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Why not like a Rooster?

September 24th, 2010 No comments

First a poem. (via)

Poor Patriarch
………………………
The rooster pushes his head
high among the hens, trying to be
what he feels he must be, here
in the confines of domesticity.
Before the tall legs of my presence,
he bristles and shakes his ruby comb.
Little man, I want to say
the hens know who they are.
I want to ease his mistaken burden,
want him to crow with the plain
ecstasy of morning light as it
finds its winter way above the woods.
Poor outnumbered fellow,
how did he come to believe
that on his plumed shoulders
lay the safety of an entire flock?
I run my hand down the rippled
brindle of his back, urge him to relax,
drink in the female pleasures
that surround him, of egg laying,
of settling warm-breasted in the nest
of this brief and feathered time.
from Quickening; Slate Roof Press, 2007
Then …

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  (Luke 13:34, Mat 23:37)

In this passage the very Son of God chose a female, mothering, nurturing metaphor to express how he desired to relate to Jerusalem.   I like the combination of that and of urging the Poor Patriarch to “drink in the female pleasures … of egg laying, of settling warm-breasted in the nest of this brief and feathered time.”   Beautiful.

Interacting with “The Vegetarian Myth” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

September 22nd, 2010 No comments

The Vegetarian Myth –

->  A general review by Ginny Messina, RD, whose husband Keith misquotes in her book …

“On page 227, she notes that “Mark Messina, a champion of soy, thinks the Japanese eat 8.6 [grams of soyfoods] per day,” or less than a tablespoon. Really? Well, I happen to be married to Mark Messina, so I have a fairly good idea of what he “thinks” about soy intake. But even if I didn’t know him, I could read his 2006 analysis of soy intake data that was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nutrition and Cancer. Apparently, Keith didn’t or she would have seen that Asian soy intake is the equivalent of 1 to 1 ½ servings or more per day. Why did she get this so wrong? It’s because she doesn’t understand that there is a difference between soy protein intake and soy food intake. A cup of soymilk contains around 7 grams of soy protein, so the 8.6 to 11 grams of protein that the Japanese typically eat is equal to at least a serving per day.”

-> Or, check out The Vegetarian Myth Myth.  It’s a blog whose singular focus is “deconstructing [Keith’s] book by chapters and themes, in order to give some perspective, as well as offer what we consider some vitally important alternatives to Keith’s ideas.”  A debunking of the debunking, if you will.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma –

-> Over at  Say what, Michael Pollan?, Adam Merberg writes a blog designed “to encourage Pollan to check facts and think through arguments more carefully.”  Again, a single issue blog.

-> B.R. Myers writes an early review of Pollan’s book in this article, Hard to Swallow – The gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms. I think this paragraph can just as easily be used to respond to all the Paleo-Diet, “man” the cave-dwelling hunter type arguments … which all baffle me in this same way.  It shouldn’t take long to recognize the problem with relying on “we used to do it” reasoning.

“One might as well describe man the way the anthropologist Ernest Becker did, as a digestive tract with teeth at one end and an anus at the other, and claim that the soul is shaped out of that. In which case, I don’t want one. But most of us use soul to mean the part of humanness that is not shaped out of that. In contrast to the fearless Becker, Pollan thinks that taking a hard look at human nature is more a matter of leaning over the museum rail at the caveman exhibit. Seeing only the painted mammoth on the horizon, so to speak, he derives the rightness of meat eating from the fact that humans are physically suited to it, they enjoy it, and they have engaged in it until modern times without feeling much “ethical heartburn.” (Only a food writer would use such an appalling phrase.) According to Pollan, this “reality” demands our respect. The same reasoning could be used to defend our mistreatment of children: In body and instinct, we are marvelously well-equipped for making their lives hell. If many cultures now object to abusing them, it is thanks to new values, to people who refused to respect the time-honored “reality.”

Feminism, vegetarianism, and cultural imperialism, cont.

