Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer: Max Kerns

October 5, 2016

 

I found Eating Animals to be a great read for anyone that has ever even slightly thought about the food they consume on a daily basis.  It is highly entertaining and resembles the sort of stories one might tall around the dinner table. However, I should warn, this book and food tend not to go together. It is honest and blunt at times but keep the reader actively engaged even when they might not want to be. The dialogue that starts with a new father, concerned for his child, unleashes a journey into the world of factory farms, animal cruelty, and general production of food for the masses. It even goes as far as, to try to explain some of the deep rooted issues we have when it comes to our own consumption of meat. The book suggests that in the end when thinking about food, the almost logical discourse is one of vegetarianism, though it even suggests that the book is not a straightforward case. What the author opens is a dialogue that many can discuss and understand. The systems in place are far from perfect and reading this book helps the individual gain some insight to their own consumption of food with the implications it has on a much larger scale.

 

I have decided to do my discussions a little different this week as the book covers so many different ideas and topics. I will be using a bit bigger of a brush and apologize if anyone is offended. This is something I have always thought about throughout my life and have questions.

 

 I was and have been an on and off again vegetarian since I was a very young child. I was even really extreme two times in my life and was strict vegan the longest run was about 3 years.

 

I do believe that as a member of the human race we should treat animals with better care and conditions. Below are some exploratory questions that I pose in order to better understand my personal ideas.

 

Some things the book made me think about: (I would like to add this is a very rough draft for ideas for a class discussion, this book made me think quite a bit on the idea of eating animals. I would like to come back to better organize these thoughts, but if you proceed to read this, know these are thoughts simply that came from the ideas in the book.)

 

Does my dog love me? Or am I in a symbiotic relationship with a food begger..

 

In several ideas / concepts in the books we are given an idea that eating meat it barbaric, in round about ways, one of the most profound to me was “a case for eating dogs”. I always find it interesting that dog becomes on the most widely used examples when it comes to eating meat vs not eating meat. It is very interesting that every culture has its own taboos on which animals to eat and which we do not eat. Is this something that happens only when a society has options? I am not so sure that pioneers or humans living off the land gave much thought to eating to surviving. So I am curious if this is typically branded from a more modern perspective. I know many religious teachings have implications as well.

 

So I was thinking as I was lying in bed about my dog and I. Loki has been a wonderful addition and I found the ideas surrounding humane societies, using euthanized dogs and cats to feed farm animals very interesting. I also found it interesting that the author suggests we pull out the middle man and just serve dog, though tongue in cheek.

 

As I was more over thinking about my best friend I started to wonder if he has the same questions. I am pretty sure he has mapped out how long we would be locked in a house with no food before he turned on me. I would like to think that he has a higher sense of being. However, at the end of the day if I was dead, and he had no food, I am pretty positive he would do what he had to do. This is not much worse than my own thoughts of if it came down to my own survival would I eat my own dog? I would like to think I was above it. However I do not ever recall a time in my life, with food so readily available, ever being so hungry that I myself would have to act on instinct. The different here is, though my dog may be sad or upset I am gone, I am not sure he would feel remorse for eating me. I on the other hand would have an intense guilt for eating my dog. SO, maybe that is why there is a disconnect on the idea of consumption. Possibly we do not want to have these complex ideas come up every time we shove something into our mouths.

 

 Something about meat?

 

I have always been interested that when I am a vegan or vegetarian why it upsets so many people. I have never rallied or discussed someone else’s eating habits. I just chose for myself. Then as I talk to people they will inevitably find out there becomes this hostile conversation. Why do you not eat meat? That’s crazy? Humans have sharp teeth for a reason? Then they go on to try and entice me back to eating meat, MMMMM, this steak is so juicy and tender. It really seems odd to me that there is something almost inherent of humans in this way. Why would anyone give a shit what I eat it is not on their plate. (I do not argue because it is often wasted) I will say that is was funny when I was vegan I always cooked thanksgiving dinner. 2 Birds and eight hours later, I still cooked out of tradition for the family, though I added a variety of vegan dishes. I did not tell people that the mac and cheese was vegan, or the potato salad, or even the brownies. Though my mom had to leak it after everyone had their first plate. Then everyone became a detective and tried to decide what they could eat and what they wouldn’t eat, as a stand to all meat eaters. The vegan stuff was not bad for them, they just didn’t want anything to do with it.

