I don’t know what to eat.

When I was bartending during undergrad, I was also taking a class on Eastern Philosophy, which dealt mostly with Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc). I came across Buddhism a couple of years earlier through Alan Watts, who was recommended to me by a friend. The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Watts changed my life and was the reason for me taking the Eastern philosophy class. However, taking the class was conflicting with my work. Buddhism teaches the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. I was having a problem with the Eight fold path: http://www.zenguide.com/principles/eight_fold_path.cfm. The fourth precept states “right action” which means that one should refrain from actions that harm others and to respect others’ rights. The fifth precept states “right livelihood” which states that one should avoid jobs that harm animals or others. As a bartender, I was feeding people the flesh of slaughtered animals along with “intoxicants”, so I began to worry about my karma. I struggled with this dilemma the entire time I worked in the restaurant business. It was also during this time, because of this class, that I tried to be a vegetarian (which lasted about three weeks). This week’s readings bring me back to those moments in my life. These simple Buddhist precepts are still applicable, and when coupled with Singer’s pragmatic approach, all this leads to the ethical conclusion that I must stop eating animals.

Peter Singer elucidates the problem I have with eating animals, which is the question of suffering. The problem is not that the animal dies; as Singer, in another essay, points out: “in what way is painless, unanticipated killing wrong in itself” (88). The problem is that the animal does suffer. Safran Foer’s book is filled with examples of chickens with breast so big they can’t stand, cows that scream as their calves are taken away, and turkeys and pigs that can no longer survive in the wild nor reproduce naturally because of how much science has manipulated their genes. These genetic cruelties along with the unnecessarily cruel killing methods of these animals leave me with a very real ethical problem. Singer’s question is one of the driving forces of my problem: it is not the killing that bothers me, it is the suffering (Singer 28). For instance, a study in 1996 found that slaughterhouses:
were unable to regularly render cattle unconscious with a single blow. The USDA, the federal agency charged with enforcing humane slaughter, responded to these numbers not by stepping up enforcement, but by changing the policy to cease tracking the number of humane slaughter violations and removing any mention of humane slaughter from its list of rotating task for inspectors (Foer 230).

Knowing this happens—that the USDA doesn’t care about treating our food humanely nor sanitarily—exacerbates my problems with continuing to eat meat. I would like to know that the animals I eat are, at least, killed quickly and painlessly, but that is certainly not the case.

Furthermore, I can no longer deny the ethical call of the face of the (animal) other. Emmanuel Levinas posits that ethics is first philosophy, so all philosophical thinking must begin in ethics. Levinas states that I exist in a world among alien entities that are “other than” me. In this world, “I take precedence over the various objects I find around me…. I learn to manipulate and control them to my advantage, either as the member of a group which I identify with myself or simply as myself alone” (Lingis 12). Therefore, as a member of the human race, I control and take advantage of animal others in order to satisfy my palette. Other philosophers, from Hegel to Sartre, have dealt with the other, but Levinas argues that these philosophical systems either reduce the other to a version of myself (make him the same as me), or I categorize the other and justify my power over him (totalize the other). However, Levinas’s philosophy is one of “transendence,” in which when I encounter the face of the other, I am obliged to respond to the other. When I meet a person, Levinas asserts, I can either try to make the other into the same (into me, assimilate the other) and stay within my group that I identify with, or I can transcend by trying to speak to the other—encounter the other in the other’s infinite transcendence. However, humans feel that because of rationale, logic, language, or some other thing that humans have that animals don’t, that humans get to use and treat animals however they see fit. But why not extend this Levinasian ethic towards the animal?

Because I do not face the (animal) other directly and see its suffering, I continue to eat meat. However, because of the suffering that animals go through, outlined so vividly in Foer and Singer, and because of the rational calls to vegetarianism by Foer and Singer, I can no loner in good conscious eat meat, which is not to say that I can easily just cut out meat completely from my diet. This point is something Singer explores well. It reminds me of so many friends who begin to workout so intensely the first week that by the time the second week starts, they are so sore and discouraged they quit altogether. Singer, rather, rationalizes that this big life change is something that needs to be handled in stages. Whether it is because of karma or the ethical call of the face of the other or the very real ecological problems of eating meat, I know that I can no longer partake in it. Ethics is never easy. Levinas teaches that even when faced with seemingly easy ethical questions we must always be anxious that we are doing right—a lesson outlined by Garret Hardin and explored deeper by Avital Ronell.

