Skip

People (Not) Eating Tasty Animals
October 28, 2009 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Natalie Portman has been a vegetarian for twenty years, but was recently inspired to become a vegan by Jonathan Safran Foer's first nonfiction book, Eating Animals. Portman wrote an essay for the Huffington Post in which she compares the book favorably to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (previously on the blue), and makes this specific criticism of the latter book:
But he reminds us that being a man, and a human, takes more thought than just "This is tasty, and that's why I do it." He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).

Salon's Broadsheet blog takes umbrage.
posted by Halloween Jack (283 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can we institute a Godwin-like rule for rape analogies?
posted by spaltavian at 11:30 AM on October 28, 2009 [63 favorites]


Halloween Jack is a real cool cat.
posted by HotPants at 11:31 AM on October 28, 2009


Employees are like nails. Just as nails must be hit in the head in order to make them work, so must employees.

Believing in rape is just like eating meat. Just as rape is wrong and must be prevented, so should eating meat. Of course, animal suffering comes into the mix, whereas nails feel nothing (as far as I know, maybe Scientology can teach us about sentient nails, too).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:34 AM on October 28, 2009


Harvard has produced many great writers. She does not appear to be destined to join their number.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


So how does she justify her advocacy of "killing my fucking dog just for fun"?
posted by Optamystic at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has she never tried rape at dinner? Delicious.
posted by shownomercy at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Natalie Portman, on the current economic crisis: "I think it’s kind of an exciting time. I mean, everyone is cutting back. It’s happening in every industry — including our own. But I think that’s going to translate into a situation where people aren’t motivated by money as much as they have been in the recent past. A lot of my friends from college went into fields like banking for financial reasons — obviously people have school loans and things to pay off. And now, all of a sudden, they’re doing jobs that they hate and they’re not making as much money as they thought they would or they’ve lost their jobs entirely. So I’ve started to see people looking more toward their own passions and what really excites them. Obviously it’s much easier to say that you’re going to follow your passions when you’re financially secure, but at least we can take solace in the fact that we now have the time to pursue the things that we really want to pursue because now the option of doing things just for the money isn’t necessarily there."

Conclusion - Natalie Portman is a clueless moron.
posted by saladin at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2009 [52 favorites]


It might make me a bad person, but I'm not going to eat either the meaty or the vegetarian lasagna if my tablemates have had sex with it, and that it doesn't factor in if the lasagna consented or was raped. Although if the lasagna is old enough to consent, I'm probably not going to eat it even if it's existed in celibacy.
posted by Drastic at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2009 [23 favorites]


Can I be the first to say "Please shut the fuck up, Ms. Portman."

Hell, even if I can't be first: "Please shut the fuck up, Ms. Portman."
posted by bondcliff at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know what would be a great, maturing step for the public dialogue to take? To quit giving a platform to celebrities to speak/write on anything other than being a celebrity.
posted by fatbird at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2009 [28 favorites]


Rather than start a big thing on moral relativism and the ethics of eating animals (which yes, this thread is about), I'll just throw my 2 cents in that I'm all about the Mark Bittman philosophy. There's nothing wrong with eating meat, just that we eat way too freaking much of it and we don't eat nearly enough plants. I eat meat about once a week. Fish twice. And pasta/veggie based foods at all other times.

/And yes the rape analogy is not only in poor taste, but wholly irrelevant. The fundamental crux of the vegetarianism argument is whether animals are inherently different from people and should be held to different standards, which means that the likening to rape is nothing but an extreme, relativist example that doesn't even address the central logistical issue for meat-eaters.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:41 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).

....I've got another celebrity anecdote in a similar vein.

I read an interview with Peter Gabriel years ago which opened with Peter remarking to the interviewer that he had a new appreciation for how much work his mother had put into all the Christmas dinners she'd made for his family growing up, because he'd just prepared one himself for his own family and friends. "Roast goose, the stuffing, the vegetables, the works...it was a lot of work."

The interviewer agreed that wow, yeah, it was a lot of work, and hey, good for you that you did that, Pete -- oh, and how was it? "Oh, I didn't have much of it," Peter said. "Just the vegetables -- but not the goose or the stuffing. I'm vegetarian." The reporter was baffled and asked him why on earth he'd gone to all that trouble of preparing a traditional dinner if he couldn't have eaten it himself? Why not do a vegetarian dinner? Peter just patiently said, "It's me who was the vegetarian, not all my friends and family. I didn't want to impose my views upon them -- I just made a lot of different things available and let people make up their own minds about how much or little they personally wanted."

....You know, I think I like Peter's approach a lot better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [85 favorites]


being … a human … takes thought

I disagree. As for empirical evidence, may I submit: everything that has ever happened ever.
posted by spaltavian at 11:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [70 favorites]


She's the guest on Top Chef tonight, too, of course. That ought to be fun.
posted by tyllwin at 11:44 AM on October 28, 2009


I only eat cats that haven't been declawed.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


I've hated all of her movies since "The Professional" (which was good). There's nothing distinguishing about her acting style or personality that makes her unique or well suited for any role.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I only eat cats that haven't been declawed.

I only eat cats that have.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish this post had been more about the relative merit of the ideas in the book and less about a celebrity saying something stupid.
posted by Morrigan at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, this thread is already awful and cliché-ridden. Nice.
posted by defenestration at 11:49 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Did she seriously end her article with a question? That's the kind of bullshit I was pulling in elementary school.
posted by spec80 at 11:49 AM on October 28, 2009


"Rape culture is diminishing the gravity of any sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, or culture of actual or potential coercion in any way.

Rape culture is using the word "rape" to describe something that has been done to you other than a forced or coerced sex act." Rape Culture, Melissa McEwan

Eating animals? Totally not like rape. Not even a little.
posted by FunkyHelix at 11:50 AM on October 28, 2009 [23 favorites]


One of the minor disadvantages to society of occasionally producing wallopingly attractive people and having an infrastructure upon which to disseminate their images and spoken words is that we have no guarantee that the content of said messages is coherent, defensible, or even reasonable. Natalie Portman is like some kind of buffer overflow — we just do not expect to run into people who look like that, and their code starts executing in our heads before we've validated our inputs. Celebrities (Ms. McCarthy, I am looking at you) take some stance and many folks swallow it whole, without sanitizing it.

If there were some way to strip off the effects of the Botox and makeup and wonderbras and put their messages in some kind of location in our minds which was analogous to a non-executing memory space where it would be frozen in place, we'd be a lot safer. I guess what I'm advocating here is that, for our safety, we need Natalie Portman's stance to be naked and petrified.
posted by adipocere at 11:51 AM on October 28, 2009 [19 favorites]


Of all the many, many online discussions out there about meat/vegetarianism/veganism/etc., it's unfortunate that this is the one that gets posted to Metafilter.

If the intent in posting this was to lead to an edifying discussion of these issues, it's not going very well.

If the intent was to make vegetarians look silly, mission accomplished.

Vegetarians being mocked on Metafilter -- groundbreaking! VEGGIE BURGER
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:51 AM on October 28, 2009 [18 favorites]



>>I only eat cats that haven't been declawed.

>I only eat cats that have.


Right, because then they don't have to suffer a clawless life.

I just want to take the opportunity to say that I think veganism is completely incoherent as a moral stance and in fact represents the stupidity of trying to make one's diet a moral stance.
posted by anazgnos at 11:52 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always been shy about being critical of others' choices because I hate when people do that to me.

Except when she thinks she knows better than you do, apparently.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:52 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]




I bet that Natalie Portman, tastes all kinds of kosher delicious, although now she can't let anyone test this hypothesis. At least she won't end up being one of those Catholic fatties who eat McDonald's all the time.

Trolling Comment Checklist:
  • [x] Boyzone
  • [x] Bringing up oral sex as related to veganism
  • [x] Bringing up cannibalism as related to veganism
  • [x] Racism
  • [x] Obesity
  • [x] lolxtians
  • [x] comma splice
  • [x] posting the trolling checklist as part of your troll comment

posted by sciurus at 11:53 AM on October 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


being … a human … takes thought

I disagree.


Way to pass that gom jabbar test, dude.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:55 AM on October 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


A serious question:

Who does more damage to the environment:
  • Me, who travels everyone by bike or public transit, lives in a small apartment, and buys very little, but eats meat, eggs, and dairy regularly.
  • Natalie Portman, who is a vegan, but presumably travels more and owns a large residence.
I am not trying to insinuate that Natalie Portman a hypocrite, but instead point out the larger problem: it's impossible to know.

Very few (if any) people will live a life of zero environment impact. Therefor, there must be some amount of sustainable environmental damage that each person can do. Shouldn't people be allowed to allocate this damage as they wish? If I'm considering eating locally raised chicken for lunch vs. fruit from South America, how do I know which is better? The external costs of environmentally damaging behavior need to be shifted onto the behavior itself, or at least be made more known.

It's for these reasons that I struggle accepting a lot of environmental activism. While I laud Natalie Portman for being conscious of the environment ramifications of her actions, I have no way of knowing if the net impact of her decisions and lifestyle are actually positive.
posted by christonabike at 11:55 AM on October 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


OK, so, ha ha, celebrity essay. But...

I've been hearing some very good things about the new Foer book. Have any of you gotten your hands on a copy yet? What did you think?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:55 AM on October 28, 2009


Burhanistan: "I've hated all of her movies since "The Professional" (which was good)."

I sincerely hope you are not knocking Mars Attacks!
posted by brundlefly at 11:56 AM on October 28, 2009


Natalie Portman has been a vegetarian for twenty years

Holy shit. Everyone seems to missing the real shocking point of this post: Natalie Portman has been eating for the past twenty years. This flies in the face of all photographic evidence.
posted by flarbuse at 11:56 AM on October 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'll take Gwyneth Paltrow's advice and stick to eating the liver of my Honduran gardener.
posted by felix betachat at 11:58 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


In light of her signature on the Roman Polanski petition, this is an interesting position for her to take!
posted by AlsoMike at 12:00 PM on October 28, 2009 [50 favorites]


....You know, I think I like Peter's approach a lot better.

Yes, it certainly is much more comforting. Who wants to have the fact that what they choose to consume came from another living creature, how tasty soever it might be (a reason that's appallingly flimsy in the face of the moral considerations vegetarians and vegans have on their side), brought to their mind by the fact that someone else refuses to provide them with flesh? Gabriel's approach is more pleasant and more polite but it's also incoherent, assuming he's a vegetarian for ethical reasons and not because, say, he doesn't like the taste of, or cannot digest, meat.

The defensiveness on display whenever someone does make the sort of argument Portman makes is telling, I think.

(Who am I to talk? I've got a goat shank in the fridge.)
posted by kenko at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm with mr roboto: anybody read it?

Really wish there'd been a way to structure this without bringing portman into it. the less I have to be aware of natalie portman, the better.
posted by lodurr at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2009



Burhanistan: "I've hated all of her movies since "The Professional" (which was good)."


What about Heat? And The Phantom Menace? Her portrayal of Princess Naboo was Oscar-worthy.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:04 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, Christ, this?

Wooden actor makes inarticulate point; point distorted by mixture of self-interest and stupidity (and LULZ!) in order to have zing time on internet.
posted by klangklangston at 12:04 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


felix betachat: "I'll take Gwyneth Paltrow's advice and stick to eating the liver of my Honduran gardener."

Portman, Paltrow, and their ilk are nothing new. Gloria Swanson was dispensing harangues on the evils of meat and sugar back in the 20s.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:06 PM on October 28, 2009


Since when the hell did metafilter become a bunch of people trying to crack bad jokes instead a bunch of people trying to prove that they're smarter than each other? Has it all changed in the week since I've been on? Did I miss the memo?
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 12:07 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it still OK if I want to eat Natalie Portman?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:07 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, awkward timing there.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [35 favorites]


looked like perfect timing from where i'm sitting!
posted by lodurr at 12:09 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like Natalie Portman as an actress, meaning I am attracted to her movies and couldn't care less about her opinions, though I concur with many on this thread that she sounds like a twit. I am interested in what everyone thinks about Jonathan Safran Foer and Eating Animals, which I gather has still not officially been published. Has anyone read it? I'm a meat eater myself but have been heavily influenced as to what I eat and where I eat it by Pollan and Schlosser.
posted by bearwife at 12:09 PM on October 28, 2009


Gabriel's approach is more pleasant and more polite but it's also incoherent, assuming he's a vegetarian for ethical reasons and not because, say, he doesn't like the taste of, or cannot digest, meat.

On the other hand, though, there are more answers to "how do I ethically handle the fact that animals are killed for food" aside from "I shall avoid eating them." In addition to being a vegetarian, you can:

* Choose to only purchase meat from places that treat their animals well and humanely
* Choose to raise your own animals
* Choose to make a point of eating every single bit of every animal, rather than getting precious about "ooh, I'll eat chicken breasts, but not chicken WINGS" or "ooh, I'll have bacon but head cheese is icky".

Everyone who puts thought into this matter comes up with an individual approach that suits them, and which is to them the most ethically sound. Or, they simply aren't ready to entertain the question yet, and forcing them to entertain it over Christmas dinner won't endear them to your side any.

So it seems to make more sense that letting people come to their own conclusions and respecting the conclusions they've come to is a better approach than "taking a stance and haranging your friends to comply."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on October 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


Ok--have we all now made our clever comments and shown readers just are witty and knowing we are?
Don't like the post. Ignore it.
ps: whatever you may think of Portman as a beauty, a writer, a star, you ought to know she has published scholarly papers in the sciences. Even vegans can be smart.
posted by Postroad at 12:10 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like Natalie Portman. I'm an omnivore, but I'm vegetarian friendly. I don't approve of rape. I don't have a problem with actors giving their opinions on things, because people continually insist on asking them their opinions and spend a lot of time reading about, or watching about, or talking about, or comaplaining about, or LOLing about what they say, so there's obviously a big market for it. I can't really think of anything else to add to the conversation, except to say that comaplaining is a fortuitous typo.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


you ought to know she has published scholarly papers in the sciences

That's right. Her work on Sith genomics is still recognized as foundational.

...what?
posted by felix betachat at 12:15 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the reasoning (if any) behind Ms Portman's decision to go from vegetarian to vegan. I mean, if you don't want to eat animals because you don't feel good about them being slaughtered, OK, I can respect that. Or if you want a vegan diet because you feel it's healthier, fine I respect that too.

But given that she was already vegetarian, what is it in this new book which has persuaded her to become vegan? In most large cities, there are abundant options for getting dairy and eggs that were farmed free-range and relatively locally. It costs a bit more, but that's obviously not an issue for her. If animals are kept in good conditions and farmed for their milk or eggs, where exactly is the ethical dilemma?
posted by anigbrowl at 12:15 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's nothing distinguishing about her acting style or personality that makes her unique or well suited for any role.

Slightly related story: I was having drinks a few years ago with an old friend. After several glasses were downed, he scooted over and said, "I have something embarrassing to tell you. It's something I've been carrying with me for years now, and I haven't told it to anyone before." At this point I got a little uncomfortable -- did he cheat on his wife? did he kill someone? does he have a crush on me? I replied, "OK, well, if you want to share, I'll listen." He stared away at nothing in particular for a moment, then turned back to me and cleared his throat. "It's about Star Wars Episode 1." I looked at him blankly. He averted his eyes and said, "I didn't realize until the very end of the movie that Queen Amidala and Padme are the same person." I laughed, assuming he was joking. He said, "No, you don't understand -- it actually blew my mind. I think there's something seriously wrong with me." I scratched my chin and realized, nervously, that maybe there was something wrong with him.
posted by brain_drain at 12:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [43 favorites]


P.S. SPOILERZ
posted by brain_drain at 12:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Would Natalie Portman be a famous actress had she not appeared in Star Wars?"

Discuss amongst yourselves.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is really annoying about this thread is the lack of people observing that Jonathan Safran Foer is like Jed Purdy raping Kafka. For eternity.
posted by felix betachat at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


What about Heat? And The Phantom Menace? Her portrayal of Princess Naboo was Oscar-worthy.

I forgot that she was in "Heat", which is a fine movie. Again, another actress could've played that role as well or better. As for the Oscar-worthiness of the latter....only if you're implying it was like a Rain Man or Forrest Gump type disabled person role.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


empress c: a lot of this sounds like thinking like a farmer. my dad grew up with the family raising livestock to augment income and the table, and you just didn't get away with wasting part of their hog or not eating the played out laying hens. Any edible part of them. He dislikes chicken to this day, for related reasons...

postroad: I am not impressed by the fact that anyone with an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from a major university has published a paper on the subject matter of the research she was given to work on. That was, after all, her job. I would be impressed if the papers were more than summaries of the research, but only moderately so. What impresses me is original ideas or exceptional insight; I've not had any indication of either from Ms. Portman.

It reminds me of this story out there that says we ought to pay attention to Sasha Baron Cohen because he's written an important monograph on some aspect of psychology (it varies with who's telling teh story). First, the truth is much more pedestrian; second, what the hell does that have to do with whether Borat is brilliantly manipulative or just plain manipulative?
posted by lodurr at 12:20 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Natalie Portman IS pretty stupid, what with her writing articles and reading books and such. You know who's really intelligent though? The MeFites who don't even read entire links before posting some shitty one-liner we all have to read...
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:22 PM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


FWIW, I was a freshman when Natalie Portman was a junior. There was a surprisingly large amount of campus commentary about some speaker whose life work was saying that eating meat and rape are equally symptomatic of the male habit of viewing everything as something to be controlled and consumed. I recall the poster was of a woman with the lines for cuts of meat drawn all over her body.
posted by jefficator at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously? You people don't agree with what she's saying? Does everyone on here have their head so far up their @$$ that they need to constantly play devil's advocate? (And, you're playing devil's advocate to someone suggesting you stand-up for your beliefs regardless of what everyone else it doing! Sounds like you all would have told the emperor that his new "clothes" were beautiful instead of letting him know he was naked...)

The responses in this thread are almost as bad as the people who got upset over Jeremy Clarkson's entirely accurate review of the Honda Insight. Geeze...
posted by StarmanDXE at 12:26 PM on October 28, 2009


What is the modern vegan to do with the research on plants being more 'aware' than previously considered?

Broccoli: I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

The Swiss examine Plant's Rights

Eventually, we will have a group of people that will attempt to survive by eating nothing that once had some form of life in it. Maybe science will provide an answer, or, for now, just a very short-lived lifestyle choice.

(Eat what you like, I have no dog in this race. I eat gravel. It's better 'casue it's mined.)
posted by chambers at 12:27 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't see what people have against canola.
posted by gimonca at 12:28 PM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


I totally agree with Natalie. It is true that as humans we are capable of making considered choices about what we eat. We choose what clothes to wear, what books to read, and what cars to drive. And now that we know that driving any car is bad for the environment, many of us are choosing to forgo driving altogether.

Eating meat is clearly bad for the environment. But eating plants are too. After all, plants are an important part of the environment.

