How Destructive Does Meat Have to be Before We Decide to Eat Something Else? ~ Deja Dragovic

Via elephant journal
on Jul 9, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

I’ve been vegetarian before I read this book, but it definitely, unequivocally validated my choice.

Perhaps because he was driven by personal reasons, Jonathan Safran Foer so absolutely and thoroughly researched the subject of eating animals from all perspectives: nutrition, environment, and animal rights.

Although the subject is very serious and important, he still adds his little quirks and sarcasm (he wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, highly recommended).

He also asserts at the beginning that the book is not a case for vegetarianism, and it isn’t, but he lays out all his research findings and arguments, and then it’s up to you.

Some facts (these are direct quotes from the book):

  • —On comfort food: On average, Americans eat the equivalent of 21,000 entire animals in a lifetime.
  • —On shortages: By 2050, the world’s livestock alone will consume as much food as four billion people. Also, more meat means more demand for grains and more hands fighting over them.
  • —On health: Doctors are seeing all kinds of new illnesses that he never used to see, from juvenile diabetes, to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, girls going through puberty much earlier, allergies to just about everything, and asthma is out of control. It’s all from food: we’re messing with the genes of animals and then feeding them growth hormones and all kinds of drugs that we really don’t know enough about. And then we’re eating them.
  • —On impact:  Globally, farmed animals contribute more to climate change than transport.
  • —On space: Farmed animals in the United States produce 130 times as much waste as the human population. And yet there is almost no waste-treatment infrastructure for farmed animals.
  • —On necessity: The average shrimp-trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures overboard, dead or dying, as by-catch.
  • —On innovation: From 1935 to 1995, the average weight of “broilers” (chicken raised for flesh) increased by 65 percent, while their time-to-market dropped 60 percent and their feed requirements dropped 57 percent.
  • —On dinner: The drug-stuffed, disease-ridden, contaminated chickens are injected (or otherwise pumped up) with “broths” and salty solutions to give them what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell and taste.
  • —On adequacy: Vegetarians and vegans (including athletes) “meet and exceed requirements” for protein, and tend to have more optimal protein consumption than omnivores. In fact, excess animal protein intake is linked with osteoporosis, kidney disease, calcium stones in the urinary tract, and some cancers.
  • —On best interests: Factory farming is all about money, creating a food industry whose primary concern isn’t feeding people. Farmers do not aim to produce healthy animals.
  • —On choices: There isn’t enough non-factory chicken produced in America to feed the population of Staten Island and not enough non-factory pork to serve New York City, let alone the country. Any ethical-meat advocate who is serious is going to be eating a lot of vegetarian fare.
  • —On selection: There are thousands of foods on the planet, so why do we eat only the relatively small selection we do?
  • —On pets: Turning around the inefficient use of dogs — conveniently already in areas of high human population (take note, local-food advocates): If we let dogs be dogs, and breed without interference, we would create a sustainable, local meat supply with low energy inputs.
  • —On side-stepping: The conversion of animal protein unfit for human consumption into food for livestock and pets transforms useless dead dogs into productive members of the food chain. So let’s just eliminate this inefficient and bizarre middle step.
  • —On industry: It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal.
  • —On the course of acton: Farming is shaped not only by food choices, but by political ones. Choosing a personal diet is insufficient. A collective will is necessary—a political will, and also a will of consumers, retailers, and restaurants.

And just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else?



Deja Dragovic is a contributor for LivingGreenMag, an online publication that informs and educates readers on a range of environmental and lifestyle issues, and highlights various non-profit causes. Visit


Editor: Hayley Samuelson.



About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of Questions? Send to [email protected]


8 Responses to “How Destructive Does Meat Have to be Before We Decide to Eat Something Else? ~ Deja Dragovic”

  1. guest says:

    When I spent an exchange year in the US, my boobs were bigger. No kidding. I found it scary.

  2. Donald says:

    As a husband to animals in the Hudson Valley of New York, I am not an advocate for overconsumption of meat. I believe meat should be a luxury, consumed minimally throughout the week, small portions, purchased directly from the farmer or a butcher with a relationship with their farmers.

    With that said, animals are an integral component to a farm. I speak primarily of ruminants, those animals that depend on grass and forage for their diet. Not only do they contribute fertility to the soil, but they also help control the spread of invasive species.

    In regards to pigs, I love them. I love raising them. I love scratching behind their ears. I love rubbing their bellies. I find them to be the most resilient domesticated farm animal. A farmer can make them earn their keep by allowing them to root up pastures that offer a rather unappealing buffet of forbes and grasses for ruminants thus creating a clean slate, so to speak, so that the farmer can re-seed the area with more intention. Unfortunately, in the greater scheme of things, pigs are dependent upon grain production. Yes, if a farmer is thrifty enough, they can procure waste from restaurants, whey from cheese makers, possibly spent grains from a brewery, to feed their pigs. They could potentially plant root crops and other forages for the pigs But this lengthens the amount of time it takes for a pig to get to weight for processing. This is my quandary with pigs.

    We do this. Our pigs are out on pasture or in the woods. They forage, they scratch their bodies against trees. The nap in the shade. They live a rather happy life from what I observe. We minimize stress.

    With our sheep, goats, and cows, we move them every four days to new pasture. We make sure they have shade and water as well. We feed a minimal amount of grain to our goats and sheep during late gestation and early lactation to help them maintain body condition.

    Point being. We raise our animals in a rather just and humane way.

    I used to be a vegetarian. I u-locked myself to a number of polls in protest of fur, or what have you, during my youth. And I agree with most of the arguments against the consumption of meat. But this is how I see it. The demand for meat isn't going to go away anytime soon, so we need more farmers willing to raise animals humanely to provide an alternative to factory farmed meat.

    I take animals in to get processed often and it is not easy and it should never be. If it ever becomes easy I need to take a step back and reevaluate my life. During the drive to the processing facility I think about the life I have in tow. How I have cared for it. Possibly how I helped bring it into this world. I try to come to terms with the act I find myself a player in. I do it because, like I said, as long as the demand exists, we need farmers like me who actually love the animals they raise.

  3. […] green path. But the most important lesson I learned is that everyday there is another reason to surrender the animal foods in our diet in favor of plant-based goodness. Not only is animal agriculture devastating to our environment, it is by every definition cruel to […]

  4. […] we possess an expanded understanding of ahimsa beyond only vegetarianism and accept every person as they are, we then have the best capacity to support transformation and […]

  5. […] How Destructive Does Meat Have to be Before We Decide to Eat Something Else? […]

  6. […] Our over-consumption of meat is not just responsible for human deaths, but for billions of animal deaths as well. The statistics vary, but an estimated ten to 40 billion animals are killed per year in America for consumption. To combat this, many groups promote cutting down on meat consumption (Meatless Mondays) or cutting it out completely and eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. […]

  7. […] “Beyond the moral implications of eating animals, you can never realize the full potential of your meditations and yoga practice or feel the subtlety of the energetic impact of what you eat until you give up meat and increase the amount of live foods that you consume.” […]

  8. […] is what Frank Reese, a farmer profiled in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals said in the […]