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Author Jonathan Safran Foer on Hunting, PETA, and Disagreeing with Michael Pollan

Foer's new book, Eating Animals, uncovers some ugly truths about America's meat production system, but he also weaves in stories from his own family history.

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MJ:In the book, you disagree with Michael Pollan on a number of points. Has he responded?

JSF: It's funny, I agree with him on so many more. One is allowed to disagree with someone respectfully, and I hope it was respectful. There's nobody who's done more for this issue than he has, and I have nothing but respect for him. It doesn't mean I don't disagree with him on a few points, and those points might even be important, but they're exceedingly minor compared to our points of agreement. He really was an inspiration for the book. The point is, he's so so smart about so so much that when he doesn't take something to the place that it obviously should go then it's bothersome, because he's so thorough, because he's so intelligent. If he were some schlub it wouldn't matter at all.

MJ: You are almost a veganright now, right?

JSF: That is what I am moving toward. 

MJ:Drinking milk and eating eggs, even eating soy -- there are problems with all those choices.

JSF: There's an important point there: Ninety-eight percent of all the soy that's raised goes to livestock. So people make fun of vegetarians for being tofu eaters, but no one eats tofu like steak eaters, by a long shot. It's also funny that tofu is held up as what a vegetarian eats. I mean maybe I eat tofu once a month, but other than that, never. All of it, statistically speaking, is going to livestock. 

MJ: My point is that it's hard to make a completely blameless choice.

JSF: It's impossible to. It's completely impossible to. I think that people have framed this conversation in absolutes. Either you are or you aren't. The word vegetarian, I think, does a disservice because there are a lot of people who care but maybe don't care, or can't care in an ultimate way. If you think about environmentalism, nobody would ask, "Are you an environmentalist or not?" The question doesn't make any sense. And the notion that the first time you drive in a car or fly in a plane that you should throw your hands up in the air and say, "Okay, well I give up. I'm not going to try at all anymore," is crazy. If people thought about food more like how we think about the environment, a lot of people would be eating differently and the whole system would look a lot different.


Kiera Butler is an associate editor at Mother Jones. For more of her stories, click here .

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