Thursday, November 21


Michael Pollan, of "Botany of Desire" fame, has written a thoughtful essay in The New York Times Magazine attempting to resolve the fact of animal slaughtering's unnecessary cruelty with the fact that we enjoy eating animals - at least, some of us do. For the first half of the article Pollan looks at the issue with eyes wide open and sees how lame the pro-meat arguments are, even going so far as to point out that any rationalization for eating meat, no matter how clever, is still a rationalization. Then in the second half he proceeds to provide just such a rationalization, and one which, unfortunately, makes him look like a complete idiot.

In a nutshell, Pollan's brilliant, unheard-of solution is to ignore factory farming, hope it will go away, and eat animals slaughtered personally by an old-fashioned, down-home farmer. This section is so rife with nonsense it's hard to restrain oneself from a point-by-point, but I'll limit it to two things: One, Pollan, who has in previous pages noted AR activists' ability to counter his knee-jerk arguments - because they've been around this issue and heard them all before - thinks he has come up with something the activists have never considered: How happy barnyard animals are to be frolicking in a cute little farm and how terrible it would be to deny them this happiness by not breeding more of them for slaughter. He goes so far as to claim AR activists - stuck in their urban ivory towers - have never seen animals in this state, a hilariously stupid blunder considering the traffic at animal sanctuaries, whose only difference from the environment Pollan lauds is the lack of slaughter in those animal's day planners.

The other point is that Pollan, ignoring the economics of the global situation, pretends that eating only organic and free-range animals is somehow a solution to a life-or-death ethical question. Not only is this bogus, it's been severely undercut by two news stories that appeared shortly after his essay: People buying "organic" beef at an upscale organic-food chain in New York found that they had been swindled into buying cruddy USDA-grade IBP beef because the store had cunningly switched labels; and a UK study found that chickens who spend more time frolicking outdoors are twice as likely to carry Campylobacter, a major - if not THE major - source of food poisoning. Oh well... time to think up another rationale.

No comments: