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For Foer, Meat Is Murder ... And Worse

How did Jonathan Safran Foer become a vegetarian activist?

Foer, best known for the novels Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, writes in his new book, Eating Animals, that he struggled with ambivalence over eating meat for most of his life, but never committed until he adopted his dog, George.

"She changed things for me," Foer tells Guy Raz. "This dog opened up the way that I thought about animals."

Foer argues that there's no difference between the value of the lives of pets and the lives of the animals that we eat every day.

"If our next-door neighbor kept a dog in the conditions that well more than 90 percent of pigs are kept in, we would call the police. We wouldn't just be offended. We wouldn't just think it was wrong. We would be compelled to take action," Foer says.

But Eating Animals isn't just an anti-meat screed, or an impassioned case for vegetarianism. Instead, Foer tells a story that is part memoir and part investigative report. And it's a book that takes America's meat-dominated diet to task.

Foer says his problem with meat isn't that some people make the decision to eat it; instead, it's that people don't think about the decision. And that, he argues, is just how the American factory farm system wants it: "What does it say that there's an entire industry ... that asks us to give them money, asks us to ingest in our bodies and to feed to our children a product whose production they won't let us see?"

Foer says overconsumption of meat — and the factory system that produces it — cause multiple health problems and contribute hugely to global warming and other environmental disasters. These factors make the purchase of a cheap breast of chicken much more expensive than it might initially seem.

"More than anything, I want people to come away with the idea that meat matters," Foer says. "I am not asking other people to come to these conclusions. I am asking people to see something that they already know, which is that what we choose to eat when ordering at a restaurant, what we choose to buy at a supermarket, is frankly one of the most important decisions we'll make all day."

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