On his thoughts on vegetarians: “They make for bad travelers and bad guests. The notion that before you even set out to go to Thailand, you say, ‘I’m not interested,’ or you’re unwilling to try things that people take so personally and are so proud of and so generous with, I don’t understand that, and I think it’s rude. You’re at Grandma’s house, you eat what Grandma serves you.”
On his loathing feelings toward vegans: “I don’t have any understanding of it. Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon, completely self-indulgent.”
Good lord. Really? It’s the hezbollah thing all over again. How hard is it to realize that there’s nothing more “completely self-indulgent” than killing and eating animals when you don’t have to?
Is it just me or has Anthony Bourdain always felt like the phoniest of the phony celebrity chefs? His persona seems so overtly manufactured. Like, I feel that Gordon Ramsay is pretty close to what you get on Kitchen Nightmares. But Bourdain has always come off like a fake jackarse mugging for the camera.
Have you seen the piece that aired on World News Tonight and Nightline last night? Let’s talk about it a bit.
Just to get it out of the way: yes, the story has the expected issue of focusing on abuse rather than use, but I’m going to focus on the positive effect a piece like this could have. Here’s why I think that, obvious problems aside, the airing of this piece will be positive in the long run:
1. It aired on a mainstream news program (actually, programs)
This piece aired on ABC during prime time on World News Tonight and later in the evening on Nightline. The former is a news broadcast my dad watches (he’s not one for overtly political leaning newscasts in either direction). That’s mainstream. And they’re showing footage from Mercy for Animals. That’s pretty impressive. Sure, it’s happened before, but when this sort of footage gets in front of a mainstream audience, the idea of veganism seems a little more normal to these same people.
2. A dairy farmer dug his own hole
Did you catch the dairy farmer they interviewed? He started off by giving the standard “it’s in our best interest to treat them well” line and shortly thereafter was stumbling all over himself defending tail docking and horn clipping as “standard industry practice” (which it is) and saying, “Of course I wish we didn’t have to do it…” It was enough to make you feel sorry for the guy. Almost. Except for the whole exploiting animals for personal gain thing.
I don’t think too many people can get behind docking cow’s tails or cutting their horns. (Except for those who convince themselves it’s not a standard practice.)
3. The artificial insemination footage
It was only about two or three seconds long and it only aired on the Nightline version of the story, but I think the very brief shot they showed of a farmhand elbow deep, artificially inseminating a dairy cow could be the most important piece of footage. I think the majority of people still kid themselves with visions of happy bovines humping in meadows of green grass. I’m also pretty sure the sentiment that “well, the cows have to be milked” is still prevalent. This very short piece of footage, though, is like a slap in the face: no, these dairy cows are not naturally pregnant and happily giving their milk to us. We’re raping them, confining them, and then stealing the milk meant for their offspring, all so we can have our next hit of cheese.
I’m hoping that short bit of video replays in people’s minds when they sit down with a glass of milk or a bowl of ice cream.
And, yes, there are some problems…
While the majority of the piece focuses on these cruel practices that are going on every second of every day, there’s just enough of the welfare message that I can certainly imagine someone coming away with the idea that, “Hey, that’s awful, but at least they’re starting to phase out those practices. Now I can feel OK about consuming milk.” And that’s the big downside of championing welfare legislation as a victory: a marginal welfare improvement becomes marketing fodder for the dairy industry.
And in case there’s any doubt that this is the message that people are getting, one need look no further than the comment section on the web version of the story (or a blog entry from before the story aired). Skip past all of the “gee, thanks for only showing one side of the story!” comments and you get to ones like this:
“I pledge to drink water and hope everyone that reads this will do the same. We can live without milk, until the humane society can get this straightened out.”
It’s a shame, because if that quote ended after “We can live without milk,” it’d be perfectly fine. But I’m sorry to say: if you wait for the Humane Society to “straighten it out,” there’s a problem. Everyone has to stop waiting for someone else to fix the problem. You can help fix the problem right now, this instant. Stop drinking milk, stop eating cheese, stop eating ice cream, stop consuming dairy. There’s no magic welfare wand that can be waved that will make it all OK. I hope that soon people will start coming away from stories like this thinking, “That’s terrible and I’m not going to be a part of it” rather than “That’s terrible and, boy oh boy, someone should do something about it!”
(If you haven’t seen the story, here’s the shorter version that aired on World News Tonight. A longer version appeared on Nightline, but doesn’t appear to be archived online.)
“What is the essence of pig?” Virginia farmer Joel Salatin asked an audience of about 200 University students and Charlottesville residents last Thursday.
Dubbed “high priest of the pasture” by The New York Times, Salatin said life for his pigs is a “Hog Heaven.” His 550-acre farm, Polyface, Inc., is like an animal sanctuary, he said…
Sounds pretty nice, right?
Until you read the second paragraph of “Holy cow!” from The Cavalier Daily (VA) in full:
Dubbed “high priest of the pasture” by The New York Times, Salatin said life for his pigs is a “Hog Heaven.” His 550-acre farm, Polyface, Inc., is like an animal sanctuary, he said, created to produce high-quality pork, beef and poultry that his consumers can trust.
Wash my mouth out with vegan soap, but: what the fuck?
It gets worse:
As he describes in his latest book, “Holy Cows and Hog Heaven,” Salatin believes that the journey “from farm to fork” is a sacred one. Beginning the lecture with a quote from the Book of Genesis, he said the road to success in the agricultural world is rooted in Christianity. The reflection of Christian values onto the land and the happiness of the animals is one of the main focuses of Polyface, Inc., Salatin said.
A self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic-beyond-organic farmer,” Salatin promotes six principles he believes every farmer should follow: order, forgiveness, peace, relationships, honesty, humility and healing. These principles develop a peaceful, beautiful environment and a food system consumers can appreciate.
So, apparently the ideas of “peace” and “healing” involve slaughtering animals based on something in scripture and then selling it as happy meat.
“I’m in the healing industry,” Salatin said. In his opinion, healing is one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of farming, meant to nurture the land and livestock with the utmost care and respect. His ultimate goal is not to increase productivity and efficiency, but to “make an animal sanctuary.”
Dude, if you want to build an animal sanctuary, build a place where animals, you know, have sanctuary.
If he was just promoting happy meat, that probably wouldn’t even be worth mentioning here. But Salatin’s assertion that what he provides for animals is “sanctuary” is offensive to the truly compassionate people that run actual animal sanctuaries, the people that do what they do for the animals and not for the financial benefit that comes from their death.
I think I’ll close with this quote from Salatin, a question he should ask himself a little more carefully:
“There is a respectful, righteous way and an evil way to produce — which one are we feeding?” Salatin asked.
Covered two pigs head to tail in spray paint and tagged a third on his nose,
Marked two heifers on their sides and rears, and
Marked a cow’s genitalia.
But here’s the thing: the animals are being used “for show” and eventually are sold for meat. Of course the commenters on the story are saying things along the lines of “Show some respect for the animals!” Newsflash: if those animals weren’t being contained in cages at a school and used like objects, they wouldn’t be getting spray painted.
This is not to say, of course, that the kids that did it shouldn’t be caught and punished, but let’s save the holier-than-thou attitude. The confinement, use, and eventual murder of the animals is much worse abuse than the vandalism, yet the program is viewed as noble and worthy of praise and defense.