 

Food and sex:

 

I also find it funny that after years of working in the restaurant industry the way the sexes eat. Par example, when a man and women on a first date go to a restaurant, the man normally orders steak or a burger, and the women normally has a salad. I have seen this time and time again. Is this meat thing driven by an alpha male genetic idea? Women also tend to when not “really” friends play into these roles, oh I want a steak, but I will just have the salad, and the boss lady orders the meat and they all giggle and say oh your being so bad. When a man is in a group of men and orders a salad he is an “insert not so friendly word here” and when men are together there always seems to be a food challenge. So is there a hierarchy of meat?

 

Blood?

 

How rare does it need to be to excite?  Just another curiosity I have, there seems to be this excitement to meat and blood. Does it remind one of the fight verse beast? I know that in my humble lifetime I have seen numerous accounts of people reacting oddly to rare food. Even a little too excited. One of my friends used to tell me when he was hunting that when he killed a deer he would cut a piece from it to taste the fresh kill. We are no longer friends but I always wondered why? I mean there has to be a blood connection here somewhere or there would not be overwhelming sells of vampire related stuff. Is there something about being the top of the food chain? Is it the desire to be beast like? I am unsure. I mean why do people spend hours watching the majestic cheetah take down the gazelle. Does it go to something deeper in the human condition a sadistic nature? Is it equally upsetting when a bear mauls a person, as when a person kills a bear?

 

Food Factories:

 

I think we can all agree they are bullshit. However, maybe what should be called into question is the way we eat really being the bullshit part of it more so than the practice. It is all supply vs demand after all. So in my head when I logically think about my food consumption, I think how different it must be from the typical food consumption of my grandparents and great grandparents. I look at how they ate. Normally meat was purchased to last much longer. You would purchase a part of an animal that normally included the skin and bone. Meat was not eaten at every meal, though different parts were used. The entire part of the animal had some use. Normally in my mind from being small, meat was eaten as a main course on special night normally the weekends, then the rest of the week a stock as used in various other ways to feed the family. I do not think it was ever assumed that one would eat an animal at every meal. There is also a difference when someone has to slaughter the family cow to survive versus a 5 minute exchange at any of the various fast food venues.

 

I also think it is odd that we condemn the behavior of worker in the factory farms, and before you go crazy, please hear me out. I understand that the violent acts the do seem crazy to anyone not working in a food factory. I can only imagine the conditions that these humans work in. It would only seem appropriate that if the conditions the animals live in is detestable than the working conditions could not be much better. I also think working in these conditions, the smells, the sounds, the ideas of coming face to face with what you eat has to have a toll on any individual. I helped one of my grandfather castrate a baby pig, and believe me the scream is something I still remember quite vividly. There has to be some sort of disconnect.

 

Also in addition, how humane is humane? How softly does one kill the animal? Does one lay it down and sing it to death while we feathering its belly? It is silly to me that we make examples out of workers that are destroying these animals for fun, but have no regret sending the burger or steak or chicken or tuna back that was not made to perfection, because everyone attached to the food network knows what perfection is. That meat was not given a goof life and killed for nourishment, it had one bite taken out of it and thrown in a garbage can and a new life was taken. The numerous amount of food that is thrown away just because one wants a taste of it is also a factor.

 

So riddle me this, if you are taking the animals life via a wood chipper that doesn’t always get the job done on first pass, or by stomping its head into a concrete block, what is the difference? It just seems to me that if I am not the one taking the animals life for my consumption with my own two hands, then I should not be surprised if someone else does it in a manner that I disagree with. Sorry this is just my belief.

