Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another Way

By: Maggie

In procrastinating my studying, I just read an article in The American Scholar about choosing to eat meat. It is worth reading, but long. So here are my digestible info-bites (totally just my personal take-aways).

Two calves on the dairy farm I worked on in Ireland in 2010.

The American Scholar
Loving Animals to Death by James McWilliams
Cover Story - Spring 2014

The article questions the Food Movement's primary assumption that what is "wrong with animal agriculture - with eating animals - is the practice, not the principle" (as stated by Michael Pollen). Williams frames the story with an "ethical" farmer's personal statements that he believes his work is contradictory and actually deeply unethical. He outlines the basic ideas and players in the Food Movement, identifies the Movement's philosophical underpinnings, identifies a serious contradiction in the principle and the practice of the Movement, and then carries the actual principle to its logical conclusion. He concludes that eating meat is never really ethical and that the Food Movement should focus on that option rather than dodging the real "heavy lifting of moral consistency."

The Food Movement (FM)
The main players:
     Michael Pollan                 The Omnivore’s Dilemma
     Mark Bittman                   How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
     Jonathan Safran Foer       Eating Animals

Principle:    We have an ethical mandate to understand food and its impact on the system as a whole. 

However, the FM "players" all conclude that the only option is ethically sourced meat because eating less meat is EASIER than eating no meat.

The Inconsistencies

The FM dodges the question of moral consistency (that they raise with their principle) and ignore the facts:

1. Veganism is 7x more energy efficient than eating meat, and that if embraced globally, veganism could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from conventional agriculture by 94%.

2. The economics of nonindustrial agriculture doesn’t work. Consolidation pays. "Ethical" meat is expensive, so it becomes available only for privileged and elite consumers. The FM concept of "ethical" meat is not feasible as a movement.

3. Small “ethical” farms are only nominally more accommodating of farm animals’ full interests than industrial agriculture. The same abuses that happen in factories, happen on "ethical" farms because no matter the size of the farm, the animals are being treated as commodities for consumption.

The Start of a Solution

1. Shift agricultural practice: we need more diversified systems of production that focus on growing plants for people to consume, rather than for animals to consume.

2. Shift consumers' focus: we, as consumers/ marketers/ communities, need to make enlightened, intelligent, and informed choices about what we eat. Having an understanding of the environmental, health, and ethical effects of consuming animals leads to the logical conclusion that meat consumption is not viable (nor necessary).

Food for thought!

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