So it's obviosu that eating anything is bad for the environment, because it amounts to eating the environment. All the nutrients we need can be obtained from synthetic sources, so why not simply drink a protein shake and take some pills? Why go through the disgusting process of putting a plant that grew out of the dirt and was crawling with spiders, flies, and aphids into our mouths? Or worse, a mushroom? We need to stop the daily habit horror of rooting around in a bogs on all fours like Gollum in search of fruiting fungii to slather with our tongues? It's just gross, right?

Listen to Natalie, she's thin and beautiful. Stop eating our environment.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:28 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yes, yes, she's an actress, writing about serious stuff, ha ha ha.

But she didn't compare eating meat to rape. At all.

She simply said that if it's wrong it's wrong, regardless of what common social mores say about it.

Now, you can agree or disagree with the assertion that eating meat is wrong, and whether she accurately characterizes Pollan's argument. But let's at least read, process, and discuss the stuff she actually wrote, rather than what our mental caricature of a silly chick celeb might write.
posted by ibmcginty at 12:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


What keeps mankind alive is bestial acts!
posted by anazgnos at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know who's really, really intelligent, though? The MeFites who can tell who's read the entire link just based on the fact that they posted a one-liner.

Seriously, since this is all about Portman now:

It's not that she's dim or brilliant -- I have no opinion on that.* It's that it's her opinion and not, say, Postroad's. Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks if I have no reason to believe their opinion has special value? I've been reading what Postroad says for years, and even if I disagree with him, I still have more basis for understanding what he's about and knowing whether or not he's full of shit.

If someone wants to try to earn acceptance outside of acting, great. But please have some sense of decorum, please recognize when people are just listening to you (or looking at your paintings or reading your poems) just because you're famous, and not because they're better than those of people who don't have a wedge into the consciousness of people who afford platforms for speaking.
--
*I do have an opinion on her acting, and that's that "wooden" is charitable. And she does a horrible british accent. And while I do not find her unpleasant to behold, I've honestly never gotten the "beauty" part.
posted by lodurr at 12:34 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


She simply said that if it's wrong it's wrong, regardless of what common social mores say about it.

But that's not really what people are objecting to, and arguably isn't really what she said.

What people are objecting to is that she elected to ignore the great likelihood that there's a middle ground between eating meat and rape.

This is one of the reasons why it would be great to know what Foer actually says, because if what he's saying amounts to "if it's wrong it's wrong," then it's most likely not a very interesting book.

So what I'm thinking about this post as I write this is that people probably shouldn't make posts about commentaries on books that haven't been released or at least reviewed yet. It leaves us with no alternative but to argue about the meta: in this case, whether we should give a crap about what someone says just because she's famous and widely held to be pretty.
posted by lodurr at 12:38 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


lodurr: "Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks if I have no reason to believe their opinion has special value?"

Weren't you paying attention?

Listen to Natalie, she's thin and beautiful.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:39 PM on October 28, 2009


So it's obviosu that eating anything is bad for the environment, because it amounts to eating the environment. All the nutrients we need can be obtained from synthetic sources, so why not simply drink a protein shake and take some pills?

Well. We will, at that stage, just then be producing a massive pile of crap without creating any gaps in or fresh growing of the foliage to spread it out and put it to good use. So you could argue that crapping would be bad for the environment, so maybe we need REALLY small pills and to tape our arses up?
posted by Brockles at 12:39 PM on October 28, 2009


I am interested in what everyone thinks about Jonathan Safran Foer and Eating Animals, which I gather has still not officially been published. Has anyone read it?

I read an adaptation/excerpt in the NY Times Magazine the other week. What I remember of it was mostly how his memories of his grandmother's chicken were not about chicken but about family and integrity and he felt ethically bound by this lesson to not eat meat because it felt wrong to him, which somehow implied by extension that eating meat was categorically wrong.

I'm going to assume the whole book is as awesomely unrigourous in its argumentation as the Times version was, and leave it at that.

It's notable and sort of backhandedly admirable that Ms Portman's echoing of the argument actually kind of underscores the total absence of logical progression in the original. Notice, for example, how she states right off the top that "this book reminded me that some things are just wrong," and then she stretches this patent wrongness from factory farming conditions to eating meat generally? How she does so without anything like even a cursory examination of the fact that the latter category is a fundamentally larger thing than the former? Yeah. Like that.

Still, I'm glad I read this. Made me glad I had a truly lovely locally raised, grass-fed ribeye the other night and doubly glad I've never gotten around to trying to read anything else by Jonathan Safran Foer.
posted by gompa at 12:43 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


The graph in this article indicates that these sorts of specious comparisons decline over time.
posted by electroboy at 12:44 PM on October 28, 2009


The only book I ever read that converted me from one thing to another was the Bible, and that took me from lapsed Catholic to irreligious Apostate.

I still wouldn't recommend apostacy to others.

I have heard this rape thing before, though... the argument goes something like "such-and-such constitutes raping the natural world" then moves from there asking you if you are content to participate in it... pretty aggressive, but not uncommon rhetoric.

I liked this part of her essay more:
Both sides argue: We are not them. Those who refrain from eating animals argue: We don't have to go through what they go through -- we are not them. We are capable of making distinctions between what to eat and what not to eat (Americans eat cow but not dog, Hindus eat chicken but not cow, etc.). We are capable of considering others' minds and others' pain. We are not them. Whereas those who justify eating animals say the same thing: We are not them. They do not merit the same value of being as us. They are not us.

And so Foer shows us, through Eating Animals, that we are all thinking along the same lines: We are not them.
Her essay would be better, I think, if she explored this idea a bit more, and speculated on what she thinks we should do if we recognise the problem with the arbitrary distinction between "us" and "them".
posted by ServSci at 12:47 PM on October 28, 2009


Okay, I'm not here to defend the merits, such as they are, of this piece. But nowhere in the article does she come within a fricking parsec of comparing meat to rape.
posted by decagon at 12:49 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


From my experience, I strongly suggest that everyone run away from this thread as fast as you can, right now. It's lunch time on the West Coast. I don't care what you're eating for lunch. Just get up, walk away from your computer and go eat it. You will thank me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:50 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


no, she compares tolerating the eating of meat to tolerating rape.
posted by lodurr at 12:50 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who do these celebrities think they are to have opinions and put them on blogs.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:51 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or does it seem like celebrities only ever seem to make comments (ridiculous or otherwise) about the same four political stances: ethical treatment of animals, gay rights, war and war crimes, and the enviornment.

I'm not trying to imply that any of these aren't worthy casuses but there are thousands of causes that to me seem just as important, are effecting just as many peoples lives, and aren't getting any celebrities running around trying to bring attention to them.

Where's the Playboy Playmates wearing dollar bill bikinnis around capitol hill to bring about stronger penalties on deadbeat fathers who don't pay child support. Or Kayne West screaming on a national telethon about how George Bush didn't fully fund no child left behind.
posted by trojanhorse at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


So this is why she won't return my calls about that screenplay I sent her, a 20 something romantic comedy about star crossed lovers working side by side in an abattoir.
posted by cazoo at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"When I was in Harvard, I smoked weed every day."

A-ha. Now it makes sense.

Seriously, has anyone met anyone from Harvard that they thought was a really sharp person? I've met three Harvard grads, and all three were absolute tools.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2009


you know, lutoslawski is probably right about it being time for some of us to walk away. early signs are this will probably deteriorate on all possible axes; in that context, it's a wise observation.
posted by lodurr at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2009


>But nowhere in the article does she come within a fricking parsec of comparing meat to rape.

no, she compares tolerating the eating of meat to tolerating rape.


Exactly. Here's the relevant quote:

"He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it)."

Eating meat and rape are not an apples-and-oranges kind of thing, which is why someone tolerating eating meat is not equivalent to someone tolerating rape. Which is why it's somewhat baffling to imply that both kinds of toleration are analogous.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


She simply said that if it's wrong it's wrong, regardless of what common social mores say about it.

The problem is that we really don't have a good way of properly evaluating whether things are "right" or "wrong" without social mores. Murder is universally reviled, so it's easy to say it's "wrong," but what about suicide? In some cultures, that's more wrong than murder. In others, it can be downright honorable. Are some cultures just wrong about whether suicide is right or wrong?

Would it be right or wrong to allow intelligent, free-willed individuals the choice to free food, housing, leisure, and health care in exchange for a Logan's Run-style death when they turn 50 or 60? What about animals, who can't make that choice?

Where is the line between an animal that may not be killed, an animal that is OK to kill? I'm definitely fine with killing mosquitos, and though I'd never torture a mouse, I've killed a few.

Social mores are important for us to evaluate whether an action is right or wrong, because context is important. Without this context, we're all essentially arbiters of our own morality, and no common ground can be found because we're only going by "how we feel."
posted by explosion at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


she compares tolerating the eating of meat to tolerating rape.

No, not really. Read that (admittedly, poorly-worded) sentence again.
posted by decagon at 12:54 PM on October 28, 2009


"I've hated all of her movies since "The Professional" (which was good)."

I thought she was brilliant in "Beautiful Girls" as well., but otherwise agree with you. Yep, just checked IMDB. She's sucked in everything else.

It's too bad the economy is hitting her industry so hard though. It's terrible to see it affecting people like her. I mean, has she been reduced to accepting less than a million dollars a film? I think I might have to shed a few tears if this is the case.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2009


decagon, ignoring teh sage advice I just advocated: Can you explain what she actually did mean by that sentence, if it wasn't to express an analogy between tolerating rape and tolerating the eating of meat?
posted by lodurr at 12:56 PM on October 28, 2009


You know, I read shit like this and I want to fire up a steak just to spite her, and I haven't eaten read meat in about a decade. I'd go have a big kahuna burger if it wouldn't make me all gassy.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


There was a similar criticism of Pollan in The Atlantic a while back: Hard to Swallow.

I think Portman is on the money here (in her quotation). The idea that eating is a magical realm where morality doesn't exist and only taste matters . . . it is indefensibly stupid. Actions taken at the dinner table have consequences, just like all other actions. You are responsible for them. Politeness doesn't cover it.

Portman's writing is out of practice, or whatever, yeah. Don't let that distract you from the point. The analogy to rape -- while ill-chosen -- is really easy to understand, if you don't let your mouth-froth obscure your eyes. Rape is understood to be a problem of morality, not mere politeness -- so it would be wrong to adjust our positions on rape out of "consideration." Likewise, what you eat has consequences -- sometimes horrific ones -- and accordingly it is a moral problem, which should not be controlled by consideration.

An impolite or even disgusting analogy does not logically invalidate the argument it is part of. When you participate in an argument, you have an obligation to hang on to your rationality and try to understand your interlocutor, not attack her.
posted by grobstein at 1:02 PM on October 28, 2009 [23 favorites]


Well, for one thing, it's presumably a paraphrase of Jonathan Safran Foer, rather than her own original analogy.

Basically, she's arguing that a moral principle should supersede politeness in all situations. The analogy is (a bad choice of) an illustrative example.

N.B.: I do not necessarily endorse the particular moral principle in question, or even the argument in general.
posted by decagon at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks gompa. Somehow, some people, including Portman, HAVE read Foer's book though it is not yet officially published, and reviewed it. Is anyone readiing this thread one of those who have read the book? If it is as fuzzy wuzzy as gompa says I agree it probably isn't worth the bucks to check it out.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2009


Likewise, what you eat has consequences -- sometimes horrific ones -- and accordingly it is a moral problem, which should not be controlled by consideration.

True, but can you acknowledge that there is more than just one possible response one can come to when considering that moral problem?

An impolite or even disgusting analogy does not logically invalidate the argument it is part of. When you participate in an argument, you have an obligation to hang on to your rationality and try to understand your interlocutor, not attack her.

On the other hand, an outrageous analogy seems to indicate that she may not be all that rational herself, which is where the ire is coming from, I suspect. I mean, I'm all for hanging on to rationality in an argument, but someone coming right out of the gate in a debate guns blazing like that makes me suspect that SHE'S going to be participating rationally. At the very least, she used a poor choice of analogy -- which, still indicates that "um, you may want to think about who your audience really is and how to reach them rather than just making Grand Statements."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Empress, what do you think would have been a better analogy?
posted by josher71 at 1:09 PM on October 28, 2009


Her essay would be better, I think, if she explored this idea a bit more, and speculated on what she thinks we should do if we recognise the problem with the arbitrary distinction between "us" and "them".

Really? I would think that the distinction between a human and another species is pretty clear, and not at all arbitrary.

Maybe she is trying to question whether the distinction between species should be a relevant moral consideration, but this is unavoidable. This question could just as easily be asked of vegans: what makes humans and human-like animals deserving of rights, but not plants? "They can feel pain" is just as arbitrary as "they aren't people". Unless you are willing to grant moral status to everything, you're going to have some type of exclusion.

And, you're still going to have human beings as the center of your moral universe. Even for vegans, the more an animal resembles a human, the more important it is to protect its rights.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:10 PM on October 28, 2009


grobstein, the idea that eating is a magical realm is a straw man w.r.t. everyone I know. I have no idea if it's a straw man w.r.t. to pollan. that's not the problem with teh reasoning. The problem with the reasoning is that it's an argument for fundamental intolerance.

like it or not, we make choices about what is and is not regarded as ethical. As a society, "we" have made a choice that it's ethical to eat meat. if that's not your choice -- if you think eating meat is "just wrong" -- then you have to decide to what degree you are prepared to disengage from your society. Including, potentially, close friends and family. Pollan's calculus privileges the realtionships; Foer's (via Portman) seems to privilege the absolute moral judgement. But the point is, you have to make that choice, and then you have to live with it.

Based on what I can see, I'm unconvinced that Portman is choosing to live with it in a way that's very consistent with absolutist moralism.
posted by lodurr at 1:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Empress, what do you think would have been a better analogy?

I can't come up with one off the top of my head; for one, I would need time to think about it when writing anything anyway, but mainly because I do not share her views that the eating of meat IS a concept that is a black/white moral quandry. So I wouldn't be able to come up with an analogy that indicates that it is, because I don't believe THAT it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on October 28, 2009


Am I alone in thinking the rape analogy is truly inspired in the light of Roman Polanskis arrest ? An awful lot of people seem to place politeness over calling a rapist a rapist.
posted by colophon at 1:15 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Annnnnnnd I just thought of one:

"He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in kicking puppies for fun, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it)."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"But given that she was already vegetarian, what is it in this new book which has persuaded her to become vegan? In most large cities, there are abundant options for getting dairy and eggs that were farmed free-range and relatively locally. It costs a bit more, but that's obviously not an issue for her. If animals are kept in good conditions and farmed for their milk or eggs, where exactly is the ethical dilemma?"

You do know why cows (mammals) give milk, right? It's not just because it's something they like doing. The "rape" analogy is impolitic, but not without basis. And eggs require an infrastructure which, to be economically viable, requires that old hens and the vast majority of roosters be killed and eaten.
posted by klangklangston at 1:22 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


There was a surprisingly large amount of campus commentary about some speaker whose life work was saying that eating meat and rape are equally symptomatic of the male habit of viewing everything as something to be controlled and consumed. I recall the poster was of a woman with the lines for cuts of meat drawn all over her body.

That speaker was almost certainly Carol Adams.
posted by box at 1:23 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a little confused. Portman's is clearly arguing in favor of vegetarianism. Where is the part where she argues that we should go beyond vegetarianism, and give up wool and honey?

It's like she doesn't understand the difference between vegetarianism and veganism. Is that even possible, for someone who was a vegetarian for 20 years?

Is she prepared to argue that "looking the other way while someone wears a wool sweater is just as bad as committing rape"? Because THAT would be an interesting essay, to say the least.
posted by ErikaB at 1:26 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


bearwife: " Somehow, some people, including Portman, HAVE read Foer's book though it is not yet officially published... "

Which leads into why I think Portman is reaping so much hostility here.

To use as an example another public vegetarian: The reason why Gandhi's admonitions on morality carried the force they did is because he lived without much money and got sent to prison a lot.

As opposed to being a specially-privileged, fame-coddled multi-millionaire.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:26 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, if that's a valid analogy, doesn't that mean that letting other people eat meat constitute letting someone get raped before your very eyes? Shouldn't she be ripping chicken burritos out of people's hands whenever you see them? And being friends with someone that eats meat, then, is like being friends with a rapist.

I don't think she really believes what she's saying. My guess is that she thinks that eating meat is a wrong on the level of downloading movies or something of that sort.
posted by ignignokt at 1:27 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whoops, I forgot to add my "I'm a vegetarian" disclaimer to that comment. I'M A VEGETARIAN PLEASE NO WITH THE STABBING AND THE RAGE. Was just trying to discuss TFA.
posted by ErikaB at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2009


If animals are kept in good conditions and farmed for their milk or eggs, where exactly is the ethical dilemma?

Many who are vegan for ethical reasons are for animal rights. Thus, they believe that the production of animal products such as milk, eggs, and honey, are produced only for the benefit of the creatures that produced them (or their young), and we have no right to take them (or to impregnate cows or smoke bees to obtain them). Basically, those farming practices may be considered "humane", but taking these products and forcing animals to produce them for us is the wrong.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:30 PM on October 28, 2009


klangklangston, then we have to consider the fact that the cows wouldn't exist without a milk industry, and hens without an egg industry...which is kind of a silly retort, too, as I'm sure you'd be happy to point out, but it's only kind of silly, not totally silly.

My point being, we have to be clear that what's demanded here is the erasure of not just an entire industry, but of several -- this is a total lifestyle change for everyone. because a few people going vegan means literally nothing: a large number have to go to have any impact at all on the animal-food industries.

Which, I'm not saying is a bad idea. It would save a hell of a lot of energy and probably we could feed a lot more people. Could well be a tremendous environmental boon. But it's a totally different idea from the one that Foer/Portman are on about. They're on about the ethics of it as a function of cruelty and (apparently) some kind of aesthetic of subsistence and community. There doesn't seem to be acknowledgment that there's any difficulty to the moral calculus or that there might be other good reasons: It's just this idea of What's Wrong Is Wrong.

Which works just as well for a dominionist beef farmer in Nebraska as it does for you and I and Natalie Portman.
posted by lodurr at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


No mention of Carol Adams' 'Sexual Politics of Meat'?
As relentlessly sampled by Consolidated.

On Preview, box beat me to it.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2009


He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape...

Since when is rape a 'belief'?
posted by grounded at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So it seems to make more sense that letting people come to their own conclusions and respecting the conclusions they've come to is a better approach than "taking a stance and haranging your friends to comply."

I agree with this, EmpressCallipygos, and it's the approach I take as a vegetarian with my meat-eating friends, but I still wouldn't cook them a bunch of steaks. I think it's analogous to an observant Jew cooking a non-kosher meal for friends who don't keep kosher. I wouldn't call that action accommodating, I'd call it morally inconsistent.
posted by invitapriore at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


My issue with her statement isn't as much as how she said it, although it was terribly worded and a very poor analogy; it's the idea that eating meat is a capital letter Wrong and you are a better person standing up to others and letting them know how Wrong it is.

