The Atlantic Interviews Jonathan Safran Foer

The Atlantic just posted a lengthy interview with Eating Animals author Jonathan Safran Foer. I love his thoughts on how people can latch on to the vegetarian or vegan concepts as excuses for making no changes in how they eat:

There are an awful lot of people who care about this stuff and for reasons good or bad, just can’t envision becoming vegetarian. So what do we do with that? Do we throw our hands up in air and say that since I’m not going to be perfect about this I’m completely off the hook. They will say, `I was a vegetarian for six years and I found myself at an airport and I was shaking from hunger so I ate some McNuggets and that was the end of my vegetarianism. It’s just such a bizarre way of thinking about it.

I care about the environment, I try to buy good appliances, I certainly turn the lights off when I leave rooms, and so on and so forth, and yet I also fly. So should my getting off the plane say ‘Okay, I know that was bad, so I’m now bad, I’m going to leave lights on, I’m going to let my car idle.’ It’s nuts. I wish people would talk about food in a way that was more similar to how we talk about the environment. The question of ‘Are you an environmentalist or not?’ is nonsense. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Also, for perhaps the first time publicly, Foer responds to the idiotic Michiko Kakutani review of Eating Animals that appeared last month in the New York Times.

Considering the numerous complex issues related to animal agribusiness, I find myself agreeing with Foer almost all the time. But the interview reveals one area where we disagree. Foer writes:

Free-range, when applied to hens, means zero. It is literally not defined and it is up to supplier testimonials whether or not to use it, so you should take as much comfort from ‘free-range’ as you should from ‘starry and magical.’ Cage-free does mean something: it means exactly what it sounds like it means, literally not in cages, which is not to say that much for the welfare of animals.

I think it’s fairly clear that free-range and cage-free actually mean almost the same thing: the animals aren’t kept in battery cages. This HSUS report talks about what cage-free systems deliver in terms of cruelty reductions, and what cruelties often remain unaddressed. There’s no doubt that hens housed in cage-free systems often have miserable lives, but I don’t think a case can be made that the cruelties they suffer are comparable to what battery hens endure. (Via Sullivan.) Link.

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