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January 7, 2004

PETA
Posted by Teresa at 06:56 AM *

Is there another group anywhere on the political spectrum that, year after year, displays such monumentally poor judgement as PETA?

More:

What struck me about that pamphlet was how much of a piece it was with everything else I’ve ever seen from PETA. I long since ceased to regard them as a political organization. They’re a cult, and in my opinion a nasty one.

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen PETA throw grossly upsetting material at children. A few Christmases back they had a panel van parked curbside on Union Square, with a sound system and some video screens set up at the edge of the sidewalk there. The sound system was playing traditional Christmas carols, so I didn’t register that it was PETA until I was nearly abreast of the panel van. That’s when I realized their video screens were showing closeup footage of tortured and mutilated animals.

This was two or three days before Christmas, early evening, well within kid time, at a spot where southbound pedestrians going to do a little last-minute shopping at the Union Square crafts market, or to catch their train (it’s a major subway nexus), couldn’t help but see the display. The screens were positioned a tad low for adults, but they were just the right height for children.

Isn’t that great? Everyone who walks past gets a faceful of bloody screaming mustelids that have lost their paws to metal traps. How are small children supposed to deal with that? It needs only to be added that there were no furs for sale anywhere near that location.

I’m a free-speech absolutist, and I’ve always been opposed to unnecessary and irresponsible cruelty to animals, but PETA can go stuff it.

Furthemore:

Virge has done it again in the comments thread:
It’s very easy to explain morality prescribed by pain.
You see it’s clear, all must abstain
from hurting flesh that boasts a brain.

To those whose eyes perceive, it’s plain —
the kindness of our cruel campaign:
“Who shocks the cradle can constrain
the thoughts this world will entertain.”

So stuff your “spare the kids” disdain
and logic-based legerdemain.
Sadly, sincerely, I remain,
Ingrid, ineffectual…
yet again.
Comments on PETA:
#1 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 07:56 AM:

"A cheeky message of compassion," uh-huh. Which cheek?

Front office is in Norfolk, VA, not an area of the country I'd consider unfamiliar with the whole meat-fur-Bambi connection.

I'd guess PETA has an institutional culture of martyrdom: "Look, they're offended at our virtuous ways! Their outrage validates our existence!" When objectively they exist so that we can see supermodels with a vague sense of social responsibility pose nekkid on billboards.

C.

#2 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:35 AM:

"People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it's easier to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs."

#3 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:37 AM:

I was surprised to see some anti-fur activists protesting outside the ballet I went to in November. Since they brought it to my attention, I decided to count the number of fur coats I saw at the end of the night when everyone is bunched at the doors and filing out. There were five.

#4 ::: bill b ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:09 AM:

But what about the poor vegetables?

Who speaks for them?

#5 ::: Adam ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:11 AM:

Amen, Seth.

#6 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:51 AM:

Favorite PETA story: Ingrid Newkirk sends a letter to the mayor of Fishkill, NY, demanding that he change the name of his town, which suggests support for the heartless killing of fish.

The understandably confused mayor sends back a letter telling Ms. Newkirk that "kill" is dutch for stream, and that therefor Fishkill means stream with fish in it.

She sends back to say that she doesn't care what it means, it sounds fish-unfriendly and she wants it changed.

I've always thought the best part of this story was that Fishkill is practically in the shadows of the much more famous Catskill mountains.

Presumably she thought Fishkill would be easier to push around.

It sorta makes you feel bad for that guy Arthur out on Staten Island, though.

#7 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 10:36 AM:

So, I guess this means that there's an unsatisfied market for meat porn.. Hmm.

#8 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 10:47 AM:

Julia: Perhaps it's because the Catskill Mountains don't have a mayor. Doo-dah, doo-dah. Or because she parses "Catskill" as "cat-skill"

If Fiskill means "stream with fish in it" then Catskill should mean "stream with cats in it" and I've never seen one of those. (Actually, George R. Stewart parses it as the possessive "Cat's stream" which leads to the suspicion that the cat, probably a wildcat, is presumably fishing, and thus deserves no more respect from PETA than the mayor of Fishkill.)

If she isn't the same person who objected to the word "niggardly" it ought to be.

Arthur who?

#9 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 10:52 AM:

Might Fishkill be "Fish's stream", since IIRC there were some prominent old New York families named Fish?

#10 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:29 AM:

I believe the key is not that PETA has poor political judgement at all. It is that PETA has learned that the only way their often crack-potted agenda will get any attention is if they are over the top and outrageous. They are out to offend, they are out to get their commercials banned, they are out to get as much press as possible, regardless of what light it shows them in.

I still think they're often crack-potted, but I don't think it's a misjudgement in any way...I think it's entirely intentional.

#11 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:47 AM:

"Arthur who?"

Arthur Kill is a road / region / river in Staten Island. Also a bridge. There's also the Kill Van Kull, a waterway connecting New York Bay with Bayonne Bay. Who Arthur or Van Kull themselves were, I've no idea.

The Fishkill story should be destined to become a classic of PETA stupidity. The "Mommy's evil because she wears fur" campaign should as well, though it has more vicious connotations than the other.

#12 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:50 AM:

Just an aside off PETA: Skwid said It is that PETA has learned that the only way their often crack-potted agenda will get any attention is if they are over the top and outrageous. They are out to offend, they are out to get their commercials banned, they are out to get as much press as possible, regardless of what light it shows them in.

Like Ann Coulter, then. That does make sense. No such thing as bad press, in some circles.

#13 ::: Scifantasy ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 12:09 PM:

bill b: The Arrogant Worms.

And Teresa: No. Another case is here, seen by a friend of mine.

#14 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 12:27 PM:

Related in only the most peripheral way: today's Get Fuzzy.

I always make sure that I only read that strip online at work -- I don't want to give my Siamese any ideas . . .

I think Skwid is right, but there is a point where these tactics lose their effectiveness -- you have persuaded those who you will persuade, and everyone else just says -- "Well, it's just PETA again . . . "

#15 ::: castiron ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Oh, my sister will love this one; she's planning to raise meat rabbits and has tossed around the idea of tanning the furs as well. "Damn straight, your mommy kills animals! And what's more, she can kill them for fur without getting so much blood everywhere!"

(I don't even want to know PETA's views on raising rabbits to feed to German Shepherds.)

#16 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 01:09 PM:

I'm told by someone who interviewed for them that employees of PETA are not permitted to bring non-vegan food to work, and that animals are allowed absolute freedom to wander around the offices. (I wonder if the animals are allowed to eat each other.)

It's sad to see people with what must be assumed to be noble intentions carry them so far into the realm of batshit insane. Respect and kindness for other species are good things, after all, and fur really isn't a nice practice; the world might be a better place if more people treated animals as something other than just another resource. But I guess there's no cause so right you won't find idiots in its service.

I eat meat and wear leather, which, like smoking cigars and being a Star Wars fan, are things I do despite being aware of various good reasons not to. I rationalize this by telling myself that it's the nature of life to feed on life, and I know that this is probably a copout. But I can't imagine that being handed a grotesque, guilt-trip shock pamphlet by PETA would be the thing to make me change my ways.

(A frightening thought intrudes: the Jehova's Witness vision of Paradise, with tigers cuddling up to wee lambies and whatnot instead of eating them, must have a certain appeal to the PETA mindset. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about various kinds of guilt-driven evangelism, and the connections between them.)

#17 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 01:25 PM:

that guy Arthur out on Staten Island

When I was in Perth Amboy, I wondered if Arthur was the killer or the killee. Until I remembered the "kill=creek" etymology I'd learned when reading Washington Irving in school, that is.

(Arthur Kill is the waterway crossed by the also oddly-named Outerbridge Crossing, which connects Staten Island to New Jersey.)

#18 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 01:37 PM:

My favourite PETA story is one told to me by a friend. It was at the height of the paint-throwing incidents. Being conscience-stricken, she had dutifully gotten rid of a real fur coat (she even gave it a "decent burial") and bought a fake fur coat -- a really nice one that looked almost authentic. You can guess the punchline. Of five or six women wearing what appeared to be fur and walking into the Met, PETA threw paint on her fake fur coat.

No apology, either. The PETA people seemed to think it was as wrong to wear a synthetic coat that looked like fur as a real fur coat.

#19 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 02:05 PM:

> But what about the poor vegetables?
>
> Who speaks for them?


Also Tom Paxton:
http://www.geocities.com/willboyne/nosurrender/DontSlay.html

I heard him do this live a number of years ago, and he told the story of having some friends approach him to write a pro-vegetarian protest song -- a serious mistake, he said, as he was and is a dedicated carnivore.

#20 ::: Dennis Moser ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 02:15 PM:

>From Seth Gordon,posted on January 7, 2004 08:35 AM:

> "People are more violently opposed to fur than
> leather because it's easier to harass rich women
> than motorcycle gangs."

Leather sucks in the rain, folks. Especially at 70 mph...http://www.angrek.com/sublime.jpg

#21 ::: PZ Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 02:41 PM:

I suppose if you want a more inept group, you could look to the Animal Liberation Front, which is sort of the openly militant wing of PETA. When I was in grad school, they trashed equipment and data and spraypainted slogans on the wall, and "liberated" a lot of helpless, inbred lab animals at my university, which they then set free in the wild. Well, actually, just off of I5.

Long story short, some hawks ate well, and there were more greasy red spots on the freeway.

#22 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 02:51 PM:

Now I'm dying to see a good old Marvel/DC-style crossover issue of the Evil PETA Mommy in Jack Chick comics.

#23 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:08 PM:

My town (Spokane, WA) got the honor of receiving PETA's "Santa's not coming this Christmas -- milk causes impotence" billboard, complete with a sad Santa looking down the front of his pants.

Story: http://www.msnbc.com/local/KHQ/M343544.asp?0LA=aap9&cp1=1

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Dan: "The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep."

As for who speaks for vegetables, I have. Well, plants, anyway.

I've been a vegetarian since 1978. This is for many reasons, which shift over the years. Now I just tell everyone it's a geas and let it go at that. I wear leather, and use real skin drums.

I think "ethical" vegetarians are silly.

If they believe that all life is sacred, as many claim, then why isn't plant life just as sacred as animal life? If animal life is somehow more sacred, why is that less arbitrary than holding only human life sacred (or only humans, other primates, dogs, cats, and horses, as many people seem to)?

If intelligence is a criterion, then eating chicken with broccoli (two species of approximately equal intelligence as far as I can tell) should be OK.

Anyway, after a runin with one of the more obnoxious animal-rights dorkazoids - this woman once attached herself to a dinner party after a gathering, and upon getting to the restaurant announced "we want a separate table for the vegetarians so we won't have to watch you people eating dead animals" (if I'd been there I'd have said "sorry, we're not going to have a separate table for the vegetarians, because I'm eating with the polite people") - after an encounter with her, I wrote an article for a newsletter (org. we both belonged to) titled "Silent No More: A Vegetarian Against Animal Rights."

Ethical vegetarians should come to me when they can photosynthesize. Otherwise they have to admit that, like the rest of us, they kill to live.

#25 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:33 PM:

"Respect and kindness for other species are good things, after all, and fur really isn't a nice practice"

There are places, Dan, and my often-cited Russia is among them, where wearing fur isn't a question of "nice" or "not nice." It's almost at the point of necessity.

But me, I'm certainly in favor of the theoretical PETA mission - the Ethical treatment of animals. Now, it so happens that my ethics dictate that it's perfectly alright for me to eat animals, provided that the animals were ethically treated prior to their demise. I'll have to remember, at some point, to go eat a roast beef sandwhich, purchased from my local kosher butcher, out front of a PETA office. Or not.

#26 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:49 PM:

The two great arguments for Robert Conquest's remark that "every organization appears to be headed by agents of its opposition" are PETA and Fred Phelps.

#27 ::: Watts Martin ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:49 PM:

I supported PETA about 15 years ago, when their main targets were the fur and cosmetics industries. They were always a little outrageous and shrill, but they managed to back up their shrillness with points that were fairly difficult to argue with. My impression is that since they largely won both those battles (even though fur is making something of a slow comeback) they've gotten more and more off-balance.

I (perhaps optimistically) think their hearts are in the right place, but to say that their concept of PR needs work is something of an understatement. The anti-fur ad from the British group Lynx that aired more than a decade ago was brilliant; PETA's stuff tends to be just as disturbing, but rarely for the intended reasons.

#28 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:50 PM:

There are places, Dan, and my often-cited Russia is among them, where wearing fur isn't a question of "nice" or "not nice." It's almost at the point of necessity.

And that's true too. Most of us are used to seeing fur as a symbol of affluence and status (real or aspired-to) rather than something that could make the difference between surviving or not.

I'd never wear a fur garment here in the Mid-Atlantic; it's just not necessary, and my conscience wouldn't take it. But in Siberia? You better believe I would.

#29 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:59 PM:

"But what about the poor vegetables?
Who speaks for them?"

I refer you to the song "Carrot Juice is Murder" by the Arrogant Worms

#30 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:24 PM:

Ingrid's not about the sanctity of life - she's said that she'd rather see a baby die than a lab rat.

#31 ::: Mandy ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:28 PM:

I agree that PETA comes across as shrill and distasteful. I don't think any meat-eater would be persuaded by such in-your-face tactics. I strongly disagree with their methods of animal rights.

There is a difference between eating vegetables and animals, though. Vegetables can't feel anything when you harvest them.

I am an animal lover and vegetarian, but I will not pour animal blood on you or spray paint on your fur coat to "prove a point".

#32 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:40 PM:

The person who sloshed me with paint was wearing little pink leather Nikes.

Rabbits don't have that much blood in them.

It's easy to be glib about what you eat when it comes on styrofoam. That summer I tried to grow food in the rocky soil of the Ozarks, I lived on buckshot and polk salad. The shot had a little squirrel meat wrapped around it...I finally hitched a ride into town with that bunch who were there scouting locations for Ram Dass's new commune, got a book about how to live off the land. In it, I found you could buy the starter kit for your earthworm farm from a guy named Carter in Plains, GA.

#33 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:07 PM:

"I am not a vegetarian because I love animals: I am a vegetarian because I hate plants."

I used this as a sig for quite a while on my e-mail. Great fun. I am a lifelong vegetarian, and the few times I have accidentally eaten meat, I've found it fairly distasteful. It's all what you're used to: most British non-vegetarians would object to consuming ants, snails, frogs, horses, and dogs, because none of them qualify as "food animals" in British eyes.

When people inform me that I am a vegetarian because I love animals (or some variation of this) I usually respond with something on the lines of "No, other way round: I love being cruel to plants. You carnivores kill your prey before you eat it: I chop it up alive..."

(Obviously, if someone asks me why I'm a vegetarian, I'll give them a truthful answer. But questions that presume the questioner already knows the answer do not deserve the same consideration.)

I have, however, passed for a Buddhist when travelling in China. It made getting vegetarian food so much easier...

#34 ::: PZ Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:21 PM:

Hmmm. I wonder if PETA considers the Schuylkill an attack on education?

Maybe they were thrown off the scent by all those natives who pronounced it something like "skoogle".

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:23 PM:

Vegetables can't feel anything when you harvest them.

How do you know? Some plants flinch from damaging influences. Also, does that mean it would be OK to eat animals if they were killed painlessly? (Kosher meat would be right out, of course, since kasherut specifically prohibits killing unconscious animals.)

julia: who's Ingrid? I mean besides a psycho-loony who ought to be locked up (if she actually acts on those sentiments).

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:26 PM:

Yonmei: why are you a vegetarian, actually?

#37 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:49 PM:

Scifantasy: Curse it! I was going to mention the Arrogant Worms....

Ayse: I was wondering if the PETA folks were planning on winnowing out the synthetic from the authentic furs, but I guess now I know. I'd've guessed as much too.

My boyfriend is veggie--but not militantly so, so he often subsidizes my omnivorous habits. (I often say that he subsidizes my meat habit so I won't pawn the X-box for a steak.)

#38 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:52 PM:

There's actually a lot of evidence that plants show reactions which are basically biochemically similar to what animals feel when one cuts them (but I know of no evidence about the harvesting of fully-ripened fruits).

No info here on root veggies, though, particularly when harvested after the plant has already set seed....

#39 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:57 PM:

Ingrid is sort of the straight edge version of the yippies. In her spare time, she's the founder and chief rabble-rouser of PETA. Big fan of the Animal Liberation Front. Thinks research is immoral even if it doesn't harm the animals.

#40 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 06:41 PM:

Xopher, I am a vegetarian because a year or so before my mum met my dad, she moved into her own place for the first time in her life, and found that eating a meatless diet was much cheaper. She turned this into a point of principle, and my dad has always been a person of principle himself: he has over the 41 years they've been married gradually turned into a vegetarian, though he says himself there is no definite point at which he decided to stop eating meat: he just did. All three children of the marriage were brought up vegetarians, and myself and my sister (and her 11-year-old son) all still are. I've never seen any reason to eat meat. (My brother, who is the most like our mum of the three of us, became a non-vegetarian for rebellious adolescent reasons and also because when he left home he was sharing a house with three other pre-med students, they took turns cooking, and what the other three could and did cook was mostly sausages and bacon and so forth...)

(I've been asked "What if you were starving to death?" and that's a silly question: I wouldn't rather die than eat meat. I would, however, rather go hungry than eat meat - in fact, I'd rather fast for 24 hours than eat meat.)

I prefer to be a vegetarian: I do have moral qualms about supporting the dairy industry, but I enjoy cheese too much to give it up. My ethical feelings about meat and dairy are that people should regard eating meat as an expensive, rare treat. I don't object to eating animals per se: I do object to the cruelty involved in the mass production of extremely cheap meat and milk.

Plus, one more anecdote. When I was working for Compaq, a few years ago, I was the only Western vegetarian until a new administrator joined the department. I walked her round the buffet at lunchtime her first day to show her where the vegetarian savouries were hiding and how the salad bar was priced - and when we sat down to eat with the rest of the department, everyone looked at her plate and someone asked "So, are you a vegetarian too?" and then conversation moved on to what she'd been doing before she worked for Compaq, and it turned out she'd been working for the government food safety department that inspects abbatoirs. "Oh, is that why you're a vegetarian?" someone asked jokingly.

"Yes," she answered, quite simply... and silenced half the department, happily tucking into their plates of British beef.

#41 ::: Kim Wells ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 07:03 PM:

One of my friends always says "have you ever heard a broccoli scream? they don't have legs to run away with, you know".

I think PETA might win more people over if they weren't so extreme; but then again, I know a lot of vegetarians who are that way cause some image of the meat processing industry freaked them out.

I remember being in Washington DC a few years ago and being really surprised to see a few women running around in full length furs. Here in Texas, we have TONS of leather wearers, but hardly ever see fur-- partly cause it just doesn't get that cold. So I thought people had just stopped wearing them cause of PETA.

Most folks, I think, object more to the cute fuzzy animals being killed than the ugly ones. I mean, fish aren't all that attractive, and there are a lot of "vegetarians" who eat tuna. But bunnies, they're cute.

I often wonder if PETA folks ever kill a bug. If a cockroach took up residence at PETA, would they give it a twinkie?

#42 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 07:25 PM:

If you reduce the PETA argument to its root principle, it seems to be that humans ought not to interfere -- or for that matter, interact -- with the ecosystem(s) in which they live, because that interferes with the Natural Order Of Things.

This being the case, I'd think PETA members should be actively supporting manned space programs, so as to remove themselves from Earth's ecosystem where they obviously don't belong. And I imagine a lot of people would cheerfully support the development of a manned space program so as to send the members of PETA off to Proxima Centauri in their very own generation ship....

#43 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:02 PM:

Oh, hell. I always feel obligated to defend PETA in arguments like these. And I really don't like them much. I hate their terrorist tactics, especially when it's designed to drag kids into the fray. On the other hand, I will admit that their McDonald's Unhappy Meals were clever and effective. I think that, in reality, most of them were actually received by adults, who presumably had the sense not to pass them on to their children. I suspect that this may be the case with the comic strip and the KFC bucket, also.

The world needs radicals. Radicals push the edges of what is possible. If everyone is in the center, then the possibilities become very narrow. PETA is out at the radical end, and I believe that it is partly because of their radical actions that discussion about the humane treatment of meat animals became possible. Think back to the 70s. The conversation was very, very different, then. Remember cosmetics testing? God bless the radicals, they will never get what they want.

PETA has done one thing that I approve of. It was a commercial (I don't know if it ever made it to the air, but it was available on the now defunct website that had many many tv adverts) that showed what it was that pets did while you were at work: fuck their brains out. It was hysterically funny, and it ended with the plea, If you must have a pet, please have it spayed. This is an amazingly moderate position for PETA, and I thought a very constructive one.

Plants and pain: oh, c'mon. How many people writing in this blog actually believe that plants feel pain in the same way that a cat or a calf feel pain? That plants have aversion responses is hardly a surprise. If they had no interest in survival, evolution would have obliged them, by now. However, the things that we think of as the apparatus for feeling pain, nerves, nerve endings, endorphins, etc., are absent in plants. They don't have a central nervous system, so what is feeling the pain? Just the cells that are experiencing the damage? How are the pain messages being carried? What's processing them? How can you say that a plant is in pain if there isn't anything there to feel the pain? I'm pretty damn doubtful about one-celled critters, too. Sure, they run away from the acid. However, survival doesn't equate with consciousness, and I think that when we talk about pain, we are actually talking about an entity experiencing pain, an action which requires an entity, i.e. an awareness of itself.

Oh, on the topic of leather and vegetarians: Leather is a by-product of the meat industry, not the other way around, so it's unlikely that wearing leather shoes is in any way contributing to the continuation of the slaughter of cattle. I know vegetarians with other views, too. However, that cute line about bikers vs. women in fur coats is just a nasty slur. Fur is not a by-product of anything but the fur industry, itself. While it may be a little better now than it was 20 years ago, the fur industry continues to be the source of some unnecessarily gruesome practices -- and I don't just stuff that looks gruesome. I'm talking about things that do cause pain and suffering.

Finally, there is a good, sound, reasonable argument for being more concerned about cute fuzzy animals than scary scaly critters. Empathy is an important part of being human. Cute furry mammals are much closer to us in emotional and physical terms than a tuna or an alligator. It is not a matter of not being emotionally honest enough to care equally for all living creatures. Only some people believe that all critters are created equal, the cockroach as important as the kitten. Lots of the rest of us think that if you can squash a cockroach, you're normal, but if you don't mind wringing the necks of kittens, you may well be a danger to us all. (I know, I know, if the kittens weren't killed then the farm would be overrun, and wringing their little necks is far less painful than putting them in a sack and drowning them, and who has the money to spay a barn cat? And if it doesn't bother you even a little bit to kill them, then you scare me anyway.)

#44 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:20 PM:

People Eating Tasty Animals.

#45 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:41 PM:

As an unreformed carnitarian, my favorite "welcome to California" moment was when a bunch of us were invited to a lunch meet-and-greet with our new CIO, and his admin asked us if we had any special dietary needs. It had never crossed my mind that meat qualified as a special dietary need.

The worst part of it was that we had a guy in the group who would only eat hamburgers, steak, and pepperoni pizza. When the meeting ended, the two of us bolted out of there to find some actual food.

PETA? The only problem with comparing them to Ann Coulter is that Coulter occasionally trips over a fact when she's raving. PETA's spokescritters just show that "you are what you eat" is transitive.

[Fun with Ann Coulter: go to the iTunes Music Store and listen to her reading her books out loud.]

-j

#46 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:56 PM:

To reduce the amount of vegetable pain needed to support my existence, I would of course be a vegetarian, as meat animals live on more plants than it takes to support me.

Conversely, I wear leather boots in order to reduce my eco-footprint, as I can make them last so much longer than any synth ones I've ever tried that I think it likely the total externalized cost is less. Wild-hair back-of-envelope calculations, though.

#47 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 08:59 PM:

I have, however, passed for a Buddhist when travelling in China. It made getting vegetarian food so much easier...

Taiwan is the one place I willingly ate at vegetarian restaurants (I'm a confirmed carnivore). Most such places in the US serve ostentatiously good-for-you food, sprouts and fruitshakes and what have you, that no meat-eater in his right mind would take a second look at. But Chinese Buddhists abstain from meat because of religious prohibition, not because they want to feel good about themselves or superior to meat-eaters, and they create mock-pork and -chicken dishes that are by god indistinguishable from the real thing and usually taste better than what's available at similarly cheap normal restaurants. (And I didn't actually mind the fact that it was better for me.) Moral: concentrate on making a product attractive on its own merits and skip the sermon, and you have a winner on your hands.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:02 PM:

Lydy, if plants aren't aggressively hostile, how come they keep trying to non-consensually mate with my sinuses? And if plants don't feel pain, I'm definitely going to have to abandon some of the disciplinary measures I've been using in my garden.

I dislike PETA because they go out of their way to alienate people who don't already agree with them 100%.

Elsewhere: I'm nonplussed by arguments about how we're more virtuous in our own nature if we don't eat milk or meat. There are, on this planet, numerous species that would eat me if they were given the chance. Furthermore, I have incisors as well as molars. And hello, we're mammals? Milk consumption a distinguishing characteristic?

Show me a New Yorker who believes that the sacredness of all life extends to cockroaches.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:06 PM:

damn. speaking of foodk, I'm finding out the hard way that local restaurant puts msg in their soup. patrick's in toronto. back later.

#50 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:38 PM:

Ouch.

Hope it's a small amount of MSG.

I think humane farming practices are a good conservative value, and that there should be a lot of work put into requiring food costs to represent the full closed-loop cost of the raising, rearing, or growing. (No letting factory farms treat manure as an externality, say.)

The problem I have with a lot of the animal rights radicals is that it turns into a humans-are-evil absolutism, one where humans don't have the moral right to eat other animals, and I simply don't agree with that world view.

And I hope Patrick packed some warm socks; we're getting actual blowing snow at the moment.

#51 ::: Invisible Adjunct ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 10:17 PM:

"Is there another group anywhere on the political spectrum that, year after year, displays such monumentally poor judgement as PETA?"

If there is, I can't think of it at the moment.

I like how it's all the fault of "Mommy." Ever since Eve brought sin (and death) into the world...

But this is typical of their theology. They often focus on the evil glamour of feminine display (eg, fur coats) as both symptom and cause of our corruption.

For the record: I'm vegetarian, and have been for years. But I feed my kid meat because I'm a bad mother.

#52 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:27 PM:

Arthur Kill: by folk-etymology from Dutch achter kill, 'back stream', because of its situation on the opposite side of Staten Island from New Amsterdam.

In Kill van Kull, it [Kull] is probably a family name, the ordinary formation as Kull's Kill being prevented by phonetics, and van being used as the equivalent of English of.

- George R. Stewart, American Place Names. You need this book.

I have consulted some vegetarian theoreticians for their opinion of killing vegetables.

John Robbins, in Diet for a New America, briefly refers to fruitarians (vegetarians who won't kill plants), dismissing them at nuts without saying himself what their philosophy is, let alone what's wrong with it.

Peter Singer, in Animal Liberation, mocks carnivores who ask why vegetarians don't care about killing plants. He says the carnivores don't care about plants, they just want an excuse to continue eating meat. No, Mr. Singer, we want to know why you don't care about plants.

The "plants don't have a central nervous system" line is new to me. Does that mean it'd be OK to kill and eat a paralyzed human? If I thought my eating habits should be dependent on not causing suffering, I'd be pretty crass to assume that plants can't suffer in some way we don't know much about.

As for closeness to ourselves, sure, most people practice that. In modern Western society we don't eat porpoise (I hope nobody here is under the illusion, that comes up once in a while, that mahi-mahi is porpoise - it's actually another name for the dolphin fish, a totally different beastie that's a fish, not a mammal), ape, monkey, cat, or dog. After that, though ... Pigs and even cows, maybe, but it's hard to have the kind of intimate friendship with a chicken that most people have with their dogs.

So where you draw the line is kind of subjective. If you want to draw it at the end of the animal kingdom, fine for you. Others don't draw it there; that's their business. Just like whether they have abortions is their business.

#53 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:31 PM:

Languagehat: I was under the impression you lived in the NY metro area. I suppose I was mistaken (the only veg restaurants I'll be found in are Indian and Chinese -- as a bonus, a lot of them tend to get kosher certs, almost for the hell of it, so I can take my more observant friends and family).

TNH: MSG sensitive? Ouch. And here I am, futilely seeking out the stuff.

#54 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:36 PM:

Norfolk, VA is my hometown and we have to put up with their shenannigans constantly. And by shenannigans I mean vandalism, threats and sheer lunatic zeal. Theresa's right, they are more like a cult than a political organization, nt quite as bad as say, the Christian Coalition but getting there.

#55 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 12:01 AM:

What stood out for me on the "Your Mommy Kills Animals" webpage was the period on a line all by itself right below the main image. "What the hell?!" I thought, "Don't these people have enough brains to know about the non-breaking space?"

As for plants, it's been shown that pine trees in a forest communicate with each other through scent... When an insect attacks and kills one, the others can tell, and start beefing up their defenses. Clearly, when a plant is cut, it changes its morphology to deal with that, grows a sort of scar-tissue to close off the wound. Do all the necessary chemicals for that come from the cells immediately around the cut? I doubt it. A plant is an organism, and as such, it would be pointless for it to not take advantage of the greater manufacturing power of all of its cells. Plants clearly have internal processes going on.

As for pain... I don't think it would offer any evolutionary advantage to a plant. It's not like the plant can do anything about it; it can't twitch or move away (except, of course, for the plants that do twich and move, like the sensitive plants or Venus Fly Traps). I don't think plants had any reason to develop the electrical systems that are the basis of the nerves of animals... I'd imagine that the point of those was speed, and that those levels of reaction speed are only valuable to the motile. But I'm loathe to claim that there could never be such a thing as a chemical mentality. As such, plants may think, and be aware of themselves as organisms, even if they don't feel pain.

I'm a bit torn on the issue of eating animals. One of the most amusing arguments I had with a vegetarian was,
Him: "Humans weren't meant to eat meat. We don't have anything about our bodies that was built for dealing with it."
Me: "What, like canine teeth?"
(Honestly, he was a nice guy who was just bad at expressing himself.)
Anyway, so our species evolved to take advantage of this excellent energy source. But should we? I mean, we get around other parts of our genetic heritage. (Or do we? Do we act much differently now than if we were stuck back out in the forests of Africa? Hm.)

I suppose I figure if the animal lives well, and is killed in a respectful manner, that's about all most of us can expect out of life anyway. And killing for fur, or bone, or art... I kinda figure that it's none of my business to say "Oh, very well, you can eat-- but I'm going to regulate what you wear!" Lives well, dies well; everything comes to an end, and it might as well be a useful end.

I eat a lot of meat for one simple reason: I can buy it at any time and stash it in the freezer and forget about it, and it will never go bad, and when I defrost it in the microwave, it will taste as good as if I'd never frozen it. I never pull a bag of grey liquid meat from the crisper. Unlike spinach. Damn its green heart!

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 12:56 AM:

I eat a lot of meat for one simple reason: I can buy it at any time and stash it in the freezer and forget about it, and it will never go bad, and when I defrost it in the microwave, it will taste as good as if I'd never frozen it.

Really? Do you have some kind of magic freezer? I often buy ground beef and divvy it into quarter-pound patties that I stick into individual Ziploc baggies and freeze, later defrosting them for burgers, but I generally leave out some to make fresh burgers with, and the fresh ones taste better.