Look, there's things out there that are my personal beliefs and I believe them strongly and I don't do them because I think they are Wrong. But one of those things is the idea that everybody gets to judge for themselves and I'm not the boss of anybody. So if it's legal, I'm not overly concerned with what you do within your own morality. I may personally think it's Wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt to write in books, but as long as you aren't writing in mine, I'll let it slide.

I'm not saying that the decision to be vegan is like the decision to write in a book, but hey, it's closer than saying eating meat is like condoning rape.
posted by teleri025 at 1:35 PM on October 28, 2009


Really? I would think that the distinction between a human and another species is pretty clear, and not at all arbitrary.

Then what is her point in directing our attention to how "both sides" tend to share this conception of things? Is it just to promote some kind of common ground?

If she is recognizing that there is a problem between the dichotomy of humans vs. animals, I'm curious, too, about a non-arbitrary line. That doesn't mean I, personally, think ethics need to be non-arbitrary, but it seems like the argument she is making (somethings are just wrong, irrespective of context) does require non-arbitrary boundaries in order to avoid hypocrisy.

Anyway, i couldn't get a sense of her ideas there, which is why I thought it'd be interesting to hear more. Like Peter Singer's work on ethics & animals, I find it interesting without agreeing with it at all. I guess it amounts to consensus agreements about our definitions in the end, but it's still fun to read.
posted by ServSci at 1:36 PM on October 28, 2009


invitapriore, I don't get the kosher analogy. Jews don't believe everyone shoudl keep kosher -- only jews. So why is it morally inconsistent for them to cook non-kosher food for gentiles?

veganism is different: It doesn't have a canon, doesn't inherently apply to a specific category. At its simplest, veganism does in fact say that eating meat is wrong and nobody should do it. I'm not going to get into the problems I have with that position; suffice to say that I can see the moral inconsistency for most vegans (or even many vegetarians) in cooking meat for friends. but i'm not getting the kosher analogy.
posted by lodurr at 1:38 PM on October 28, 2009


invitapriore, i missed the qualifier "for jews who don't keep kosher." so i get it, now. sorry.
posted by lodurr at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2009


"Really? I would think that the distinction between a human and another species is pretty clear, and not at all arbitrary."

Right. Anything we can fuck and produce fertile offspring with is human; everything else isn't. Chickens are not human because we can't impregnate them.

"Maybe she is trying to question whether the distinction between species should be a relevant moral consideration, but this is unavoidable. This question could just as easily be asked of vegans: what makes humans and human-like animals deserving of rights, but not plants? "They can feel pain" is just as arbitrary as "they aren't people". Unless you are willing to grant moral status to everything, you're going to have some type of exclusion."

I realize that my frustration comes from years of being a vegetarian and having to dismiss this facile point every time it comes up, but didn't your fingers rebel a little typing something that dumb?

Let's start with the second part first. Just a moment ago, you argued that the difference between a human and another species is clear, and not at all arbitrary. If, as you say, "They can feel pain," is just as arbitrary as "They aren't people," and you've argued that "They aren't people," isn't arbitrary at all, then "They feel pain" is also not arbitrary. Regarding your third part, that of the false dichotomy or excluded middle, whatever fallacy you want to call it, where the options are either grant moral status to everything, or have some kind of exclusion, that's a fair, tautological statement. But it ignores the underlying reality, that not all moral status is equal and that not all exclusion is equal. This is especially true when you have a larger ethical system, and not trying to make up post hoc bullshit to justify whatever you happen to want to do at the moment. Handily, this also tends to cut down on the number of glib rhetorical questions one tends to ask, like Why would animals have rights and plants not.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


I agree with this, EmpressCallipygos, and it's the approach I take as a vegetarian with my meat-eating friends, but I still wouldn't cook them a bunch of steaks. I think it's analogous to an observant Jew cooking a non-kosher meal for friends who don't keep kosher. I wouldn't call that action accommodating, I'd call it morally inconsistent.

That's fair.

Empirically I take a different view (with your permission, I'll set aside the kosher/non-kosher analogy, because the practicalities of cooking non-kosher food in a kosher kitchen would complicate things a bit); I think that a vegetarian offering non-vegetarian foods to friends on a particular occasion, particularly if this occasion calls for a certain type of traditional foodstuffs, is a nice gesture of "okay, I'm vegetarian, but I respect that you're not, and rather than risking you feel all cheated because you didn't get turkey when you came to my house for Thanksgiving, here's the turkey, and we can put aside the Moral Dilemmas Of Carnivorism for the sake of the holiday." One is preserving one's OWN ethics by not eating the meat themselves, but one is also balancing that with harmony with others by letting THEM make their OWN choices.

But the fact that I think this does not mean that I don't see your point, and I find it a fair one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Call me a cynic, but this looks like a ploy to get ratings for tonight's episode of Top Chef. Doesn't seem like a coincidence that she would come out with a pro-vegan article a few days before the contestants have to cook her a vegan meal (watch them gasp at the "twist"). This, plus the butter steak a few posts up, is making me queasy.
posted by Partario at 1:47 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why would animals have rights and plants not.

Your frustrated answer is not clarifying the issue for me, at least. We do in fact have a larger ethical system and by and large it seems pretty comfortable with us using and killing animals for their products and by-products. Or are you saying that vegetarianism is an obvious implication of our ethical system? Whichever, the connection isn't clear for me.
posted by lodurr at 1:48 PM on October 28, 2009


This thread, despite starting off on entirely the wrong foot, somehow managed to pick itself up, dust itself off, and turn its life around. Reverse derail for the win.
posted by decagon at 1:49 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


yeah, but it could get ugly yet. I think vegetarianism is high on that perennial list of "things metafilter does not do well."
posted by lodurr at 1:50 PM on October 28, 2009


I think this notion of "consideration" is referring to the practice of vegetarians eating meat when it is served to them, out of consideration and politeness to their hosts. For example, I've heard that travelling Buddhist vegetarian monks will often quietly accept meat dishes when their hosts cook for them, so as not to look down on the kindness of their hosts. She's saying that this kind of "do as the Romans do" thing would be absurd in other situations - a Hindu obligingly praising Jesus Christ Our Savior at the behest of his hosts, for example - or her rape example, ill-advised but rather inoffensive - obligingly engaging in rape (something you know is wrong) because your hosts are doing it and you don't want to be impolite to them.

She's simply not comparing eating meat to tolerating rape. There's this intermediary notion of "consideration." Parse the sentence carefully if you can spare the minute.
posted by naju at 1:51 PM on October 28, 2009


naju: parsing that sentence without the context you offer does not improve its coherence -- it was not at all clear to me that's what she meant, and it doesn't seem to have been clear to most of us. it's an unwise analogy, badly drawn. the whole thing is more poorly written than 50% of mefi comments. that matters if you're trying to discuss something that's important to people.
posted by lodurr at 1:55 PM on October 28, 2009


Hey kenko, you gonna finish that goat shank?
posted by marxchivist at 1:56 PM on October 28, 2009


"klangklangston, then we have to consider the fact that the cows wouldn't exist without a milk industry, and hens without an egg industry...which is kind of a silly retort, too, as I'm sure you'd be happy to point out, but it's only kind of silly, not totally silly."

I entirely agree that that is a perverse argument. But basically, it's benefiting from the surplus created by an immoral act. The benefiting from the surplus isn't inherently immoral, except to the extent that it encourages the immoral system.

This is really the same argument that people concede all the time. Even if torture produced reliable information, it would still be immoral. Even if we could lower gas prices by killing a couple hundred thousand Iraqis, that wouldn't be worth the cost. We could kill animals in shelters more efficiently if we clubbed them to death, rather than putting them to sleep. The final example is perhaps the best one, simply because it's not relying on human-to-human interaction, where we can fall back on universalization as the moral default (I wouldn't want Iraqis to kill me in order to better their economy, but animals don't have the moral agency we do).
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 PM on October 28, 2009


Agreed. Your comparison of a Hindu offering praise to Jehovah is a better example.

it's also not clear that she's referring to "a vegetarian eating meat if that's what's served to them". It sounded more like she was saying "not being a vegan because you don't want to freak your friends out" was the problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:57 PM on October 28, 2009


Look, there's things out there that are my personal beliefs and I believe them strongly and I don't do them because I think they are Wrong. But one of those things is the idea that everybody gets to judge for themselves and I'm not the boss of anybody. So if it's legal, I'm not overly concerned with what you do within your own morality. I may personally think it's Wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt to write in books, but as long as you aren't writing in mine, I'll let it slide.

But you wouldn't try to change the law? I mean, if you lived in a society where something you considered wrong was acceptable and legal, you'd just do nothing at all? If not, then her stance is consistent with yours.

Analogies to rape and murder always put people on edge, like they do in the abortion debate, but the principle is very similar. If people were routinely doing something you considered as bad as most people consider, say, rape --- you'd just say "hey, whatever floats your boat, as long as I don't have to do it"? What if you considered this "only" as bad as burglary, for example? Still not something I'd be content to do nothing to change, even if it's obviously less bad than murder.

Lots of people in this thread have advocated various forms of what you're saying, but the only conclusion to that argument is that everything should be legal and people should just do whatever they want. I don't think anyone actually means that, almost everyone agrees that some things are Wrong for everyone and should not be done, and that the state should use force to prevent those actions. We just disagree on what those are, and it's normal and right for people to try to convince others to change the law and their behavior. Otherwise we'd still have slavery, for example.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:59 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Astonishing how insensitivity to the awfulness of meat-eating extends across the social and political spectrum. Radicals and conservatives, rich and poor, the ignorant and well-educated -- all will haul their huge bums out of the chair at the mere suggestion of vegetarianism, and shake their fists in jowl-quivering, spittle-flying outrage, while animal fats rendered in the charnel house of their stomachs ooze from the translucent pores of their sweaty foreheads, bits of corpse fly from their lips, slivers of flesh stew in the festering pockets of their gums, and chewed boli of cadavar work their way through funereal tunnels of their intestines, where borborygmi echo like screams of the dying, and from the loose, stinking base of which blow great bellowing, sputtering, damp gusts, as if from the very mouth of hell. These people sit on their toilets of a morning, gnashing their teeth, and reveling in putrid reek that rises from between their legs, sucking their sausage-greased tongues, and rolling their eyes in pleasure at the thought of what a pleasure it will be to replenish their slowly emptying colons with the next feast of suffering, willfully ignorant (I hope for the sake of their souls they are ignorant) that the whole world is enslaved to slaking their unholy hunger for the meat of poor creatures who love their lives as much as they.
posted by Faze at 2:02 PM on October 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


"We do in fact have a larger ethical system and by and large it seems pretty comfortable with us using and killing animals for their products and by-products. Or are you saying that vegetarianism is an obvious implication of our ethical system? Whichever, the connection isn't clear for me."

We don't, in fact, have a single larger ethical system, though the ones we have seem by and large comfortable with eating meat. However, many of the larger ethical systems we have are internally contradictory, incomplete, and largely constructed with a view toward justifying what we have done than prescribing ethical behavior in the future. I mean, seriously, the largest Western ethical system basically says that we should eat animals because God said so, and even within that ethical system, there's a long, long history of differing interpretation.
posted by klangklangston at 2:02 PM on October 28, 2009


it's benefiting from the surplus created by an immoral act

Right, excellent. the point is that you've made a decision about a moral line you're drawing. what would help me understand your later answer is why it seems obvious to you to draw that line where you do.

Where I'm going with this is that throughout our evolutionary history, we've drawn that line between US and THEM in terms that are progressively more general: First between self and other, then between self/mate/offspring and other, then band and other, then tribe and other, then nation and other, etc. But it's only in relatively recent history that people have drawn the line between animal and plant -- have included everything that feels.

What is it that makes you, personally, draw that line there? I don't want to know why Buddha drew it there; i want to know why you do.
posted by lodurr at 2:03 PM on October 28, 2009


"okay, I'm vegetarian, but I respect that you're not, and rather than risking you feel all cheated because you didn't get turkey when you came to my house for Thanksgiving, here's the turkey, and we can put aside the Moral Dilemmas Of Carnivorism for the sake of the holiday." One is preserving one's OWN ethics by not eating the meat themselves, but one is also balancing that with harmony with others by letting THEM make their OWN choices.

Well, those invited to dinner where the host serves food they aren't comfortable with are welcome to bring their own food. As my family's lone vegetarian for many years, that was exactly what I had to do, year after year. And eat the vegetables served, which are often the best parts of the meal anyway.

That said, where is the respect for the vegetarian in your comparison? What about his/her choices and beliefs and feeling "cheated"? Vegan foods are technically the most inclusive, because everyone can partake of them without regard to dietary ethics.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:03 PM on October 28, 2009


You do know why cows (mammals) give milk, right? It's not just because it's something they like doing.

You need to visit to a dairy farm sometime. Cows will line up to be milked. They seem to desire milking, and seem content afterward, but I couldn't say for certain that they like it. Can we know a cow's secret heart?

In any case, a more interesting question is: Is it ethical for an animal to exist solely for our use? If cattle weren't farmed, they would probably be on the edge of extinction (at best) like the buffalo, or extinct, like the auroch. Farming has enormously profited certain species, in terms of their survival.

I don't pretend to have the answer for that, but if they weren't raised for meat and milk, billions of cattle would never have lived. Is it better to have lived for slaughter than to never have lived at all?
posted by bonehead at 2:03 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


However, many of the larger ethical systems we have are internally contradictory, incomplete, and largely constructed with a view toward justifying what we have done than prescribing ethical behavior in the future.

Yeah, this gets at the point where I think we'll be able to see the fundamental split between at least you and me. First, I think an ethical system that was fully internally consistent would probably be a bad thing. It gives you nowhere to go -- it has no room for change, can't really be extended. Furthermore, it's a bit like the uncertainty principle: The ethical system you describe is almost certainly not the one that really exists, because it changed both a) because and b) while you were defining it. Which leads me to my third point: Ethical systems, to the extent that they are real systems (and I do nevertheless think it makes some sense to look at them as though they are) in my view, are just like any other social system in that they evolve with their society. They do the things they evolve to do.

You might well point out that we now have the capacity to choose what our ethical system should be; that we get to choose, now, as a mature species, what we want our society to be like. I wouldn't argue with you about that, if that's what you wanted to say.
posted by lodurr at 2:11 PM on October 28, 2009


I think vegetarianism is high on that perennial list of "things metafilter does not do well."

No, I am confident we will get it all sorted out this time.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:11 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


The "rape" analogy is impolitic, but not without basis.

The rape analogy has absolutely no basis in reality, whatsoever. The individual who made it is dumb for making it. People who repeat it in this thread as fact are dumb for agreeing with such a heinous association. Christ.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


shake their fists in jowl-quivering, spittle-flying outrage

You've clearly thought about this in great detail.
posted by electroboy at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cows will line up to be milked. They seem to desire milking, and seem content afterward, but I couldn't say for certain that they like it.

In fact they absolutely need it -- probably rupture their udder or at least get an infection if they didn't get it -- and klangklangston knows that. He's talking about the system that supports that, not the individual cows. The dairy industry, not Bessie. They need it because we engineered them to need it.
posted by lodurr at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


almost everyone agrees that some things are Wrong for everyone and should not be done, and that the state should use force to prevent those actions. We just disagree on what those are, and it's normal and right for people to try to convince others to change the law and their behavior.

There are shades of wrong and right, though, and levels of how to handle it.

To wit: your "writing in books" analogy. Yeah, you may think "it's wrong" to write in a book, and there should be a law against it. However, there isn't. What to do? Well -- the fact that no human is actually hurt by the writing in a book makes this comparative a lower-impact crime in the sense that no bodily harm comes to any living being.

Suppose, now, instead of writing in books, it was "setting dogs on fire" that was the lawless example. Now we enter the realm where a living being is harmed. It's on a different scale from writing on a book. However -- that living being is not a human being, and the jury is out when it comes to how to legally handle that disparity.

Now we come to slavery. Here -- no question, if there were no laws against slavery, then by skippy there should be, because harm is coming to human beings through a lack of this law.

Now -- there are means in place for laws to be changed, and there are civil disobediance acts one can take if those traditional means aren't happening fast enough. But -- the different levels of "right" and "wrong", and the different levels of harm done, make for slightly different reactions to someone embarking on a civil disobedience campaign on their behalf. I can unequivocably support a March On Washington to repeal a law that does harm to human beings. But....a Million-Librarian March calling for immediate jail time to those who write in library books? All respect due to librarians, but I'm not sure I wouldn't think that that was overkill.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a little curious about what Portman does eat. "Vegan" is a label that I've heard people use to describe different regimes -- some self-described vegans don't eat honey, for instance, others do. (Of course there may be only one, true veganism and the rest is heresy, I don't know.) When Portman says that she stopped being a quiet vegetarian and became a vegan activist, she muddled things a bit more for me. Is a vegan a vegetarian activist? Is a vegetarian a vegan passivist?
posted by CCBC at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2009


The defensiveness on display whenever someone does make the sort of argument Portman makes is telling, I think.

Amen.

I think there are plenty of valid arguments on both sides but when someone starts attacking as viciously as a few have here, they sound a lot like me when I was 12 years old and still eating meat. My younger cousin loved animals and farms, so she decided to stop eating meat. My brother and I would taunt her mercilessly, waving hot dogs in front of her face, making jokes, etc.

When I was in my early 20s this continued and I would jokingly (kind of) say such ignorant things as "Why would I go collecting all these vitamins and minerals from plants when an animal has already done the work for me?"

Now something is clear to me, after going vegetarian for years (then vegan for a year, then back to just vegetarian) and experiencing almost everything along the spectrum of animal consumption choices: This is an evolution. We are all learning, even Natalie. We all deserve each other's patience in figuring out what we can change to lower our collective impact while still being healthy.
posted by cbecker333 at 2:15 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Where is the respect for the vegetarian in your comparison? What about his/her choices and beliefs and feeling "cheated"?

Hey, if a vegetarian also wants to go with an all-vegetarian meal, then that's great too. I am only explaining why I do NOT think a vegetarian that chooses to offer BOTH kinds of food is "betraying the cause," provided that THEY ARE WILLING TO DO THAT. If they're feeling all put-upon because their friends are complaining that "oooh why don't you have any meat," then that would be different (in that case I'd be suggesting "get better friends" as well). But if a vegetarian CHOOSES to offer meat at his/her dinner party, I wouldn't accuse them of Betraying Their Principles as a result, and that's why.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:17 PM on October 28, 2009


Suppose, now, instead of writing in books, it was "setting dogs on fire" that was the lawless example. Now we enter the realm where a living being is harmed. It's on a different scale from writing on a book. However -- that living being is not a human being, and the jury is out when it comes to how to legally handle that disparity.

Sure, and at one time the jury was out on slavery as well. It was quite legal, to the point where rules about it were in the US Constitution (relatively recently in the history of humans). It was only through the persistent efforts of people who, at the time, were viewed similarly to how animal activists are viewed now, that it changed.

