Last Weekend I went to New York City to photograph the Farm Sanctuary Thanksgiving Dinner at the Tavern on the Green, which is located in Central Park. I was looking forward to hearing the talk by guest speaker Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated and the new and controversial book Eating Animals. I first heard of the book when news of it convincing Natalie Portman to go vegan was circulating around the Internet (Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of Ms. Portman). All the buzz around the book was surely one of the reasons the event sold out so quickly.
I have had a chance to read Eating Animals since the event, and it is pretty good. I think it will get lots of people thinking about veganism, and the atrocities of factory farming. I can't say I agree with Mr Foer completely in his views and ethics, as he still condones some forms of animal exploitation even if he does not participate in them. It seems he avoids products from factory farms and is vegetarian, but is not completely vegan.
I find the strong points in the book to be his critical insights into the power of tradition in influencing what we eat and the stories we create around food. His book and his talk at the event revolve around his grandmother who is Jewish and spent the final years of WWII running from Nazis and scavenging for food, but who would not eat non-kosher meat even to save her own life. Her explanation was that "If nothing matters nothing's worth saving". In this Foer finds the kernel of reason that should convince us all not to support factory farms and to boycott their products. I applaud him for calling Michael Pollan out on his wobbly ethics, pointing out in Eating Animals that Pollan will still eat factory farmed food even though he knows the facts. Like Pollan, many people who believe the myth of humane meat will try to eat only "free range" or "organic" meat but are easily swayed into eating factory farmed meat when it is inconvenient to get the feel good flesh. Humane meat, besides being a ridiculous concept, is a slippery slope. My belief is that the commodification of animals always leads people to a system that is oppressive, violent and unnecessary. We are better off evolving towards a more compassionate and sustainable way of being in the world. Foer may find my stance unrealistic, but I am a visionary and not a skeptic. We need a critical mass, and soon.
Below are some of my favorite photos from the event. If you would like to see more check out my flickr page, but I would love to have you comment on this page first!
Thanks to my friend Andreas for putting me up Saturday night and buying me dinner!
Danielle Konya from Vegan Treats poses in front of King Kong. She says she loves gorillas.
Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur giving a thankful talk.
Farm Sanctuary's new Executive Director Dr. Allan Kornberg gives a brief talk.
A close up of Jonathan Safran Foer
A plate full of decadent vegan deserts, mmmmm...
Me with Gene Baur and my good friend Paul Saccone
Here I am with my dearest Farm Sanctuary friends: Samantha Ragsdale, Gene Baur and Susie Coston