#57 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:09 AM:

Ok, first off, I really, really, really hate this argument because I always end up sounding as if I'm arguing in favor of positions that I abhor. I eat meat. I do sometimes wonder if it's ok for me to be as squeamish as I am and still eat meat, but I don't agonize over it. I also don't agonize over other people's eating habits. Their political activism, yes, I worry about that. PETA crosses the line so often I'm tempted to just assume that whatever they're doing is bad. In answer to various questions, comments, and challenges:

Chuck Nolan: If I never heard that line again, it would be too soon. It was a funny 3 or 4 times, not just a funny once, but it is as predictable as the sun rising in the east that whenever vegetarianism or PETA or ALF or animal rights is being discussed, someone will say it.

J Greely: Meat is not a dietary requirement. People all over the world manage without it, some of them aren't even dirt poor. In places other than the extremely rich Western countries, meat is used more as a flavoring, not as an ingredient. You could live a full and healthy life without ever eating meat again. It would be harder to do it without ever eating another plant. (Owsley claimed that it was the only way to be healthy, but Owsley was insane. He was also brilliant. His insights did not come from the most reliable of planes, however. Extra points to anyone who can identify the person I'm talking about. -- No, P&T, you can't play.)

Language Hat:

"Taiwan is the one place I willingly ate at vegetarian restaurants (I'm a confirmed carnivore). Most such places in the US serve ostentatiously good-for-you food, sprouts and fruitshakes and what have you, that no meat-eater in his right mind would take a second look at."

Why don't any of your vegetarian friends take you to any of the good restaurants? I'll admit to the genre of restaurant that believes that medicine has to taste bad or it won't do you any good, but there are restaurants with spectacular vegetarian food in my own neck of the woods, which is Minneapolis. If you live someplace more cosmopolitan, then I guarantee you that you have many, many choices. Try some.

Teresa:

Lydy, if plants aren't aggressively hostile, how come they keep trying to non-consensually mate with my sinuses?

I always blame the creator for that particular foul-up, myself. That and the fact that plants are really fucking stupid. "I am not a plant, I am a free vegetable." Wait, that's not right.

And if plants don't feel pain, I'm definitely going to have to abandon some of the disciplinary measures I've been using in my garden.

I'm not visualizing this. You inflict pain on your plants? I mean, weeding, training, pruning, I dig all that. What are you talking about? This is an honest, ignorant question. I can't garden to save my life. House plants curl up in my presence and die within hours of my entering the room.

I dislike PETA because they go out of their way to alienate people who don't already agree with them 100%.

It's the Liberal Disease. I hate it, too. It's especially distressing that they're so extremely alienating. Stupid gits. Have you talked to Raphael about PETA, though? Raphael's theory is that the first lab that PETA busted into was one of the real horror-show DOD labs. What was being done there was rather beyond anything any of the activists were capable of imagining -- and they could imagine quite a bit. Raphael's theory is that the experience traumatized them and caused PETA to be a dysfunctional group from their very inception.

Elsewhere: I'm nonplussed by arguments about how we're more virtuous in our own nature if we don't eat milk or meat.

Fair enough. But I am also nonplussed by arguments that we are more virtuous if we do eat meat, and that vegetarians are really just hypocrites. Of the various vegetarians and carnivores that I've known, it is only the carnivores who have ever button-holed me to preach in fervent tones about their righteousness and the evils of the heretics. Vegetarians mostly leave me alone, or answer politely if I ask questions. It doesn't seem to me like it's the vegetarians who have the corner on self-righteousness.

There are, on this planet, numerous species that would eat me if they were given the chance. Furthermore, I have incisors as well as molars. And hello, we're mammals? Milk consumption a distinguishing characteristic?

The arguments grounded in what we are biologically supposed to eat or not eat strike me as missing the point. We have tools and brains and some pretty sophisticated theories on nutrution. I see no reason why anyone should have to be tied down to what ancient ancestors on the plains of Africa may or may not have eaten, and whether or not it was good for them.

Show me a New Yorker who believes that the sacredness of all life extends to cockroaches.

Oh, c'mon, Teresa, we're talking New York City, here. If I want a one-armed unicycle rider with perfect pitch who juggles eggs while singing the star-spangled banner while his terrier Yap harmonizes, I'm going to find him in New York City. I'm sure that I could find a garden variety Buddhist who meets those requirements -- given time.

Simon:

Peter Singer, in Animal Liberation, mocks carnivores who ask why vegetarians don't care about killing plants. He says the carnivores don't care about plants, they just want an excuse to continue eating meat. No, Mr. Singer, we want to know why you don't care about plants.

Because they aren't animals. They are not close enough to me to evoke empathy. I do not believe that they feel pain. I do not believe that they can suffer. Because I think that there is a very great difference between plants and animals. Singer's an interesting one, isn't he? I find that I like the questions he asks, but I dont like the answers he gets, and I wonder if I'm being a hypocrite, or if he's wrong. Or both.

The "plants don't have a central nervous system" line is new to me. Does that mean it'd be OK to kill and eat a paralyzed human?

Paralyzed humans have a central nervous system. It may not be working very well, but if they are alive, they have one that is functioning at least somewhat. I won't go all the way down the road with Singer on this one. Euthanizing the old and retarded does not seem to me to be an appropriate choice for society. However, removing life support from people in permanent vegetative state is something I support. I oppose cannibalism primarily because you really shouldn't be eating meat which has an immune system so similar to your own. You can catch really, really nasty diseases, that way.

If I thought my eating habits should be dependent on not causing suffering, I'd be pretty crass to assume that plants can't suffer in some way we don't know much about.

It seems to me that the carnivores who defend their diet by asking about the suffering of plants are really claiming that we don't know what pain and suffering are, and therefore we don't have sufficient information with which to make decisions. I think that's horse hockey. You know pain when you see it. Are there boundaries and edges that aren't clear? Well, sure, we live in the real world. But I've seen entire meadows cut down in their prime, then baled and stored up for winter feed, and the suffering I saw was mostly the little toads that had amputated limbs, the birds with a broken wing, the ground squirrell with a laceration... The grass really didn't seem much to care.

So where you draw the line is kind of subjective. If you want to draw it at the end of the animal kingdom, fine for you. Others don't draw it there; that's their business. Just like whether they have abortions is their business.

Now, there I am so with you.

#58 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:27 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote:
I'm a free-speech absolutist, and I've always been opposed to unnecessary and irresponsible cruelty to animals, but PETA can go stuff it.

I'm a free-speech absolutist, opposed to animal cruelty where possible, and a vegan, and I wish PETA would go stuff it too.

Julia wrote:
Ingrid's not about the sanctity of life - she's said that she'd rather see a baby die than a lab rat.
-julia

I'm not with her there, but I do find that sort of decision difficult. I go some of the way with Peter Singer: I think it'd be worse to kill a fully-grown gorilla than an unborn human baby; but if I try to make finer decisions than that, the mental triage just gets too painful. Yet another reason why it's a good thing I don't run the planet. I'm a vegan because it suits me to be, and I think that's the only justifiable reason. Sure, ethics are good, but I don't see how it's ethical to do something that doesn't work, and/or exhort other people to do it.

Yonmei wrote:
I do have moral qualms about supporting the dairy industry, but I enjoy cheese too much to give it up.

We're sort-of mirror images. The dairy industry was one of my reasons for going vegan, but my lifelong hatred for cheese was one of the things that made it easiest. I've been avoiding the stuff since I was too young to be able to say clearly that I hated it, and so I was used to asking "What's in that?" before eating.

Language Hat: I live near a supermarket with a huge Buddhist range. It's great. I think they sell whole soy chickens there.

#59 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:41 AM:

Lydy- Owsley is the guy who cooked up those great batches of acid, right?

PS You can, actually, feel a lot of pain without showing any sign of it. Or at least that was my experience when my grandmother kindly tried to shave my legs with an electric razor while I was in a coma. The funny thing is, after all the fuss of pulling the plug, I didn't die. For those who have not tried this form of dipilatory torture, may I say it ranks right up there with hot candle wax on a sunburn and veterinary needles through mucous membrane?

#60 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:49 AM:

Lydy Nickerson: Meat is not a dietary requirement.

I don't eat meat because I believe that life is impossible without it, I eat meat because I believe that life is better with it.

And most of the health claims and scares that are tossed around deserve to be taken with a grain of salt. And a pat of butter.

Lydy Nickerson: You could live a full and healthy life without ever eating meat again.

Since I can also live a full and healthy life with meat, I will continue to do so. Life is simply more fun if I don't restrict myself to bunny food.

Note: in the interests of full disclosure, I will confess that potatoes, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers are considered honorary meats in my universe. Grains serve as binding agents to hold the meats together. :-)

-j

#61 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 02:01 AM:

I've been a lacto-ovo vegetarian (with recent lapses into cheatin' with fish, since I've discovered that I like tuna and shrimp) since I was 14 (1992). I became such a creature for the reason many 14-year-old boys do... to impress a girl. The girl is long gone, but I ended up liking the vegetarianism. My taste for red meat, which had always been a bit tenuous, simply faded entirely.

Nonetheless, "ethical" vegetarians strike me as mostly well-meaning but undereducated folks; Fluffy Bunny Syndrome sufferers seem to presume that predation is something invented and practiced only by human beings, and that only because they're big meanies.

I wonder what PETA's position on feeding crickets to a pet tarantula is? My old desk buddy Neal (1997-2001, RIP) was on the little guys like senators on Caesar; crickets deeply offended his spider-Zen and were to be dealt with ten or twelve at a time if necessary.

Yet I somehow doubt that soy milk was the key to inner peace for him.

#62 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 02:30 AM:

The arguments grounded in what we are biologically supposed to eat or not eat strike me as missing the point. We have tools and brains and some pretty sophisticated theories on nutrution. I see no reason why anyone should have to be tied down to what ancient ancestors on the plains of Africa may or may not have eaten, and whether or not it was good for them.

There's probably as much validity in one person's decision to eat meat based on biological support for the concept as there is for another person's decision to not eat meat because technically it's not necessary to do so. It's when somebody argues with me (a lifelong vegetarian for reasons unrelated to saving the cute fuzzy animals) about what must be right for me based on what they believe to be valid reasons for choosing a diet that I get insulted. I think this would be true of anybody on either side of the meat equation.

I figure there are two types of people where diet is concerned: those who feel a need to defend their food choices, and those who don't. Oddly, I find that whenever I mention to a group of people going out to eat that I'm a vegetarian, the response is usually a mix of apologies for eating meat and a defense of the act, as if I cared what other people eat (I don't). I've never been in a situation where a vegetarian was lecturing the meat-eaters, but I'm sure it must happen somewhere, or why would these people respond with such defensiveness to hearing about another person's diet?

#63 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 02:35 AM:

Lydy: You may not have your empathy evoked by plants, but I find them quite as empathy-evoking as the lesser animals. I used to pull up carrots by the roots. I don't do that any more: it makes me slightly queazy. I still eat them, though. I also eat animals. With Milo from Bloom County, I say: It's dead, and I'm gonna eat it.

"I do not believe that they feel pain. I do not believe that they can suffer."

This is faith. We used to believe that animals couldn't feel pain or suffer. (Do you know how they used to tie up captured iguanas in central America? Maybe they still do. I'm not going to tell you: it's really gruesome.)

"It seems to me that the carnivores who defend their diet by asking about the suffering of plants are really claiming that we don't know what pain and suffering are, and therefore we don't have sufficient information with which to make decisions."

Now you sound like Peter Singer. You're changing the subject. This isn't about carnivores justifying pain because we don't know where the limits are. (Carnivores accept pain, because we believe that all living things are capable of suffering.)

No, this is about asking ethical vegetarians: if you [the hypothetical ethical vegt. here, not you personally, though one who's taking the position you outline] are so vehemently against inflicting pain on animals, and so eager to empathize with everything down to insects, as to launch a crusade to persuade others to adopt your stance, why this bizarre indifference to plants? Especially as some vegetarians are known to use terms like "all living things" when they mean only animals. Especially as such an indifference is necessary if it's to leave you with a balanced diet. It sounds awfully convenient. High moral principle and low practical fudging don't mix very well. If they want to persuade me of the morality of their stance, they'd better come up with a morally lucid justification.

#64 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:17 AM:

Lydy Nickerson wrote: Meat is not a dietary requirement

My mom is on a big "eat right for your type" kick on the advice of her endocrinologist, and the book says that type-Os may be healthier with a moderate amount of meat in their diets. I've experienced that myself, becoming ill the time I tried to go veggie (though a mild soy allergy might account for some of that.) I've found I feel healthier when I eat meat.

I also have to say that I do feel empathy to plants, though usually it is towards those on the higher end of plant evolution, like trees and bushes. (I'd call them the "cute mammals" of the plant world, but I don't feel right about it scientifically) I'll often cry when a tree I care about gets cut down, but still I buy wood furniture.

We all make compromises.

Of course, a lot of the cruelty would be cut down if the government would stop subsidizing the hell out of factory farms and let small farmers back into the equation. I try to buy free range organic whenever possible.

#65 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:20 AM:

I've never been in a situation where a vegetarian was lecturing the meat-eaters

I never have either. And yet having non-vegetarians do a quick guilt-trip in front of me about how they really do eat hardly any red meat, or they only eat fish, or they hope I don't mind but they like meat, is so common that I have developed social strategies for dealing with it. (I think the other non-vegetarian thing about "how do you know plants don't suffer, too?" is the same thing, backasswards: these people feel the same twinge of guilt, but then feel cross because they see no reason to feel guilty, and take their crossness out on the person they believe caused them to feel this twinge of guilt.)

I think this may derive from a meme that eating vegetarian=depriving yourself of meat=not eating hearty enjoyable meals is somehow a Good Thing. It's the sex-is-bad celibacy-is-good meme translated into food.

Which has taken me some time to work out, since I don't find those huge steaks or burgers they're tucking into at all appealling, and am happily tucking into a big baked potato with lovely crunchy-chewy skin, lots of greenleaf salad, and a big dollop of garlicky hummus. ...mmmmmm... and am therefore not understanding in my gut why they think I am going without something. What, that big hunk of animal muscle/fat? Urk. Only, as it is very rude to criticise other people's choices at the table, I never say this: and they speak of their pity only in such oblique terms that it took me quite a while to realise that they think I must envy them...

Food is good. Good food is good. It's true the thing I am frequently annoyed by is restauranteurs who cater elaborately (and, I presume, imaginatively) to their carnivorous clientele, yet persist in assuming that what vegetarians like to eat is some minor variation on grilled vegetables with goats cheese and/or mushrooms. I like reading restaurant reviews, and I have a fantasy about being hired by some big paper to do a weekend review of classy restaurants as they appear to a vegetarian. (Classy restaurants, in the UK, derive their cuisine from a race memory of French cooking, but lacking the important thing about classy restaurants in France*.) "Limited choice: two starters, one based on mushrooms, one based on cheese. Only one main course, based on mushrooms and cheese. Mushrooms not cooked well. Both ludicrously over-priced. Seven or eight desserts. Don't go there if you want a tasty main meal, but the desserts and the coffee were both excellent."

*The French believe that with so many delicious animals in the world, why not eat them? But they also believe that if you can say what you want to eat, you ought to get it. I have eaten utterly delicious vegetarian meals in French restaurants: when I was working there I had to make a deal with myself that I'd only order an omelette once every second day.

#66 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:01 AM:

While I sympathize with much of their agenda, I agree that PETA is on the wacko side. But I LOVE that art! Yes, Christina, I would love to see Jack Chick's Bad Bob meet up with the Bunny Slayin' Mom. Actually, I don't worry so much about the effect on kids--Dr. Wertham has been throughly debunked, and this is just the 21st-century p.c. version of a classic Jack Davis illustration for E.C. Comix. Hiphop-listening, Doom-playing kids probably love it.

#67 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:05 AM:

Oh yes: Teresa, I've read that vegetarian new Yorker Moby doesn't kill the cockroaches in his loft.
Also, as far as plants being hostile: It's not just pollen--many plants are of course much more directly hostile to humans. Besides plants poisonous to eat, many of them deadly, there are poison ivy, nettles, anything with thorns...

#68 ::: plover ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:10 AM:

For a recent clinical summary of results on animal suffering, detailing both pain- and fear-related suffering, see this paper by Temple Grandin. One neurological perspective has it that an organism requires a limbic system (i.e. the parts of the brain which integrate stimuli into emotional responses including the amygdala, the hippocampus, and some other structures - more detail than you probably want here) in order to have the feelings humans identify as suffering. I assume the argument runs something like: since the human experience of suffering can be located in these structures, animals who do not have a limbic system do not suffer in a way that is a meaningful analogue of what humans experience. Extrapolating this idea to a world view would seem to mean that human empathy is only meaningful when applied to certain groups of mammals. (An extreme version of this view limits meaningful suffering to "humans, higher apes, and possibly dolphins" - see the Grandin paper.) Grandin's view (from a skim through the above paper) seems to be that the limbic system is only one layer in a neural processing hierarchy governing pain, fear, etc., and that the other levels of this hierarchy are structurally similar enough to the limbic system that the various fear reactions and learned aversions exhibited by all vertebrates can be treated meaningfully as forms of suffering (and that this reasoning could possibly be extended to neurologically sophisticated invertebrates such as octopus).

In a more speculative vein, suppose you are a newt that can regenerate a leg or a lizard that can shed its tail. What would be appropriate neurological responses (from an evolutionary point of view) to losing the aforementioned limbs? Our lizard would certainly be justified in fearing the circumstances that lead to the loss of a tail (That hawk is going to EAT me!), but would the lizard have an actual fear of losing its tail? And would the experience of losing a tail be particularly "traumatic"? I suspect that it would be better for the lizard if the actual tail-loss were a relatively neutral event, perhaps entailing a change in foraging strategy to avoid situations requiring tricky balancing, but hardly a matter to bewail at great length to all the lizardy gods, or to get all neurotic about. ("And whatever you do don't mention 'the tail incident'...")

I suppose my point here is just that choosing the grounds for empathy is tricky, especially when applied to entities with different life cycles and physiological tricks than humans (jellyfish? ferns?).

#69 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:16 AM:

Xopher: I think "ethical" vegetarians are silly.

I don't usually feel compelled to defend my dietary choices, but then I'm not usually insulted for them either. I stopped eating meat because I couldn't fault Peter Singer's argument for ethical vegetarianism.

[long post explaining my position deleted]

You know what, Xopher? I can't be bothered. I am tired of online arguments. I want discussion and conversation, and your dismissive tone does not encourage me. Consider me "silly" all you want.

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:17 AM:

Meat. I love meat. Big porterhouse, yum. Raw oysters, pickled herring, best breakfast in the world. Meat makes me feel better and livelier: less sleepy, more energetic, more clearheaded. If there's an argument to be made about there being a diet that's "natural" for us, then I'm hard put to see how meat isn't natural for me. Other people I know would be sickened by it, and are happiest and healthiest on a largely meatless diet.

Arguments from nature are minefields. We think of dogs and cats as carnivores, but they'll also eat grass. They can't live on it, but they seem to be the better for eating some. And who hasn't had a pet who was wildly enthusiastic about some food that was supposed to be outside their dietary range? I've known of dogs that loved cornchips, or raw carrots, or watermelon. I've been assured by desert-edge gardeners that coyotes have a thing for canteloupe. And I won't go into the distressing details of certain habits of sweet little herbivores like hamsters and guinea pigs.

I don't think we know nearly as much about this subject as we think we do.

I don't know where the idea comes from that eating little or no meat is a spiritually superior practice. The only "natural" reason I can see is that when you have a human population living in an area that supports a mixed diet, the richer and more powerful classes tend to get more meat in their diet. Voluntarily eating less meat isn't being nice to animals; it's bowing out of certain kinds of conflicts with other human beings.

Lydy, the bit about disciplining plants was humorous. Mostly.

Note: I didn't write about PETA because I have strong opinions about diet. I do have them; most people do. What gets me about PETA is their mad intransigence. What they're doing isn't politics. It's a public enactment of a private morality play.

It's not just PETA that pulls these stunts. This Christmas season, an evening or two after the Union Square craft market opened, one end of the market was much disturbed by the Revolutionary Socialist People's Front of Judaea, or possibly the Socialist Revolutionary Judaean People's Front*. Much shouting, much unpleasantness. I believe what triggered the worst of it was a craftswoman asking the protesters to please not shout so loudly right in front of her booth. She was near the edge of the market, and the protesters had come in and taken up the aisle in front of her, thus blocking customer access, driving people away with their loud sloganeering, and forcing her to listen to them at close range. When she asked them to knock it off, things got really loud.

What I noticed about the shouters was that their message entirely consisted of variations on (1.) you're oppressing us and depriving us of our rights; (2.) we're not afraid of you, you fascists; (3.) we have a right to turn a large chunk of public space where an annual crafts fair is going on into a theatre for our political psychodramas; and (4.) it's our country, not yours. That is, it had about as much content one pack of primates screaming at another. The greater cause they were supposedly there in support of was not being mentioned. In fact, I never found out what it was.

I hope it wasn't something I'd have agreed with, because, along with everyone else who witness that scene, I was left with one indelible impression: those people were complete jerks.

_________________________
*See Monty Python's Life of Brian.

#71 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:22 AM:

Owsley=Bear?

I met him a few times. He seems like a reasonably sensible man, given the waters he swims in.

#72 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:44 AM:

And by the way: From my own very limited experience, I'll second Yonmei's remarks about French vegetarian cooking, I stumbled into some confusion while ordering dinner in a French restaurant. I thought I was saying "On second thought, never mind the vegetable salad starter; I'll just have the entree." She thought I was saying "I'll have the vegetable salad as an entree." What she brought out was so good that I've been wanting it again ever since. You know those vegetarian Indian meals that get served in twenty different little dishes on a tray? It was like that. Some vegetables were served separately, others in various combinations; some were cooked, some were raw; most were lightly dressed, and it wasn't all the same dressing; and they were all cut up into different sizes and shapes as appropriate for the vegetable and the dish. It was sumptuous, the furthest thing from deprivation imaginable.

#73 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 09:35 AM:

The idea that anyone should have to defend or explain their dietary choices seems just slightly weird and alien to me. It strikes me as a question you shouldn't even ask people you don't know especially well; it's an unnecessarily personal inquiry, like asking someone to explain their sexual preference. "Because that's what I like" probably ought to be the assumed reason in both cases.

Nonetheless, while neither vegetarians nor carnivores have a monopoly on self-righteousness, there's something especially disturbing about folks who feel like if it doesn't have a critter in it, it isn't actually food. It's amazing how much this attitude comes out of the woodwork; when my wife and I decided we were going to have a vegetarian buffet at our wedding reception, you'd've thought we were asking people to eat monkey brains and anaconda. (Between the pasta alfredo, the potatoes au gratin, the stuffed mushrooms, the stir-fry and gods know what else, I wonder know how many people would've actually registered "vegetarian" if they didn't know beforehand. It's like Yonmei says: the word gets equated in people's minds with rabbit food.)

I know I guy who I saw actually get rude and unpleasant seeing a vegetarian put steak sauce on a baked potato - it really offended his sense of what steak sauce was for, dammit, and if you didn't eat meat you didn't deserve to use it, or some such stupid thing. (Me, I'm an autocondimentor, and see most food, meat or otherwise, largely as a vehicle for things like cheese or salsa or tzatziki, which may skew my persective a bit.)

In any case, the bottom line for me is that a preference is not a virtue, whether you're a militant vegan or someone who says dumb things like "I didn't rise to the top of the food chain to graze." My reaction to both is a roll of the eyes.

Aside to Scott L.: The use of the word "spider-Zen" in the context of your story conjured an image of a tarantula taking on and dispatching a circle of crickets in the manner of David Carradine facing a ring of ninjas, if he also ate the ninjas as he went along. It was quite amusing, and made my morning.

#74 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:05 AM:

Yonmei: You might want to read the section on disgusting substances (particularly things which are disgusting to eat) in the _Hotheads_ chapter of Steven Pinker's _How the Mind Works_.

Roughly: there seems to be a human mental system whereby every animal product is apparently classified as disgusting unless we were allowed to eat it before the age of about two. So your not eating a big chunk of cow skeletal muscle because it's disgusting is as `correct' as the desire of most Westerners not to eat insects because they're disgisting or spread disease or something.

(One thing that does seem to be true is that if large meat-bearing animals like cows are available, they'll be nondisgusting, leaving insects to be classified as disgusting by omission, probably because the larger animals are more efficient to get hold of: there's more meat on a cow than on a cricket, so the crickets don't get eaten, and don't get given to the under-twos, so the next generation classifies them as disgusting.)

#75 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:25 AM:

People vary.

The real world has error bars.

As I get older and more wishy-washy, I find that the thing that doesn't get wishy-washy is the conviction that people who don't think the world has error bars, that there are Right Answers, are not on my side. (Whatever that is.)

I eat meat in part because I like it and in part because I have to; since my guts got ripped up by an agressive virus, they don't work very well, and the range of things I can eat to nutritional benefit is much reduced.

#76 ::: Tayefeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:30 AM:

I don't think it's necessary to offer the under-twos a particular food, but it may be necessary for the parents to express a willingness to eat that food, or at least to try new things. Neither of my children ate fish before age two. The four-year-old isn't interested in fish. The eight-year-old requested flounder stuffed with crab for dinner last night. On the other hand, the eight-year-old abstains from rice and refuses french fries and other potato products about half the time they're offered.

#77 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:41 AM:

there seems to be a human mental system whereby every animal product is apparently classified as disgusting unless we were allowed to eat it before the age of about two

My sister can't stand butter or marge (spread on bread, that is) and doesn't drink milk except in coffee. She doesn't take cream at all. I register this as having started about age five, but my sister claims she doesn't remember a time when she didn't think these foods were disgusting - so I suspect that it's just that by the time she was five she was capable of saying why she didn't want something.

So while there may be a point about people needing to eat things before they're two to find them normal, I'm fairly sure the human mind is a lot more complicated than that.

#78 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 12:02 PM:

I'm curious as to why "ethical vegetarian" seems to mean "PETA wacko-type" because there are a wide variety of reasons to be an ethical vegetarian.

First and foremost, as was mentioned by someone else previously, is the way that food animals, and those who raise and process those animals, are treated. (If you haven't read Eric Schlosser's 'Fast Food Nation' you might want to consider it as a primer for ethical eating [He didn't write it to be that, but it works that way for me.])

The interesting thing about 'Fast Food Nation' is that he looks at the whole picture. Yes, it's pretty horrifying the way that cattle and poultry are treated, but he also points out that it's pretty horrifying the way that the humans who work in the food industry are treated as well.

For me, it is looking at the whole picture that adds up to not eating mammals, and to eating organic poultry and dairy and eggs. And going to local restaurants, or restaurants with a policy of giving their employees benefits.

I can not, personally, support an industry that treats people and animals in the manner they do. But I also realize that this is a personal choice, and if others do not feel the way I do, then that is their personal choice, and it's not my place to interfere.

#79 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 12:20 PM:

The phrase `the human mind is more complicated than that' should be chiseled in stone above every psychoanalyst's office door.

This is definitely tentative stuff, hypothesised by looking at changes in infant feeding patterns over time (the switch from `eats anything' to `gets fussy' is very sudden and seen in some other closely-related primates too).

The `non-disgusting filter' is only an initial filtration system; it's not postulated as being the *only* way of deciding food tastes nice, but rather a `don't eat poison that the rest of the tribe doesn't eat' filter. Tastes shift after that, but rarely *radically*, and rarely beyond group boundaries; i.e., your sister was unlikely to decide that grilled slug was tasty and demand it with every meal :) but if in later life she went to visit somewhere where grilled slug was eaten, she could probably force herself to eat it nonetheless, and might come to like it.

(Case in point: snails, er, escargot.)

#80 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 12:59 PM:

Eating meat is not a special dietary need. Having to have meat at every meal is, because sometimes people will serve a meatless meal just because that's what they're in the mood to cook.

I have a vegetarian friend who I didn't realize was vegetarian until his partner told me: I just knew that every so often he would feed me a tasty dinner, and I hadn't bothered to analyze that they were all full of nice veggies and cheeses and no meat. So

#81 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:08 PM:

Plants and pain: oh, c'mon. How many people writing in this blog actually believe that plants feel pain in the same way that a cat or a calf feel pain? That plants have aversion responses is hardly a surprise. If they had no interest in survival, evolution would have obliged them, by now.

There's some evidence that suggests broccoli has a rudementary nervous system, and let's not forget that there have been scientific studies done for more than fifty years now on the emotional resonses of plants and not all of them are just crackpot new agey nonsense.

My point is, we have to eat livign things to survive. That's Nature, folks. And highmindedness isn't going to rewire 3 million years of primate evolution just because some hippy likes to pet kittens a little too much.

So enjoy your steak, have a nice green salad on the side and tell TETa to take a walk off the nearest pier.

#82 ::: Ide Cyan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:09 PM:

I've been eating snails (in garlic butter) since I was a kid, and not finding them disgusting (except when they're really hot and they burst in your face when you poke them with a fork). I suppose because we're descended from the French. (Je suis que9be9coise.) I don't know if that accounts for my openness with regard to seeing insects as foods. The rest of my family clearly aren't interested.

I don't have everyday access to bugs in my diet, so they're not part of it, but I've been to insect tastings at the Montre9al Insectarium, and every time I've been disappointed that we only could have one small bite of each available dish.

I especially remember the spicy scorpion wistfully.

#83 ::: joanna ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 01:22 PM:

Continuing with the theme of the poor public relations strategies of progressive causes, here's one New Yorkers will recognize, the "Got a minute for Greenpeace?" people. Worst in the summer, they cluster in groups on busy corners, confronting passerby with their clipboards and their naked pleas for money. Considering that for many people this is the only contact they'll ever have with Greenpeace, I question their pesky and often downright hostile approach.
I was actually approached by a representative on my break just now, and having nothing better to do I agreed to talk to him. He asked me if I cared that the earth was in trouble, gave me a breathtakingly vague introduction to their organization, and asked if I had a credit card or checking account. When I said no, he made a sour face and walked away without thanking me for my time (did he think I was lying?). I've heard similar stories from several people. Of course I understand that Greenpeace needs funds and they have trouble getting their message through to the public through more conventional channels, but the mercenary strategy is rotten PR - certainly the amount of frustration and ill will created towards them, and by an unthinking transitivity towards all environmental causes, outweighs the amount of money raised. If anyone can defend this, I'd be happy to hear your argument. I *like* Greenpeace, and I'm sorry that most people associate them with the "M&M's for basketball" kids who harrass you on the subway.

#84 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 02:26 PM:

Maybe a Greenpeace story of my own can shed a little light on the situation, joanna.

I get harassed by Greenpeace endlessly every summer (my default summer "look" - long hair, 5 o'clock shadow, faded blue jeans and birkenstocks - may account for some of this) and the one time I stopped I asked the young woman if I could have a brochure or something, so that I could read more about their organization before deciding whether or not I wanted to donate. I wasn't being facetious - I knew little about Greenpeace at the time but had heard some good things about them - but the young lady told me that they found that people took brochures to keep the Greenpeace people from harassing them and then just threw them away when they got home (i.e. Creating more garbage) and could I please just give her a check right then and there.

Now, I don't know that "keep people from harassing them" is a good argument in a city where we learn to walk past people handing out leaflets almost as a matter of course and without even a first glance, much less a second, but the girl did have a point about the waste. I don't know how true it is, but Greenpeace is definitely the sort of organization that would be wary of that one.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 02:37 PM:

By "ethical vegetarian" I meant "people who don't eat meat because they think it's intrinsically wrong to kill animals." Of course ethics enters into our food choices -- my own reasons were ethical to begin with; they had to do with meat production and worldwide hunger, though I now consider them to be misguided. And I do, when pressed, tell people why they oughtn't eat veal.

I most sincerely apologize for painting with too broad a brush on that. Sennoma and Michelle, I particularly apologize to you.

