This guy knows what's up. And so do I.
I've embarked on a mission. Since middle school I've restricted my meat intake, cutting out cows, pigs, sheep (not that I ever even ate sheep) and fish (but I didn't even like fish anyway). Then I discovered I really liked fish and kept my meat-eating to fish and poultry. Then I more or less discovered (rediscovered? remembered? acknowledged?) the pain and suffering most poultry endures to become food, so I decided to (mostly) stick to free range birds and sustainable fish. Then I discovered how expensive it is to eat animals and by default became a vegetarian-when-alonekind of person who ate chicken and fish when someone else was doing the grocery shopping.
Then I read Foer's book, Eating Animals. I learned cows are treated the best of any animal we eat (which is still awful), pigs are treated better than they used to (which is still awful), and birds and fish suffer the worst (which is awful). Which is interesting because I and probably others restricted our diets to poultry because we figured cows were too... human... to eat. Chickens are birds and fish are fish, and they're much further removed evolutionarily from us mammals. But as Foer rightfully points out, they still feel pain and their ethical regulations are kind of nonexistent, with stuffed bird cages stacked one on top of the other and fish left hanging on hooks for hours at best. So when you look at it that way, the best thing to do is to be a vegetarian.
Actually, the best thing to do is to be vegan, but that takes resources unavailable to many people. And, let's face it, I'm not giving up cheese.
As Foer mentions several times throughout his book, what you eat is a choice. You choose to order chicken or beef or fish or no meat at all. Every meal is a choice, and every time you choose meat you support the meat industry, like it or not. Foer, obviously, chooses to be a vegetarian and to raise his young son vegetarian.
But here's where I disagree with him: though he never once wrote that the goal of his book was for everyone to become vegetarian, he did say those in the know about the animal industry have a responsibility to inform others of the meaning of their choice. Which means you should inform your friends and family that their turkey sandwich is the end product of hundreds of thousands of birds suffering cruel torture their whole, short lives until dying a slow and painful death, and that's to say nothing of the toxins and bacteria found in the meat. The biggest problem with that plan, though, is it's a surefire way to lose friends and alienate people. And then what good are you to the vegetarian mission if everyone you know thinks you're crazy?
Where I do agree with Foer is that every time you eat you influence others. I believe that is a stronger method of conversion, even if just for one meal, than scaring your tablemates with horror stories of factory farms. When others see your delicious vegetarian meal (creamy mushroom risotto, for example... mmmmm) they'll be more apt to think they ought to give that a try next time. But if you're sitting at the table with a salad and everyone else ordered a juicy steak, telling them the pain and suffering that cow endured right before they take their first bites isn't going to win anyone over.
I think I can sum up America's problem with meat consumption in one sentence: we believe that we have to have some sort of meat on the plate or it's not a complete meal. (For example, bacon and eggs at breakfast, turkey sandwich at lunch, meat sauce on pasta, and pepperoni on pizza.) When we have a vegetarian meal we think we're being so healthy or giving up so much, when we really aren't. The picture below is what I ate while typing this paragraph.
A black bean, corn and onion mix, spooned onto a tortilla with melted cheese, and topped with bell peppers, tomatoes and spinach. I served myself with a side of mango salsa and tortilla chips, and I felt very satisfied.
And speaking of myself (because, after all, this is my blog and I am writing about my own little mission for truth), I made the decision to not make a decision. Ta da! I've read one book on the subject and there are hundreds more equally full of good information. I know what my conscience tells me, but I know what my reality is. For the time being, at least until I can read some more books, I'm going to be as vegetarian as possible. It's actually very easy to be vegetarian: meat is just too expensive to buy regularly anyway, and vegetarian dishes from restaurants are almost always as good or better (vegetarian burrito from Chipotle FTW!). My biggest hurdle is cooking with friends. Most of my friends enjoy eating meat and because I'm not skilled in the cooking-vegetarian-dishes-that-meat-eaters-would-love field I give up easily. I'm comfortable enough buying fish that the EDF says are sustainable or eating fish my friends caught themselves (my lady and I make BOMB fish tacos), I'll still put chicken in my enchiladas until I figure out a good meat-free alternative and I'll still eat eggs (which I'll do my best to buy ethically). My homework includes reading The Omnivore's Dilemma (for funzies I'm re-reading The Jungle while I'm in between researching), experimenting with new recipes and shopping for ethical animal products. It will be a process, but it's been an interest of mine for more than a decade, and one I feel compelled to research until I'm satisfied with my personal answer.