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Culinary Conundrum

So I just finished reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Normally that'd be a hyperlink, cuz, we're on the Internet right now and that's kind of how things are done. But in this specific case it isn't, because I'm honestly not sure I want anyone to read that book because of me.

The good about the book is that it convinced me that my previous obsession over the point of slaughter was missing the point, that's the deal farm animals have with us.

His point was that our side of the deal was to ensure that the animals had a better life than they would have had in the wild, and he argues that up until the invention of large scale farming, we held true to that, but at this point it would be very difficult to argue that 99% of the animals are being raised in anything resembling non-cruel conditions.

It is one of the few nuanced and sane points he makes in the book, which is otherwise filled with many very gross details which don't inform a debate on the ethics of large scale food manufacturing, and the consumer's responsibility when business makes the logical step of not giving a shit about what the animals feel anymore.

Rather than go on about my current potpourri of dietary do's and don't I've acquired, and rather analyze this last bit more. In one section of the book he points out that part of the reason we've begun large scale mechanization of animal husbandry is that we finally just got the technology to do it. We finally got to the point where it was possible to control the ventilation, feeding, lighting, medicating and watering of animals on a large scale.

Before this, it was in the best interest of the farmer to keep his animals happy and healthy, since they were just less work that way.

While the author didn't say it completely, it reminded me of the Stanford Prison Guard Experiment. Where we suddenly found ourselves able to have total control over animals, and that it is simple human nature that amoral behaviors begin.

For much of my life I thought much of the evil of the world was concentrated in the concept of corporations allowing a thousand people to do a thousandth of a bit of evil. If one man murders another, he is charged and brought to trial. If hundreds of Walmart shoppers stampede a worker to death for Black Friday deals, no one is charged.

After reading that bit, it occurred to me that, yes, corporations are often tools used in that manner, but underlying it is a clear human desire to dominate and subjugate.

The reason I even bring this up, is because I've been having a hard time understanding exactly what is going on with the Tea Party movement at the moment. At many points I just wrote the entire thing off as unvented racism with no other outlet. But once I worked out that it is an innate human trait for those with great power to act with evil intent towards weaker ones, I could no longer rule out the idea that Government itself could be both used, and viewed as a thing of concern.

So, whlie I disagree with who exactly is at the top of the food chain, I at least understand the concern some Tea Party members might feel. One party controlling the Legislative and Executive branches sounds scary, they've been passing a lot of hyped laws that sounds sweeping. If I hadn't been following just how real the checks a few Senators in the Senate have been wielding these past years it might scare me too.

The ending of the book is anti-climatic. He kind of kicks some stones around and mentions that "being vegetarian" is just easier, which is an annoyingly vague conclusion for a book that shredded what I find palatable at the moment with some off-hand gross out factoids which I don't have the stomach to fact check further. However, he does also mention that one solution to ending cruelty it that shame is a powerful tool. That there needs to be both a complete vacuum of power and privacy for truly unspeakable things to happen.

And while I very much doubt that cameras are going to be allowed on factory farms any time soon, I think the last point is an important one for our other affairs that are not wholey conducted within giant metal boxes with artificial suns.

I don't see a lot of easy political solutions for a lot of our problems, but if one thing is capable of democratizing shame, I still have faith in the Internet. While right now it is being used for people to simply reaffirm their own opinion biases, I have faith that the pendulum will swing back, that we'll find a way to shine light in the embarrassing corners of evil done under either corporate or government skirts.

I dream of the day where earth shattering scandals and unearthed skeletons are no longer be dished by men in dark parking garages, but by a comic picture of a cat with a pithy but eviscerating caption.


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Meta Information:

Title: Culinary Conundrum
Date posted: 23 Sep '10 - 23:22
Filed under: General
Word Count: 869 words
Good Karma: 70 (vote)
Bad Karma: 51 (vote)
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