 

Population is the real issue:

 

When the dialogue goes to vegetarianism I always wonder about the plants as being living things as well. I also wonder more about the dialogue of eating plants only vs meat. It seems to me that there is likely still some balance. I read about how much food could be made with fields that if we didn’t use them for grazing. However, I never truly understand this point and might be somewhat ignorant. It only seems to me that I do not graze constantly. There is a bit of science to the amount of consumption that needs to be done by a human to perform certain activities. I consume for energy. I am pretty sure that grazing on a field of grass is not going to work as an alternative. Now I also know that there are plants that I can eat that are very vitamin rich and other sources of protein in the plant kingdom. Though to feed the mass of people, would there not still need to be fields placed? This leads to less biodiversity and cutting of trees. If we speed this process up and say either we ate all the animals, or went to a vegetarian diet. With the way the population is growing wouldn’t we still need to do the same things? Would there not be outcry in the future to save the green? As that is already a concern? So is the real question we are posing here one of responsibility of the human population. I think that is a much more important question and one that unfortunately opens another dialogue altogether.

 


Pacia Purcell: Eating Animals

October 4, 2016

This book tried to give a look into every aspect of why the way we raise animals for human consumption is bad. It was trying to appeal to every person, because obviously looking at the way these animals are treated is not bad enough to warrant a response towards vegetarianism, or even a response at all. As a vegetarian a lot of what was said in the book resonates with me, and a lot of it I already knew. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and feel like it was a useful read for me and would be for anyone.

There is one part where the author, a vegetarian, says that there are certain circumstances in which he would eat meat and even circumstances in which he said he would eat a dog. But would he eat his own dog or someone else’s? Being a vegetarian for as long I have, a little over 8 years, I have had many people ask me the question of would I ever eat meat again? My answer is no. Then comes the question of what if you were stranded somewhere and the only thing there you could eat was meat would you do it? Well duh. I love animals, but I also love life. If I was in this situation then I would be like an animal again, having to fight to stay alive, eating like an animal. I would not be looking to eat something because I liked the taste, but because I needed to stay alive. However, I cannot say for certainty whether or not I would eat a dog in this situation, but I can say for certainty that I would not eat my own dog.

The book talks about more sustainable and humane ways of raising animals for food, such as on more traditional-like farms. However, meat from these farm generally costs more to raise. They are kept alive longer, meaning more food that one has to feed them over their lifetime. They also require more land space and these farms usually cannot support the vast number of animals that factory farms can. Because the animal’s cost of living increases so does the cost of their bodies after they are slaughtered and sold for meat. Those living in poverty, or who are just cheap and would rather spend their money not supporting a more humane way of raising animals, cannot or will not afford these animals. With the way Americans today eat meat it would be nearly impossible to switch over to these types of farms for the production of all the meat animals. Things would have to go back to how they were before factory farms were the main suppliers of meat, where people ate less meat and had to pay a higher price for it. This is highly unlikely, as people love their meat and the meat industry makes a vast amount of money.

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?” Very few people in this country can plead ignorance to what is happening in and because of the meat industry. People may not know to what extent all of this is happening, but the majority does know that it is happening. So why don’t people stop supporting the industry? If you were walking down the street and you came across someone beating and mutilating a pig as it was screaming (because pigs do scream) would you stop the abuser, or would you keep walking? I believe the majority of people would stop and at least tell the person to stop, but then they might go and have some bacon from a pig that came from a factory farm. What a hypocrite. How are people who eat the meat any better than those who cruelly abuse the animals?

“Not responding is a response – we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.” The author states that this book is not a call to arms to become vegetarian, but it kind of is. By not eating meat people do make an impact. There are so many vegetarians in the country that they do make a difference, even if it is only a small one. Being a vegetarian is taking a stance against the meat industry, but also not being a vegetarian is taking a stance for the meat industry and the inhumane treatment of such animals. People feel a disconnect with their food. However if they knew and saw the story of the chicken that they were eating, would they still eat it?


Notes 9/28: Emily

September 28, 2016

Nature Notes:

“‘This desire stemmed from the belief that man’s essential nature resided in his emotions (‘I feel therefore I am’)  rather than his reason (‘I think therefore I am’)…'” This really represents a struggle of values, emotions versus thought that is around even today and has been for awhile.

“None wanted to trade permanently the benefits of modern life for the charms of existence in rude nature. Most sought only a temporary antidote. ‘Cataracts and mountains are good occasional society’, Wordsworth conceded, ‘but they will not do for constant companions.'” You can often call out the “posers” who call for a return to nature but won’t sleep outside all night.

