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Day 4: "The Ethics of Eating Animals"

Notes for Day 4 for Food for Thought
I. coursekeeping
conference re-scheduling: Eva, Anna?
Readings for next Tuesday
are the first selections in course packet:
two selections from Andrew Revkin's NYTimes column, Dot Earth:
“Energy, an Ingredient in Local Food and Global Food.” December '07.
“Can People Have Meat and a Planet, Too?” April '08

on-line syllabus has active links to the site, so go exploring there...
(the readings are very, very short....)

also: two NEW ASSIGNMENTS; both articles available on-line:
John Mackay, "Health Care Reform." Wall Street Journal. Rpt. The CEO's Blog: Whole Foods Market. August 14, 2009.
Michael Pollan, "Big Food vs. Big Insurance." The New York Times. September 9, 2009.

any problems w/ books? are there enough in the bookshop?

About that  paper due tomorrow @ 5:
3 pp. analyzing your family meal through the lens provided by Pollan
(if you'd like, actually written in his voice, from his p.o.v.)

for ex, Pollan says, p. 302, that the "family dinner is
a casualty of capitalism
"--is that your back story?
p. 295: on food preference strong social glue
(downside to this: exclusion for/from difference?)

You've described the pleasures of your family meal; now
use  Pollan's language to describe its (economic, emotional, political, social) costs.
How "neophobic," how "neophilic" are your family eating habits?
How much within your “foodshed” (regional food chain) do you eat? Why, why not?
How did this food get to your table? What matters (socially, not personally) in that story—and why?

This exercise a deliberative moving beyond what you know experientially;
also a deliberative move beyond telling a story to constructing an argument:
make a claim in the first paragraph, or tell us what question you are going to try and answer
back it up in the middle paragraphs, and use the final paragraph to move beyond it:
i.e.: acknowledge the limits of your paper, gesture toward the next one;
make the final paragraph an OPENING, not a CLOSING one

paper should also include formal endnotes, following conv'l citation form


II. take a few minutes to review our openings, closings from last week...

III. Getting to know who you're talking/thinking with:
Get up,
introduce yourself to someone you haven't talked to yet,
discuss one another's dietary preferences:
last week we described our favorite foods;
today, find out what your classmate will not eat
(because of principle, or because....?)

Introduce one another to the class w/ your food aversions

IV. picking up conversation with your postings...
(Eva's 5 anonymous postings!?
@ 10 a.m., still missing Hilary, Amy and Hoang?)

review why we (should? not?) trust him (jives w/ what we know & believe or not?)
where to go w/ this? (Emily: less people?)

V. Let's work some more w/ the argument Pollan develops in Chs. 16-17
go round and name yourselves, alternatively: "Pollan," "Singer"
divide into four groups (2 "Pollans," 2 "Singers")
prepare yourselves to inhabit the role of one of these men:

in 15 minutes, I am convening a panel featuring these two men:
you are going to ventriloquize their positions
prepare by figuring out what your position and what your supporting data is,
on the qustion of the ethics of eating animals;
think, too, about how you will counter the position of the other guy

V. Re-seat yourselves: Pollan on the right, Singer on the left of the table--
Peter Singer's bio
Michael Pollan's bio
what's the beef? what can you say to one another? is there a way to move beyond debate,
into some position/awareness neither of "you" has occupied before?

Ch. 16

281: preparing a meal in full consciousness of what was involved
"value in experience: reminds us of dependency on soil-plant-animal-man food chain/fund'l organization of biota" (Aldo Leopold)
290: evolutionary trade-off between big brains, big guts
291: taste screens for value and safety (+sweetness, - bitterness)
295: omnivory allows adaptation; satisfaction of being a generalist: pleasure of neophilia (variety) and neophobia (familiarity)
297: food problem existential: freedom from instinct=free will  (Rousseau: "the will speaks when nature is silent")

Ch. 17
306: cultural confusion/schizoid quality to our relation to animals:
no reality check on sentiment or brutality--loss of eye contact
307: Singer: defend the way you live or change it
"Equality is a moral idea, not an assertion of fact";
equal consideration for everyone's interest
313: animals without faces no sufficiently sentient to suffer (?)
eating meat more convenient and more sociable
314: any personal dietary prohibition bad manners
alienated from rituals, traditions, history, inheritance
315: odd irony of animal rights: acknowledge all we share w/ animals, act unanimalistically toward them
316: human pain differs by virtue of language=thoughts about thoughts/imagine what is not
suffering depends on self-consciousness; is pain amplified by human emotions
318: tension between maximizing efficiency of capitalism and cultural moral imperatives
320: animal rightists' deep ignorance about the workings of nature
domestication is not slavery or exploitation but mutalism or symbiosis:
an evolutionary, not a political, development, of opportunistic species
321: crucial moral difference between CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation)
and a good farm: it deprives animals of "characteristic form of life"
for animal rightists: the problem of predation in nature
Puritanical discomfort w/ animals' animality
323: "bison is a human artifact, shaped by Indians"
predation indispensable for the group=species preservation
vs. pt. of view of animal rightists: concern only with individuals:

325: human morality based on individual rights an awkward fit for natural world:
morality an artifact of human culture; animal rights a parochial, urban ideology
327: eating animals most ethical thing to do for the health of nature (not: moral code or souls)
328: morally defensible animal protein: what's wrong is practice,
not principle of eating humanely raised and slaughtered animals
Ch. 20
410: what are the true costs of the things we take for granted?
a meal more ritual than realistic, re: incalculable debts when we eat industrially/without a thought

What is the end point of this argument? What are the solutions? (Reduction in population? ambition? ease?)