September 20th, 2010 No comments

I’ll be summarizing Cathryn Bailey’s observations about foodways and racial identity in a subsequent post.  For now though, consider her response to Kathryn George’s feminist anti-vegetarian arguments …

One of the problems with George’s argument in Animal, Vegetable, or Woman? and in a 1994 article that received much criticism, is that many, if not all, of the reasons she cites for why vegetarianism may be out of reach for many poor women is precisely a result of the patriarchal system that devalues women and animals in the first place. It is not a randomly produced feature of the world that women and children make up the greatest poverty class or that the health of women and children is especially precarious. Nor is it an accident that “animal protein” in the form of cheap lunchmeat or fast food is often more readily available than vegetables in the United States. From the point of view of feminist ethical vegetarianism, these conditions result from the very racism, sexism, classism, and anthropocentrism that is being challenged. As Greta Gaard and lori Gruen have pointed out, “What she [George] ignores is the well-known fact that, around the world, it is the men and boys who eat the first and most foods, while the girls and women eat last and least” (1996, 236).

Not incidentally, George’s suggestion that feminist vegetarianism is classist and ethnocentric ignores the fact that “most non-Western diets are largely vegetarian (perhaps by virtue of necessity): consider Chinese, Indian, and African traditional cuisines. If anything, it is meat-eating that is a Western norm that ‘development’ has imposed upon non-Western nations” (Donovan 1995, 227). Ironically, George’s position erases the number of poor women who are vegetarians by ethical choice, revealing the hidden privileged perspective that serves the edifice of her argument.

Cathryn Bailey,  “We Are What We Eat: Feminist Vegetarianism and the Reproduction of Racial Identity,”  Hypatia 22, 2 (2007): 51-52.

Defending the feminist-vegetarian connection against the charge of cultural imperialism

September 18th, 2010 No comments

One of the claims that Kathryn George makes in her book Animal, Vegetable, or Woman? is that Western feminists are engaging in cultural imperialism by arguing for ethical vegetarianism.  Sheri Lucas has written a response defending ethical vegetarianism against George’s claims.

Here’s the gist of Lucas’ response  to the cultural imperialism argument specifically (emphasis mine) …

Are Western feminists who promote ethical vegetarianism guilty of cultural imperialism? This question was raised at the 1990 NWSA Conference. The prevailing sentiment matched George’s charge of cultural imperialism. Most of the feminists present thought of ethical vegetarianism as “a white woman’s imposing her ‘dietary’ concerns on women of color” (Adams 1994, 123). A white woman’s imposing her dietary concerns? Ethical vegetarianism is idiosyncratic in the West, not to the West. In North America, vegetarians constitute roughly 5 percent of the population, and vegans less than 1 percent (Davis and Melina 2000, 12). In comparison, most of the non-Western human population is vegetarian or nearly so (Fox 1999, 183). While this is often of necessity rather than by choice, many of these vegetarians are morally committed to abstaining from flesh (Gupta 1986, 3).

The International Vegetarian Union has been “Promoting Vegetarianism Worldwide Since 1908” (IVU 2003). On their Web site is a map that marks the territories housing a branch of their association: Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Russia, Latin America, and North America. The only unmarked land region is the North Pole. The billions of vegetarians dispersed throughout the continents, islands, and countries of the world are not following an ideal the West has developed and forced, coerced, or swayed them to follow. There is, as Donovan says, no reason to accept George’s charge that ethical vegetarianism “is the product of a wealthy society,” and harbors “class bias” against so-called less developed societies (1995; citing George 1994b, 408).