I am always anxious that I am not doing enough for the other, and that other should include animals.

Works Cited
Coetzee, J. M., and Peter Singer. “Reflections: Peter Singer.” The Lives of Animals. Ed. Amy
Gutmann. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999. 85-91. Print.

Examined Life. Dir. Astra Taylor. Perf. Avital Ronell. Zeitgeist Films, 2008. Youtube.com.
Zeitgeistfilms.com. Web. 30 Sept. 2011.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.

Levinas, Emanuel. Totality and Infinity: an Essay on Exteriority. Trans. Alphonso Lingis.
Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne UP, 1961. Print.


I am getting my butt kicked this semester. I feel like the word: hurtling.

I read half of “But as for Me, Who Am I (following)” and I’ll post on that soon enough. I also read the first chapter of Matthew Calarco’s Zoographies. Calarco writes clearly and very well, but of course I had to question some of his Heideggerian readings.

This is sloppy– I just don’t feel like I have the time to work it out. For now, as always: here are my fragments:


Matthew Calarco examines Heideggerian thought in order to examine the animal and to illustrates the manners in which Heidegger both opened up a space to talk about animals while also marginalizing animals. However, I believe that Calarco’s analysis misses some of Heidegger’s more subtle points about Dasein being uniquely human (of course, I have not read Heidegger’s lectures where he deals with animals). Addtionally, this is not to say that Calarco’s examination is not fruitful and interesting, but I feel he attacks Heidegger too harshly (and again, this is my opinion not having read the essay that Calarco examines).

Calarco points out how Heidegger never directly deals with the question of animal Dasein, but he points out how Heidegger does deal with the question of the animal in general and is therefore useful to begin examining the animal question. Heidegger did not want to equate the animal with human: “In the case of undertaking a properly biological and zoological analysis of animals, the risk for Heidegger would be either reducing animals to mechanistic entities or conflating them with human beings” (20). Calarco examines this distinction that Heidegger is making, and goes on to emphasize, “whether such a distinction between human beings and animals can or even should be drawn is never raised for serious discussion” (23).

Furthermore, I agree with Calarco when he says that the distinctions should not “serve as a guide for further thought in philosophy or science” (23); however, I feel he is being a little unfair to Heidegger’s project of returning to the question of being. For instance, Calarco points out how Heidegger claims that animals are “poor in world,” but I think Calarco is misunderstanding Heidegger’s concept of world. At the very least, Calarco is not examing the distinctions Heidegger tirelessly examined in his concept of world.

I want to examine some of these points Calarco makes because while I agree with him that the question of the animal needs to be re-thought, I feel he could be using Heidegger to re-think the question of the animal in a more fruitful manner. For instance, when Calarco points out that Heidegger says the animal is poor in world, what “world” is Calarco examining? For Heidegger, there are four distinct meanings of world. Additionally, world is broken up into categorical world and world as object. With in these two categories are the four distinctions of world: One, is the world as universe and all the entities present-at-hand with in the universe. Second, the way of being of the universe—entities that do not relate to us. Third, the world we inhabit in everydayness, such as the academic world, business world, etc.—the worlds we cope in. Finally, the world of structures and background—the world that gives us the know how of how to cope in the world. These worlds are very different, and I think it is fair to say that under these terms, the animal, maybe is not “poor” of world, but has a different world than the one human’s inhabit. An animal does not have to decide if it is going to go into the academic world or the world of business. The animal, probably, does not care about the universe and the tools it uses in the world. The difference here is between the world of physics—what physicist engage in and are absorbed in and understand themselves in, and the physical world—the substance that physicist take a stand in/on. A rock has no world for Heidegger because a rock cannot take a stand on its existence. The question should be: can animals take a stand on their being? If one really examines the concept of world in Heidegger, Heidegger actually says Dasein is never “at home,” which is part of the anxiety Heidegger will examine.

