were referred to this book by a friend or family member, so you are already partly invested in the outcome of this book. Much like other feature documentaries along this same vein, Eating Animals succeeds in informing yet fails to satiate one’s literary hunger or emotional and temporal investment.

I feel compelled to append that this was the first book I’ve read entirely on the smallish screen of my iPhone. I checked this out from my local library (without actually visiting a physical branch) and read it at a sporadic and leisurely pace in 12 days. So if I, an admittedly infrequent and slow reader, can do it, anyone can.

P.S. Should anyone loudly exclaim, “I just finished Eating Animals!” after reading this book, accolades shall be given and pun shall be intended.

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Author: PhilRW

software engineer, pianist, polymath

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