Friday, April 24, 2009

We can stop worrying about meat consumption causing global warming. The American Meat Institute says so.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been going around saying,
...animal agriculture sector is responsible for 18% of human-induced greenhouse emissions, greater than the share contributed by the transportation sector.
Not so fast.  According to the American Meat Institute, the number is really 2.8%.  It's about time we had some unbiased figures to counter the UN report.  The sustainable food people can breathe a sigh of relief.  Now whenever anyone accuses them of hypocritically ignoring the single biggest contributor to global warming, they can reply, "Well according to the American Meat Institute..."

The Animal Welfare Society cites the study too.  In a post about the connection between meat consumption and global warming they say,
On first glance, it may seem that the only options are to ignore our impending climatic crisis or to cut out meat altogether.  But rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater perhaps there is a way to raise farm animals sustainability, and to leave a lighter footprint on the planet.
In other words, come on, folks, we've managed to present ourselves as concerned with the welfare of animals while we continue to consume their flesh.  If we can pull off that sleight of hand, I'm sure we can also continue to consider ourselves good progressive environmentalists without giving up the meat we crave.

The American Rationalization Institute has a special award for the Animal Welfare Society, Farm Forward, Humane Farm Animal Care and sustainable food organizations.  They'll all be dueling for the coveted Golden Rationalization Award and accompanying Happy Slaughtered Steer trophy, to be presented at the annual gathering, where the dinner menu will include thick, juicy steaks from animals lovingly slaughtered by humane family farmers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The man explains to the steer why human animals have moral status and non-human animals don't

"In these last few minutes you have left, I'm going to try and explain to you my justification for holding this stun bolt gun to your head.  The simplest way I can put it -- and, believe me, I know I have to dumb things down for you -- is we humans have moral status and you non-humans don't.  The thing that gives me moral status is my ability to step away from my actions and contemplate them, whereas you're just a bundle of sensations.  You're 'engaged in conscious activities but you're not conscious of them' is how the philosopher Christine Korsgaard puts it.  Let me give you an example.  The stun bolt gun I'm pressing against your head is causing you fear.  I can feel you tremble, I can see your eyes round with terror.  The reason for this irrational terror is you lack the ability to step back and understand you're one of the few cattle fortunate enough to be raised and slaughtered humanely.  When we're finished here and your flesh gets chopped up and wrapped in cellophane, there's going to be a little sticker that says, 'Certified Humane,' which will tell people you were raised and slaughtered in a manner that met the Humane Farm Animal Care Program standards.  If you possessed the capacity to understand this, you'd be calm and thankful right now.  You'd understand you're getting the best possible treatment from considerate people willing to pay a little extra for your flesh to ensure you have a happy life.  Come to think of it, that's another thing that separates us human animals from you non-human animals.  The capacity to feel gratitude.  When someone does me a good turn, I thank them.  But look at you quivering and shaking in fear, completely lacking in gratitude to all those folks willing to provide you with this humane termination of your life.  You also don't appear the slightest big grateful that I took the time away from my busy schedule to explain all this to you when there's a backlog of other cattle I have to slaughter humanely.  You still don't get the distinction between us, do you?  I'll try one last time.  Not only am I about to fire this captive bolt into your brain, I'm also capable of contemplating that action and deriving pleasure from it, which gives me the moral status you lack.  Well, I think that's enough philosophizing for today."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pet sitter sentenced to probation for over-feeding potbellied pig

A Minnesota pet sitter accused of animal abuse for letting a potbellied pig triple her weight was fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year of probation.  So how could the pet sitter have avoided the animal cruelty charges?  Simple.  Confine the pig in a cage too small for her to turn around in, shoot a captive stun bolt into her brain, then while the stunned pig is still blinking and struggling, dunk her in a tank of scalding water to loosen her hide for skinning.  After the  flesh of the finally-dead pig is carved off her carcass, invite the sentencing judge over for a nice pork chop dinner.  Not only will you avoid charges of animal cruelty, you'll receive lavish praise for your cooking skills and, if you're lucky, maybe even a reciprocating dinner invitation at the judge's house.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The PigCasso Art Show at the World Pork Expo

