A collection of cheap shots

For your reading (dis)pleasure, I’m offering here a list of the petty criticisms and backhanded jabs from Michael Pollan’s discussion of animal rights.

  • “Vegetarianism is more popular than it has ever been, and animal rights, the fringiest of fringe movements until just a few years ago, is rapidly finding its way into the cultural mainstream. I’m not completely sure why this should be happening now, given that humans have been eating animals for tens of thousands of years without too much ethical heartburn.” (305)
  • Posed as a possible answer to the preceding question: “Perhaps as the sway of tradition in our eating decisions weakens, habits we once took for granted are thrown up in the air, where they’re more easily buffeted by the force of a strong idea or the breeze of fashion.” (306)
  • “Because Singer is so skilled in argument, for many readers it is easier to change” (307). (See my comments.)
  • “Liberation is the last thing such a creature wants. (Which might explain the contempt many animal people display toward domesticated species.)” (320).
  • “A deep current of Puritanism runs through the writings of the animal philosophers, an abiding discomfort not just with our animality, but with the animals’ animality, too” (321).
  • “To contemplate such questions from the vantage of a farm, or even a garden, is to appreciate just how parochial, and urban, an ideology animal rights really is” (325).
  • “All of which was making me feel pretty good about eating meat again and going hunting — until I recalled that these utilitarians can also justify killing retarded orphans. Killing just isn’t the problem for them that it is for other people, including me” (328).
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2 Comments »

  1. Colinski said

    Wow, that first one makes me imagine someone in the 1800’s writing, “The slavery-abolitionist movement is more popular than it has ever been, and slave rights, the fringiest of fringe movements until just a few years ago, is rapidly finding its way into the cultural mainstream. I’m not completely sure why this should be happening now, given that humans have been keeping slaves for tens of thousands of years without too much ethical heartburn.”

  2. Delianth said

    What.

    “Vegetarianism is more popular than it has ever been, and animal rights, the fringiest of fringe movements until just a few years ago, is rapidly finding its way into the cultural mainstream. I’m not completely sure why this should be happening now, given that humans have been eating animals for tens of thousands of years without too much ethical heartburn.” (305)

    “Fringiest of fringe movements?” Really? We’re fringier than fucking child molesters who want to legalize child molestation? Fuck you, Pollan. Go crawl back into the hole you came from.

    For such a fringy movement, we sure do get a lot of attention and flak.

    Paul Campos referred to vegans as the Hezbollah sect of vegetarians in The Obesity Myth. He’s also very sheltered when it comes to food, because he can’t imagine how a vegetarian could be happy until he tastes Indian food. For some reason, carnists usually don’t comprehend eating vegan, which to me suggests something more chemical/ideological than biological.

    * Posed as a possible answer to the preceding question: “Perhaps as the sway of tradition in our eating decisions weakens, habits we once took for granted are thrown up in the air, where they’re more easily buffeted by the force of a strong idea or the breeze of fashion.” (306)

    Uh, yeah. This is an ENORMOUS “no.” We eat more animal products than ever before. By far, the peasant populations of most countries have always had a primarily plant-based diet, from the French to the Aztecs. Animal products have always been a luxury reserved for the rich or special feasting holidays. He’s getting his idea of “traditional food” from the aristocratic tier of most countries.

    In Japan, “traditional foods” means miso, tofu, soy sauce, natto (just to get the soy products out of the way), burdock, onions, groundfruit like gourds and squash, fruits (especially semi-temperates like peaches, plums, cherries and persimmons), many different kinds of greens, yams and various other tubers, and most importantly, forty bazillion varieties of rice. Fish was always relatively rare (at least by our standards of animal consumption) for towns that weren’t directly on the coast. Dairy was nonexistent.

    For the Aztecs, “traditional foods” meant more kinds of fruit than you can imagine, more varieties of fruit than you think exist, spices, several kinds of corn (especially white desert corn), tomatoes, peppers, at least twenty varieties of avocados, tubers like plantains and sweet potatoes, sweet edible barks like cinnamon (which was commonly used as a sweetener; chew fresh cinnamon and you’ll see why), leafy greens, some aquatic greens, grains like quinoa and amaranth, and probably a lot of stuff I’m missing. Honey was rare because primarily European honeybees create it; we actually got the “Africanized bee” by trying to breed Brazilian native bees with European honeybees to create a honeybee that could survive in the tropics. Meat was also relatively rare, because it was primarily farther south that llamas were being farmed. Dairy was nonexistent.

    In Germany, from which I hail, the diet was actually not so sausage-based as people perceive it to be, and in fact still isn’t. Bread comprised the main body of food with more than 10 different strains and flavors of wheat, and they also ate lentils, flaxseed, over thirty different kinds of berries (a lot were jellied or cooked to be edible), potatoes to some point, farmed vegetables, and the numerous foraged vegetables found in the region, some 10-20% of which we still know of today. Meat was rare because, once you kill an animal, guess what? Zie can’t do anything anymore, it’s DEAD.

    Seriously, he’s just uneducated as hell.

    * “Liberation is the last thing such a creature wants. (Which might explain the contempt many animal people display toward domesticated species.)” (320).

    Let’s put this in fucking perspective for a minute.

    “Liberation is the last thing such a creature wants. (Which might explain the contempt many otherwise progressive people display towards feminist women.)”

    “Liberation is the last thing such a creature wants. (Which might explain the contempt many people display towards so-called ‘battered wives’.)”

    “Liberation is the last thing such a creature wants. (Which might explain the contempt many whites display towards Hispanic farm workers.)”

    Michael Pollan is a white, straight, rich, thin, cisgendered man. What a stupid victim-blaming douche.

    * “A deep current of Puritanism runs through the writings of the animal philosophers, an abiding discomfort not just with our animality, but with the animals’ animality, too” (321).

    Oh, yes. I have an abiding discomfort with our animality. Not people like Pollan, who routinely insist that because we can’t communicate with animals to disprove it, they must therefore be fucking dumb, and who routinely insist that humans are somehow superior to animals (like civilization, technology and shit deserves recognition and awe from animals, who are perfectly happy living their own lives, thankyouveryfuckingmuch).

    Nope. It’s totally me. You know, the vegans, it’s not like animal rights is the idea that we should leave animals the fuck alone and not bother with them and that while death is natural, torture isn’t. We’re the ones who want to tie the animals down and pump them full of soy.

    Oh SNAP.

    * “To contemplate such questions from the vantage of a farm, or even a garden, is to appreciate just how parochial, and urban, an ideology animal rights really is” (325).

    Say what?

    That isn’t even an argument. It’s just meant to imply that vegans are naive because farms and those who tend them have inherently more wisdom and knowledge than someone living in the city. It doesn’t make an argument that veganism is naive, either, it’s just another fucking logical fallacy: Guilt by Contrast (the counterpart being Guilt by Association).

    * “All of which was making me feel pretty good about eating meat again and going hunting — until I recalled that these utilitarians can also justify killing retarded orphans. Killing just isn’t the problem for them that it is for other people, including me” (328).

    Dude, projection/sublimation/compartmentalization much? Isn’t this the guy who just killed a pig and claimed that vegans were uncomfortable with our “animality”? (What is that even supposed to mean? We’re like them but they’re not like us?)

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