Please substitute "fluffy-bunny vegetarians" for "ethical vegetarians" in my statement. That's what I meant; I just didn't have that phrase in my head. Again, apologies.

Teresa, I don't know if you consider me a New Yorker, but I DO believe that "all life is sacred" includes roaches. I DON'T believe that "all life is sacred" means "don't ever kill anything." (There are people who do, and they don't take antibiotics. Therefore they are an ever-shrinking group.)

I say "Kali Om" when stomping big ole waterbugs. I take pleasure in doing so, by grace of Her.

#86 ::: Ashni ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 03:38 PM:

Ayse, Lydy: Vegetarian lecturers do exist. I had one friend who was prone to going on in detail about the meatpacking industry, how free-range is really a scam, etc., and then boasting about his own eating habits. To be fair, he did this because that was the strategy that had convinced *him.* I also had some more peripheral contact with this sort of thing at my college (which had a high vegetarian population). So it does indeed happen--fortunate are those who've missed it.

I also know someone who eats meat for religious reasons (long story) and is prone to proselytizing unless called on it.

Here's my theory. It is vitally important that not all humans eat the same diet, and that we have strong personal reasons for limiting the types of food we eat. There are over six-billion of us. That's too many organisms to fit into a single ecological niche! So we have herbivores, and carnivores, and omnivores at various points in betweeen, no-pork, no-beef, vegans, no-artificial-anything, no-natural-anything...and most religions have dietary restrictions of some sort, so this evolutionary need to find multiple niches goes back a long way. Now that there are so many of us, we also develop food allergies and intolerances in record numbers, increasing the niche spread still further.

Well, it's a theory, anyway. I like it better than the one-right-diet-for-everyone claims. The same amount of meat that's vital for my energy levels to stay up will cause my sister's to plummet. My vegetarian friends are obviously doing fine in their own niche. We don't like all the same tv shows either; it makes sense to me.

#87 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:11 PM:

I like it better than the one-right-diet-for-everyone claims.

I heard a report on the radio (CBS; I'm addicted to the traffic report) that scientists are working on a chip with will be embedded in your body and will read some sort of gene impulses and use that to determine exactly the right diet and exercise regimen for you, which seems to indicate that scientists, at least, don't believe there's one ideal diet. (The chips currently cost about $30,000 each, but they're hoping to be able to bring that down somewher closer to reasonable Real Soon Now.) I can't find an online source of the same story, alas.

#88 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:22 PM:

Nix: The `non-disgusting filter' is only an initial filtration system; it's not postulated as being the *only* way of deciding food tastes nice, but rather a `don't eat poison that the rest of the tribe doesn't eat' filter. Tastes shift after that, but rarely *radically*,

Scotch? (Especially smoky Islay styles.)

Beer? (Real beer, with hops in, not <euphemism>American Light</euphemism>)

Almost anything sour? This is the closest to your argument -- plants that taste entirely sweet are unlikely to have effective levels of toxins -- but as a child I ate grapefruit only with a thick layer of sugar, where now I go through cases each winter. (It's probably sweeter than it was in my childhood, but it's still got a respectable pucker factor.)

And grilled slugs may still sound horrible -- but how many of you eat sushi now, and how many of those thought as children (or would have if you'd known about it) that it was disgusting?

This just doesn't sound like a plausible model.

Madeline: many years ago I was struck by a poster claiming that carnivores had short intestines so the meat they ate would be expelled before it rotted too badly, where humans had intestines like plant-eaters. When I looked it up, this was as ridiculous as your opponent; correcting for body size, our intestines are intermediate between those of carnivores and herbivores (not to mention the fact that we only have one stomach...).

wrt a parallel thread, there's a casual mention in "Jerry Was a Man" that eating meat is a requirement for high-energy creatures; this seems obvious from observation (compare cows to cougars) but not proven (just not as questionable as David Palmer's statement that a polar bear is a species of ]rodent[). Can anyone point to clear information?

#89 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:23 PM:

Ashni said "I also know someone who eats meat for religious reasons"

That's interesting... usually it's the other way around (that is, doesn't eat meat, for religious reasons), for specific meats at least. Could you share a little of the story with us? A broad stroke or two, perhaps? Thankee...

#90 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:23 PM:

There are extremists in every camp.

I mostly have given up on this topic. I can cook a good vegetarian meal -- I have friends who, for various reasons, don't eat meat, and like finding substitutes for things in recipes. I don't really cook vegan because it's too much of a pain for me to be sure (and none of said friends are vegans anyhoo). I will ask someone what their dietary restrictions are before I cook for them, and now, 'vegetarian' is a lot like 'allergic to shellfish' or 'no mushrooms' or any other category. And I don't discuss why.

I have no friends who are vehement vegetarians, because, well, I don't really have many friends who are vehement anything -- or at least, the ones who are know how to gracefully agree to disagree. But I've run into them. I've been asked how I can eat meat. More often than not, I tend to respond with "Because I like it", or "With a fork" or something else short, because why should I argue about things that aren't going to change?

One of my vegetarian friends is dating a meat-eater. Another doesn't get why people eat meat but aside from suggesting specific meat-substitute dishes as 'good' (e.g., "this vegetarian corn dog is pretty yummy") pretty much doesn't bring it up. This is, I think, the way it works best; you can disagree with me, and I can disagree with you, and then we can go on with what we were doing.

But I have been lectured. Oh, yes. Lectured, and argued with, and told how wrong I was, and... that's why I don't offer my opinions anymore.

Except this one:

I want to take rabid vegans and the rabid people who say people were only meant to eat meat and maybe a little grain, and lock them all in a room together. Then the rest of us sane people can get on with eating whatever the heck we want.

On a tangent: I've been searching for a way to make vegetarian gumbo, but I'm not a big fan of most vegetable stocks, which tend to taste odd to me. However, I think I've hit upon a good possibility (though I've yet to try it): using vegetarian dashi as my stock. I really like the non-vegetarian stock, and while obviously removing the bonito (and presumably adding more konbu) would change the taste somewhat, I suspect I would like it.

#91 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:25 PM:

CHip: "David Palmer's statement that a polar bear is a species of ]rodent["

Wha? Who? When? That's too bizarre not to ask for more information about.

#92 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Tina- try a saute of onion, garlic and mushroom for the base. Gumbo is best with okra, anyhow, which adds a lot of flavor and thickens the whole mess.


#93 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Not to insult these scientists, Ayse, but hypothetically doesn't your own body do that anyway? I mean, isn't that what cravings represent, at least to some degree?

#94 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:44 PM:

Not to insult these scientists, Ayse, but hypothetically doesn't your own body do that anyway? I mean, isn't that what cravings represent, at least to some degree?

Not my cravings, but YMMV. My cravings make me want to eat a lot of bread and cheese, and little or nothing else, leading me down the path to chubby unhealthiness. I suspect, given the current "obesity epidemic," that I am not alone in this problem. Cravings seem to have some connection to nutritional needs, but there are also plain desires and crossed wires (like picas) in there. What this chip is supposed to do is work out exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrate, fat, whatever, will keep you at your idea body weight based on your genetic makeup and which genes are firing.

I wish I could find an article about it, because I was driving when I heard the report, and I'd like to find out more.

#95 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:51 PM:

Karen: Hrm. I'd be afraid that'd overpower the gumbo with onion, but it's worth a shot. I thicken with a roux, though, because I don't care for okra or file9, though I suppose for a vegetarian gumbo I could put up with okra. (Don't hate it, just don't really like it.) But... hrm.

I sense an experiment coming up.

#96 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:53 PM:

Xopher: apology unreservedly accepted. Also, I'm sorry I got all pissy. You have a track record here that says "polite and reasonable", and I should have made proper allowance for that.

Keith: There's some evidence that suggests broccoli has a rudementary nervous system, and let's not forget that there have been scientific studies done for more than fifty years now on the emotional resonses of plants and not all of them are just crackpot new agey nonsense.

I'd be very interested in references to this information.

I'm unlikely to go back to eating meat, just because the herbivorous lifestyle seems to suit my physiology, but I'd also be very interested in arguments contra Singer on this issue. Specifically: utilitarianism as a kind of minimal ethics, the only meaningful way to interpret "all X are equal" statements is "the like interests of all X should be given equal weight", and the relative unimportance of the species barrier in making ethical decisions. These positions together constitute my original reason for giving up meat.

#97 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 05:10 PM:

On a tangent: I've been searching for a way to make vegetarian gumbo....

Tina, you can't make good gumbo out of vegetarians. They just don't taste right...

#98 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 05:14 PM:

Tina- onions, when sauteed in oil until brown, produce a sweetish, flavorful base that isn't onion-y at all. Traditional gumbo is so mushed up you can't tell you're eating okra. I would have advised you to just use steak sauce as your base (yum) but it has anchovies in it, which defeats your veg purposes. Still, a bit of vinegar, molasses and red pepper in your original saute (from which you make the roux) may do the trick.

back to pruning the roses...

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 05:16 PM:

Thanks, sennoma. While I'm delighted that my track record says that, it's no reason not to call me on it when I'm impolite and/or unreasonable. I don't blame you for being pissy, if that's what that was, and I don't see that you really need to apologize, but I accept it if you feel you need to offer it.

#100 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 05:20 PM:

I would have advised you to just use steak sauce as your base (yum) but it has anchovies in it

Depends on the steak sauce. A1 is tamerind-based. Also there are even some veggie "Worcestershire Sauces" (I cannot spell that with out the bottle in front of me - it's like I've had a frontal lobotomy!) on the market.

#101 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 05:54 PM:

I accomodate every vegetarian (including my college granddaughter) who graces our house. I have never had my meat/fowl/fish preferences accomodated in
a vegetarian's house.

Just a side point. But, I think, interesting.

Jane

#102 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:02 PM:

Dan L-K wrote:

The use of the word "spider-Zen" in the context of your story conjured an image of a tarantula taking on and dispatching a circle of crickets in the manner of David Carradine facing a ring of ninjas, if he also ate the ninjas as he went along. It was quite amusing, and made my morning.

Thank you, Dan. And you pretty much have it-- Neal simply couldn't abide the presence of free crickets in his terrarium. He would bite them all as fast as possible and press them into a large ball, which he would steady with his pedipalps and drain all at once, rolling it over and over as individual husks shrank to nothing.

My spider, the binge-eating martial artist. He would also bob his abdomen in response to heavy bass from a stereo placed nearby. All in all, a truly funky pet. I even thought he was cute and cuddly.


#103 ::: Ashni ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:28 PM:

Adam (re religious meat-eating): My partner is a Neopagan who has the Morrigan for a patron (partner is an EMT--I've noticed a lot of neopagans in the medical field seem to like Her). She says it's accepting death as part of the cycle of life, and not trying to take yourself out of the cycle. She also tries to eat free-range, organic, etc.--basically trying to eat in the way that she considers natural. (The theory about ecological niches came from a discussion with her about what's 'natural' for a human diet).

Mind you, as a Judeopagan (really short version: one god, lotsa aspects), I'm in no position to argue with anyone's eating habits. If you're tired of explaining why you avoid meat, you should try explaining why you don't eat pork even though we've been able to store and cook it properly for a century.

Jane: Most people are willing to cook for people whose preferences include a subset of their own. Very few are willing to cook food that they themselves actively avoid. Not just a vegetarian thing, I suspect. (But would you really want your steak prepared by someone who hasn't eaten one in years? I can't imagine it would be terribly edible.)

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:28 PM:

jane, it is interesting. It demonstrates something I've been saying for a long time: there is no such thing as vegetarian food. There is food for everyone, and food that's only for people who eat meat.

For those of us who are vegetarian, it's not really just a preference. It's an exclusion. Truly kosher people probably wouldn't eat in your house, but conservadox ones might...and even if you served them kosher food, you wouldn't expect to be served treyf in their home, would you?

Do you find meatless food repellent and vaguely sickening even to handle, much less eat? It's not really symmetrical, see.

In addition, those of us who haven't eaten the stuff in 25+ years (like me) are pretty much no good at cooking it.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:29 PM:

Ashni, great minds think alike.

#106 ::: Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:39 PM:

Jane wrote: I accomodate every vegetarian (including my college granddaughter) who graces our house. I have never had my meat/fowl/fish preferences accomodated in a vegetarian's house.

Just a side point. But, I think, interesting.

Well, most meat-eating cooks also have a large repertoire of vegetable and carb-only dishes they can make. They might consider most of them "side dishes", but the range is there. The reverse is less likely to be true.

#107 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:43 PM:

....steak sauce?

Huh. Well, I certainly wouldn't have thought of that, mostly because, uh, I don't ever use it. But it's a thought, provided it's meat-free...

And now I'm wondering about, say, teriyaki or ponzu as a possibility, since I could count on those to be meat-free, although I suspect ponzu would be way, way too... er. Something.

(I know, I keep going back to the Japanese stuff, but it's a great source for vegetarian-friendly ideas.)

Steak sauce. That has possibilities.

Man, now I have to clean the kitchen.

(See me side-step the rest of the conversation. I was going to say 'ducking' but I was afraid that might just make it worse...)

#108 ::: T.L. Hines ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 07:29 PM:

More good-natured fun from the folks at PETA: send vegetarian recipes to a convicted cannibal.

#109 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 08:12 PM:

I don't dare walk away from one of these threads for a day -- it takes hours to catch up.

Someone well upsteam complained about the vegetarian restaurants they had been to. The obvious first suggestion is to find a good Indian restaurant, as well as some Chinese and Japanese places.

And if you are in the Bay Area and want to take some non-vegetarian friends out, try Greens at Fort Mason. Between the excellent entrees, wonderful desserts and incredible view (across a marina to the Golden Gate Bridge -- try it at twilight) they may never notice that there isn't any meat on the plate.

My wife is a most-of-the-time-unless-its-lanb-chops vegan and I sort of follow along. I find myself going a couple of days eating only small amounts of meat, if any at all, without thinking about it.

#110 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 09:52 PM:

Random thoughts:

I do find tofu--raw tofu, in the big bricks--yucky to touch and handle. I don't enjoy handling raw meat, but truly, I find tofu much worse.

My friend the vegetarian stayed with us in Atlanta while marketing his tofu. He took us out to a health food restaurant where my wife had one of the best hamburgers she's ever had in her life.

Show me a cure for AIDS that requires grinding up live kittens and I'll personally turn the crank.

I've gone months at a time without eating meat and not missed it a bit--but then, I was already poor.

Cooking for a hippie house full of vegetarians (who wanted to correct, among other things, my deep-fried okra) was the strongest motivation I ever felt to eat meat.

Sweet little fuzzy animals have tried to eat me.

You can't beat good vegetarian food.

#111 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:36 PM:

Adam Lipkin: see Emergence by David R. Palmer, IIRC not heard from since and I'm not surprised; the book was a derivative, appallingly sticky fixup 20-some years years ago. On second thought, what the narrator said was that polar bears were related to weasels (which IIRC aren't exactly rodents -- that's what I get for trying to remember details while fighting with a balky custom compile tool...).

#112 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:43 PM:

Raw blocks of tofu are nasty, it's true. They smell like just-cut pumpkin, too. Hint: before opening the packages (those plastic tubs with the plastic seal, right?) soak them in warm water. The tofu is a little easier to handle. If you use extra-firm, drain them for a couple of minutes, and pat them dry with paper towels.

My favorite vegetarian restaurant in New York is Zen Palate. There are a couple; the cheap one's downtown (off Union Square), and has food that's every bit as good as the uptown one.

#113 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 10:45 PM:

Why is it that small focus groups with passionate leaders grow into huge, blunt instruments wielded by crackpot fanatics?

Here, try a little deviled doggerel from the (in)delicatessen:

It's very easy to explain
morality prescribed by pain.
You see it's clear, all must abstain
from hurting flesh that boasts a brain.

To those whose eyes perceive, it's plain --
the kindness of our cruel campaign:
"Who shocks the cradle can constrain
the thoughts this world will entertain."

So stuff your "spare the kids" disdain
and logic-based legerdemain.
Sadly, sincerely, I remain,
Ingrid, ineffectual...
yet again.

#114 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 11:24 PM:

At Peter Luger's steak house, you don't put the steak sauce on the steaks. (Why would you? They won't need it.) You put it on the tomato and onion plate they serve as an appetizer.

Mmm. Peter Luger.

#115 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:39 AM:

It's very easy to explain
morality prescribed by pain.
You see it's clear, all must abstain
from hurting flesh that boasts a brain.

So it's okay to hurt the Shrub then?

MKK--well, somebody had to say it

#116 ::: Gareth Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:41 AM:

"I'm unlikely to go back to eating meat, just because the herbivorous lifestyle seems to suit my physiology, but I'd also be very interested in arguments contra Singer on this issue."

Well, Singer also argued that the severely disabled should be killed to avoid wasting resources on them and that all household income above $30,000 should be donated to the poor, on the same ethical grounds as his veganism. But he spent huge sums caring for his Altzheimers-afflicted mother, and he earns far more than $30,000 and only donates 20% of it to charity. On that record I imagine he has a tab at a steak house under an assumed name.
Although perhaps that's not what you were looking for.

#117 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:48 AM:

Avram: I think the magic lies not in my freezer, but in my cooking. Or, um, "lack of magic" might be a better term, really.

Though come to think of it, I don't think I've ever forgone freezing hamburger immediately, so I can't honestly say it's the same cooked directly as thawed and then cooked. I just don't cook much hamburger... And even the things that I cook relatively often, like stew beef, if left to sit in the fridge...

Well, that's another benefit of meat over vegetables. Meat, if cooked long enough, no matter how rotten it's gotten, is still edible, and a source of nutrients. Or so said a survivalist book I read once. Thus we have Charlie Chaplin boiling his boots.

I had occasion to test this once, with stew beef left in the fridge until it had a slight irridescent greenish tinge, and a bit of an odd scent. Not the "dear god, something's rotting scent," just a "this... is not right" scent. But, I figured, the French eat slightly bad meat, right? Haut gout? If the French do it, and the survivalists do it, it can't be all bad, right?

Anyway, I'm still alive, and doing fine. The result of making that beef into stew (after long stewing... Really long) was an odd taste of the "this... is not right" variety, but nothing else bad.

I probably shouldn't have admitted all that. Upshot: freezer. Good thing. :)

CHip: I can't point to clear information about eating meat as a requirement for high-energy creatures. What I remember is reading about bats, or perhaps birds-- anyway, all creatures that fly don't have the margin to bother with leaves and vegetables. They all go for the high-energy foods: meat, seeds, fruit, nectar. I imagine that nectar is the highest-energy possible food, and polar bears would take advantage of it if they could, but there are presently size issues.

Then again, there are ducks. So much for the "birds don't eat plants" thing. Ah, well.

#118 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:28 AM:

CHip, if eating meat was a requirement for high-energy creatures, then we'd be sleeping in fear of the vicious carnivorous house mouse.

So that just doesn't stand up. ;)

#119 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:39 AM:

Speaking of meat, today I saw a billboard for Save America's Horses: "Keep America's Horses In the Stable... And Off the Table!"

The problem with the batshit extremism of outfits like PETA and the travelling WTO party is that they've made it much more difficult for me to figure out how seriously to take their causes. The histrionic tone (and complete inability to get to the point) of the "Save America's Horses" website has the same effect.

The Penn & Teller "Bullshit!" episode where they tried to get straight answers out of environmental protesters was hilarious, but sad. So much energy, so little clue.

#120 ::: plover ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:55 AM:

Those polar bear pollinated flowers can be a real pain to clear out of the back yard... (though watching yellow-headed polar bears wander dazedly through the neighborhood is fun...)

#121 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:18 AM:

Claude -- I don't dare walk away from one of these threads for a day -- it takes hours to catch up.

No kidding!

I was gifted with one of David Attenborough's series this Christmas, Life of Mammals, and several episodes are given over to mammals grouped by what they eat. Not just carnivores or vegetarians or omnivores, but within those categories, the differences between those which specialized in consuming one particular plant or prey animal, and those which branched out as chance permitted. (There was one bit on some NZ parrots that had recently, in evolutionary terms, taken to killing and eating the chicks of another kind of bird.)

Apparently, humans fall into the latter category. The gist is that we're built to eat whatever we can catch, and if it doesn't poison us, we get to not starve.

(I thought, when I saw it, that the furisdead.com site was put up by people with an axe to grind re. PETA. I nipped over to the peta.com site, and was floored to see that no, it's their stuff, all right. I can't imagine what they hope to achieve, unless it's martyrdom.)

#122 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:37 AM:

If you're lacto-ovo, put some aged provolone in a non-stick pan and heat it over a low flame until it flattens, and it makes great faux-bacon. Thinly sliced yams (real yams, not sweet potatoes) tossed in olive oil and salt and garlic and rosemary and slow-roasted makes really good "ham," and tvp simmered in red wine, sage and onions is reasonable "beef" for stews and chili.

Tofu, if you throw it in the blender with a half a cup of your favorite vinaigrette, is terrific cream dressing or dip. If the raw stuff squicks you, put soft tofu in the freezer until it's solid and then press it as it thaws, and it honeycombs into "meat"

The under-two thing may well be true, although it doesn't seem to work the other way - HM used to be a huge fan of marinated artichoke hearts until she was three and went to daycare a few half-days a week and the other kids told her they were icky.

Now, of course, she's righteously indignant that I would ask her to eat such a thing.

#123 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:32 AM:

Jane, I have literally nil expertise in cooking meat or fish. (I don't count frying fast-food turkey burgers for kids I was babysitting "cooking".) But if you were visiting me, I would ask what your dietary needs were, and if you told me "I have to eat meat at every meal" I would figure out some way to accommodate you. (I admit this would probably be something like ready-made meat pate, or slices of cold meat from the local deli, or at worst I'd suggest we go out to eat.)

But except for Atkins Diet devotees, most people don't have to eat meat: they're just caught up into the notion that a meal isn't a proper meal unless it has meat in it. As many, many vegetarian cooks have noted, most people, fed a savoury and filling meal, won't even register that it's vegetarian unless they're explicitly told. (The prize goes to a friend who once served a dinner to a group of friends, one of whom was vegan and two of whom belonged to the hardcore "If it isn't meat it isn't a meal." The main course was a mushroom savoury, and the meat-eaters never noticed that it was vegan, and the vegan ate of every dish except one that had cheese in it.)

If I'm invited over for dinner, I would be disturbed to be presented with a meal I couldn't eat (horrid memories of the birthday parties when I was a kid when everyone else was tucking into party food - all laden with meat - and I was given tinned spaghetti). But I've eaten with friends who had roasted a duck and made large quantities of side dishes: I ignored the duck and had a main meal out of "side dishes".

I admit that my feeling is rooted in the desire to try new things: I had far rather eat the meal my host wants to cook for me (so long as I can eat it*) than insist on being given what I would cook for myself. And I do see non-vegetarians who complain that their vegetarian friends don't provide meat for them as (mostly) falling into the latter category.

*And after 37 years as a vegetarian, if someone feeds me meat, my digestive system notices. I was given dumplings fried in pork fat in a Chinese restaurant once: I spent two hours feeling queasy and half an hour on the loo. Not fun.

#124 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:17 AM:

The Save America's Horses site, at a cursory glance, did not strike me as "histrionic" nor as unreasonable. Certainly a far cry from neo-Tales from the Crypt tone of Die Bunny Die.

#125 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:41 AM:

I am of the tofu-is-yucky crowd. And having spent one writers' workshop trying to exist on the macrobiotic diet fed to us, nearly blew my stomach out. Beans/tofu/heavily spiced Mexican or Indian food make me ill.

I rarely eat red meat which also doesn't metabolize well at my age. Mostly I eat chicken and fish. Am lactose intolerant. I suppose I could live on chocolate--as long as I had pepcid AC to help me with heartburn.

And for a two week period back in the 1960s, my husband and I cooked kosher in a tent and VW bus on the banks of the Red Sea for orthodox friends who overlooked the fact that minutes before our kitchen had cooked tref!

What I am saying is that we all need to be more forgiving of food preferences and not make it a MAJOR source of irritation in an incresingly irritated world.

Jane

#126 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:47 AM:

On second thought, what the narrator said was that polar bears were related to weasels...

This is true, or much more true anyway than the rodent thing. Ursids and mustelids are both families in order Carnivora. (Rodents are not; they get an order all to themselves.)

#127 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:57 AM:

Anyone know why meat substitutes seem to cost about as much as meat? Is it just that people will pay it, or do the processing costs outweigh the presumably cheaper raw materials?

#128 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:59 AM:

I am an ethical vegetarian, and a PETA member and supporter, since 1985.

I uphold the the notion that animals are not ours to eat, experiment on, or use in any way.

Putting these ethical beliefs into practice is an ideal toward which I strive for on a daily basis. It is not easy, and it is not always clearcut. Obviously I am not perfect in the manner I do it (attempt, as much as possible, to avoid animal products and cruelty while preaching as little as I may to others).

But then, neither is anyone else perfect in their own lifestyle choices. All we can do is just try the best we can to follow a lifestyle of least general harm, and one that we strongly believe is right.

Why, you might ask did I make this bizarre ethical choice?

Easy answer -- it is based on my philosophy of life.

My criteria is simple -- a lifestyle that does the least harm to other living beings, is my choice.

Killing other lifeforms is wrong, according to my worldview, in large part because I believe that the complexity of existence extends beyond ordinary senses and beyond a single lifetime in both directions (before and after birth), and that the universe has a logical unifying principle (call it God or the All or univeral Constant, whatever you like, none of us know enough about it) that sets certain parameters of being.

Killing and destruction of other life goes against the universal order -- I believe. An order which takes in a possibility of continuity of existence on a variety of levels (energy, matter, particle, wave, spirit, whatever), and thus presents consequences for all actions.

If anyone here has a different philosopy (which is a no brainer, of course everyone does), then you might hold to different ideas of what is right and wrong. If you are atheist or simply disinterested in issues of universal structure beyond the *current* observational ability of science, you probably chose to see life as ephemeral and without much causality at all, in which case, anything goes....

In which case, ethics becomes an easily malleable thing that can allow all kinds of behavior without need for remorse or guilt -- after all, what you "see" is what you get? However, using science and natural selection and survival of the fittest as an excuse for behavior is a crutch. Allow me to explain why, further on.

Using animals for selfish means, killing under certain "justifiable circumstances" becomes a valid rationalization for continuing selfish behavior in which our species (and every other animal species, yes, I know!) is engaging. Just because other animals eat each other does not make it right.

Many of you say that it *does.* But -- is it really natural? Who says that what you and I *observe* is really the *whole* of natural law?

Who here among us can proclaim that what we *perceive* in the nature around us (whether via scientific method or our plain senses) is really valid and "normal," without admitting that we only see a *tiny portion* of what is out there in the universe, and can explain it even less?

My point is that using "it is a part of nature" as a final justification for anything, including killing other beings and consuming them as we please, is a temporary blinder that we allow ourselves and our logical process, because it is the *easy* way out -- because we *can* and because we chose not to accept responsibility for *other possibilities.*

Because there are other possibilities out there.

Truth is, we have no final answer as to what is truly going on in the natural world around us. We DON'T KNOW, whether it is an aberration of universal "rules" or not that there is a "food chain," and a number of other grim "facts" of being.

Hell, we don't even know if there are consitent natural rules at all.

Can anyone here really deny this? That we simply don't know?

And assuming that we have no final information on the universal order (or lack of), then the only *responsible* way is to assume that there *may* be an order. Why? Because the tiniest possibility of the existence of such an order imposes upon all of us living sentient beings an assumption that destruction of an order is wrong and ultimately self-destructive.

To go against an order is to go against ourselves, because we are a part of this very order (if it exists).

And if there is no order, and all things are random, then, no harm done. *grin*

But at least we would have assumed the *responsible* thing.

This is my basis for being an ethical vegetarian. Yes, sorry about the long explanation, but I figured it is necessary to explain how far the roots of my worldview go.

Incidentally, I used to eat meat once, I know exactly how it was -- eating every part of the animal, and living in a hungry country.

There are a myriad ways a person can rationlize, the easiest being that everyone else does it, and it is how it is done -- the rationalization of status quo. Putting on longeterm blinders is a natural thing. I did it my self for years.

Thus, I do *not* blame anyone of us for continuing to eat meat, or condoning other cruelty in various subtle ways -- some selfish, others merely near-sighted -- seeing that this is how it is done and has been done for so long and by so many of us that we have all lost track of how *else* it *might* be done.

But what I do find disturbing is the iconoclastic way people get offended and angry and hateful when someone tries to be "in their face" with a *distrubing other possibility.*

Because that is what being an ethical vegetarian is -- supporting a disturbing and lifestyle-shattering possibility that just *may* be valid.

And sometimes, shocking things are the only ones that get past our blinders.

And yes, it is rather easy to make fun of PETA and animal rights and ethical vegetarianism. But then, it is easy to make fun of a number of other idealistic schools of thought and belief, simply because they present a difficult and unpopular example and require some unusual choices.

There are valid reasons why I and other fellow ethical vegetarians believe and live the way we do. Thanks for listening.

#129 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:03 AM:

Beans/tofu/heavily spiced Mexican or Indian food make me ill. I rarely eat red meat which also doesn't metabolize well at my age. Mostly I eat chicken and fish. Am lactose intolerant.

Jane, it sounds like you are a tricky person to cook for - one of those people who needs to produce not so much a comment "I can't eat this" as an actual diet sheet. (Though I would find it an interesting challenge to cook a meal for you: no beans, no tofu, no cheese/milk/butter, and no heavy spices. Hmmm... how are you on Indonesian spices? Stirfried veg with a no-cook peanut butter dip made with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, served with pasta. Or a deep-dish potato/mushroom bake with white wine. (Though IMO that is better with cheese, it works without.)

Still. I admit it would be tricky. Who was it who said that the first thing to thank God for was the blessing of a good digestion?

#130 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:08 AM:

I don't like PETA altho I'm pretty guilty about eating Meat. BUT I saw a BBC" special on the leader of PETA (forget her name)& I grudgingly like the woman totally crazy and an obsessive yes but the World could do with more crazies like her (& less like George Bush)

#131 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:14 AM:

Vera -

Of course someone can deny that we don't know if there is really a food chain or not, or that we don't know if the natural universe is ordered, and has rules. Both of these things are obviously, observationally true.

What you're describing is Pascal's Wager taken to extremes; there might be a god who disapproves of eating other life.

Here and now, in this actual world we live in, 'food' and 'alive' are synonyms, as a matter of observable, testable fact.

#132 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:45 AM:

Xopher: It's okay, I wasn't offended, I just wanted to point out you keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means.

And I don't squish bugs (or anything else), because it churns my stomach to do so, but I have no qualms about pointing out the bugs to any of my cats.


As far as vegetarians cooking meat, it bothers me (as in makes me feel slightly queasy) to touch raw meat of any type, although cooked poultry doesn't bother me too much. And you can be served meat in my house--it will just have been cooked by my husband, as I prefer not to touch it.


Regarding the argument of meat being essential/not essential, there is truth to the argument that fish is brain food. I vaguely remember reading a report about meat being not essential, but helpful for better brain functioning, but I absolutely can not remember where I read that report, so feel free to take that as a figment of my imagination.


Vera Nazarian : If you are atheist or simply disinterested in issues of universal structure beyond the *current* observational ability of science, you probably chose to see life as ephemeral and without much causality at all, in which case, anything goes....

In which case, ethics becomes an easily malleable thing that can allow all kinds of behavior without need for remorse or guilt -- after all, what you "see" is what you get?

I take offense at this statment. The athiests I know are completely NOT out for themselves and most certainly have ethics. Believe it or not, ethics can stem from something other than religious faith, and morality can stem from other than god. I might also suggest that there is a significant difference between Natural Selection and "Social Darwinism", the later of which was never subscribed to by Darwin.