June 2-5, the world's pork producers and the usual assortment of groupies and hangers-on will be descending on the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the 20th annual World Pork Expo.  They'll listen to speakers, attend seminars and events and hobnob with other movers and shakers in an industry that's optimistically expecting to produce just under 100 million metric tons worth of pig flesh for human consumption in 2009.  The speakers and topics aren't up on the site yet.  Maybe the editor of National Provisioner will kick things off by whipping the attendees into a frenzy with one of her diatribes against the sinister animal rights activists.  PR experts will conduct role playing seminars on how to feign moral indignation when the next undercover slaughterhouse video surfaces.  The attendees will need to unwind a little too.  Along with music and a golf outing, the website says there's going to be a clay target shooting competition.  There'll also be plenty of memorabilia, like the commemorative toy tractor.  Of course no World Pork Expo would be complete without the breathless reporters from National Hog Farmer Magazine taking photos of the VIP's as they arrive.

Not so predictable is the PigCasso art show.  You know at the very top of the achievements section of some ambitious PR executive's resume it says, "Came up with the name PigCasso for the Annual World Pork Expo art competition."  Meanwhile, this executive's rival, whose LichtenSwine was the runner-up, is left to curse fate and a naming committee whose superficial knowledge of art history biased them in favor of the bigger, better known names.

Last year, Herbert Goodwin, of Gary, Indiana, won Best of Show for his painting, "Pork Producer."  He won $400 and a ribbon.  What is it with pig slaughterers and their ribbons?  It's kind of reached fetish proportions.  Ribbons for winning paintings, ribbons for soon-to-be-slaughtered 4H club victors.  How is it that they arbitrarily landed on the ribbon as the ideal way to honor the artistic rendering of the slaughter and the emergence of a new generation of slaughterers?

Michael Frakes, a PigCasso judge, called Pork Producer,
visually engaging, with the use of wonderful details, colors and shadowing ... we had a lot of talent this year.  It was a challenge to pick the best in each division.
Each division?  As if discovering an art competition is part of the World Pork Expo weren't paradigm-shifting enough.  Now we find out there's multiple divisions.  It turns out the artists can enter the following categories:  Oil, water and soluble PigMents (another coup for the punning PR executive?); Drawings, prints, pastels; sculpture; textiles, fibers, crafts; and photography.  Why not break it down even further into style and movement?  impressionism, dada, surrealism, post impressionism.  Jackson Pollock-type abstract expressionism might be the ideal way of rendering the spattering of blood when the heroic pork producer raises the stun bolt to the head.  (The entry form for this year's PigCasso competition isn't on the site yet.  The PR release about last year's competition is here.)

Here's the most amazing thing of all:  people actually enter this competition.  You think of artists contemplating the cosmos, trying to find their place in the world.  You go down a list of the artist's themes -- love, redemption, despair, rapture ... pork production?  When these artists bought their very first sketchpad, did they have any inkling that at some point in the future they'd be painting helpless pigs confined in crates, dying in train cars, brutalized, shackle hoisted, stun bolted?  But maybe those aren't the "wonderful details" judge Michael Frakes was praising in Pork Producer.  Maybe like so many of their contemporarites, the World Pork Expo judges have discarded realism in favor of more post-modern sensibilities.

The works with the most detailed rendering of pork production are in the short film category.  It's not an official PigCasso category, but if it were, the winner hands down would be the undercover video shot at the Hormel supplier farm in Bayard, Iowa.  Frakesean details suffuse the entire film:  metal rods, wooden palettes, hard cement floors.  Anyone who's seen this video would have to agree with the judge, Satan, who awarded it the first prize ribbon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Group photo at the local family farm

Family farmers give animals such a better life because they use the personal touch like naming them, talking to them, and so forth.
--- letter to New York Times in support of family farms

