Eating Animals

As a part of the South Granville YYoga Book Club, I recently read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saefran Foer. While not his only focus, Foer writes extensively in this book about the modern means of meat production – a.k.a. Factory Farming.

Reading stories about how abused animals are in the factory farming process, I finished the book feeling that factory farming is morally equivalent to genocide.

In addition to the mistreatment of animals, animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined. And, factory farming practices carry incredible health risks – with H1N1 originating in a North Carolina pig farm and 98% of American chicken being infected with campylobacter or salmonella at the time of consumption.

The stories of abuse, destruction and threat seem endless.

And, it is overwhelming.

Potentially paralyzing.

But, I’m writing today in an effort to prevent, to move through, paralysis and to foster an appreciation for doing something being worth something.

For many people, the thought of switching to a vegan diet to avoid the consumption of animal products produced in inhumane ways feels impossible, undesirable, and extreme. I have allergies to wheat and dairy, and the thought of voluntarily removing another group of food items from my diet feels unhealthy, limiting and isolating.

But at the same time, holding the reality of what is involved producing most animal products isn’t compatible with freely indulging all my carnivorous desires.

So where is the middle ground?

For me, the middle ground is letting doing something be enough because I’m not prepared to do everything right now and because doing something is so much better than turning a blind eye to the atrocity that is factory farming.

I want to share some of my ideas for small steps – and I’d love to hear your ideas.

  • Start a conversation about small steps people can take to do something to address the issues arising from factory farming
  • Eat smaller portions of meat (and other animal products) and commit to never throwing any away
  • Avoid eating at large fast food chains (like McDonalds & KFC) that play a large role in creating an unsustainable demand for meat
  • Cultivate awareness by asking restaurants where their meat products come from
  • Give up meat for a certain number of days in the week. The idea of being a vegetarian on the weekdays is popular (omnivore on weekends), but maybe that is too extreme for you. Try 1 day or 2 days.
  • Give up eggs. Chickens who produce eggs are some of the most horribly abused animals in the system. (And, if you buy “free-range” or “cage-free” eggs, do some research to make sure you are really getting what you paid for.)
  • When you buy meat, remember that relative to inflation rates factory farmed meat is ridiculously cheap – and pay a more appropriate price for meat more humanely raised and slaughtered


  1. Rachel says:

    Awesome blog Sarah – I’ll have to read that book once school is out. When I was 19 I challenged myself to give up meat, mostly to see if I could do it. I found it was relatively easy to do, that there were plenty of meat-free protein alternatives and it also saved me some money. I’ve certainly consumed meat from time to time since then, just due to different circumstances (i.e. I didn’t want to be rude when someone would serve me dinner and I didn’t inform them ahead of time about my preferences, I didn’t inquire as to what was in my meal before consuming it, etc). For the most part though, meat is not a part of my diet and I don’t find myself craving it.

    In terms of eggs, I eat a lot of them as they are my main protein source but I know exactly where they come from. I’ve actually gone to visit the local Prince George farm and I’ve seen the chickens that are laying the eggs I’m consuming. They are out and about in a large enclosure, fed lots of fresh food (when seasonally possible) and aren’t given any medications. I’ve spoken with the lovely man who owns the chickens, and he’s actually turned their family business into a ‘petting farm’, as him and his wife were just too kind and couldn’t turn away all the animals that they kept acquiring over the years. The rest of the animals are also housed in great living conditions and are well-looked after. I don’t think I could possibly be any happier about eating eggs with that kind of knowledge!

    Since moving north to Prince George, I’ve been exposed to a lifestyle that involves hunting and fishing to bring in protein to feed your family. For many people, this is the only source of meat they can afford, and it’s what folks rely on throughout the year. Being a part of the Wildlife and Fisheries program here at UNBC, probably 1/3 of my classmates hunt and nearly everyone will fish. I have grown to really appreciate these folks and their views. The meat or fish is local, wild, no medications, you know how it was killed, and in certain circumstances you are helping to manage wildlife or fish populations in the region. Also, I think having to go out and ‘get it yourself’ truly gives you respect for not only that fish or animal, but for nature. Hunters have a pretty bad rap (i.e. a bunch of drunken rowdies shooting guns), but it’s a case of a couple of bad apples spoiling the bunch. Most hunters I know are intelligent, generous people who give thanks after they take an animal and share their meat with others. I’ve been lucky enough to have good friends who hunt and fish, and since moving up here have taken to eating more fish and game meat, simply because I do know where it came from and it’s better than anything you could possibly buy at the grocery store. I’m not necessarily promoting more hunting and fishing as it really is a very specific lifestyle, but I certainly appreciate knowing where the meat I’m consuming has come from. I will also always be grateful for all of the people I’ve met up here that have helped me to open my mind and have changed my perspective on where we get our protein.

    Just my two cents, and my own experiences 🙂

  2. Hayley says:

    Hey Sarah,

    I’m a pescetarian (i.e. other than fish & seafood, am vegetarian), and I’ve found a few ways to avoid supporting such irresponsible business practices, let alone animal cruelty that makes my stomach turn!

