October 29, 2009



Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer

In his new guise as an intellectual ethicist, Jonathan Safran Foer has not only published a new book to promote vegetarianism counter-intuitively titled Eating Animals, he’s taken on one of the most ferocious meat-eaters of them all: Kitchen Confidential author Anthony Bourdain.

In an interview with Adam Sternbergh for New York Magazine, Foer told of having been a guest on the CNN program Larry King Live (another counter-intuitive title) along with Bourdain to discuss the topic “Is Meat Safe?”:

We were backstage in the green room and he was saying factory farming is the worst blight in America right now. In fact, I’d say he agreed with everything in my book. Then we get on the show and he says he thinks humans are designed to eat stupid little animals. Now, that annoys me. I find that disappointing — that his shtick is much more important to him than what he knows to be right.

But as a subsequent item on New York‘s Grub Street blog points out, that’s not exactly what Bourdain said on the show. They quote him saying that “I think the standard practices of outfits like Cargill and some of the larger meat processors and grinders in this country are unconscionable and border on the criminal … I think certainly we could eat better in this country. It would probably not be a bad thing if we ate less meat, if the ratio of animal protein to vegetables changed along the lines of the Chinese model.”

Then, Bourdain himself wrote in to comment on Foer’s remarks at the Grub Street item:


Strangely enough, Mr. Foer’s comments to me immediately following the show were somewhat at odds with his account above. “I would have been afraid to say what you just said. They (the meat industry) are really litigious. They sued Oprah for less.” Given the perception that I am an ally of all things meat, I would have imagined that Mr. Foer–like the representative of the industry that night–was surprised at my heartfelt anger, incredulity and disgust with the practices described in the Times account. Sure caught ol’ Larry off guard.

Instead, Mr. Foer is surprised that after a casual and brief conversation with Himself, I did not instantly convert to vegetarianism–somewhere between green room and studio.

I would suggest that perhaps he flatters himself.

Foer apparently hasn’t commented further yet, but many others have on the various New York posts — such as one commentator at the Grub Street item who says, “Jonathan looks tasty, let’s eat him.”


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives