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Veganism is Juvenile and is Killing Beautiful?

The bad news is that I accidentally subscribed to Utne Reader last year, and the good news is that year has come to an end.

There are two problems:

  1. It comes by mail and I don't like to have paper used in my name if I can help it.
  2. Each issue, if it contains content that addresses animals at all, does from an assumption of usage point of view. I don't recall any serious consideration of the interests of the nonhuman–except of course for the planet.

I've always appreciated how Utne champions just about anyone (or the planet) considered downtrodden. It raises awareness of issues that may seem small, but that affect individuals nevertheless, and individuals are important.

As long as they're human.

Or planets.

In the November/December issue, a section called (in a painful stroke of the ironic) Mindful Living, has one of those articles that makes your jaw drop and breeds certainty that you're on Candid Camera.

Let's deconstruct "Blood and Guts."

  • The subtitle is "An urban farmer talks about butchering the turkey she raised." At first I was thinking that, unlike those who call themselves compassionate carnivores, at least this woman does her own dirty work. But then the chilling reality that she chooses to kill set in and left me feeling more uneasy with the farmer than with those who cannot bear to see "their" animals being slaughtered.
  • The farmer, Novella Carpenter, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland, California and has a small yard and vacant lot that is her farm. She raises turkeys and cannot tell them apart. "They all look the same."
  • And here's the rub, right at the beginning: The interviewer says, "You were vegetarian at some point, a real 'meat is murder' person." Carpenter responds:
"I must have been about 16. I can't remember what it was I read, but my mom put a steak in front of me and I was like, 'I just can't do it. This is an animal!' Then I was a vegetarian for about two years in college. So all told, maybe four years Not that long."

So Carpenter begins by minimizing her past compassion for animals and making it seem like a childhood whim. She's just setting up what comes next.

  • When asked about that period, she says:
"I think [my] philosophy was really juvenile. It's hoping that something doesn't have to die. It's very Babe or Charlotte's Web. But the final, logical conclusion to being a vegetarian or vegan is that farm animals will cease to exist."

Some thing. The animals are things. I didn't know you could kill things. Furthermore, the logical conclusion is that we will cease using animals for our own purposes (i.e., because we have decided we "need" them for one reason or another). Why is it juvenile to want to opt out of a system of slavery, torture and slaughter?

  • Fortunately, the interviewer comes back with: "Some people have argued that a life lived for the purpose of dying is not a real life." To that, Carpenter says:
"You could say that, but you're ignoring human culture. [People] and domesticated farm animals are tied together. They're interlocked; they've coevolved. We've made [farm animals] exist, and they've helped us survive. And so for me, it's like, why don't we keep up that beautiful tradition? Part of that tradition is dying, but part of that is surviving. Those animals continue to exist because of us."
Ah, The Other C-Word rears its oftentimes-ugly head. Culture, which apparently shouldn't be ignored for some magical mystical reason. Meanwhile, co-evolution, which was actually just a series of choices by humans to domesticate and exploit certain nonhumans, isn't a good reason to continue the exploitation. It's an excuse, but it's not a valid reason. Yes, the "farm animals" helped us survive. But because we used them, not because they decided to give us a helping hand, breast, or leg. As for this "beautiful tradition," I'd like to hear Carpenter's definition of "ugly." Maybe NewSpeak is her native language. Here in 2008 in the US of A, I find it troublesome that the creation of sentient nonhumans for the purpose of their slaughter can be–as in "is capable of being"–defined as "beautiful."

But wait, it's not over. "Part of that tradition is dying, but part of that is surviving." I think Carpenter ought to be honest and say that "Part of that tradition is killing, and part of it is lying to yourself that you need to kill in order to survive."

Next, the insulting, "Those animals continue to exist because of us," as if they have something to thank us for. As if we're doing them a favor.

Finally, Carpenter only eats meat from animals she has killed. "A lot of my vegan and vegetarian friends have told me, 'This is the only acceptable way for you to eat meat.' I think that's true." There's a hint of the notion that her vegan and vegetarian friends approve of what she does. At least for me. And therein lies the most dangerous message of this article and others like it: That there's a way to raise and kill someone that makes it okay to do so. The fetishization of small farms, urban farms, and killing the ol' fashioned way is nothing more than rationalization for slaughter because we want to keep eating animals.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bea Elliott #

    Ah… certainly we want to keep eating animals guilt free of course. Only animals that were put here for that purpose though- (which translates into every animal according to cultural mores)… We don't want to be reminded that it's not "necessary" – lest you remove our thin veil of "justification". We also don't want to be reminded that our "chops", "burgers", "bacon" and "nuggets" are "flesh". Please don't call it THAT word for we may have to face another unpleasantness.

    Besides, we all know they wouldn't be here if it weren't for us… We give them life! The least they can do is provide (sustenance) in return. We make sure they are happy as well. We give them the best care that animal agriculture science has mastered! We keep them healthy you know… safe from disease and (non-human) predators…

    I'm in a particularly mean state tonight – I've just personally been given yet another example of how the world does not want to know the truth about their "food".

    After 10 months and 8,000 viewers a video I made which dealt with the contradictions of "loving animals & eating them" was removed by Youtube for "inapropriate subject matter". It dealt with the moral schizophrenia – or "incongruance" of society in relationship to "food" animals. Apparently someone flagged the video as being "too" something or other… "offensive" I guess. Funny though -there's not a frame on this video that's not an authentic factory farm/slaughterhouse piece of footage. So – if it's "real" but horrible enough to be censured – what does that say about how awful the truth really is?

    It seem the world can deal with all the other madness… violence, murder, war – but just threaten their safe, compartmentalized and detached relationship to what's on their plate and they can't handle it!

    I'm truly frustrated and angry… thanks for letting me vent.

    People who "justify" killing animals by butchering them and the ones who don't want to question a moment about who their meal was, both disgust me. One thinks it's okay if you glorify it – the other thinks it's okay if you ignore it.

    “Remember what is unbecoming to do is also unbecoming to speak of”

    October 21, 2008
  2. Christopher Barden #

    I was surprised to learn that Utne reader is owned by Ogden Publications, whose other publications are:

    Mother Earth News

    Utne Reader

    Natural Home Magazine

    Herb Companion

    Grit Magazine

    Capper's Magazine

    Motorcycle Classics Magazine

    Farm Collector

    Gas Engine Magazine

    Good Things to Eat

    October 21, 2008
  3. Oh god, don't remind me. did an expose on her as well.

    November 7, 2008

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