#133 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:57 AM:

CHip: Thanks. I'll look around for it, but it seems to be out of print, as far as I can tell, so I might not get very far. Polars / weasels / rodents being related is true (as Dan L-K pointed out), inasmuch as they're mammals, but I suspect that isn't what Palmer meant. (As an aside, New World vultures are apparently much more closely related to storks than to Old World vultures. Convergent evolution is a grand thing.)

Vera Nazarian said: If you are atheist or simply disinterested in issues of universal structure beyond the *current* observational ability of science, you probably chose to see life as ephemeral and without much causality at all, in which case, anything goes....

In which case, ethics becomes an easily malleable thing that can allow all kinds of behavior without need for remorse or guilt -- after all, what you "see" is what you get?

Ethics and morality, as Michelle said, can be derived from places other than religion. The observable universe that you mention has any number of instances of things that one can learn from-- look at the bird world for examples of cooperative breeding (or rather, family-raising, e.g. penguins, or weavers), or wolves for cooperative hunting, or chimps and / or orangutans (I forget which this was discovered in recently, maybe both) for learned and inherited social skills and culture in general.

Religion is a real bugger to consider for morality anyway, considering the catalogue of things done in the names of them. I won't deny that religion can be a great thing, for some, but it's certainly not for everyone.

Religion developed to describe Nature*. So why shouldn't we look to Nature for what we need?

If nothing else, go by the Golden Rule, which seems to be present in all of the major religions. (Could be the one thing they got right. [Provocative statement, that; please don't kill me])
____
*may not be true, but doesn't sound bad, does it? Considering all the old mythologies (which were the religions of their times), it's plausible.

#134 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:59 AM:


Of course someone can deny that we don't know if there is really a food chain or not, or that we don't know if the natural universe is ordered, and has rules. Both of these things are obviously, observationally true.


What you're describing is Pascal's Wager taken to extremes; there might be a god who disapproves of eating other life.


Here and now, in this actual world we live in, 'food' and 'alive' are synonyms, as a matter of observable, testable fact.

Graydon,

Not sure if you mean the statements about "not knowing" and the existence of the food chain are both "obviously, observationally true." But if so, then it is a contradiction of terms. It is impossible to accept the notion that we cannot know and yet claim that some things are "obviously, observationally true" -- for they are neither obvious nor observational, but assumed and *hypothetical* -- just as everything else is within the realm of the scientific method.

I am not familiar with Pascal's Wager (will be curious to look it up), but nowhere do I say that "there might be a god who disapproves of eating other life." Rather, what I said is that for as long as the possibility of an ordered universe exists, it is the responsibility of us, as members of such, to not undermine the order because it would be a self-destructivbe thing for us in the long run. Destruction of life falls under "undermining the universal order" since life is an active process of this ordered universe.


I take offense at this statment. The athiests I know are completely NOT out for themselves and most certainly have ethics. Believe it or not, ethics can stem from something other than religious faith, and morality can stem from other than god. I might also suggest that there is a significant difference between Natural Selection and "Social Darwinism", the later of which was never subscribed to by Darwin.

Michelle,

Please do not take offence at something I did *not* say -- you misread the above and insert a much less subtle interpretation. Nowhere do I say anything as ridiculous as that "atheists are out for themselves," but what I do say is that ethics becomes an easily malleable thing for an atheist (which can mean a great number of things, both supremely good and bad since malleability implies mutability and the ability to bend and modify in any number of directions). Also, nowhere do I say anything as rigid and fundamentalist as "ethics stem from religious faith only", and "morality stems from god." If you'd re-read with a bit more precision, you might see that I say that ethics stem from a belief in an ordered universe (which again may or my not imply religion at all), and morality is not even mentioned. Not all beliefs are religion. And "god" is a limiting term which conjures very specific deities which have no place in a philosophical and rather abstract discussion.

#135 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 11:06 AM:

Adam,

I have no argument with what you say, except that you are riffing off what Michelle *thought* I said, and that's beginning to turn into a game of Telephone with fun modifications of meaning added with each new poster. *grin*

Religion is a notion I'd rather not get into at all, because it is not the logic by which I operate.

Otherwise, sorry for any confusion my original statement may have caused down the ranks.

This is all fine and nebulous stuff. :-) Easy to get sidetracked on things we all *think* we read in each other's postings the first time. I'm just as guilty of it as everyone.

#136 ::: Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Vera Nazarian wrote: Can anyone here really deny this? That we simply don't know?

And: To go against an order is to go against ourselves, because we are a part of this very order (if it exists).

Vera -- Can you explain the apparent contradiction in your thought process here? You say no one can know if there's an order to existence, but you make an argument based on the existence of such an order. How did you come to believe in this order, and how do you know what it consists of if you have discounted observation as a means of understanding it?

#137 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 11:46 AM:

But what I do find disturbing is the iconoclastic way people get offended and angry and hateful when someone tries to be "in their face" with a *distrubing other possibility.*

I'll give you my two beeves with PETA (not just based on news stories; I shared an office with them in 1989/1990 when academic office space was tight):

1. They have never, ever approached me with any respect for the idea that I might have spent time and effort and real thought on forming my ethical and dietary choices before speaking to them. So the "in my face" thing is done as if I were just a sheep, forming my worldview in the image of the rest of the herd. Leading with a lack of respect for my ethical choices is not going to make me change my mind, ever.

2. They consistently target rich white women, which is classist, sexist, and racist.

I have great respect for actual animal rights activists, but PETA? They don't seem to care as much about animals as they do about making a scene. The people I know who have done the most to help the lives of animals are far less confrontational, because they want to get things done.

#138 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 12:20 PM:

It is impossible to accept the notion that we cannot know and yet claim that some things are "obviously, observationally true"

I don't accept "the notion that we cannot know." My ignorance of how the world works is almost as vast as the world itself, but there are aspects of it that I can and do comprehend.

If I were to posit that my ignorance is not only total, but permanent, then I would have nothing to go on when it comes to regulating my own behaviour. There would be no reason for me not to give in to whatever impulses strike my fancy.

Earlier you wrote:
And assuming that we have no final information on the universal order (or lack of), then the only *responsible* way is to assume that there *may* be an order. Why? Because the tiniest possibility of the existence of such an order imposes upon all of us living sentient beings an assumption that destruction of an order is wrong and ultimately self-destructive.

If you don't know that there is an order, or if there is, of what it consists, then how can you know when you're going against it and when you're not? It seems to me that you're positing first, that there is an order which cannot be understood, and second, that a primary part of it is that killing other creatures is wrong. If that's your position, I'm happy as long as you're happy, but I'm not finding it persuasive.

#139 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Is there another group anywhere on the political spectrum that, year after year, displays such monumentally poor judgement as PETA?

Actually there is: Act Up San Francisco Their core position: that HIV has nothing to do with AIDS, and that policies and programs aimed at preventing transmission of HIV are inherently anti-gay.

#140 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:15 PM:

Janice,

Not really contradiction here, you missed a transitional step in what I said:

I said "Can anyone here really deny this? That we simply don't know?"

And then later I said "To go against an order is to go against ourselves, because we are a part of this very order (if it exists)."

The transitional step in the middle is:

"And assuming that we have no final information on the universal order (or lack of), then the only *responsible* way is to assume that there *may* be an order. Why? Because the tiniest possibility of the existence of such an order imposes upon all of us living sentient beings an assumption that destruction of an order is wrong and ultimately self-destructive."

Let me restate for better clarity:

First, it is a given that we do not know if there is an order or there is not.

The possibilities are:

A) If there is no order, it makes little difference what we do in the long run, only in the short run (our observable personal lifespan).

B) If there *is* an order then it is a valid possibility that it *does* make a difference what we do, and there is a resulting set of consequences that stretch from the past into the future like a line of dominoes.

Given such a dilemma, I said, the *responsible* choice is to assume scenario B.

Why? Because there are 50/50 odds of it being true, in which case we are risking making a huge positive difference for the whole world, versus assuming that in both cases there is nothing to risk at all. Given these odds, it is in our interest to make the positive assumption since the other assumption is self-destructive.

***

Pericat said:

I don't accept "the notion that we cannot know." My ignorance of how the world works is almost as vast as the world itself, but there are aspects of it that I can and do comprehend.


If I were to posit that my ignorance is not only total, but permanent, then I would have nothing to go on when it comes to regulating my own behaviour. There would be no reason for me not to give in to whatever impulses strike my fancy.

You are absolutely right. I have made an unclear statement there, and what I should have said is "we cannot know at the moment" which does not indicate permanence. I agree with you, and I would want nothing to do with such an existence myself, and I don't think permanence in this case is applicable. One day we may know more than we do now, and who knows if one day we may not know it all. :-) (Indeed, an ordered universe implies that we will, since there will be specific elements of whatever "infinite" complexity of it available for us to "know.")

If you don't know that there is an order, or if there is, of what it consists, then how can you know when you're going against it and when you're not? It seems to me that you're positing first, that there is an order which cannot be understood, and second, that a primary part of it is that killing other creatures is wrong. If that's your position, I'm happy as long as you're happy, but I'm not finding it persuasive.

Good point, and here is my reasoning. It is not so much that we know that there is or is not an order, but what makes a difference is how we handle the possibility of order.

Indeed, we do not need to know what kind of order it is, but that it does exist.

Order implies organized grouping, progression and causality, since one thing or element depends upon another and is preceded and followed by yet another. Order is a non-random grouping according to a repeatable pattern, while its opposite is no-pattern, no progression, no causality. If there is to be an order, then it is bound by rules/laws, limits, a pattern or blueprint of some sort, and it likely needs to be maintained (by means of some cosmic energy or force?), else it ceases to be.

Destruction is the dissoliution of ordered elements into randomness. Destruction on the hightest level is the equivalent of unmaking, and killing (on our own crude lower level of existence) falls under the category of destructive behaviour. So -- to bring the conversation down to earth from Abstraction Land :-) -- killing, being a destructive action, is by definition contrary to any order which is a notion itelf that is based upon constructive action.

Thus, killing of animals, or the killing of any living beings -- on some remote level of cause and effect, a distant link in the super-complex chain -- is antithetical to the whole notion of the ordered universe.

#141 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:30 PM:


I'll give you my two beeves with PETA (not just based on news stories; I shared an office with them in 1989/1990 when academic office space was tight):


1. They have never, ever approached me with any respect for the idea that I might have spent time and effort and real thought on forming my ethical and dietary choices before speaking to them. So the "in my face" thing is done as if I were just a sheep, forming my worldview in the image of the rest of the herd. Leading with a lack of respect for my ethical choices is not going to make me change my mind, ever.


2. They consistently target rich white women, which is classist, sexist, and racist.


I have great respect for actual animal rights activists, but PETA? They don't seem to care as much about animals as they do about making a scene. The people I know who have done the most to help the lives of animals are far less confrontational, because they want to get things done.

Ayse Sercan,

It is rather *unfortunate* that PETA has this radical side to itself, and personally I do not condone whatever pressure and/or distastefulness you apparently experienced from your interaction with PETA. My apologies to you on behalf of PETA, if possible.

On the other hand, it is *fortunate* that PETA has such a radical side, that in other circumstances their activism *does* prove to be effective and educational for someone *else* in a different time and place and with a different background of experience. Their educational materials certainly helped me out in my search for animal rights information, almost a decade ago.

Point is, not all PETA members are the same, and not all PETA agendas or methods are either. It is an organization of people, fallible human beings with mostly good intentions and not always tactful means, and as such it is fallible, just as many other organizations are that promote radical causes.

#142 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:31 PM:

Thus, killing of animals, or the killing of any living beings -- on some remote level of cause and effect, a distant link in the super-complex chain -- is antithetical to the whole notion of the ordered universe.

Interesting. How do the carnivores manage in this universe? I believe animals have ethics and morals (although not exactly the same ethics and morals as humans do and maybe not in the same way that humans have them). If there is an order, and killing any living being is antithetical to that order, then animals like cats must be at odds with that order. If, then, we're doing all this to get to a better place or a more perfect universe, it would be one without cats. Yuck.

Of course, if you're a Christian, you believe humans are the stewards of the animal kingdom. So maybe you don't believe any other animal has the ability to make ethical choices, and therefore somehow they're part of "nature" and humans are somehow not. Which would put us outside of the natural order of the universe, anyway.

If you do believe animals should be doing their part in making this universe a more perfect place, what's going to happen to the population of the non-meat-eaters once the meat-eaters have all been eliminated as less perfect? Massive plague, death, starvation from depleted grazing lands... it seems like an Apocalypse, to me. Not at all desirable. If I'm going to deprive myself of most of the foods I enjoy eating (dairy and eggs), I'd want to be sure I was doing it to make the world and universe better, not to bring on the end of all time.

#143 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:33 PM:

Vera -

There is an orderering process for life, though, and we do know what it is.

Many more things are born than can possibly survive to maturity; descent with modification occurs on the basis of differential reproductive success. That's what has produced the ecology we live in, over a very great span of time full of chance events.

We even know that the health of an ecosystem can be measured by looking at the diversity of organisms within it, and the disparity -- count of kinds, rather than count of species -- of organisms within it. If this numbers are both high, and not decreasing, the ecosystem is healthy.

The introduction of farming, whether to produce plants or animals, generally wallops both of those measures quite badly.

Life will maintain itself, beyond any human power to mar or alter it across that great abyss of time; what we do now is a matter of our own comfort, health, and survival, not a responsibility for life in a future we cannot know.

#144 ::: Kim Wells ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:55 PM:

Everyone is making such strong, rhetorically charged arguments, and all I really wanted to say was, a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding:

"You're a vegetarian? That's okay. I make lamb."

Some people definitely don't get the vegetarian deal-- I do. I love some really well cooked tofu dishes. I definitely understand all the arguments about why to become a vegetarian. My best friend became a vegetarian not so much from ethics but because, as a nutritionist, she had some background in how meat is prepared (not in our kitchens, but in the meat-slaughter places) that grossed her out.

So. It's not so much about disliking vegetarians-- I don't, and I always, even if I don't know for sure one is coming to my party-- make a vegetarian entree (not just a side dish) just in case. It's about disliking what seems to be a radical nut group who themselves seem sort of hypocritical (it's not okay to eat meat but it is okay to traumatize people with crazy stunts-- we should ONLY feel empathy for one group). PETA is nuts. Vegetarians eat them for protein. There's definitely a difference. :)

#145 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:13 PM:

Vera,

Disrespectful in-your-face contempt-for-the-target tactics are not just a feature of some _other_ PETA folks that you don't know personally. A few years ago, in another forum, you steadfastly insisted that only profound ignorance and naivite on my part could possibly explain my belief that that the animals in the animal research facility at the company where I then worked were being treated humanely.

I worked there, I knew the people working in the animal facility and the scientists directing the research. I toured the facility. I did the library and online research looking for alternative methods when the scientist were trying to determine whether animal experimentation was needed in a particular case. I saw the rabbits being adopted out as pets after their time in the animal facility came to an end. I saw the delighted passing around of baby pictures when the gengineered goat kids were born.

You didn't even know the name of the company where I was working.

No matter; you knew the Truth: those animals were being horribly abused, housed in abominable conditions by people completely indifferent to their welfare, and if I didn't realize that, why, that just proved how ignorant I was!

Hint: That's a tactic that only convinces those who don't know any better. And you alienate a lot more people than you persuade.

#146 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:17 PM:

Vera said: "Thus, killing of animals, or the killing of any living beings -- on some remote level of cause and effect, a distant link in the super-complex chain -- is antithetical to the whole notion of the ordered universe."

Death is a part of that order. The zebra eats the grass, the cheetah eats the zebra, the cheetah dies and dissolves into the earth to feed the grass. Stars (not living beings, but never mind, and anyway could be extrapolated) explode into supernova, swallow up their planets, and feed their elements into the universe to make up other stars and planets. Within the body, apoptosis (programmed cell death) clears the way for further growth.

If the dinosaurs hadn't died, would we be here discussing it? (Though granted, their extinction wasn't their fault, unless the more nutty science-fiction stories are true.)

#147 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:20 PM:

A quick left turn here (and probably one that I will regret mentioning): How do people feel about animal testing? I mean for scientific purposes. I would imagine that PETA has loads to say about that too...

#148 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:23 PM:

Thus, killing of animals, or the killing of any living beings -- on some remote level of cause and effect, a distant link in the super-complex chain -- is antithetical to the whole notion of the ordered universe.

Oh my.

I can accept this as an emotional reaction or a religious belief, but logically it contradicts everything we know about the development of our biosphere.

Even those buddhists most respectful of life in all its forms don't deny that violence and death are very much part of the natural order of things - just a part they choose not to take part in.

#149 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:35 PM:

A true story of intercultural relations.

An American university was expecting a visitor from Japan, and the president's wife was responsible for welcoming and hosting this visitor. She was honored and nervous about such a responsibility and asked a friend what the proper protocol was. The friend told her that it is customary to serve a local delicacy, and also advised that beef is expensive, prized, and seen as very American. The wife prepared an elaborate steak dinner. When the visitor arrived he thanked the hostess for the meal and ate everything.

The day after the dinner she learned from her husband that their guest is a Buddhist monk. Chagrined beyond belief she approaches the guest to apologize, and asks him why he didn't tell her and allow her to prepare some different food. To which the monk replied "It wouldn't have been polite."

#150 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:59 PM:
A quick left turn here (and probably one that I will regret mentioning): How do people feel about animal testing? I mean for scientific purposes. I would imagine that PETA has loads to say about that too...

At the moment it seems necessary in order to do certain kinds of important research properly (or at all), and as long as that is the case I support it. Where it's not necessary to do the work, or where the work is not important (e.g., cosmetics testing), I would prefer it not be done, although I wouldn't want to set myself up as the arbiter of what's important enough. And in all cases it should be done as humanely as possible ("as possible" will vary from case to case, of course).

I should note that I don't have significant expertise in any aspect of medicine or related areas.

As for PETA's take on it... I vividly recall a TV interview with one of PETA's head honchos (not Newkirk, since it was a man) 9-10 years ago. The interviewer asked something along the lines of "What would you say to people who argue that animal testing is necessary to cure many diseases?" (This is a paraphrase.) The PETA guy's response (not a paraphrase) was "Don't get diseases, shmo."

#151 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:11 PM:

Vera, how do you know you're not going against the Order by not killing animals to eat? On what basis do you decide what the order is, especially when you're not sure it even exists?

I am a very religious person. I believe that all life is sacred (in fact, "Is nothing profane?" is a question jokingly asked about my religion), and that that includes the lives of predators, including humans. I also believe that doing science is worshipping the Goddess*, and that the divine order is the order of nature, which can be observed.

Observation: a friend of mine once saw a squirrel who had been trapped in an industrial courtyard for several days stalk, kill, and eat a pigeon. Practically any animal will eat meat if it can get it.

Observation: I once knew a PETA person who fed her dog a vegetarian diet. The dog was never healthy and eventually died a miserable death. Omnivores can live without eating meat; carnivores can too -- just not for as long, or in good health. I would accuse her of needless cruelty to animals, wouldn't you?

There is no non-religious basis for deciding that the Order says we mustn't eat meat. My geasa tell me not to, but I have no way of knowing whether other people are being told the same thing, or whether their geasa are different. There IS some basis for believing that the Order OKs it; humans cannot live without killing other beings, and (I believe) naturally recoil from killing their own kind.

People who won't kill animals shouldn't eat them IMO. I'm quite willing to kill vegetables, so I eat them. People who are unwilling to kill anything can either go hungry until they change their minds or starve, or just delude themselves into believing that food grows in the supermarket, some of it wrapped in plastic, and eat whatever they want. I think they're diminished by this choice, but that's just my opinion.

"Life is immortal because the Living must die."

Lis Carey - perhaps Vera has learned to be more sensible and courteous in the intervening years. The price of others letting us grow and change is allowing them the same grace. (Or perhaps not. Just pointing out the possibility.)

*Provided an attitude of worship is chosen. Scientists don't have to be doing worship if they don't want; it's just that they can, just by choosing to.

#152 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:15 PM:

The PETA guy's response (not a paraphrase) was "Don't get diseases, shmo."

Ye gods. That give me sharp stabbing pains.

In the article I posted a link to yesterday in a different thread ("Alzheimer's disease cause identified? from the Nature Science Update) the researchers used a mouse model of Alzheimer's for their research. Many papers I see coming in here use mice or zebrafish or everyone's favorite, Drosophila, the fly, for their studies. There are reasons scientists use them, not least of which is that they breed very quickly and prodigiously. Research with other animals-- monkeys, apes, pigs, etc.-- is a little more dicey ethics-wise, but sometimes there's just no getting around the need, especially if it's research pertaining to models of human diseases. Dan: 'As humanely as possible' basically covers my feeling as well, as does everything you said actually.

----
Observation: a friend of mine once saw a squirrel who had been trapped in an industrial courtyard for several days stalk, kill, and eat a pigeon.

Wow. I mean... wow. That must have been some squirrel.

#153 ::: spiralsands ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:28 PM:

I was just reading along in the comments and really wasn't going to get involved until I read Liz Carey's comment about how lovingly humane her animal laboratory treats its animals. I also worked in an animal research facility, as a student at University, and witnessed such things that horrified me so much, that to this day I wish I can have parts of my memory erased. Before one single bioengineered or cloned animal is born apparently healthy, many more are born grossly deformed only to be euthanized. Trusting dogs and cats that used to sit by the fireplace in someone's living room are now subjected to painful, invasive procedures that only end in their death. Thousands of rabbits, rats and mice are used in lethal dose testing of everything from cleaning chemicals to cosmetics. Other animals I've seen dying horribly include calves, many greyhounds from the racing industry and dogs and cats from 'pound seizures'. All the time I was there, only one dog was found a home by its research staff. The rest of the lucky adopted were stolen by staff and written off as having died in cages. I had one of those dogs. She was a sensitive intelligent Springer Spaniel mix that was acquired from the dog pound and ended up in a medical laboratory. I witnessed the fear and agony of so many animals that I feel like I'm damaged. I realized that humans easily rationalize the use of animals but animal models are unreliable. Many research projects have questionable motives and don't justify research funds. There is one cyro company that requested a license to operate in Florida to do experiments with animals that will have them killing the animals, freezing them and then attempting to reanimate their bodies. Animal experimentation is an industry like any other. It's there to make money. Look how many jobs it creates and look how defensive those people are about justifying such work. I suggest you visit the web site for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and read what they have about vivisection and animal experimentation. Also visit the American Anti-Vivisection Society. I'm sorry to be morbid but I can't sugar coat the truth.

#154 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Tina: the best vegetarian stock is yeast extract, commonly available in Britain under the brand name "Marmite" and available in Montreal as a speciality imported british delicacy for the same price it costs in Britain. I don't know if they stock it where you live.

I was married to a vegetarian for nine years; my position remains that it really isn't necessary to eat meat every meal, but meat is awfully yummy and also very easy to cook quickly when you've just come in the door from a hard day working.

I think being vegetarian is like being Jewish or being allergic to something common, it can be a pain for the host, but they did decide to issue the invitation. Likewise, I'm allergic to peppers, you're not going to eat them in my house, no matter how essential to your diet you might think they are.

My "traditional" Christmas dinner is a roast goose, served with a Danish recipe for potatoes and carrots, a Hungarian recipe for cabbage, parsnip cakes, and my own variant on nut-roast. This year it so happened I didn't have any vegetarians sitting down to eat it, but all four people who'd had it before insisted that the nut-roast was an integral part of the meal. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without nut-roast.

I think PETA are loons who act so extremely because they mainly want to show how martyred they are. I also have some sympathy for the "secretly headed by their opponents" idea. But Lydy also has a point -- as long as they're just talking, they're extremist loons, sure, but they are helping to widen expectations. I don't have much sympathy for them, but I am delighted to be able to find so much more organic free-range meat than I used to find.

Free-range organic meat tastes so much better. I sometimes wonder if that's why horse tastes so good -- horses are not reared for the table and fed pap.

#155 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Spiralsands, a little paragraphing would make your post easier to read. Thus more likely to be read.

I think the consensus in this thread is that we're against unnecessary (e.g. cosmetic) or needlessly cruel testing. So the fact that SOME animals are treated cruelly is not at all a useful argument here; in fact it makes you appear to be generalizing from inadequate data, which often goes by the nom-de-guerre of 'prejudice'. There's evidence upthread that some animals are treated humanely. It's worth working to make that a more common pattern, and the one you observed less common.

Visit a children's hospital sometime, and see what can be prevented by the research you oppose (assuming you oppose necessary research conducted humanely, and don't just disbelieve in its existence). Don't you think the vaccines that keep you from getting formerly-common diseases were tested on animals? The flu vaccine is not vegan (it's egg-based). Does that mean you're willing to get the flu every winter?

#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:51 PM:

Jo - to paraphrase Yonmei, PETA isn't acting out of love for animals -- they're acting out of hatred for humans. Including themselves.

#157 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:58 PM:

Having spent too much time sleeping in tents in the home ranges of brown bears (ursus arctos, nee ursus horribilus) that had no more qualms about carnivorism than I do, I'm quite a lot more interested in the subthread about bears. (I'm quite willing to eat animals, given their willingness to eat me. Fortunately, brown bears make a tasty stew, although lots of onion and garlic is recommended.)

An interesting fact: Polar bears (ursus arctos) kept in the same pen with brown bears at the Anchorage Zoo mated and begat at least one healthy cub. Which rather astonished everyone involved. Nobody knew the two species could interbreed because their ranges tend not to overlap very much, if at all.

#158 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:01 PM:

Spiralsands,

I'm not saying that all animal research is conducted humanely. What I am saying is that it doesn't have to be conducted inhumanely, and in many places it _isn't_ conducted inhumanely.

And that there was nothing especially polite, respectful, or reasonable about Vera's insistence that she knew better than I did what was happening in a place where I worked, and which she didn't even know the identity of.

A very rough general rule is that the bigger the animals involved, the less likely it is that their physical and emotional needs will be adequately provided for, simply becaause it becomes so much harder and more expensive as you progress from the tiny to the very large. Provide a humane, comfortable, sufficiently interesting environment for mice? Cheap and easy, with the slightest will to do it at all. Provide a humane, comfortable, sufficiently interesting environment for chimpanzees? Very hard and hugely expensive--precisely because chimps are so close to us in what they need for basic emotional/mental health. Which means that the animals most like us, and closest to us, are the ones most likely to be living in truly terrible circumstances, cramped and deprived in "tiny" spaces that could provide luxury accommodations for smaller, less bright animals. And when their research lives are done, there are few adequate retirement facilities and no adopting them out as pets.

There were no pound seizure animals, and no chimps, at the place I worked. There was a very strong animal care committee, with outside (yes, animal rights) participation, and an animal care director and a veterinarian who would vigorously go to bat for the animals when they disagreed with what the scientists wanted.

The animals were mice, rats, and rabbits in the facility. The goats were out at the farm--and given what they were wanted for, conditions that didn't promote reasonable health would not have served the interests of the company. And yes, that facility got visits from the animal care committee, too.

And, no, we weren't doing cosmetics testing.

#159 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:29 PM:

Vera:All observable phenomenon, on and off world, suggest that IF there is an order, and IF we are *meant* to understand that order with out limited faculties, and IF after so many years of sentience (and so many attempts to understand the world using a frightfully immense range of approaches), we can be considered to have any understanding at all, then death is a part of that order. There are possible arguments you can make even from here -- natural death is, but killing is not (Which requires some interesting mental gymnastics regarding the decision as to what forms of death are not killing); or killing up to and including food consumption, particularly by carnivores, using the natural means evolution has made available to them, *is* part of the natural order, but murder of any creature is not (Which does leave room for pointing out that the modern food industry is closer to committing murder than it is to the natural hunting and killing of food - a valid position), or even positions further along than that.

You are also equating death with destruction. In most known forms of death, the physical materials are not destroyed, and, well, whether there's anything *else* to destroy is a religious question. Though it would seem, from observable phenomenon of what happens to physical materials, we may posit that those materials, too, are probably not so much destroyed as... recombined. Different religions in particular having multiple theories as to how, though no proof.

All of this, is, of course, not *known*, in that it is all merely based on observation of the physical world as far as we've been able to observe it yet. Should an observation be made that counters any part of this, well, then it's time to reconsider. But, with that last sentence as a key caveat, it's usually best to operate assuming that what we can see and understand by observing and deducing IS the order of things.

#160 ::: Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:34 PM:

Vera Nazarian: Not really contradiction here, you missed a transitional step in what I said

snip

"And assuming that we have no final information on the universal order (or lack of), then the only *responsible* way is to assume that there *may* be an order. Why? Because the tiniest possibility of the existence of such an order imposes upon all of us living sentient beings an assumption that destruction of an order is wrong and ultimately self-destructive."

I didn't miss the transition. It just didn't answer my question of how you decided what the order is. From your comments it seems that to you the definition of the word "order" includes some kind of "no killing" or "no destruction" clause. To most people that's not part of the word's meaning. In fact, as far as the "natural order" that most of us observe, it's the opposite. For as long as there's been life, there's been predation and death, and it's hard to see how it could be any other way.

Which is not in any way to impugn vegetarianism. (I aspire to be one, but have only achieved a "no mammals" diet so far.) But when you talk about an "order" underlying the entire universe that you are somehow upholding by not killing anything, I have to wonder how you came up with this metaphysics, because it is in no way self-evident in the world I see.

And apart from that, what do you see as the desired goal? What if every creature on this earth stopped killing other creatures? Where would we be then? Would it be a good thing? I am truly curious.

#161 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:52 PM:

Everyone,

I'll respond to your varied and valid points hopefully soon (got some other work to do first *grin*).

Lis Carey,

You seem to have a rather long and unusually one-sided memory, and it also seems that you have not particularly changed your ferverent and somewhat biased methods of discourse. As I did back then many years ago on USENET, so do I speak now, and you chose to willfully misread my statements.

You say that I "steadfastly insisted that only profound ignorance and naivite on my part could possibly explain my belief that that the animals in the animal research facility at the company where [you] then worked were being treated humanely" and I say *now* that is there is still a *possibility* that you -- unless you were the CEO of that corporation and completely privy to all its internal functions -- you may not have known the whole story?

And if, as you say, things were indeed wonderful all around, then could it also not be possible that your corporation was not a typical model of its kind?

And if any of this makes you angry and furious at me, might we pause for a moment and ask why?

I would love to be proven wrong in this case. Because that would mean that there is indeed nothing wrong with animal-handling facilities, and all my fears about animal cruelty and various levels of minor to major abuse are blissfully unfounded.

Please prove me wrong. This is not a hostile challenge, but a sincere wish.

I wish you nothing but the best.

And if Teresa our host feels this conversation is going too far, I am willing to stop.

#162 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:28 PM:

Vera --

You're demanding absolutes from a universe which has error bars.

This will not give good results.

Bacchus --

I seem to recall hearing that the DNA for bears has had some big surprises in it, when the molecular geneticists got to looking it.

Surprises that I remember were that the speciation date for polar bears from brown bears was something like 20 kyears BP (so it's not at all surprising that they're still potentially interfertile) and that there are actually two species of brown bear, that people can't tell apart at all without the DNA tests, but which haven't been interbreeding for a very long while.

#163 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:33 PM:

Vera, how did I miss knowing you were a PETA member?

Generally: I have a firm position on animals and medical research. There are only two species known to have narcolepsy: us, and dogs. Ascertaining hereditability is a lot easier when you're talking about dog years.

I hope they treat the dogs well. I know that some years back, when the dog research program at Berkeley lost its funding, the American Narcolepsy Association helped raise funds to keep it going.

