Yesterday I spent my afternoon at Tavern on the Green for Farm Sanctuary’s “Celebration for the Turkeys” – an annual event aimed to protect turkeys and promote compassionate Thanksgiving traditions.
The event featured delicious food by Candle 79, a silent auction with tons of cruelty-free products, and a slew of special guests, including: Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Peter Max, Ally Sheedy and author Jonathan Safran Foer.
Ecorazzi: Why are you here today supporting Farm Sanctuary?
Jonathan Safran Foer: Farm Sanctuary was the first place I went when I did my research for this book. I had a really wonderful day. In many ways it established a tone for the rest of my research, which was that these issues all depend on how you tell them—how you present them. It’s not the case that the world needs new values, it just needs a new story—a story that more accurately reflects what’s going on in the world and more directly connects it to who we already are, not who we want to be, just who we already are.
I think Gene [Baur] does a really nice job of that. When people think of Farm Sanctuary, I think they imagine a place where rescued farm animals get to spend out their life. But that’s not really the point of the place. The point of the place is to push legislation, to lobby, but also just to tell stories—to tell better stories than the ones that are floating around. So that was a real inspiration for me and not only am I happy to help in anyway I can, I feel like I owe something.
E: Many people believe that your book has the power to set a new tone for the movement. What kind of reactions have you received thus far about Eating Animals?
JSF: The awesome thing, the really awesome thing is, with the exception of one, not a single review has questioned the importance of the conversation. Plenty of people think that I’m an asshole, plenty of people think that the style should have been different, but there’s been about 150 or 200 reviews of the book and exactly one has said, “This is not something we need to think about.” And it just confirms what I was suspecting, or at least hoping, which is that everyone cares about this—they really, really do. It’s just a question of connecting the dots in a certain way. I think we need to move away from the dichotomy of, “you are either a vegetarian or you are not,” to “you are either someone who cares about this or you are not”—because in fact everyone cares about it. We just have to find a way to appeal to this broad consensus.
The meat industry goes to such lengths to conceal their actions. Does anybody really think it’s right to put pregnant pigs in crates? Nobody does. Nobody really thinks it’s right to put egg-laying hens in tiny cages for their entire lives.
I think the movement has lost something in the last couple of years with the infighting and divisiveness. It is important whether you are fundamentally against the consumption of animals or not, but it’s not as important as all of these overlaps. Everyone agrees on ninety-nine percent of farming, and then there’s great disagreement about the other one percent. So why are we losing time with the one percent when we could be gaining so much with the ninety-nine percent?
E: If you could get one famous person to go vegetarian this Thanksgiving, who would it be?
JSF: I don’t know if I think of it in quite those terms. Like I was saying, there’s something that seems dichotomist about that—turkey or no turkey. Look, someone like Glenn Beck could not have a turkey and that’s fine, but what I would so strongly prefer is that he had a week-long series about animal agriculture in America. I have no interest in prying a turkey from his hands. Frankly, he could do so much more good in the world then his individual choice.
I was on Martha Stewart the other day and she did a whole show devoted to the problems with the meat industry. It was so incredibly brave. She got on television and said, “The meat industry is bad. The meat industry is secretive. We don’t want these products.” She said she’s having a vegetarian thanksgiving. This issue’s going to tip by people acting like that.
You know, Glenn Beck already cares about this stuff, he does. I mean these are very traditional American values—they’re even conservative. I would love to engage him in a conversation where that became apparent, where he left not feeling angry with me, but angry at this industry that’s taking advantage of his values. It’s all about finding ways to mainstream this and to make all these alliances visible, and then maybe one day we’ll have the luxury of getting into arguments over that one percent.
A big thank you to Jonathan Safran Foer for spending time with us and to Farm Sanctuary for hosting this event. Make sure you pickup a copy of Eating Animals, and don’t forget to visit FarmSanctuary.org to find out more about all their Thanksgiving events.
photo credit: mhpbooks.com