Described by Amazon as «the most original book on the subject of food written this century», Eating Animals is Jonathan Safran Foer's passionate exploration of the economic, social and environmental effects of our desire to eat meat. It contains some shocking information about the state of the fishing industry, which Moshi Moshi aims to improve.
Take "bycatch": fish caught unintentionally while intending to catch other fish. According to Foer, «The average shrimp-trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures overboard as bycatch.» Longlines, which stretch hooks with bait over distances of up to 30 miles, are no better. «Roughly 4.5 million sea animals are killed as bycatch in longline fishing every year,» Foer writes. This includes, «3.3million sharks, 1 million marlins, 60,000 sea turtles, 75,000 albatross, and 20,000 dolphins and whales.»
Greenpeace states, «The scale of this mortality is such that bycatch may affect the structure and function of marine systems at the population, community and ecosystem levels.»
Global demand for fish makes it impossible to go back to gaffing fish with a spear. If the number of fish caught for sale is reduced, the price will rise.
So what can be done to prevent bycatch in such extraordinary numbers? Greenpeace argues for the use of turtle exclusion devices to avoid killing turtles, bird-scaring devices to move albatross and other birds away from fisheries, and "pingers", sound-emitting devices which deter dolphins. These devices will help but are not a complete solution. In fact, Greenpeace states, «the only effective way of preventing bycatch is to discontinue the use of particularly damaging fishing methods.»
Foer, a vegetarian, does not seek to convert those who eat meet, but rather tries to inform them of the effect of their diet. «Imagine being served a plate of sushi,» he writes. «But this plate also holds all of the animals that were killed for your serving of sushi. The plate might have to be five feet across.»