Whether or not animal activists will succeed is obviously unknown. But the line for who has rights and who doesnt, and who the law covers, changes over time, and that's what this is all about. Non-white people had very few if any legal rights until fairly recently (in Western society). Animals DO in fact have legal rights already --- that's what animal cruelty laws address (these are a perfect example --- Americans will react very strongly to cruelty against a dog (Michael Vick) but much less strongly to videos and evidence of similar cruelty in food production, due to emotional connections to dogs they don't share with all animals).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:20 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it better to have lived for slaughter than to never have lived at all?

No.
posted by Beardman at 2:21 PM on October 28, 2009


You do know why cows (mammals) give milk, right? It's not just because it's something they like doing. The "rape" analogy is impolitic, but not without basis. And eggs require an infrastructure which, to be economically viable, requires that old hens and the vast majority of roosters be killed and eaten.

Indeed, but I have no problem with the idea of feeding the cattle or goats or chickens in return for the milk and eggs, housing the bees in return for honey, maintaining the sheep in return for the wool, and so forth. Using the product of an animal is obviously on a very different ethical plane from killing and eating it.

Again, my confusion stems from the fact that Ms Portman starts out by mentioning that the book has converted her from being vegetarian to vegan, but the rest of the article goes on about why she considers meat-eating so awful. I assume that was already the case or she wouldn't have been vegetarian, but I can't find any argument in the piece for why the products of animal husbandry should also be excluded.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:23 PM on October 28, 2009


"You need to visit to a dairy farm sometime. Cows will line up to be milked. They seem to desire milking, and seem content afterward, but I couldn't say for certain that they like it. Can we know a cow's secret heart?"

Uh, yeah. But to get all middle-school health on you, it's because cows are industrially impregnated. For some reason, people totally space out on the fact that the precursor to milk is calf, and that this impregnation happens for the explicit purpose of creating milk. Hence, "rape" being not far off.
posted by klangklangston at 2:23 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


This thread shows a classic case of "meat eater panic" which shows up every time vegetarianism or veganism is discussed.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:26 PM on October 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


Beardman: That's a value judgement. I don't happen to think it's crazy, but I don't think it's obviously right, either.
posted by lodurr at 2:27 PM on October 28, 2009


alright, i can feel this party turning. have fun, y'all.
posted by lodurr at 2:28 PM on October 28, 2009


Faze clearly really gets into Halloween.
posted by Skot at 2:29 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Right, excellent. the point is that you've made a decision about a moral line you're drawing. what would help me understand your later answer is why it seems obvious to you to draw that line where you do."

Y'know, I'm sure I've said this more eloquently on some other occasion here on MeFi, but the short answer is that animals can suffer and that it seems good to minimize that as much as possible.
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


This thread shows a classic case of "meat eater panic" which shows up every time vegetarianism or veganism is discussed.

Panic is the word, as they burble over their sick feasts, consoling themselves with the thought that if an idiot like Natalie Portman opposes the monstrous cruelty of meat-eating, then it must be all right.
posted by Faze at 2:30 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Faze at 2:02 PM on October 28

Are you entering the purple prose of indignation writing competition?

I mean, yeah, there are a lot of meat eaters out there but most are not actually the caricature you portray. And, in fact, most people here are simply poking fun of Natalie Portman for overstating her case. Big deal. We don’t hate her and most certainly we don't don’t hate vegetarians or vegans. Why would we?
Eating meat is [and has been] a part of most cultures for thousands of years. Getting people to eat less [or no meat at all] is not an easy challenge. I don’t think our culture will ever go that far. And we should not expect them too. But consciously making an effort to change our eating habits from the top down [school lunch programs, big restaurants, etc] is possible in time. Until then try not to shake your fist at meat eaters.

Most aren't haters. They're just eaters.
posted by Rashomon at 2:30 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread shows a classic case of "meat eater panic" which shows up every time vegetarianism or veganism is discussed.

Spreading vegetarian propaganda is dangerous! Why, if the animals caught wind of this kind of idea, they'd be herding us into slaughterhouses sooner than you could say "moral community."
posted by decagon at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2009


This thread shows a classic case of "meat eater panic" which shows up every time vegetarianism or veganism is discussed.

Metafilter doesn't handle religion well. I thought this was well-known.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Eating meat is [and has been] a part of most cultures for thousands of years. Getting people to eat less [or no meat at all] is not an easy challenge. I don’t think our culture will ever go that far. And we should not expect them too.

Well, certainly not quickly. But lots of things that were part of our culture have been thankfully shed, despite being there for thousands of years. I wouldn't rule it out. But expecting a sudden transition is definitely unrealistic, yes. I think too many vegetarians/vegans dismiss all the intermediate steps (eating less meat, animal welfare laws to reduce cruelty in farming, etc) -- these provide tangible benefits and are much more achievable in the short to medium term.

Most people just don't think about this at all. I think eventually this will change, and that in the long term this change will lead to drastic difference (I think environmental factors and climate change will hasten this, as current meat practices are unsustainable). Could be well outside my lifetime, though.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:34 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beardman: That's a value judgement. I don't happen to think it's crazy, but I don't think it's obviously right, either.

I know, and I didn't mean to imply that it was obvious. I agree the non-identity problem is a problem, especially when you bring animals into the mix. Just my two cents!
posted by Beardman at 2:35 PM on October 28, 2009


I only eat people who vote.
posted by fistynuts at 2:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Yeah, this gets at the point where I think we'll be able to see the fundamental split between at least you and me. First, I think an ethical system that was fully internally consistent would probably be a bad thing. It gives you nowhere to go -- it has no room for change, can't really be extended."

Yeah, no, that's something I disagree with. That's like saying that it's a bad thing to have a fridge full of fresh food, because you have no rotten food to throw out. Further, it seems to drastically underestimate the number of moral choices available.

That said, when I saw the trailer for the new Cameron Diaz movie, The Box, where she has to decide whether to push a button that will give her $1 million but also kill someone somewhere on Earth, my first thought is that the only thing that would hold me back is a fear of narrative irony—if it was truly random, a one-in-over-six-billion chance means that I likely wouldn't even know the person, and who knows, maybe they woulda died that day anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 2:39 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it better to have lived for slaughter than to never have lived at all?

No.


I recently witnessed a traditional slaughtering of buffaloes in the Toraja region in Sulawesi (similar video, WARNING GRAPHIC). I cut out red meat awhile ago, and watching several bulls get slaughtered live didn't dissuade me from that decision, but I can appreciate the process. Some would call it barbaric, but from the Toraja point of view they are celebrating the animals that have enabled them for centuries. They see the bulls as heroes and cheer for them, then the community takes part in sharing the meat. Up until the bull was killed, it's safe to say that it didn't really have a clue as to why people were keeping it, and they treat the animals with respect (unlike factory farms tend to). I think at a certain point you just have to accept that life is kind of based on taking advantage of other forms of life and not be too much of a damned wimp about it.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2009


So, now we've actually gotten to people willing to think about the arguments...

I'm not a vegetarian, but I think their argument is pretty strong. It's basically just occam's razor: in the absence of evidence otherwise, we should assume that something that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, is indeed a species of duck, not some miraculous duck-like automaton. Higher animals (unlike plants or rocks), act just like they suffer, have neural patterns when suffering much like ours, and have brains much like ours; in the absence of good evidence otherwise, we should apply occam's razor and grant that they indeed are suffering, subjectively, basically like we are (though obviously without the fancier stuff like words) or children are. Perhaps it is untrue, and they just happen to use similar mechanisms with similar behaviors but lack the true subjectivity -- but occam's razor demands a good reason why one should believe not. So this puts the burden of proof on the eaters and "torturers" (certainly anyone who believes animals suffer as humans do would agree that what is done to dairy cows or chickens would constitute torture for people, with no Godwinian hyperbole) to explain how the subjective sense of suffering somehow doesn't apply to animals.

The final step in the burden-shifting is moral: say we are not certain whether animals suffer like people or not. If we assume they do suffer, what is the drawback of being wrong? Unnecessarily forgoing delicious foods. If we assume they do not suffer, what is the drawback of being wrong? Horrific murder and torture. Again, you can certainly conclude they don't suffer, but boy, if you're at all uncertain about that, the safe thing to do, morally, is hold of on the meat until you figure it out. It's a pretty grave error to say, well, I'm not sure whether this is horrific murder, but in the meantime, what the hey.

The point is, both of these moves shift the rather heavy burden on the meat eater. They must be able to argue 1) that they have good arguments why something that uses similar mechanisms to produce similar behavior is not, in fact, subjectively experiencing similar stuff; and 2) that they are so sure of it, that they believe there is little risk in being wrong and thereby commit horrible atrocities. The burden of proof lies heavy on the meat eaters.

(Oh, and getting back to the original dispute here, it's not Godwinian hyperbole to say, well, I think animals suffer like people, and therefore eating meat is murder, and drinking milk is participating in torture; and therefore condoning those who do both is condoning murderers and torturers, which indeed is about as bad as condoning rapists. Unless you think rape is worse than murder or torture [I suppose some do], the analogy is not too bad. Again, not my view, but I grant it is consistent.)

And again: I'm not a vegetarian myself, just a philosopher laying out the ideas.
posted by chortly at 2:44 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


the short answer is that animals can suffer and that it seems good to minimize that as much as possible

This is a reasonable point that can be easily made without rape allegations.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2009


Astonishing how insensitivity to the awfulness of meat-eating extends across the social and political spectrum. Radicals and conservatives, rich and poor, the ignorant and well-educated -- all will haul their huge bums out of the chair at the mere suggestion of vegetarianism, and shake their fists in jowl-quivering, spittle-flying outrage, while animal fats rendered in the charnel house of their stomachs ooze from the translucent pores of their sweaty foreheads, bits of corpse fly from their lips, slivers of flesh stew in the festering pockets of their gums, and chewed boli of cadavar work their way through funereal tunnels of their intestines, where borborygmi echo like screams of the dying, and from the loose, stinking base of which blow great bellowing, sputtering, damp gusts, as if from the very mouth of hell. These people sit on their toilets of a morning, gnashing their teeth, and reveling in putrid reek that rises from between their legs, sucking their sausage-greased tongues, and rolling their eyes in pleasure at the thought of what a pleasure it will be to replenish their slowly emptying colons with the next feast of suffering, willfully ignorant (I hope for the sake of their souls they are ignorant) that the whole world is enslaved to slaking their unholy hunger for the meat of poor creatures who love their lives as much as they.

Awesome. Can't quite decide if I want to spend the five bucks to add Chewed Boli of Cadavar to my cadre of sockpuppets, but it's tempting. Hint: When your outrage is this entertaining, it is less peruasive, than inviting.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eating animals? Totally not like rape. Not even a little.

...

The rape analogy has absolutely no basis in reality, whatsoever.

Even though Portman didn't directly make the analogy (as many have now pointed out), I think it's valid. Rape is about power, most typically a man asserting his dominance over a woman. Eating meat is humans exerting their dominance over less powerful species. Imprisonment, alterations of their reproductive functionality, and exploitation of the products of their organs ... you don't see any parallel there? And I'm dumb?!?

It's certainly not a great analogy but those of you aghast (shocked!) at the comparison are either bluffing or thick-skulled.

If there were some way to strip off the effects of the Botox and makeup and wonderbras and put their messages in some kind of location in our minds which was analogous to a non-executing memory space where it would be frozen in place, we'd be a lot safer. I guess what I'm advocating here is that, for our safety, we need Natalie Portman's stance to be naked and petrified.

^^ only one example, but much of the early thread seemed sexist and misogynistic. (Or was that not a rape joke?) Disappointing, but maybe not unexpected. Thanks to those who turned it around (a little).

Eating meat is clearly bad for the environment. But eating plants are too. After all, plants are an important part of the environment.

And yet eating meat is the equivalent of eating 10-100x the amount of plants (plus gallons and gallons of water, etc.) It seems that Portman (and Safran-Foer, though I obviously haven't read the book either) are more concerned with the moral aspect, but regardless of the moral aspect, it's a global resource issue for me. Or it will be soon.

You cannot read this and not get hungry.

Wrong. Ah, but you already knew that.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2009


Rape is about power, most typically a man asserting his dominance over a woman. Eating meat is humans exerting their dominance over less powerful species. Imprisonment, alterations of their reproductive functionality, and exploitation of the products of their organs ... you don't see any parallel there? And I'm dumb?!?

First, I tend to disagree with the suggestion that rape is all about dominance, and don't know why that isn't challenged more. It's about blind desire and theft more than some kind of power trip, usually.

Second, are you serious? The means for producing huge amounts of meat is indeed disgusting and exploitative, but the fundamental reasons for it are not. People need protein. They've been eating animals for a long time. Don't conflate the basic act of eating meat with the factory farms.

Rather than being preachy and totally against others eating meat, perhaps look for ways to dialogue and suggest that people look into reducing their meat intake. Your style is only going to turn off people and make it about you.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:55 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If cattle weren't farmed, they would probably be on the edge of extinction (at best) like the buffalo, or extinct, like the auroch.

Uh, yeah. But to get all middle-school health on you, it's because cows are industrially impregnated. For some reason, people totally space out on the fact that the precursor to milk is calf, and that this impregnation happens for the explicit purpose of creating milk. Hence, "rape" being not far off.

These animals, their species, would not exist without this form of "rape". They were specifically bred to be what they are: food-yielding animals. Their precursors are either extinct or not without regard to that consideration, but as species, egg-laying chickens, milk- and meat-producing cattle, and, hell, most things we eat would not exist if we didn't eat them. So, I guess, if you don't want to eat their products you are condemning them to extinction. Even if you set up little retirement villages for ex-food-producing animals, eventually we won't be able to sustain them any more through droughts, depressions, social upheavals, and what not, so bye-bye things we don't eat.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:03 PM on October 28, 2009


Even though Portman didn't directly make the analogy

Actually, she used a slick rhetorical trick to associate meat-eaters with rapists, without actually coming out and having the courage to make the direct accusation she wanted to make.

That's an unethical act in its own right. But she did this to strike an emotional chord in readers, because she does not respect her readers enough to let them make up their own minds.

In all, it's a pretty ridiculous thing to do. No less blunt and stupid, really, than associating Obama with Hitler or Nixon.

It's certainly not a great analogy

It's certainly not. And people who make it or repeat it should be ashamed of themselves for such sloppy thinking.

There are lots of reasons to be aware of what one eats, for ethical and ecological reasons, at least. Insinuations of this variety cheapen the discussion and put fair-minded people off of taking the more reasonable components of veganist extremism seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:04 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Most people just don't think about this at all. I think eventually this will change, and that in the long term this change will lead to drastic difference (I think environmental factors and climate change will hasten this, as current meat practices are unsustainable). Could be well outside my lifetime, though.

With 8-10+ billion people on the planet? Meat eating will inevitably become a thing only for the most wealthy. The choice will have very little to do with animal rights. Almost everything to with human rights. How soon? I don't know. How real is global warming and over-population? How real or imminent is peak oil? Massive industrial scale meat farming, including harvesting fish from the oceans, is only possible with the delicate balance of cheap energy, productive land/ocean resources, and a given number of mouths to feed. And it's not sustainable.

Killing and eating animals itself is not immoral. I reject that premise. But there is a broader cost to humans that IS immoral if we keep doing it the way we are in the quantity we are.

We have not many choices. More people can choose to become vegans now, cross our fingers that it will be a critical mass of people, and probably still overpopulate the planet and essentially kill off our ecosystems regardless. We can wait to be forced into becoming vegans in the future becuase our food systems are so fucked up by our current populations and consumption levels. Or. We can work to reduce populations and ALL consumption in tandem, reduce human impact on the naturals systems, and then maybe we can raise food animals humanely and sustainably. Or maybe some technological miracle will save us all.
posted by tkchrist at 3:05 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or maybe some technological miracle will save us all.

50 foot electrodes in a big saltwater/synthethic blood tank that grow any kind of meat you program into the system around them like some kind of giant birthing rotisserie. Then, I suppose PETA will bitch about the cruel treatment of tissue or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


To clear our analogies:

Killing for meat is like murder. That's the vegetarianism. The move to veganism is to say that taking animal products without their consent is like rape (the consent is the issue—most human semen is vegan).

For all of it, I tend to find it uncomfortable as an appeal to emotion, much like when people say that copyright infringement is theft.

However, that I disagree with copyright infringement being labeled theft (piracy is silly enough as a rhetorical flourish that I don't mind it as much), does not mean that I agree that copyright infringement is de facto good.
posted by klangklangston at 3:10 PM on October 28, 2009


It's certainly not a great analogy but those of you aghast (shocked!) at the comparison are either bluffing or thick-skulled.

Not an analogy at all, actually. Or even a valid comparison. What you've done is taken a couple of very abstract ideas (dominance and exploitation) and applied them to completely different situations with completely different motivations.

I think nobody should eat meat, but I also think that those who choose to eat meat are not to be referred to as rapist equivalents, or even comparable.

Understanding each other without harsh labels is the ideal destination for this discussion. It avoids dehumanizing any of us and then we all can make maximum progress as human beings.
posted by cbecker333 at 3:10 PM on October 28, 2009


So, I guess, if you don't want to eat their products you are condemning them to extinction.

Well, and raising them destroys habitats that has endangered other species, so there's a tradeoff there too. I'm fine with cows going extinct --- the suffering is what bothers me -- if everyone became vegan overnight we could let the remaining cows live out their life and then there would be no more cows. I don't see that as a horrible thing.

(I do think it is possible to have a small amount of meat/egg/etc use without really affecting the animals. In particular I think hunting is much more moral than farming, since the animal lives a normal life until they suddenly die --- which could easily happen to them from any number of predators besides man. However, meat on anything remotely approaching the American diet is unsustainable without a host of cruel practices).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:11 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


50 foot electrodes in a big saltwater/synthethic blood tank that grow any kind of meat you program into the system around them like some kind of giant birthing rotisserie.

I know you kid. You kidder. But. Poeple take that nonsense seriously. So. Where does the energy come from? Solar?

Vat Meat will never, ever, be as efficient (or safe) at sustainably raised pasture meat. Unless we also invent fusion power or some other Star Trek bullshit.

The fact is if the world held it's populations at 1-3 billion total humans we could ALL eat meat, drive cars, fly planes, or do what ever the fuck we want pretty much. Reducing populations will reduce suffering. Of humans. And animals.

But my record is skipping and broken on this topic.
posted by tkchrist at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2009


Harvard may teach critical thinking skills, but Hollywood sure knows how to get rid of those pretty quick.
posted by anniecat at 3:16 PM on October 28, 2009


Human beings are animals, and animals have been eating animals as long as there have been animals.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:18 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Natalie Portman is a clueless moron.