However thunderous our hubris, the West does not have a monopoly on ethical vegetarianism. To suggest otherwise silences the diversity of ethical vegetarians and suspiciously ignores Western traditions as though they are irrelevant to the feminist-vegetarian debate. But they are relevant. We have turkeys for thanksgiving, ice cream with our birthday cakes, “chicken soup for the soul,” and summertime barbeques. At our conferences, weddings, and cafeterias, in our lunch bags and homes, most of the foods we eat contain flesh, eggs, or milk products. To treat ethical vegetarianism as an ideal that Westerners want to force on the rest of the human population is to lose hold of reality. In reality, it is we who would have to change the most if humans became a vegetarian species. And it is we who would most disparage the loss of nonhuman animal foods. Most of the human population would not feel the pinch. They live it.

Sheri Lucas,  “A Defense of the Feminist-Vegetarian Connection,” Hypatia, Volume 20, Number 1 ( 2005): 164-165.

“Cheap food is Cheat food”

September 15th, 2010 No comments

via SoulVeggie

“We don’t pay that, they pay that.”

They – domestic workers, domestic animals, third world countries, or, back in the day, slaves and conquered peoples  -pay … externalizing the cost.  Scapegoating, substitution, that’s one kind of sacrifice.  Self-sacrifice is another.  Granted there are different frames for all kinds of things that get labeled religious sacrifice, but I’m interested in blood sacrifice and specifically ones that involve some notion of propitiation or guilt removal. Not so much in the brute act of killing but in the narrative transformation of another’s loss into your gain, the logical move that absolves you of the guilt.

I’ve always puzzled at the difference between the notions of killing vs. sacrifice.  It seems like killing is a scenario in which there are only two agents involved and one agent takes the life of another.  It seems that religious sacrifice involves the deflection of that responsibility onto a third party, via narrative.  From the objective outsider perspective, it’s identical.   I can’t remember who said it right now, I think it was Rene Girard, “We’re all butchers pretending to be priests.”  I’m not sure of the original context but in many ways, that seems about right.   Even if you don’t believe in the metaphysical propositions behind it, what would the image of the bloody, torn body of God represent to you?

Lunch meat?
Read more…

Score one for the mixed breeds

September 14th, 2010 No comments

Mixed, even at the species level.

But because species hybrids create new combinations of genes, it is possible that some combinations might enable hybrids to adapt to conditions in which neither parent may fare as well. Several such examples are now known from nature. Furthermore, DNA analysis is now allowing biologists to better decipher the histories of species and to detect past hybridization events that have contributed new genes and capabilities to various kinds of organisms including, it now appears, ourselves.

and here’s a nice turn of phrase …

Various kinds of evidence indicate that modern humans migrated out of Africa and reached the Middle East more than 100,000 years ago and Europe by about 45,000 years ago, and would have or could have encountered Neanderthals for some time in each locale. The crucial question for paleontology, archaeology, and paleogenetics has been what transpired between the two species. To put it a little more crudely, did we date them or kill them, or perhaps both?

That just gives a whole new level to the notion of  “fear and self-loathing” doesn’t it?  ;->

And finally  …

The discovery of hybrid species and the detection of past hybridizations are forcing biologists to reshape their picture of species as independent units. The barriers between species are not necessarily vast, unbridgeable chasms; sometimes they get crossed with marvelous results.

Public proclamations and goal achievement

September 13th, 2010 No comments

This video has some interesting implications for both vegetarianism and Christianity. Both of those spheres can involve some aspect of Public Proclamation.  It’s true that conventional wisdom says these proclamations serve as a hedge against backsliding.  If you say you’re going to do something publicly then you have the added measure of social pressure, or potentially even stigma, “keeping you in line.”  The underlying principle is a subtle form of coercion.  But, as is true with much of our conventional wisdom (especially about coercion), the actual empirical evidence reveals a much more complicated, if not contradictory picture.  This video gets at the flip side of all that, the downside of the initial reinforcement you get from merely making declarations.

I know some churches put more emphasis than others on making a big deal out of Public Proclamations of faith and/or Committing yourself to following Jesus.  Depending on what the underlying motivations are for that, the practice might benefit from a re-think.