Okay, everybody, group photo.  One of the great things about family farms, like the one you all came from, is the compassionate farmers there give you names.  That personalizes things.  It shows the meat purchasing public the family farmers care about the well-being of their animals.  Hold on, is that Luther on the right or Earl?  I know Jeb had a white patch over his eye, but I can't see it any more.  Ed, or is it Josh, why don't you switch places with Barnaby, or is it Nate?  We want the bigger carcasses on the end, smaller carcasses in the middle.  I tell you, it was a lot easier telling you guys apart before.  Now you all look kind of the same.  Come on, strike a pose here, it's not like you guys haven't been photographed before.  The photographer from the Animal Welfare Institute came out to your farm and snapped all those shots of you guys in green fields, nuzzling with the farmers.  That's right, Jenny, give Bill, or is it Zack, a nice pat, just like you did in that really heartwarming shot taken at your family farm.  Hold on, we've got an empty hook in the back, where's Alex?  Late as usual.  What's that?  Okay, we can't wait for Alex.  Apparently, he struggled too much and the stun bolt didn't pierce his brain right the first time and now Compassionate Family Farmer Tom has to lock him in place and try again.  Ready?  Say "cheese."  Nah, that's more of a dairy cow thing.  Say "porterhouse steak."  Cone on, fellows, that's photographer humor.  I'm trying to loosen you guys up.  Arturo, or are you Fritz, this is way too frustrating, you're blocking Bertrand, or is it Elmore?  I swear, next time I agree to do a group portrait of the happy cattle at the family farm, I'm only doing the before shots, not the after.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

letters, letters, letters

So many letters in response to that New York Times article (in the previous post) about how the author learned to love goat meat.  A lot of recipe sharing and gratitude for being turned on to a new kind of meat, a few disgusted vegans and vegetarians, some aggressive rebuttals from carnivores who, like Moses receiving the tablets, have had revealed to them the truth that mankind was designed to eat meat.  On to some of the letters.  A rancher in Montana wrote...
I wanted to address, as a rancher, some of the concerns that I have seen expressed from those who believe a goat, or any meat for that matter, is not to be eaten.Many of us who raise livestock as independent producers are just as sickened as my vegetarian friends at the site [sic] of confined animal feeding operations ... Goats are ... truly a pleasure to raise.  The most difficult time of year is when it comes time to kill.  I sell my animals on the hoof, and if someone wants meat I will then process it for them after they own it.  Even though it is painful every time, I feel like I owe them the most humane end possible.  This means they should die with dignity on the ranch they were born to avoid the stress of shipping, etc.  It comes quickly and cleanly.  Our animals never know fear, anxiety or cruelty ... Every time we eat meat, there was a profound sacrifice made that should be deeply appreciated.
--- MPS, Montana

Dear Sir, 

I am writing in reference to the letter by the rancher MPS from Montana.  I know this rancher well.  He is a good man capable of some of the most breathtaking distortions of reality I have ever encountered.  I can't tell you how astounded I am by his ability to convince himself that he is genuinely saddened when he slaughters his goats.

Sincerely Yours,
the Montana Rancher's container of antipsychotic drugs

Dear Times, 
I read the condescending letter from the Montana Rancher's antipsychotic drugs.  I'm one of the goats that rancher MPS will soon slaughter.  It just breaks my heart when I think of how bad he feels that he has to kill me after he named me and patted me on the head every morning.  It's not easy for me either.  Always in the back of my mind I know the time is coming when rancher MPS has to suffer the trauma of killing me.  It pains me to see him in such pain and know I'm responsible for it.  I'll try not to bleat in horror when he yanks my head back because that will just intensity his guilt.  Don't blame yourself, Rancher MPS.  It's not your fault that you have to slit my throat.  It's my fault for having flesh people love to eat.

Cyrano the Goat.

Dear Times,
I'm writing to clarify a letter from your reader Cyrano the Goat.  AS you may have guessed, it wasn't really written by a goat.  Rancher MPS projects many of his uncomfortable feelings into a persona which takes the form of a sympathetic goat on its way to slaughter.  I'm afraid I have to side with Rancher MPS's container of antipsychotic drugs on this one.

All the best,

Dear Times,
I don't want to get in the middle of things here, but I can only report what I see in front of me.  The goats are terrified.  Their eyes look like they're about to explode with fear.  Rancher MPS calls it a humane death?  he says they never know fear, terror or cruelty?  Say what?  are we attending the same slaughter?

Rancher MPS's knife

REality can go F itself and so can antipsychotic drgus.  What the F do they know?  REality's basically calling me stupid, saying I can't form my own thoughts, saying rancher MPS is projecting his thoughts onto me.  Now that's what I call speciesism.  Why don't those F'ing vegans attack reality and antipsychotic drugs instead of decent people like Rancher MPS?  As a matter of fact, Rancher MPS does consult with us goats before he slaughters us.  He says to us, hey, guys, there's a customer of mine who wants to eat your flesh.  He's going to pay me good money.  What do you think?  And we say to him, we're just grateful to be able to slaughtered by a compassionate person like yourself instead of those horrible factory farms.