The critique of Heidegger not wanting to equate animals to humans, and the distinction Heidegger upholds is more complicated than Calarco relates. That is to say, Calarco does examine how and why the distinction is complicated, but not within a Heideggerian context. Calarco also discusses the “as” structure that animals lack while also returning to the question of world by looking at Heidegger’s discussion of a domesticated animal. His conclusions here, in my reading of Heidegger, are very misleading. He claims that Heidegger’s conclusion is that to some extent, human’s can relate to (empathize with) animals but that the Dasein of humans is different from that of animals. And this is correct, I believe, but I think that the way Calarco outlines this conclusion is misleading. He is looking at these conclusions without examining why Heidegger would reach these conclusions.

The passage Calarco examines needs to be analysed closer and with Heidegger’s question of Dasein in mind. What Heidegger means when he says that the animal lives “with us” in the house, beloning to the house, but not as the roof the house, Heidegger is making a distinction between the way of being of the house and the way of being of a dog. The way of being of a roof is as equipment, which is different than the mode of being of an animal and the mood of being of humans. Furthermore, we “enable [animals] to move within our world.” The last two statements are contentious for Calarco because they specifically point out that animals do not have Dasein. However, looking at how Heidegger examines Dasein, then I would argue that animals, indeed, do not have Dasein because animals cannot comport themselves in the world; Calarco’s Heidegger quote addresses this: “we consider the dog itself—does it comport itself towards the table, towards the stairs as stairs?” Hubert Dreyfus explains comportment: “Heidegger uses ‘comportment’ to refer to our directed activity…He thus takes comportment or intentionality as a characteristic not merely of acts of consciousness, but of human activity in general” (Dreyfus 51). Therefore, the question is if animals can comport themselves, and I do not see how they could. Comportment is an activity that is entrenched in culture and the “as” structure of the world.

The dog cannot comport itself to the table or the stairs because those objects are outside of the dog’s mental structure. This goes back to the concept of the world. Dasein knows that the table is for eating and the chair is for sitting; furthermore, Dasein knows that the “as structure” of the chair is for eating. The question for the animal must become if the dog has objects in its world that it uses in order to take a stand on its being. For humans, I use a table to sit and eat a healthy meal because the way I take a stand on my being is by being someone who eats healthy. In order to do so, I need a table to eat at, a chair to sit in, etc., and I comport myself to these activities using this tools in the world.

Calarco goes on to explore Heidegger’s reading of Rilke and Nietzsche and Heidegger’s disproval of equating animal to human and of reversing animal and human. However, again, Calarco appears to be missing Heidegger’s basic project in exploring the being of humans. Calarco is right in highlighting Heidegger’s anthropormorcism, but Calarco fails at examining why Heidegger does so. Dasein is a being that makes its being an issue for it. Dasein can take a stand on its being. Furthermore, Calarco’s constant critique of Heidegger’s essentialism is troublesome because Heidegger did not believe in essentialism. Heidegger explored how there are many different views of what our “nature” is, which led him to conclude that our nature (essence) is simply to be the kind of being that through activity gives themselves a nature. Whatever the culture we are thrown in tells us we are, we get socialized into it and take that to be our nature. For instance, I am a grad student, so I take a stand on being a grad student by reading everyday, going to class, teaching, and preparing myself for my future. I cope in the world with computers, books, pencils, pens, and others in such a way so as to project myself into my future possibilities. Furthermore, while there is an ultimate goal to my dealings in the world, I just do them because it is how I have taken a stand on my existence. Can an animal be said to do the same? Can an animal chose how it will be in the world? Does an animal comport itself in the world towards a future directed self? I want to say no, but I cannot be certain. Can animals get outside of their “nature?” That is, can a dog, for instance, chose one way of being over another, something beyond training? Although here again, is our socialization just training? I do not know what analogy can be used here between humans and animals? I can decide tomorrow that I want to be a racecar driver and begin to comport myself towards that identity. I can begin to learn about cars, watch Nascar, learn to be a mechanic, and change my way of being, but can an animal do anything analogous?