    1. LEARN TO COOK! There’s a gazillion free recipes online, and finding vegetarian options are easy. If you’re buying your own ingredients, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to select ethical and healthy food. Cooking is FUN (or at least, it can be if DIY is your thing…!), and for people with food allergies like Sarah and I (for me it’s red onion and garlic – avoid those!), it makes sense to pull out all the stops, buy an expensive bottle of wine and treat yourself and friends to something you CAN eat and enjoy! RECOMMENDATIONS: Anything by the Moosewood Collective (“New Classics” is awesome).

    2. RAW FOOD MOVEMENT. Okay, I wasn’t excited about this either. But I have friends who have changed my viewpoint! If I had known that all the appies at that party were raw food, admittedly I would’ve eaten before I left the house! But it was good, and kind of fun for a change! Trying out new food fads can really open up doors for you, and give you healthier (and more ethical!) options. The fruit-crudites on cucumber slices were surprisingly good finger-foods. I’m planning on writing a blog post on this in the future… I’ll post again here if I do and share the recipes! 🙂 WANT TO TRY IT OUT?: – go to the restaurant downtown and see what it’s like!

    3. OCEANWISE FISH. There’s an iPhone app now! Yep, the Vancouver Aquarium and other groups started this program awhile back now, and it’s really catching steam! All the really good restaurants in town show “OCEANWISE” logos and options next to their seafood choices, allowing you to choose sustainable fish from environmentally sound fisheries. MONEY AND OCEANWISE TIP – Wednesdays during the wintertime, The Fish House in Stanley Park has $20 entrees for their 20th anniversary. Delicious and Oceanwise!

    4. VEGETARIAN FASTFOOD. “Planet Veg” on Cornwall in Kits. Enough said. I’ve taken many an carnivore here, and as soon as they’ve tried a curry roll or baked samosa (much healthier AND better tasting!), they’re hooked! Other easy vegetarian options when you want something quick, easy and satisfying? Veggie burgers (White Spot – get the Triple O sauce!), vegetarian poutine at Fritz on Davie downtown, vegetarian pizza, and don’t forget that take-out places like Thai, Indian and Chinese places often include vegetarian options for their strict Buddhist customers (and people who eat with their eyes wide open!).

    5. GO KOSHER OR LOCAL SMALL-SCALE FARM. I suppose if you must eat meat, go with Kosher or the local farm who’s determined to ‘do it right’. It’s held to higher standards (and I believe in the case of Kosher that includes better treatment of the animals, but I’m no expert here..), and it’s far less likely to be full of nasty chemicals and antibiotics like tetracycline. Want another reason to not eat mass-produced meat? ASK A MICROBIOLOGIST! 😀 The cattle industry uses tetracycline in the feed of calves as an non-specific growth factor that helps the animals grow bigger, and faster. Given the rate of increasing antibiotic resistance, COMBINED with the fact that there aren’t any NEW antibiotics coming down the pipes, we’re potentially creating antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our own food sources! How stupid is that? Talk about your poor planning! 😉 RECOMMENDATIONS: Rempel’s (Abbotsford) for quality small-scale meats; Solly’s bagelry for great Kosher deli food!

    6. ETHNIC FOODS. Now obviously there’s a large amount of caveats to be made here (i.e. cheap meat could very well be in the mix!), but if you go VEGETARIAN when you eat out, you will be giving your tastebuds a real treat! Have you tried dosa (south Indian lentil crepes filled with a curry centre of your choice? Try the palak paneer!)? Have you tried a Thai dish other than pad thai? When was the last time you had Ethiopian cuisine?! 🙂 The vegetarian menu is not at all dull – be adventurous and find a new favourite. You won’t be bored or miss the meat. Take advantage of Canada’s diverse culture. We’re lucky! RECOMMENDATIONS: Nuba (Lebanese – Gastown); House of Dosa (Indian – Kingsway); Bo Kong (Chinese – Richmond; all vegetarian!)

    7. WEIGHT LOSS & HEALTHY ARTERIES. It’s not really a tip, more of a reinforcement! 🙂 Humans were NEVER meant to consume the HUGE quantities of meat that we eat today! Back in the day, you had to RUN, CATCH AND KILL your food with your own hands (in respectful response to the above comment, the people who shoot purely for sport (not the sustenance hunters) should have their weapons taken away and replaced with spears and arrows! Eat what you (finally) catch, or just go home and watch wrestling! Your choice!). Seriously though, you’d have to do at least 5 hours of hard cardio and resistance training at the gym each day to earn what many North Americans eat in a week. Meat is terrific for you IN VERY SMALL QUANTITIES; it’s nutritionally dense, loaded with fats (=calories =energy!), and all the vitamins/trace metals are in a useful, bio-available format (i.e. iron in the blood). Living in a first-world country with fortified milk, flour, iodized salt, etc., only someone with rare nutritional deficiencies will actually NEED to eat meat! You don’t need it, it’s in excess = it’s going to make you TOO well fed! 🙂

    I say do it! It’s February – you might be one month into your New Year’s resolution to get healthy/lose weight. If you’re running out of motivation, try the vegetarian challenge! Go veggie for a month! First stop – Planet Veg (Cornwall Ave in Kits) for lunch. 😉

    Thanks for motivating people to try something new, better for them, and better for our world, Sarah! 🙂 Love your blog!
    Hayley 🙂

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