I've seen footage of the narcopuppies. They chase balls, they get excited, they fall over, they get up again looking mildly confused, they go back to being dogs. If you've spent time hanging out with me, what's happening to them will be obvious to you. Long before I was diagnosed, a friend of mine observed that my symptoms looked just like some footage he'd once seen of narcoleptic dogs.

Then there's leprosy, a disease we share with armadillos. Thousands of people contract it every year. It's nasty. Armadillos are essential to leprosy research.

We can use dogs and armadillos and other test animals, and do our best to make sure they're treated as humanely and respectfully as possible. Or, we can use human subjects instead. Or, we can abandon any research into medical problems that requires the use of live subjects.

Some people entirely refrain from eating animals. How many people turn down medical treatments based on research that involved the use of animals?

I probably sound a little more adversarial than I intend. I'm not talking about preferences. This is my life.

#164 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:33 PM:

Vera - If there is to be an order, then it is bound by rules/laws, limits, a pattern or blueprint of some sort, and it likely needs to be maintained (by means of some cosmic energy or force?), else it ceases to be.

From my perspective, you've stated the relationship between "order" and "rules/laws" backwards. My understanding is that rules or laws of nature are constructions we make to describe observed phenomena. The phenomena are not themselves bound by these rules, and should they change, it is the rules that need to be reformed, not the world.

Destruction is the dissoliution of ordered elements into randomness. Destruction on the hightest level is the equivalent of unmaking, and killing (on our own crude lower level of existence) falls under the category of destructive behaviour.

I'm sorry, I'm not following you here, unless you can define death or destruction as abnormal conditions or events. They appear to me rather as ordinary, commonplace, even necessary. If existing organisms are not to die or be destroyed, then how are new ones to be made? They have to be made from something. The planet hasn't gotten any bigger (I don't think — I should search Particles, maybe). If new ones are not to be made, then the mold on the leftovers in my icebox hasn't yet been informed.

There's some algae or other in the Antarctic that lives in ice crystals and feeds entirely on sunlight. I haven't learned that trick yet. Until I do, some plant or animal is going to die, probably at the rate of several a day (several million, if one counts bacteria as either plant or animal), so that I may live.

Should I decide to live in such a way so that as few of these die as possible, where do I draw the line? Robust heath? Malnourished? Chronic starvation?

Lastly, since it is still so far as I know not possible to destroy energy, I think I must respectfully disagree that there is any level of destruction which can be considered the equivalent of unmaking.

#165 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:49 PM:

Vera: "I say *now* that is there is still a *possibility* that you -- unless you were the CEO of that corporation and completely privy to all its internal functions -- you may not have known the whole story?

And if, as you say, things were indeed wonderful all around, then could it also not be possible that your corporation was not a typical model of its kind?"

I don't presume to speak for Lis. I don't know her corporations, but I do have to observe two items:

- In my experience in businesses large an small, the people on the floor, handling the work, have a MUCH better idea what is "Really" going on *in their area* than the CEOs. Especially if they're the ones doing the handling. The CEO may have the big picture of the entire business, but he's not going to be down there cleaning out the mouse cages. if I wanted an accurate picture what was being done to or with animals, I'd be talking to the people who keep the animals, or the people who work with them.

- Two, Lis actually said that there are inhumane labs out there (And that she'd like to see more like the one she worked in). She did not address the question of whether her facility was typical. She addressed the fact that you asserted her own eyes were deceiving her as to the situation in her own workplace, based on your generalized information versus her specific. Not "In all labs". Not even "in most labs". But in ONE specific location.

#166 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:52 PM:

To amplify what pericat just said, the creation of anything is the destruction of something else. Like I said: photosynthesize, then tell me you live without killing. I'm not buying this brain/no brain thing, especially since PETA has been known to object to research on MOSQUITOS. Mosquitos do NOT have brains. Neuroganglia do not count.

#167 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:28 PM:

Vera,

I worked in a small biotech R&D division of a big multinational. When I started there, it was _very_ small--I was employee #25, when I was hired. We got to know each other very well.

In addition to that, I was the librarian. Now, that might not sound like as great a position as CEO to know what was going on, but in fact, as the division grew and we no longer all knew each other quite as well, I was the one person that everyone talked to and everyone asked work-related, research-related questions. Everybody--admin, scientific staff, pilot plant, animal facility--thought of me as part of "their" group. When interests and goals competed, everyone took it for granted that I was on _their_ side.

So while, yeah, the CEO knew a lot of things I didn't know about the company, I also knew things he didn't know--and those things tended to be the "what's really going on" aspects of how policy was being implemented. He didn't have the animal care director and the veterinarian and the scientists dropping in and _casually_ talking about how things were going, or what ordinary, daily frustrations they were encountering.

Part of my job was doing research and information retrieval on ALTERNATIVE research methods, methods not involving animals. And when a reliable non-animal method couldn't be found, I also helped provide information on ways to minimize the discomfort of the animals that they needed to use.

Using animals in research didn't automatically mean that the animals died. Sometimes they had to, and when that happened, you could tell who was involved without asking. Nobody liked that part.

Yes, I feel absolutely confident in saying that I worked with good people, who cared about and respected the animals they worked with, and took care to treat them as gently as possible.

I also feel confident in saying that the medical research we were doing was worth doing. Some of those products have come to fruition with new treatments that are on the market now, and are making a positive difference in people's lives. And while that research in particular isn't benefitting animals yet, past medical research that was not done originally for the benefit of cats gave me thirteen years with a cat who would have died in kittenhood, and an additional four years with another cat I would have lost much sooner than I did.

There are a lot of badly-run animal research facilities out there, and people doing research on animals who shouldn't be allowed within many miles of them. There are also well-run, responsible animal research facilities, doing work that benefits humans and, eventually, other animals.

I worked at one of the good ones.

#168 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:33 PM:

I love walking through the domain of the conspiracy theorist, where most of the scenery is absolutely known to be on display just behind that bank of cloud. The sights are absolutely breath-taking.

I'm also quite fond of a tour through the valley of implicit assumptions. The fertility of the soil gives rise to a profusion of verdant growth so thick that it becomes almost impassable. Sometimes you just need a machete. I won't use one here, just in case it "destroys" the implicit natural order.

Virge.

#169 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:04 PM:

Teresa,

I do understand your condition, and apologies for continuing this discussion at length.

Lis,

My apologies for whatever misconceptions I might have had as to your opinions or background.

Have a good evening, everyone.

#170 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:11 PM:

spiralsands: look how defensive those people are about justifying such work.

Person A: "Did ya see how defensive Lakisha got when I was talking about how all black people are lazy thieves?"
Person B: "Just goes to show."

What does it show? I think it only shows that persons A and B are assholes.

#171 ::: James J. Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:12 PM:

Adam Lipkin said:

Observation: a friend of mine once saw a squirrel who had been trapped in an industrial courtyard for several days stalk, kill, and eat a pigeon.

Wow. I mean... wow. That must have been some squirrel.

Not really. I worked, long ago, at the University of Kansas Biology Department. Outside my window was a round heating duct. For the entirety of my two years there, there was a pigeon nest on that duct. Egg after egg was laid there, but none lasted more than a week or two--kicked out of the nest onto the round surface, and thence to the ground. There were also regular pigeon prints on the glass walls of the walkway from the law school building into the law library addition.

Pigeons would be my primary bit of evidence for special creation, if I believed in special creation, and it trucked with such mundane things as 'evidence.'

And for Vera Nazarian, I would offer this bit of philosophy from David J:

You cannnot go against nature
Because when you do
Go against nature
It's part of nature, too.

#172 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:21 PM:

I want to add to Jim's comment. Those pigeon prints were on vertical glass surfaces -- the prints were created when they flew full blast into what they thought was clear air. I swear to this day you could even see the surprised expression of the pigeon as it broke it's neck on the solid glass..... (and it was kind of gross to come to work every day with a small pile of dead pigeons heaped against the wall next to the door. Acquisitions had been moved to this building during a library renovation, and I worked there at the time...I did NOT feel sorry for the pigeons, around the hilltop of the university, they were as welcome as rats. They were feathered rats....)

#173 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:23 PM:

Vera -- I'll grant you no intention of offense in your original remarks, although I found them not only offensive but a restatement of the most pernicious meme of the religious right. But I still think your logic is broken; cutting to the core, you say that we should act as if there is an order -- but don't provide any substance for acting as if that order means not doing what you see as "harm". I'll give you a deliberately (similarly?) excessive counterexample: without predation at \some/ level, the world would drown in its own production. (As it's doing on some axes now, thanks to sometimes-accidental transport of species to new and interesting locations; if "order" includes the predators of those species, why does it not include us as predators?) ((Done in some haste; several others have presented this in more detail.)) Or (to more closely argue the meaning of "harm"), while I have no brief for the extremes of factory farming, I question whether "free-range" animals can complain of harm when they are still sheltered more than they would be in the wild?

I will cop to being one of those materialists who could be labeled simply disinterested in issues of universal structure beyond the *current* observational ability of science,, and I acknowledge the consequence of you probably chose to see life as ephemeral and without much causality at all,, but your consequential in which case, anything goes.... is nonsense. (Note that this is a direct quote from you, with my interpolations but no elision.)

"The Devil made me say it": I've disagreed with Lis's opinions without ever successfully challenging her facts -- but wrt how good the research environment is for small creatures, there's some question now as to whether this is entirely true; I've read recent claims that stress signs such as sleep patterns are significantly different between caged and wild mice. No, I can't find a reference, and this was reported as the work of one person -- but not someone who comes across (even to the people quoted as disagreeing with him) as a fanatic.

#174 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 12:38 AM:

I think it's time to come clean: I am a predator. Worse, I am an enabled predator — an unkind observer might go so far as to label me a parasite, though I think I could refute that. Just. But the fact remains that I actively kill other organisms in order to maintain my own life. And what a life it is! Full to the brim of... well, frankly speaking, to put it bluntly, I may have fallen a wee bit short of the hopes of those who expended so much time and effort on the medical advances that enable me to sit at a keyboard tonight, instead of, say, fertilizing daisies.

So if I note that my impressions and notions about the entirety of human relationships to other animals, and to plants, is a bit convoluted, perhaps I might be excused?

Except that I don't want to be. Not really. I have long since come to terms with the knowledge that had I been born even ten years earlier, I would not be here now. When it comes to commonplaces like imagining what it would be like to be alive in Revolutionary times, or Elizabethan, or any number of such eras, knowing that had one been born then one wouldn't have lived long enough to learn to fetch eggs from the hens tends to put a damper on things. One is brought up short, as it were, and reminded that bills need paying and the dog needs walking and there's nothing in the pantry for supper.

Even if I discount the particular mutation that turned out to be such a dead end in my case, I have to consider what would be the upshot if I removed myself to the back country, acquiring along the way an intimate knowledge of which plants (or animals) to eat, which to avoid, which are good for headaches or sprains or appendicitis, I can't avoid the salient fact that, should I get into an argument with a particularly feisty raccoon or tree or bear, all that would be needed to flip my status from "predator" to "prey" would be for my opponent to knock my glasses off.

That's it. My eyesight is so poor I wouldn't last more than a minute following such an event, if we're talking about a bear, and possibly just beyond sundown if we're talking anything else, including the tree. Which is why I say I am an enabled predator, since it would not be possible for me to exist if it were not for the support of a sophisticated civilization such as the one I am living in now.

I need civilization, to a degree I find extremely uncomfortable. But need it I do, and I will take what advantage of it I can, because despite my poor mutations, I am a predator, and I prefer to live.

#175 ::: plover ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:31 AM:

Order implies organized grouping, progression and causality, since one thing or element depends upon another and is preceded and followed by yet another. Order is a non-random grouping according to a repeatable pattern, while its opposite is no-pattern, no progression, no causality. If there is to be an order, then it is bound by rules/laws, limits, a pattern or blueprint of some sort, and it likely needs to be maintained (by means of some cosmic energy or force?), else it ceases to be.

Vera,

If you throw a couple of dice a few million times (or whatever equivalent random situation matches your taste) you'll get a very predictable distribution of results, but you would have a tough time arguing that (given suitable experimental conditions) a given throw constitutes part of a progression or that it has a causal relation to the preceding or following throws. In other words, this set of events exhibits "order" and is a "repeatable pattern", but is generated by a "grouping" of "things or elements" that was generated in such a way that no element "depends upon another". In fact the way a system is determined to be random is by showing that it produces an expected distribution of results. Also, in order to deal with the complexity and messiness of the concrete universe, the human brain has become organized to look for patterns. We're so good at it that humans, given enough time, will find patterns in pretty much any finite data set (and the observable universe is a finite data set). The place of the word "order" in your discussion strikes me as taking the place occupied in many mystical or quasi-mystical discourses by "meaning" (with the usual opposite, of course, being "meaninglessness").

... it is a given that we do not know if there is an order or there is not.

The possibilities are:

A) If there is no order, it makes little difference what we do in the long run, only in the short run (our observable personal lifespan).

B) If there *is* an order then it is a valid possibility that it *does* make a difference what we do, and there is a resulting set of consequences that stretch from the past into the future like a line of dominoes.

Given such a dilemma, I said, the *responsible* choice is to assume scenario B.

Why? Because there are 50/50 odds of it being true ...

As we do not only not know whether or not an "order" exists, but also do not know what the chances are that said "order" exists, assigning 50/50 chances to the outcome is misleading at best and a logical fallacy at worst. But I doubt this affects the argument much , as, given the set of assumptions, any chance of the existence of this "order" could be sufficient for the argument. (I.e. this point addresses only the form, not the content of this argument.)

The argument as presented also strikes me as eliding at least one layer of reasoning. We may have choices

A)the universe has no order, and
B)the universe has order,

but if we assume B, we then have choices

B1)actions by inhabitants of the universe do not affect the order, and
B2)actions by inhabitants of the universe affect the order.

Looking to the wider context of the argument, we can add

B2a)destruction is not an action that affects the order, and
B2b)destruction is an action that affects the order,

followed by

B2b1)destruction may affect the universal order non-adversely,
B2b2)all destruction affects the universal order adversely.

(This also begs the question of whether the "destruction" requires an agent to be ethically problematic, e.g. are colliding neutron stars a problem?)

Defining an ordered universe as one in which killing affects the universe adversely would seem (to me anyway), at this point in the discussion, either post hoc or really misleading. The argument also requires sufficiently concrete definitions of (at least) "order", "inhabitants", "killing", and "adverse" in order to function. Some things about your definitions of these terms can be inferred from your posts, but I see no reason why your definitions are better than mine or any one else's.

To take up the complexities of "destruction" in the form of "killing": Is harvesting vegetables and grains ok, or only fruits and leaves? If it's ok to eat leaves, what is the ethical status of a plant using chemicals to ward off fungus or beetles? And what about parasites? A single mosquito or tick isn't going to kill a good sized mammal, but might be (unknowingly) carrying an agent that could. Is a malarial mosquito ethically different from a non-malarial one? And are non-malarial mosquitos agents of virtue in the universe since they don't kill to survive? Should bees only sting humans who won't die of anaphylactic shock? Or do they need to produce hypo-allergenic venom in order to be virtuous? What about species (digger wasps, say, or that fungus that infects ant nervous systems) whose reproductive cycle is entirely predicated on destroying another organism? Is your argument supposed to imply that humans not eating cows will somehow cause lions to evolve such that they don't eat antelope, and digger wasps such that they don't paralyze another creature to lay their eggs on? You can say these questions are ridiculous, but your argument invites them; on some level, they seem to be the sort of questions your statements are trying to answer. (And, yes, "virtuous" is a term I chose, I am using it in this context to mean "tending to promote order", in whatever way you're defining order.)

I would be curious as to exactly what this philosophy hinges on. What statements, being refuted (whether logically or observationally), would change your mind? Or does the philosophy require an argument from faith or emotion? (Nothing wrong with such arguments per se, but its more or less impossible to make them using the methods and terminology of science and logic.) And if there is no circumstance under which you would change your mind, why should I not dismiss you as a fanatic?

My intention here is not to be hostile. I do, however, find your argument as it stands logically unconvincing. I also find it "imaginatively" unconvincing, as it does not seem to address many of the complexities (and perplexities) I see in the universe, especially those dealing with the complexity of observed interactions between living beings. On the other hand, I can respect the impulse behind your search. Good luck in your struggles.

#176 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:36 AM:

VN > Killing other lifeforms is wrong, according
VN > to my worldview,

VN > Killing and destruction of other life goes
VN > against the universal order -- I believe.

If these are statements of root principle, and are to be taken literally as written, then how can it be ethical for one who professes belief in that root principle to kill and eat plant-based lifeforms?

It seems to me, Vera, that you're saying at great length the same thing I said a good ways upstream -- that in essence, there's no way for humans (or any other beings with evolved moral consciousness) to ethically interact with an ecosystem. And if one holds that position, it seems to me that the only ethical act one can responsibly perform is to remove oneself from the ecosystem.

That's obviously an extreme ethical position, but I would accept it as valid and morally defensible; Let's call it "ethical eco-neutrality".

Thing is, I don't see how it's logically and scientifically possible to get from ethical eco-neutrality to ethical vegetarianism.

Obviously, there's no such thing as a true practicing eco-neutralist -- or if there is, they're going the way of the Shakers, because a true eco-neutralist can't eat without violating his or her principles. At best, what one could do is practice eco-minimalism -- attempting to exert the least possible impact on one's ecosystem. But true eco-minimalism and ethical vegetarianism are, I submit, vastly different things. (For that matter, so are ethical vegetarianism and the apparent general philosophy espoused by PETA, which seems to be that non-human animals are to be privileged over all other components of the ecosystem.)

#177 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 04:06 AM:

Kim Wells wrote:
PETA is nuts. Vegetarians eat them for protein. There's definitely a difference. :)

Ugh, I don't eat PETA for protein. They might be catching!

Adam Lipkin wrote:
A quick left turn here (and probably one that I will regret mentioning): How do people feel about animal testing? I mean for scientific purposes. I would imagine that PETA has loads to say about that too...

As a lot of other people already said, as humanely as possible. It'd be extremely hypocritical of me to take advantage of modern medical care for myself and my pets, and not acknowledge where it came from.

*Unnecessary* animal experimentation, however - like making every fifteen-year-old in school dissect a rat apiece, is plain wrong. I'd make
them watch a good video of a dissection, and make the actual cutting a special subject for those with the interest or whose future careers
required it. And I'd make it clear (when I was in high school, some of the people in my science class were not clear on this) that yes, that rat
in front of them did die (and was born) so they could dissect it, and yes, by doing so they *are* creating a demand for dead rats.

Xopher wrote:
Observation: I once knew a PETA person who fed her dog a vegetarian diet. The dog was never healthy and eventually died a miserable death. Omnivores can live without eating meat; carnivores can too -- just not for as long, or in good health. I would accuse her of needless cruelty to animals, wouldn't you?

I would, provided it was clearly the diet that caused the dog's suffering. On the other hand, I've met a healthy, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed cat who is fed a (carefully medically controlled, with full amino acids) vegan diet, inside at any rate. His owners told me that what he might catch and eat in their backyard was his business.

I'd guess that what's healthy, within a certain range, varies from animal to animal just as it does from human to human, and that it's the
responsibility of a pet-owner to look out for that.

Xopher wrote:
PETA has been known to object to research on MOSQUITOS.

Wow. Do they never swat them either? *itches* It's summer here, so this is on my mind.

#178 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:35 AM:

Vera,

I don't know whether you're still reading this, but....

As far as I can tell, the visible universe does a tremendous amount of making, breaking, and then making the pieces into something else. Admittedly, there could be (and I suspect that there is) a non-visible underlying reality, but that doesn't strike me as a good reason for ignoring what we can see of the universe.

Limiting ourselves to the visible universe doesn't leave ethics completely up for grabs--the rewards of cooperation are too obvious.

Basing ethics on a hypothesized state of the non-visible universe does leave ethics up for grabs--there's no feedback.

It's not a fifty-fifty choice between the way you imagine the universe to be and all other possible ways it might be.

It seems to me that you're showing similar mental habits in your metaphysics and in your argument with Lis--you want your imagination to trump everyone else's imagination and experience.

Jo, so far as horse tasting better, it may be because it isn't fed to be turned into meat as quickly and cheaply as possible, but I tend to assume the problem goes back farther--animals that have been carefully bred to optimize meat production don't taste as good as those that haven't. Frog legs taste like chicken, but better.

#179 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:53 AM:

Those pigeon prints were on vertical glass surfaces -- the prints were created when they flew full blast into what they thought was clear air. I swear to this day you could even see the surprised expression of the pigeon as it broke it's neck on the solid glass...

We were at the Science Museum in Toronto, which is built on a slope and runs through a forest, over the summer, and they had what looked like goshawk silhouettes on all the windows that faced habitats.

I didn't see any dead birds. I thought that was kind of a neat solution.

#180 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 07:38 AM:

CHip,

I certainly didn't mean to say that the research environment is necessarily excellent for mice; just that, overall, it's much, much easier to provide reasonably well for mice or rats than for larger animals. It's relatively cheap to do the best that we know how to do for mice and rats; it's fantasically expensive to provide minimally adequate facilities for chimpanzees--facilities that leave them socially isolated, physically inactive, and severely emotionally maladjusted.

Mice in well-run labs appear to be doing fairly well, based on lifespan, overall health, and social interactions with their own species. There are badly-run labs, though, and adequate but not wonderful labs--and there's always the possibility that, over time, we'll learn things we didn't know about what mice need. The person who believes he's finding stress signs in caged mice (presumably in what are believed to be good conditions, or it wouldn't be news?) may prove to be right. If he is right, then well-run labs will likely have to change some of what they do if they still want to be well-run labs.

#181 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:28 AM:

Teresa, to comment on your original post (is that allowed, this far down?), it just occurred to me what PETA was trying to do with the maimed-animal videos aimed at the kids: the same thing the cigarette companies were trying to do with their "smoking is cool and adult" advertising of my youth: having realized that no sensible adult would be converted to their cause (take up smoking/become a psycholoonie fluffy-bunny vegan paint-thrower), they're trying to use propaganda tactics to recruit the young before they develop adult judgment.

Cigarette companies: Evil.
PETA: Just as evil, even in similar ways, in a different cause.

#182 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:44 AM:

For those interested in the subject, my old friend Sharon Gannon has written an entire book, Cats and Dogs Are People Too, on the subject of feeding dogs and cats a vegetarian diet:
http://www.booksmatter.com/b0965588467.htm

#183 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:56 PM:

spiralsands: I've been thinking this morning that, while "they were defensive, therefore..." is an atrocious argument, my comment on it above wasn't exactly a model of rhetorical grace. I apologize.

julia: They do that at Berkeley, too, putting raptor silouhettes on enormous panes of glass to keep little birds from flying into them.

Vassilissa: *Unnecessary* animal experimentation, however - like making every fifteen-year-old in school dissect a rat apiece, is plain wrong.

I don't know... If they're willing to eat meat, they should be doing so knowing that it comes from dead animals. Thus, it's useful to actually have some interaction with dead animals. Kind of a "Ones who leave Omelas" exercise.

It's also useful to get some understanding of how bodies are put together, and a video has absolutely nothing on actually observing it all with your own senses, seeing how if you poke that ligament down, that other muscle moves the leg... I'm currently thinking back to the Bio1A lab at Berkeley where just before class they gassed a bunch of rats with CO2 and each pair of us got one to dissect... I know that exploring the insides of the rat helped me get a better grasp on my own anatomy (like the abdominal cavity vs. the lung cavity) so I have a better understanding of the descriptions of accident injuries, and I feel like I have a better chance of being able to respond sensibly if I was confronted with such an injury.

One of the things that stuck with me most about that dissection was the stink of the contents of the rat's guts. Literally, it was in my nose for three days after. And now every time I hear about a bomb in Iraq or something like that, I feel that I have a slightly better idea of what it might be like to be there... Smells aren't something that can be carried on video, but they have great impact.

So... I don't really think much of mushy formaldehyde dissections, but I wouldn't necessarily say that all dissection is worthless.

#184 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:36 PM:

Singer also argued that the severely disabled should be killed

This is simply not true, as far as I can tell. I've read Practical Ethics and Writings on an Ethical Life, and nowhere in those books does Singer take the position you describe; neither have I ever seen any of his detractors quote such a position from any of his writing.


and that all household income above $30,000 should be donated to the poor

He is definitely inconsistent here. But hell, 20% (where'd you get that figure, by the way? I've never seen him put a number on it) is pretty good.


he spent huge sums caring for his Altzheimers-afflicted mother

He has a pretty good defense for this, too, in that he has to take into account the wishes of the rest of his family.


perhaps that's not what you were looking for

Well no, it wasn't. I don't agree with Singer on all issues, but I found I couldn't fault him on the specific positions I listed. You bring up an important point, though, which is that Singer is often dismissed by reference to "he wants to kill the disabled" and "he's a hypocrite". The first is a misreading of his arguments, and the second irrelevant to his arguments. One might think less of him for not living in accordance with his own reasoning, but that does not make said reasoning automatically invalid.

#185 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:55 PM:

A quick left turn here (and probably one that I will regret mentioning): How do people feel about animal testing? I mean for scientific purposes.

I feel I should say something about this, since I'm yammering about ethics and I do medical research for a living. I spent four years in HIV research, which field I chose initially because I could do good work without animal models. When I moved to Portland, I reluctantly left the field (that's one fascinating virus!) because most of the really strong HIV labs here make use of a local primate research facility. It makes sense: such facilities are few and far between, being enormously expensive (each chimp costs about a quarter of a million dollars a year, IIRC), so labs in the vicinity tend to focus on work they can do that labs without such access cannot. Being weak in immunology, I don't have much to offer a vaccine lab (which is what the primate models are mostly used for), so I've switched fields. Again I chose work in which I could largely avoid the use of experimental animals -- human iron metabolism, with a specific focus on haemochromatosis. None of this is to say that I'm against all use of animal models, or that my work does not involve animal death. Cell culture media are supplemented with foetal bovine serum, a number of proteins are still purified from tissue rather than recombinant sources, and antibodies are still raised in mice and rabbits -- to name just the first instances that come to mind. I try to minimise the use of animal products (one current example that has me very excited is a method for making recombinant antibodies in yeast), and I would only use an animal model if I had no other way to answer the question at hand and was convinced that the question was worth answering.

So, why will I do this work when I won't eat the same animals? It's a question of weighing interests. If a rabbit has an interest in living, and I have an interest in eating him (because he tastes good, although I can be perfectly healthy as a vegetarian), I do not believe I should consider my relatively trivial interest more important than the rabbit's vital one. On the other hand, if the rabbit does not want a series of injections followed by regular blood withdrawal, but I can use the antibodies thus generated to answer important questions about haemochromatosis, then it's sorry mister rabbit but here comes the needle.

#186 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 06:08 PM:

Is there ever going to be a widely convincing abstract ethical argument to stop eating meat entirely? I don't think so. It's too absolute a subject, and one nobody wants to listen to anyone's point of view on.

I'm surprised that nobody's gone the discursive route of practicality, though. There are significant environmental and humane-treatment reasons to at least reduce meat intake. It's not an absolute, it's not an overwhelming imperative. It's just that the world will probably be a bit better off if I choose to have a small piece of fish with dinner, rather than a half a pound of steak. Of course, it depends on the type of fish--no system is perfect--but given the chance to reduce harm a bit, shouldn't we? I feel like it's analagous to eating organic veggies, or free-range meat. For people without huge dietary restrictions, it's a little better for the world than the alternative.

I'm not arguing this from a killing-is-bad point of view. I'm not even arguing this from the ecological-interaction-is-bad point of view, which I also think is founded in an irrational hatred for humanity. I'm arguing strictly from two grounds: first, that if we ate beans rather than cows, we would be using less farmland, thus leaving more space for complex ecosystems; and second, that if we ate beans rather than cows, the cows would not be subject to horrific living and slaughtering practices. Please note that this does not Preach The Abhorrence Of Meat. All it says is that if we ate small portions, only as much as needed, our world would be somewhat healthier. Instead, we associate huge steaks with prosperity and happiness, and we have tracts of monoculture cow plots.

#187 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 06:49 PM:

Varia --

Everything I've learned about current commercial fishing practices strongly suggests to me that no one should ever eat fish at all. We're pretty close to oceanic ecological collapse, in large part because of modern overcapacity fishing.

"If we ate beans instead of cows" is one of those things which is simple, obvious, and wrong. Many cattle raising areas won't grow beans; post-ranching and post-farming land doesn't necessarily go back to a complex ecology without heaps of effort, and concentrating agricultural productivity to a smaller land area makes problems with aquifers, fertilizers and pesticide productivity, monoculture disease susceptibility, and so on quite a bit worse.

Not meaning to be snarky, this is just one of the things which irritates me about the usual moral dimensions of the debate.

The real problem with agriculture isn't land area -- which tends to shrink over time with mechanization -- but the lack of a closed loop; most human systems try to run as though they're open, rather than closed, and this is the single most important issue facing western civilization in the medium term.

#188 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:52 PM:

Graydon--

(more or less in order re: your post :) )

I'm sorry, I'll be less facetious next time. The beans/cows thing is an oversimplification, and I didn't mean it that directly. There are a number of modifications that can involve us eating less energetically wasteful food--cows are a good example, though, because they are the most wasteful in terms of caloric content. And it isn't just a matter of cattle ranching land, given how much land to grow corn, wheat, and hay goes to feed them as well. Conventionally raised chickens and pigs are both fed almost entirely on food grown elsewhere specifically for them, and live in horrific conditions, so they've got even more of a double-whammy, both the environmental and the inhumane living.

As for monoculture, I quite agree with you about the ecological havoc it's wreaking, but I don't see how it's better to have huge monocultures growing corn, wheat and hay for cows, chicken & pigs than to have them growing them for humans. You just end up growing more. In either case, buy organic, buy small, buy local.

I'm not sure I see how your point about concentrating agriculture is germane? I agree, concentration is harmful, but I was arguing about the amount of cultivation, not the style in which it's done.

I guess I should also have specified that I don't see that there's that much wrong with eating free-range meat, since it's almost invariably in a more complex ecosystems, and the animals are living a relatively healthy and rich life before death-time. I didn't go there because it seemed like the board has already been treated to too many discussions of people's personal lifestyles and I wanted to keep mine out of it.

You weren't snarky at all; I wasn't clear.

I think I know what you mean by the closed loop, but how would you propose to fix it? I'm genuinely curious, I've heard the point raised and there rarely seems to be a good solution. How revolutionary would we have to be?

Do you feel that being veggie is harmful in any way? (another random point of curiosity)

#189 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:26 PM:

Varia -

Of course being veggie is harmful; it involves intensive agriculture, which is by definition ecologically harmful, it involves assumptions about appropriate poverty that I consider pernicious, and it -- at current world population levels -- presupposes the indefinite continuation of a petroleum based agriculture we might get twenty more years out of. (Even the Bush faction in American politics put the end point of an oil economy around 2040.)

It also involves the incorrect assumption that everyone can live healthily on a vegetable diet.

['appropriate poverty' is a big issue, tied into historical patterns of diet by class, but very briefly, I happen to live in Toronto. I have seen a lot of people from South and Eastern Asia in generational family groups, with big -- in the range of a foot -- increases in height per generation. Primarily vegetarian diets, as a historical trend, produce small people, hunched and bent in their age. See also the complete disasters associated with raising infants on vegan diets. Plus I find myself very, very suspicious of arguments which seem to presupose the morality of trading quality of life for population maximization. (food supply being a major historical population constraint.) ]

As far as agricultural concentration goes, 'amount' and 'style' of cultivation are not meaningfully distinct variables. In the larger sense, the only important measure is the rate of change in the diversity and disparity of the ecosystem supporting the agriculture over time. (It's quite possible to do agriculture in ways that increase those measures; the Danish countryside is a good example. It's just not possible to do profit maximizing agriculture in ways that don't destroy diversity and disparity.)