This analysis of Dasein is what Calarco is missing in his critique of Heidegger. Ek-sistance for Heidegger is uniquely human because humans exist in a unique fashion. For Dasein, probability is higher than actuality. For instance, being a professor with tenure does not give your life meaning but being an educator does. The label does not define who a person is rather life defines who a person is. Teaching is something without a goal that can be actualized. There will never be a point where you can say that teaching is over. It is the thing which gives life meaning in and of itself. It organizes one’s behavior—being a teacher means you have to prepare lectures and read books and so you organize your life around these task. If I say I am a grad student but never go to class or open a book, then I am not actually a grad student. In this way, existence is uniquely human. This look at Dasein is not to defend Heidegger against all of the criticism that Calarco makes. Heidegger, as Derrida had pointed out, is Dasein-centric, and this Dasein-centrism does not bode well for animals. It does mean that animals cannot have Dasein though. Can an animal decide not to be or to be something?


J. M. Coetzee: The Lives of Animals

Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals is a philosophical meditation on death. The novel is not necessarily of human death, but it does focus much attention to the matter of death and suffering. The frame narrative of the story sets up this death theme by informing the reader that John Bernard “does not want to hear his mother talking about death; Furthermore, he has a strong sense that her [Costello’s] audience—which consist, after all, mainly of young people—wants death-talk even less” (Coetzee 19). However, death talk is, as death is in life, inevitable. The entire argument of animal rights comes down to death, and this idea is what Peter Singer aptly explores in his narrative in response to Coetzee’s narrative.

I argue that the narrative presented here and that the argument of animal rights comes down to death because all the other questions asked about the animal—does it have langue, is it conscious, does it understand, does it suffer, does it have a soul, etc.—comes down to the answers that try to justify the death of an animal. As Singer points out, “Pain is pain, no matter what the species of the being that feels it” (87). Singer goes on to make some very valid arguments and does a fine job (possibly much better than Coetzee does) in showing the two sides of animal rights; however, his best point comes in pointing out that “The value that is lost when something is emptied depends on what was there when it was full, and there is more to human existence that there is to bat existence” (90). This idea recalls a Heideggerian concept of existence; Dasein is a human beings special way of being. Daseins are future directed, always thrown ahead of themselves in their possibilities in a way that an animal is not. While I would like to say that the loss of a human being is worse than the loss of an animal, I wonder if I think that because of the horizon from which I have the rational thought to make such a judgment.

Because of this impossibility of steeping outside of rational thought (a topic much explored in Costello’s dialogue), there must be another mode of questioning the death of the animal. Even though rational thought must be put aside, Costello’s argument about human’s capacity for empathy is too weak, and Singer points out some obvious weaknesses to this argument; I would like to add that empathy is not that strong. Again, this goes back to Heidegger’s conception of death. Heidegger states that we can empathize with someone who is dying, and on some level we can experience that other person’s death, but we can never know it. Dasein can get a sense of death—a sense of someone else’s life—an idea of what it must be like to die, but we can never experience death until it happens. It is this very real sense of not being able to share death that Heidegger makes the argument for Dasein having a “mineness.” Even each individual Dasein is uniquely mine in this sense and only this sense because everything else about how one experiences the world is bound up with that very world.

Because one can never really imagine what it is like to be a bat—just like one can never imagine what it is like to be another person, not really—the question of animal rights goes back to Benthem’s question: does the animal suffer? I am in agreement with Singer when he discuss an ideal world where a pig lives a long and happy life and is killed with no pain and with no foreknowledge of its death, but the problem is that the world Singer abstractly explores does not exist.

I want to come back to these thoughts– there is more here that is important to explore.

