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(Not) Eating Animals.

It’s funny—I think of myself as someone who, in “real life,” really isn’t afraid to discuss just about anything, regardless of what the potential reaction of those around me might be. When it comes to my blog, though, I’m a little gun-shy. Maybe that’s because the internet can be a wasteland of misunderstandings based on a lack of body language, eye contact, and accountability; or maybe it’s just a fear of being called out as a hypocrite.

Whatever the case, I’ve been wanting to write about my reaction to Jonathan Safran Foer’s phenomenal book, Eating Animals, for quite some time now, but I’ve been procrastinating. Even now as I sit down to finally begin, I’m finding myself wondering whether I’ll actually be able to hit the “publish” button when I’m done.

I suppose this post is as much about Public Fear of Blogging as it is about (Not) Eating Animals, then. (I guess it’s going to get lengthy.)

If you were a reader of my old blog, Absolutely Vile, then you may recall my rapturous reviews of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novels, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Both books had an enormous impact on me, and Foer quickly became one of my most favorite authors ever. When I heard that he was working on a book about the ethics (or lack thereof) of factory farming, I was surprised, but also confident that he would manage to write about this ugliest of subjects with grace, truth, and artistry. I’d read a couple of articles that Foer had previously written about his experiences with vegetarianism and his feelings about his dog, George, so I knew he and I were at least somewhat on the same page. I was excited to read this new book, for sure.

Until it was actually released, that is. I waited nearly four months before I actually cracked the cover and started reading. I knew Eating Animals was going to change my life, and I was scared.

Me in 1992. Morrissey spoke, and I listened.

When I was in my mid-teens, I became a vegetarian. There was no hesitation or “tapering off” once the decision was made—I just stopped, cold turkey (as it were). Aside from having a deep love of animals, I was also a fan of Morrissey, and I have no problem admitting that his very public and very sincere stance on (not) meat-eating and animal rights had a seriously influential effect on me at that age. I also had a lot of friends who were Straight Edge (this was the early ’90s, after all), and that peer pressure played a positive role in shaping my earliest of opinions about vegetarianism and drug and alcohol use.

Plus, being a vegetarian was another way that I could set myself apart from the average person, something which (for better or for worse) has always been very appealing to me. I knew how “different” (not to mention “difficult”) it made me seem, and I liked that. That said, vegetarianism was definitely not a phase for me—in fact, I stayed a total veg until I was 30 years old.

I’m not sure exactly what happened when I turned 30 to change my ways. Well, the short answer is that I went to Freeman’s with a friend and was lured into eating a bacon-wrapped prune (It’s always bacon that does in the vegetarians, isn’t it? It’s a total gateway meat), but the real answer is more complex than that. I joke around sometimes and refer to my lapse as a “vegetarian rumspringa,” and that’s actually not a bad description of what was going on.

I had come to feel like being a vegetarian was just another item on the list of things that have defined me in other people’s eyes for so many years, along with having dyed hair and bangs, being a Cure fan, wearing black, and so forth. It started to feel superficial, I guess. As much as I am confident about who I am as an individual, I start to get itchy whenever it seems like I’ve fallen into enough of a rut that even strangers have me figured out. I don’t like being a cliché, and, of course, I have that ongoing need to be “different.”

I started to question whether being a vegetarian even meant anything to me anymore. I thought it would be fun to cook and eat the same things as my husband. I was excited by the prospect of going to a restaurant and ordering anything I wanted. The more I dwelt on the positive aspects of giving up on my long-held beliefs, the less and less vegetarianism mattered to me.

Or at least I convinced myself that that was the case. The truth, though, is that I spent 4 1/2 years feeling guilty and uncomfortable about eating meat, and embarrassed every time I had to tell someone who’s known me for any length of time that I was no longer a vegetarian. Often times this information was met with a response of, “Great! I’m so happy for you!”, which made me feel even more uncomfortable with my new non-labeled self. Obviously this wasn’t something that I should have put on par with a decision to incorporate more color into my wardrobe—vegetarianism was something real and good and meaningful that I had committed myself to at a very young age, and I should have trusted myself enough to have held on to my convictions.

Which brings me back to the subject at hand: Eating Animals, the book.

There are plenty of reviews out there already that summarize the content of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, so I won’t focus too much on those details. Sojourners recently published a “Cliffs Notes Edition” which very neatly outlines the 10 main arguments Foer makes for not eating factory farmed animals, and I urge you to read it.

I, like Foer, have chosen to go beyond the extent of merely eliminating factory farmed meat from my diet. Factory farmed animals comprise “99.9 percent of chickens raised for meat, 97 percent of laying hens, 99 percent of turkeys, 95 percent of pigs, and 78 percent of cattle”—in other words, the vast majority of the meat consumed in the United States. As Foer explains in great detail in Eating Animals, it is nearly impossible to be a meat-eater and not eat animals raised or slaughtered in gruesome environments. Terms I tricked myself into believing, like “free-range,” “organically raised” and “natural,” are virtually meaningless.

I was only about five pages into the book before I knew I would never eat meat again. Halfway through, I crossed out eggs and dairy products as well. When Evan read the book, he experienced the same thing. There was just no way that I, as an educated, compassionate, and financially secure person, could convince myself that there is any reason whatsoever for me to partake in a lifestyle that does nothing to help the world and its inhabitants, and everything to encourage cruelty, unsafe working conditions, and environmental destruction. When I became a vegetarian in my teens, I never once thought about farming conditions, environmental impact, personal health, worker safety, or anything beyond the most basic emotional response to animal rights. As an adult, I thought I knew the truth about these issues, but I really didn’t. Most of us don’t, because it’s not presented to us…and most of us are a little frightened to seek it out.

Aside from compiling a factual reference, Jonathan Safran Foer managed to (as I imagined he would) also put out a beautiful, thoughtful, and thoroughly compelling piece of writing. Lest you be put off by the prospect of reading something horribly dry, depressing and soap-boxy, let me assure you that this book is absolutely readable. Foer explores the philosophy of eating meat and of his own struggles with ethics as a father, as a grandson, and as a young man who enjoyed the taste of a burger. This is not a preachy tome, but a challenge to think and to make meaningful choices.

If you’re feeling apprehensive at all about reading Eating Animals, that’s all the more reason to dive right in. (And yes, even if you think you already know the truth.) What you’ll find is not a pretty reality, but it is an important one. Every single one of us has the power to make up our own minds about what we will and will not put in our mouths. Blaming poor choices on something as simple as a craving (“Oh, but I like the taste of ____ too much”) or laziness (“I have kids, I don’t have time to be so diligent”) doesn’t give enough credit to that power. It’s not an all-or-none prospect, anyway. Even tiny changes are significant when multiplied by millions.

We can do better, though. All of us. It’s good to change, to learn, to grow—and even, sometimes, to revert to the instincts we had when we were younger.

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  • Reply JMM May 19, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been wavering a bit lately in my veggie choice for several reasons – mostly related to laziness and a fear of what others think. It is comforting to hear that others struggle with it as well and that it is possible to become reinspired. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ll be bumping it up on my priority list. Thanks!

  • Reply mary May 19, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Anna, I fear reading this book because I fear it means I will no longer be able to justify eating animal products. It’s something on my mind a lot, but I haven’t yet taken the steps. Even the tiny step … but it does weigh on me. Maybe that is a step.

    I have a question about eggs. Would you be more inclined to eat them if they came from your own backyard chickens?

  • Reply Meredith May 19, 2010 at 12:44 am

    This is my first time commenting here, hello!

    I can certainly understand your hesitancy to post your opinions on eating meat. The internet is a crazy place, and there are people who would criticize your vegetarianism, or the time in your life where you were not vegetarian. I, on the other hand, commend you for posting your thoughts. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was around 11 (I’m 26 now), and while I never relapsed, I know how difficult it can be. I hate having to always have a backup plan in restaurants (I hate it whenever someone says “well, you can just order a salad”…), and I hate having to always ask if something is meat free. As such I think I can understand when people lapse. It’s easier, especially since you’re not confronted with a slaughterhouse on a daily basis.

    The book sounds interesting, and while I can’t guarantee I’ll read it (I cannot stand to hear about animal suffering in any way, it hurts too much), I do think it’s amazing that it has the capacity to change lives.

    Lastly, I wanted to say I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement, even a small change counts. I’ve said this to people before. When one of my friends was becoming vegetarian, and she would lapse briefly, I kept telling her that all that mattered was she was trying. Even if you cut back on meat for one day a week, that’s the beginning of a huge difference.

    Sorry for rambling 😉

  • Reply Jo in NZ May 19, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Beautiful essay, Anna. Thanks for laying so much out before us. Brava!

  • Reply Nidhi May 19, 2010 at 12:59 am

    I really appreciate this post. Your honesty and conviction are always very inspiring to me. I have been a vegetarian(for the most part) for all my life thanks to mom’s delicious indian cooking which makes it very easy to be vegetarian. I try to keep up that sort of balanced, nutritious yet yummy eating/cooking on my own. I have had to slip due to the lack of veggie options on a lot of menus. And after being aware of the bigger picture behind meat consumption, I realized that those few slips weren’t worth it.

    It is easier for me because I never cared for the taste of meat and I can imagine it must be much harder for those who grew up eating meat. And so much fine dining emphasizes meat…I wonder if that will change more in favor of vegetarianism. There is more awareness now than ever and I do see better veggie/vegan options on menus more and more so one can hope.

  • Reply Amanda May 19, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Brilliant post Anna!

    I’m also a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not because I don’t like the taste of meat, and reading little reminders like this always help with long term determination and inspiration when the idea of a bacon wrapped prune may seem tempting.

  • Reply willow May 19, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Awesome post Anna, I am glad you hit ‘publish’ on it.
    I had a similar reaction to Jim Mason and Peter Singer’s ‘The Ethics of What We Eat’ a few years ago – I was a lapsed vegetarian and I knew that I would one day return to it, I just needed a nudge. The book was that nudge – a reminder of all the things I had been pushing to the back of my mind whenever I ate meat.

  • Reply Maureen May 19, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Hi Anna,
    I’m new to your blog! Thanks for biting the bullet and writing your essay! I’ve been reading “Food, INC.” (after watching the documentary). I’ve been a vegetarian for several years now and I’m getting ready to read Foer’s book (with a tiny bit of trepidation about the realm of dairy products). I’ll definitely pick it up on my next trip out. Welcome back to Veg-ville! 🙂

  • Reply deborah May 19, 2010 at 1:35 am

    anna, thank you for writing this and most importantly posting it. it is very timely for me.

    last week i received an email from a new friend who was planning a visit with her husband, so we decided to meet for a coffee. i extended our coffee date with an invite to our place for dinner and she flagged that her husband and herself were vegans (which i knew when we met for the first time) and that it might be too much trouble to cook so perhaps dinner at a restaurant would be less trouble.

    now, i am one of those people that express my generosity by cooking and feeding my friends and family. so for me, practicing veganism is not a reason not to dine at my table… the invitation remained and they are coming over for dinner tonight.

    even though my husband and i eat meat, eggs & dairy, most of our meals are plant based, if not soley plant based. preparing this meal meant a minor change to how i usually cook (mainly the dessert component) but hardly much to warrant an overhaul of my pantry.

    this is rambling and diverts from your message, but i felt really happy (and empowered) by welcoming my friends to our home and feeding them what i hope they find nourishing. i know that my reply to my friend, saying that the invitation remains open, has made me even more mindful of how we source our food. even if it just baby steps… they are steps forward.