Oh I don't know: that quote doesn't seem all that bad to me. A little naive and pollyannaish, sure, and she's not going to replace Paul Krugman at the NYT anytime soon, but without too much special pleading here, it does not seem all that misguided to argue that at least one of the upshots of the economic downturn might be a dash of creative self-reflection for certain people who were previously money-obsessed. Sure, it seems a trifling attempt to look outside the bubble she dwells in, but it's hardly enough to make me want to heap scorn on her. For what it's worth, the quote reads a lot like something one might read in the New Yorker or the Style Section of the NYT, and those journals should probably know better.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"These animals, their species, would not exist without this form of "rape". They were specifically bred to be what they are: food-yielding animals. Their precursors are either extinct or not without regard to that consideration, but as species, egg-laying chickens, milk- and meat-producing cattle, and, hell, most things we eat would not exist if we didn't eat them. So, I guess, if you don't want to eat their products you are condemning them to extinction. Even if you set up little retirement villages for ex-food-producing animals, eventually we won't be able to sustain them any more through droughts, depressions, social upheavals, and what not, so bye-bye things we don't eat."

This pure, unabashed silliness. It's like arguing against abortion because the fetus might grow up to be another Einstein. How about this: We work to first reduce our reliance on, say, industrial forced impregnation of cattle, then we worry about whether they'll really go extinct without us yanking their teats every morning.

Christ, you guys are making me argue for veganism and I'm not even a vegan.
posted by klangklangston at 3:20 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's basically just occam's razor: in the absence of evidence otherwise, we should assume that something that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, is indeed a species of duck, not some miraculous duck-like automaton.

Okay. I'm a duck. I am an animal driven by instinct as much as by reason and it is no more immoral for me to eat meat than for a cat or a dog or a bear to eat meat. I am not above and apart from nature, I am of it.
posted by Diablevert at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh who gives a shit
posted by Eideteker at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2009


Colon the Barbarian
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:25 PM on October 28, 2009



It's basically just occam's razor: in the absence of evidence otherwise, we should assume that something that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, is indeed a species of duck, not some miraculous duck-like automaton.

Okay. I'm a duck. I am an animal driven by instinct as much as by reason and it is no more immoral for me to eat meat than for a cat or a dog or a bear to eat meat. I am not above and apart from nature, I am of it.
posted by Diablevert at 6:21 PM on October 28 [+] [!]

Oooh, you don't want to be a duck. Don't you know what they do to ducks?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:28 PM on October 28, 2009


We work to first reduce our reliance on, say, industrial forced impregnation of cattle

Some of us currently don't rely on industrial or forced anything. And we still eat meat and drink milk. My family raises cattle and dairy cows as sustainably as is humanly possible.

You pay a premium for this. As everyone should if want to pay what things actually cost.

The sad fact is if there is gonna be meat eating in a modern society it's going to be for rich people. Pretty much like it historically always was outside of hunter-gather societies.

And I don't anybody is forcing anybody to argue. Just set your shields to full ignore.
posted by tkchrist at 3:32 PM on October 28, 2009


zach galifianakis interviews ms. portman.

V for Vegan.
posted by vronsky at 3:34 PM on October 28, 2009


I take a nap and this is what happens?
posted by clearly at 3:35 PM on October 28, 2009


Man, I can't stand those conservatives, always implying that everyone who doesn't share their exact code of ethics is ignorant or brainwashed. It's amazing how sanctimonious they get. And making comparisons between abortion and the holocaust? Tacky and ridiculous.

Wait, this is the vegetarians talking about how eating meat is like slavery again?

Sorry, my mistake. Guess I squinted. Totally different.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


When did we slip into the parallel universe where comparing one thing to another is exactly the same as saying those things are... exactly the same?
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


When did we slip into the parallel universe where comparing one thing to another is exactly the same as saying those things are... exactly the same?

I can't believe you just called us all aliens! I happen to know for a fact that only three Mefites posting in this thread are from outside this universe. Bigot.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:50 PM on October 28, 2009


peter gabriel is a rapist
posted by Flunkie at 3:51 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oooh, you don't want to be a duck. Don't you know what they do to ducks?

Ducks deserve it. There now: Duck rape. I've squared the circle!
posted by Diablevert at 3:54 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hi, I'm on MetaFilter and I could overthink a plate of beans pork chops.
posted by aheckler at 3:55 PM on October 28, 2009


Duck rape is becmoning an evolutionary battle actually, as females evolve longer and more squiggly vaginas (i'm serious) to avoid being impregnated by an unwelcome male. The males are responding by evolving an ever-longer corkscrew shaped penis.
posted by cbecker333 at 3:59 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Can we know a cow's secret heart?

I think it's weird the analogy is getting so much heat after we just saw a major news story about a gang rape happening and people sitting around watching and not doing anything. I know, it's still a dumb analogy.

Metafilter vegetarianism clusterfuck threads can be productive. I actually became a vegetarian after this thread, I felt bad about trolling it so hard and pretending to be a vegetarian. Seriously, that was the main reason, my greater appreciation for the health benefits and animal rights came later.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:00 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


klangklangston,

This isn't that hard, I'm just seeing two possible interpretations of what she's saying:

1) the difference between human and non-human is arbitrary - this seems clearly false, OK fine, we agree.
Or 2) there is a real difference, but using it as a way of excluding animals from moral consideration is arbitrary. I think this may be true, but also possibly debatable.

But, even if I concede that point, vegetarianism/veganism also contains arbitrary exclusions, which is not a glib rhetorical point at all. The analogy with racism claims that racism is a morally wrong, arbitrary exclusion, and speciesism is an arbitrary exclusion, therefore speciesism must also be morally wrong. Which is to say that the existence of an exclusion is itself framed as what is morally problematic about being an omnivore. At that point, the issue of plant rights is absolutely a relevant counterpoint that demonstrates that vegetarians adhere to a moral system with boundaries, so they can hardly fault the rest of us for doing the same.

At this point, you refer to a mysterious "larger ethical system", which I assume is just a sincere belief that omnivorous boundaries are wrong and vegetarian boundaries are right, i.e. meat is murder. I think this is perfectly fine. You believe in X, I believe in Y, neither of us can prove the other wrong, so let's try to impose our respective moral visions on the other through the democratic process.

Maybe your larger ethical system is more than that? I don't know, but once I tried to read an animal rights book, and the first three pages could be entirely summarized as "the capacity to experience pain is the relevant boundary for moral consideration, not human-nonhuman status. Agreed? OK, let's keep going then..." I didn't agree and the author didn't really try to convince me, so I put the book down.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:05 PM on October 28, 2009




Human beings are animals, and animals have been eating animals as long as there have been animals.


So the first animal was a cannibal? I don't like where this is going...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:05 PM on October 28, 2009


Why did they pick Natalie Portman who RAPED AND KILLED a young cow in 1990?
posted by psylosyren at 4:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about Heat? And The Phantom Menace? Her portrayal of Princess Naboo was Oscar-worthy.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:04 PM on October 28 [+]


This. The first time in my YEARS here at Mefi I reached to flag a comment. lolz. And I like you Pastabagel, but man... Princess Naboo. lolz.
posted by Bageena at 4:10 PM on October 28, 2009


You know what would be a great, maturing step for the public dialogue to take? To quit giving a platform to celebrities to speak/write on anything other than being a celebrity.

i.e. SHUT UP AND DANCE, MONKIES!!

Seriously, how often did this come up during the runup to the iraq war? Was it perhaps because celebrities were the only people who could get a national platform who weren't connected to or dependant on defense contractor funded think tanks and the Washington D.C. sleaze factory?

If you disagree with a celebrity, then you should explain why. If you wish they'd just shut up because they are famous for something other then "having ideas" (like Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Joe Scarborough, and Glenn Beck) then chances are you can't really articulate your position in the first place
Who does more damage to the environment:
· Me, who travels everyone by bike or public transit, lives in a small apartment, and buys very little, but eats meat, eggs, and dairy regularly.
· Natalie Portman, who is a vegan, but presumably travels more and owns a large residence.
I am not trying to insinuate that Natalie Portman a hypocrite, but instead point out the larger problem: it's impossible to know.
Hey, it's impossible to know if Natalie Portman is gay married and beats her wife, but why not insinuate it anyway? She's rich and that's just how rich people roll.
"Would Natalie Portman be a famous actress had she not appeared in Star Wars?"
Since she was famous before then... yes?
Seriously, has anyone met anyone from Harvard that they thought was a really sharp person? I've met three Harvard grads, and all three were absolute tools.
Lol.
Astonishing how insensitivity to the awfulness of meat-eating extends across the social and political spectrum. Radicals and conservatives, rich and poor, the ignorant and well-educated... that the whole world is enslaved to slaking their unholy hunger for the meat of poor creatures who love their lives as much as they.
It's not that astonishing when you consider how delicious it is.
--

Not that portman isn't an idiot. And her above quote about the recession indicates certain -- disconnectedness from people who aren't in the social class that caused the problem. But there are also some pretty stupid comments in this thread.
posted by delmoi at 4:30 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So the first animal was a cannibal? I don't like where this is going...

So, naturally, the last animal will also be a cannibal.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:45 PM on October 28, 2009


So, naturally, the last animal will also be a cannibal.

Cormac McCarthy beat you to that one.
posted by tkchrist at 4:49 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


unholy hunger for the meat of poor creatures who love their lives as much as they

Is this the title of an H.P. Lovecraft story? It should be.

But that's not why I pull quoted it. I think I could succesfully argue that many creatures we eat do not "love life" as much as me in that they are merely unconsciously obeying a set of instincts. While humans might a have a survival instinct we are much more consciously attuned to our own state of being and self. I think I can demonstrably prove that I love all facets of life more than say a trout or a chicken.

I don't think there are many animals, for instance, that fall out of love with life and willingly kill themselves. Where as humans do all the time.
posted by tkchrist at 4:56 PM on October 28, 2009


That said, when I saw the trailer for the new Cameron Diaz movie, The Box, where she has to decide whether to push a button that will give her $1 million but also kill someone somewhere on Earth

This is such an apt metaphor for her acting career that I'm surprised it skated by.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:04 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


If humans had to choose between the constantly abusive treatment and painful deaths of factory farming, or being raped, there is little doubt that most would choose to be raped.

The difference being that our race of animal has decided that those races of animals we enslave are inferior to us, and therefore don't deserve equal treatment, healthy treatment, or even as pain-free a life as we can provide to our tasty slaves.

If we want to be morally consistent, maybe it would be a step forward to set up "farm brothels", where animal slaves that were previously going to be used for factory farming are given comfortable lives, but used by lonely, sex-starved humans for companionship.

It would help create additional jobs in struggling rural communities, and could be promoted in a very humane, back-to-nature manner, with the hope of attracting eco-tourists from around the world.

It could provide a useful alternative to the exploitation and degradation of human prostitutes, reducing demand for their services, and diminishing human suffering. It would also provide a good stop-gap between a better future, in which cloned, living, warm human bodies of all ages and varieties -- albeit without fully functional brains -- would be used to provide sexual comfort instead.

Perhaps such living yet non-conscious flesh could even be made to perform certain basic behaviors (sucking, licking, rocking back and forth, etc.), if not through electro-stimulation, then perhaps through animatronic implants.

Think of a world where people's needs could be safely met. This could provide a socially-acceptable, comforting alternative to child molestation, rape, or even murder, and might help to bring an end to the endless cycle of abuse that feeds new generations of abusers... again, reducing human suffering.

While it would be a generally good thing to grow the meat we eat in the same way, in order to reduce animal suffering, it is likely a dead-end technology, as it would be prohibitively expensive. That said, focusing exclusively on reducing HUMAN suffering as our moral imperative would make us better, more evolved people, would it not?!
posted by markkraft at 5:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if you're kidding, that reads like you just smoked a big crack rock.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:14 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


That said, focusing exclusively on reducing HUMAN suffering as our moral imperative would make us better, more evolved people, would it not?!

Most humans would consider it HUMAN suffering to fuck an animal instead of another human. What. You gonna force lonley dudes to fuck a pig? Hardly internally (or externally) morally consistent.

But. Meh. Even as Swiftian satire your analogy fails.

That said, focusing exclusively on reducing HUMAN suffering as our moral imperative would make us better, more evolved people, would it not?!

Yes. Yes it would.
posted by tkchrist at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2009


If we want to be morally consistent, maybe it would be a step forward to set up "farm brothels"...

Aiight, Dr. Swift Jr., here's the thing you're missing: It's the vegetarians who think that human and animal life are united and made equivalent through their mutual capacity to experience suffering, and that a universal ethics can be constructed which ought to govern the behavior of each to all.

It's the meat eaters who think humans and animals are qualitatively different and cannot effectively enter into a social compact, because we are fundamentally, and mutually, alien to each other. Hunting, killing, and eating other animals is natural, it's what we've been doing for millions of years, ever since became homo sapiens, and long before that. Mating with them is unnatural, evidence of a more or less profound fuck-up in the typical cross-wiring that runs through the wetware in our skulls.

To use the disgust elicited by the idea of mating with animals to imply that such disgust ought to be elicited by eating animals presumes a fundamental equivalence which is itself the very focus of dispute. Whereas everybody agreed the Irish were human.
posted by Diablevert at 5:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Okay. I'm a duck. I am an animal driven by instinct as much as by reason and it is no more immoral for me to eat meat than for a cat or a dog or a bear to eat meat. I am not above and apart from nature, I am of it."

"Biological determinism, officer. That's why I'm shitting in the mall fountain."
posted by klangklangston at 6:29 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I eat meat because I'm an animal have the morals of an animal and because I live like an animal. In my heart I have no pitty for animals that I eat because I'm an animal. I will run away fast from a tiger because I'm an animal. You don't live in my jungle you don't hunt with the tigers you don't wash in the basin. You are not an animal. (that last part was the insult)
posted by nola at 6:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Delmoi: Seriously, how often did this come up during the runup to the iraq war? Was it perhaps because celebrities were the only people who could get a national platform who weren't connected to or dependant on defense contractor funded think tanks and the Washington D.C. sleaze factory?

In the runup to the Iraq War, there were plenty of distinguished voices, who were distinguished in light of their previous expertise on the subject and not the feature films in which they starred, who spoke out against the Iraq War, and had national platforms. If anything, the celebrities served to distract from them. It's a lot easier to dismiss Sean Penn than Juan Cole.

If you disagree with a celebrity, then you should explain why. If you wish they'd just shut up because they are famous for something other then "having ideas" (like Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Joe Scarborough, and Glenn Beck) then chances are you can't really articulate your position in the first place

My disagreements with what she wrote are separate from her celebrity, and dismissing the latter does not mean dismissing the former. The fact that her arguments aren't, in fact, very good, just serves to highlight my point: giving celebrities platforms to argue their politics is the fallacy of argument from authority writ large. That they're famous is (or should be) immaterial to their arguments, but their fame buys them a louder voice to be wrong, and drowns out more expert and intelligent opinions.

If we're going to celebrate Natalie Portman for using her celebrity to push veganism, then shouldn't we also celebrate Jenny McCarthy for focussing attention on the critical issue of the link between vaccines and autism?
posted by fatbird at 6:35 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fatbird, if there was such a link, then yes.
posted by josher71 at 6:39 PM on October 28, 2009


Fatbird, if there was such a link, then yes.

Yeah, I probably should've appended to my comment that I know the link is bogus, and that was my point: That for every celebrity using their fame for good, there's another using it for evil.
posted by fatbird at 6:40 PM on October 28, 2009


"Biological determinism, officer. That's why I'm shitting in the mall fountain."

How would that be natural? I am an animal, but a human one. I am primed to speak human languages, to absorb the rules of human culture. Including things like privacy taboos around elimination. I said --- again, props to my man J. Swift, who said it best, animal rationis capax --- that I am driven by instinct as much as by reason. People can reason, can argue, cultures can change, morals and mores can change. The clay does not. People will always be subject to jealousies, greed, whims, irrationalism, prejudices, rages, cruelties. Meat will always taste good to us, we'll always desire it. I am sure there are dozens reading this thread who could leap up to say it doesn't taste good to them, and I'm sure that's true. Taste more than many things is a variable aspect fo culture, of what you grew up on and the habits you currently cultivate. But meat-eating ain't just in our tongues, it's in our teeth and our guts and our digestive tracts. I don't think you an reason the desire for it out of humans any more than you can out of dogs or bears. And I'm not sure you should; we don't call it murder when a lion hunts an antelope or a bear Timothy Treadwell. They are merely doing what they were meant to do, ought to do, need to be expected to do. I think we ought to respect that. And I think it's a kind of Adamic paternalism to hold ourselves outside and above that.
posted by Diablevert at 6:58 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't think we've experienced anything new with regard to veganism versus vegetarianism versus being a practicing omnivore, but I think we can all agree that Natalie Portman is not a very persuasive writer. I don't think she's dumb at all: she's just clearly sheltered and not particularly skilled at writing persuasive essays.

Portman is right about one thing, though: what we eat does define who we are. People take their food very seriously, even when it doesn't appear so at first. Whether you agree or disagree with the moral underpinnings of people's diets, you have to be as calm and respectful about criticizing these diets as you would be if you were criticizing their family, religion, or country.

The "rape" remark threw off her entire essay because it turned every omnivores' favorite holiday meal into a vicious gang rape. The effect is far more silly than it is even shocking. It was a totally absurd way to make a point. A better writer would have known that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:04 PM on October 28, 2009


Basically Portman is saying her ideals about veganism and not killing or eating animals is similar to someone's ideals about the horrors of rape.
I don't see how anyone can read this as a equivalent argument and then agree with her.

Rape is a crime. Period.
The killing of animals can be a crime but usually only if you hunt in the off season or hunt with no license or maliciously kill someone's pet. But the death of animals such as cows and chickens is just not something that the lawmakers in this country will propose as a crime.
And so the argument needs to go further in what can constitute a crime.
And that is the conditions with which animals are held before their are taken to the slaughterhouse.

Most societies will always have people who eat animals. Always.
So that argument has to be taken off the table.
Instead we have to ask how can we set up a system that is different than the one we currently have?
I'm all for people cutting back on their meat eating. I'm also in favor of getting meat locally or from free range type situations. Or turn people into fisherman and hunters so they have to earn their meat.
But it is a long road. And when you write articles or make films that take what most people define as extreme positions you will not get people on your side. People will see it as propoganda and turn from it right into a McDonalds drive-thru. [Or maybe In-N-Out Burger].
posted by Rashomon at 7:05 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"It's the meat eaters who think humans and animals are qualitatively different . . . hunting, killing, and eating other animals is natural, it's what we've been doing for millions of years, ever since became homo sapiens, and long before that."

And indeed, humanity also has a rich tradition of beastiality, so why not legalize it, especially if its done in a way that might reduce some human suffering?! Sure, it's not everyone's idea of a nice weekend outing, but...

My point is,opposition to beastiality has nothing to do with looking out for the welfare of our tasty slaves. It has everything to do with protecting mankind's view of themselves.

As tkchrist so clearly put it...
"Most humans would consider it HUMAN suffering to fuck an animal instead of another human. What. You gonna force lonley dudes to fuck a pig?"

