Monday, June 25, 2012

Hierarchy of suffering and indignant omnivores

Recently another omnivore lectured me about the plight of ducks prepared for foie gras. And once again I managed to stop myself from going into a harangue about my feelings about what I've come to term the 'hierarchy of suffering'.

For some reason people love to talk to vegans about foie gras, thinking, I imagine that this is an issue we can get together on. And, it give me no pleasure to say NO WE CAN'T, because I don't reserve a special place in hell for people who create and eat foie gras. When the vegan appears insufficiently alarmed at the thought of foie gras, the process must be described to them. It must be that they are ignorant of this abuse, or perhaps they didn't hear you the first time. After all, foie gras is such a common staple of so many cultures' diets. 

The first time it came up, I just felt annoyed and didn't know why. After thinking about it a while I realized it pisses me off that some people feel moved to try to prevent only the most egregious of animal abuses, as though all the others were still on the part of the cruelty continuum that they're still pretty comfortable with. As a price for another creature to pay, for a hamburger, or an egg, or milk or whatever. 

Frankly I don't give a shit about the particulars of foie gras. I've read enough about what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses to understand it is very, very bad. When the narrative of animal agriculture includes stuff like sadistic slaughterhouse workers, downer cows, faulty kill mechanisms, grinding up baby chicks, farrowing crates, enforcing totally unnatural and cruel practices on animals that have been caring for themselves for millenia....I don't know how or why one would suddenly get indignant about ducks being force fed fat. I mean, really? 

These indignant omnivores also like to sing the blues for the veal calf, who seems to be getting off light in some regards, being slaughtered before his spirit can be completely broken, his intelligence strip mined and body used and discarded. 

There is also the thorny issue of other cultures eating cats and dogs...who are sacred to these people WHY? Because they are cuter, or you know them better, or they're 'man's best friend'? This just seems simplistic, almost naively touching. 

an upskirt shot at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen NY
Obviously people have come up with some schemata that helps them navigate diet and nutrition via issues of cruelty and suffering. This kind of fascinates me in a way. I came to vegetarianism and veganism very late in life. Honestly it's the main reason I didn't permit myself to think much about the issues of animal cruelty or speciesism, because I knew if I spent any time thinking about that stuff I would have to make big changes in my life. And I was just too lazy. But these indignant omnis clearly aren't lazy! They seem to have thought this through, I guess it's the conclusions that baffle me. 

I finally saw the movie Babe a while ago. It was cute, a well done movie for kids. But there is a pretty radical animal liberation message in that movie! I know lots of kids loved it and I guess it's still a kid's classic. I kind of couldn't help but think, I'd be a little worried about any kid of mine who watched that movie and then didn't want to have a hard conversation with me about vegetarianism or something along those lines. 

NOT a veal calf but still pretty fucking cute
I don't mind talking about veganism with people. I just don't want to talk about foie gras, or veal, or eating cats and dogs. Thanks. 
If you loved Babe and hate foie gras, you might be up for a trip to Farm Sanctury--i went last summer and it was amazing. 

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