  • Reply AnEmily May 19, 2010 at 1:37 am

    I had the same apprehensions about reading this book! But I just got it from the library last week and finally cracked it the other night. I’m considering going vegan all the way now, which is actually relatively easy to do here in Portland. I’ve only been a vegetarian for almost two years, and not even a real one AT ALL, since I still eat fish. (I can’t justify the plentiful, wild salmon anymore either!) Until now, anyway. People ask me why I don’t eat meat and I always hate to answer that question, it’s very complicated. I wish it was mandatory for everyone would just read his book. People should know this stuff.

  • Reply alex sunday May 19, 2010 at 1:46 am

    i’m vegetarian for ethical reasons too, though i have lapsed into eating seafood over the past few years – something i feel constant guilt about, particularly with so much talk at the moment about the state of fish stocks worldwide.
    it always frustrates me when meat eaters ask my why i’m vegetarian and want to argue about it. i look forward to the day (and i think it will come!) when they’re the ones on the back foot having to justify their choices! hmm, hypocritical coming from a fish eater. and i sound a bit angry! i just think it’s important for everyone to understand where their food comes from and the impact that it has.

  • Reply Kristy May 19, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Well done Anna, it’s a brave person who makes their views public in such a forum. Whether I eat meat or not, that’s beside the point. I just love the way you write, always. Very considered and honest. Dont be scared to hit publish again, you go, girl!

  • Reply Timorous Beastie May 19, 2010 at 2:02 am

    I was vegetarian for 10 years or so and then when I moved to Eastern Europe, I started eating meat again overnight. Partly it was a cultural thing – the concept of being vegetarian was strange to most Czechs and vegetarian meals were hard to find at that time. I decided that truly experiencing the culture included eating the cuisine and not being prissy about my sensibilities.

    Partly, however, it was about differentiating myself from the crowd. Like you, I felt that it was rather predictable. I had left-wing political views, orange hair, hippy clothes etc. so being vegetarian was another reinforcement of the pigeonhole people put me in, or I put myself in. I wanted to change my life a bit and so eating meat became a part of shaking off a persona I felt I had grown out of to a certain extent. In a way, I regret that my ethics were so influenced by my own self-image, but it’s probably realistic to admit that this is so.

    16 years later, I still eat meat, but not often, and there is a clear voice in my head that tells me I shouldn’t. I’m a big fan of animals and the environment, and I’d like to be healthy. These things are hard to reconcile with a meat-eating diet. I don’t like absolutism in general and I suspect that may be what’s stopping me from avoiding meat all together. I believe that animals can be raised ethically for slaughter, but it’s also true that this accounts for a tiny proportion of the meat industry.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  • Reply Lizabelle May 19, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Thank you so much for this post. There are great vegetarian and vegan communities on the web, but I love to see people whose web presences focus on other things talking openly about why they choose not to consume animal products.

    Eating Animals is on my wishlist, but I had what sounds like a similar experience a few years ago, reading The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer. I went into that book a pescatarian, and came out the other end a vegan, for better or worse.

  • Reply Jenny May 19, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Great post! Thanks.

  • Reply Lisa-Marie May 19, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I am going to read that book as a comparison. Here in the UK, it’s fairly easy to find non factory farmed food, just by going to the local farmers’ market or farm shop. By law they have to tell you where stuff came from.

  • Reply Katja May 19, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Great post Anna! We eat meat about 3 times a week, but for a year or two now I’ve started to think about becoming a vegetarian. Haven’t found enough motivation to actually do it, although I know that all the issues about meat eating you wrote about should be motivation enough! I think I need to read the book and then make Minna read it too 🙂

  • Reply Ratlion May 19, 2010 at 4:26 am

    “There was just no way that I, as an educated, compassionate, and financially secure person, could convince myself that there is any reason whatsoever for me to partake in a lifestyle that does nothing to help the world and its inhabitants, and everything to encourage cruelty, unsafe working conditions, and environmental destruction.”

    Absolutely well said! Love!


  • Reply MrsLimestone May 19, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Vegetarian rumspringa – good amish reference!

    Im not a vegetarian and Im fairly certain I never would be but I wanted to comment on your apprehension about posting this. Honestly, as one of your regular readers I want to hear what is on your mind so you shouldn’t feel the need to bottle it up.

    While I don’t personally believe veganism is a morally superior life choice, this is your blog and you can and should say whatever you feel strongly about. I would suspect it would be no different than religion or politics – many people have a strong opinion and each camp feels they are making the right choice so its naturally going to put some people on the offensive/defensive.

  • Reply Catherine May 19, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Thank you for writing this, Anna. Food for thought, if you’ll pardon the pun. There’ve been a few pretty gruesome television programmes on UK and Irish TV on the subject of factory farming in the past couple of years, and while their findings have sparked a certain movement away from this type of food production (particularly with eggs), factory farming still rules for many shoppers, who’ll still buy their meat in big box supermarkets.

    For my part, I’m lucky enough (if that’s the right word) to come from a family which has the means to produce both meat and eggs, and does so on a small-scale, free-range basis. Knowing the animals have been raised well, fed well, and killed humanely where applicable, makes the decision to eat meat easier. Otherwise, I find I am struggling more and more with my conscience, especially when ordering in restaurants. I’ll definitely be reading Foer’s book.

  • Reply Maggie May 19, 2010 at 6:09 am

    go the vegetarians! if only I could get my meatasaurus husband to read this book…

  • Reply Catherine May 19, 2010 at 6:43 am

    A+ post Anna.

    I have been a vegetarian for just over 10 years now and I cannot imagine eating meat again (though I liked your description of your returning to meat eating as vegetarian rumspringa!). As teenager, I read a book called Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher, which so profoundly affected me that I stopped eating meat then and there. I haven’t looked back. I know what you mean about bacon though, it does smell pretty good.

    After all these years, I personally feel that eating meat is just as abhorrent as cannibalism. At times I feel like I am not strict enough with myself- I have bought shoes that have some leather in them and I eat eggs and dairy. On the other hand, I don’t eat anything containing gelatin or rennet. I do struggle with this guilt.

    Thankyou for this post. It was excellent.

  • Reply Maree May 19, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Anna, I understand your hesitation about publishing this post. Vegetarianism has the most incredible effect on some people – they get REALLY threatened by it! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been at a wedding or on a plane, and the person next to me has smiled and said ‘So why are you a vegetarian?’, and then proceeded to attack me and attempted to justify their own meat-eating habits. Why? I mean, they’re the ones who brought up the topic, not me!

    I have not eaten meat for 22 years, although some years ago I returned to eating fish for a variety of reasons. I made the moral decision that if I had to, I could kill a fish myself for food. I would really hate it, but if I was starving I could do it. I could never kill a mammal or any other kind of animal. However like you, I’ve always felt guilty about it, and have been considering going back to a fishless diet recently.

    The world really does have to reconsider the ethical and environmental issues at stake in intensively produced meat and fish. We cannot continue on this crazy course, pumping everything full of growth hormones and antibiotics.

    I’m very happy this book has spurred you on to renew your commitment. A beautifully written post, as usual. You really inspire me – your viewpoints are always so measured, considered and generous-spirited.

    Thank you.

  • Reply Christine May 19, 2010 at 7:27 am

    I’ve read a fair bit about factory farms, which is why I source all my meat and eggs from local organic/free range farmers. I doubt I could go vegetarian if I didn’t live in a farming community, so I’m lucky to have this option.

  • Reply karalya May 19, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for your words!

  • Reply Jennifer May 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I also went vegetarian in high school because it seemed in keeping with my counter culture friends and lifestyle. I’ve kept it up, but certainly wavered in my early thirties when it seemed like all my friends were giving up their vegetarianism to go back to eating meat. I gave up my veganism for a while, but just went back to it again. I thought your post was excellent, so heartfelt and honest. Wonderful to read.

  • Reply Adam May 19, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Thank you for posting this Anna. This is something that has been playing through my mind a lot over the past several years and while I’m still not sure where I’m going to end up standing you have certainly given me something to think about. I think I’m going to check out this book!

  • Reply Marcie May 19, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Your story sounds very familiar. 2 1/2 years ago my daughter decided to become a vegetarian AND declared herself straight-edge. At the age of 13. She is still both of those things and I do think this defines her. It defines her as a conscientious, caring, thinking person. I’m very proud of the person she is.
    p.s. I myself haven’t yet found the strength to go meatless. Maybe I should pick up the book.

  • Reply Meg May 19, 2010 at 8:42 am

    This is a nice, thought provoking post, Anna. I’m not a vegetarian, but have been at points in the past, and struggle with whether or not I want to eat meat every so often. I work in infectious and emerging diseases, studied environmental public health, and have learned a lot about foodborne illnesses, use of antibiotics, and all sorts of related stuff. The factory farming industry is certainly an ugly thing, and you’re right — I don’t think it’s something that many people would want to be a part of if they knew what it meant. I, like some of your other readers, am lucky enough to have access to farmers markets where I’m able to buy meat directly from the small farmers who are producing it, and that makes me a lot more comfortable about eating it. Not to mention that it’s a lot fresher and tastes a lot better.

    I also travel a lot for work, to all corners of the world. At times, I’m in another part of the world when I become uncomfortable with eating meat again and want to stop for a while. This is a very, very difficult thing to do almost anywhere on the planet. The only spot that I’ve had any ease in not eating meat, and yet still getting a healthy and delicious meal, is in South India. In most every other spot on the planet, there is meat in everything people eat at each meal in the day. There just is. And this makes me wonder about human beings and our relationship to other beings on the planet, and how it’s all supposed to work. If virtually the entire world eats meat (and often two or three different meat products in the same meal!), can my aversion to eating it be fair? I’m not sure. This begins to raise all sorts of other questions for me about access to resources, poverty vs wealth, right and wrong, etc etc.

    I’m rambling, but my point is that whether or not to eat meat is a complicated question for me. And you’ve opened up that debate in my head again. I certainly know that I don’t like factory farming, and that the amount of consumption of meat (and a lot of other things) in our society is overwhelming and almost certainly unnecessary, but I’m not sure that that makes eating meat itself intolerable for me. There are ways that we produce a lot of things that are pretty intolerable. But accessing those same types of products that are manufactured in a more ethical way makes those things more ethically accessible for me.

    Thanks for some thought provocation!

  • Reply kellee May 19, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Thank you for this excellent essay, Anna. I think, looking at the comments, there are many other people who have had an ambiguous relationship with the eating and not eating of meat, myself included.

    I too became a vegetaran because of Morrissey (which I happily tell anyone who asks the inevtable ‘why?’) when I was 17 (I’m now 32). I’d been leant a copy of ‘Meat is Murder’, was merrily munchining my way through a dinner of ham on toast, and the title song started and I immediately stopped eating, put down my plate, and have not eaten red meat since. I was a strict vegetarian (no eggs – they are, after all, poultry) until about 6 years ago, when I started to eat fish and eggs, and I still do.