Cows, chickens, and pigs do not have to, and indeed even now do not entirely or generally, eat the same things people do. That's the whole ecological point of having meat in one's diet; I can't eat birch twigs, but I can eat moose. I can't eat bugs, diverse grass seeds, grubs, and worms, but I can eat the chicken. I can't eat beech mast, and I don't want to eat turnip, but I can eat the pig. It's a means of extending the proportion of the ecosystem which can support the omnivorous or carnivorous species.

Oh, and actual 'free range' -- wild -- animals are generally loaded with parasites, frequently suffer periods of starvation, and die at half the age a domesticated animal does, if the domesticated animal is not killed for consuption. Rosseau's ghost has a lot to answer for.

The system is a closed loop, eh? We just pretend it isn't, because historicaly that didn't kill cultures all that often; there was a lot more planet than people.

This isn't true anymore.

'Revolutionary' is also the wrong way to think about it; that implies that there's a single big solution, which is not the case. There's a whole lot of small changes, very few of which can be expected to decrease quality of life.

Obvious steps -
1) charge environmental use fees as debits in the accounting system for all economic activity.
2) remove the obligation of profit maximization from corporations, and the associated presumption that ecological regulation is an unacceptable barrier to profit
3) sewage always eventually feeds into drinking water. It would be a very good idea if this was treated as an explicit and expected event, rather than something that is never, ever thought about and is nominally not ever going to happen. (There are a pile of known-to-work technical approaches to this.)
4) actually measure diversity and disparity; apply punitive measures (tarrifs or taxation) to any commercial activity in an area where those numbers are trending down.

#190 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:23 PM:

Notice that a vegetarian diet in England seems to be much less healthy than a grossly similar diet in India because the Indian diet includes enough animal products (chiten mostly I understand) as impurities to furnish B12.

Given that removing the profit maximization from corporations has in my observation on my timeline invariably resulted in making things worse, often much worse - and also led to x-inefficiency at non-profits - I rather think a constrained profit maximization (internalize externalities) is as far as I could agree with. Still if anybody is to get the Ring it might as well be Graydon?

Looking at the question that opened this thread "Is there another group....?" leads me to conjecture the obvious answers from this group and the population at large - any of a number of groups which seem to have an understanding of the facts and obligations on their issues that disagrees with an individual's experience and more importantly assumptions.

I see these as falling into what I see as sumptuary laws but others don't (SUV's, fur coats, riding to hounds) health and welfare (smoking, drinking and driving as a right) and of course public safety (security and liberty to use a couple of euphemisms).

Although I'd suggest no none nada further discussion of such groups without explicit invitation from our hosts.

Anybody care to just answer that question poll wise?

#191 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:11 AM:

Of course being veggie is harmful; it involves intensive agriculture, which is by definition ecologically harmful

More harmful than animal husbandry? Bearing in mind that I buy all my produce from the smallest and most local organic farms I can find, I'm going to take some convincing on that point. Huge monoculture farming is a blight, on that we agree; and I confess that I don't have a detailed plan to move from monoculture to small, local and organic while keeping the supply at current levels. I don't see how eating meat is the answer, though.

it -- at current world population levels -- presupposes the indefinite continuation of a petroleum based agriculture

Again, how does this differ from current animal husbandry practices?


It also involves the incorrect assumption that everyone can live healthily on a vegetable diet.

Nearly everyone can, as far as I know; and the reasons for vegetarianism that I outlined are entirely consistent with consumption of whatever meat is necessary.


Primarily vegetarian diets, as a historical trend, produce small people, hunched and bent in their age.

Got any data I could look at? Your assertion does not match any of my anecdotes, which all involve Indian/Pakistani friends and their families. As for the height increase, I think improved medical care and overall quality/quantity of food might have something to do with that. There seems to be another factor at work, too, because if what we are seeing in these intergenerational increases in size is phenotype matching genotypic potential when developmental and growth needs are met, why does it not max out in the first generation to whom all of the advantages are available? Why the lag? I cannot think of a reason off the top of my head, unless it is a function of averaging across the population.


I can't eat bugs, diverse grass seeds, grubs, and worms

Yes you can. You just don't want to. I take your point about increasing the amount of the ecosystem included in our menus, but raising meat in the quantities our society currently consumes has, as far as I can tell, at least the same impact as agriculture -- not least because we do, in many instances, feed the stock plant products that we could eat ourselves.

#192 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:24 AM:

Xopher wrote, "People who won't kill animals shouldn't eat them IMO. I'm quite willing to kill vegetables, so I eat them. People who are unwilling to kill anything can either go hungry until they change their minds or starve, or just delude themselves into believing that food grows in the supermarket."

That's a point of view, certainly, and it might be directed at me, as I've never personally killed any animal larger than a spider or roach, and am on record as saying that pulling up carrots by the roots makes me queasy. Let's apply it to other areas of life:

I won't do mechanical work on my car, not just because I don't know how, but because I don't like to get that dirty. Is this a good reason for saying that I shouldn't drive?

I won't write fiction, because when I tried, it was crap. (The only difference between me and some published writers is that I know I write crap.) Should I therefore not read fiction?

#193 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:56 AM:

Madeline: Formaldehyde (more usually formalin these days) dissections are anything but mushy -- the proteins are all denatured (similar to what happens in cooking) and hardened. Fresh dissections are much mushier!

And if you want to see a video that is probably better than any dissection of a human you'll ever get to take part in, try THE VIDEO ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY, published by Williams and Wilkins: a 6 volume series that starts by showing a bone, rotating it so the viewer can go from 2-d to 3-d image, then adds muscle, shows someone pulling on that layer of muscle to show what it does, then shows a person in a blue bodystocking doing the same motion.

This was more useful for me than actually seeing the dissected human cadaver (though that was an awesome thing) in massage school. I didn't get to do any of the dissection, sniff sniff (I like finding out how things work for myself), and the bodies were long-preserved. Oddly enough, they were also all of quite old people (the youngest was 80, IIRC, and one was 97). Donating your body to science makes you live longer?

#194 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:10 AM:

Sennoma -

the question wasn't 'how is vegitarianism worse than animal husbandry, ecologically'; it was 'is vegitarianism bad, ecologically'. There is no meaningful distinction between 'people food' and 'animal food' and 'animals fed to people' anywhere that uses mechanized agriculture.

And no I can't eat all the bugs, beetles, worms, and etc. that a chicken can eat. Trust me on this; june bug and your basic house fly are neither of them people food.

Indian/Pakistani vegitarianism includes lots of dairy by default; this is more efficient than eating beef (factor of about four more protein over the productive life of a cow) but they do something with the surplus bull calves, as far as their agriculture is structured. There isn't any obvious inherent difference other than that protein between dairy farming and beef farming.

The animal protein from dairy matters.

Haven't got any formal references for you, off hand, though I will note that the probable reason for it being a multi-generational thing is economic and social -- eating habits don't necessarily change all that quickly.

#195 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:32 AM:

Simon- I won't do mechanical work on my car, not just because I don't know how, but because I don't like to get that dirty. Is this a good reason for saying that I shouldn't drive?

If it were me, that would be good enough reason for me not to drive alone on any stretch of road where the signage indicates that the distance to the next service is greater than the distance I can comfortably walk.

I won't write fiction, because when I tried, it was crap. (The only difference between me and some published writers is that I know I write crap.) Should I therefore not read fiction?

Wouldn't that mainly depend on if the only available fiction for you to read was that which you yourself wrote? :) Of course, if that were so, you might find your standards relaxing.

It's one thing to get someone else to do things for you which you don't do well, and another thing to say you won't do such-and-so because it's not fit work for you. It's the latter attitude to which I believe Xopher was objecting.

#196 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:02 AM:

Attempting to synthesize here: we continue to see a series of disconnects, I think.

There's the ethos of "eco-neutrality" that I see at the heart of Vera's comments -- the idea that any interaction with the ecosystem at all is harmful. This is a principled ideal, but not something that can be achieved short of leaving the planet.

There's the ethos of "eco-minimalism" -- the idea that one should interact as minimally as possible with one's host ecosystem. This is easy to propose but hard to define concretely, because (as aspects of Graydon's and Clark's comments point out) ecosystems are complex, hard to isolate, and subject to whole hordes of variables some of which can't be easily identified, let alone controlled.

[Aside: note here that a true practicing eco-minimalist really ought not get anywhere near the Internet, and most especially ought not post to newsgroups, blogs, etc. -- that constitutes interaction with a really large ecosystem, with the potential for drastic impact.]

Then there's the ethos of "eco-vegetarianism" (what we've been referring to as "ethical vegetarianism" to this point). This seems to be a special case of eco-minimalism based on the premise that eating a vegetarian diet, in and of itself, involves less interaction with ecosystems than eating an omnivorous diet. As we've seen, though, this premise is subject to considerable debate at best. And we've not touched at all on the question of an eco-vegetarian's use of vitamins, nutritional supplements, or other substances whose manufacture may impinge on the ecosystem in various unexamined ways.

Last but not least, there's the base ethos promoted by PETA, which I'll label "eco-animalism" -- the idea that one's interaction with one's ecosystem should place greatest value on the nurture and support of animals, as opposed to humans or plants. Note that this is any form of eco-minimalism; to the contrary, the PETA ethos encourages any and all interaction with the ecosystem necessary to further the cause of animal rights.

[In particular, consider the spay/neuter issue; proper eco-minimalist doctrine surely would construe elective surgery on an animal as gross and excessive interaction with the natural ecosystem. PETA, by contrast, is a strong supporter of spay/neuter programs.]

Of all these, eco-neutrality is the only one I'd call a fully consistent, coherent ethical construct -- it may be a practical impossibility, but it has the benefit of clarity and simplicity.

#197 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:30 AM:

Graydon --

the question wasn't 'how is vegitarianism worse than animal husbandry, ecologically'; it was 'is vegitarianism bad, ecologically'.

But given that we have to eat, I think the former question far more interesting (not that my dietary decisions depend on environmental considerations alone).


There is no meaningful distinction between 'people food' and 'animal food' and 'animals fed to people' anywhere that uses mechanized agriculture.

This is what I just don't buy. When we eat an animal, we are at the end of an inefficient chain of production: at the very least, all the energy that animal spent doing anything but growing the bits of it that we eat is wasted. All of the concerns that apply to modern agriculture (monoculture impact on diversity, chemical dependence of the industry, centralised production relying on fossil fuels for distribution of product, and so on) also apply to animal husbandry. Mechanised agriculture is not going anywhere, although I quite agree that the energy source involved is going to have to change radically.


Indian/Pakistani vegitarianism includes lots of dairy by default; this is more efficient than eating beef (factor of about four more protein over the productive life of a cow) but they do something with the surplus bull calves, as far as their agriculture is structured. There isn't any obvious inherent difference other than that protein between dairy farming and beef farming.

This is relevant to me, because I still eat eggs and dairy at home. When I eat out, and cannot verify the source of the produce, I eat vegan, but for cooking at home we buy eggs and dairy from local organic cruelty-free producers. (For the sake of full disclosure, I note that I have not yet visited these farms, and I don't know what the dairy does with bull calves.) The difference, as I see it, between dairy and beef farming, is that the former can be viewed as a partnership. This does, though, depend on such factors as how to deal with bull calves. I may yet have to give up dairy, or at least work out just how much of that protein I need. (I further note that protein requirements in childhood are different, and I do not know whether it would be advisable to cut all meat out of a child's diet.)


I will note that the probable reason for it being a multi-generational thing is economic and social -- eating habits don't necessarily change all that quickly.

Yes, that occurred to me after I posted. I agree. I'd be interested to see what happens to families who gain access to affluence, good health care, etc without starting to eat meat; are Buddhists also getting taller in Japan, since the end of WWII?

#198 ::: Gareth Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 03:20 AM:

"Singer also argued that the severely disabled should be killed

This is simply not true, as far as I can tell"

Fair enough. "May be killed" is a better way of summing it up. And he's publically supported the killing of a specific disabled woman, details at the URL below.

"He is definitely inconsistent here. But hell, 20% (where'd you get that figure, by the way? I've never seen him put a number on it) is pretty good."
From http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/02/19/60II/main329882.shtml
The point is that according to his philosophy frivolous spending is equivalent to letting a train run over a child. You don't just save 20% of the children from the trains, right?

"One might think less of him for not living in accordance with his own reasoning, but that does not make said reasoning automatically invalid"

Interesting point. I suppose that the behaviour of the person putting forward the argument doesn't necessarily affect the strength of the argument. But it does go to show how irrelevent the philosophy is to real life. If even Singer himself finds it too onerous, why should we bother?

#199 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 03:24 AM:

John,
you're quite right to desire a "fully consistent, coherent ethical construct", but why would you expect to be able to find a practical one that meets all those requirements? Working ethics are never that clear in any area of life. Life always has grey areas and contorted situations. There are ethical dilemmas in any workable system of ethics.

We can't afford to write off practical solutions just because they have some ambiguous or highly debatable boundaries otherwise we'd end up with a choice of perfectly clear but pathological solutions like "eco-neutrality".

"Eco-minimalism" does provide a basis for rational decision-making. Given a range of choices for how you will act, choose that which (according to the best available information) makes the smallest impact on your eco-system.

Ok, here's where I diverge onto some random half thought out ideas.

"Eco-sustainability" is an ethos that I think can be supported but could be dangerous. Choosing only the food sources that can be produced sustainably (again to the best available knowledge) sounds reasonable, but places no limits on how much of your eco-system you can change to start the process.

Applying Kant's categorical imperative to one's choice of foods sounded like a good idea for a while, but it doesn't make allowances for the vast variety of climate e.g. to say that I couldn't eat mangoes just because the earth can't support 6 billion people all eating mangoes is nonsensical.

Any of these principles only address one part of a multifaceted problem. If a hypothetical food source has close to zero environmental impact, but involves extreme suffering for a primate, it may be the best choice based on eco-minimalism but have to be rejected on other grounds. Such a situation doesn't invalidate eco-minimalism, it just means you need a more complex system of ethics, of which eco-minimalism may be a part.

Any system of eco-ethics that isn't accompanied by some ethos of animal suffering will not work for determining human diet.

That's enough of my rambling for the moment.

#200 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:09 AM:

Goodness, so many interesting things. At a local may day parade a guy shoved a sign protesting the sanctions in Iraq right in the faces of my small children. The sign had some horrific photos of tortured or wounded children. I was so outraged that someone would be so taken up by their own agenda that they would do something like that. My daughter had nightmares for weeks.

I have been a vegatarian for over 20 years. I have drifted from total vegan to oco-lacto-pisco veg and back several times, and I have believed every reason for being veg at one point or another. But mostely I think you need to do what is right for you. When I think of where meat comes from I can't eat it. Tricking myself into ignoring the reality seems dishonest. Doesn't bother me that other people eat meat though. I do wish that the meat systems were better, fewer feed lots, more humane and friendlier-to-workers slaughterhouses, fewer acres of rain forest decimated for McDonalds...

Would it be better for the environment to all wear fur rather than petro-chemically derived garments? I found a goofy bunny-fur hat with ear flaps in my parents' basement and have started wearing it when I walk the dog at night. Even on the bitter cold days with -15 wind chill I stay warm. I can live with that.

#201 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:15 AM:

Jane, I once made a leg of lamb with "putancesca" sauce for a bunch of meat eating guests. There are a few vegatarians who will cook meat. Mostly I have no idea how to go about it though.

#202 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:00 AM:

Conceptually eco-minimalism as an individual lifestyle may be a great idea see e.g. The Paleolithic Prescription - hunter gatherer living as a healthy lifestyle guide.

For a culture, at least my culture, it's way too late. During the middle of the last century I learned that the Florida Everglades were no longer and never again could be anything like a wilderness but could be either a waste or a garden. Things have gotten steadily worse there right along - mostly because of agricultural runoff from crops not feedlots and of course look at the impact of diverting water to irrigated crops on wild salmon and so on grizzly bear(not in Florida of course).

Further in that connection I often see an emotional concern with individuals rather than species in what much of society demands of organized management Consider the forest fire issue: no burn, let it all burn are not only a false dichotomy but a couple of wrong choices. What about reintroducing turkeys to traditional range in Idaho - swapping Idaho Pine Martins for Missouri Merriams is gross intervention and must be painful to the turkeys given that introduced populations in Idaho often do well for a while then crash. Expanding the range seems to allow more Pine Martins to live though.

Consider also the Kaibab disaster as an example of misguided tampering in an effort to reach a goal. When we eat an animal we just may be participating as a predator in an ecosystem where we chose to supersede some previous predators - as too dangerous to us, at least to say mountain bikers? - but chose also to maintain some balance of the ecosystem. The prey animals may participate in germination and seeding (grass seeds in Buffalo Commons that are built tough to require trampling by buffalo and so forth). Some times and places even today animal culture might be less intrusive than slash and burn agriculture.

Disagreeing just to be polite, steers make better 4H projects than dairy bulls. obs SF there's a story in one of the Dangerous Visions on a variation of dairy farming.

#203 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 07:54 AM:

To me it seems like the big villain here is overpopulation, not dietary choice. Unfortunately most methods to prevent the former are seen as unethical, to the point that it is difficult even to start a conversation on the subject. It seems that environmental discussions often have overpopulation as the elephant in the room.

#204 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:48 AM:

Re: ecominimalism and eco-neutralism (and how much farther can we get from the source of the thread? To Space And Beyond!):

In my first post I said something about not arguing from a standpoint of either of the above (or that's more or less what I meant :) ). I find both ideas to kind of miss the point--not that they lead to bad conclusions, but they both assume some sort of human/ecosystem duality that just ain't so. Despite how the word is frequently used, "nature" or "natural" do not mean "without human intervention". Although our ecological effects as a species may be more dramatic than we see in other species (it's an arguable point, given asteroids and bacteria--but we don't see those, much), we are not somehow outside of ecology. We are a species just like any other, only we have somewhat more choice. It's not even a question (to me) of "minimizing our impact"--the setting-land-aside model of environmental protection is inherently flawed, and will never be successful. It's a question of choosing the types of impact we have. Being an amateur conservation biologist, I believe that biodiversity is an inherent good, although the forms it can take are variable and arguable. (if they weren't, life would be a lot less fun) It also seems to me that choosing to eat a minimal amount of meat, and buying organic and small and local, while it ain't gonna save the world, is one step I can take in my daily life to promote biodiversity.

Graydon (and several others), about eating diverse food: That's why I'm not arguing total vegetarianism, I'm arguing a reduction of meat intake.

Also, thank you for pointing out that wild animals don't lead healthy lives, but it's not relevant. We weren't talking about hunting wild deer and bunnies. It seems like you were throwing that out there to try and detract (and distract?) from free-range farming. If you can show me that being parasite-free is better than being debeaked, stuck in a box, and fed dietary "mush" for the entirety of your (short) life, then we can talk conventional farming.

#205 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:30 AM:

Graydon: 3) sewage always eventually feeds into drinking water.

As a practical matter, this is true only if you treat solar filtration (evaporation and rainfall) as part of the loop -- in which case it being a loop doesn't matter, because drinking water is in effect being distilled from sewage, by an energy source (ocean insolation) we effectively don't tap.

I'm also seeing a contradiction in your arguments (a) that animals convert energy we can't consume into energy we can, (b) that free-range animals are miserable. Making sennoma's point more directly: a large part of the mass of a non-freerange food animal comes from direct feeding of factory-farmed crops. Euell Gibbons may have eaten only nuts and fruits, but the production of beef, chicken, and pork takes a lot of grain (including such excesses as corn raised on far-too-dry land by massive irrigation).

Simon: Pericat has phrased an answer very neatly; I'll suggest another aspect. Fiction-as-product and automobiles are both marks of ]technology[; they aren't absolutely necessary and they require skill to do well enough to be worthwhile. Everybody has to eat, and for most of the history of cultivation food production required everyone (so everyone learned it); being unwilling something that you can do and must have done is questionable.

Tom: Donating your body to science makes you live longer? A counter-guess: living longer means there are fewer connected people to demand a funeral viewing; it also allows more time to think and to make your wishes known. i.e., have you told anyone what you would want done with your residue if you were run over tomorrow? Except for an organ-donor sticker, I haven't; I suspect many people find this level of planning very difficult until they've fully accepted that they're going to die sometime.

John: If you argue that the Internet is an ecosystem, I counter that it is an ecosystem of us, not one that can try to stand outside of, and that actions in it are no more indefensible than the actions of nature outside of man. (Yes, there are excessive actions; there are also (e.g.) rogue elephants.)

#206 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:09 PM:

If you have not already come across them, the group Not Dead Yet has comments about Singer's work, specifically as it applies to people with disabilities. See: http://www.notdeadyet.org/docs/singer.html

I came across Not Dead Yet reading this article on Harriet McBryde Johnson's debate with Peter Singer--it really stuck in my mind.

Michelle

#207 ::: Trinker ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:24 PM:

I made vegan gumbo, ages ago*. Now, I like okra, so there was lots of it in my recipe, but I found that the one strange-but-effective secret ingredient to make it taste right was, of all things, creamed corn.

Without it, the gumbo was lacking in a certain umami.

*I was having a Buffy viewing party wherein I was serving gumbo. Having a few vegetarians in the viewing party, I made two versions.

#208 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:57 PM:

Jeez, I really should have caught up with this thread a long time ago.

BSD: I work in NYC (and lived there until a recent move up the Hudson), but I spent a lively year teaching in Taiwan in the late '70s.

Lydy: I'm sure that's true, and if I had vegetarian friends I'd be familiar with some excellent places in the city, but since at the moment my friends are all as carnivorous as I, I'm not.

It seems to me that the carnivores who defend their diet by asking about the suffering of plants are really claiming that we don't know what pain and suffering are... I think that's horse hockey. You know pain when you see it.

Then how come Descartes, among others, was convinced animals don't suffer pain? I'm not saying he was right, obviously, just denying your premise. If he was wrong about animals, you could be wrong about plants. That said, I like your general approach.

Vassilissa: I'm a vegan because it suits me to be, and I think that's the only justifiable reason.

You're my kind of vegan!

Jason: the young lady told me that they found that people took brochures to keep the Greenpeace people from harassing them and then just threw them away when they got home... and could I please just give her a check right then and there

Boy, you're a much more accepting person than I. I would have said "Bullshit, and you've got some nerve."

Vera: You know, I started out being interested in what you had to say (despite its excessive length) and wound up writing you off as a repellent ideologue (the "repellent" part based on your incredibly offensive approach to Lis). Way to go.

This is a remarkable thread; the subject is almost guaranteed to produce flames, which (mostly) have not occurred.

While I'm not a vegetarian myself, I'm very glad the world has come so far in accommodating them. I remember when I went on a tour of Russia in 1971, the poor vegetarian in the group found it almost impossible to make the Russians understand what he meant, and when he got it across, he wound up eating potatoes almost exclusively. When we got to the Caucasus, he almost wept with joy because he could switch to rice. And when another vegetarian friend moved to Prague in '92, the situation was almost as dire; a few years later, she told me there was a tremendous variety of veggie stuff available. Progress, comrades!

#209 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:12 PM:

Virge:
[Y]ou're quite right to desire a "fully consistent, coherent ethical construct", but why would you expect to be able to find a practical one that meets all those requirements?

It's not so much that I expect perfection, but rather that I think there are serious logic-flaws in three out of the four ethos-modes I formulated. I do not think it's possible to formulate a fully logical case for any of eco-minimalism, eco-vegetarianism, or eco-animalism.

I hasten to note, having said that, that I'm using a strict definition of "logic" here -- and thus to my mind, a fully logical case is one derived from a set of objective, clearly defined premises which can be demonstrated to be valid.

And thereby hangs the difficulty, because what we've been doing for umpty-dozen screens now is establishing that folks either disagree on or can't easily codify a set of premises for either eco-minimalism or eco-vegetarianism. (We really haven't gotten into eco-animalism, though I think that's mostly because nobody is seriously maintaining that it's logical in the first place.)

And having said that, I should further note that I'm construing "ethic/ethics" strictly as well, as distinguished from "moral/morals" -- the latter concerns what is thought of as right/wrong, whereas the former is concerned with measuring how and why.

Which is to say, I regard eco-minimalism and eco-vegetarianism as entirely valid moral belief systems, and respect those who sincerely practice those beliefs. (If that sounds like a statement on religious freedom, it should.) But I don't see either as a valid ethical system, because ethics requires a fully measurable and agreed-upon set of premises from which to proceed.

#210 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:26 PM:

CHip:
If you argue that the Internet is an ecosystem, I counter that it is an ecosystem of us, not one that can try to stand outside of, and that actions in it are no more indefensible than the actions of nature outside of man.

Heh; agreed. OTOH, it seems to me that much eco-minimalism suffers from this same blind spot -- that is, that the practicing eco-minimalist perceives himself as not a part of the host ecosystem. (There's also a built-in paradox as regards evangelical eco-minimalism -- in effect, trying to persuade lots of people to change their behavior amounts to advocating a very large change to the ecosystem as it presently exists, even if you argue that the current ecosystem is broken.)

#211 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:18 PM:

"because ethics requires a fully measurable and agreed-upon set of premises from which to proceed."

I think that statement is where we must differ, John. I think the "fully measurable" contraint will stop you from ever accepting any workable ethical system, whether it be in ecology, business, government, etc.

I guess I err too much towards pragmatism. Any system of ethics deals with how human morals are converted into human behaviours. Morals are intrinsically impossible to measure. Behaviours can be measured but there will always be a huge uncertainty on the consequences of human actions on other individual humans, on community and on our eco-system. Any system of measurement applied to human actions in real life situations necessarily involves the interpretation of an observer. I can't reject an ethos on the basis of limited measurability.

I will agree that we can reject some systems on the basis of demonstrable internal inconsistency. Any system with conflicting precepts can be rejected fairly quickly. Any system that tries to defend a rigid black & white boundary on a parameter where nature exhibits a grey scale should be examined with considerable skepticism. If, however, that system is defined with some acknowledgement of error bars and uncertainty, then the system may be valid. It will just be of limited use in the grey areas.

#212 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:38 PM:

Tom: five minutes later I realized I'd forgotten to put the effects of my suggestions together; is it possible that only the old leave complete corpses (suitable for examination), while the not-so-old may be able to contribute \some/ organ?

John:
it seems to me that much eco-minimalism suffers from this same blind spot -- that is, that the practicing eco-minimalist perceives himself as not a part of the host ecosystem.

Certainly this is a weak aspect of the eco-minimalist argument -- but there's a grain of truth in it; humans have come so far and so fast that they are intruders (in scope if not actually in location) in many systems. Consider the case I mentioned to Graydon (of moving water to arid plains to grow corn), or even more extreme movements of water (the lake vanished by the transfer told in Chinatown, or the Colorado being reduced to a trickle at its mouth), or even apparently-positive moves like stopping all forest fires (which both allows buildup for catastrophic fires and blocks germination of certain species), or overharvesting of fish (amplified by technology, so that instead of the interphased high-low cycles of predator and prey we keep going until nothing is left), or the increasing number of cases of transport of a single species to another system (oriental fish in the Atlantic states, European (zebra?) mussels in the Great Lakes, ...). In the abstract, I admire your attempts at precise formulation; in practice I suspect only the most general principles (of which the first is "get good data and pay attention to it") can be hard-set.

Note that sometimes errors can be mended without a cascade of further problems; a biologist friend told me of the Australians, seeing how the dung from their imported cattle were piling up, imported a load of English cowpies; I don't recall whether they knew what dung beetles were or simply that there was \something/ that made the end product disappear.

#213 ::: Marcia ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:04 AM:

I am an animal lover, and I agree with some of the stuff PETA is against, but they go to far in their battle to protect animal rights. They damage their own reputation but being so in your face about it.

#214 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 04:00 AM:

If anyone is still interested, Brian at Crooked Timber has linked to an article that has some bearing on the conversation: a man who actually *was* almost food for a crocodile. He has a compelling description of his forcible reintroduction to the fact that humans are part of the ecosystem. But his reaction is more complicated than the 'they eat me, I eat them' dichotomy.

#215 ::: Jenn ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 04:17 AM:

Wow... lots of interesting stuff.

Hi, my name is Jenn, I'm a biology/pre-vet student at University of Wisconsin-River Falls and I actively dislike PETA, ALF, and ELF. This is my disclaimer.

I'm also an avid animal lover. I also love meat.

Now, since I've said that up front and all forward-like I just want to say a few things.

1. Scott Lynch is a very nice vegetarian and he actually prepares my meat for me on occasion and does a very good job at it. Saying this I also have to say that I've forayed into his world of veggie hot dogs, veggie corn dogs, and veggie burgers. I'm all for the veggie burgers, they won't replace my hamburger or venison burger, but they are rather tasty.

2. "Open Range" meat is different than "Organic" meat. Open Range is generally more humane, and organic is generally associated with more food borne pathogens in both the meat industry and the vegetable industry. I can double check on this if you'd like, however the information comes from Dr. Perdu Vasavada who can be found at the UWRF website Here under faculty and staff.

3. My hatred of Peta comes from years of wanting to identify myself as an animal activist, studying the "groups" and attempting to decide what would be correct. I'm afraid I can't agree with a group that decides that if you're not Vegan you really don't care for animals at all, (Animal Rights Magazine 2002)let alone attempt to enact downright silly ideas as no longer being an animal owner but a guardian.

Mind you the thought isn't a bad one, I don't care which I'm refered to, however I do care about the intent behind such a thing.

Along with the subscriber to Animal Rights Magazine who thought that PETA should change it's motto from People Helping People Help animals to People helping Animals become People. I'm sorry, I really can't see my 7lb cat driving a car, can you? Or sitting through a movie? (She likes to watch t.v. but she has to be right in front of the screen.) Or Voting. Dear me, Loki voting...

I also can not agree with a group that supports something like ALF. ALF has this nasty habit of "releasing the poor critters into their natural habitats" only for the white rats, mink, mice, gerbils and what not to die of exposure, starvation, or predation because they have no camoflage, no natural defense, and no idea what the big wide world is.

Oh, and these people like to blow up buildings with animals still inside. I have to find the article but it happened in the mid '90s in England.

4. There are some things that PETA has done that I happen to agree with. Pushing for humane treatment of animals is a good thing. I'm all for that, both in experimentation and in slaughtering. I'd have to say I agree with PETA 2 out of every 70 things that they push for. One of them is not attempting to change Wisconsin's state drink from Milk to Beer because Beer is healthier for you and less likely to cause harm.

5. Vera: There is order that has been proven in the universe. You are made up of systematically ordered cells, tissues, and organs. Like there is order there is also disorder. This is called Entropy. This is also called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. All order is tending toward disorder. It requires high amounts of energy to form things (create order) and releases a lot of energy to create disorder (entropy/death). Disorder releases energy in the form of heat.

Your arguments started out very interesting, but I'm afraid I don't happen to agree with them. But again, that's my perrogative. And while my ethics may be extremely flexible it doesn't mean that I am being irresponsible. I rather like to consider myself very responsible on how I deal with animal usage.

Pascal's Wager: if I don't know that it doesn't exist I'm going to live my life as though it does exist..just in case. Basic summary.

6. Animals as far as testing? Scott can attest to the hard time I had deciding where to stand on this issue. I'm going into the biomedical sciences, in order to learn to heal I have to kill, or be willing to be the cause of death. It's a hard decision, but it's one I came to terms with. Pointless testing has my wrath, but medical testing I deal with.

