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Foer discusses ethics of eating

On Wednesday, Jonathan Safran Foer, the acclaimed author of “Everything is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” spoke in a virtual classroom session about the importance of vegetarianism and taking a stand against factory farms.

According to Foer, factory farms across the United States engage in pervasive animal cruelty not sufficiently regulated, yet many people are content to pretend nothing is happening.

“I think that vegetarianism is a very powerful way to respond to factory farming,” Foer said. “The problem is there is the middle space — you know, how is it that we acknowledge we don’t like animals being tortured, and yet we continue to eat them?”

Foer encouraged people not to rationalize their decision to eat meat if they are against factory farming.

“I think the way that we can say it is the way we justify all of our hypocrisies is that we are human,” Foer said. “The challenge is to not fear the hypocrisy more than we fear the problems that we are trying to solve … We need to open up a lot of space for ordinary people to enter.”

He spoke about individual empowerment and said that refraining to eat meat can have a greater impact than people think.

“It might sound naive to suggest that whether you order a chicken patty or a veggie burger is a profoundly important decision,” Foer wrote in his 2009 book, “Eating Animals.” “Then again, it certainly would have sounded fantastic if in the 1950s you were told that where you sat in a restaurant or on a bus could begin to uproot racism.”

Blake Wilson, a first-year graduate student studying philosophy, helped organize the event for people interested in the ethical treatment of animals.

He said he was excited to have Foer speak at Binghamton University.

“Well, if you are a fan of him as a writer, it’s a very different approach to have him beaming in live,” Wilson said. “It works quite a bit better than just watching him speak on a video or reading his book. He was able to summarize in a half hour what the book is about, which is raising consciousness on mostly factory farming and the impact of a meat based lifestyle on personal health and the environment and questions relating to the ethical treatment of animals.”