    But I too got to 30 and questioned my stance. I almost felt like I’d ‘proven’ myself (to whom, I don’t know), and so should ‘let’ myself explore food that had been (albeit happily) off-limits for those 13 years. Somehow I still couldn’t stomach the idea of eating red meat, yet started to experiment with chicken. But I didn’t tell anyone except my partner (he is also pescatarian). It felt like my dirty little secret, which really shows how wrong it felt in my own personal bag of ethics. If we went to dinner at friends’ houses, I was still pescatarian as far as they were concerned. This continued for several months, until finally, I thought “What the hell am I doing? Sneaking around like a criminal – if I’m happy with the decision to eat chicken I should just come out with it and stand up for it.” The truth is, I couldn’t defend it. I can’t defend it. I stopped that moment, and haven’t eaten chicken since (but still eat fish and eggs).

    I heard Jonathan Safran Foer reading out a couple of paragraphs of the book on a radio show over here n the UK, just before it was published. I knew that if I read it, it would spell the end of fish and eggs in my diet. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s been on my mind to since that reading, and I kind of feel like your post is a sign from somewhere that I should get on and read it, and also get on and do what I think is right for me.

    Thanks for the prompt, Anna.

  • Reply crystal May 19, 2010 at 8:50 am

    yay animals!
    yay for vegans!
    yay for wonderful book reviews!

  • Reply Krystle May 19, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I read “Eating Animals” about a month ago and was seriously impacted by Jonathan’s words. I grew up eating meat, cheese, even drinking a glass of milk with every dinner. I never thought about vegetarianism until my senior year in high school. I wrote in my senior scrapbook that I hoped to be a vegetarian when I “got older.” I’m not sure why I couldn’t commit to it at that point in my life. Maybe I was the opposite of you and afraid to be “different” from my family and friends.

    Over the last year, and especially the last month, I’ve reshaped my life by choosing organic food, giving up overly processed foods and cutting meat from my diet. What influenced me the most was becoming educated about food and health. Reading books like “Eating Animals,” “Skinny Bitch,” and the “Organic Manifesto” changed the way I think about food and even the way I view myself.

    How can I knowingly contribute to processes that are unhealthy for me and the planet?

    So, I started writing about my findings openly on my blog. I wanted to be completely honest with myself and anyone else who was feeling this way. I know you might be hesitant at first to share your thoughts about certain subjects on your blog (and a huge congrats on pushing *publish* on this post!) but I would say, “Just go for it.” I personally love reading heartfelt and honest posts that I can relate to. When I hesitate posting something I feel strongly about, I take a deep breathe and remember a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt,

    “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

    Thank you for this passionate post and I hope you continue pushing *publish*.

  • Reply Gordy May 19, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Welcome back! Are you going to make vegetarian Swedish meatballs again? (Please oh please!)

  • Reply amy May 19, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Thank you for this post. I gave up red meat when I was 16 – and a few years ago (at the age of 28) I gave up chicken/turkey/duck. I admire people who can lead a strictly vegan life – but I still struggle with seafood and dairy and eggs. But baby steps, right?

    I never explain my beliefs unless someone seems genuinely interested. But I’m still shocked by the offensive attitude I have received from some meat-eaters.

    On another note, I’m greatly interested the vegetarian Swedish meatball recipe that Gordy referred to!

  • Reply Laura F. May 19, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Anna, thank you for the nudge, I am going to buy this book today.

  • Reply Siobhan May 19, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I’m a vegetarian (and have been since I was a young child of about 6). Like you, my choices were based on a love of animals. I couldn’t believe people could happily eat them. Obviously I never thought any further about it at the time. I’m happy to say I still have no regrets about my choice. However, I can’t seem to help, but purchase leather shoes and I do eat dairy. I’m always disappointed in myself as regards the former and seem to choose an option of hear no evil, see no evil for the latter. I often wish I was still as hard-headed as when I was a child.

    I will definitely pick up the book. I had heard about it before and was interested. I live in Ireland, but I’m sure the same practices still apply.

    Also, I would LOVE if you posted up your vegetarian Swedish meatball recipe! I moved in with my boyfriend about 6 months ago. He is not a vegetarian (at all) and is an excellent cook. Since we moved in he has completely altered his diet at home, so that he can cook for me (which I really appreciate). Unfortunately, I’m not as great a cook (although I do try sometimes) and his favorite meal which I’ve made so far is your chili recipe. So, kudos and thanks! And, please, keep them coming!

  • Reply Janet May 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Well said, Anna! I’m with you all the way.

  • Reply Amanda May 19, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Wow, wonderful post Anna! I have been a vegetarian since 13, for very similar reasons as you. I had been introduced to animal rights through PETA, and in turn introduced to PETA through my favorite band, A Fire Inside. What’s funny is my obsession with this band (and we’re talking OBSESSION) is similar to you’re love of Morrissey, the Cure, Joy Division- all of which heavily influenced the AFI’s band members, I swear there’s never an interview where they aren’t quoting Morrissey..). I too felt a very strong draw towards being different, and growing up in the “Northland” of Minnesota, land of the “Vegetarian is an Indian word for poor hunter” bumper sticker, choosing to go meat free was just different, it was like having a condition. I STILL to this day, over a decade later, am taunted by family and friends. Also, choosing to have my daughter (who is now 2 and in perfect health) be a vegetarian was very upsetting for them. But I’ve stuck to my guns, and the impact of having that veil of animal cruelty lifted has never tempted me back. I’ve dabbled in veganism as well but have had such a terrible time not “accidentally” eating dairy, and then I feel all my vegan points are lost and too discouraged to start over. However, Sarah Kramer’s vegan cookbooks have always given me hope that I can make the switch for good, but then I find myself substituting egg replacers for eggs! Sarah, who is on twitter, often talks about books and articles promoting veganism, as well as many vegan products I’d never heard of such as Fieldroast and Daiya. And with SO many vegan alternatives out there, it’s almost impossible to have an excuse at this point. When I can get a vegan frappachino at Starbucks even..there really isn’t one. When I chose to go vegetarian there were hardly any vegetarian products available (at a price my mom was willing to pay anyways) so I was that girl with the purple hair eating my lunch of hummus, veggies & nuts in the art room and having a side salad or pasta at a restaraunt. Now when I take my daughter grocery shopping, there’s endless options at affordable prices for both organic and vegetarian. It’s sort of like they say in Food Inc., everytime you scan something at the store you’re making a vote. I really can’t wait to pick up this book, I’ve been trying to for months as well (Sarah Kramer highly reccomends it also) but knew just as you it would change my life much in the way Meet Your Meat did years ago. Thank you so much for this post, it was the extra push I needed. I love you’re blog and it never fails to inspire me, make me think, or occasionally giggle. You are great! (and I just have to mention that my favorite band I was talking about, AFI, did a wonderful cover of Just Like Heaven for MTV Icon: the Cure, I really love it) Thanks again for posting this!

  • Reply Fiona May 19, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Fabulous post. Don’t know if this link will work but Taifun do a yummy smoked tofu with almonds and sesame in soy sauce. The texture and taste is so like bacon it’s spooky. Must go stuff some in a prune right now.

  • Reply erin@designcrisis May 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Oh no… I just started eating meat again!!!


  • Reply melanirae May 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Foer. (didn’t read all the other comments so hope I am not repeating anything)

    I will be picking this up. I am a meat eater. I always have been. I’ve toyed with the idea of stopping, so maybe this will give me the push.

    What I wonder though, is do you wear leather? All the vegetarians I know wear leather. Isn’t that counter productive? It’s actually the second biggest reason I haven’t made the commitment to stop eating meat. I love leather.

    What is your take on that?

  • Reply cate May 19, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Excellent post! I’m glad you felt like you could share your thoughts because I certainly enjoyed reading them. I have been vegan for years but have not read this book yet and you’ve helped me move it to the top of my reading list.

    Like a few others have posted above, I am curious to know how you feel about leather.

    I understand your hesitation to write this post because there are some real jerks on the internet, but in most of the forums and blogs that I read I am pleased to find that most people seem capable of discussion and debate even if they disagree. You seem to have a lot of thoughtful readers with polite comments which is part of why I enjoy reading your blog so much.

  • Reply Lynn May 19, 2010 at 11:55 am


  • Reply Jessica May 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I, too, was a vegetarian when I read EA, and had recently moved to Anchorage, Alaska. I went from vegetarian to vegan, and then realized that Alaska is one of the few places where you can choose to eat meat (fish, specifically) or eggs and not be a part of the factory farming system (blech!).

    I get my eggs from the mom of a student at the school when I teach, because I’m not a talented-enough baker to get good results that are both gluten-free AND vegan (I have an intolerance to wheat). I can give her a call, and she will bring me a dozen eggs. I like that I can also go hang out with her chickens as they roam around her yard. I also plan to fish this summer for salmon, though I do eat the salmon that friends have caught.

    I’m not looking for approval from JSFoer, but I feel really comfortable and happy with my decision. At a family wedding this past weekend, my grandmother asked me, “What are you now? Vegetarian? Vegan?” I was totally lost for words, so I had to think for a minute, and then told her, “I’m not labeling myself, but I’m making a choice to eat outside of the factory farming meat, egg, and dairy industries.”

    In Alaska, there’s a big part of the population that does that when it comes to more than just meat, dairy, and eggs. We’re a state of canners and preservers, and I’m so excited to jump in and participate!

  • Reply Jenny May 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I love that you closed your post by calling out the common excuses. Whenever I hear someone say “Ick, I just don’t want to think about it” – I really have to restrain myself from giving a lecture. Whoa -don’t want to think about it? Wait a minute, we are talking about more than just vegetarianism here! The lack of ‘thinking about it’ is a disease infecting not only oneself, but the community and world at large. Thanks again, great post.

  • Reply Christie May 19, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have now been a vegetarian for 4 months. I had been thinking about the lifestyle change for a year or so before I made the change. After reading the book, Skinny Bitch, I lost all urge to eat meat. I have been consuming milk and eggs but I am definitely going to read the book and learn more about that factor of the lifestyle. The book has been sitting of the coffee table for months but I haven’t cracked it open. Thank you for the encouragement and support to keep the lifestyle strong!

  • Reply Amanda May 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Yay yay yay! I haven’t read the book yet but I’m so glad it’s changing peoples minds about meat, eggs, and diary. As previous commentors have said, when people tell me “Oh I just can’t think about it” I want to scream and tell them how f’ed up that is. I don’t. Usually. But welcome to the other side again! Veganism is awesome, I’ve never felt so healthy and wonderful and I can look my cats in the eye without feeling guilty.

  • Reply Leah May 19, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Anna, thank you for this. I too became a vegetarian in my teens, and remained that way for a good four or five years. It seems in recent months (since I’ve become more financially secure and can shop at whole foods and the like) that I have become even more of a meat eater than ever, but I’ve felt a disconnect whenever I am faced with the paradoxal situation that I pretty much love every animal I come into contact with but then turn around and gobble them up for two out of three meals a day!

    Lately I have been feeling that the slight urge of going veg again is something I’m going to have to confront. Perhaps reading this book is a good place to start.

