jonathan safran foer's essay

Ellen's friend, Jonathan Safran Foer, wrote an essay on factory farming exclusively for this website. He powerfully explains why we need to end factory farming -- and why it's not an unreasonable goal.


More than 99 percent of the animals we eat come from factory farms. I firmly believe that if exposed to the realities of factory farming, almost all Americans would say, "This isn't right." Do you know anyone who thinks it's right to keep a pregnant animal in a cage so small she can't turn around? Or that it's right to remove parts of animal's body's without anesthetics? It's not what our parents taught us, or what we teach our children. It's not who we are as Americans. Just as having a farm system that is so enormously destructive to the environment is un-American.

Cage-free and free-range eggs are the fastest growing sector of the food industry right now -- not just in San Francisco or NYC, but in all of America -- and that says something powerful about who we are. It says that we are willing to spend more money for food that causes less suffering.

Caring is not a finite resource, and even more than that, it's like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. This is what Tolstoy meant when he famously said that if there were no more slaughterhouses, there'd be no more battlefields. It's a silly statement in its own right, but it gestures at something that's true: if we exercise our compassion three times a day, we are sure to become more compassionate people in the rest of our lives.

The question is this: if we don't say no to our meat industry, what do we say no to? If we don't say no to something that systematically abuses 50 billion animals, if we don't say no to the number one cause of global warming, if we don't say no to what the United Nations has said is one of the top two or three causes of every significant environmental problems in the world, locally and globally, if we don't say no to something that is a prime factor in the generation of Avian and Swine Flu, if we don't say no to something that's making the antibiotics we and our children depend on less effective, if we don't say no to something that causes 76 million food-borne illnesses every year, just what do we say no to?

This is not a case where we need to go to war with another country or spend a trillion dollars or elect a new government or change our values. We just need to act on our values and eat as little meat as possible, ideally none. The next meal is the best place to start.

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