Lastly? There are vegans that are hostile about their habits and their means of recruiting others. I've been accosted more than once for my choice of eating meat, but sadly I will admit that those that chose to get "in my face" have always been those that don't always have all the facts. *shrug*

I don't care if you want to eat veggies and nothing else. I'm firmly of the opinion that you eat what you want. I just don't care for the opinion that because you think it's right and good I should too. (This being you in a most general term and not reflecting anyone here)

Sigh. Old complaint with me. Although I'm more than willing to hear more about this veggie gumbo...

Jenn

#216 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:40 AM:

Hi, Jenn,

I, too, found veggie burgers rather tasty. It wasn't just hearing Michael Feldman (not on the air in Atlanta! Why?) push Boca. I smelled one cooking once and though, "What a tasty burger!"

However, I can see a seven-pound cat driving a car. Oh, manm, can I ever see that! And voting!

I'm up for changing Wisconsin's state beverage from milk to beer, though. Why? Because you don't have to ferment beer to get a good buzz on it. Ever smelled fermented milk? Ick.

And as for Pascal's Wager, I guess I've taken the flip side of it:

Given a choice between getting the most out of a small, finite, yet measurable and enjoyable life, and the possibility of nothing at all after death (the likeliest of the outcomes), I pick this life.

#217 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:01 AM:

Umm -- you do have to ferment beer to get a buzz on it. Unfermented beer not only has no alcohol, but is even less tasty than fermented beer.

Good post, Jenn.

CHip, there are lots of possibilities. Mine was intended facetiously. Should marked it.

I seem to be bringing up Goedel's incompleteness theorem a lot these days -- it's impossible to build a complete _and_ consistent theory that includes an arithmetic. Your ethical system may not be large enough to include the equivalent of arithmetic, but I'd like mine to have something pretty similar.

#218 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:00 PM:

I'm sorry, I really can't see my 7lb cat driving a car, can you?

Of course! Has everyone forgotten Toonces?

Toonces, the driving cat,
the cat who could drive a car.
He drives around, all over the town.
Toonces the driving cat!

Not that this has any connection whatever with PETA, but... that's a good thing!

#219 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:03 PM:

Tom, you silly person: you don't have to ferment beer. If it's not fermented, it's not beer.

I prefer water to ice, myself, because you don't have to melt water before you drink it. :-)

#220 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:53 PM:

another x factor here is that vegetables are comparatively expensive to buy, especially responsibly grown ones, because the foods with the greatest ecological costs (milk, meat, poultry, eggs, sugar) are the ones most heavily subsidized by the government.

If one out of every ten dollars that was spent on those foods went to sustainable vegetable and grain production, people might be able to afford to rely on them more. As it is, the supermarket costs of the foods most destructive to our ecosystem are kept artificially low, and small local farmers aren't able to move their product to people making $8/hr.

That's not a condition of growing food, though. That's our choice, or at least the choice of the people we elect to vote on subsidies.

#221 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:42 PM:

clark e myers wrote: Notice that a vegetarian diet in England seems to be much less healthy than a grossly similar diet in India because the Indian diet includes enough animal products (chiten mostly I understand) as impurities to furnish B12.

And in the UK, we eat Marmite, instead. Very rich source of B12... and IMO probably much tastier than chiten.

Primarily vegetarian diets, as a historical trend, produce small people, hunched and bent in their age.

Got any demographic evidence for this? All I can offer is purely anecdotal evidence, I admit: I come from a tall family with a nephew aged 11 who is clearly going to overtop all of us when he's grown - and yes, he's been vegetarian all his life and his mother has been vegetarian all her life. My great-aunt had severe osteoporosis, which made her hunched and bent in her old age: and yes, she'd eaten meat all her life.

I can't eat bugs, diverse grass seeds, grubs, and worms

I repeat what someone else already pointed out to you: yes, you can eat all of the above, unless they're actually poisonous, and chances are that anything that would kill you would also kill the chicken.

Eating a balanced diet, not over-eating, but getting all the nourishment you need, is important: I have read that the height of an adult can ultimately be determined by how well-nourished the adult's mother was when she was a foetus. If your grandmother got to eat well when she was pregnant with your mother, then you are likely to be taller than someone whose grandmother did not get to eat well. Whether the nourishment comes primarily from animal protein or from vegetable protein does not greatly affect the issue.

It's perfectly possible to raise 100% vegan and very healthy babies: but the mother will have to do an awful lot of breastfeeding. Far more, and far longer, than most mothers these days ever do.

#222 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:56 PM:

Yonmei --

Have you ever cared for chickens?

They really do eat things primates just can't; anciently insectivorous or not, primates don't thrive on a diet of flies or junebugs or sowbugs. Chickens do. (Never accidentally eaten a sowbug; have accidentally eaten a fly and a junebug. The fly was unpleasant and the junebug was vile.)

There are lots of grass seeds we just can't process, they go right through at best, that chickens, who have crops instead of molars, can.

This is much more pronounced with grass, instead of grass seeds, which people cannot profitably eat at all.

The demographic data for the primarily vegetarian diets is to look at serfs and peasants the world over, pre-1900. They got very little meat, and they were short.

#223 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 06:32 PM:

(Never accidentally eaten a sowbug; have accidentally eaten a fly and a junebug. The fly was unpleasant and the junebug was vile.)

Graydon, do you sleep with your mouth open in springtime? :)

I had a dog who ate june bugs. Most of each bug passed right through her system, so I deduce from that that one needs more than a simple stomach to get good from june bugs. A crop, perhaps. Mortar & pestle? Also, no sense of taste.

The demographic data for the primarily vegetarian diets is to look at serfs and peasants the world over, pre-1900. They got very little meat, and they were short.

Peasants and serfs, got few if any vegetables. What they did get, if I recall, was mostly grain, rice, or potatoes, depending on what part of the world they lived. Access to meat, as you note, was rare and chancy, but I'd say they were all-around malnourished, not that they ate an equivalent of a modern vegetarian diet and simply didn't thrive.

#224 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 06:43 PM:

They got very little meat, and they were short.

They got very little anything, and I don't know whether the ruling classes were significantly taller. If poorer people are over-represented in conscript armies, then the effects of catastrophic losses in war (such as world wars 1 and 2) on national average heights might argue otherwise.

If Yonmei is right about the breastfeeding requirement for healthy vegan babies, that does indicate that animal protein (and possibly lipid) might be necessary, at least in early childhood.

#225 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 07:02 PM:

Um, Graydon, I seem to recall reading that in some areas, in some historic periods, the whole population was on average much shorter than today, rich meat-eaters and poor starch-eaters alike. Then, too, serfs and peasants suffered from a number of disadvantages in non-dietary areas, such as unceasing hard physical labor, exposure to disease (and lack of treatment of same), lack of protection from the elements, and so forth.

One point: I have a hunch that if you can only eat one or a small range of foods, some one type of meat might be better than some one type of vegetable. After all, meat contains pretty much all the building blocks to make cells like your own. However, if you're able to eat a varied diet, that advantage of meat is pretty irrelevant, or at least less relevant than some of the disadvantages. As someone mentioned above, the closer your food is in biological makeup to yourself, the more likely you are to pick up nasty parasites, disease organisms, or prions from it.

In fact, I recently had an insight into the whole "life is a cycle" theme. Some of the problems of our modern society are because we ignore cycles; we often design and manufacture products without worrying about how they'll be disposed of, we sometimes emit pollutants into air and water without considering the effects they'll have when eaten and drunk, and so forth. But some of our problems come about when we try to make the cycles too tight, as in mad cow disease. Or to put it bluntly, we need to be more aware that shit makes good fertilizer, but we shouldn't try to eat it!

#226 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 07:45 PM:

Just a random datapoint: my father and his sister are both almost a foot taller than either of their parents were. None of my grandparents were vegetarians: but my father's parents grew up poor in Tsarist Russia, and raised their children in New York City a few decades later. Not exactly rich, but not the same level of rural poverty. (My brother and I are significantly shorter than my father, because my mother's family are genetically short, even given good nutrition and medical care.)

#227 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:45 PM:

People did eat vegetables in season; it wasn't all starch and grains. (If you eat only starch and grains, you'll die of scurvy, after all. Saurkraut is a vegetable.)

Nobility started a little taller, wound up a little shorter, over 1000-1600 CE or so in much of middle Europe; a pure meat, emphasis on organ meats, diet isn't good for you either.

But in cases like Japan or China, we've got pretty good indications that fish and vegetables and rice gives shorter results on the same genes than a diet with significant amounts of beef or pork in it.

#228 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:02 PM:

adamsj wrote:

I, too, found veggie burgers rather tasty. It wasn't just hearing Michael Feldman (not on the air in Atlanta! Why?) push Boca. I smelled one cooking once and though, "What a tasty burger!"

Ahh, Boca Burgers. The staff of life. Just add sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, and mozarella cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and sliced white onions. Place it all on a hamburger bun and the religious service has begun. Positively sexalicious.

Cheers,

SL


#229 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:09 PM:

Scott,

Ketchup? Heretic!

Bah.

#230 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:34 PM:

Lis Carey wrote:
overall, it's much, much easier to provide easonably well for mice or ats than for larger animals.
One of the things I like about keeping rats as pets. They're like a dog you can carry in your shirt.

Madeline wrote:
It's also useful to get some understanding of how bodies are put together,
and a video has absolutely nothing on actually observing it all with your
own senses, seeing how if you poke that ligament down, that other muscle
moves the leg...

You could be right. I don't know what the solution to that one is, but I think I'd still be inclined to make it extra-credit.

CHip wrote:
have you told anyone what you would want done with your residue if you were run over tomorrow?
My whole family discussed this on Christmas Day, actually. We all wanted
our organs donated and what's left cremated. I've registered my
intention to donate with a national registry and the local traffic
authority, and I carry a card. As a datapoint about age and acceptance of
eventual death, I'm 23. It was kind of a weird day to discuss it, but
hey, we were all in one place, and it was good to get it clear.

Jenn wrote:
Dear me, Loki voting...
Tell me about it. Last election I used to have "Vlad for Premier, Francis
for Prime Minister" in my sig file, on the basis that it would have to be
better than the available candidates, until I realised (these are male
rats) that their chief campaign issues would be promoting the interests of
big bucks, and getting lots of doe.

#231 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:35 PM:

CHip, I enjoy reading your posts!

#232 ::: Jenn ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:56 PM:

Adamsj:

Nonono! Loki was named Loki for a reason. A seven pound cat named after the Norse God of Mischief. Why? Because of all the mischief she can possibly get into she does.

As for the beer in Wisconsin thing? Well, honestly, it is already the unoffical beverage of the state. And PETA and MADD were up in arms over PETA's suggestion. :P

Thanks Tom.

Language Hat: You're the second person to remind me of Toonces :P I'm really going to have to get Loki a car to drive around in. Maybe like the ones that kids have nowadays...

Yonmei:
I repeat what someone else already pointed out to you: yes, you can eat all of the above, unless they're actually poisonous, and chances are that anything that would kill you would also kill the chicken.

Yes, you can eat almost anything a chicken can, however there are some animals that are able in digest other animals that it would be rather foolhardy for humans to try without proper education first. Certain mammals are resistant to other animals' toxins (ex. mongoose and cobra) which are downright deadly to humans or other animals that eat them unknowingly or are bitten. However, just because you can eat something doesn't mean it's good for you. You can eat seeds and the like, but the human body isn't made to digest seeds and other heavy fibers very well. The human stomach is not actually meant just for grains and fibers.

Ruminants (animals that end up chewing cud and eat basically nothing but vegetable matter) are equipped with special symbiotic bacteria that aid in the digestion and fermentation of the starch and other plant materials that humans don't have. We have our own flora and fauna in our intestines and stomachs (ulcers are now known to be caused by the presence of a particular bacteria in the stomach acid, and e. coli resides in your intestines.) however it's not made to digest seeds. :) And we don't have "stones" implanted in our digestive tracts to crack them open for us. We digest seeds and other similar matter best when it's already broken down and cooked into other things.


Eating a balanced diet, not over-eating, but getting all the nourishment you need, is important

Exactly.


Vassilissa:
That is way too funny. I just fell off my chair. :P Ouch. :D

Grins!
Jenn

#233 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:39 PM:

Scott, I've had my dinner, but that made me hungry anyway.

#234 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:03 PM:

Jenn, you said, "PETA and MADD were up in arms over PETA's suggestion."

Okay, one point for PETA.

Incidentally, the hippie house in which I was living when the hippies critiqed my deep-fried okra was in beautiful Madison; the okra was bought at the co-op on Willie Street; and the bambi brauts I boiled (over the outraged cries of my housemates--I cooked them their vegetarian pizzas and spaghetti sauces, but I'll be damned if I was going to miss bambi brauts) were boiled in Point.

While I may deplore Scott's choice of ketchup as a hamburger condiment (why put french fry sauce on a hamburger? Mustard on french fries, sure, but this!), I can't knock Bogus Burgers--they rock!

#235 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 02:11 AM:

adamsj wrote:

While I may deplore Scott's choice of ketchup as a hamburger condiment (why put french fry sauce on a hamburger? Mustard on french fries, sure, but this!)

I'm not quite the heretic you think I am, Adam. Ordinarily, I don't let ketchup anywhere near my precious Boca Burgers. It's just that lately I've been craving that slight tanginess you get when you mix a small amount of ketchup with a lot of mustard (a 1:4 ratio, let's say) under all of the ingredients listed above.

Ketchup seems a decent complement to long, slender "fast food" style fries, but I'm not so keen on it for softer, more full-bodied fries. Oddly enough, what I've really come to love in the past year or two is ranch dressing. Mmmm. Particularly for dipping with cheese fries.

A plate of thick-cut fries covered in melted cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, with buttermilk ranch dressing on the side... it's a culinary mount of Megiddo where your arteries and your taste buds will have their final battle.

#236 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 03:34 AM:

Scott Lynch:
A plate of thick-cut fries covered in melted cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, with buttermilk ranch dressing on the side... it's a culinary mount of Megiddo where your arteries and your taste buds will have their final battle.

Of course, then you have to make the choice between doing your french-frying in beef fat (said to make the fries taste best) or the more nutritionally correct vegetable oil (peanut or canola being the most popular choices). Which brings us right back to the veggies-vs.-meat battle again....

#237 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:36 AM:

Jenn: We digest seeds and other similar matter best when it's already broken down and cooked into other things.

Yes indeed. But then, most people would probably also insist on cooking the chicken.

#238 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:42 AM:

Tomato ketchup on chips? Effete Americans! (Though, actually, I love the chilli sauce you get at some chip stands in the US: gives those thin "french fry" type chips you like some bite.)

The English like chips with salt and vinegar. In Scotland we like chips with salt, vinegar, and brown sauce diluted with more vinegar. The vinegar should be white distilled malt vinegar, and ideally there should be enough of it on a big poke of chips wrapped up in greaseproof paper and newspaper to make you cough at the first hot bite. The chips should be slathered in the stuff, so that your hands get greasy and munged up with the black ink off the old newspaper. You eat them walking along the street, late at night after leaving the pub, and the warmth of the poke is comforting to your ungloved hands.

We Scots are a people of wide culinary tolerancies: we will adopt any food from anywhere in the world, so long as you can deep-fry it and serve it with chips. (If you can't deep-fry it, as with pizza or Mars bars, we will dip it in batter and fry it anyway.)

#239 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 08:18 AM:

Dipping in a puddle of ketchup is the only way to eat plank fries right out of the fryer when they're otherwise too hot, which makes it an essential component of a classic nyc diner lumberjack breakfast.

jmo, of course.

#240 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:28 AM:

Oh, dear--I suppose now is the time to confess that, as I child, the only food-like thing I liked better than mustard, pickle, and onion sandwiches was Ruffles chips with Brooks Tangy ketchup as the dip.

If my otherwise sensible wife had been introduced to Brooks Tangy as a child, she would not refer to ketchup as "red sugar". But then, she brought Bogus Burgers (you think Boca thought about that?) into the marriage, so I can't complain.

I'm more or less with Scott (culinary mount of Megiddo indeed!) mostly (mount excepted)--the test of good french fries is how they taste without ketchup, and Boca does need condiments for the full burger experience.

By the way, why aren't we calling them Freedom Fries? And why do we hate America, anyway?

#241 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 11:59 AM:

Mmmmmm, ranch sauce (oh man, I haven't had this since I quit eating meat, someone tell me it's vegan!). Bogus burgers. Fries. Ketchup.

God Save America!

(Although the default cheese is a bit weird over here, rather orange and oddly sweet. Is that "monterey jack"? Also, thick slices of pickled beetroot are a must on any True Burger(TM), something 'merrycans don't seem to have understood yet.)

#242 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 11:59 AM:

Mmmmmm, ranch sauce (oh man, I haven't had this since I quit eating meat, someone tell me it's vegan!). Bogus burgers. Fries. Ketchup.

God Save America!

(Although the default cheese is a bit weird over here, rather orange and oddly sweet. Is that "monterey jack"? Also, thick slices of pickled beetroot are a must on any True Burger(TM), something 'merrycans don't seem to have understood yet.)

#243 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 12:00 PM:

Crappity crap. How'd that happen?

#244 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 12:37 PM:

I like to dip my french fries in mayonnaise. Or A-1 Steak Sauce. Or a mixture of the two.

Except at Johnny Rocket's. There I dip them in their St. Louis sauce.

Ranch dressing is for onion rings. Or eating with a spoon.

Dammit, now my mouth's all watery.

#245 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:30 PM:

Sorry Sennoma, it's not. The classic ranch dressing from Santa Barbara is a dry mix added to buttermilk and mayonnaise. One likely sounding reverse engineering job on the dry mix I found works out like this:

1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dill weed
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. onion powder

The hidden ingredient, as you can tell, is salt. It is one of the major ingredients of the dry mix if you look on the packet.

My wife has gone largely vegan, but loves the stuff (for me it is strictly for dipping certain fried objects) I have been working on and off trying to come up with a soy based alternative using Nayonaise and soy 'sour cream'. Anyone else have a recipie?

Talking about fried things has reminded me of some eggplant tempura I used to be able to get in San Ramon. Damm, is it lunch time yet?

#246 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:42 PM:

Here is another recipie (courtesy of Google)for ranch dry mix -- and I think this is closer to what you buy in the store. I personally would edit this a bit before using . . .

1-1/2 Tbsp salt
2 tsp Monsodium glutamate (MSG)
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
#247 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 02:38 PM:

John C. Bunnell: Of course, then you have to make the choice between doing your french-frying in beef fat (said to make the fries taste best)

I refer you to Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything. In his attempt to produce the perfect french fry, he had a friend smuggle rendered horse fat in from Europe, and pronounced the results superior to beef fat.

One of the best parts of this article is his response to the many complaints he received from horse-lovers about treating this noble animal as food. He pointed out that the US was the largest exporter of horse meat in the world, largely because horse owners keep trading their pets in for new ones.

For home-made fries, in an attempt to balance flavor with alleged healthiness, I've had good luck adding a cup of rendered beef fat to a gallon of peanut oil.

For fast-food fries, the best I've had recently came from an A&W that still had carhop service; maybe they also still had beef fat. At the very least, they had trained the employees to cook them until done, and not put them in oil previously used for fish sticks.

-j

#248 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 03:25 PM:

I refer you to Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything...

That anecdote sums up why I put that book down after the first chapter; it read like the tale of a man who went from being a self-righteous snob about all the things he wouldn't eat to being a self-righteous snob about all the things he would.

It's hard to take seriously Steingarten's omnivore-proselytizing when he lists things like vegetarianism, food allergies and lactose intolerance as picky excuses people make to not live up to their full dietary potential (or some such nonsense), and goes so far as to say that lactose intolerance doesn't exist - which anyone who's narrowly missed crapping themselves after forgetting to take a Lactaid with their pizza can tell you is outrageous and insulting. There were some clever moments in what I read, but on the whole I found his tone to be only slightly less offensive than being preached at by a militant vegan about all the stuff I shouldn't be eating.

(Plus he disses feta, which makes his taste extremely suspect, IMH[Mediterranean]O.)

#249 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 04:20 PM:

The book is a lot better if you just skim the first hundred pages or so. It's a collection of monthly columns, and his approach changed after a year or two. By the time it reaches the chapter on fries, it's a lot more entertaining.

His second book is a lot more consistent.

-j

#250 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 04:44 PM:

Claude: thanks for the info. I still eat eggs and dairy at home, where I know that they didn't come from factory farms, so I can make myself a version of ranch dressing with your recipes. (Australians call ranches "properties", so maybe I could call it Property Dressing.)

#251 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 06:25 PM:

Hey, Dan, get yeself a yogurt strainer or four. I'm lactose intolerant too, and have discovered that lebaneh (strained yogurt) makes a damn good sub for sour cream. Not that I'm unwilling to take a lactase tab, but I get tired of taking them all the time.

Make sure you get Plain (NOT lowfat or nonfat) yogurt. Dannon is pretty good here.

Then you just stir hell out of the yogurt and put it in the strainer. Suspend the strainer over the container (unless it came with a catch basin or something) and LOOSELY cover. Refrigerate; about 36 hours later (and a couple of dumpouts of the accumulated whey), voila, lebeneh (hey, it's Arabic, I can Delany the spelling if I wanna).

The longer you leave it the thicker it gets. I suspect a fair portion of the sugar falls out in the whey, but don't quote me.

You can use it for any of the garnishy kind of sour cream uses, and it hasn't got any lactose in it. (I haven't tried making a stroganoff with it yet; I'll let you know.)

I usually start with a quart of yogurt, which makes just over a pint of lebenah.

#252 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:01 PM:

Xopher - thanks. A new use for yoghurt is always a welcome thing in my kitchen. (I make a tzatziki that causes fair men to swoon and strong women to weep. Alas, my wife is yoghurt-appreciation-impaired, so I eat that stuff alone, sigh.)

I've been aware of the possibilities of yoghurt-as-sour-cream, but had no direction before. Much appreciated.

#253 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:58 PM:

Ah, if you've been making tzatziki, you probably already have a yogurt strainer. If not, try making it with strained yogurt...you'll be amazed. (Not quite as strained as for the l*b*n*h, I'd think, unless you're not salting and draining the cucumber first.)

Some day I must try your tzatziki. In fact, we should trade recipes (for yogurt things in general, not just tzatziki...have you ever tried a little yogurt mixed with lime pickle?).

#254 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:05 AM:

At last I'm drawn out into the blogosphere...

I heard on the radio last week about mountain
lions out West who have been on the protected
species list so long they think humans are wimps.
So they tend to hang around town and browse on the
house pets now and then, and a few of them have
stalked and attacked able-bodied humans.

So now the animal controllers deport the ones they
find in back yards, and counsel that the greater
kindness is to be "mean" to wild critters--drive
them off, and make it clear it's not okay to hang
with the naked apes. And the ones that bite Rover
get shot.

Well, this is a blog entry about PETA, and I have
to say that the "Fishkill" episode has firmly
cemented them in the "not concerned with accuracy"
column as far as I'm concerned. Lydy mentioned
Raphael's theory that they were not born to
looniness, but had it thrust upon them, that

"The first lab that PETA busted into was one
of the real horror-show DOD labs. What was
done there was ... [ awful ]. Raphael's
theory is that the experience traumatized them
and caused PETA to be a dysfunctional group
from their very inception."

I don't believe that theory, but I believe that if
PETA found someone who might believe the theory
and be swayed by it, they would tell the story.
Like Colin Powell's unquestionable evidence for
WMDs. (Republicans--the other "L" word.)

Anyway, you might suppose that since this is a
blog entry about PETA, I'd be interested getting
PETA to confront the moral dilemma of dealing with
the mountain lion who ate your companion animal.
But no, that's not what caught me, not in that
sense. I just thought that killing mountain lions
was a waste of good predator that could serve a
useful purpose if delivered to PETA's
headquarters.

#255 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:09 AM:

Polar bears as rodents is (thankfully!) a canard,
but whenever such taxonomic tromperie arises I'm
driven to repeat the factoid I learned from an
_Economist_ article 12 years ago, of

the only RODENT that is a FISH !

Patently impossible, but... when 16th-century
Conquistadores marching through jungles during
Lent discover large playful masses of riparine
protein, they have ways of convincing the padre
that the capybara is not a wet mammal, but a hairy
fish. The article said that capybara jerky is
still a Lenten tradition in Brazil.

It's much the same sort of canon legislation that
makes the tapir a kind of horse, but this one gets
bonus points for cooling the blood of an
endotherm.

#256 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:13 AM:

Speaking of the kingdomist bigots who spare the
animals only to massacre the vegetables, I'm glad
I managed to track my memory back to Dave
Langford's "Load of Crystal Balls", in which he
quotes "that famous SF novel set in 1984,
G. K. Chesterton's _The Napoleon of Notting Hill_"

... Mr Mick not only became a vegetarian, but
at length declared vegetarianism doomed
("shedding," he called it finely, "the green
blood of the silent animals"), and predicted
that men in a better age would live on nothing
but salt. And then came the pamphlet from
Oregon (where the thing was tried), the
pamphlet called "Why should Salt suffer?", and
there was more trouble. [1904]

Yum, the the green blood of the silent animals.

#257 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:15 AM:

Nix writes: (case in point: snails, er, escargot.)

Escargot (Mark-Jason Dominus pointed out) is not a
food in itself, but merely a vehicle for conveying
the French national foods, garlic and butter. Just
as chicken wings are served in upstate New York to
eat hot sauce with. And Yorkshire pudding, to
help the English savor their suet.

#258 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:24 AM:

A propos the idea that one should find a good
vegetarian restaurant, I hope that Washington, DC
residents and visitors will brave the ganglands of
Langley Park to sample the remarkable cuisine of
"Udupi Palace". I'm a meatie, you bet, but...
that food is good! (Most of what I ate was
Indian-spicy, but that's because that's what I
ordered.)

#259 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:46 AM:

Sennoma wrote:

Mmmmmm, ranch sauce (oh man, I haven't had this since I quit eating meat, someone tell me it's vegan!).

It can be, or so says these two recipes:

*****
--1/2 Cup soy milk (regular flavor - not vanilla)
--1/2 Cup soy mayonaise (Nayonaise or Veganaise)
--1 tsp. garlic powder
--1 tsp. onion powder
--3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
--1 Tbsp. dried parsely flakes (or finely chopped fresh parsley)
--salt
--pepper
*****

or

*****
--6 oz. Mori-Nu silken style tofu, firm or extra firm
--1/4 cup Soy Mayonnaise
--1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
--3 T. water
--4 t. lemon juice
--1 T. freshly chopped parsley
--1 T. freshly chopped dill
--1 T. tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
--1 1/2 t. garlic, minced
--salt and pepper, to taste
--dash of cayenne pepper
*****

If you have problems with the thickness of the first recipe (if it's too runny), adding a bit of plain tofu would probably give it more body and cling. Also, the first recipe seems to want at least a pinch of dill to recreate the taste I associate with ranch dressing, but YMMV.

Cheers!

SL

#260 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 02:04 AM:

Dan, are you having a manic episode?

#261 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:36 AM:

Yonmei: I'm literally drooling. Want chips and vinegar now!

Dan LK: Say, I'll be happy to help with the tzatziki. Am not the least yoghurt appreciation impaired. Mmmm yoghurt. (I've been known to add lemon juice to my yoghurt to make it sharper, but don't tell ok? It weirds some people out.)

MKK

#262 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 08:40 AM:

Excellent, Scott, close to some of my experiments but may be better.

Where else can you find a thread that starts with discussing self-defeating animal rights protesters and ends up with a recipie exchange?

#263 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:22 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden: Dan, are you having a manic episode?

I don't think I do that, just ADD and depression. What happened is I read this neat blogroll on the way home (still only halfway through) and had a bunch of comments. So I typed them up in emacs while waiting for the home computer to get around to connecting and opening up the page. There was an outage about then where I couldn't get through, so the comments got longer and the hour got later, and I never got around to figuring out that the text was being treated as HTML.

On consideration, it would have been more appropriate to put all my comments into one message, but I was learning the mechanics and tried to keep it simple. Perhaps this is better formatted.

Thank you for your concern.

#264 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:17 AM:

Mary Kay, the first time I visited the US I rapidly got bored with the long needle-thin "fries" sold everywhere. They didn't have any taste or texture to them unless they'd been deep-fried very crisp. Then, in Santa Barbara, friends took me to a wholefood restaurant where they served "air-fried potato wedges" - which were the first thing I had seen that looked like proper chips: big chunks of potato. So I asked the waiter if I could have vinegar with them (I'd been there for a week! I was homesick!) and the waiter very kindly brought me a tiny metal jug... of balsamic vinegar.

It was a "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more" moment.

#265 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 05:28 PM:

Scott, I just got around to checking this thread for signs of life -- many thanks for the recipes. I'll be trying those. Mmmmmmmm, ranch sauce... I bet with a little extra tofu those would make an excellent dip, as well. *drools*

#266 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 05:56 PM:

Hey Dan, I have both of those too. And every single one of your comments was worth reading, however peculiarly formatted. "Why should salt suffer?" was a Great Moment...

Yonmei, I actually prefer balsamic to dip my fries in. To combine two subthreads, ranch dressing with a little balsamic vinegar is one of life's great goodnesses. (Right now I'm on Atkins Induction and can't eat either fries or balsamic vinegar, but oh well.)

#267 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 05:58 PM:

Back about PETA, I have an idea if they ever do the TV screens thing again. We do a Flash Mob and all go and stand looking at the screens, laughing at the poor animals, and applauding when one gets dismembered or killed.

This is not because I really think these things are good, but just to make the PEToids as angry as they make me. If 40 people do it, I bet they'd pack up the van and leave.

#268 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 07:27 PM:

If 40 people do it, I bet they'd pack up the van and leave.

...and if fifty people a day do it, can you imagine fifty people a day, walking up, laughing at the poor animals, and walking away, they might think it's a movement...

-j

#269 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 09:59 AM:

All the time I was there, only one dog was found a home by its research staff. The rest of the lucky adopted were stolen by staff and written off as having died in cages. I had one of those dogs. She was a sensitive intelligent Springer Spaniel mix that was acquired from the dog pound and ended up in a medical laboratory.

One of my roommates in Iowa City had lived with a vet-to-be when she was in school in Ames, Iowa. Each of the students was assigned a dog as a practice dog. Most of the students fell in love with their dogs, of course. In the course of the class, they did most of the standard operations on their practice dog. When they were done, the dog was missing one of about everything that it could be missing one of, as well as having been neutered. The final procedure was supposed to be euthanasia. Most of the students, including Lynette's room mate, snuck their dog out of the hospital and adopted them, instead. These were, by then, three-legged, one-eyed dogs with a single kidney, with a significantly shortened life-span. They were also happy, affectionate, sweet mutts, for the most part.

This story typifies my own ambivalence about animal experimentation. I am intensely grateful for the huge amount of experimentation that's been done which permits me to keep my cats alive for more than twice the life-span they had when I was a kid. The University here has a very good small animal vet hospital with the latest and the best of everything, which means that they do testing and experimentation on cats just like the ones I own and adore. That experimentation benefits me directly.

I'm especially discomfited by the idea of taking animals from pounds or humane societies that have been socialized by humans, and then lost or abandoned. It seems to me less of a betrayal to work with cage-bred creatures who don't look to humans as a source of affection, or even feral creatures who otherwise would be put down. I don't know that this emotional preference should have any moral weight, though. Is it really that much different?

I'm deeply ambivalent.

#270 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 11:32 AM:

J Greely, LOL. And it IS a movement: the Teresa's Soup Kitchen PETA-are-assholes movement!

#271 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 11:41 AM:

We were at the Science Museum in Toronto, which is built on a slope and runs through a forest, over the summer, and they had what looked like goshawk silhouettes on all the windows that faced habitats.

I didn't see any dead birds. I thought that was kind of a neat solution.