  • Reply Amie May 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks for posting this Anna – I have always felt guilty eating meat and went strict vegan in 2009, but I’ve recently falling off the wagon. I eat meat less than once a week, but still feel guilty and I think this book may be just the thing I need to kick it out of my life for good.

  • Reply heather May 19, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian, but I do think about the implications of eating meat all the time. My reasons are not ethical, they’re purely selfish: I don’t want to injest anything that’s harmful to my body. I watched Food Inc. and was repulsed and shamed by it. I committed to at least knowing where my food comes from – even if I don’t always have the conviction to say no to meats of ‘unknown origin’. I live in New York where all types of foods are available and yet I still struggle with finding locally sourced produce – let alone meats. It’s not so difficult to pass up a burger or wings at the greasy spoon on the corner, but put me inside any number of my favorite restaurants and my conscience goes weak. ‘Surely the chef has ethical standards, right?’ (so goes my self-delusion) Even the hip asian restaurant in Dumbo where I work doesn’t use organic (however loosely we define it) meat.

    Sorry to ramble. The point is, I enjoy eating meat. I’m not complaining that it’s too difficult to have convictions about food – I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could make a decision about only eating locally sourced meats today and find a way to sustain it (we, too, spend a lot of time upstate in a farm community for god’s sake). I guess I’m just unsure of how I’d do it. And if I have the courage to stick with it.

  • Reply JenB May 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I haven’t commented before, but I’m a longtime reader. I really liked this post, and am finally hitting “Add to Cart” on my Amazon Wish List, where this book has been sitting for the past six months. Thank you.

  • Reply Erin May 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I literally just bought this book this morning and a friend sent me to your blog because she saw your post about it. I haven’t cracked it yet.

    I watched Food, Inc. for the first time on Earth Day (had put it off for a long time for obvious reasons) and have been vegetarian ever since (cold turkey, pun intended). I wish I could convince my husband to watch the movie, but he won’t.

    I am going to dive into this book. Thank you for your insights and this review.
    I’m going to tweet about it now, too! (are you on Twitter? if so, I am @erinlynn76)

  • Reply MK May 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

    I was a vegetarian for a few years after I first got an apartment, mainly because I was raised in a mostly-vegetarian household and had no clue how to cook meat (plus it was so expensive!). And then I was a vegetarian again for several years in my late 20s when I first became more aware about how factor-farmed meat (and eggs and dairy) is produced.

    Not long after that, though, I realised that I could source non-factory versions of all these things. It meant that I couldn’t buy them at the grocery store, but my husband and I made the weekly farmer’s market trek into a family tradition. I generally get vegetarian food when I’m in restaurants, but I’ll eat whatever people serve when I’m in their homes.

    I guess it was an easy transition away from vegetarianism for me because I never stopped eating meat because I felt bad about killing (or using) animals – I just felt that the whole factory farming system was cruel and dangerous. I feel better about eating meat now than I have at any other point in my life, and I feel pretty good about supporting local farms.

    Anyway, I mostly wanted to say that I’ll be reading the book soon, and I’m curious to see what effect (if any) it has on my current eating habits.

  • Reply Katie May 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I am glad you didn’t censor yourself. And, like the dozens of other posters, I will now be reading Foer’s book. How does your decision to reengage in vegetarianism impact your love for your leather Orla Kiely?

  • Reply whitney May 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Just wanted to echo the thanks and good vibes. I’m glad you posted this.

    I have the book and am waiting until my book club reads it in two months. As a long-time vegetarian who has recently started eating fish here and there, I’m looking forward to the challenge.

  • Reply Marcie May 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I recently read “Eating Animals” and have to say that it has changed my life. My husband and I have both become vegetarians and try to eat as much organic as possible. It’s not as difficult as I thought it would be and the added plus is that I feel better and have dropped a few pounds. My father worked for many years in the meat industry, first as the owner of a small butcher shop, and then as a state meat inspector in small slaughter houses and locker plants. I was exposed to the reality of where meat came from at an early age. The concept of factory farms wasn’t known to me then. We always had fresh, local meat available and knew the farmers. Once I left home, though, I bought my meat at the supermarket like most people and never questioned where it came from. Now I know and can never go back. I’ve encouraged family members to read this book, too, but most of them have the mindset that “they just don’t want to know”. I’ll keep trying…

  • Reply Mary-Ellen May 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I’m crying. I, too, was a vegetarian for 10 years. I was part of the Straight Edge Culture at CBGBs during the 80s. I was lead back to eating meat gradually and like you, it started with bacon during a brunch at Jules downtown. I still do not really love red meat, but eat chicken and fish. Can I ask what your opinion is on buying meat at Whole Foods. I have children that are meat eaters and I know I cannot stop them from eating burgers, chicken cutlets? I am really considering not eating meat again, but have to consider my other family members. Is Whole Foods a good choice, or Trader Joe’s? Thank you.

  • Reply Amber May 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I picked up this book while on a business trip. Paid for it, sat down, cracked it open, and within a few pages, declared that I would soon become a vegetarian.

    That was just before Thanksgiving 2009, and it’s had a profound impact on my life. But recently I’ve found myself waffling back and forth. Am I getting all the nutrients I need?

    I am still eating veg, though, and will likely continue on this path. I wrote more about it here:

  • Reply verhext May 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Great post. I’m just about 2 years into a “rumspringa” after 21 years of not eating meat. It grosses me out pretty much every time I eat it (to the point where sometimes i have to spit it out and start crying,) but makes my body feel about 24923984278 thousand times healthier. Which sucks. I still have nightmares about calves being cut up by chainsaws. Baby spirit cows angry about being eaten.

    I am pretty dang careful about factory farms. This is WAY easier in Berkeley, though, where everyone is insane, and Vermont, where you know the name of the cow you’re eating.

    I do want to read the book, but don’t know if any of my “feeling better physically vs feeling better ethically and emotionally” issues can ever be resolved.


    • Elizabeth May 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Tamera,

      My apologies, I know this comment is three years old now. But I recently discovered Anna’s blog and have been going through the backlog like an addict.

      Anyway, I just wanted to comment because I am a vegan, now, after 3 years of vegetarianism. And I just wanted to tell you that I have pretty substantial anemia (iron deficiency) and though I know that eating meat wasn’t solving all of it (my mother eats meat every day, and still has anemia, it’s very genetic), I did start to feel really exhausted / cranky / irritable when I first transitioned to vegetarian. However, there are lots of great sources for iron in a plant diet, if you know what they are, know you need them, and therefore get a lot of them. Again, this doesn’t solve it all for me – and again, my meat-eating mother ALSO still needs iron tablets – so that’s what I do, I take a vegetarian (gluten-free) iron supplement. I take Floradix (available at almost all health stores, including Whole Foods). It has made a HUGE difference in my energy levels – meaning a huge difference in my life overall. It was a game-changer for me.

      Anyway, this may be totally irrelevant to you, and again, this is a three year old post so I understand that this might not be even remotely representative of your life anymore. But having struggled with “feeling better physically vs. feeling better ethically/emotionally”, I just wanted to help if I could in any way. I know how bad not having the right mix of vitamins / minerals can feel – but there are options! 🙂

      best of luck to you, xo.

  • Reply Jessica O'Brien May 19, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    thank you for posting this! i think people are far too often scared to speak on ‘controversial’ topics that we lose out on quality conversations that have the power to change our lives and the lives of others.

    i have avoided red meat since jr high but recently cut out all meat. i did it as a month-long resolution and kept it going since. i have this book reserved at the library and can’t wait to receive it.

  • Reply Eryn May 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I believe he was featured in the May/June issue of Vegetarian Times. 🙂

  • Reply Laura MacDougall May 19, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    FANTASTIC! Thank you Anna, I was thrilled to read your articulate, well rounded review of Eating Animals. I have been a vegan for 8 years and vegetarian for 15. I went vegan cold turkey after attending a lecture given by Howard Lyman. Nothing has ever made more sense to me than eliminating all animal animal products from my diet. Honestly I am shocked that more people don’t feel the same way. I have 2 young daughters that I have raised vegan and if anything I would say they are significantly more healthy than all of my non-veg friend’s kids.
    Bravo for putting this out there, perhaps people will take a moment and think about where that burger came from, or better yet maybe people will read the book !
    Thanks again.

  • Reply Sara May 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Very interesting great post, thank you!

  • Reply Lizz May 19, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    For me it wasn’t the bacon, it was the BBQ. Absolute torture to be a vegetarian in Kansas City. Absolute torture. Barbecuing is practically a sport here.

    Have you read Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman? Definitely an eye-opener. (Remember when Oprah got sued by Texas cattle ranchers? This book was the reason.) I got this book when it first came out in 1998 and I’ve probably read it 10 times. So good, highly recommended.

  • Reply Jessica May 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for speaking your mind! I’ll be checking out the book.

  • Reply jennifer in sf May 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I love that you started being a vegetarian because of Morrissey. He would be pleased as well I’m sure.

    I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a little kid, so it’s basically second nature. But I’ve been thinking about veganism lately, and I’m clearly not committing only because I like cheese, dammit. Sigh.

  • Reply erica May 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    I’m a vegetarian because I couldn’t hurt an animal, so I don’t feel justified in eating what I wouldn’t kill myself. I first went vegetarian when I was in my teens and fell off the wagon when I moved abroad. I’ve been a vegetarian (again) for the past five years.

    When I think about going vegan it seems so HARD. I love cheese and milk and butter. I get my milk and butter from a local dairy farm of about ten cows — I don’t think they’re ill-treated. I see them out and about eating grass. I don’t know about the cheese though, I get it at the grocery store.

    I guess I’ll have to read that book and see.

    Anna, what do you feed your dogs? I have a vegan friend who feeds his cats and dogs a vegan diet, but it just seems not quite right to me. I give my pets high-quality pet food (meat), b/c I know they would have no compunction killing an animal and eating it.

  • Reply Heather Moore May 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Your explanation of why you reverted to eating meat in your 30s has really helped me understand why so many of my friends who were firmly veggies in their 20s suddenly started eating meat. I never understood why they were prepared to drop such an important principle wth such relief (and occasional wierd pride).

  • Reply Tara May 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I respect your compassion and your ethics. It was for ethical reasons that we were vegetarians, then vegans, for over a decade. When we started consuming animal products again for health reasons, I just couldn’t stomach supporting factory farming and their industrialized methods.

    We purchase every animal product we consume directly from farmers or we hunt it ourselves. I know what kind of lives the animals had and I know what I’m supporting.

    As an apprenticing farmer, one of my great passions is the preservation of our farmland and the inherent diversity of life that land supports. We are seriously in great danger of not being able to feed ourselves in a few short years.

    The animals we consume are raised on grasses, integral to the health of the animal and the land. As destructive and hideous as the practices of factory farming are on animals, is the destruction of the environment by mono-cropping grains. Where I live there are huge swatches of land, stripped bare of their natural flora and fauna to grow row after row of canola or soy, wheat or barley. I didn’t understand that connection when I was a vegetarian. I didn’t understand that consuming the pulses and grains I did, products that had to be shipped great distances and destroyed countless acres of native grasslands, was not an environmentally conscious thing to do. I had no connection to the land at all.