...and so, we won't allow it, even for those humans -- let's face it... millions of them -- who would appreciate such an option, if only for special occasions.

>"That said, focusing exclusively on reducing HUMAN suffering as our moral imperative would make us better, more evolved people, would it not?!
Yes. Yes it would."


And yet, the idea of brainless human clones being used to reduce human suffering is pretty much a non-starter, especially if you're going to use them as fleshsickles, right?!

Again, because of protecting mankind's view of themselves. If the choice is between reducing human suffering and doing something completely abhorrent that stains how we perceive ourselves, we generally choose to reject -- or at least strongly frown upon -- such behavior.

And no, I'm not frowning on this aspect of humanity, even if religion often takes it to extremes. What we are talking about here is important. It's how people define themselves. It's at the essence of civilization, and I think an ethical civilization matters, regardless of religion.

What I am saying, really, is that it's not within us and proper for us, as civilized human beings, to say that morality should be all about reducing human suffering. That's not who we really are, or should be.

How we treat life -- all life -- is important... and there are important reasons to want to reduce the suffering of all life, as that would ALSO make us better, more evolved people... even moreso than if we merely concerned ourselves with our own species and its own happiness... would it not?!

If we want to survive as a species, then it would be helpful to not look at everything else except humanity through blood-tinted glasses, as something to be exploited. Indeed, such a viewpoint could be deeply and ultimately self-destructive.

While I still eat meat occasionally, I cannot help but think that humanity would be far better off, far more sustainable, far more evolutionarily advantaged, and far more humane -- both to animals AND humans, both of who suffer and die because we eat animals -- if we were to reduce -- if not eliminate -- our meat intake, raise what meat we do raise in a healthy, natural manner, treat animals like they mattered, and let nature have its way over more of this world, rather than cutting down more of our forests for pastures.

And ultimately, despite your own weaknesses and love of a good, juicy steak, I suspect you actually agree with me.
posted by markkraft at 7:17 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If, one day, we advance out into space, and meet real, sentient alien life -- not some anthropomorphized wet dream, but something new, different, and distinctly alien... let's hope *they're* not carnivores.
posted by markkraft at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2009


Vegan Activist: You meat eaters are morally reprehensible. And asking someone to tolerate eating meat is morally akin to asking them to tolerate rape!

Unrepentant Carnivore: What the...that's just a totally stupid thing to say. What the hell is wrong with you?

Vegan: O ho! Now we see the meat-eater's panic kicking in!

Carnivore: Whatever.
posted by darkstar at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I am saying, really, is that it's not within us and proper for us, as civilized human beings, to say that morality should be all about reducing human suffering. That's not who we really are, or should be.

Why the hell not? Sorry, that was perhaps a little harsh. But: Morality is a human construct. The universe is neither moral nor immoral. Nature is neither moral nor immoral. Only within a society can morality exist, because morality is a set of behaviors, attitudes, instincts and rationalizations intended to make that society function better, a substructure which is, to boot, mostly unconscious. (Check the Fat Man experiment). And human morality governs human society. One might argue that apes or elephants or dogs have moralities also, inasmuch as they have societies. But their rules ain't our rules. And our rules ain't written in the sky, only in our hearts.
posted by Diablevert at 7:41 PM on October 28, 2009


I know this isn't the main point of the post, but I really wish the Huffington Post as celebrity op-ed platform did not exist.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:56 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Why the hell not?"

Because, we, as humans, balk at the idea, and if we followed it to its logical conclusion, it would clearly demean and debase who we are and how we view ourselves.

That's *ALWAYS* been a part of our cultures in some sense. To suggest that human cultures are infinitely flexible, to the point that everything could ever be based entirely on reducing human suffering is not only avoiding that fact... it's also avoiding the emergent fact that humanity is not the only precious little snowflake on this world that matters.

Reality is on the verge of teaching us that lesson, in spades. The question is whether we're ready to learn or not.
posted by markkraft at 7:58 PM on October 28, 2009


I can't wait until we can grow meat without the rest of the animal. I'm very interested to know if MeFite vegans or vegetarians will be okay with meat then. I would assume it'd have to be totally fine, but maybe some people actually have an issue with it being "flesh"? Are there combinations of proteins and fat that are intrinsically taboo to you?

Also, man. Faze. You are pretty hardcore. I feel kind of nervous knowing how angry something I enjoy so much (eating meat) could make others. I'm a good, animal-loving, nature-in-awe-of-ing, universe-worshipping person aside from the tasty meat I stuff into mouth, I swear! :(
posted by floam at 8:01 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, I feel like we're talking past each other. To make my side clear: I don't think morality exists except in the minds of humans. Morality is something that evolved to help humans survive better living in large social groups. There's no universal morality outside of human society. The murders in the Rue Morgue weren't murder, because an orangutan can't murder, because it's not a person. It can kill, sure, and it can do so when apparently prompted by rage. But we can't expect it to live by human rules. Human rules only exist for humans. The argument for animal rights is that we should extend human rules to animals. That doesn't make sense to me, because there can be no interchange, no true partnership. It's paternalistic, and diminishing to the animal. Further, we cannot escape our own, often irrational and instinct-driven, animal natures. There are certain traits and tendencies which are simply a part of being human, and we'll never get rid of them.

You seem to be arguing that there is some sort of universal morality at play here, some sort of judge who watches humans' treatment of animals. I mean, "clearly demean and debase"? In whose eyes? Who gets to say so? "Not the only precious little snowflake in this world that matters"? Matters to who? Who is the implied being sitting there saying, take a stepladder and get over yourselves, humanity, animals are just as important as you? "Reality" is going to "teach us a lesson"? The very phrase implies a universal moral code external and independent of humanity, a seperate teacher and we the student, made to recite the moral.

Personally, I don't think there is any such judge. Neither universe nor planet cares whether we survive or not. Certainly not the other animals. I'm sure they wouldn't mind the room.

I don't balk, man, and I'm a person.
posted by Diablevert at 8:16 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh and...

"morality is a set of behaviors, attitudes, instincts and rationalizations intended to make that society function better..."

So, when one morality is confronted by a different morality -- one that is more sustainable, and will clearly function better, given the emerging global crisis -- what do you think happens over time?!

(Grabs a bowlful of edamame, pulls up a seat...)
posted by markkraft at 8:18 PM on October 28, 2009


"I can't wait until we can grow meat without the rest of the animal. I'm very interested to know if MeFite vegans or vegetarians will be okay with meat then."

Some will, some won't.

My main reason for not eating much in the way of meat is health reasons... and those won't change anytime soon, I suspect. But the simple fact is, I think it's the right thing to do, given the circumstances... circumstances that most carnivores really refuse to come to grips with. They know the facts, and most agree with them... and then they shrug and eat their burger.

That's not going to work in the long term. Even the idea of "grown meat" is weak sauce, in that it's likely to be prohibitively expensive, less tasty, and a very inefficient use of resources. When the snowpacks start melting, drought is standard fare, and ocean acidification starts killing off the plankton and coral reefs, efficiently using water so that everyone stays alive and fed will matter a whole lot more than your hyperexpensive hamburger.

"You seem to be arguing that there is some sort of universal morality at play here, some sort of judge who watches humans' treatment of animals."

Morality has always had universal themes, most based on interpretation of a reality.

For example...
Native tribes stay in one rich area until they hunt, fish out, or otherwise deplete a rich, abundant region... they are forced to flee from their veritable Garden of Eden, and create a morality that tries to explain what happened, and tries to correct it, in order to be more in line with _____.

Hunting becomes ritualized. Animals become sacred. Meat is eaten only on special holidays or special occasions, or not at all on other occasions.

These sorts of things have always happened throughout history, and they aren't going away any time soon. Reality clearly taught prior cultures lessons, worldwide. Reality is going to teach us a lesson too.
posted by markkraft at 8:50 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I can't fuck the mashed potatoes any more?
posted by bardic at 8:56 PM on October 28, 2009


if the mashed potatoes consented to you fucking them, then you can fuck them ... and i don't think lying there saying nothing and getting cold counts as "yes"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Embrace the entirety of nature by NOT trying to evade negative emotions, as painful as they might be as they are all a significant part of what makes us HUMAN.

Pain is an integral element of the universe. Pretending you can be apart from it is just delusional and makes you FURTHER from nature.
posted by HTuttle at 9:08 PM on October 28, 2009


and i don't think lying there saying nothing and getting cold counts as "yes"

I think that was pretty much the Victorian definition of consent...


Sorry.
posted by darkstar at 9:21 PM on October 28, 2009


(I hope for the sake of their souls they are ignorant)

Don't worry about it, I don't have a soul. Come to think of it neither do you. So relax, there won't be any eternal damnation or karmic retribution or anything of that sort going on.
posted by MikeMc at 9:57 PM on October 28, 2009


'Against Meat' -- the book that convinced Ms. Portman -- looks like quite a book, and is getting excellent reviews.

The New York Times has posted five pages from it that show quite a bit of humanity and humility.

The author talks about how his grandmother, how she used to feed him his favorite dish of chicken and carrots, and explains the reasons why the birth of his kids finally convinced him to go entirely vegetarian.

Here's an exerpt:

"My choice on their behalf means they will never eat their great-grandmother’s singular dish. They will never receive that unique and most direct expression of her love, will perhaps never think of her as the greatest chef who ever lived. Her primal story, our family’s primal story, will have to change.

Or will it? It wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood my grandmother’s cooking. The greatest chef who ever lived wasn’t preparing food, but humans. . . Over pumpernickel ends and Coke, she would tell me about her escape from Europe. . . “Listen to me,” she would plead — and I knew a vital lesson was being transmitted, even if I didn’t know, as a child, what that lesson was. I know, now, what it was.

“We weren’t rich, but we always had enough. Thursday we baked bread, and challah and rolls, and they lasted the whole week. Friday we had pancakes. Shabbat we always had a chicken, and soup with noodles. . . we were happy. We didn’t know any better. And we took what we had for granted, too.

“Then it all changed. During the war it was hell on earth, and I had nothing. I left my family, you know. I was always running, day and night, because the Germans were always right behind me. If you stopped, you died. There was never enough food. I became sicker and sicker from not eating, and I’m not just talking about being skin and bones. I had sores all over my body. It became difficult to move. I wasn’t too good to eat from a garbage can. I ate the parts others wouldn’t eat. If you helped yourself, you could survive. I took whatever I could find. I ate things I wouldn’t tell you about.

“Even at the worst times, there were good people, too. Someone taught me to tie the ends of my pants so I could fill the legs with any potatoes I was able to steal. I walked miles and miles like that, because you never knew when you would be lucky again. Someone gave me a little rice, once, and I traveled two days to a market and traded it for some soap, and then traveled to another market and traded the soap for some beans. You had to have luck and intuition.

“The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.”

“He saved your life.”

“I didn’t eat it.”

“You didn’t eat it?”

“It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why?”

“What, because it wasn’t kosher?”

“Of course.”

“But not even to save your life?”

“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”

posted by markkraft at 11:14 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


semen is vegan
That's going on a T-shirt, right?
posted by CCBC at 11:17 PM on October 28, 2009


Basically Portman is saying her ideals about veganism and not killing or eating animals is similar to someone's ideals about the horrors of rape.
I don't see how anyone can read this as a equivalent argument and then agree with her.

Rape is a crime. Period.


Actually there was a law passed in Afghanistan recently that allowed marital rape for Shia Muslims, this was actually part of a package that was supposed to make the country more shia-friendly. Anyway rape hasn't always been illegal in all cases. Hundreds of years ago marital rape was legal almost everywhere, including the U.S.

She obviously wasn't saying the two things were identical, rather that both things are morally wrong and shouldn't be tolerated. Obviously I disagree with her on that, but no two things are going to be identical. If things needed to be identical to make an analogy, then no one would ever make any analogies.
posted by delmoi at 5:11 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


So if I sit down to dinner with a bunch of people who are opposed to rape...?

Seriously, this isn't so much an argument made to convince as it is an argument made to smugly pat yourself on the back.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:15 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now that I see more of what Foer has written, I'm even less impressed by the op-ed. Foer seems to be doing that thing that writers of his generation do (which I'm not faulting him for, BTW, it's just what they do and it can have value if done with care) where they question and analyze their motives unto exhaustion, worrying it this way and that until they think they understand it. And the op-ed reads to me like a high-level gloss.

It reminds me of being in undergraduate seminars where someone is called on to lead discussion on a text and they get it weirdly wrong by missing large chunks of argument or evidence, until the professor has to step in and say 'we need to be clear before we go too far off the rails that The Wealth of Nations is not in fact intended as a call for universal health care.'

It also reminds me of those times when I go onto Amazon and look at reviews of a book I've read, and get teh strong impression the reviewers are talking about a different book altogether -- one with orthogonal conclusions and written with an entirely different intent. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I ever get around to reading Foer's book, and then re-reading Portman's commentary, I'll feel like she read a different book from the one I did.
posted by lodurr at 6:05 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


If things needed to be identical to make an analogy, then no one would ever make any analogies.

yes, it's good to remind ourselves of this kind of thing now and then.

I wish I had my copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with me. This reminds me of a wonderful passage where the (autistic) protagonist explains in pedantic detail why metaphors are lies but similes can be true. Followed up a few pages later by a description of a man who looks like he's got a mouse nesting in each nostril, with the footnoted explanation that it's not a metaphor 'because he really did look like that.'
posted by lodurr at 6:12 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this isn't so much an argument made to convince as it is an argument made to smugly pat yourself on the back.

It's obviously not a very convincing argument, but I much of the pushback seems to be "I eat meat and I don't feel like a rapist! So her argument must be invalid!" Well, of course analogies are never valid arguments, they're meant to help people understand the point being made -- not make it.

While I think veganism is kind of ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 6:17 AM on October 29, 2009


Markkraft, very few educated people disagree about the sustainability and human ethics of our modern food systems. Industrial meat production, especially. That is not the argument at all. It's huge red herring. The argument is "is eating meat immoral in itself" THAT essentially is what Portman and others are claiming. And it's stupid.

No converts will be made by asserting false equivalences of meat/dairy eating to rape and/or murder or claiming meat eating is inherently immoral. Not only that, the argument is utterly untenable to those that make it. If they are making the comparison as a flippant analogy it still exposes the claim to some startling hypocrisy.

Look. If you "believe" eating meat/dairy was even roughly equivalent to murder/rape (which are clearly outrageously immoral AND crimes) then you must believe animals have an equal, or very close to equal, right to life as humans.

If you believe that you should be, at a bare minimum, picketing slaughterhouses, cattle pens, ranches, and dairy farms every day. But really you should be willing to physically assault every poultry facility owner and rancher in the act of committing rape/murder. I suppose you can claim you are either committed to non-violence and are the helpless lone voice in a sea of holocaust. But frankly that is weak sauce given the number of people who claim to share your views and the fact you won't ever be gased or killed your self for any kind of action. Perhaps imprisoned. But so?

IOW. If you were to know, for a fact, that next door to you hundreds of humans were being raped and murdered and nobody else seemed to be doing anything — no government policy was being formulated to deal with it — and you did nothing but write op/ed's and outrage pieces on the internet — you are a coward and a failure as a human being.

If you, Markkraft, are a direct witness to rape and murder most people should be morally compelled to do anything they can, in the absence of an authority trained to deal with these things, to prevent it. Right?

Portman is right. If she believes animals share equal rights to humans then telling her dinner partners they are accomplices to rape in the least she can do. Literally the least. In fact if she believes that 100% and that's all she does, she is a coward of the highest order.

Clearly she doesn't thoroughly believe that animals are 100% equal to humans. Most people, even ethical vegans, do not truly believe this.Those that do we mostly think are nuts. Becuase they are morally consistent enough to free lab animals and burn down Abattoirs.

So How equal are animals in terms of right to humans? Clearly as a civilization we have come a long way to recognizing that animals have certain rights. From One hundred thousand years of ZERO rights, to about 100 years of some rights. Which I believe is good and I think there is more to do.

But preventing human suffering still trumps animal suffering as moral obligation. If we delve into an experiment like the Fat Man conundrum where we are forced to choose between saving two lives (normally between humans) only one life is a puppy and one is a person, clearly we are morally compelled to choose the human. Every time. Even if that human is a rapist.

So killing an animal for food is not murder. Nor is it equivalent to rape, even if it involves forced insemination. Again two beings are being raped, you can choose to stop one rape. One being is human the other is not. Under any sane ethical system you are morally compelled to prevent the human rape.

So. Again for the cheap seats. Eating meat/dairy NOT rape or murder and not, in itself immoral. If you want to use the hyperbolic attention whoring analogy to rape/murder.... well I'll forgive the analogy maybe once. After that we are in a ridiculous histrionic kind of Glenn Beck territory IMHO.

Under most workable moral systems humans are first morally obligated to other humans. Arguing otherwise is ultimately a rabbit hole of insanity and you know it.

We are bound to improve the lives and suffering of humanity FIRST and foremost. In doing that correctly we will also greatly improve the lives of animals by saving and preserving habitats and ensuring biodiversity. Which is the sustainability argument. Which also leads to less meat eating. Without going to this idiotic notion that humans and animals share even close to equivalent rights.
posted by tkchrist at 10:34 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


And to follow up tkchrist's point: I can feel a supplementary argument coming, and I'd like to address that if I may --

"But Natalie Portman did not say HERSELF that she actually DID equate rape with eating meat. She was just trying to think of an example of 'another act which you wouldn't hesitate to say was wrong,' to underscore the inherant problem with tolerating in others something which you yourself find heinous."

We understand that. However, tkchrist's explanation above is an explanation for why this specific tactic backfired upon her. The ethics of rape are on such a different plane from the ethics of eating meat so as to be comical.

This doesn't mean that we don't find many of the ethical issues around eating meat to be objectionable. It only means that we feel there is a difference in SCOPE between The Evils Of Rape and The Evils Of Meat.

In order for Portman's analogy to work in the way she intended it to work, the reader would have to ALREADY believe that rape is equivilent to carnivoracy. But....if you already believe that, Portman is most likely stating an opinion you already hold, so you've become a vegan already, and there you are. If, however, you DON'T believe that, Portman's analogy can only backfire, and it serves only to make people suspect that Portman equivacates eating a hamburger to gang rape. (Read that again -- I'm not saying that I actually believe this, I'm just pointing out "this is what it LOOKS like you're saying, are you actually sure you wouldn't want to maybe rephrase that?").

At the very least, Portman's analogy makes her look like she really hasn't carefully thought through the wording of what she wanted to say, which does neither her nor her cause much service.


....And now I'm thinking "portman's analogy" would be an awesome band name.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2009


....And now I'm thinking "portman's analogy" would be an awesome band name.

