I Support More Troops Than You

May 30, 2011

Ah, Memorial Day. The day when Americans fire up the grill, slap an extra magnetic ribbon on the SUV and try to achieve that perfect zen state of drunkeness where they can actually sit through nine innings of professional baseball. Although hold on…I feel like there’s something I’m forgetting here beyond the day off work…oh, that’s right! Let’s not forget the true spirit of Memorial Day. The thing that holds our great country together in exhilirating national lockstep: celebrating the bad decisions made by young men who were either too ignorant to understand or too cynical to care about the consequences of their actions.

To quote Dave Trenga: this is the age faceless, nameless, endless war. The United States has been engaged in continuous military action since World War II, having bombed some 33 countries in that time. What does this have to do with veganism or agriculture? Well, as Mickey Zezima has been kindly reminding us all weekend, the United States military is the worst polluter on the planet. Unlike major corporations like BP or Exxon, the military doesn’t even have to maintain the pretense that it cares about the environment, much less make an effort to clean up the devastation it leaves in its wake.

Sustainability is a concern for us and a lot of our readers. We believe that, beyond supporting local agriculture, there is a bigger picture when it comes to the health and wholeness of the planet. If you regard yourself as an environmentalist or a supporter of animal rights, it is incumbent upon you to oppose war, not just symbolically but materially. What that opposition looks like is up to you but, if nothing else, just don’t work for them.

That means don’t join the service, don’t work for a reconstruction firm, don’t take their research grants, don’t build their machines and, if you’re clever enough to cook the books and get away with it, don’t pay the taxes that they use to keep the eternal war going.

If you have mourning to do today then by all means do it, and my sincere condolences to you. But just remember: we are all here on this planet together and what we do to the Earth, the animals and eachother, we ultimately do to ourselves. If humans are going to make it as a species, we need to make some radical changes in the way we allow our collective labor to be mobilized.

Here are a couple of good resources on the impact of war on nonhuman animals and the environment:

ANIMALS – The Hidden Victims of War

An useful overview of ecological fallout from specific 20th and 21st century wars as provided by, oddly enough, a Danish water treatment corporation.

If you want more detailed information, searching for the name of a war or conflict + “environmental impact” will usually bring up some good primary resources.

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Changes to the blog!

May 29, 2011

Hey, friends.

Carolyn and I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be making some changes to the way we run our blog over the coming weeks. We initially started this project because we were so disturbed by the intellectual dishonesty of The Vegetarian Myth. As frustrating as it has been at times to engage with such willfully obtuse writing, we feel like we’ve done a credible job of deconstructing much of the text. Our past posts will stand as a contribution to a growing knowledge base compiled by those who are skeptical of the ecological sustainability and ethical legitimacy of paleo-diets.

Food politics are more of a national conversation than ever now and that is a good thing. Even if they’re not sure what the answer should be, more and more people are trying to shake off the nightmare of agribusiness cartels, monocrops and CAFOs that have typified the last century’s food production systems. As radical vegans, we feel compelled to take part in this conversation on how to transition away from a manifestly unsustainable system. Specifically, we want the world to understand that there is no such thing as an “ethical” mode of food production that depends on the systematic murder, reproductive and sexual domination, castration and confinement of nonhuman animals.

Naturally, the marketing agencies employed by those aforementioned agribusinesses want to have their say as well. With budgets in the millions, you can bet that their voices will be heard. Major corporations seeking to appear ahead of the curve are aggressively selling us images of “happy” meat and dairy and, with them, a lower threshold of guilt. Carolyn and I have been at turns disturbed and disheartened by recent trends in what seems to be an anti-movement of reactionary ex-vegans and vegetarians. What made Lierre Keith’s book infuriating enough for us to dedicate so many hours of our lives to its deconstruction is that (presumably) she’s not on the take from corporate marketers! Rather, she purports to come from within our own movement: a self-described ecofeminist who nevertheless believes that other creatures actually appreciate her desire to violate their bodies owing to a connection she projects upon them.

But at the end of the day, though we feel the need to debunk her neurotic and manipulative narrative, we don’t find her personal contribution to food politics all that noteworthy. There comes a point with projects like this at which you either have to change topics or write a book. The Vegetarian Myth does not merit a rejoinder on that level.

What follows from here is going to be our contribution to the ongoing discussion of what our food should be, where it should come from and how it should get to us. We will be lending context to the status quo account of current affairs with the hope of enlivening our readers’ understandings of the ongoing relevance of radical veganism. We’ll be making connections between animal liberation, anti-capitalism, human rights, feminism, and other modes. We’ll be continuing to expand upon the conversation about ecology, agriculture, veganism, and carnism– especially carnism that’s wrapped in radical language. We will also be soliciting essays and articles from outside contributors on their own personal stories of ethical living and ecological wisdom. And if Lierre Keith says anything that’s just too dumb to pass up, we’ll probably comment on it.

Check back here soon for new content.

Peace,
Carolyn and Alex


James McWilliams: What’s Being Butchered Here is Logic

May 27, 2011

James McWilliams’ recent piece in The Atlantic has been making the online rounds recently. I read it this morning and thought he highlighted a few interesting points about nonhuman animals that often get passed over when people are discussing sustainability and food production. Namely, McWilliams discusses the ways in which Darwinism problematized the binary human/nonhuman paradigm which, for a stone age throwback, still gets a lot of play in certain quarters.

When humans and non-human animals are part of a continuum, rather than qualitatively distinct forms of life, human meat-eaters confront a serious quandary. It becomes incumbent upon us to forge a contemporary justification for carnivorous behavior. Aristotle and Genesis will no longer do. By undermining the long-held basis of inherent human superiority over non-human animals, the science of evolution obliterated the framework within which thoughtful carnivores long justified their behavior. As it now stands, human meat-eaters, unless they reject modern science, support the killing of non-human animals without the slightest intellectual or ethical grounding.

I can’t say I’m a fan of foodie-ism as it pertains to real solutions for the problem of food production, distribution and sustainability. It rankles just a little bit to see people turning food into an expensive hobby when you know that over a billion humans worldwide are starving, to say less of the 45 billion nonhumans being murdered every year for a nutritional need that does not exist. I’m glad that there seems to be a consciousness shift away from CAFOs and industrial monocultures, but sometimes well-meaning people can be frustratingly blind to matters of class or species privilege. Food is not a toy. We live and die by it. Or, as Josh Harper put it: “reading a Michael Pollan book doesn’t excuse you (or him) from having to consider the lives you are taking and the suffering you contribute to.”