Jonathan Safran Foer relates a story that historians like to tell about Abraham Lincoln. Once, while leaving Springfield for Washington, Lincoln noticed some distressed birds on the side of the road and forced his party to stop and help the birds. When questioned about it later, Lincoln said, “I could not have slept to-night if I had left those poor creatures on the ground and not restored them to their mother.” Foer goes on to make the observation that Lincoln “did not make (though he might have) a case for the moral value of the birds, their worth to themselves or the ecosystem or God. Instead he observed, quite simply, that once those suffering birds came into his view, a moral burden had been assumed” (267). This moral burden, I believe, is what is behind Derrida’s essay on animals. By looking at the manner in which philosophers have discussed animals in the past, Derrida points out the othering of the animals and the ethical implications of this othering. The main problem with philosophizing animals is that it misses the question that only Bethem asked: “The question is not to know whether the animal can think, reason, or speak, etc,. … The first and decisive question would rather be to know whether animals can suffer” (Derrida 27). While that is the first question, Derrida looks at the all the other questions raised by philosophy as well.

In Derrida’s signature playful manner, he explores the question of the animal by looking at the history of the animal in Western culture from the Bible to Descartes to Heidegger to the classifications of science and always with Levinas’s ethics in the background. Derrida begins his essay with Heidegger’s question, which is “what do I do when ‘I am’” (3). Derrida extends Heidegger’s “I am” by adding to it that he is an animal and explains human’s uncanniness and uneasiness with being animal. With the trace of Levinas and the Bible, Derrida equates this uneasiness with a shame, similar to the fall, in the gaze of his cat. IN thinking about his cat, which makes him think of Alice in Wonderland, Derrida questions what it means to respond, and how we can know an animal’s response. The animal’s response to humans takes up the ethical question of facing the other. People have theorized the animal—“seen” the animal—but, Derrida wonders, have anybody noticed the address by the animal.

These ethical questions, the shame in the face of the cat, I would argue, are already there in Heidegger and Levinas. I am very interested in how Derrida will explore philosopy’s role in the animal, especially Levinas and Heidegger. Derrida equates his shame as a (literal) nakedness in the gaze of his cat, but this shame is also a metaphorical, Levinasian nakedness as well. Derrida is encountering the face of the other (his cat), and by not reducing the cat into the same , Derrida is trying to ethically encounter the cat. Levinas explains this nakedness in the face of the other: “The face has turned to me—and this is its very nudity. It is by itself and not by reference to a system” (75). Derrida is trying to get away from any categorization, such as zoology, biology, or even philosophy, in order to encounter the cat in a true face to face that Levinas promotes; That is to say, Derrida encounters his cat as cat, wholly and singularly, not as a cat in reference to the animal kingdom and not as some alien other. Derrida’s language in describing his cat’s gaze is further suggestive of Levinas when Derrida explains “Nudity gets stripped to bare necessity only in that frontal exhibition, in that face-to-face” (Derrida 11). Derrida appears to extend Levinas’s ethical call to animals. When the cat is face to face with Derrida, the situation recalls Levinas’s assertion that “the Other faces me and puts me in question and obliges me by his essence qua infinity” (207) . Levinas examines the gaze of the other, and Derrida extends that idea to animals because for Levinas one’s subjectivity is constituted in the other, which is why Derrida wants to explore the limits of being human and what it means to be human. The animal’s gaze shows man the limits from where man dares to call himself man.

Heiddeger is also present throughout Derrida’s analysis. Heiddeger rejected what Hubert Dreyfus calls predicate philosophy made popular by Aristotle. For Aristotle, a self-sufficient entity had properties; for instance, a hammer is brown and is heavy as if all intelligible things could fall under this simple predicate model. The predicate model is, after all, what Derrida is exploring in this study. Throughout the philosophical tradition, the predicate model is used to describe the animal/ human divide. For example, the animal has no language or the human is the thinking animal, etc., as if this predicate model explained everything. For Heidegger, the world is not understandable in terms of substances and properties. Knowing this about Heidegger makes Derrida’s reading of Heidegger and the animal interesting; it is also interesting that Heidegger (and other philosophers of Heidegger) missed this obvious connection between Dasein and animals (that is, if one can judge that animals do not have a Dasein).

