Thursday, February 26


Whether intentionally or not, Slate has a few wide-ranging stories on animal issues today, all of which are at least to be commended for bringing crucial issues to mainstream web surfers' attention. But they don't all do quite the same job - while "Whence the Beef?" proclaims "there's plenty about the way meat is raised in the United States that can turn the stomach of even the heartiest carnivore," and proceeds to present an eye-opening (for most readers) "guide to what happens to your meat - whether it's beef, pork, or poultry - on its way to the table," a related piece on CWD ("Oh, deer") dances around its own central point.

"These days," it begins, "every disease has its animal mascot: There's the civet for SARS, the chicken for the avian flu, the prairie dog for monkeypox, and, of course, the cow for mad cow disease (also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy)." Awww. Isn't that cute? Animal mascots. Wonder why these diseases have animals as "mascots"? Then wayyyy down in the story (long after identifying deer as the "mascots" of CWD, the article mentions that the cause of CWD's spread was "the interstate traffic of live deer and elk to stock game farms, which increased in the '90s as a result of the high demand for game meat on upscale menus... In some states, too, transmission was likely encouraged by 'canned hunts,' where fences and a high concentration of animals ensure a shooter's success." Maybe idiot animal exploiters should be the mascots. Then we wouldn't need different ones for all these diseases with the same common cause.

Then there's Alex Frangos's coverage of Rynn Berry's new book "Hitler: Neither Vegetarian nor Animal Lover," which amplifies Berry's earlier work debunking the oft-repeated trope that "Hitler Was a Vegetarian." While it's good that the issue is getting aired at all, the writer dismisses the entire point as irrelevant, with such knowing quotes as "other than Berry, none of the vegetarian activists I spoke to could recall a specific example of being taunted with the 'Hitler was a vegetarian' line." Huh. Guess it was all in Berry's head, then - just some mysterious interior voices saying that over and over. That must be what happened to me too. But Frangos is of course a better expert than Berry or me both on what vegetarians encounter and what they eat: Reducing the book's premise to the idea that Hitler was a vegetarian who cheated, Frangos blithely adds, "After all, what vegetarian doesn't cheat?" and cites friends who, say, stay vegetarian for years, stop to have a ham and cheese sandwich, then go back to being veggie for years. Yep, that's the norm, all right. At least I assume it is: I've only met a hundred or so vegetarians - none of them Frangos's pals, apparently - so how can I judge?

No comments: