Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Went to see the author Jonathan Safran Foer read from and talk about his latest book, Eating Animals last night at Town Hall Seattle. In spite of the event being overrun by earnest young men wearing hipster beards and serious middle-aged women attired in boiled wool, it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half and while I didn’t learn anything new, really, I found the author to be an intelligent, funny, and surprisingly humble personality, one who, in another life, probably would have been a rabbi, or at least someone’s kindly Jewish uncle who owned a restaurant supply house.

He managed not to come off preachy at all in making his case for vegetarianism, one based primarily, as I came to understand it, on the kind of broadly Utilitarian arguments against factory farming that Peter Singer pioneered in Animal Liberation. His unique spin on it, I thought, was the claim that, as he sees things, the issue is not really a contentious one. He pointed out that something like 96% of American people think animals should be treated humanely and that therefore, nobody is really in favor of factory farming; anybody who is aware of the practices thinks they are unacceptable from an ethical standpoint; pretty much everyone would agree that an activity which is so awful for animals and so potentially detrimental to human health is something to be avoided.

My favorite point he made was in response to a question from a guy who said he was trying to be a vegetarian, but kept failing, because he kept backsliding and eating meat. That shouldn’t, responded Foer, mean that the guy ought to give up the attempt altogether; if we occasionally tell a little “white” lie, that doesn’t incline us to stop telling the truth altogether; it’s only when it comes to being ethical vegetarians that people take the all-or-nothing approach.

Some truth is better than none; less meat is better than more.


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