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April 02, 2010

Eating animals

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If Requiem for a Species (below) is shocking at an existential level, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals hits you at the level of lunch.

It's no less gruelling for that. Among the in-your-face statements that pepper the text: "When we eat factory farmed meat we live literally on tortured meat..and put it into the mouths of our children". And, "factory farming - which accounts for virtually all meat sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants - is almost certainly the single worst thing that humans do to the environment".

The author is especially appalled by the wastefulness of modern food systems. It takes up to twenty-six calories fed to an animal to produce just one calorie of edible flesh - and yet animal protein costs less today than at any time in history.

This is because meat producers don't pay 'external' costs such farm subsidies, catastrophic environmental impact, and human disease. Those costs fall on the biosphere.

Then there's the shit. Farmed animals in the United States produce 130 times as much shit as do human beings, roughly 87,000 pounds of shit per second. The polluting strength of this shit is 160 times greater than municipal sewage... and yet there is almost no waste treatment infrastructure for farmed animals.

For Foer, these horrors and biocrimes are only possible because we are disconnected from the fact that animal foods involve killing animals. The ways we buy meat and fish at restaurants and supermarkets, pre-cooked in pieces, widens the disconnect.

But as the secrecy surrounding the factory farm breaks down "we can no longer plead ignorance - only indifference" Foer writes. "Those alive today are will fairly be asked: what did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?"

The website contains links to excellent organizations one can do something with.

Posted by John Thackara at April 2, 2010 07:35 AM

Comments

great post as usual!

Posted by: MarkSpizer at May 3, 2010 12:46 PM

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