"What happens to all of the male offspring of layers? If man hasn't designed them for meat, and nature clearly hasn't designed them to lay eggs, what function do they serve?
They serve no function. Which is why all male layers — half of all the layer chickens born in the United States, more than 250 million chicks a year — are destroyed.
Destroyed? That seems like a word worth knowing more about.
Most male layers are destroyed by being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified plate. Other layer chicks are destroyed in other ways, and it's impossible to call those animals more or less fortunate. Some are tossed into large plastic containers. The weak are trampled to the bottom, where they suffocate slowly. The strong suffocate slowly at the top. Others are sent fully conscious through macerators (picture a wood chipper filled with chicks)."
Did you know what happened to the millions of baby male chicks, unneccessary to the industry, before reading this? Neither did I. But oddly, Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, still allegedly eats eggs.
Therefore the first thing I have to say about Eating Animals is that it is a book which, while highlighting the facts about intensive factory farming from an animal welfare perspective as well as a public health one, it does not help change our way of seeing animals as "things" which we can use, when it suits us best.
And it is highly hyprocritical, in that even while reporting on some of the atrocities that happen to nonhuman animals when it comes down to eating their secretions (eggs and milk), not just their meat, it does nothing to promote veganism, the only way of ending violence to all living beings.
However, I decided to include a review of this book on my site because it was pivotal in my return back to vegetarianism - in that it gave me a few home truths about the meat industries from its almost a fly-on-the-wall view into the parts of animal 'farming' we never get to know about otherwise. And from this awareness, I ultimately became vegan (once I realised the enormous amount of hypocrisy in remaining vegetarian).
Eating Animals still is a well-researched text based on three years of Safran Foer's investigation into the meat industry, with a key focus on animal welfare but some horrifying insights into the public health concerns, as a result of the sole interest in profit. It also illustrates some of the massive corruption in place within the food corporations.
I liked he fact that Safran Foer includes perspectives from all angles - from the factory farmer, to the animal rights activist, to the traditional farmer, to the vegan that builds slaughterhouses. And while I don't agree with some of those views, nor Safran Foer's promotion of 'small farming' (since it does nothing to stop us thinking of animals as resources), I think that understanding other people's reasons for doing what they do, even where it conflicts your own values, is a special strength.
Sometimes the book is, admittedly, hard to read since it describes in detail what goes on behind the scenes of factory-farming and slaughter. Yet, it is nevertheless compelling and necessary reading for all human beings who eat meat and those who don't, and it is a story that must be told (bearing in mind that you should come away from it questioning the morality of using animals altogether, which Safran Foer does not address).
Eating Animals concentrates on intensive farming in the US, but as Safran Foer points out very early on, don't believe that the industry is much different in the UK or Europe if you live here. It isn't.
The UK may have certain laws in place supposedly protecting animals that are reared for food, they are consistently disregarded and broken, and the lack of effective monitoring means that animals in UK rearing plants and slaughterhouses go through the most unimaginable brutality day-in, day-out, until their last breath, which comes as heart-breaking respite from the agony endured.
A major criticism of Eating Animals is that even though the dairy and egg industries are discussed within the book, and we hear about how horrible they are, it's really only the actual eating of animals, rather than consuming their secretions (that also involves terrible cruelty), which seems to be of concern to the author. He talks about the abominable situations of dairy cows and laying hens, but then seems not to mind continuing to eat dairy and eggs (I guess, since he doesn't mention giving up such products too). A massive flaw.
As the dairy and eggs industries are just as violent as the meat industries, and dairy cows, hens and baby chicks all end brutally slaughtered in the same slaughterhouses as the beef cattle, pigs and broiler chickens, whether you eat their flesh or drink their milk makes no difference to the animal. You cause no less harm as a vegetarian than you do as a meat-eater - a sad but true fact. And some vegetarians may even cause more harm, since they often rely heavily on eggs and cheese in their diets in place of the meat.
While I am highly criticial of Eating Animals in that it doesn't do anything to change the way we think about animals in terms of them having their OWN right to exist without being used as a resource for human beings (full stop), this book opened my eyes to how the fat cat corporations behind the meat industry care nothing for animals, nor humans, and we pay them to continue to exploit us.
Since I read Safran's Foer's books though, my view has changed enormously. I certainly couldn't have read the book and gone back to eating meat - but I also started questioning why I was eating or wearing anything that involved animal exploitation of any kind (I mean, why is it that so many vegetarians still buy and wear leather?! And I was one of those people too. The animal has suffered just as dispicably, whether you eat it or wear it!).
And so, I began my journey towards veganism, and then abolitionist vegansim. Which is where I am at now, and which I feel is the only moral way to exist.
My final note is to say that abolitonist vegan and law professor Gary Francione believes that this book, Eating Animals, harms the vegan cause and the situation for animals far more than it helps it. I'm inclined to agree, but I still feel Jonathan Safran Foer's book has value for those who have little awareness of what is involved in the process by which a nonhuman animal reaches their plate.