“human domination over nature ‘did not rest upon columns of steel and shafts of timber but rather upon the soul’s aptitude to use nature in exploits of self-discovery and to contemplate the essential, spiritual harmony exhibited by the created universe.'” This is super interesting, the idea that nature’s true value is it’s assistance is self-discovery and knowledge.

“Besides, these middle-class initiatives often displayed more concern with the detrimental effects that enjoyment of cruelty would have on the moral status of the lower orders and their behavior towards other humans than sincere interest in the well-being of the animal victims. Whereas the ancient Roman elite trusted that gory spectacles would exhaust plebeian emotional urges, rendering the populace more tractable, the British Victorian establishment believed that sadistic amusements exacerbated people’s natural bestiality.”

“Each interest group takes from evolutionary theory and ecological study what best serves its needs.”

We worked on defining ‘Wilderness’ and ‘Nature’. Now I want to define ‘Conservation’, ‘Environmentalism’, and ‘Ecology”.

ecologist=’social healer’, not heal nature but to be healed by it

There seems to be three ways of finding actual value in Nature: Aesthetic value, Spiritual value, or Materialistic value.

Also seems to be two separate moral reasonings for environmentalist concern: concern for the physical earth and concern for humans. For example, the excuse that natural parks should be around for future generations is not true concern for the earth itself but concern of humanity. This is another reason why access to what is preserved is as important as the actual act of preservation.

The idea that the environmental struggle is the the struggle against capitalism is interesting. “In short, who owns the means of production is not such a trivial issue.” I have often felt this way when judging what I could do to really help the environmentalism cause. Effects in industry are far more than the effects of the individual but I personally can’t control industry. So it does feel like the struggle to decide how resources are used with an upper class.

I noticed that often “recreation” was named as one of the main enjoyments/uses of nature.

Coates has a fantastic conclusion at the end of ‘the future of nature’!

Environmental Stuff Notes:

A conversation today brought up a good point about the sustainable practice of buying local foods. What defines local? Within the city? Within the county? Within the state?  Within so many miles such as 150 miles? Is it reasonable to only buy food within the county which has very limiting options or availability? Buying from southern Ohio might be reasonable but this hardly seems as local. What about buying regionally? This still lessens the travel of the food and still ensures variety, quality, and availability.


Nature Pt. 2

September 28, 2016

by Amanda Apicella

I found Coates’ discussion of the controversy regarding “raw” nature and the gardens that altered and proportioned nature for aesthetics quite interesting. Although the “nature” and green is there, it is altered to be mathematically proportioned according to artistic/aesthetic preferences. But the question is, is it still “nature”? Is it “wrong”? There was much controversy in regards to this issue and much of it surrounds the dichotomy between Nature and Art. When Jean-Jacques Rousseau described a particular garden as “… you see nothing here in an exact row, nothing level, Nature plants nothing by the ruler.” he hadn’t known the garden was actually thoroughly contrived and planned, despite appearing less kempt and orderly. Is Nature only Nature or “right” when it is not put there by human hands or when it only appears to have not been put there by human hands?

Coates almost appears to dance around the various approaches and historic attempts to draw the line as to what counts as nature and what doesn’t (or what is the “right” form of nature) as it shifts constantly as the society itself changes over time. There are so many different ideologies and regarding this that this book highlights in order to blur the line and pretty much show how varied the word Nature is in terms of what it describes (as the way nature is viewed/defined and/or treated seems to reflect the changes within a society). It honestly makes me wonder if there is even a “true” definition of nature and it is odd considering it is used in some laws to describe areas yet is extremely vague in reality.

 


History of Horses in North America

September 21, 2016

By: Amanda Apicella

Since it came up in class and I wanted to look into it a bit more I did some digging on the history of horses in North America and in general.

The Arabian is believed to be the oldest breed of horse, some dating the breed back to around 2500 B.C (source) and is known for its endurance and soundness. Another example of an Arabian horse’s appearance can be seen here.

lamirage_body07

A white Arabian horse (image from Wikipedia)

When it comes to horses in general its history is quite complex. The genus Equus seems to have originated in North America around 4 million years ago based on the fossil record. They migrated to Eurasia by crossing the Bering land bridge 2-3 million years ago and there apparently have been migrations to and from North America afterwards as well. Although there were several extinctions of Equus species in North America the last of them died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago (the genus still persisted in Eurasia and Africa though).

nezpercewomen

They were reintroduced to North America by Europeans through colonization and exploration. Native Americans captured and domesticated horses brought over by the Europeans (obtained either through trade, stolen, or re-captured escaped horses) and some tribes ended up being quite skilled in horsemanship and breeding. Although horses were only part of their history for around 150 years (although their ancestors did have experience with them thousands of years ago they were long gone by that time) they are still associated with one another as in many tribes horses became an integral part of their way of life, especially nomadic tribes and the ones that followed/hunted buffalo.

