Or if we had to talk our way out of being eaten, what would we say?
By Don's Early Light, Donald J. Brix, Ph.D.
“If we were to one day encounter a form of life more powerful and intelligent than our own, and it regarded us as we regard fish [and all animals we find tasty], what would be our argument against being eaten?”
These thought provoking words sprang from the prodigiously creative mind of Jonathan Safran Foer. Among other things, he wrote Eating Animals. I read the book a few years ago and don’t remember these words from the book but ran across them somewhere a bit later. It was only recently, though, that I thought of Foer’s question again and wondered: what would my argument be?
I began to realize that since I can talk and, at least, hope that the “powerful and intelligent” life form understands my native tongue, maybe there would be a chance I could talk my way out of this nightmare. Drawing on the cleverness of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, perhaps I could convince the powerful, intelligent troll that for nutritional purposes s/he could do much better than my wizened, gnarly frame by waiting for a more succulent specimen to come along.
Pretty silly stuff, huh? It did however, spawn this thought, an unusual thought which I’m quite sure has never before crossed a single synaptic cleft in my noggin. Here it is: If animals could talk, few, if any, people would eat them.
Who hasn’t read the story: a youngster living on a farm in the days of yore before Big Ag owned the store grows attached to a farm animal, only to sigh and cry when butchering day grows nigh. If only the forsaken animal could generate a bit of verbal capital, what a different fate might await.
That humans are able to comfortably enjoy eating animal flesh rests overwhelmingly on the inarticulateness of the doomed creature. The cow’s bellows, the pig’s terrified squeals, would be, I suggest, far more persuasive if, like Mr. Ed, they could strike up an avuncular conversation with their predatory human captor.
The animal might try an appeal to the human’s ethical sensibilities, to wit, arguing that the fact of one species being more intelligent and/or more powerful than another doesn’t entitle that species to use the less intelligent and/or weaker species for its own purposes. (This idea has apparently been articulated by Thomas Jefferson and abolitionist Sojourner Truth as a criticism of racism and sexism. Later, British psychologist, Richard Ryder, coined the word “speciesism” which extends the idea to cover species, defining the term to mean “the exclusion of non-human animals from the protection available to human beings.” Even later, Peter Singer used the term in his landmark book, Animal Liberation, despite, as he says, its unattractive sound.) And I’ll add, it’s a chore to pronounce.
In principle, this line of thinking puts a flesh-eating human in the position of dining on an animal for no stronger reason than the animal hasn’t the means to persuade the human to put down the knife and fork. Otherwise, the human may as well say “Plead though you may, I’m going to eat you anyway.” Of course, if in such a situation, our present factory-farmed livestock setup obtained, the carnistic* human would likely remain comfortably unaware** of, and be spared, indeed effectively barred from, any up-close contact with, an animal cum food.
I personally direct these intermittent monologues to 54 family members, friends, acquaintances, and professional colleagues***. I can count on 18 of that number to nod in moderate to wildly enthusiastic approval. Though they might think too much of me to risk abrading my narcissistic sensibility to ever tell me, another 14 likely think this argument is an absurd piece of sophistry. But among the remaining 22, there may be one or two ready to have me teach them the secret handshake and begin eating the diet that promotes optimal health for them, their non-human earth mates, and our Earth too. Even the “shop me first, shop me last, either way come see me” car guy can’t offer them a better deal. So, it’s that one or two I’m after.
When those one or two start eating the low-fat, whole-foods, plant-based way, a whole new world will emerge from the background. Nutrition reports in the news about what groceries people are unloading at the check-out line, the junk parents are feeding their kids at the motel’s complimentary hot breakfast, along with a jillion other things all become salient. Keep at it a while, read a book or two, and first thing you know, you can garner all the personal gratification of writing a blog like this. You get the drift, so I’ll tap the mute button for now.
*”Carnism is the belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals” [and not others]. It’s a term coined by University of Massachusetts social psychologist, Melanie Joy, Ph.D. She authored Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.
**Comfortably Unaware is the title of the first of two books by Richard Oppenlander on the wide-ranging environmental destruction caused by raising livestock to eat. I’ve communicated with Dr. Oppenlander in the past, and I’m confident he’d have no objection to my use of his book title in this connection.
***Lots more now see these articles via social media exposure.
OKAY, HOWZ ‘BOUT A RECIPE?
DON'S NUTRITIONAL CANNONBALL ONE-DISH SOUP MEAL
Medium sweet 'tater, 1
Medium onion, diced, 1
Celery, 2 stalks
Cannellini (or other white, salt-free beans), not drained, 1 can
Garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
Small tomatoes, diced (or use canned), 1 or 2
Rosemary, 1/2 tsp.
Smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp.
Ground sage, 1 tsp.
Black Pepper (you decide how much)
Chopped greens (any dark, leafy will do, fresh or thawed from frozen), 1-2 cups
In a 3 quart pan, I steam-sautéed the onion for a few minutes, then added the diced potatoes and more water until the potatoes were covered. Cook this way until the potatoes just begin to get tender, then add all the other stuff with more water. (Scant the water for stew, more for soup.)
Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Notice there is no added salt, and I didn't miss it. This is a very calorie-dilute meal with anti-oxidants, fiber and protein. I’ve not run the numbers, but I'd guess the calories from fat are under 10% (i.e., in the range the heart disease reversal docs require of their patients. Eat some and save the rest. Like me, it just gets better with age.
AND A SUITABLE QUOTE
"Although we think we are one, and we act as if we are one, human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh - which contains cholesterol and saturated fat - was never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores." ~ William C. Roberts, M.C., Editor, American Journal of Cardiology
Do you like this post?