Thursday, May 25, 2017
REVIEW: EATING ANIMALS BY JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER
If you like my reviews at all, will you please read this one? I know it will be the most important one I write. This book has profoundly changed my life. I purposefully waited a month post-reading to gather my thoughts, include further resources for those interested, and tell you my personal story.
I have purchased several copies of this so far, and if you are genuinely interested in reading it after this review, would you contact me? I will mail you one. While difficult, I'm more upset that I didn't have this knowledge sooner. One caveat: I have a selfish favor. Will you please get in touch with me post reading in some way and share your thoughts? Whether you link me to a review, or if it just changed your mind on one point, I truly want to hear about it. I'll voxer chat you, or even call you! This is a discussion that more of us should be having, and with demand rising for the cheapest, most convenient meat, the issue will only become more prominent.
Before you think of this as a bleeding heart animal lover's book, Foer didn't even like dogs until a few years ago. His style is conducive to all readers, and truly not annoying or preachy like some I've encountered. He genuinely wanted facts, and paid checkers to do their own research to see if their conclusions matched his. He wanted to find a reason to eat meat, and I wanted him to tell me that at least fish and chicken were fine (from certain companies). There is an excellent section where Foer talks about food as tradition, and the narratives we've been told as a culture, and how it differs in other parts of the world.
Beyond the slaughterhouse processes, deep sea fishing techniques, and the toxic wasteland that factory farms produce, there are interviews with people on all sides of this story.....from farm factory workers who wish to remain anonymous, midnight rescuers of animals, farm sanctuary workers, and the few remaining family farm operations (there is irony in this at the end as some are being closed or ousted for those who will practice a more compromising management practice).
We all know animals die for consumption. The past two years I'd heard the usual horrors of chickens pumped full of crazy feeds, antibiotics way beyond necessary- and unreported levels are up to 40% higher (one of many sections that will make your blood boil). So I read labels carefully. I bought the "free range, grass fed" options when possible, THINKING I was making a compassionate difference.
I truly believed that most operations were streamlined to prevent unnecessary suffering and mutilation prior to death. Especially some simple precautions, like not letting the other animals witness slaughter. NOT the case. Less than 1% of all animals killed for meat in America come from family farms. Abuse is the norm, and classified under a Common Farm Exemption (CFE) makes any behavior towards the animals perfectly legal so long as it is commonly practiced in the industry.
Organic? It matters a whole lot less than what we give it credit for....especially in terms of humane treatment. Don't care? Did you know that the deplorable conditions cause such intense stress that acid is released in the animals prior to death....then we literally eat that suffering.
Ever had a stomach bug for 24 hours? Most people have poultry poisoning and don't know it. 83% of supermarket poultry is infected with campylobacter or salmonella. Perfectly normal colored "healthy" looking chicken.
As you can tell, this book gave me a serious case of the "Did you knows?" It's been difficult to stem my passion for this topic. I stumbled onto this lifestyle pretty much on accident. I had read a couple nutrition books on reading food labels, and then watched a couple lifestyle YouTubers. One day I watched a person discuss their favorite Netflix documentaries. I then found Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Cowspiracy. These highlighted the environmental, moral, and health aspects of eating a more plant based lifestyle. I started eating less meat, but still consumed fish and chicken pretty regularly.
I never planned on going fully Vegan. I wanted to hold onto something! What's the harm in eating eggs and drinking milkshakes? The animal is still alive and the dairy industry must be slightly kinder! Unfortunately, the foul treatment continues there. The dairy industry is directly responsible for veal, continuous artificial insemination of cows, and the mechanical forced over-milking of cows who are separated from their babies at birth (to disrupt the bonding process). This overmilking leaves udders riddled with infection most of the time. Most are sent to slaughter when their usefulness runs out. I remember being "lactose intolerant" as a kid, and having to drink lactaid milk. Mom really thought I had to have milk, because that is what we hear all the time. Past baby age, we aren't really meant to drink it. Being lactose intolerant is unsurprising. We just don't need it- we aren't the intended consumers- baby cows:-P
The challenges I've encountered haven't been insurmountable- I thought I would miss more foods. (my heart does occasionally have pangs for the cookies and cream milkshake at Chick-Fila. There are surprising alternatives, and if you live in a more metropolitan area, there's even less digging. And yes, you CAN get enough plant based protein. Through research you can debunk all the meat myths society has fed us for years. Tofu can actually be delicious, and you don't need to be terrified of it.
So, I'm a 33 year old Vegan. This read was my final straw. Never thought I would EVER do something like this. The hardest part? Cheese. However, there is a biological reason for being addicted to cheese. It's the casein. I watched YouTube videos on the science behind this, and alternatives. I had my first Papa John's Veggie Pizza with extra sauce instead of cheese...and was pleasantly surprised. I also use the Vegan go-to...nutritional yeast flakes, known as "Nooch" in my pastas and sauces. Plus the cholesterol in cheese is another reason to give it the heave-ho.