Maybe this (awful) band could update their name for the times.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on October 29, 2009


clearly we are morally compelled to choose the human. Every time. Even if that human is a rapist
"We" who? I feel zero moral compulsion to save the rapist. And I eat meat. I probably wouldn't save the rapist even if I didn't have to choose between the rapist and the puppy. Hell, I'd probably slow roast the puppy over hickory and suck the marrow from his sweet, tender bones before I'd slow down to avoid hitting the rapist with my car (which just happened to be speeding down the sidewalk at the time). But that's just me. I'm funny that way.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:56 AM on October 29, 2009


from his sweet, tender bones

Where is this magical place where puppies have tender bones? This would take my puppy soup recipes to a whole new level.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:00 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where is this magical place where puppies have tender bones? This would take my puppy soup recipes to a whole new level.

Start with the youngest puppies you can get your hands on. Singe the hair first over a hot fire, then slow roast over low heat for 8 to 12 hours, depending on size. Remove from heat and trim and reserve meat. Simmer bones in a large stock pot with vegetables for 6 more hours. Garnish with pan fried kitten whiskers.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


....And now I'm thinking "portman's analogy" would be an awesome band name.

Maybe this (awful) band could update their name for the times.


I had the distinct honor to see this band live at Bumbershoot this year, on recommendation of a friend.

I have never considered suicide so seriously. And the friend who recommended the band is no longer my friend.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2009


“Seriously, this isn't so much an argument made to convince as it is an argument made to smugly pat yourself on the back.”

I don’t think she’s stupid (speaks almost as many languages as I do), but yeah, it’s tough for me to take Portman seriously on this.

“Just say no” didn’t work too well for Nancy Reagan and the drug war even when they made drug use a moral failing.
I completely oppose many of our systems of food production – in fact that’s one of the reasons why I hunt. And I’m pretty respectful of folks who are vegetarians. Don’t eat a lot of meat I don’t take myself. Can't remember the last restaurant/store meat I had.

This ‘moral’ tripe has no connection with the practical reality – one of the things most necessary for wildlife is free land. Hunters support a lot of this. In fact, as a group, we’re #1 in buying, and sustaining (through donation and investment) wilderness (and the U.S. was the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law).
Granted, to hunt on in some cases. But much of that space is so a population can be unmolested and replenish itself. Wilderness for wilderness’ sake. Because there should be pristine land.

As it happens, successful actors invest in a lot of real estate. Most people who have the money have investment folks or whatever who do that anyway.
You have development, including industrial farming, constantly pushing back the boundaries of animal habitat.

That’s not going to change just because people stop picking up burgers. In fact, the whole world goes vegan tomorrow – real estate development isn’t going to stop eliminating wildlife.
Meanwhile Portman bought a castle like mansion for $3 million for herself with guest properties (sold her 7 room place on Long Island a bit back) – but hey, you’re a scumbag if you eat a burger because it’s the cheapest way to get calories in your neighborhood.

So, health and other things aside, choosing to eat meat (or variant) can be a valuable symbolic individual choice – but it’s not a practical step to address a systemic problem especially for folks who don't have the option. Laying it on them doesn't address the production methods or the infrastructure already in place diminishing people's choices.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2009


This pure, unabashed silliness. It's like arguing against abortion because the fetus might grow up to be another Einstein. How about this: We work to first reduce our reliance on, say, industrial forced impregnation of cattle, then we worry about whether they'll really go extinct without us yanking their teats every morning.

"Industrial forced impregnation of cattle"? Um, that's how they came to be, you know. They are the product of selective breeding, er, industrial forced impregnation, not the result of bull A selecting most desirable cow B. Before industrial forced impregnation, there were no beef or dairy cattle running around, just wild cattle. And how is the fact that these entire species are human creations for the purpose of providing food silly? And how is arguing that extinguishing a species is the inevitable result of not eating them like arguing that a fetus might grow up to be Einstein? And I'm not even arguing against veganism, I'm just saying that if you're concerned about the existence of dairy or beef cattle as a species, it is threatened by not eating them. I don't think there is a good argument for them continuing to exist if they aren't eaten, is there? Or am I missing something? I mean, they've been bred to be unfit for living in the wild and we can't afford to feed all the people in the world, so I doubt we can keep feeding domesticated cattle. Note that I'm not saying the possibility isn't there that for some time expenditures couldn't be garnered to "retire" them, but apparently you see the eternal Daisey retirement farm to be maintained indefinitely by contributions from folks concerned about their welfare. Do you know how many cattle there are in existence today and what enormous resources it takes to sustain them? The US has about 10M and India about 40M. You seriously believe were they not a cash crop that they would be sustained, even to live out their natural lives? What planet are you from?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:30 PM on October 29, 2009


"We" who? I feel zero moral compulsion to save the rapist.

IOW you're failure as a human being. Congratulations.
posted by tkchrist at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2009


Thanks, God.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:34 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was harsh. Perhaps let me re-phrase it. Although I'm going to express my frustration with this particular form Metafilter micro-snark. The habit of finding the one small kernel in a argument or statement to attack or snark on to usually not-disprove an argument but to elucidate the snarker's particular form of street cred. In this case how much somebody hates rape.

Obviously you want us to know how much you hate rapists. You obviously would choose to save the life of a puppy over a rapists. You hate them so hard.

I think then I will quality my earlier statement of:

"clearly we are morally compelled to choose the human. Every time. Even if that human is a rapist"

to

"clearly we should be morally compelled to choose the human. Almost every time. Even if that human is a rapist."

Even though in pure ethical philosophical sense one should ideally choose a human over a puppy since one is not ethically empowered to sentence a human to death for crime without a trial and all that. But hey. Some people really dig that whole Charles Bronson vibe.
posted by tkchrist at 2:38 PM on October 29, 2009


You keep speaking in moral absolutes as if there were some kind of universal agreement on the sanctity of human life and the moral response to violent crime. You're too smart to make that argument, since obviously there is no such agreement. Perhaps if you defined your starting point, it would be easier to decide how best to read your "shoulds" and "pure ethical philosophy." Are you speaking as a Christian, a Buddhist, or from some other perspective?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:54 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You keep speaking in moral absolutes


Please name ANY sane ethical system that when given a choice of only two options says a human should choose a non-human life over a human.

What you want to do is jigger a scenario endlessly to cherry pick circumstance for some rhetorical point of absurdity. I SO WUD NEVAR HALP A RAPIST! WHAT IF IT'S HITLER! OFG!

C'mon. You know it's an illustrative exercise.The word "compelled" would be meant in the non-literal external sense.

Are we gonna do this? Really you want me to qualify every allegory of ethical choice into the ground for you, is that it? Do you know long it would take to illustrate a point? But that's not your point. Your just muddying it up with this nonsens now to justify a silly tough-guy snark.

YOUR smarter than that. And I assumed you have the ability to use your imagination. But. Perhaps your using it too much in this case.
posted by tkchrist at 3:54 PM on October 29, 2009


And this really does relate to the larger subject. There are limits to how many even the best intentioned can help. So we make choices. Maybe we're selfish, and we only help those in our immediate circles of friends and family. Maybe we're generous and devote our lives to helping the sick, the poor, the disenfranchised. Maybe we're mostly average, but try to spend our money charitably and donate time and money to help others when we can. Maybe we build houses for the homeless, or join Doctors without Borders, or PETA, or maybe we just help others around us when we have the opportunity. Maybe we even try to heal rapists, or the victims of rapists, or both.

But none of us can do it all. We choose. Nobody can honestly love everybody, except in a theoretical, mostly semantic way. Many people prefer to devote whatever moral imperitives they can muster to helping the most innocent, the most deserving, or the most needy. For many people, that impulse extends to the animal kingdon, and many of us, at one time or another, have loved a pet, or an animal of some sort more than some random stranger, if we're being honest.

Maybe we'd save the stranger first, anyway. Depending on the circumstances, maybe most of us would. But for some people, some of us - maybe, looking honestly at the world around us, many of us - might choose not to help. Depending again, on the circumstances.

For example, I would (theoretically) stand against an angry mob to save a rapist, even at the risk to my own life. Not because of any love or obligation to the rapist, but because I don't believe that mob violence is good for anyone. On the other hand, I'm not at all sure that I would give the same person a drink of water. There are enough people in the world, I don't feel any special compulsion to promote the welfare of those who choose to prey on others. Just being honest. If that makes me immoral in somebody's big book of philosophy, I really don't much care. I only argue the point because I suspect from the lessons of history that people in general do not love their fellow humans to the exclusivity your morality demands (no matter what ideals they may espouse), and that trying to bully them into capitulating a point based on that ideal is futile, at best. Love all humans first is not really how people behave, and not, I suspect, even what many really believe. Perhaps that is the ideal you want to promote, but I don't think you can reasonably argue from history that it is one you can depend on as an example of human behavior.

On preview... Not sure how well this answers your question. I have to go away for a bit. I'll go ahead and post this and come back later to see if so.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:03 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Without going to this idiotic notion that humans and animals share even close to equivalent rights.

Well, no, they haven't the right to vote, for example - primarily because they don't give a shit and would therefore just go for the good-looking guy with the white teeth and campfire homilies - but I think that in any situation where "pain and suffering" is recognised as a generally bad thing, I'd submit they have a right to be spared pain and suffering.

Of course, applying human ethical frameworks to a non-human world is going to be pretty problematic regardless of what you come up with in the end, unless you're basing that framework on the silly notion that some mystical entity has given us dominion over everything else. Personally, I just do what I can to reduce my net contribution to pain and suffering. And I personally think everybody else should be doing the same. How do you do that? Well, you could go totally militantly vegan, or you could just skip a burger from time to time in favour of something without meat. Or anything in-between.

I've been unfortunate enough to run across people who can't even conceive of a "proper meal" not containing meat of some description. I don't hate them, I just think they're pathetic.

Eating meat isn't rape (a daft analogy), but it is contributing to pain and suffering. Which I think we all recognise are Bad Things. You won't die without a steak, so it can't hurt to not hurt.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:09 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm back, and reading your response again, I think you think I'm focusing on the "rapist," when really that's just a generic boogyman example that you raised that I'm responding to. I would still be arguing with you if your original statement had been
But preventing human suffering still trumps animal suffering as moral obligation. If we delve into an experiment like the Fat Man conundrum where we are forced to choose between saving two lives (normally between humans) only one life is a puppy and one is a person, clearly we are morally compelled to choose the human. Every time.
I would argue with that because you are making idealistic absolutist statements that history does not support. I'm sure you can find books and passages from probably every mainstream religion and philosophy to support that as an ideal, but most of them also contain opt-outs to treat each other in ways we would be forbidden to treat an animal. Given mankind's overwhelming propensity for violence and indifference in the face of suffering despite any claims to a shared morality, can you really make a compelling argument that our behavior towards animals is any way going to be related to our love of our fellow man?

Although, I suppose if we only treated animals as shittily as we treat each other, it would still be a slight improvement.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2009


"The argument is "is eating meat immoral in itself" THAT essentially is what Portman and others are claiming. And it's stupid."

Lacking subtlety was right
when they said people are ignoring Ms. Portman's core argument, and only paying attention to her -- admittedly bad -- analogy. Go down that road and its an endless war of semantics, rather than a real discussion of the issues involved.

L.S. said that "the fundamental crux of the vegetarianism argument is whether animals are inherently different from people and should be held to different standards".

I disagree with this statement, because it relies on the concept of "rights", which is a human construct. That's why they call it "human rights". These rights are not the same as fairness, or justice, or even rationality. It is easy to say that human rights should triumph over animal rights. After all, we are humans, and animals do not insist on their rights.

The basic fact is that animals exist... and we are animals who are higher up the evolutionary chain / food chain than all the rest on this planet at present.

These other animals are no match for us, and no threat to our existance. Their consumption, however, and all that it means for global warming, for deforestation, for pollution... that's a very significant threat.

That leads to the real question. "Is it fair, just, and rational to knowingly behave in a manner which threatens humanity and contributes to human death and suffering?" Can human animals afford to treat other animals like "mere animals"... or our planet as a "mere planet", without being aware of the full ramifications of our actions, and how what we do to them is intrinsically related to what we are doing to ourselves?

If you were to examine this world in basic business and economic terms, you would come to the conclusion that humanity and this planet are currently a bloated, inefficient, failing enterprise... one whose focus on monopoly at any costs, and short-term results as opposed to long-term planning has us on the the very edge of an inescapable downward spiral.

So, what would be practically anyone's advice? Long term planning. Moving away from quick profit-taking, towards longterm investments. Shifting from brutal monopolization, towards sustainable balance and win-win scenarios.

"If you, Markkraft, are a direct witness to rape and murder most people should be morally compelled to do anything they can, in the absence of an authority trained to deal with these things, to prevent it. Right?"

There is a difference between legal behavior such as meat-eating which will ultimately help contribute to an environment which causes other people's deaths, and someone strangling someone at the dinner table. It's more analogous to second-hand smoke, in that respect. I don't think Ms. Portman said she would jump across the table and kill anyone who brings their own ham sandwich to the meal. Rather, she personally won't be serving it, nor will she be silent about its huge impact on global warming, pollution, deforestation, etc.
posted by markkraft at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2009


It's a straw man argument to claim that if you believe that animals have (at least some) rights and that they shouldn't slaughtered for meat, that somehow you must personally put yourself in front of every slaughterhouse to stop it.

We have human genocide going on in the Sudan, murders in South Central, sex slavery in San Francisco. You surely don't expect that every human that somehow thinks that those are wrong have a personal duty to stop each and every such activity on the planet.

There is no Superman, and most people are just trying to make it through the day, that doesn't mean though that you can't call out injustice or moral hinkyness when you see it.

If you can go to the slaughterhouse that produced the last meat you ate and leave with a clean conscience your last meal was either unbelievable lucky, or you are truly disturbed.

It may sound harsh, but I think most people on an intellectual standpoint know it to be true.
I also think it's the cause of lot of the lol-vegetarian sentiment expressed up thread
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


And to take yet another step even further away from the "rapist" allegory to make my larger point, how does your argument account for Hinduism, where vegetarianism has been historically practiced far more diligently than pacifism. Is this not an example of a major philosophy putting a higher moral obligation on interspecies interactions than on human ones?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:52 PM on October 29, 2009


"Without going to this idiotic notion that humans and animals share even close to equivalent rights."

...which nobody except yourself is going in to. It seems to be your strawman du jour, frankly.
posted by markkraft at 4:56 PM on October 29, 2009


I would argue with that because you are making idealistic absolutist statements that history does not support.

Oh Jesus Christ.

It is an ethical exercise. What humans historically ACTUALLY do is irrelevant. The entire point of this thread, and my examination of Portmans vegan ethos, was an through an idealized lens.

You are obviously unfamiliar with the things like the Fatman Conundrum. Perhaps it is called other things. Whatever.

In this variation. You are forced to choose between saving the life of a human and an animal. The idea is to force you confront notions of their supposed equivalent rights to life of each enitity. there is no ethos I can think of that makes this choice a simple coin toss. GET IT. If they are of equal value, which Portman implies (though I know she has not thought deeply enough about it), then that is what such a choice would be. All things being equal.

And IDEALLY if all things were not equal, if you imagine yourself a HIGHLY ethical person, Like Portman does, then you still, by reason alone should choose to save the human being. IE: If it's a choice between saving a rapist and a puppy, you have no ethical right as judge and jusry of the rapist, his crime is irrelevant to the circumstance.

If you choose the animal you in fact, by inaction or action, kill the human. If you choose the human, you kill, by inaction or action, the animal.

Killing the animal has nor, or little, moral or legal ramifications. It may emotional ramifications to you. But if you consider yourself operating ideally you have done no moral wrong.

Reason alone dictates, regardless of what might know about the human, that you share a greater relationship to humanity.

And it's using pure reasoning, not following one particular set of codes, in following ethics that "compels" the choice. Reason should compel you, if you follow actual reason that is. You actually have to think about the exercise before you respond to the semantic nits. I assumed everybody had the same humble educational background in ethics, reason, and logic I had. But evidently not.

You have not refuted the argument or really posed one of your own. I suspect this is some sort of post hoc derail you came up with and didn't think through all the way to justify your earlier silly snark. I'm fairly tired of the tactic if you intend it or not and I'm kinda done arguing this particular derail.
posted by tkchrist at 4:58 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


...which nobody except yourself is going in to.

If they support the argument that eating meat is murder/rape? Yes. Yes. They are. If they support the idea that the capacity to experience pain is the relevant boundary for moral consideration they are coming awfully close.
posted by tkchrist at 5:00 PM on October 29, 2009


L.S. said that "the fundamental crux of the vegetarianism argument is whether animals are inherently different from people and should be held to different standards"

I was a vegetarian for about 6 months, but animal rights or what have had nothing to do with it. I was just trying it out for health and ecological reasons. There's no umbrella motivation for not eating meat.

If you can go to the slaughterhouse that produced the last meat you ate and leave with a clean conscience


We get our chicken from a farm and butcher that slaughters according to the dictates of our religion. It's clean, not too expensive, and I feel no remorse of conscience. We're taking part in an age old system, and the chickens get to live an easy life up to the point of becoming dinner. As mentioned by tkchrist and others, it's worth it to pay a bit more and get something that is lower impact than a giant feedlot and packing plant run by a profit driven megacorporation.

I also think it's the cause of lot of the lol-vegetarian sentiment expressed up thread

Really? You'll need to work a lot harder to qualify that assertion, then. The "lol-vegetarian sentiment" was mostly expressed, imo, because of their terrible arguments and preachy stance. I don't see it as some kind of subverted or sublimated guilt. It doesn't follow.

There is no Superman

Blasphemer! Nietzsche told me to tell you to stuff it!
posted by Burhanistan at 5:01 PM on October 29, 2009


Is this not an example of a major philosophy putting a higher moral obligation on interspecies interactions than on human ones?

No. It's not.
posted by tkchrist at 5:01 PM on October 29, 2009


Hinduism, where vegetarianism has been historically practiced far more diligently

Tangent, but many Hindus do in fact eat meat (some even pork for Vishnu's sake!). Beef is the only thing that is strictly verboten, others are recommended against but consumed anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:05 PM on October 29, 2009


"If we delve into an experiment like the Fat Man conundrum where we are forced to choose between saving two lives (normally between humans) only one life is a puppy and one is a person, clearly we are morally compelled to choose the human. Every time."

Huzzah! Yet another bad analogy.

Let's be a bit clearer...

What if the choice were between *ALL* humans and *ALL* other animals... indeed... all nature?!

Which would you choose? Humanity or the nature that makes humanity possible?!

The only logical, ethical choice would be to reject such a false choice, and not choose anything at all.
posted by markkraft at 5:05 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Is it fair, just, and rational to knowingly behave in a manner which threatens humanity and contributes to human death and suffering?"

Which has fuck-all to do with meat eating.

And everything to do with modern industrialized production technology, capitalism, and over-population.
posted by tkchrist at 5:06 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's be a bit clearer...

You mean: let's muddy it up even more for my convenience of poor argumentation.

Either you believe animal and human suffering should always be given equal weight. Or you don't. You believe in grey areas. Or you don't.

The only logical, ethical choice would be to reject such a false choice, and not choose anything at all.

