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“Eating Animals” author explains why sometimes he eats animals

Jonathan Safran Foer explained the environmental impacts of the mass consumption of meat.

By Cassandra Nava, Online Editor

"Eating Animals" author Jonathan Safran Foer spoke to students about the environmental impacts factory farms and meat eating can have. (Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

Critically acclaimed author Jonathan Safran Foer spoke to college students and faculty about his book “Eating Animals,” and explained how individual choices can have a significant impact on the environment.

Valley College’s One Book, One College program chose Foer’s 2009 non-fiction “Eating Animals” as the 2020-2021 book of the year. The OBOC program is intended to be applicable to all disciplines in the college while creating a campus-wide dialogue, according to the library’s website. Foer is known for writing novels such as “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and “Everything is Illuminated,” but focuses on nonfiction as well.

The Feb. 24 event was hosted — and open to many schools throughout the country — by Farm Forward, a nonprofit organization aimed exclusively at ending factory farms. This is relevant to the context of Foer’s book, in which he cites factory farms as an urgent environmental issue. Foer spoke on his relationship with vegetarianism, and why he sprinkles moderate amounts of meat into his diet.

“I became a vegetarian when I was nine, but then I started eating meat again because I liked the way it tasted and smelled and because that's what my parents ate,” said Foer. “I stopped and started again. It's easy to make a decision, to feel persuaded by what you learn about in the world but what's tricky is to stick with it, especially because it's a binary; either you do everything or you do nothing.”

Foer went on to explain the divisiveness of meat eating, explaining that some vegetarians and vegans come off as aggressive, which in turn makes those who eat meat more set in their ways. According to the acclaimed author, there is no need to get angry and defensive when talking about these issues, people should exclude themselves from the conversation for the bigger issue at hand: the environment.

“I believe that almost all of us are in almost complete agreement about what matters … We want to reduce the amount of destruction that we cause, and we want to reduce the amount of violence that we cause,” said Foer. “I don’t think those are controversial values.”

According to PBS, the rise of industrial, inhumane factory farms are doing more harm than good, and the ease of having a copious amount of meat is in turn harming the environment.

“Livestock farms generate about 70 percent of the nation’s ammonia emissions, plus gases that cause global warming, particularly methane,” stated the PBS article.

Foer believes the identification of being a vegetarian or vegan is what stops people into trying to convert to a more plant-based diet. He believes that an impact can be made through small choices such as not eating meat for a day, or choosing a vegetarian plate at a restaurant instead of one that is almost all animal products. The acclaimed author focused his lecture on the power of small choices, and how once multiplied by many, they will become impactful.

In hopes to inspire others to not be afraid of fitting into the label of vegetarian, Foer stated, “We are far too used to measuring our distances from perfection, which we will never achieve anyway, rather than measuring our distances from doing nothing at all.”

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