Saturday, 9 July 2011

Eating Animals: Book Review

Jonathan Safran Foer's book runs the whole gamut of possibility, from A to B.

When you're ready to take a peek behind the label, behind the attractive pictures of happy-go-lucky animals living out their days on an idyllic farm, and see the horror of industrialised farming as it really is, Eating Animals is a fantastic place to start. Not too preachy, JSF's book is a thoroughly researched investigation of the madness of modern food culture, and a system so unsustainable and fundamentally cruel that no one who ever had a heart can look upon it's works without dispair. 

I imagine myself to be concerned about these issues and reasonably aware, in reading the book I found I was still hiding from the unpalatable truths of  mass meat and factory fish. If you're the kind of person who's happier not knowing, and who's conscience will permit it, this one is best left on the shelf. Of course you and your children will still be poisoned by the flesh of animals so far removed from their natural state that they can't breed, or live without regular doses of medication that weaken the imune system of first the animal and then everyone at your dinner table. Still, the animals of the packet look sweet don't they?

While I'm a massive fan of this book there is one area where it's scope is a little limited JSF is mainly vegetarian, and to him this is both the solution and the terrain the debate takes place over. A: Factory farmed or B: Not at all. Options C:, D: and E: are never mentioned

I recently spent six weeks eating Venison that I'd shot myself, I'd like to say 'only eating' but the sausages I made from it did have some traded-for pork in them. I was and will be again disconnected from the factory farming of meat.  Holly and Hank have gotten pretty close to 'game only', and The Envirocapitalist has also written about venison being the main source of meat his family eats. 

I've met quite a few families who, even living in the city, only eat eggs from their backyard chicken coops. Deus Ex Machina and Wendy eat Rabbits raised at the end of the garden. Hubert was living on agricultural pests shot within a mile of his home and there's another option, but we'll come to that later.

Clever, witty and wise; Eating Animals made me think again about many of the ideas that first inspired my journey and this blog. Good Work Fella. Well worth a read.

Update: Ankle still hurts, so I've not been out in a while, but the Fallow Buck season is only weeks away and I'll be hobbling to a tree stand in search of more nose-to-tail eating very soon. In the meantime lots more Kit-Tart-ism to come. Lots more.

More soon
Your pal


Deus Ex Machina said...


Thank you for the mention.

We also raise all of our own meat chickens each year here on our 1/4 acre zoo ... er ... farm. As a matter of fact, we currently have 42 of them in various stages of growth. Abd, we buy all of our beef and prok from local farmers ... no meat from the chain. I'd like to add more wild meats, but alas, one must work to pay the bills.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Always a pleasure

Thats quite a lot of chooks, I've been thinking about doing some suburban poultry farming myself, I'm fascinated by the idea of feeding them on a more naturalistic (and therefore free) diet.

I've met a few people who have set up sizeable worm farms for compost, and i had a go at snail farming which was pretty successful, both of which are in the 30+% of a wild bird's diet

With grain prices they way they are it could make a real difference to the cost and potentially to the chooks health too

What are you feeding yours on?


Deus Ex Machina said...

While we have a "tractor" that we range the chickens in, we feed them mostly grains at this point. We don't have a lot of room for graizing.

The laying hens, and ducks, do forage for a lot of their food in the summer. And, they all get greens from the gardens, kitchen scraps, and the girls like to catch bug to feed them.

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Nice review, SBW. Foer's book is a good one, I agree. A while back, I read a Mother Jones interview with him (, in which he was asked about hunting. There's logic in his responses, to be sure, mixed with an urban cultural view of hunting as a mere "hobby," and a good deal of omission when it comes to the impact of agriculture on animals and animal habitat. Interesting:

"MJ: Another thing I wanted to ask you about is hunting. Do you think hunting is a more humane alternative to factory farms?

JSF: How is it humane? In a slaughterhouse they all go really quickly—hunting they don't.

MJ: Well, it's humane in that the animal has led a good life up until the time of death.

JSF: But that doesn't make hunting good. It makes the fact that the animal had a good life up to that point good. And those aren't our choices. I'd rather get lethal injection than be hanged, but actually I'd rather have neither. People often set up these false choices, these false dichotomies, and it's not like we have to do either of them.

MJ: But some people in this country are not going to be willing to give up eating meat.

JSF: Hunting will never feed lots of people; it will always be a hobby."

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Thanks very much, that means a lot to me.

Hmm Hunting as hobby.
So if i eat nothing but meat I've hunted is it still a hobby or do i have to get paid to do the deer management in order for it to stop being a hobby?

His comment about slaughter houses versus hunting seem to fly in the face of his book? Unless i have misunderstood I got the impression that he believed that their was a morphic resonance between the beasts as they waited to be killed, or they could see each other being killed and look into the eyes of their killer. As we know in most forms of hunting the game is to shoot the deer without it ever having known you were there, and a 7mm round to the spine or engine room is very very quick, i'd hazard a guess that its a lot quicker than a bolt to the head (especially in the light of JSF's reporting).

All our writing (and speaking) is predicated by our worldview, I'm just a little disappointed that JSF's excellent book is so, well, retarded in this instance. "People often set up these false choices, these false dichotomies."

I'm supposed to be cooking a barbie for the Ex Mrs SBW's family so I'll have to cut this one short but I'll come back to it later.


Nick said...

Hi Wacker, lovin your blog, yeah I avoid factory meats, so tend to be veggie most of the time, Ive learned to appreciate meat much more, I either catch fish or shoot game or buy the expensive ethical stuff, but not often so when I have meat its a special moment.

Mmmm the water really is lovely, god bless!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Thanks chap, nice to see another blogger from this side of the pond, welcome to the campfire.

LRR said...

I started making an effort to reduce the amount of production meat I consume as well. Last year a friend and I raised a number of meat chickens, and some hogs which has been a significant portion of the meat on my table. In addition, we're getting a few rabbits, which we'll raise, breed, and slaughter, and I'm planning to raise a few geese in with my buddies hens, and fowl. Unfortunately, venison is not on the menu, having avoided me through bow, gun, and muzzleloader season. Maybe this year.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


I'm thinking of some guinea fowl and chooks myself with The Littlest Bushwacker as their custodian, she's interested in keeping rabbits but only as pets so I'm hoping that eggs would be a good way to start her off.

How about a post about your hawgz?

R. Gabe Davis said...

I am a little behind but I just read the comments for this post at first but I find them as interesting. When you ask if hunting is a hobby a flood of thoughts hit me....I don't consider people going to the store a hobby and some enjoy that mechanism of getting meat as much as I enjoy hunting. I believe a book could be written on hunting vs hobby. Always interesting my friend. your pal the Envirocapitalist.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


We'll be revisiting this one very soon as I review Tovar's book, a book so good that it deserves a second read before I write the review