George MacDonald on animals and God

September 9th, 2010 No comments

George MacDonald was a minister and theologian in the mid-late 1800’s.  His wiki entry claims influenced C.S. Lewis and perhaps even Mark Twain.  That’s quite a combination.  I have my share of Twain’s, Letters from the Earth days.  I definitely have a lot of C.S. Lewis, “Problem of Pain” days.  If you’re interested in C.S. Lewis I recommend the article, in which Andrew Linzey does an excellent exposition of Lewis’ theology of animals, available online here.

Lately though, I find myself resonating with much of what MacDonald has written in The Hope of the Universe.  It looks like he could have been speaking into the vivisection debate at that time, though I’m not sure from this text.  I’ve been reading this for awhile now and have had a difficult time deciding which part to excerpt.  It’s all good. But here are my favorites pieces of his interaction with Romans 8.

To believe that God made many of the lower creatures merely for prey, or to be the slaves of a slave, and writhe under the tyrannies of a cruel master who will not serve his own master; that he created and is creating an endless succession of them to reap little or no good of life but its cessation–a doctrine held by some, and practically accepted by multitudes–is to believe in a God who, so far as one portion at least of his creation is concerned, is a demon. But a creative demon is an absurdity; and were such a creator possible, he would not be God, but must one day be found and destroyed by the real God. Not the less the fact remains, that miserable suffering abounds among them, and that, even supposing God did not foresee how creation would turn out for them, the thing lies at his door. He has besides made them so far dumb that they cannot move the hearts of the oppressors into whose hands he has given them, telling how hard they find the world, how sore their life in it. The apostle takes up their case, and gives us material for an answer to such as blame God for their sad condition.

MacDonald, like both Twain and Lewis, recognizes predation and animal suffering to be a serious theological issue. He takes Paul to have actually already provided the answer.   I’ve read quite a bit of natural evil/animal suffering theodicy.  It seems odd that we would read the bible in a way that requires post-hoc animal suffering theodicies.  If we weren’t reading it with selfishly anthropocentric lenses to begin with we wouldn’t have to defend it from the God-diminishing conclusions of reading it anthropocentrically.  On the other hand, if we weren’t reading it anthropocentrically, it would make claims on our behavior to non-human animals.  And we certainly can’t have the bible making claims on us that we don’t like.

What many men call their beliefs, are but the prejudices they happen to have picked up: why should such believers waste a thought as to how their paltry fellow-inhabitants of the planet fare? Many indeed have all their lives been too busy making their human fellows groan and sweat for their own fancied well-being, to spare a thought for the fate of the yet more helpless. But there are not a few, who would be indignant at having their belief in God questioned, who yet seem greatly to fear imagining him better than he is: whether is it he or themselves they dread injuring by expecting too much of him?

Believing that God cares about animals is certainly an insult the human ego.  Not only do we want confirmation of our own special-ness, we tend to want that to entail an added dimension of therefore-more-special-than (fill in the blank) because of (fill in the justification).

Do you believe in immortality for yourself? I would ask any reader who is not in sympathy with my hope for the animals. If not, I have no argument with you. But if you do, why not believe in it for them? Verily, were immortality no greater a thing for the animals than it seems for men to some who yet profess to expect it, I should scarce care to insist upon their share in it. But if the thought be anywise precious to you, is it essential to your enjoyment in it, that nothing less than yourself should share its realization? Are you the lowest kind of creature that could be permitted to live? Had God been of like heart with you, would he have given life and immortality to creatures so much less than himself as we?  … If his presence be no good to the sparrow, are you very sure what good it will be to you when your hour comes? Believe it is not by a little only that the heart of the universe is tenderer, more loving, more just and fair, than yours or mine.

This.  This.  This.

Had the Lord cared no more for what of his father’s was lower than himself, than you do for what of your father’s is lower than you, you would not now be looking for any sort of redemption.