If you want to read more here are some sources:

 


Notes on Nature

September 21, 2016

By: Amanda Apicella

I found his descriptions of the Western World’s different categories of defining nature throughout history to be quite interesting. The way we define “nature” and the basic concept of it has always been fascinating to me as it is one of those terms we tend to take for granted without realizing how abstract and odd it is in that it isn’t clear cut. The different attitudes and approaches towards what “nature” is and humanity’s relationship with it are diverse and vary with different time periods and cultures. Coates appears to explore much of the grey area that surrounds this term/concept as well as critiquing historical and modern attitudes towards it.

I personally found the part where he quoted C.S. Lewis to be quite thought provoking as I personally had never considered this way of looking at it:

“As C.S. Lewis had mused: ‘If ants had a language they would, no doubt, call their anthill an artifact and describe the brick wall in its neighborhood as a natural object. Nature in fact would be for them all that was not ‘ant-made’. Just so, for us, nature is all that is not man-made; the natural state of anything is its state when not modified by man.'”

It highlights how the very concept of nature tends to be based in an arbitrary separation between humans/our influence and the world around us. It’s origin seems to vary between a sense of humans being superior/”above” the world around us (and therefore nature is subject to us/should be conquered) and humans being inherently “wrong” or almost a force of corruption in which nature is considered “pure” and “moral”. This odd balancing act and a culture’s beliefs about humanity’s relationship with nature (whether a part of nature or separate from) is what causes the term nature to have such a ambiguous and continuously changing meaning. Whether a culture/people views itself as separate from “nature” or a part of it seems to drastically affect its treatment of the world around them and animals. It also allows people to pick and choose what forms of “nature” have value and which do not such as certain animals being devalued as to be used for food and treated cruelly but dogs and cats are loved as pets.


Nature, Peter Coates: Max Kerns

September 21, 2016

 

General Quotes and Ideas:

p. 1 – Nature is often presumed to be an objective reality with universal qualities unaffected by considerations of time, culture and place, an assumption especially evident in appeals to nature as a source of external authority.

So nature itself is a perspective of the cultures that directly interact with it. So that is changes throughout time due to cultural interaction and political motives.

p. 2 – the stages of emergence of dualistic, or so-called ‘homocentric’ and ‘anthropocentric’, thinking

p. 3 – Five historically important categories

                1. Nature as a physical place.

                2. Nature as a collective phenomena of the world or universe.

                3. Nature as an essence.

                4. Nature as an inspiration.

                5. Nature as the conceptual opposite of culture.

p. 5 – This is an interesting concept when dealing with Lucretius’s view, how we are connected to nature but the mind then allows us to perceive this nature we are part of. Curiously makes me wonder how many other species are aware of their place in nature.

p. 29 – Interesting idea as the Pythagoreans see all living creatures as having rational thought.

p. 37 – This is a very interesting transition, from “tenderness towards wildlife” (Greek) to the natural world being controlled by human, for consumption and entertainment (Roman).

p. 49 – The separation of human and nature, human rose above and separated from the natural world. What is particularly fascinating to me is that it suggests God transcends as well as human being made in God’s form.

p. 62 – The idea of technology and the effects it has on attitudes towards nature. There is this concept of humans becoming the exploiters of nature.

p. 75-76 – Descartes, ideas on thinking and existence, with animals not truly in existence but automata, no more able to sense pleasure and pain than a basic clock.   I just think this is an interesting perspective as my clock does not scream when I drop it from the nightstand. I also wonder why the break with animals when the connections were so powerful.  Possibly, p. 80 – we see that it was typically a bad time to go against the word of God, so therefor to make nature fallen, and needing to be rescued this allowed for science to get a foothold.