Real goshawks would be even neater.

Downtown Minneapolis had several peregrine falcons downtown. During nesting season, there was a live feed from one of the nests, located on City Center. Baby hawks are remarkably cute in a terribly ugly sort of way.

I don't know when I've last seen a pigeon downtown. Not that I look for them. I'd heard vague rumblings that they were going to cancel the program, but I don't remember why or when. Any gate, peregrine falcons are damn cool.

#272 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 11:46 AM:

Xopher, it's not that I dislike balsamic vinegar; I love it, and it was very tasty on my chips. It was just so unexpected - like asking for bread, expecting a couple of chunks off a supermarket white baguette, and getting a quarter-loaf of rye bread from Rumbolds instead.

Hope the Atkins goes well for you. I've been doing the eat-a-little-less exercise-a-little-more diet for ages now, and find it works well.

#273 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 12:10 PM:

Yonmei, I've been trying at least the second part of that. The trouble is, the more I exercise the more I eat. I already work out 6 days a week, and walk a fair amount.

The cool thing about Atkins is I can eat more as often as I feel hungry. This has led to some days when I eat remarkably little...I just don't get hungry as often.

#274 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 12:15 PM:

Lydy, if you or anybody else knows how to encourage peregrine falcons to take up residence in your neighborhood, I'm all ears.

Hell's Kitchen, being just west of Midtown Manhattan and Times Square, features a bountiful harvest of particularly stupid squab just waiting to be reaped. I've considered building me a flamethrower, but falcons would be more aesthetically satisfying on so many levels.

#275 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 01:17 PM:

Well we already have a variety of raptors in my neighborhood. One of the main streets near our home was originally an old farm road, with blue gums (eucalyptus) planted along each side. Now the street has been split and runs on the outside of the trees with a bike path down the middle where the old road once was. The trees are now 80-100 feet high and sound like surf when the winds really kick up in spring. Such lines of trees are not uncommon here in the San Joaquin -- they were intened to firm up marshy ground along a road and act as a windbreak.

Raptors love the things because of the wind wave that forms over the line of trees. I've seen 40 or 50 raptors soaring above the trees in great whirling disks. I don't think I'v ever spotted a golden eagle, but red tailed hawks are common enough along with the rare kestrel or falcon.

The most common raptors, though, are turkey vultures. They perch (but apparently do not nest) up in the trees and one section of the street on one side turned near white from their droppings. They are great big birds (which do look rather lovely -- from a distance -- in flight) and have become a bit of a problem for some of the homeowners closer to the street (we are three blocks away) and the city will occasionally deploy noisemakers and such to try to disperse them, with mixed results. I remember one spring evening, when the fireworks went off and all the vultures took wing -- and circled for 15 minuites over a local fast food outlet before dispersing. It does make you wonder.

But we don't have a problem with pigeons . . .

#276 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 03:52 PM:

Lydy, if you or anybody else knows how to encourage peregrine falcons to take up residence in your neighborhood, I'm all ears.

I gather the Minnesota Raptor Center is rather good at it:

http://www.raptor.cvm.umn.edu/

http://www.enn.com/features/2000/04/04142000/pere_11798.asp

The natural environment of peregrine falcons is similar to a downtown with skyscrapers. The skyscrapers provide the sheer drop-offs and updrafts, not to mention the pigeons, are a very friendly environment. I gather that some pedestrians in Minneapolis weren't entirely pleased with the occasional bit of bleeding pigeon that fell on them, and wanted to get rid of the falcons. All I can say is, "And pigeon shit is better?"

#277 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 05:01 PM:

I said: It seems to me that the carnivores who defend their diet by asking about the suffering of plants are really claiming that we don't know what pain and suffering are... I think that's horse hockey. You know pain when you see it.

Language Hat responded: Then how come Descartes, among others, was convinced animals don't suffer pain? I'm not saying he was right, obviously, just denying your premise. If he was wrong about animals, you could be wrong about plants. That said, I like your general approach.

I dunno about Descartes. If I absolutely had to guess, I'd say that he was tied up in trying to make a distinction between man and animal because he was attempting to support a theological point, and that the distinction was being made on some grounds other than scientific observation. Thirty years ago, doctors used to claim that human infants felt no pain, a claim utterly ludicrous for anyone who'd ever met a baby.

In the case of the doctors, they were doing two things. First, they were justifying the practice of doing surgery on babies without using anaesthesia. It's very dangerous to use a general on an infant, and one can sympathize. Second, they were redefining pain in order to accomplish the first. Roughly, the argument was that since infant brains haven't yet gotten very good at storing long-term memories, they won't remember the pain, therefore the pain didn't happen. Fly fishers are using this exact same argument today to claim that trout don't feel any pain from catch-and-release.

It's still pain. Not being able to remember it is a grace, as my Aunt found out. Her youngest son had severe brain damage from an accident 12 years earlier. One of the results was the form of amnesia featured in "Memento" where the brain is unable to turn short-term memory into long-term memory. While he was dying (of AIDS), this made his last months easier. Each morning he awoke without the expectation of pain, and without the memory of pain. He didn't experience the long-term accumulation of pain. Nevertheless, he most certainly did feel pain.

As for plants, though, plants do not have the anatomical structures necessary to experience pain, nor exhibit the behaviors that we associate with pain. We have no reason, empathic nor scientific, to believe that they suffer. As I've said in several conversations since this discussion started, NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE NERVOUS SYSTEM OF A BROCCOLI, NOT EVEN THE BROCCOLI. That the cells of plants can communicate basic information is, like, so not a surprise. It's a living organism. How else would it be able to grow, and have cell differentiation and all that jazz. I mean, this is like arguing that a potato is as smart as my cat. I've never seen a potato cop a hit of dope.

#278 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 06:46 PM:

Lydia: If you've seen your cat cop a hit of dope, I'd be very interested in your description of that event. Actually it sounds like you have, and if you've written this up anywhere I'd sincerely like to read it. Pictures?

While it's hard to be empathic with something so different, it is possible. I know that some plants do suffer. But that's not a very good argument, since I know my mind isn't a perfect observer. You would have even less reason to accept this argument.

A better one: If we can raise and kill animals without making them suffer, does that make it OK to eat them? If not, why not? And if not, why is it OK to kill plants even if they don't suffer?

Warning: the rest of this post contains specific descriptions of killing methods which may -- almost certainly will -- be very disturbing to some. Please don't read further if you're one of them.

Suffering and not is not necessarily intuitive. Years ago, my dad did some experiments designed to figure out which method of killing a rat caused it the least stress. (Not for humane reasons; he was studying stress chemistry in the brain, and needed a method that wouldn't -- or only minimally would -- distort his results.)

He and his team used a number of different methods, and then measured the stress-related chemicals in each rat's brain afterwards. Etherizing them turned out to be VERY high stress. They tried a method where the rat was fed ONLY with its head in a guillotine, which was there throughout the rat's life, and which the rat NEVER saw used; then one day, whack! Now I would expect that to be pretty good, but it was medium-high on the stressometer.

The lowest-stress method of killing a rat that they found was: handler picks up rat (wearing thick canvas gloves) and whacks its head hard on the edge of a table. Really nasty to hear about, but turned out not to be so bad for the rat at all (probably because all brain activity ceased almost immediately, which was not a characteristic of the other methods tried).

So it won't be obvious what the method will be. Perhaps the most humane way to slaughter a cow will turn out to be hitting it between the eyes with a big hammer. But we can do science to find out.

#279 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 02:04 AM:

Xopher: Yeah, she managed to cop her how hits. It's a long story, so I don't want to put it here. I'll try to put it in my LiveJournal soon. It's one of the stories I dine out on, it's fun to tell. Harder to write down, of course, but on the other hand, it would be just as well to have it written someplace. Lilith died two years (three? have I really lost count) years ago. At the time, I thought I should write down everything I could remember about her because memory is fallible. I haven't, and memory remains fallible. She was my cat for 16 years and I loved her more than many people I've known. So, look to my LJ.

As for pain, suffering, plants, etc.: In order to convince me that plants suffer, you have to explain to me what it is that they suffer _with_.

Would it be ok to kill and eat animals if they didn't feel? We're stepping into areas of morality that I don't care about, actually. I don't generally see diet as a matter of good or evil. What galls me is the disingenuousness of meat-eaters justifying their meat-eating by claiming that vegetarians don't consider the pain of plants. Oh, stuff and nonsense! They don't care a fig about vegetable pain, and its existence is strictly a stick with which to beat vegetarians. It's really just the flip side of the defensive meat eater, the one that apologizes and justifies their dietary choices when faced with a vegetarian to the extent of embarrassing everyone within earshot.

Icky Dead Rodent Discussion Ahead:

I'm not too surprised about the best way to assassinate a rat. It's what they recommend at pet shops for snake food. I was never able to manage it, personally. I did try a couple of times. Once, the mouse (it was a smallish snake, a corn snake) manged to turn about and bite me. I stalked out the apartment nursing a bleeding finger. DDB and I returned 3 hours later, to find the three cats surrounding a poor, bemused, but still very alive mouse. Every time he tried to move, one of the cats would bat it back into the middle. I felt terrible. Failing any other sensible thing to do, though, I picked it up and tossed it back into the snake cage, and this time Hazen ate it, rather than declining it. I'm very sad that the mouse had such a stressful death. This probably had a fair bit to do with why I gave the snake away, eventually. (I'd been doing ok as long as I could reach the pet store that sold frozen mice, but when I moved and got rid of the car, I was stuck with live food, and a squeamish stomach.)

Any gate, the ways to kill rodents that I know of that seem to be generally approved of all appear to involve suddenly broken necks. I knew a lab tech who swore by a method by which the rodent's head was slammed in a drawer such that the neck was instantly broken. Too fast and too thorough to hurt was the theory. The third, which I've heard discussed extensively in theory but most people don't end up using, is to grab the rodent by the base of the tail and the base of the skull, and then pull the tail fast and sharp. This method seems to have a high failure rate due to squeamishness. That was certainly my problem with it. Ick!

As for cows, one of the common methods for killing cows is the hammer method. That might be one of the ones that is being forbidden due to BSE, though. We know an awful lot about humane slaughter, and are learning more. Temple Grandin's life work is to make slaughter houses more humane. She's a strange person, but extremely good at her work. ("...carried past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes towards the rotating knives.")

I'm not as romantic as you might infer from this thread. I don't believe on a natural order or an absolute morality. I see no reason to preserve the ecology -- except that when we don't, worse things happen. It's way more complex than anything we can understand, and sustains itself and us in ways we can't guess at. That being the case, destroying local ecosystems is bloody expensive. I also don't think that just because something is natural it's a good idea. Even if you could prove to me that my ancient ancestors ate a specific diet on the veldt in Africa, I wouldn't find that all that useful as a guide as to how to eat now, in urbanized USA, with the types of environmental assaults and normal activities I live in.

As far as that goes, I also don't think that there's much to learn from animals in terms of our ethical responsibility towards the world in which we live. As humans, we have a better ability to project the future and to affect it than I believe animals have. We have better tools, both material and intellectual. Accepting the level of ethical responsibility of a house cat is kind of silly, if you ask me. Natural does not equal good, in my opinion. Quite aside from attempting to define natural, I refuse to accept that the universe exists in some perfect state that I can interfere with. It's here, I'm here, we happened here by chance and choice, and my mere presence here changes the future. The past, the status quo, gives us data, not a moral imperative.

Sorry. That damn soap box is so seductive, ne?

#280 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 04:55 PM:

Any gate, the ways to kill rodents that I know of that seem to be generally approved of all appear to involve suddenly broken necks. I knew a lab tech who swore by a method by which the rodent's head was slammed in a drawer such that the neck was instantly broken. Too fast and too thorough to hurt was the theory. The third, which I've heard discussed extensively in theory but most people don't end up using, is to grab the rodent by the base of the tail and the base of the skull, and then pull the tail fast and sharp. This method seems to have a high failure rate due to squeamishness.

[warning: the link might squick some people]
Cervical dislocation works well for small animals (although I've never heard of using a drawer), but you do have to be very definite and determined. There's no room for hesitation. Many labs use CO2 asphyxiation, which is ridiculous -- it causes visible distress. The best system I've seen, and the one I adopted many years ago when I was killing mice for lab work, is a mixture of oxygen and CO2 to induce sleep -- there are no signs of distress, just a sleepy rodent -- followed by skillful cervical dislocation. (I wouldn't do that project now, but my views on animal work were not well formed at the time.)

#281 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 07:01 PM:

Would it be ok to kill and eat animals if they didn't feel? We're stepping into areas of morality that I don't care about, actually.

I don't care about that either, but it's not what I asked. I asked if it would be OK to raise and kill them for food if we could do that without causing them suffering. They do feel, that's not going to change, but it might be possible to have cruelty-free meat. And this removes the suffering criterion for distinguishing between animals and plants as food sources.

I'm contending that the real distinction is "too close to me/not too close to me," and that's a very personal line. Some people would eat monkey meat, others wouldn't; a friend-of-friends wouldn't eat anything that had eyes. It's personal, and has more to do with squick than ethics. I'm saying all the Right and Wrong lines people draw are artificial ones, and serve to justify their personal distinctions as Right (and optionally others' as Wrong).

I have no problem with anyone else's dietary choices, just as I have no problem with others' spiritual choices. It's One True and Only Way-ism that I have a problem with. PETA is only one especially reprehensible example.

#282 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2004, 01:51 AM:

I said: Would it be ok to kill and eat animals if they didn't feel? We're stepping into areas of morality that I don't care about, actually.


Xopher said: I don't care about that either, but it's not what I asked. I asked if it would be OK to raise and kill them for food if we could do that without causing them suffering. They do feel, that's not going to change, but it might be possible to have cruelty-free meat. And this removes the suffering criterion for distinguishing between animals and plants as food sources.

Since I think it's ok to raise and kill animals for food even though some suffering occurs, I can't see how it could be not ok if there were no suffering involved. Did I miss the question, somewhere? Admittedly, I'm just barely on this side of it being ok for me to eat meat, but I am on this side of the divide.

In my opinion, cruelty-free meat would be ideal. The thing I am genuinely against is gratuitous cruelty. I don't think it would actually remove the distinction between plant and animal as a food source, though. The question is very complicated. Graydon has some very good things to say about the ecological complexities, for instance. The intellectual capacity of plants and animals isn't the same, either, and so the question of shortening the life of a turnip vs. a cow still comes up, in my opinion.

#283 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2004, 02:06 AM:

My view of Xopher's questions

If we can raise and kill animals without making them suffer, does that make it OK to eat them? If not, why not? And if not, why is it OK to kill plants even if they don't suffer?
hinges on the idea of equal consideration of interests. That does not mean that a human, a cow and a carrot get identical treatment, because they don't have identical interests. I have decided not to weigh my (relatively trivial) interest in eating beef over the cow's (entirely vital) interest in not being eaten. The carrot has no interests in any meaningful sense, so I'll happily eat it.

Incidentally, this discussion spurred me to do some digging into eggs and dairy. It appears that a great deal of the beef that gets eaten comes from dairy cows (and their male calves). A cow can live 20-30 years, but is slaughtered before 10 because milk production has peaked. I suspect that the same thing applies to chickens and male chicks. While it would be possible to provide an old cow's/old chicken's home and pass the costs on to the consumer (and while I would pay those costs), I don't see how a dairy or egg farmer who did that could remain competitive. So, hello soy milk and egg substitutes.

#284 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2004, 04:07 PM:

Of course the same thing applies to chickens (but chicken sexing is a black art and feeding male chicks as opposed to scrapping them is another issue) - part of the point of battery chickens is to manage the battery not the chicken - hence the whole group of chickens is for the chop regardless of individual efforts.

Odd that farming the land has moved toward more information more variation with GPS location of planting, tilling and harvesting and raising chickens has moved toward paying attention to the battery not the bird. Then again there is the special attention to the animal of Japanese style beef. (Kobe of course is a regional appelation wine style)

#285 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 12:36 AM:

Well, sennoma, I can help out a bit as far as poultry is concerned. I worked on plant data systems in the largest chicken processing plant in the world for five years. (I do think I have posted about this before.) It was a fully integrated broler (young chicken) operation including feed formulation, breeder ranches, hatcheries, grow-out ranches, processing, packaging and distribution. At full capacity we processed a quarter million birds a day.

Unlike the beef industry, almost all the chicken you find in a store was raised for meat. A laying hen, whether in a meat or an egg operation will be kept for two to three years before being sold as a roaster hen -- generally larger and with a more pronounced flavor -- passable for coq qu vin and great for stock. On the other hand, most commercial chickens are broiler hens, only 48-50 days old on average when sent to the plant. The reason is that a young chicken is an almost perfect protein conversion machine, second only to, according to some, young rabbits. During the first 7-8 weeks, the feed/growth curves are nearly straight lines. As a rule of thumb, two pounds of feed will result in one pound of chicken. (The other pound of feed ends up as organic fertilizer, which is a fragrant profit center in its own right.)

(The same warning for the squeamish given in above posts applies here.)

The killing operation was engineered to reduce stress on the chickens both for humane reasons, and because in chickens, stress significantly affects the quality of the meat. The chickens were very young and had never been out of their house on the grow-out ranch, and have never been under any kind of threat (just the opposite). The birds appear to be rather calm when unloaded from the trucks. They are carried into a red lit room (they find darkness calming) on a conveyor, where they are hung by their ankles on a moving chain converyor. As they pass into the kill tunnel, they are rendered unconscious by electric shock (this seems to work well with birds, perhaps better than mammals, I'm not sure) and decapitated by a moving blade. After bleeding out (in something logically called the blood tunnel) the carcasses are plucked (by machines with rubber fingers -- no kidding), cleaned, and eviscerated. Within 30 minuites there has to be a full visual inspection of each bird by a USDA FSIS inspector, and the temperature of the carcass has to be reduced to below 40 degrees F by either water immersion or air blast. At our plant, there were three inspections (two were our employees, and we rejected birds that USDA passed) and completed the chill in 15 minuites. From there it is packinging of either whole birds or parts, and distrbution. In general, a bird that arrived early in the morning would be packed and ready to ship by noon. During the times of year that distribution ran a little tight, product could be on the shelf less than two days after slaughter.

As far as male chicks are concerned, the nearly universal practice of all poultry operations is to raise only female birds as they are, of course, what you need for egg production but also better meat animals as well. The process of separating the males from females is called sexing and is a speciality that can only be assisted by technology -- in the end it takes a trained person to do it well. In the past male chicks were not killed but were simply dumped into a container and died of pressure, suffication and thermnal shcck (chicks need to be kept at a precise temperature). In recent years, many operations started to used C02 systems for this, but there is a trend to an electric shock system pioneered in Israel that appears to be much more humane, based on their research.

#286 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 02:36 AM:

Thanks, Claude. Got any good suggestions for egg substitutes?

#287 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 02:55 AM:

Claude Muncey : I thought that squid and octopus were more efficient protein machines than chickens. Some paper on how to raise meat for lunar colonies. Squid jiggers in space. Calimari on Copernicus.

I had a professor who'd had a pet octopus. Swore it could count to 3. Most intelligent invertebrate on Earth, he said.

PETA defends octopods? Disclaimer at the end of "Octopussy" needs to say "no actual molluscs injured in the filming, except some snails in butter and garlic?"

Disturbed by vertebrate-centrism of this thread.

We're outnumbered by insects, even by net weight. Glad they can't vote. And they're outweighed by bacteria, in turn maybe by nanoplankton. Four legs good, two legs bad, no legs best?

Too many beers while watching football championships today. Rooted for New England Patriots because I watched their summer practices at UMass/Amherst when in grad school. 2 years out of 3 in the superbowl. Typing exacerbates hangover. Best hit the sack now. Night, night.

#288 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 03:08 AM:

Lydia: You asked what plants suffer with: I'd say, their chemical subsystems. As I mentioned above, plants communicate with each other through chemical releases (~scent?). The first page I found when googling "plant communication" was this well-written column, which speaks of how within minutes of clipping a plant's leaves to simulate an insect attack, nearby plants had filled themselves with chemicals that tasted bad to insects. I think it's a fair assumption that as a reaper moves down a field, each plant cut is "screaming" chemically, and all the plants as yet uncut are in a flurry of chemical action. I suppose the question, though, is what is suffering?

As for raptors, I'm all for them, and I think every city should have them. I want a nesting pair on my roof, darnit. The biodiversity of my neighborhood is currently: 1. pigeons; 2. sparrows. We don't even have squirrels. But as if to fill a certain required mass of fauna, we've got more pigeons than I can shake a stick at.

I do remember that a while back, maybe last year, a raptor tried to take a tiny dog that was being walked in the park... I think the owner scared the bird off and the dog lived, but there were rumblings about putting an end to the city's raptor program. I don't, alas, remember the city, or how it turned out.

Claude: If it's not too much trouble, I'm curious to know what were the reasons a dead chicken wouldn't pass inspection, and what happened to the ones that didn't pass. Also, I recall from some novel or other that chickens had to be scalded to be able to get the tiny down/pinfeathers off... Is that still done, or do the rubber fingers manage it all?

#289 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 07:50 AM:

sennoma: beyond the typical commercial ones, no. This group came up with vegan ranch dressing, any ideas on egg substitutes out there?

Madeline: This is not something that I know deeply, but I believe that there were two classes of defects: food safety and cosmetic. An inspector would mark a cosmetic problem and it would be removed by a worker down the line. As for other defects, (minor grossout warning) the viscera are left hanging down from the bird at first after evisceration (which we just usually shortened to evis) and it would be inspected for a variety of organic abnormalities. I don't remember what the typical reject rates were, and it has been a while. But they usually were quite low.

The great majority of avian infections are not transmnissible to mammals, much less humans. However, there are bacteria common and sometimes harmless to birds that are dangerous to us such as salmonella and listeria. In these cases, inspection is not useful. What you have is a HACCP program (hazard analysis of critical control points) sampling feed and birds throughout the production process. These tests cover all sorts of stuff including water quality and a range of diseases. (If you want a good job these days, try lab manager for a large food processing firm.) Samples are taken from the processing line to backcheck the HACCP process -- but the idea is to prevent problem birds from ever being delivered to the plant at all.

And as we always said, remember to cook your chicken throroughly.

Jonathan, I would believe that octopus and squid would be more efficient, living in an effectively weightless environment. Would you know if these mollusks work well in aquaculture?

#290 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 08:00 AM:

Minneapolis' raptor program certainly has had it's ups and downs, but the Peregrine Falcons are still here. One of the highlights of last summer was waiting for the bus downtown, and looking up (I do this all the time...bird nerd), spotting a peregrine...and after a few circles, watching it dive for a pigeon, get it, and fly away. I don't think it clocked the full 200 mph, but it was pretty darn exciting.

Red-tailed hawks are another good option for pigeon control, especially in well-treed areas of cities. They're calm-tempered, intelligent, adaptable, and are already moving in. Goshawks unfortunately don't have the temperament for it.

Re: house sparrows: Unfortunately, predator control isn't going to do a whole lot with these guys. IIRC, the main reason their populations have exploded is because we build such that the crevices they prefer to nest in are abundant. So sealing up corners, and holes behind signs and such, is a better way to deal with it.

also, I had a bio prof swear that the house sparrows stopped coming to his yard when he let his grass stay longer than 6" or so. His theory was that they won't forage in the longer grass because they can't see predators approach. So just think, you can discourage sparrows, help a whole ton of other animals (including invertebrates! they love long grass), and save yourself a ton of work every year. No more mowing!

#291 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 10:43 PM:

I was hitchhiking out the to woods in the Arkansas Ozarks in the mid-eighties and not getting any rides at all when only a few yards in front of me swooped five bald eagles!

A remarkable sight. My parents, who live near War Eagle, occasionally had one perch in a tree in the front yard, but I'd never seen more than one at a time, and never have since. It blew me away.

When I got home (having abandoned the trip, as rides were dismally slow that day), I called my friend Joe Neal, co-author of The Birds of Arkansas, to make a report.

Joe was surprisingly sanguine about the whole matter.

"I hope it doesn't take any of the majesty out of it for you," he said, then explained to me that local chicken houses in that area dumped their dead birds in fields for the eagles to eat.

Ah, the Chain of Life!

#292 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 07:27 AM:

Yeah...that sort of thing seems to happen a lot :). My first baldy was chowin' down on roadkill.

We were actually on a trip in search of owls--it was one of the colder winters, and had been officially dubbed an "owl invasion year" because owls from Canada were moving south into Minnesota in search of food. Me being obsessed with owls, I coerced a friend into going up to northern Minnesota with me.

Anyway, so in the middle of the afternoon, we're tootling down a teensy little highway, mildly lost, and definitely not where I thought we were driving to, and I see a light-phase Great Horned Owl on the side of the road. (light-phase does not in fact refer to Star Wars. Instead it means lots of white, light brown, light grey feathers instead of the usual darker ones. Anyway.). My first Minnesota owl ever. I of course screech to a halt, back up, and go completely googly-woogly, and drag out the spotting scope. We were all of ten feet from her, and I'm absolutely rapturous with being able to see feathers and the eyes and all that jazz.

So then she puts her wings out, shakes them a bit, looking very serene and beautiful etc., and I'm all alive with the majesty of nature, and getting all tingly, and then what does she do?

Takes a giant dump. Then she looks at us for a long moment and flies off.

Yeah, there's majesty of nature for you.

Most birds do in fact do that before flying away..for the simple reason that it makes them lighter. Nonetheless. Dignity. Sigh.

#293 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Yeah, the fact that bald eagles are carrion fowl doesn't sit will with people who somehow think pure predators are better...they're prettier than vultures, but behave similarly from what I hear.

#294 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 05:16 PM:

Claude:

I think you're right about octopod and squid fast growth, again because they are weightless.

I see references in PDF online, such as Goncalves J.M. 1989. Perspectivas de repovoamento e aquacultura de Sepia officinalis (Mollusca: Cephalopoda) em sistemas lagunares costeiros. Acoreana. 7 (1) : pp.143-152 [portuguese]
But I don't read Portuguese. Except "Sonnets from the Portuguese" [which aren't].

Anyone willing to dive into:

Cephalopod-Related Publications from 2003
http://www.cephbase.dal.ca/refdb/ref2003.cfm

Mostly about (to quote from American Psycho) "free-range squid", and the giant squid axons, so beloved of neurophysiology labs. I really don't know which Moon Base paper started me on this... Does George W. Bush like calimari?

#295 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 07:17 PM:

adamsj: it's not just chickens. A few years ago we took an ALASKAN cruise, i.e., not an Alaskan CRUISE where being on shipboard is the main entertainment but an 85-passenger ship that went through places a liner couldn't fit even with lubrication. This let us tie up next to a large fish plant next to downtown Sitka and observe that bald eagles had taken over the niche normally occupied by gulls, namely swooping low over the outflow, screaming "That was my piece of trash" at each other, and keeping the surface of the harbor a bit cleaner. My pictures are buried too deep right now, but I think there's one showing 20 bald eagles perched in a nearby cluster of trees. (NB: I'm not \certain/ this was natural, as Sitka has a major raptor rehab center -- but I think it returns fully-rehab'ed birds to where they came from instead of releasing them locally.)

#296 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 08:55 PM:

TNH: we're watching a special on NOVA about dogs ("Dogs and More Dogs"), and they had clips on this. They only showed one dog, who would get excited enough about good canned food to fall over. John Lithgow, who is narrating, mentioned that when the dog got out into the hallway, the staff knew they didn't have to hurry after him: sure enough, partway down the hall, down in a heap.

Because it was a puppy, it was cute in a guilty and sad kind of way.

(They had a shot of the journal where they announced the gene discovery with the puppy, on the floor, on the cover.)

#297 ::: Aislinn Jayne ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 10:15 PM:

"Leah Miller ::: January 11, 2004, 07:54 AM:
To me it seems like the big villain here is overpopulation, not dietary choice. Unfortunately most methods to prevent the former are seen as unethical, to the point that it is difficult even to start a conversation on the subject. It seems that environmental discussions often have overpopulation as the elephant in the room. "


Have you ever heard of the Movie Soylent Green? Gruesome tale of overpopulation, I've heard.

"Soylent Green is People!"

#298 ::: Aislinn Jayne ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 10:29 PM:

Yonmei ::: January 13, 2004, 07:42 AM:

"Tomato ketchup on chips? Effete Americans! (Though, actually, I love the chilli sauce you get at some chip stands in the US: gives those thin "french fry" type chips you like some bite.)"

Not much of a fan of kechup. I prefer bbq, sweet and sour sauce, or steak sauce. Honey mustard is great, too!

"The English like chips with salt and vinegar. In Scotland we like chips with salt, vinegar, and brown sauce diluted with more vinegar. The vinegar should be white distilled malt vinegar, and ideally there should be enough of it on a big poke of chips wrapped up in greaseproof paper and newspaper to make you cough at the first hot bite. The chips should be slathered in the stuff, so that your hands get greasy and munged up with the black ink off the old newspaper. You eat them walking along the street, late at night after leaving the pub, and the warmth of the poke is comforting to your ungloved hands."

I'll try anything once. I go for excess in anything: salt, pepper (red and black), any tangy sauces, ranch dressing, and chocolate.

"We Scots are a people of wide culinary tolerancies: we will adopt any food from anywhere in the world, so long as you can deep-fry it and serve it with chips. (If you can't deep-fry it, as with pizza or Mars bars, we will dip it in batter and fry it anyway.)"

There is a restarant in Florida that could oblige you on the Mars bars. How the heck do you deep fry a chocolate bar? I'd like to try it.

(gurgling sound) guhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fried chocolate

LOL

#299 ::: Aislinn Jayne ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 08:49 PM:

Guys? No one has spoken for quite some time, and no one responded to my posts *sniffs armpits* Do I offend?

#300 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 07:10 PM:

Nah, your listing just got crowded off the "recent comments." Or maybe people just said all they have to say here.

And you can get deep-fried Oreos at the Madonna Dei Martyri festival here in Hoboken, NJ. I haven't tried them, because I hate Oreos, but they're there.

#301 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 12:33 AM:

Well, now that this has popped back up, a very belated comment on Ayse's mention of gene chips....

These are not intended for implantation, if what you heard about is what I think they are (gene expression microarrays).

[Warning; massive oversimplifications ahead. Also, I don't make these, or even work directly with them, so I may be wrong about details, except that since I'm oversimplifying, there shouldn't be too many details to get wrong.]

What they do is put little snippets of DNA or RNA on a chip, with each snippet designed to bind to a particular sequence; say, part of a gene that makes a protein used in cellular division, or a particular variant version of a gene (like the enzyme deficiency that can cause anemia if you eat fava beans), or whatever.

Then they take samples and wash 'em across the chip, and the ones that bind light up, so they know not to feed you fava beans.

There are also a lot of applications for things like cancer diagnosis, and eventually treatments...for example if the chip shows that your tumor is using a particular growth factor protein, they might be able to give you drugs that inhibit that growth factor.

The two factors that will make this more practical are getting the cost down (duh) and getting good haplotype maps so they know what markers to look for.

Some of the scientists where I work are working on the latter project.

#302 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 03:43 AM:

Christopher: That's very cool, and the closest I've seen to being remotely like what they were talking about on the radio (as I think I mentioned, I was driving when I heard the report, and was never able to find anything on the subject later, so I probably got one or two essential details just wrong). Thanks for posting that. I think I will spend some time reading through that site when I have all my wits about me. I hope this comment doesn't fall off the end of the list before you see it, though.

Aislinn: Everybody's over making "Slushkiller" into the Oscar-winning post of the month.

#303 ::: Aislinn ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 10:15 PM:

ok, you see, I was only 3 days away from the last post and was hoping the thread wasn't shut down.

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