My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I was thinking about picking up this book in the first place, I almost didn’t – primarily because I knew that if I read it, I’d probably become a vegetarian. There’s nothing wrong with that by any means, but I knew that it was a lifestyle with both personal challenges and social challenges I wasn’t sure I was ready to accept. Yet, as this ran through my mind – that I already knew the factory farming negatives, I decided that it was a bit of a silly turn of mind – since it meant that despite not opening this book, I already knew why (from documentaries and articles) I should become a vegetarian anyway…and I did.
About two months after making this decision is when I decided to open this book, which only reinforced my new lifestyle. But I write this review not from the perspective of someone who changed their diet – I write this as an academic and as a writer. The book itself, which for obvious reasons sides with NOT “eating animals”, isn’t necessarily written in a voice that declares that this is what you must do. Foer instead chooses to craft a narrative of both stories and facts. He tells his own stories and also that of others working to change the agriculture industry – he talks about trying to talk to people in the factory farming industry and failing. Foer brings in history as well as present, trying to weave an honest and complete story to present the reader, to leave the ultimate decision of eating animals up to you.
The provision of four stars instead of five is less about the work of Foer and his researchers, but more about being unable to really hear a voice from the decision makers in the industry. I do not think that this is for a lack of trying (which Foer addresses) and he even goes the extra distance to join activists on night missions to better understand the situation, but in a book of many voices, this seems to be missing (and it is too easy to fill in the opposing voice in this silence).
Overall, the book is very honest about the treatment of animals, about the monetary motivations of an industry, about how we are all connected to the food industry. I think this is a book everyone should consider reading because whether or not you choose to eat meat or otherwise, you should understand where your food comes from. We should all make informed decisions about what we eat, but also about what we support with our dollars and time.