Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This, despite the recent purchase of tempeh

I'm not sure whether this was classic dissertation-writer's procrastination, or a well of contrarianism born of a unprecedentedly unpleasant trip to Wegman's, during which I ended up on the line with the cashier who, for each item, entered a long numerical code in slow motion, even though the scanner seemed to work just fine, and I'd pre-weighed all the necessary items, realizing well into the wait that the shuttle had probably arrived... but I have entered this contest, where the NYT asks you to give an ethical argument for eating meat. I think this means I have descended to a level below "online newspaper commenter," but I'd of course be gobsmackingly thrilled if they print my ramblings. But they won't, so once they announce the winners, expect a version here instead.

4 comments:

Jenny said...

As a vegan with a newly acquired dog who has no interest in eating (and even less ability to digest) the carefully selected vegetarian kibble I am (probably unethically)trying to feed her, I'll be interested to read your essay about meat-eating, that is if I can still afford to pay my internet bill after I spend all my income on premium organic dog food.

In case you're interested, this contest is (predictably) getting a lot of buzz in the vegan blogosphere. Carol J. Adams points out that the panel of judges consists entirely of white men and ignores the growing number of prominent vegan feminists:
http://caroljadams.blogspot.com/2012/03/sexual-politics-of-ethics.html
And one vegan website is holding an essay contest on why eating meat is unethical:
http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2012/03/calling-all-herbivores-tell-us-why-its-unethical-to-eat-meat-a-contest/
Besides the obvious preaching-to-the-choir critique of that effort, I do think they make a good point that it's not exactly fair to portray meateaters as some sort of under-represented minority voice on the issue, since, you know, ninety percent of Americans eat meat.

Phoebe said...

Jenny,

It is striking that the panelists are all white men. Why white, I couldn't say (is ambient societal racism not explanation enough? or is it just that any group of five might tilt that way without any massive significance behind it? but what about the paper's tendency to correct for this? why not here?) but as for why male, that strikes me as being pretty much because food is only a Serious Moral Topic if men are discussing it. If women talk/write about food, it's sharing cupcake recipes. Or so goes the assumption.

As for why it's unethical to eat meat, this is in some respects not so different from the abortion debate: either you think it's wrong to kill an animal for food, or you don't. Sad, anthropomorphized shots of livestock probably aren't going to convert the unconvinced, but my more activist friends on Facebook are giving it their all.

Although I guess there are some vegetarians who oppose eating meat because of how most meat is produced. I'm not sure I understand that kind of vegetarianism - the solution, if that's your only concern, would be to eat (much) less meat, but only from whichever approved sources, and not to declare that you, as a rule, would not ever ever ever eat meat. Is it vegetarianism in solidarity with those who don't have the cultural capital to track down the "good" meat? Who knows.

Anyway, personally, I'd be just fine as a vegetarian, but for reasons I get into in the contest entry that will end up here, I don't call myself one. Vegan, I wouldn't last a day, because my own "kibble" (pasta, salads) is so vastly improved by the addition of cheese.

Jenny said...

I think you're exactly right about how a panel of men endows food journalism with the seriousness worthy of a NYT essay contest. You'd think they could have at least cast about for an imposing woman emeritus philosophy professor or something, though... I guess they wanted recognizable names above all.

And my own experience does suggest that animals-as-food is an on/off switch that's difficult to control or account for. But I know that I used to think nothing of eating meat and now I can't think of it except as eating animals. I also have trouble understanding the position of vegetarians who object to meat production but not animal consumption per se. But my bias leads me to assume that anyone who thinks long and deeply about what they eat will eventually stop eating meat, which is clearly not the case.
And isn't "kibble" a funny word? I think it has seeped into my vocabulary from all the dog food reading I have been doing.

Phoebe said...

"But my bias leads me to assume that anyone who thinks long and deeply about what they eat will eventually stop eating meat, which is clearly not the case."

I think part of the issue is also that if you think long and hard about where any of your food - or anything you consume, for that matter - comes from, you'll be horrified. There's some book out about where tomatoes come from, and just hearing the author interviewed on some podcast makes me feel guilty when I have one of those. Presumably there's a story like that behind most every ingredient. And once you're thinking along those lines, it gets harder to make a binary divide between ethical and vegan, on the one hand, and unethical and omnivorous, on the other. At which point it really does come down to what you think of the fact that an animal was killed for your food.

And... kibble is indeed hilarious. Also "feed." Once you're feeding a dog, you can't help but a) consider your own food "feed", and b) wonder why, if your dog can mostly sustain itself on stuff from cans/a bulk bag, why is your own grocery shopping so varied? How impractical!