    An amazing book to read on this subject, if you would like to further your knowledge, is “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith. It is a beautifully written, compassionate and intelligent book.

  • Reply Nidhi May 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I was almost reluctant to visit I thought I had known enough about animal cruelty. the videos on are disturbing, sad and I imagine, life changing, for many.
    (excuse me for crowding an already lengthy and positive comment stream but it’s nice to see how strongly so many people feel about this!)

  • Reply Kate May 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Oh Anna! I felt that I had written this post myself, so closely did it mirror my own experiences.

    I, too, am a huge JSF fan (my PhD looked at Extremely Loud), and hated/loved Eating Animals. It turned me vegetarian very quickly – had teetered on the edge for some time and it was exactly the articulate response I needed to push me over.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful response.

  • Reply Maria May 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    wonderful post. thanks for sharing.

  • Reply amy May 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Extremely thought-provoking, thank you for this. The thing that strikes me about many of the comments here is the constant drumbeat of “guilt.” I too have struggled with being vegetarian off and on since my teens. I am with verhext in that I always felt worse–physically–when I didn’t eat meat. It’s like I need animal protein. I still keep trying to find a way around this, but I always come back to the same place. In high school, I used to faint a lot, which did not endear my parents to my choice.

    I confess I also fall into the “it is very difficult to feed multiple family members” trap. I have small children. They love meat. My husband believes sausage is a basic food group. It is hard to provide nourishing, healthy, non-processed, farm-fresh meals for all of us. Does that make me lazy? It’s not a word I would use to apply to myself, but perhaps in this instance I am. Perhaps I can do better. Actually, I definitely can.

    Thank you, Anna.

  • Reply Jess May 19, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I too was excited to hear about Foer’s new book and quickly put it at the top of my list of Christmas present requests.

    Unfortunately it has been sitting on my bedside table ever since as I too am scared to start reading it…. hmmm…. thanks for the great thought-provoking piece… perhaps I’ll take the plunge after reading this 🙂

  • Reply Laura May 19, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I LOVE this post- you really echoed a lot of my feelings as a longtime vegetarian, currently guilty no-mammals-atarian. I can’t stand snobby “foodies” who think there is no substitute for animal flesh. It is irresponsible and downright selfish for someone to support such a cruel, rapacious industry just because they like the taste of meat.

  • Reply Amber May 19, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I’m actually in the middle of reading ‘Eating Animals’ right now! I agree, it’s gruesome, but important to stop shutting your eyes and pretending there isn’t something fishy (ha) going on with the meat industry. I am such a devoted fan to Foer. I have read and re-read ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ over a dozen times, and it still gets me every time. I love this blog so much more now that I know you are a fellow fan!

  • Reply kay* May 20, 2010 at 1:08 am

    oh my gosh – it’s like you read my mind. last week i did a post along the similar lines – about being a meat eater and how recently my views on eating meat has changed. i mean, it’s not that i plan on becoming a vegetarian (at least not yet) but ever since having my own pet (bichon/poodle) i’m much more sensitive to the treatment of animals and have recently made the decision to learn more about where my food comes. to question the labels and learn – not just assume, because a lot of things, as i’m learning, are not regulated.

    i discovered this author a few days ago in my search for books teaching me to become a more ethical and compassionate meat eater – and it’s definitely on my to-read list.

    as a commenter on my blog post said – it’s about making my ethics line up with my actions. which is exactly what i plan to do.

    it started today when i went grocery shopping and didn’t buy eggs. i love eggs….but after doing research – i’ll be finding a farmer’s market and getting them there.

    thank you for sharing your opinion.

  • Reply kay* May 20, 2010 at 1:08 am

    i also bought fiddleheads today with your post in mind…off to go re-read that post!

  • Reply Chelsea May 20, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I’m really glad you posted this. I’m not a vegetarian, but I have lots of friends who are and I would really like to learn more about what goes into my body. It seems like all my vegetarian friends know exactly what they’re eating and from where it came.
    I’m now considering adding this to my list of “Must Read” books. That counts for something, right?
    Love your blog.

  • Reply cristin May 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

    As I was already headed to the bookstore today (they call me when ‘living etc’ arrives, aren’t they sweet?) I will definitely be picking up this book. I’m vegetarian and always considering the jump to vegan.

    I related to the comment about vegetarians and leather. Even though I’m not vegan I still couldn’t for the life of me figure out vegetarians and leather (unless it’s just for health reasons) so when I became veg again at 32, after the apparently common lapsed-teen-vegetarian syndrome, all the leather had to go. Some very lucky friends got the coach collection, my favorite leather jacket from neiman’s, the school bag from the flea market in Florence, the leather jacket and vintage crocodile bag bought on a trip to Paris, a pair of ottomans. But of everything sacrificed, both food and material goods, the only thing I really REALLY mourn is… good shoes! You just can’t break pleather in, seriously. My friends who are aware of this deficit in my life (lovingly) say, “Oh, just get some decent shoes.” and it’s tempting. I’ve almost had myself convinced to buy used on eBay or at Buffalo Exchange telling myself “it’s recycling!” which is a valid argument. But when I think about wrapping the skin of a tortured, murdered creature around my feet and walking around on it all day, well, I just can’t do it. I know, melodramatic, but I can’t shake that thought. Then I wonder if my crappy pleather replacements are made by an exploited 6 yr old Asian kid? And will end up in the landfill quicker than their well-made, comfortable counterparts. And what about my wool and cashmere? It’s discouraging. It’s a can of worms. Once you start scrutinizing, it’s hard to know where to draw the line as all the things you love come under fire.

    The debate in my head about eggs and dairy also rages. Would eggs be ok if we bought then from the small farm in our east Austin neighborhood? Or had our own chickens? Would dairy be ok if we bought it from the farmer’s market and actually visited the farm? Can we afford that?

    Sometimes I get really worn out by the labels. Could I be m*o*s*t*l*y vegan? No, that sounds pretty dumb. But I feel like a very defensive vegetarian sometimes. I feel stuck in limbo sometimes. Not a vegan, but more than a vegetarian. I make a LOT of vegan choices that I don’t HAVE to make to be a “vegetarian”. But I’m not perfect. A couple of times a year I breakdown and even have a serving of seafood. Does that mean I’m not even really a vegetarian? I could go around in guilty circles all day! It’s hard to know how to answer when people ask me what I am. After much pondering, what sits right with me is to look at each day as a series of choices and make the best ones I can in the moment. It’s less overwhelming. So today that may mean making delicious, whole, organic plant based meals for my family and tomorrow I may find myself buying my kids an ice cream cone. Wondering if they would want it if they new where it came from? Wondering what’s appropriate to share with them and what is too much?

    Sorry this is so long but you just caught me at a point where these issues have been at the forefront of my mind. I’m so glad you posted it. Just another way for you to inspire me!

  • Reply glenn May 20, 2010 at 11:44 am

    For what it’s worth, my take on things is quite a bit different than JSF’s. Tara’s comments above reflected my own opinions pretty well, but there a few things that I could add. I actually believe there is great danger in oversimplified binary polemics like “meat bad, vegetables good.” I think it is that sort of thinking that got us into so much trouble in the first place. Nature works in complex systems of relationships between microorganisms, plants, and animals, and any sustainable system of food production must reflect that. When you try to take out any one element, no matter how well-intentioned, it throws the system out of balance. Sustainable food production must mirror the natural balance, and that includes animals.

    As Tara mentioned above, factory farming has real problems, whether animal or vegetable. Eating only vegetables does not take you out of that loop. Agriculture, conventional or organic, wipes out entire ecosystems. It displaces vast amounts of animal habitats, causes erosion, depletes the vitality of the soil, massively decreases biodiversity, and the water runoff of a plowed field is not much better than a parking lot. Along with all of that, the process of agriculture itself directly kills billions of small animals every year, such as rabbits, field mice, turtles, and birds. Conversely, study after study has shown that sustainably pastured land massively increases biodiversity, exponentially increases the vitality of the soil, is an amazingly powerful tool for preventing water runoff and soil erosion, and wildlife populations actually increase dramatically. Whereas the meat of one sustainably raised cow could last a person the entire year, the amount of plants and land used to make up that difference for an all vegetable diet is enormous, and the number of animals that will lose habitat and die for that choice is enormous as well. The carbon footprint of a processed soy patty shipped in from the Midwest is enormous, but a piece of sustainably raised meat from a nearby farm actually benefits the environment.

    Our stomachs produce hydrochloric acid, which is only found in animals that eat meat, because we are omnivores. Our pancreas produces a wide range of enzymes specifically for digesting both animals and plants because we are omnivores. Our colons are longer than a carnivore’s and shorter than an herbivore’s because we are omnivores. And so many vegetarians slip back into meat eating, as evidenced above, not because they are weak or misguided, but because we are omnivores. It is my honest belief that a balanced diet of sustainable animal products and vegetables is the healthiest choice for both us, and the environment.

    Thanks for your blog, I enjoy it :^)

  • Reply Jason May 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Well-said, Anna.
    The cultural-pendulum is definitely swinging. How long do you think until it’s abhorrent to eat meat? 1000 more years? Hm. Hard to say.

    Thanks for this compelling and thoughtful entry.

  • Reply Sherry May 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I wouldn’t have expected less from you Anna, which is why I think I appreciate your blog much more than other design and lifestyle oriented ones that just act as if life is constantly perfect and always pretty. It’s not and sometimes you have to focus on the ugly, the sad or the controversial.

    We adhere to a mostly vegetarian diet (and a majority of those vegetarian meals are also vegan) aside from the 2 or 3 meals a year we eat at really nice restaurants in celebration of something special. I’m not sure why I’ve never fully committed, but I think I felt as if I didn’t want my diet to define who I was (oh she’s a vegetarian – as if we are all the same). That and the fear that fully committing would put me at one end of an extreme, and that too is a place I have never felt comfortable in.

    Perhaps, in the future we will eschew all meat, eggs and dairy products, but for now I am pretty satisfied with what we are doing. We always join a CSA, grow plenty of our own vegetables, and can and freeze and preserve the bounty. We eat seasonally and locally as much as possible, and try to source out better eggs and dairy when we do indulge in those things. We put our money into things we feel are important, and try not to turn a blind eye to how our actions effect others, animals, the environment and in the long-term ourselves.

  • Reply Bridget May 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    As a scientist that works in biology and has read a myriad of papers and research on all sorts of aspects of human health, psychology, and how genetics and environment alter responses to different treatments like diet and drugs, I would implore you to recognize that the exact same treatment/diet/choices (followed to the letter) can have drastically different effects on two different people.

    For example…you may have heard that yogurt (=probiotics) are a potential new treatment for Crohn’s. This is true. But then you look on message boards about Crohn’s treatment, and you’ll see an incredible dichotomy between the people it worked for, and the people that it didn’t work for…researchers finally found out the there are quite a few different genetic causes of Crohn’s, and some deal with inflammation responses at the gross level…which means that eating yogurt helps repopulate your gut with good bacteria and reduce inflammation and symptoms. But—other mutations deal with the pathway in how you sense good or bad bacteria…and you can’t sense them, you can’t respond positively to them…so yogurt wouldn’t work. The same exact treatment could work incredibly well for one person…life-changing, even! …but not work at all in another person.

    Bottom line? Different things work for different people.

    Some people can never be both vegetarian and healthy. I was vegetarian in college, but my body doesn’t do a good job absorbing iron, so my hemoglobin levels were dangerously low, even while taking iron supplements and doing “everything I was supposed to do.” I’m glad you’ve found what’s right for you and that you’re talking about it…that’s awesome! I’m not trying to argue for factory farms, ridiculous overuse of preventative antibiotics in agribusiness, cruelty to animals…any of that.

    But it doesn’t mean that not eating any meat is the perfect solution for me or for other people out there. And I’ve gotten a lot of flack for being such “an educated, compassionate, and financially secure person” but I have not chosen to be vegetarian…for my health. “But you’ll be fine!” they say. And I sigh, frustrated that my conscious choice based off of much time, energy, and research still means nothing because it’s not the choice they made. But I do applaud you for figuring things out for you—that is a truly wonderful thing. And good luck with things as you go forward!

  • Reply Sara May 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I appreciate you writing about this today of all days. I’m “mostly” a vegetarian (I struggle with fish, eat it maybe once or less a week – love it and don’t feel as “icky” about it as red meats and poultry. Anyway, we had a party last night and got meats from a local BBQ place to serve since everyone coming are meat eaters. I ate a little bit. It tasted good, and like visiting an old friend or something. But today my stomach hurts and I feel heavy! Physically, I just don’t feel good when I eat it! Back to my mostly veggie ways today!! And I’ll be getting his book – thanks for the recommendation.

  • Reply Amy May 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I truly applaud your bravery on this post, sadly, it’s difficult to share your opinions on such a touchy subject. You however, were thoughtful, sincere, and concise. Thanks for the recommendation on the book, I am anxious to read it. Also, your puppies are so cute it hurts!

  • Reply Dawn May 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Anna,

    As a regular reader of Door 16 (and a vegetarian) all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this – not just because you are speaking on a subject that is near and dear to my heart, but because you had the bravery to do so and what’s more, to do so with grace, compassion, and diplomacy.

  • Reply kim May 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    ANNA!!! What timing you have… Like you, I stopped eating meat at age 14 (1989) after reading John Robbins’ Diet for a new America. I was also influenced by Morrissey over the years. But not until this year have I reconsidered my decision (now age 35). I have always been 10-20 pounds overweight and so many people have told me that it’s because I’m a vegetarian. Can you belive my vanity??? I did try eating poultry to see if I would feel more satiated after eating, but it didn’t. Your blog post has reminded me to go back to the literature and remember why I stopped eating meat in the first place. Thanks for this 🙂

  • Reply justin May 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    good for you! i ditto dawn above.

  • Reply alice May 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    this post was really great, and i appreciate your bravery in talking about the subject. I am also a vegetarian, trying to inch my way towards veganism (sounds like that book may be the push i need to take the plunge) and its wonderful to read an honest, educated and confident account of someone else’s personal decision to cut animal products from their life.

    and also, thank you for being brave enough to allow comments and a forum for conversation here- i have such mixed feelings about the world of commenting, i find it so stressful to have to deal with essentially anonymous chatter following anything that someone has written, but in this case i am glad its here so i can say thanks!

  • Reply micah May 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    So glad you posted this! I stopped eating meat (except fish) after watching Food Inc almost 6 months ago. Since then I read Eating Animals and it just confirmed my decision to not eat meat. Wish everyone would read this book.

  • Reply Karen May 20, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Anna, thank you for a well-written and thought-provoking post. I’m not a vegetarian but I have cooked for my vegetarian boyfriend/husband/ex-husband and a large group of vegetarian friends for years – out here in Boulder, it’s the norm to be vegetarian, so I feel like the outsider as one who still eats animal products. Not so much meat, but I’m big on eggs, cheese and honey – fortunately, my eggs come from my neighbor, the cheese from the small local goat dairy and the honey from my friend the beekeeper, so I feel comfortable knowing that the animals who provided these things for my table are humanely raised and treated with respect.

    I didn’t realize that there were different levels of vegetarianism – I know vegan, of course, but I have friends who won’t eat fruits and vegetables if the plant has to lose it’s life for them to eat it (so beans are ok, carrots are not.) And I have a friend who won’t eat fruit if it is picked – it has to fall from the tree naturally or she considers it hurting the tree. Since I am the bad animal-eater of the group, I don’t feel it’s my place to point out to them that even things that start with a good intent can veer off into wacky-land when taken to extremes.

    And I hope that the thoughtful and interesting comments that have been written in response to your post have reassured you that the majority of people in cyberspace are good and considerate, even if they voice an opinion that differs from yours. I admit, my first thought when reading your blog was that someone was going to make it ugly, but I was pleasantly surprised when I read the comments.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog – it is a source of joy for me!

  • Reply beth May 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Non-vegetarians are less threatened than annoyed by the constant implications by vegetarians that we’re “lazy” or making “poor” choices. Want people to listen? Lose the judgmental tone.

  • Reply Anna at D16 May 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    @beth: Out of one book, one post, and over 90 comments, the only judgments I have seen anyone here make are of themselves — regardless of their points of view, which are many and varied.

    This is less about vegetarianism specifically than it is about conscious choice, self-education, and an adherence to one’s personal ideals. For me, there was no choice but to become (nearly) vegan. Anything short of that choice would have been selling myself short.

    As *kay (a non-vegetarian) commented late last night, it’s “about making [one’s] ethics line up with [one’s] actions”.

    I could not agree more.

  • Reply sulu-design May 20, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    A fabulous post. I’m definitely interested in reading the book and I’m glad that you put this all out there, including where you come from personally on the topic. I’m also glad that you mentioned that being financially secure plays a role in your ability to make ethical choices regarding your food consumption. I felt very frustrated during the years that I was teaching in the South Bronx to see families on very limited budgets who couldn’t afford to buy the types of food that they’d have preferred to buy due to financial constraints. I wish this point was brought up more frequently in discussions regarding food choices.

  • Reply Kathy May 20, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    I just finished reading “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows” – a stunning summation of the factory meat industry. It sounds very similar. After finishing it, I went to the grocery store (local Whole Foods) and I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase meat, despite the fact that Whole Foods is probably doing a better job than most of providing healthy, humanely raised and slaughtered (if that can even BE humane) animals. The argument for veganism is strong. At the ripe old age of 60, I am about to become a vegetarian. I don’t know that I can make the leap to veganism! I’d miss my yogurt. I am trying to make my contribution to my ecosystem by having a vegetable garden, shopping for locally produced items and purchasing food from family-owned farms. K

  • Reply Asia May 20, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    This is a beautiful post, Anna. Thank you for hitting “publish”.

  • Reply Nat May 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Anna, thank you so much for your (1) blog and (2) this post. Your blog is wonderfully honest and your clear confidence is yourself and your beliefs is so so so refreshing.
    This post has added to a huge journey my family is currently on. Since having a baby almost a year ago, we (as parents) are trying to work out the best way to raise her and stay healthy for her. I admire the choice to abstain from animal products for moral and ethical reasons.
    I, myself, am very concerned about the amount of chemicals and antibiotics that are used to grow our food–both vegan and animal. I believe that it is time for both vegetarians and not to unite for the better for all of us and demand that antibiotics are not used to produce our food, be that meat or produce. No matter how we look at it, we are all at the mercy of factory farms, be that animal or vegetable growers. What they put in the soil/feed is what ends up on our tables. While it is easier to show animal farm conditions and cruelty, produce farms’ harm to our environments is much more subtle, but I’m afraid, long term.
    It is an opinion of mine that radical anything rarely ever lasts, but a healthy balance and a sensible and educated approach is the best we can ever hope for.

  • Reply oh holland May 21, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Thank you for reading, thinking, writing about — and returning to — ethical vegetarianism.

    To anyone who proclaims veganism hurts one’s health, please look at me: at 60, I’ve been v*gan for 37 years, and never regretted my choice.

    I’m far healthier than my peers. It’s not genetic. Both my parents had ill health and died too soon.

    Not to sound braggy, but I look a lot younger than my age-mates, too.

    But the most important thing to me is that I don’t add to the suffering and killing of innocent animals. It’s as simple as that.

  • Reply Ebony May 21, 2010 at 3:24 am

    Hi Anna,
    I have been reading your blog for a few years now, pretty much since the beginning. I am 23 and have been a vegetarian since I was 15, my sister has been since she was ten. I loved your post! I became vegetarian due to the political reasons, I was brought up very political. I also try to eat vegan when possible. I commend you for your choice and post. I also want to point it out, that my sister and I dont ‘look like’ your typical vegetarians, we are both blonde for starters. You can check out my sisters blog too if you like.
    Im going to get this book now, maybe you should start doing book reviews?

  • Reply Elisabet May 21, 2010 at 3:55 am

    Thank you for this post, I feel I have to read this book!
    Not vegetarian, but eating less and less meat. I admit, it’s the bacon. What I can’t understand is that people are eating more meat now than they did only ten years ago, today, when we know that we can’t feed the world on meat and now when we have so many vegetarian options (and I don’t mean all thes fabricated stuff, quarn and whatever) I mean the possibility we have here in Sweden for example, of ordering ecologically, often locally, produced vegetables straight to your door, and all the recipes out there on the internet.
    Oh, and a Swedish journalist , Mats-Eric Nilsson wrote an excellent book some years ago, about the food industry, “Äkta vara”, made me stop eating the tasteless factory produced bread. And though I by no means have a financially secure situation, lost my job before my daughter was born and no new job yet, it is not so expensive to eat healthy in Sweden, it just takes a little knowledge. And prioritizing.

  • Reply Sammi May 21, 2010 at 5:03 am

    I love this post, and it never ceases to amaze me how passionate you are about these types of things. I love it.

    Whilst, I am not vegetarian,and doubt I ever will be, I am very selective about where my meat and dairy products come from. At the same time I think I am lucky that I live in an area where there are a lot of farms where I can see the animals and how they’re treated. I tend to only buy meat from their shops, it costs a little more, but I am totally against buying “battery farm” meats or eggs. Yikes.

    Well done you for clicking publish :o)

  • Reply anna valla May 21, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Hurra! Thank you.

  • Reply beckster May 21, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Along the lines of animals and ethics, what do you do about insects in your homes? I don’t like to kill spiders, but what about ants, earwigs and the like? Do you – and your readers – take them outside? Would appreciate any thoughts on this matter.

  • Reply sarah. May 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    thank you, anna.

  • Reply Ani May 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I am always on the cusp of making the leap. Even though it’s aimed at children which is a good way to introduce kids into vegetarian and vegan. Kids if started off young will pretty much eat anything given to them. But the site has a lot of ideas for grown ups as well.

  • Reply Amanda May 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Beckster – Get a cat! I don’t have to do anything to bugs in my house as my (four) cats usually get to them first. Even flys, they’ll chase them down and eat them.

  • Reply Sue May 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Thank you Anna for this post. I am vegetarian, want to become vegan…but am really scared about it…not being able to drink the milk I love so much, eat yogurt and cheese and eggs. I plan to read the book, maybe it’ll push me to the point of veganism…guess I’ll find out soon. 🙂

  • Reply Melanie May 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Wow, so many comments on this post! Thank you for posting this; I really enjoyed reading about your journey with food. I think it’s really important for vegetarians to support each other and share their stories. I feel like this diet is becoming more and more acceptable, but it’s still bothersome when people feel like they have to challenge your dietary beliefs (possibly they are justifying their own eating habits).