However, I feel that the question of an animal having Dasein or not is somewhat superfluous, nor do I feel the question Derrida raises about Heidegger’s analysis of the animal which is “living but nothing more,” ultimately, very important. Questions of the animal’s subjectivity and Dasein aside, Heidegger does assert that Dasein is in-the-world. At the very least, animals are a part of that world, which would mean animals are a part of Dasein. What is behind Derrida’s analysis and what I believe Derrida will eventually explore is Dasein’s in-the-world-ness.

Our understanding and interpretation of the world arises from our place in the world. In Being and Time, Heidegger’s central question is the question of being itself, and more precisely, that mode of being that is specifically human. In order to understand how understanding works, it is important to understand the being that is doing the understanding, and that being is Dasein. Dasein is the way of being of humans; This mode of being is one that makes existence an issue for itself, takes a stand on its existence; furthermore, Dasein interprets and is able to take a stand on its existence and understands by using equipment and acting in the world. This Dasein, who is always-already interpreting the world, is in the first place always-already being-in-the-world. Heidegger says “There is no such thing as the ‘side-by-side-ness’ of an entity called ‘Dasein’ with another entity called ‘world’” (81). This analysis breaks down the subject/object binary of Husserl and Descartes. Therefore, if existence is Dasein’s concern, the way it takes a stand on itself, then would it not follow that Dasein should take a stand of not hurting the world it is a part of? Of course, if an animal does have Dasein and can takes a stand on its life, then this analysis wold complicate humans relationship with animals because it would mean that animals would have a towards death, which would mean that when humans kill an animal, humans cause animals anguish and pain.

In an effort to rethink animals, Derrida wants to create a new language, and I believe this desire for a new language and a new way to look at animals comes mostly from Heidegger and Levinas, who both saw and commented on the limits and dangers of language. It is through language that humans put the animal in the category animal—a word that encompasses all “animals” from lizards to dogs and cats, to fish and birds, on through the entire spectrum. It is in this totalizing language that Derrida appears to make a rare universal claim when he says “This agreement concerning philosophical sense and common sense that allows one to speak blithely of the Animal in the general singular is perhaps one of the greatest and most symptomatic asinanities of those who call themselves humans” (41). I read this as saying that the one truly human thing that separates humans from animals is human’s ability to use language in this violent way to subjugate animals and categorize all of them under a single word: animal.

Derrida’s analysis of the animal and his exploration through Biblical stories, Greek mythology, and Western philosophy calls into question the language and thought used to explore the animal. He wants to break down the definition of animals through what the animal does not have and focus and explore rather what the animal ethically calls humans to do. It is interesting to note that Derrida’s title has within it the implication of “The Animal that Therefore I Am (More to Follow) because what has followed is the exploration of animal suffering. While the questions about the animal’s ability to communicate, the animal’s Dasein, the animal’s address to humans, is all very interesting, I think that what follows is Safran Foer’s book which ask the same question Bethem ask about the suffering of animals.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals is about the choices that humans, as eating animals (animal’s that eat) make about just what food it is they eat. The book’s frame is that food is stories, and “Stories establish narratives, and stories establish rules” (12). Furthermore, stories, food, and narratives establish identity. These narratives, more than told by us, are whom we are. Foer tells the story of his grandmother’s survival during World War II. She ate anything she could get her hands on to survive, from rotting fruit to people’s trash, and yet, she never ate pork. As Foer describes:

“What, because it wasn’t kosher?”
“Of course.”
“But not even to save your life?”
“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save” (17).

This anecdote informs a number of underlying ideas in Foer’s analysis of our food production practices. The main underlying idea is the psychological concept of disavowal. Freud defined the concept as “a specific mode of defence which consists in the subject’s refusing to recognize the reality of a traumatic perception” (http://nosubject.com/Disavowal). Lacan discusses the term as well, and he claims that there is always acknowledgment accompanying disavowal. In Foer’s context, it is not simply that we are ignorant of factory farming; we know it is bad but deny it. Foer recognizes his reader’s attitude by stating “It’s a telling assumption, one that implies not only that a thorough inquiry into animal agriculture would lead one away from eating meat, but that most people already know that to be the case” (13). With this frame of stories as food, Foer wants to explore food production because he has recently had a child and is concerned about what healthy food he can feed his child. Foer, however, realizes his own Lacanian disavowal and sets out to explore the truth about animal agriculture.

