Turkeys and Thought

If nothing else, Eating Animals Jonathan Safran Foer seeks to provide readers with perspective. This is especially true in his fourth chapter, “Hiding / Seeking.” Foer finds himself breaking and entering into a turkey farm with an animal rights activist. Armed with little more than a bottle of water and a section of the California penal code, the two attempt to have a look around the inside of a factory farm, under the flimsy guise of making sure the animals have enough water. Foer is somewhat shocked when he sees the activist slit the throat of a dying bird. Like many of us, perhaps he had assumed an activist such as herself would have gone to extreme measures to save the animal.

The excursion serves as a backdrop for the bulk of the chapter: opinions. Foer compiles the letters of the activist, a factory farmer, and the “last poultry farmer.” The activist writes that she is “not a radical.” Instead, she is an average person who simply wants to spread the unpleasant truth about factory farming. The factory farmer, understandably, has a different opinion. He states that it’s dangerous to “confuse unpleasant with wrong.” In his mind, the factory farming system is necessary. Of course, the “last poultry farmer” disagrees. He raises his turkeys in the same way people did 100 years ago. He claims his birds are healthier because they do not encounter antibiotics. He also believes they trust him with their lives, yet he sends thousands off to slaughter each year.

Matching people with the arguments over factory farming allows one to see the issue in a different light. Instead of having two distinct sides, right verus wrong, it’s more of a “middle of the road issue,” without one clear solution. At least that’s how I understand it.

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