    I think that we will all change the food industry drastically, and I think rational, personal, passionate posts like this will only help that cause.

  • Reply Lyle May 22, 2010 at 12:56 am

    hi there,

    i’m glad you read the book. it’s beautiful and puts everything in perspective. ive been a vegetarian since i was in junior high and went vegan when i was 16 and have been since. it’s been 100% best decision i’ve made.

    i once volunteered at a farm sanctuary and the animals that lived on it were rescued from slaughterhouses, or were genetically modified or just thrown to the curb. most of these animals were raised on “cage free” facilities, but were rescued in poor condition. the entire experience was amazing and working with the animals is gratifying.

    the world we live in is cruel and if like you said there is no reason that compassionate, educated people should support factory farming.

    anyways, much love for you!

  • Reply Jacquelin Seybert May 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Thank you for this blog post… this was the final push I needed to make my vegetarian decision final. I’ve always said things like “I could be a vegetarian if I wanted to” or “I don’t need meat.” I’ve never been able to justify how much I love animals, yet I eat them.

    I went to Trader Joes, our local organic grocery store, to purchase my vegetarian needs. I’m curious to see were this new adventure takes me and I’m up to the challenge. I also plan on purchasing the book asap.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  • Reply Kate;yn May 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I’ve followed your blog for awhile now, and have never commented… until now- of course.

    I had been vegetarian in the past and eventually fell into eating meat again.. at the beginning of the year I thought I would try to go vegetarian again.. I picked up a book with similar information to eating animals.. and half through (or maybe less) I decided to also cut out eggs and dairy! I love reading the stories of how other people switch to vegetarianism or veganism… thanks for telling your store and urging others to “do better…to change, to learn, to grow…”

  • Reply Tiffany A. May 24, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Well I just wanted to say thank you for talking about how you were actually fearful to start reading this book… I have been feeling the exact same way. I am vowing to start reading this book asap!

  • Reply Melanie May 25, 2010 at 6:26 am

    It’s good to read a well thought-out essay on vegetarianism, and I’m very glad to see so many intelligent comments when it would have been so easy to collect a bunch of loony rantings on such a potentially divisive subject.

    I too gave up eating meat as a teenager – for many reasons, (Morrissey among them) but the key one being the intensive pig farm down the road. I thought then, as I do now, that intensive, especially indoor, rearing of animals for meat is inhumane, unethical & bad for the environment.

    Ten years later, with the growth of the organic movement, I gave up on giving up, and ever since have concentrated on finding “good” meat.

    I’m fortunate enough to live in a region rich in free-range farming, in a country (the UK) with some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. I come into regular contact with farmers who would not, could not make a living without rearing livestock as much of the countryside in my region is unsuitable for cropping – and I am happy to support them. My reading around the subject – and my own experience – has informed my view that, however bad it may make us feel at times, animals are a vital part of sustainable farming, and in addition that if there was no demand for meat, no-one would keep cows, sheep, pigs… and these beautiful creatures would become extinct.

    A rather wonderful garden blogger has also touched upon this subject recently, taken from the side of sustainability – be warned, the opening image is not for the squeamish! –

    Some further reading I would recommend to balance Safran-Foer’s somewhat black-and-white standpoint:

    Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

    John Humphrys’ The Great Food Gamble

  • Reply Kate May 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been on the cusp of vegetarianism for a long time now. I don’ t know what’s really stopping me, but I know that l’m supporting horrible business practices when I have good ways around it. Especially today, when vegetarian, and even vegan, alternatives abound.

    I’ll definitely check out the book.

  • Reply Liane May 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I am so glad I thought to check on your blog to see what’s new. I just read the last page of this book last night.
    The issues surrounding food and animal welfare and whole foods have always been a part of my life but I’ve had a fluid relationship with vegetarianism and meat eating.
    When I watched Food Inc. multiple times as well as other docs. and books on the subject I thought for sure I wouldn’t eat meat but I did.
    Then just like you I wasn’t too far into this “Eating Animals” before I realized my life with food was really going to be different. Mid-way through there was absolutely no question. It really is a life-changer.
    I have chickens for eggs and I have friends who raise animals for meat. I am fairly sure eating this local meat from really small scale family farms will be an occasional part of my diet. However, I will never ever walk into a large grocery store and buy factory farm meat again.
    I am so glad you wrote so thoughtfully about this and I hope your readers are encouraged to read the book. Thank you.

  • Reply michelle May 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks for the post.

    For those of you who have seen Food, Inc. and found it enlightening, you may also be interested in Fresh ( And if you ever have a chance to see Joel Salatin speak, do it! His farm, Polyface Farm, appears in both Food, Inc. and Fresh.

  • Reply Danielle May 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, compassionate post. I’ve never commented here before, but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this.

  • Reply Janet May 27, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks for this, Anna. Lovely thoughts, and it’s nice to know there are others who think like me…

  • Reply Steve May 28, 2010 at 4:27 am

    I am so glad I thought to check on your blog to see what’s new. I just read the last page of this book last night.
    The issues surrounding food and animal welfare and whole foods have always been a part of my life but I’ve had a fluid relationship with vegetarianism and meat eating.
    When I watched Food Inc. multiple times as well as other docs. and books on the subject I thought for sure I wouldn’t eat meat but I did.
    Then just like you I wasn’t too far into this “Eating Animals” before I realized my life with food was really going to be different. Mid-way through there was absolutely no question. It really is a life-changer.
    I have chickens for eggs and I have friends who raise animals for meat. I am fairly sure eating this local meat from really small scale family farms will be an occasional part of my diet. However, I will never ever walk into a large grocery store and buy factory farm meat again.
    I am so glad you wrote so thoughtfully about this and I hope your readers are encouraged to read the book. Thank you.

  • Reply kattching May 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    good for you! we need more vegans in this world! 🙂 keep it up!
    /hanna – sweden

  • Reply kady May 30, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Anna, I appreciate the honesty of this post. I admire your resolve, but I do feel you fall into the common trap of putting down meat eaters. “There was just no way that I, as an educated, compassionate, and financially secure person, could convince myself that there is any reason whatsoever for me to partake in a lifestyle …”

    That implies that educated, compassionate, and financially secure persons should naturally make the same decision that you did — a logical fallacy and a typical straw man argument. I believe it’s possible to be one or all three of those things and still be a meat eater.

    For instance, we can love animals and treat them with respect — but still hunt them in the wild (for food). We can love dogs and still expect them to comply with our leashes and roll over on command. We can test human-saving medical procedures on little mice so that we — and possibly they — have longer lives in the next few generations. I think JSF goes a long way to persuade his audience that typical farm life is awful for animals and possibly dangerous for humans. But I don’t think he can expect us to inevitably conclude, as he did, that we should all become vegetarian or vegan.

  • Reply Emily May 31, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been on the cusp of vegetarianism for a long time now. I don’ t know what’s really stopping me, but I know that l’m supporting horrible business practices when I have good ways around it. Especially today, when vegetarian, and even vegan, alternatives abound.

    I’ll definitely check out the book.

  • Reply Meaghan June 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    thanks for this post Anna, very insightful

  • Reply jenny June 4, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Dear Anna
    thank you for this thoughtful, honest post, and for the link to the Sojourners article. Hope that I can get friends who wouldn’t read the book to read both your post, and the article.

    I’ve been vegie for nearly two years – first I stopped eating meat, then I stopped eating fish, then a few months ago I stopped eating eggs and milk. I don’t eat gelatine (amazing how many sweets contain pork gelatine or beef gelatine). I’m ashamed I didn’t make the change sooner – I was always fearful I didn’t like vegetables enough… Anyway, as someone said to me, it doesn’t matter when you get on the bus, as long as you’re on the bus.

    I’ve had Jonathan’s book for a couple of months now, but am afraid to read it – I find both the images and the text of animal welfare material very disturbing, so can only take in a wee bit at a time. Having said that, I just became more active in a professional organisation that works in the animal welfare area, and am learning heaps.

    All the best, and thanks again. Yes, little things multiplied by millions will make a difference.!

  • Reply simone June 7, 2010 at 5:10 am

    Hi Anna;

    Way cool being so personal. Thank you for sharing this.
    I am a vegetarian too. But not vegan… I’ll think about your points… I do buy almost everything organic I would like to say in my defence and I give my childeren soy milk… I have always considered my “buying-potential” to be somewhat like my voting potential and I vote organic.

    As a Safran Foer fan I would like to send you this link:

    It is a link to a 3 hour TV interview with Jonathan Safran Foer broadcast on the TV here in the Netherlands. I really liked it.
    He is interviewed by a Belgian writer in his house shortly before he became a father. The concept of this program is that a celebrity can point out his (or her) favorite TV-shows for an entire evening (hence the 3 hours) and talk about them with the interviewer.
    They chopped up the interview into segments that you can click on to watch in the righthand column.

    Because it is in Dutch I offer this translation:
    eerste= first, twee= two, drie= three, vier= four, vijf= five, zes= six, zeven= seven, acht= eight, negen= nine, tiende= tenth (because the order is somewhat scrambled).

    Enjoy. I add a kiss for you, if you get a reaction to this post or veganism that hurts you you can put the kiss on it.

  • Reply korn June 10, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    So glad you are back ! As someone who works at both the Beacon Farmer’s Market and the Cold Spring one, I am tired of hearing about “happy meat”. If we all heard some of the stories from some of the farmers, who raise organic and “free range” animals , those of us who care about animal rights would all go vegan. And yes, I do understand that it is inherently better than factory farming. But in the case of dairy cows, for instance, their calves are still taken away from them, and they are still forcibly impregnated. As a woman, that is not a process I want to support.
    So, I am just on the other side of the river if you ever want to get together for a vegan meal.

  • Reply Amanda June 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I missed this post somehow and from reading another blog you mentioned came across the link. It is so nice to read your honesty and true thoughts on the subject. I have been vegetarian for the past 15 years, I tried being vegan for a few years but wasn’t able to stick to that as well.

    Between the ages of 12-16 I somehow began to dive into the truth about the food we ate as well as animal testing. I was also strongly influenced by Morrisey and sXe friends. When I was younger I was much more vocal about my believes and trying to convince others to become vegetarian and educate themselves. As I got older I became more self-conscious about coming off preachy and so I kept my mouth shut more and more.

    I used to have a lot of vegetarian and vegan friends and now somehow most of them have given up. I am so glad to hear you are going back and that you chose to share this book and your views on the touchy subject. Thankyou.

  • Reply JSPajak June 14, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    God intended us to eat meat. The animals were put here for that purpose.

  • Reply Anna at D16 June 14, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    @JSPajak: I do not personally believe in a god or gods, nor do I base my personal ethics and actions on any human interpretation of religious texts (which, of course, can be manipulated to support just about any point of view). This is a meaningless argument for me.

    That said, I have found this website quite interesting and informative — perhaps you will see some value in it as well:

  • Reply Amanda Kay July 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    After being inspired by your post to FINALLY read this book, I’ve since picked up two others that have helped me feel confident and educated in my desicion to live a vegan lifestyle. The first, at the suggestion of another well-known vegan author, was Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World by Bob and Jenna Torres. My initial reaction was do I really want to read this book? It looks like something for rebellious teenagers and college hipsters. But I went ahead and read it anyways and am very, very glad I did so. It touches on all aspects of veganism and how to address all sorts of situations, questions, and feelings one might be having. The scenarios they use to show the relation of how animals are treated and feel to how humans would be are very eye-opening. And they make very strong points that really hit me hard and further solidified my desicion to be vegan. Not at all what I was expecting, and I highly reccomend it. The second book I read is The China Study by T. Colin Cambell PhD and Thomas M. Cambell II. This book was suggested to me by a client who’s daughter is biologist currently working in South America. Her daughter said it was a life-changing book and would never consume animal products again. So, ofcourse, I couldn’t wait to pick it up. That day at the bookstore I picked it up, glanced it over, then placed it back on the shelf. Under the title it reads “startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health.” I thought to myself NO WAY, I have no interest in reading a fad diet book (like the awful Skinny Bitch series). I felt dissapointed, how could this biologist consider this book so important and life-changing? About a week passed and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I went ahead and purchased it. It is a-mazing. I could truly go on and on about why I reccomend reading this book, but I HIGHLY suggest that you just go ahead and read it. Where Vegan Freak covers more lifestyle and ethical related issues, The China Study covers the nutritional and health aspects backed by decades of documented scientific evidence. I cannot express how much of an impact this book had on me.

  • Reply Rachelle July 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    I am continously inspired by people like you.

  • Reply BMac August 7, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I had the exact same experience with this book. Went in a vegetarian (for 22 yrs) and came out a vegan. I feel pissed to think that vegetarians are apologetic about our convictions. Why do we think that animals deserve less? I believe a culture is defined by how it treats those who are most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and animals. Add to that the environmental impact and I don’t get why we aren’t all vegetarians. It takes some kind of awakening to unhook from The Matrix. This book did it for me.

  • Reply Ally S August 11, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Anna, it’s pretty impressive that you have such a loyal and engaged audience, you should be really proud of yourself.

    I notice that you don’t talk about the health impact of not eating eggs / dairy / meat. I’m severely anemic and my doctors wouldn’t support veganism. Also, I can’t see how taking copious supplements can be any better for the earth.

    Is there a middle way that involves being knowledgeable about where your animal products come from? What if they were reared on my village farm, and animals I knew personally? Would that be ok? Where do you draw the line?

  • Reply Rebecca October 2, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    With all due respect to Ally S and others, meat really is just murder. It’s that simple, isn’t it? In addition, I wouldn’t trust a doctor who couldn’t recommend a balanced, plant based diet to treat anemia. The health benefits of a plant based diet are well established. I would do my own research rather than trust that a doctor (who’s livelihood depends on “treating” increasingly sick patients) is giving me the full scoop.

  • Reply Lonely Wife Project October 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    I have never been more judged in my life than when I stopped eating meat a few years ago. I feel like I’m constantly having to defend myself and the animals everyone else consumes in front of me. I completely understand your hesitation to publish this post, but it definitely encourages me to continue to speak up. Thank you!

  • Reply Adele November 2, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Many thanks for the recommendation and spreading the word Anna. I’ve just finished reading the book and have become vegetarian … how could you not? I had previously had little problem with imagining I was choosing to eat chickens, turkeys, fish and pigs all cared for by lovely local farmers & fishermen … however the fact that the absolute majority of the time I have been eating puss and faeces covered hormone and antibiotic filled unrecognisable genetically modified creatures that often can’t even walk, swim or fly after the culmination of torturous and pain filled short lives has made it a very easy choice to make.

    It certainly also raises questions about the likes of eggs, milk and cheese given that terms like ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ are meaningless in many cases and that these animals are also abused – I haven’t eliminated these yet (but am making sure they are sourced from local family farms) and will be doing more research in this area.

    Now to peruse your recipes … I seem to recall a delicious chilli being mentioned, mmmmm. I think my palate is about to bloom and grow so bring it on!

  • Reply nancy January 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I’m a little late to the game here so I don’t even know if I should bother leaving a comment. (I don’t know why I didn’t read this last year but someone on FB linked to it tonight, so that’s how I came to be here…)

    I read The Jungle in high school and became a vegetarian for a little while, because I was so grossed out. Now, as an adult, I go back and forth between eating meat and not eating meat. For the past two years, I’ve mainly bought grass-fed and/or local meat and because it is so expensive, I end up not eating very much meat at all. And now, I find that I can go a whole week without including meat in any of our meals, and I don’t really miss it at all. And of course, because there is no meat to fill me up, I am eating a ton more vegetables (as opposed to just eating the same amount vegetables and omitting the meat.) So, this probably means that I’m on the path again to being a vegetarian, for reasons of personal economy and health. And now I have to go read the Foer book and the Singer book, I suppose! As usual, thanks for your thoughts and also, for your willingness to put yourself out there.

    • Anna @ D16 January 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      Nancy, thank you for sharing — it’s not too late! I think you’ve expressed what a lot of others have gone through on their paths to veganism/vegetarianism, too.

      I highly recommend Foer’s book (obviously!), and if you’ll check my most recent post on the blog, you’ll see another book recommendation. This time it’s for a cookbook that I think you’ll find really wonderful if you’re a vegetable-lover.

  • Reply shannon rae January 17, 2011 at 12:14 am

    hey anna! i always follow your photos on flickr but infrequently check your blog. i am so glad i read your cookbook review and linked here. very insightful post! i didn’t know, or didn’t remember that you were a vegetarian and yet i am not surprised to see what i read here, i feel like i could have written it!

    i became a vegetarian at 12 years old, 1991. i quit meat because my childhood compassion for animals became a teenage awareness of animal rights. it was a choice fueled by morrissey, a desperate need to be original, reading diet for a new america at an impressionable age, and probably degrassi junior high. also my mother was a terrible cook raised on home ec classes that emphasized thanks to the wonders of science, people didn’t need fresh food anymore. i don’t think i ate a single vegetable that wasn’t canned or frozen as a kid. being a vegetarian meant i had free license to make my own meals.

    so i am still a vegetarian today, 20 years later. i definitely have my ups and downs, nutrition-wise, but i have not eaten any meat since the day i quit. when people ask me why i am a vegetarian, i tell them it is out of habit. at one time i had the energy to argue and facts at hand to try to educate people but anymore i feel lost and uninspired. in the last five years i have become lactose intolerant, and in the last two years i have acquired allergies to some of my favorite foods – cucumbers, potatoes, melon, nuts, apples – seriously? depressing.

    for about a year i have been thinking maybe now is the time to reevaluate what i eat, even if that means to start eating meat. i need a big change because something is just not working. maybe going vegan is what that change should be, an option i hadn’t really considered before reading your post. i will check out foer’s book and the cookbook, and do some soul searching, thanks to you! <3

  • Reply michelle shea walker March 25, 2011 at 12:21 am

    First, let me say hello and thank you for publishing such a creatively inspiring blog. I’ve only just recently become a reader, but I’m working my way thru past entries little by little.

    Second, thank you for such a wonderfully worded review of this book. I am currently only halfway thru it’s pages, but I already agree with everything you’ve said about it’s content. I hope you don’t mind if I refer the readers of my vegan blog over to this entry for an accurate review of this amazing book. I could not have said it better myself.

    • Anna @ D16 March 25, 2011 at 8:14 am

      Michelle, of course I don’t mind! I’d be honored.

  • Reply Juliet August 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful post, Anna. You’ve seriously changed my outlook on food and health – my health, animal welfare and the health of the planet. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I watched Forks over Knives with my husband who has been a vegetarian for almost 10 years. After watching that film he’s now a vegan. I’ve incorporated green juice into my daily diet and am weaning myself of animal products. I have not felt this good in over 10 years. Food is no longer a drug to me as it has been for 10 years. Vegetables are exciting and it is liberating not to have to spend money on meat and animal products. THANK YOU!!

  • Reply Jaimie January 13, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Hi Anna. Thanks for linking to this post on twitter for me. I guess I’m still curious though, why your “veganism” only extends to diet and not to clothing. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m definitely concerned about factory farming, regarding both the environment and humane treatment of animals. I do my best to get dairy, eggs, and meat from the farmer’s market, but I know I could do better.

    • Anna @ D16 January 13, 2013 at 11:40 am

      First of all, this wasn’t a post about “veganism,” and I don’t even identify myself as vegan. I don’t exist in a world of black and white, and I don’t expect other people to, either. I think it’s the expectation we put on people to avoid a perception of hypocrisy at all costs that keeps us from making positive changes in our lives. Striving for perfection leads to avoidance. I just want to make that clear.

      I’m more concerned with the bigger picture. When I buy a pair of shoes, for example, I expect them to last for at least a decade (if not longer). In my eyes, a pair of PVU (or other synthetic material) shoes that falls apart after a year or two is far more destructive environmentally than a pair of leather shoes that will wear well for years and years. We don’t have actual statistics about these things, but it’s hard for me to believe that synthetic materials aren’t ultimately more damaging to both animal and human populations than well-sourced, well-made leather goods. I consider the quality of EVERYTHING I buy, not just footwear. In other words, when I buy a toaster or a garbage can, I expect to not have to replace it for 20 years or longer. My entire home renovation is geared toward permanence and flexibility rather than stop-gaps and trends. I buy things second-hand. I fix things that are broken. And so on.

      So why is food different for me? Because it’s entirely transient. It’s eaten and then gone. A well-made hamburger is of no more value than a veggie burger—if anything, it’s deleterious when it comes to my own health and well-being, so why do it at all? Also, on an emotional level, I think it’s absolutely revolting to consume dead animals and their bodily fluids. It disgusts me, and I am disgusted with myself for having done it at all.

      It’s a holistic approach. And no, I’m not perfect, nor do I purport to be. Everyone could always do better, myself included, but I do think it’s a mistake to assume that buying plastic shoes and acrylic sweaters is the answer.

  • Reply Jana March 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Hello! I’m like what.. 6 years late to this conversation? HAH. I just discovered you a couple of weeks ago & was drawn to you (pretend that doesn’t sound creepy). I felt like I had to do you justice & start from the beginning of Door Sixteen so that’s what I’m doing. So. Here I am, I’ve made it to 2010 so far. I have to say, I don’t know what the next 6 years of you hold, but I’m totally fascinated to find out. At this point, I feel as if I’ve almost met my blogger match & this just solidified it. I became a veg for the 2nd time in September & was given this book to read but hadn’t yet cracked it open. I now know what I’ll be reading tonight! I did just watch Cowspiracy on Netflix and WOW. It forever changed me. The animal cruelty side of meat has always been my big draw to going meat-less but after watching that, the economical side is just as big for more. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you GO RIGHT NOW! …..Not that you probably have time to read your comments… especially from 6 years ago but I’m sure I’ll be popping up randomly until I’m current. 🙂

  • Reply Jana March 15, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    I’d appreciate if you ignored any typos up there as well. I was in a race with a dying laptop.

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