factory farming is environmentally bad and ethically bad, and foer admits that ‘until sixty or so years ago, much of my reasoning wouldn’t have even been intelligible’ for factory farming had not yet assumed near-total (99%) domination. yet, that’s not what shapes his personal decision not to eat animals. to him, his decision is both personal and political. yet, will he agitate, will he seek to legislate? in other words, will he take his personal beliefs to the streets? which makes me wonder why i do what i do and believe what i believe and how far do i go? for that matter, why do you do what you do and believe what you believe and how far would you go? eh?
foer, perhaps as his grandmother once was forced to, journeys, flees, seeks, tests his truth, faces death, faces the unknown–don’t we all? he meets several people in his journey–an anti-factory farming activist we only know as ‘c’, a factory farmer, ethical farmers paul and frank, and now a vegan rancher–and he gives them space, gives them voice, let’s them tell their story in their own words.
the vegan rancher disagrees with her peta friends that the solution to factory farming is for people to stop eating meat. ain’t going to happen. yet, factory farming can’t continue forever. change is inevitable. she writes, ‘there are glimmers of hope for the future. a return to more sensible farming is afoot. a collective will is emerging–a political will, and also a will of consumers, retailers, and restaurants.’ she details rising costs and overproduction of meat as important things to know, but not necessarily leading to action.
a peta person counters: ‘it’s not enough to know what’s right and wrong; action is the other, and more important, half of moral understanding.’ the vegan rancher’s husband, a meat-eater, responds that he gives the animals a good life and a good death.
feor worries that ‘vegetarians are at best kindly but unrealistic. at worst they are delusional sentimentalists…. both strategies [animal rights–equal; think ‘men and women’–and animal welfare–inferior; think ‘children’] … suggest that we need to do more than change our diets; we need to ask others to join us.’
them ultimately is us. actions speak louder than words. feor points out that few of us ‘actually farm, but in wendell berry’s phrase, we all farm by proxy.’ when we shop, we farm. when we cook, we farm. when we eat, at home or at mcdonald’s, we farm. feor asks hard questions. are you ready?
- ‘just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else?’
- ‘if contributing to the suffering of billions of animals … isn’t motivating, what would be?’
- ‘if being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is?’
- if not now, when?
racism, sexism, anthropocentrism–it’s all the same. it’s money, power, control. who gets to choose, and what. feor writes, ‘at the end of the day, factory farming isn’t about feeding people; it’s about money…. we have chosen slaughter. we have chosen war.’
knowledge is power. now you know. now you are powerful. but remember, with power comes responsibility. we are past the point of no return. ‘we can’t plead ignorance, only indifference.’
the crux of the matter is now that you know, what are you going to do?
i first stopped eating meat as a teen for personal reasons, but now i know it is political, too. there are two things i can do: i can write, and i can eat. i don’t eat animals, and i write about it.