Cyrano the Goat

p.s. you've got me all confused, Reality and antipsychotic drugs, and you're going to pay for it!  Maybe I'll start selling you guys by the hoof to the highest bidder.  How'd you two punks like that, huh,  see you in hell, your worst enemy, Rancher MPS, I mean, Cyrano the Goat.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The joy of discovering a new species to slaughter and consume

The New York Times food reviewer has discovered goat meat and he's positively giddy about it.
Mine is a tale of a recent convert.  Goat ... has been edging its way into yuppier climes ... click-clacking its cloven hooves up and down the coasts..
His exuberant language goes romping and leaping all over the article, like the playful baby goat whose barbecued flesh awakened him to the pleasures of this newfound delicacy.
My conversion moment came when I went to Cabrito and had the goat tacos ... suddenly, I was go go go goat.
Unknowing goat.  You thought you wanted to go on living your life.  You thought you were happy.  You feared the knife.  But little did you know your seared flesh would become the muse that inspired the New York Times reviewer to come up with gustatory gems like:
"Go go goat."  "Their chin hair is sometimes prodigious enough to carpet Montana."  "Think lamb but with a rustle in the bushes.  Think jungle lamb."
It goes without saying animals' highest calling is to satisfy human taste buds.  But the act of consumption is usually so uninspired.  God is great, God is good, pass the meat, do the dishes, watch the TV.  But the consumption of you was different, unknown baby goat.  Your flesh in the New York Times reviewer's mouth set off a veritable fireworks display of metaphors and word plays and literate sexual innuendoes.
I'd partaken of the bearded ruminant ... yielding a dish that evokes the saturated greenness of a meadow in springtime.  ... More recently in an effort at romantic overture, I mail-ordered some wonderfully flavorsome loin chops and ate them with my boyfriend amid candlelight and fresh flowers.  Did the goat yield the desired end?  Let a veil of decorous restraint fall over the proceedings forthwith, the better to mask a small storm of bleats and four cloven hooves, gently twitching.
There.  You see.  Not only did human hand slaughter you and human tongue savor your flesh, but a human mind exalted you by describing you in such ornate terms. "partaken of the bearded ruminant."  How did the Old Testament poets overlook that one?  Ah, but it's not all praise from the New York Times reviewerer.
Indeed, goats have always had a low reputation.
And the source of this low reputation?  Goats don't adequately serve the master species.  Their flesh lacks the appropriate tenderness.  Their bodies aren't well-suited for cosmetics testing.  They go about their own lives, without bothering to enhance the human experience at all.  "Their unappetizing visage is simultaneously dopey and satanic," the New York Times reviewer says in playful disgust.

But he redeems the goat!  The goat has its use after all.  It is worthy.  It is fit to be eaten by a party of festive Manhattanites in the Times reviewer's fourth floor apartment.   No more envying the pig and cow and chicken.  Now the goat too can join the pantheon of animals who offer up their flesh, unwillingly, it's true, but only because of their imperfect knowledge of the joy they'll bring to the humans who consume them.

It's not just the goats who come away from this article with reputations restored.  Once again humans have shown themselves to be endlessly complex.  Anybody who thought we could be narrowly defined as killers and consumers of prosaic cows, chickens and pigs had better think again.  There is far more to us than that!  We are forever discovering new animals to slaughter and consume.  The New YOrk Times reviewer is our guide.  Like the traveler who brings back tales from foreign lands, he has sampled the exotic. He has tasted new flesh and he joyously offers it up to his erudite and sophisticated New York Times readers.

He closes his article with a description of the dinner he served his guests in his fourth floor apartment.
Indeed, I recently threw a dinner party at which I served goat at every course ... At evening's end, as my wine-fueled guests prepared to scramble down the stairs of my four-flight walk-up, it was all I could do not to tie tiny bells around their necks.
Ah, I get it, goats wear bells.  His guests have turned into goats because of all the courses of goat meat they've eaten.  What better way to wrap up the article than this final taste of wit.  Like his dinner guests, his readers have been served up a feast -- of lavish metaphors, exuberant language, frisky wit.  Now it's time to go home and throw up.