Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I LOVE steak.

And Chicken.

And Pork.

But I married a vegetarian which, for the first several years of marriage, made me a sort of Megetarian.  A vegetarian by proxy who ate meat when I could, but rarely.  I still ate meat, but not nearly as much because it simply wasn't made for me at home.  I only had it when eating out.

Then, around the time our daughter was born, my wife fell off the veggie wagon, and we started eating chicken.  Still to this day, that is the main - almost the only - meat eaten in our house.  I got my steak fix any time I travel for work.  While traveling for work, my company provides me with the ability to eat pretty much whatever I would like and I like STEAK!  So, while traveling, I usually would have a nice filet mignon steak every day.

Please understand that going in to this book, I was a meat eater and quite happy with it.  I had heard stories of chicken farming that was insane, but I honestly just didn't ever think much about it.  Sort of put on the ol' blinders and trudged ahead.  The same way I never liked cooking meat…because it made me think too much about the animal.  (Interesting to note that the more you practice mindfulness, the more you discover that this is how we live our lives in many areas)
Eating Animals
Well, almost a year ago, I started reading "Eating Animals".  Honestly I did this because I was desperate for a good book, and I saw this one by the guy who wrote the book "Everything Is Illuminated".  I loved the movie of that book, and was intrigued that the same guy had written this non-fiction book about vegetarianism.  That and I had seen the author, Jonathan Safran Foer on a talk show and he seemed VERY reasonable.  He didn't seem like he was trying to shove his agenda down anyones throat, but rather was saying that he just wanted people to TALK about the issue.  No matter what the reader decided, he just wanted to get a conversation happening openly.  I thought this was VERY savvy, so I got the book.  Having watched my wife struggle through her efforts to eat a plant based diet every time we had a get together at a friends house and constantly be harassed, cajoled, questioned or just plain ignored with regard to her choice (never meant to be those things, but always how it felt) I wasn't in any hurry to join the veggie team, but I think the time has come for me.

I got about halfway through the book, and was getting rather tired of the negativity and depressing nature of the book.  Don't get me wrong, I was very impressed with it, and had already heard enough that I asked my wife what she would think about getting back to a vegetarian lifestyle again.  She was very willing, and we decided we would.  But - I still stopped reading the book.

At the half-way point in the book, and having decided to go vegetarian already, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish the depressing book.  Well, during this time I read "Savor" and had become very devoted to losing weight and eating mindfully.  Mindful eating makes it very hard to put out of your mind the fact that you are eating what was once a living creature.  Furthermore, if you have any knowledge of factory farming, it makes it near impossible not to envision the horrible treatment that the animals, the land and even the workers in the industry receive.  As "Savor" says, when you eat mindfully, you may find yourself becoming an inadvertent vegetarian.  Sure enough, I did.

I started going out of my way to try and eat vegetarian at every opportunity including when traveling for work.  I also stopped eating all red meat.  I didn't (and still haven't completely) give up chicken, but I'm working on it.

Anyhow, I decided to finish reading "Eating Animals", and I'm very glad I did.  Once past all the statistical and descriptive bad stuff - a necessary evil to hear, I think - the book gets down to some of the good things happening, and also how to move ahead in the world and LOTS of talk of reason.  Reasoning on how to make a choice, why you should, etc.

In the end, while the "Eating Animals" book is not a lot of fun, it's DEFINITELY worth the read, and more than a little upsetting if you are an animal lover, but be forewarned that if you read this book you are very likely to decide that you no longer want to be a part of the way in which your meat is currently provided to you.  And make no mistake…if you eat meat, and you don't buy it from your friendly neighborhood farmer, you are very, very likely eating meat that was factory farmed.

At it's core this book is shining a light on a challenge that is facing all of mankind today, and it is asking us to simply consider it.  To be mindful of what we are doing, and then to make a knowledge-based choice using our own values.  Be mindful.  They didn't put it in those words, but that's what it is.  Know where it comes from, know how it gets to your plate, and know thy self.  If you do these things, then the decision you make will be the right one for you.

As this fit so well with the "Savor" ideal of mindfulness, I felt real need to share this review with you all.  Like the book, I do NOT judge you for your choice.  I've enjoyed an animal based diet for most of my life.  When I am mindful, however, I find I must now take a different path.

Enjoy the book, and whatever you choose, go out and have conversation about it.  In fact, let's have one here!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on factory farming, vegetarianism, your own decision to go one way or the other.  Whether here, or with your friends and family, let's remove the judgement and emotion from the issue, and just discuss it openly with care.


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