But is even veganism really enough? The cost that consumer society imposes on the planet’s fifteen or so million non-human species goes way beyond either meat or eggs. Bananas, bluejeans, soy lattes, the paper used to print this magazine, the computer screen you may be reading it on—death and destruction are embedded in them all. It is hard to think at all rigorously about our impact on other organisms without being sickened.
“Eating Animals” closes with a turkey-less Thanksgiving. As a holiday, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But this is Foer’s point. We are, he suggests, defined not just by what we do; we are defined by what we are willing to do without. Vegetarianism requires the renunciation of real and irreplaceable pleasures. To Foer’s credit, he is not embarrassed to ask this of us.
Last week, President Obama declared swine flu (H1N1) a national emergency. This declaration allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive federal rules for hospitals. This, in turn, allows hospitals to commandeer alternative sites as treatment areas for H1N1 patients. Even the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, has come down with a bout. In the US, 11 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine have so far been distributed, providing tidy profits for producers GlaxoSmithKline (Pandemrix) and Baxter (Celvapan). Understanding the vegan connection to swine flu is essential to understand how it was spread, and how to prevent future pathogens from becoming public health disasters.