Foer begins by breaking down the distinction American makes between domesticated animals and animals for consumption. By using his own dog, George as an example, Foer examines the relationship a family shares with a domesticated pet that is in the home. With such a close bond, Americans could never eat man’s best friend; however, Foer makes the strong case for the practicality of eating dogs and cats. Many of the dogs euthanasized are eventually fed to the animals we eat, pigs are smarter and more affectionate than dogs, with so many starving people in the world, why not use all these dead dogs as food, and furthermore, the taboo against eating dogs is exclusive to less places than where eating dogs is not a taboo. From this point, Foer ask about fish by using the example of Kafka, who at an aquarium, once said “Now at last I can look at you in peace, I don’t eat you anymore” (Kafka qtd. in Max Brod qtd. in Foer 36). With Kafka’s example, Foer frames his study even more by bringing in Walter Benjamin’s idea of shame. Foer says “Shame is the work of memory against forgetting. Shame is what we feel when we almost entirely—yet not entirely—forget social expectations and our obligations to others in favor of our immediate gratification” (37). The eating of animals is in favor of our immediate gratification; it is a moment where we do not take into account the animal at all; therefore, it is shameful for us to eat animals, and Foer does an excellent job of making one feel ashamed of eating meat.

Foer does an excellent job of mixing in ethical concerns involved in eating (hurting) animals along with arguments of the ethical responsibility to the environment. This book is as much a book about ecology as it is about animal subjectivity. The book explores the problems with our major sources of foods, including fish, chicken, turkey, pig, and cows. The most discerning fact I learned form this book is that most of the animals we eat cannot survive in the wild. The animals have been so genetically engineered that they cannot deal with the elements and will die in the wild.

At times, Foer can get too preachy, but he has good reason to be so. After hearing some of the most horrific facts about our animal consumption, it is no wonder Foer feels that the only ethical thing to do is to quit eating animals. Some of the more compelling arguments have to do with shit. The pigs from Smithfield Foods farm produce as much shit as all the people in California and Texas combined, but unlike California and Texas, there is no sewage system to process all that shit. The feces is collected into huge lakes around the farms, and of course, the fumes from these putrid lakes cause all kinds of health problems for citizens living near by. Furthermore, the excrement runs off into lakes, rivers, and other water sources. On this point, Foer hints at the problem of what happens when food becomes commodity: Smithfield had seven thousand environmental violation and paid out 12.6 million in fines because of these violations, which is far cheaper than fixing the problem.

"Paying fines for polluting is cheaper than giving up the entire factory farm system, which is what it would take to finally end the devestation" (178).

The other problem Foer focuses on is one that is explored in Derrida and earlier in Bethem, which is that animals suffer, and we could hardly deny that animals suffer. However, we still eat animals. Foer makes a compelling argument by stating that we would never allow someone to swing a pick axe into the eye of our cat or dog, yet we eat fish that meet this fate all the time. I find this a weak argument when applied to tuna or cod, but it does become more compelling when Foer outlines the tortuous ways that the animals we eat are killed.

Foer hints at not eating animals because of factory farms but sounds as if he does not eat animals more out of an ethical problem with animals suffering for us to eat. After reading his book, I am eating much less meat and have implemented many more vegetarian meals into my diet. I do not have an ethical problem with eating animals. I believe that animals eating animals is seen in nature all the time, and it would be presumptuous of humans, I believe, to not eat animals because of some feigned ethical imperative. I believe that many vegans do not eat meat not because of some mystical connection to animals, but because it makes them feel good to say they don’t eat animals. My problem is not with eating animals; my problem is with the way those animals are killed, the way our government regulates the killing of the animals, and with the unsanitary way these factory farms “process” the animals we eat.