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'Eating Animals' author Jonathan Safran Foer: Visiting factory farms, slaughterhouses part of writing process

November 16, 2009 | 12:46 pm

Author Jonathan Safran Foer's latest, "Eating Animals," represents a departure from his previous work (he's published several novels; "Eating Animals" is nonfiction), and it's getting tongues wagging about its subject matter -- factory farming and its effects on animals, human health and the environment.  Our colleague Carolyn Kellogg had an interesting question-and-answer session with Foer recently on The Times' books blog, Jacket Copy; here's an excerpt:

Safran Foer Jacket Copy: In your research, did you ever find yourself in a place you didn't want to be, or observing something you didn't want to look at?

Jonathan Safran Foer: All the time. I would say that was the better part of my research. I didn't especially want to go inside factory farms, certainly not in the middle of the night. And I didn't like being in slaughterhouses. But -- that's OK. It was more important to me to see with my own eyes, rather than trust somebody else's version, or watch a video. Who knows how representative videos are.

JC: Did you take notes when you were in the slaughterhouses? When you were in the moment, how did you document what you would be writing about later?

JSF: Often I would go back to the car and write everything down. I had a camera, but usually what would happen was I would get back in the car, and then spend however long was necessary to write everything down.

JC: As a writer, you set yourself a difficult task -- in order for me as a reader to understand how horrible those scenes are, you have to evoke them.

JSF: Well, they're naturally horrible. Sometimes just a simple description is enough. I think often, in the book, I am detailing some of the most horrible things in the most plain unadorned way.


Photo: Foer in a 2002 photo. Credit: Robert Spencer / For the Times

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