And this.  Isn’t this the point of “not one sparrow?”  MacDonald gets to that here …

If the Lord said very little about animals, could he have done more for them than tell men that his father cared for them? He has thereby wakened and is wakening in the hearts of men a seed his father planted. It grows but slowly, yet has already borne a little precious fruit. His loving friend St Francis has helped him, and many others have tried, and are now trying to help him: whoever sows the seed of that seed the Father planted is helping the Son. Our behaviour to the animals, our words concerning them, are seed, either good or bad, in the hearts of our children. No one can tell to what the animals might not grow, even here on the old earth under the old heaven, if they were but dealt with according to their true position in regard to us. They are, in sense very real and divine, our kindred. If I call them our poor relations, it is to suggest that poor relations are often ill used. Relatives, poor or rich, may be such ill behaved, self-assertive, disagreeable persons, that we cannot treat them as we gladly would; but our endeavour should be to develop every true relation. He who is prejudiced against a relative because he is poor, is himself an ill-bred relative …

Moving into his discussion of vivisection … I wonder what he would have thought about modern day slaughterhouses and factory farms?   Compare this to contemporary apologists who claim it’s ok to “work on” animals.

Torture can be inflicted only by the superior. The divine idea of a superior, is one who requires duty, and protects, helps, delivers: our relation to the animals is that of their superiors in the family, who require labour, it may be, but are just, helpful, protective. Can they know anything of the Father who neither love nor rule their inferiors, but use them as a child his insensate toys, pulling them to pieces to know what is inside them? Such men, so-called of science–let them have the dignity to the fullness of its worth–lust to know as if a man’s life lay in knowing, as if it were a vile thing to be ignorant–so vile that, for the sake of his secret hoard of facts, they do right in breaking with torture into the house of the innocent! Surely they shall not thus find the way of understanding! Surely there is a maniac thirst for knowledge, as a maniac thirst for wine or for blood! He who loves knowledge the most genuinely, will with the most patience wait for it until it can be had righteously.  … Force thy violent way, and gain knowledge, to miss truth. Thou mayest wound the heart of God, but thou canst not rend it asunder to find the Truth that sits there enthroned.

He ends with

To those who expect a world to come, I say then, Let us take heed how we carry ourselves to the creation which is to occupy with us the world to come.

Amen.

Cleaner than you = Better than you

September 1st, 2010 No comments

This series of studies has interesting implications written all over it.  Granted OT clean/unclean doesn’t perfectly line up with contemporary notions but still, there is some overlap.  Sugar, sugar – white, clean, and neat

A new study shows that people feel morally cleansed when they are physically clean, and as such are more inclined to judge others more harshly.

Read More http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/clean-people-feel-morally-superior/

This also hooks into the notions of dirty = animal, in some sad but not un-expected ways.  Sad in terms of how some humans can think of the fact that an animal is “dirty” (as in physical contact with literal dirt) and have that as part of the constellation of their justifications for morally denigrating them and even killing and harming them unnecessarily, or worse yet, for fun.  We claim on the one hand to not ‘be’ animals but then somehow pass judgement on “them” as if they were somehow accountable to our standards of cleanliness or personal hygiene.  On what grounds would that possibly make sense?  It’s even weirder given the fact that our own book of origins includes the little tidbit about man being made from dirt.

“then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7 NRSV)

Did you know people used to use urine as a tooth whitener?*

* Mark Morton, “A linguistic history of things other than food that people have put into their mouths,”  Gastronomica 9 (2009): 6.

silly humans.  dust to dust …

Alton Brown in a space suit and tofu 101

August 30th, 2010 No comments

So, back in my foodie days I loved me some Food TV and of course, Alton Brown.  I wish I had seen this when I first started my tofu adventures.  Jumpstart your tofu learning curve with this episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats featuring tofu – from Worcestershire Sauce to chocolate pie.  Good times.

Enjoy!


Watch Good Eats – S3E12 – Tofuworld in Educational & How-To |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Oh, and I got your blender right here