I've had to cook a lot more of my own meals. This does take effort at the beginning, but most worthy pursuits do. I actually feel fuller on my meals, less bloated, and waking up is easier. It's like a fog has lifted that I didn't even know was there. I never feel heavy, and can often eat bigger portions since it's cleaner and more nutritionally dense- if you aren't overindulging in Vegan junk food, which is as easy to find as regular junk food. Haha, movie theater popcorn is mostly safe since the butter is fake anyway.
**SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a learning process, do not beat yourself up for setbacks (intentional or unintentional). I cheated twice purposefully- once because I wanted something sweet and I was near my favorite ice cream on a road trip, the other because I was at a restaurant where I could only order broccoli or rice if I didn't want meat and cheese...and I caved instead of paying close attention and ordering smartly. Bread hides many dairy components as well, and I hadn't even thought of that until after several veggie burgers on buns. Do the best you can, and acknowledge your progress. Your efforts are amazing and should be celebrated, not picked apart:-)
I feel embarrassed for my ignorance when I rolled my eyes at events with vegans I deemed snotty and difficult, assuming they were promoting their lifestyle to feel superior to others. Now I simply realize they had more information than I did, and decided to live more compassionately. Once you know this stuff, you are forced to make a choice, even if that is doing nothing. My husband has been incredibly supportive, and I hope you will find someone in your life to support you as well. It can feel isolating to go against the grain. Every time the people pleaser part of me starts to feel awkward, I just remind myself of why I'm doing it. And armed with knowledge, that's far more important to me now.
I would love to meet Foer one day and personally thank him. I now donate monthly to animal rights groups. I support a couple YouTubers through Patreon accounts since they are more eloquent in their dissemination of information than I could ever hope to be. I'll probably even get some corny T-shirts, and I have a tattoo design I'm currently considering on my left wrist. I'm proudly one of those hippy dippy happy people:-) It's amazing to live a life in line with your values.
I think I've gone on quite long enough. If any of you are still there, here is a list of some of my resources.
Awesome YouTube channels and links:
Awareness and activist videos/channels:
Top 5 Vegan Films of 2017 -An overview video from the YouTube channel Plant Based News, this one is self explanatory.
101 Reasons to Go Vegan - a great starter video. Condenses tons of facts. A great go-to after or before Netflix documentaries.
Mic. The Vegan He is a vegan science writer so gives excellent nutrition facts.
The Vegan Activist His videos are powerful, and some can be graphic. Sometimes they're too much, but if you need extra motivation...he's your guy. He's pretty helpful about putting (Non-Graphic) in the title if you can't handle the tough images.
Gary Yourofsky Gary has some incredible lectures. He can be controversial, but his data is hard to dispute. He has recently retired from activism, has reached burnout and had to deal with lots of hate.
Bite Size Vegan She is touted as Gary's protege. As her channel description says, she provides friendly and fast facts on how and why to be Vegan
Cheap Lazy Vegan
Hot for Food
Liv's Healthy Life
Happy Healthy Vegan (they also do vlogs. Sometimes they can be a little much, but I like them nonetheless:-)
That Vegan Couple (also vlogs. They are about the happiest people I've ever watched. That alone speaks volumes. You want what they have!)
NikkiVegan (super chill and soothing gal, her voice lulls me sometimes and I have to relisten:-P
SoTrueQ (a male!! I promise they exist. He is a funny, honest, and super entertaining African American from the South who is Vegan)
Mind Over Munch While not solely Vegan, she usually provides Vegan recipe options. I love her personality and awesome ebooks. My favorite is her Bento Box Lunch ebook. Tons of great ideas for packing school lunches for kiddos.
Clean & Delicious -also not strictly Vegan, she has a Kale Butternut Squash soup recipe that I have made multiple times.
Cookbooks I've been loving:
Isa Does It! (Isa Chandra Moskowitz is one of the first names I came across in the Vegan cooking world. She is praised for her many books, had a show called Post Punk Kitchen, and is known for making meals that meat lovers enjoy as well. Just check out her reviews). I can heartily recommend 15+ of these recipes. My kids prefer the chocolate cake and blueberry muffins out of this book over ones containing dairy.
Thug Kitchen One of the highest rated Vegan cookbooks on Amazon, the recipes are delicious...but full of swear words. Be warned: Lots of profanity. Like every other sentence.
**Many of the YouTubers I mentioned sell their ebooks. Some I've been able to print and coil at my local Office Depot.
Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking by Dana Shultz - 101 Entirely Plant-Based, mostly gluten free (if you care about that), recipes that require 10 ingredients or less. I highly recommend following them on Instagram and their blog for tons of free recipe posts. The most recent amazing one was a Jalapeno Cheese Sauce. Nom Nom Nom!
Forks Over Knives
What the Health
There are a ton more, these are just the ones I've seen and found helpful.
Hmm, what to rate?
Please leave me a comment below:-) I'd love to know what you think or if you'll be picking it up!