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Ch. 15 - The forager 
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Post Ch. 15 - The forager
Please discuss Ch. 15 - The forager in this thread.
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Sun Oct 01, 2006 9:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 15 - The forager
This was a short, but interesting chapter. Pollan pretty much admits upfront that, as a society, it's impractical to think that we could go back to a hunter-gatherer food chain. Still, he's devoting a third of his book to the experiment of tracing that chain, and the reason behind that decision makes for an interesting proposition.

On page 281, Pollan writes:
"For one of the things I was hoping to accomplish by rejoining, however briefly, this shortest and oldest of food chains was to take some more direct, conscious responsibility for the killing of the animals I eat. Otherwise, I felt, I shouldn't be eating them."

What do you guys think? Does it make sense to experiment with hunter-gatherer food chains as a way of getting at the moral issues involved in eating?

I'll say this, at least: the willingness to go out and try to kill and eat an animal does seem to be at least a fairly reliable way of guaging whether or not you can square your dietary habits with the methods that make them possible. Pollan's suggestion that "the hunter, at least as I imagine him, is alone in the woods with his conscience" probably doesn't work out too often in practice, but hunters do at least have more opportunities to think about their relationship to the animals they eat, and some proportion of them probably do think, in whatever vague way, about the ethics of what they're doing. I wouldn't bet many of them become vegetarians, though.




Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 15 - The forager
When you are out hunting, you are indeed alone with yourself and your consciousness...which is why I stopped hunting, only killing one duck and missing a deer with a gun.

I realized I was not a hunter because it was just not necessary anymore to be a hunter. Could I do it if I had to? Yes. But I dont.

So...that means that I do not agree that to "go out and try to kill and eat an animal does seem to be at least a fairly reliable way of guaging whether or not you can square your dietary habits with the methods that make them possible."

Is it wrong that we have moved away from direct involvement with out food? I agree that our processed food is crap and we should look for better options, but a move away from all of us having to gather, hunt and grow food is what makes our civilization what it is. So less of us SHOULD be concerned with this matter. But we should be in touch with what goes on and how.

Pollan also says to an extent that he would have to kill the pig or stop eating meat. I do not agree here either.

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Thu Dec 14, 2006 4:24 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 15 - The forager
misterpessimistic: Is it wrong that we have moved away from direct involvement with out food?

Not in and of itself, I suppose, but I think Pollan makes a strong argument for supposes that masking the process of turning an animal into food makes it easier for us to falsely absolve ourselves of the steps in that process. If getting food weren't reduced to a process of stopping by Publix on the way home, I doubt that we as a culture would be as likely to create CAFOs.

I also tend to disagree that it's unnecessary to hunt your own food. There are some definite benefits to it, in the modern context. The most obvious, given our reading, is that having hunted and killed the animal yourself, you know that you haven't contributed financially to a CAFO.

I agree that our processed food is crap and we should look for better options, but a move away from all of us having to gather, hunt and grow food is what makes our civilization what it is.

Probably so. But then, the more closely I scrutinize rather integral parts of our society, the less proud I am to call it our own. And it's a pretty good bet that the parts of society I'd least like to retain are the very same parts that were made possible by turning over food production to corporations and CAFOs.

Pollan also says to an extent that he would have to kill the pig or stop eating meat. I do not agree here either.

That may be overstatement -- culturally speaking, that is: if Pollan doesn't feel right eating an animal that he wouldn't kill, that's his business. Historically, though -- at least in agricultural societies -- the process of killing and dressing an animal has been divied up to individuals within society. Butchers had a special place in society (although, not always a privileged place), and it's probably only on actual farms that you saw each and every eater taking a part in slaughtering the animals they ate.

But I think there's another way of looking at it, and as long as we're getting into the ethics of it, we may as well as the question. Suppose that you (and this is addressed to everybody) washed up on a deserted island. The island is populated by docile pigs, chickens and oxen. Physically speaking, it shouldn't be any problem to kill one of these animals, and you've got the tools and the rough know-how in order to turn them each into an edible, even enjoyable meal. But at the same time, there are enough fruits and vegetables growing on the island that you don't necessarily need to eat the animals in order to survive. Would you be disposed towards including some meat in your diet, even if you had to handle every step of the process yourself? Would you be capable of doing that, emotionally and morally speaking? Or would you survive solely on a vegetarian diet, at least so long as it's possible?




Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:03 pm
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