And let both die. Excellent.

You seem to be incapable, or unwilling, to separate two very distinct issues and arguments.

#1. The morality of killing animals for food. Which I argue is not, in itself, immoral.

#2 And the results of unsustainable food production practices/over consumption (which is really a subset of over population). Which all agree is bad.

You keep bringing #2 up when nobody has disputed it's a bad thing we need to change. However it has fuck all to with the morality of killing and eating animals except tangentially.

If there were under 1 billion people on this rock we could ethically sustainably raise, kill, and eat domestically animals all we wanted and issue #2 would not be a concern.
posted by tkchrist at 5:19 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


A couple of thoughts to throw into the mix:

Traditional Kikapoo native Americans ate puppy as a ritualistic meal. I just thought that was kind of interesting.

I'm not a Christian. But when I am sitting at the dinner table with other Christians who want to pray before their meal, I politely keep my trap shut and allow them to bless the food, etc. I don't use it as an opportunity to tell them what I think of Christianity and then go on to champion rationalism during the soup course, etc. It's just another time when yes, consideration for others' feelings and simple politeness may lead one to support the ethical or religious expressions of others, even if one doesn't happen to share them. But of course, where one draws that line is subjective for each person. (As I've mentioned before on the Blue, I'm not comfortable with a Chaplain praying over me in my hospital bed, etc.)

We humans are such interesting creatures...
posted by darkstar at 5:28 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


*Kickapoo
posted by darkstar at 5:30 PM on October 29, 2009


Wow, what do you know, they still make Kickapoo Joy Juice.
posted by box at 5:34 PM on October 29, 2009


I suspect this is some sort of post hoc derail you came up with and didn't think through all the way to justify your earlier silly snark.

Not at all. You just can't seem to see the point that you keep begging your own question, and now you can't seem to defend your argument without ranting and raving.

You are personally supplying all the moralizing that you're trying to get the reader - me, us - to conclude from your argument. You are telling us what "IDEALLY... if you imagine yourself a HIGHLY ethical person... you still, by reason alone should choose." But that is your ideal, your ethics, your reason, and your should. Yes, the Fatman Conundrum is an ethical exercise, but it isn't a very persuasive exercise if you're the only one allowed to exercise the choice. You're telling us, in essence, that no one could morally choose an animal over any person at all, and your argument for that is that no one could take this ethical exercise and choose an animal over any person at all because you claim it would be immoral to do so. Can you not see how circular this argument is? You're claiming, in essence, that a position is immoral because it's immoral. Because you say so.

You have not refuted the argument or really posed one of your own.

I haven't refuted your argument because you haven't actually made one. You've just balanced assertions atop of each other and called them an argument. Rather rudely, and in an unecessarily personal way, too, which doesn't really help with your arbiter of ethical human interactions cred.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:35 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eating meat isn't rape (a daft analogy), but it is contributing to pain and suffering.

Turgid ALL eating on the industrial farming scale is. ALL of it. If it's mono cropping wheat or corn. Or using that corn to feed cows. Certainly there are greater degrees. But don't fool yourself into thinking just becuase you bought industrial grown carrots shipped 1000 miles instead of pork there are not costs and suffering associated with both.

The idea is that we meat eaters CAN eat meat in ways that reduce suffering. That the very act of eating meat is not immoral. When people take that stance they will never win many converts and in fact will come off looking like hypocrites. Unless they ARE very militant vegans living some impossibly perfect lifestyle.

If people want to call eating meat immoral, fine. Throwing around accusations of immorality? If so? It is only fair you be willing to open ALL your own choices for a very thorough moral examination. You fly across country? IMMORAL. You own a car? IMMORAL! You pay US income taxes? ACCESSORY TO MURDER! You support the incursion of the IDF in to Gaza (Ms. Portman, I'm looking at you?)? IMPERIALIST WARMONGER-ER MURDER!

Yes. I guess take exception to being called immoral.
posted by tkchrist at 5:40 PM on October 29, 2009


I haven't refuted your argument because you haven't actually made one.

You've just balanced assertions atop of each other and called them an argument. Rather rudely, and in an unecessarily personal way, too, which doesn't really help with your arbiter of ethical human interactions cred.

Was your "OMG I'D SO NOT SAVE A RAPIST" snark was made in good faith? How did you expect me to respond to that?

I apologize if you feel it's a personal attack. I'm not angy at you personally. And I don't mean to attack you. I think I made quite a well reasoned argument. I can't help if you can't or won't see it. Perhaps I'm not as good at this as I think. Very likely.

But as I see it you are only attacking a small irrelevant particle of larger argument and forcing me to restate a set of details over and over. Which is a dishonest and frustrating tactic. Even IF you do not intend it as so.

With that in mind you must see it is impossible then for me restate an argument any better than I have. Whether it by my own limited rhetorical faculties or your own conscious or unconconscious need to merely prolong a frustrated dialogue. It doesn't really matter.

Either way we must agree to disagree becuase I am incapable any more clarity and short on time along these lines.
posted by tkchrist at 5:54 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tangent, but many Hindus do in fact eat meat (some even pork for Vishnu's sake!). Beef is the only thing that is strictly verboten, others are recommended against but consumed anyway.

Yeah - Obviously there are as many different ways to practice Hinduism as there are Hindus. Apologies if I overstated my case. My understanding is that Hinduism emphasizes doing no harm to animals, which has resulted in a large (but not exclusively) vegetarian population, and does, in the case of beef, include prohibition; but at the same time allows violence against man in self-defense, criminal law, and war.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:00 PM on October 29, 2009


You don't owe me an apology, tkchrist. And I can totally see why you took my initial comment as pure snark, although it was really meant only mostly as snark. That's a communication failing on my part, and one I'm guilty of more often than I'd care to admit.

But, yeah - I have to go, too, and would rather move on with a smile and a wave than a lingering argument, so no hard feelings, I'll agree to disagree. And I am NOT telling what's for dinner.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:10 PM on October 29, 2009


And I am NOT telling what's for dinner.

Aw, why not? We're having Rape Salad and Torture Stew, followed with some Immoral Ice Cream. You're probably just embarrassed because you're having leftover puppy casserole...again.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:17 PM on October 29, 2009


I'm having bourbon for dinner.
posted by tkchrist at 6:41 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know they burn the inside of those barrels with a blowtorch, you monster.
posted by electroboy at 7:25 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


">Is it fair, just, and rational to knowingly behave in a manner which threatens humanity and contributes to human death and suffering?"

Which has fuck-all to do with meat eating. And everything to do with modern industrialized production technology, capitalism, and over-population."


In other words, you suggest that meat eating is entirely ethical.. if you completely overlook the context in which it actually exists.

(i.e. A world with an estimated 2 billion people who live primarily on a western diet, with an estimated 4 billion living primarily on a plant-based diet, largely due to lack of resources... There are about a billion people suffering from hunger, with about a million people a year who die from it... and around a quarter of the world's food is fed to animals, wasting about 90% of the calories in question. )

"If there were under 1 billion people on this rock we could ethically sustainably raise, kill, and eat domestically animals all we wanted and issue #2 would not be a concern."

There aren't.

"Either you believe animal and human suffering should always be given equal weight. Or you don't. You believe in grey areas. Or you don't."

I don't believe in absolutes... or in ridiculous theoreticals that try to suggest that ethical choices made within the context of such theoreticals are always -- or even particularly -- relevant outside of such theoreticals.

"The morality of killing animals for food. Which I argue is not, in itself, immoral."

Indeed. It's every bit as moral as skullf*cking dead animals. Neither are absolutely needed, but, properly prepared, they both feel good.
posted by markkraft at 7:58 PM on October 29, 2009


In other words, you're human, and, as such, strongly defend your right to be an amoral, rather than an immoral animal... even if your behavior is unneccessary, self-destructive, and inflicts pain on both humans and animals.
posted by markkraft at 8:02 PM on October 29, 2009


This will not be read -- of that I am certain.

So here goes... let's start with a definition (Wikipedia to the rescue):
"Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind. The most common reasons for becoming a vegan are ethical commitment or moral conviction concerning animal rights, the environment, human health, and spiritual or religious concerns. Of particular concern to many vegans are the practices involved in factory farming and animal testing, and the intensive use of land and other resources for animal farming.

My emphasis above.

So, other than limiting carbon footprint/resource depletion, what's the point?

Meat is Murder? Fuck that, I'd eat the lot of 'em if I knew they were tasty. Is it that killing things is bad and wrong and we shouldn't do that anymore? I don't know if I can get behind it. I'm pretty sure that most societies on the planet allow for violence against members of competing societies/clades/whatever, and often for their own. And it's not like this is some new idea -- peace has been a professed goal in a lot of places for quite a while (will not even bother getting into citation on that - check your Western Civ 101), but it doesn't seem that we're built for it in any sort of rainbows-and-jellybeans everlasting way.

Waste and resource depletion are things that I can understand as ethical markers in choosing one's behavior. I'm for sustainable food production -- but I don't see how raising and slaughtering critters in a maximally sustainable manner is any different than harvesting these vegan meatheads* to serve the same purpose on my grill -- and I bet I'd put an end to many larger carbon footprints that way.

*you see what I did there?
posted by drfu at 12:09 AM on October 30, 2009


drfu, two responses:

first, given the kind of guy i am, i've always thought the resource depletion argument was most compelling. but it's got no kick for most people. they need something with emotional punch. ethics is usually driven by emotion, not logic. (IMO this is why efforts to divine universal ethical principles so often fail.)

second, w.r.t. the fact that we have traditionally condoned killing (and sometimes eating) even other people: to put it bluntly, so what? if ethics is culturally defined, as I happen to believe it is, then we make our own rules on this thing. if we want to decide meat is murder, then by definition it's murder. i don't define it that way, and i think it would be a practical mistake to do so, but i haven't got any logical ground to stand on (that I can see) to claim that there's any fundamental reason that's a 'wrong' idea.
posted by lodurr at 3:56 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


In other words, you suggest that meat eating is entirely ethical.. if you completely overlook the context in which it actually exists.

Markkraft: you are aware that there are people who strive to raise domesticated animals in a humane and ethical fashion, and also butcher them humanely, yes? Farmers who are working outside the mainstream industrial farming conglomerate, yes? And people who are strict about choosing to limit their meat intake and confine it to those farmers expressly because of the very concerns you raise about meat, yes?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:57 AM on October 30, 2009


I eat meat because I'm an animal

...

Human beings are animals, and animals have been eating animals as long as there have been animals.

Vegetarian animals. In fact, most apes (our evolutionary ancestors, right?) are frugivores and foliovores. Admittedly the animal with DNA closest to ours (chimpanzee?) does eat some meat.

A fair look at the evidence shows that humans are optimized for eating plant foods, and not meat.

Second, are you serious? The means for producing huge amounts of meat is indeed disgusting and exploitative, but the fundamental reasons for it are not. People need protein.

Protein in vegetables.

We can wait to be forced into becoming vegans in the future becuase our food systems are so fucked up by our current populations and consumption levels.

You're forgetting about insects, the protein source of the future (... now!).
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on October 30, 2009


Indeed. It's every bit as moral as skullf*cking dead animals. Neither are absolutely needed, but, properly prepared, they both feel good.

You pretty much just ruined any chance of dialogue and credibility with that one.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 AM on October 30, 2009


In fact, most apes (our evolutionary ancestors, right?)

No, they are actually our evolutionary contemporaries. Our ancestors are, by definition, some hundreds of thousands to several millions of years in our mutual past.

A fair look at the evidence shows that humans are optimized for eating plant foods, and not meat.

That "fair look" is written by a vegan and posted on a vegan site. It dismisses the evidence of our teeth having evolved to handle meat and vegetable by arguing against this by incredulity.

Protein in vegetables

Vegetables do not carry all amino acids needed for a complete diet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beans & rice, Blacecock. Beans & rice.
posted by lodurr at 12:06 PM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Indeed. It's every bit as moral as skullf*cking dead animals. Neither are absolutely needed, but, properly prepared, they both feel good.

I'll have to take your word for that one. Having never skull fucked anything nor finding the idea of skull fucking anything as a feel good concept.

For a guy who has spent an incredible portion of time and energy decrying the foul use of false analogies you sure do use them your self. And it must be noted you have demonstrated a peculiar penchant to use highly descriptive violent sexual imagery combined with bestiality in your analogies.

Markkraft it's very hard to take you seriously. Scratch that. It's impossible to take you seriously.

You say you abhor absolutism. But you state that meat eating is in itself always immoral. Which is nothing BUT absolutist. You equate it with necrophilia and beastiality. Which is sickening and absolutist.

I have been trying to find some sort of middle ground here. But you have made it impossible. You leave me no where to go but to say okay I guess I have to be an extremist, see no gray on this issue, and be a vegan.

Which I'm not going to do. Certainly not based on your shrill and condescending extremist arguments.

Most people will never become vegans, either. Unless they are forced. And perhaps they will be. But it will likely be too late by the time that happens.

Let me tell you something maybe you don't know. I was a vegan. I was a vegetarian far longer for several years. It was quite possibly the most miserable unhealthy time of my life. I won't ever claim that eating that way is nutritionally inferior for most people. Or that most people can't thrive as vegans. Sure they can. I'm not one of them.

So to compromise, you see even us amoral humans sometimes feel the need to make a compromise in order to achieve some sort of "good", I vowed to eat locally produced sustainable foods as much as possible (as well as reduce my consumptive impact in other ways). Perhaps this was merely to alleviate my own conscience. Who cares. Regardless, since I'm no longer miserable and I am now healthy, for me it was a good compromise.

Your extremist position will win few converts. In fact it will drive more people away. Last night I thought I'd eat a big-ass rain forest Argentinian steak just out of spite. Instead I had the Bourguignon. Which was also delicious. But only a few humans suffered. It was a compromise.

In other words, you suggest that meat eating is entirely ethical.. if you completely overlook the context in which it actually exists.

You see right here you AGAIN blithely ignore our repeated admissions of the complexity of the issue and yet again take the extremist position that all meat eating is immoral. We have said time and again we agree that industrial farming practices are causing suffering. And that we attempt to avoid this when ever possible. And more people should also avoid, if they have the means, eating industrially farmed foods. But you ignore this to talk about necrophilic bestiality .

If I go outside, catch a pigeon, tear off it's head and eat it, the only things that suffer are the pigeon and me. But not in your world. Evidently that very act is still connected to a larger industrial holocaust.

So essentially yours is an intractable religious conviction. So there is no point in discussing this further with you. In fact I would say you're doing great harm to the entire notion of minimizing suffering with your argument.

n other words, you're human, and, as such, strongly defend your right to be an amoral, rather than an immoral animal... even if your behavior is unneccessary, self-destructive, and inflicts pain on both humans and animals.

And you are? You are not a human? Or you are not amoral? Or are you including yourself in this description.

If you claim to be above this statement yourself then had better be a strict vegan. And also not own a car, or fly, or the lap top you're typing your screeds on better be powered by a Gilligan's Island style human-powered treadmill and not contain the strategic metals the mining of which foment bloody civil wars and ethnic cleansing. You had definitely better be off the grid entirely. If you participate in any of the above activities —none of witch are necessary in that billions of people live life just fine not doing those things — that ALL have a price in terms of human suffering, then you do not you have to room to argue who is immoral or amoral from your ridiculous extreme.
posted by tkchrist at 12:35 PM on October 30, 2009


In fact, most apes (our evolutionary ancestors, right?) are frugivores and foliovores. Admittedly the animal with DNA closest to ours (chimpanzee?) does eat some meat.

Except we didn't stay in the forest munching on fruit. Our ancestors went into the bush and savanah, where meat become a major food source. Bulbs, leafy greens and the occasional fruit, of course, but animal proteins and fat become essenital to our survival. Large brains made it possible to catch more game, more protein made it possible to support larger brains. That's why we are adapted for hunting.

We couldn't grow fangs, claws and excellent smell, because that would put us in the same ecological niche as the big cats and dogs, but millons of years behind. Instead, we leveraged the gifts of our apedom- excellent, forward looking eyesight, high and improving intelligence, and advanced communication and social structure- into becoming skilled, but unique, huting animals. Spears, strategy and socialization are part of our nature, and we don't have them to stalk wild bananas.

Pointing to our divergent evolution with the other apes fundamentally undermines your argument, it doesn't bolster it.
posted by spaltavian at 10:15 AM on October 31, 2009


arguments from evolutionary heritage are problematic in both directions. the deeper flaw with them, which cuts both ways, is that they assume there's some moral connection between our evolutionary heritage and how we choose to receive our nutrients. I've yet to see anyone treat that as anything but a given -- i.e., make a case for why we should regard that as true. It's an error, IMO, and it's made on both sides.

That said, we can make some interesting observations about the dietary lifestyles of our ancestors: First, as hunter-gatherers, our caloric intake was probably biased more toward animal fat and meat in various forms (meat, insects, etc.). In most cases, vegetable sources just couldn't have sustained us. Later, in agrarian scenarios, we could bias our caloric intake to vegetable sources supplemented by some meat and dairy sources. It's now believe that when we did this, our average lifespan decreased and our physical health during life decreases as well. We had lower risk of violent death and greater chance of survival to adulthood, but we suffered from more diseases and died younger.

That said, this would no longer need to be the case. We have reached a point in our development -- history, but I won't say evolution -- as a race at which we can choose a lot of things that would be impractical for us at lower levels of technology. E.g., we could make available a complete profile of amino acids without resorting to animal sources, to everyone; we can address the diseases that come along with an agrarian lifestyle; we can automate or provide mechanical assistance for the back-breaking labor that crippled people in previous ages.

So there's no technical barrier to moving to a lifestyle based on every-increasing reliance on vegetable sources of nutrition.

What bothers me is the insistence that there's a clear moral rationale for this. I've yet to see anyone make a case that didn't rely on subjective moral aesthetics. Some of those are more universal than others -- e.g., the ecological arguments. That's why I find those much more compelling.
posted by lodurr at 10:36 AM on November 1, 2009


...we leveraged the gifts of our apedom - excellent, forward looking eyesight, high and improving intelligence, and advanced communication and social structure- into becoming skilled, but unique, hunting animals.

A recent story relevant to this idea holds that the reason humans can outdistance just about any other animal is that we evolved to run down game in the period before the invention of hunting weapons. This putative evolutionary step was one beyond the apedom skills and unique to humans.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:13 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


deeper flaw with them, which cuts both ways, is that they assume there's some moral connection between our evolutionary heritage and how we choose to receive our nutrients.

I don't think that's an assumption, I think you're reading into it. I don't consider there to be a moral dimension to this disucssion, at all, for example. It's only part of the arugment if someone makes it, I certainly am not making that argument.
posted by spaltavian at 11:58 AM on November 4, 2009


well, then, i'm not talking about you. I'm talking about all the people in this thread who make arguments about the morality of causing pain and suffering to animals, for one example.
posted by lodurr at 12:00 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older Making <strike>Manaclash</strike>...   |   Art of Noises Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post