Re: Ch. 17 - The ethics of eating animals
I'm a little more than midway through this chapter, but I wanted to go ahead and make a few comments.
1. If pain and suffering are the primary issue in animal rights -- and not the death of the animal itself -- then we can presumably achieve moral social conditions by reconciling ourselves with the idea of paying more for animal products that we currently do. As Pollan points out, the hidden cost of paying 97 cents for a dozen eggs is the money saved by cooping the birds six to a cage, giving them no room to graze, medicating the injuries and diseases that invariably crop up because of those close confines, and force molting the birds when they reach the end of their productive life. So the question that was implicit in the chapters about Polyface farms -- can this kind of farming compete economically with CAFO farming -- is really only applicable so long as you're willing to forget the moral concerns altogether.
What I mean is, so long as the bottom line is the monetary cost of producing a given food, it's always going to be cost effective to suspend our moral reservations. And if we're going to insist that animals be treated with some form of respect, then we've got to be willing to pay for that respect. In the end, the cost of producing food the Polyface way might end up only costing $.01 more that producing the same food in a CAFO -- if Salatin's right that federal regulations are levelled against Polyface methods. But even if only a fraction of a cent is saved per unit, then a strictly economic view of things will justify that savings, even at the cost of animal cruelty.
2. I also wanted to ask if you guys thought the whole Aristotelian train of thought about an animal's "characteristic way of life" -- ie. the doginess of a dog, the chickenness of a chicken -- holds up. Is it a convincing argument? I'm not trying to argue against it, but it does strike me that Pollan invokes the "characteristic way of life" argument pretty freely, and without really providing an explicit argument to support it.
misterpessimistic: The ethics of eating animals I sense a bit of condescension regarding vegetarians in the small section "Vegetarian's Dilema".
I don't think he's terribly condescending towards vegetarians. And I was a vegetarian for a number of years, so I'd be likely to feel the slight. In particular, I understood his personal discomfort -- and since he's speaking from experience, it is
personal -- over the demands he's placing on a potential host. I found myself in similar situations throughout my career as a vegetarian, and I usually wound up ingesting some form of meat just to keep from offending the host or hostess.I am also saddened to hear Salatin's "animals dont have souls" crap. But he is a bumpkin ("Jesus fish on the door"!)...and at least he provides a good service overall.
The impression I got of Salatin was that of a very well and widely read person. If all it takes to be a bumpkin is a rural postal address and a copy of the Bible, then quite a few prominant, brilliant Americans have been bumpkins. Abraham Lincoln springs to mind. And if Salatin believes that animals don't have souls, then he's in good company, at least. As Pollan pointed out earlier in the chapter, Descartes argued the same thing. The difference is that Descartes' argument sanctioned most of the food industry abuses described in the book, whereas Salatin inclines the full weight of his work and intellect against them.