Michael Pollan, “An Animal’s Place”
NY Times Magazine 1/4/03
2. Reason animals used for food are so mistreated is because we have lost everyday contact with animals and taken their raising and slaughtering out of public view
a. Solution: Glass slaughter houses to promote humane farming
3. Wants to recover a tradition of both honoring and eating animals
a. Today we either look away (let Frank Perdue the chicken magnet do his job) or become vegetarian (let Peter Singer and Tom Regan guide us)
b. Pollan tries to avoid either option
4. DEFENSES OF MEAT EATING AND RESPONSES THAT POLLAN CONSIDERS
5. Animals on farm never known any other life
a. But their instincts are frustrated (to exercise, stretch limbs and wings, turn around) even if never had chance to do these things
6. “They do it too” defense of meat eating (animals eat animals)
a. But basing human morality on the natural order suggests that because murder and rape are natural they are thus okay too
b. Also animals don’t have other options to meat eating as we do
7. POLLAN ON ANIMAL PAIN/SUFFERING
8. Higher animals wired much like we are and for same evolutionary reasons
9. Human and animal pain differ greatly in some respects
a. We have language, thus thoughts about thoughts and ability to imagine alternatives to current reality
b. Suffering (as opposed to pain) requires self-consciousness which few animals have
i. Suffering is pain intensified by emotions like loss, sadness, worry, regret, self-pity, shame, humiliation, and dread
ii. “In a bovine brain the concept of non-existence is blissfully absent”
c. E.g., Castration; yes painful to animals, but they get over it in a way that humans do not; suffering of a man able to comprehend full implications of castration, anticipate it and contemplate its aftermath, represents an agony of another order.
d. Language (and all that goes with it) can make certain kinds of pain more bearable:
i. Trip to dentist office torment for an ape that couldn’t be made to understand the purpose and duration of the procedure
10. POLLAN ON FACTORY FARMING
11. Modern confined animal feeding operation treats animals as machines incapable of feeling pain.
12. People who work there have to “suspend their beliefs” and the rest of us have to “avert our eyes”
13. Details of animal production (Page 8)
a. “Egg and hog operations are worst...Beef cattle still live outdoors, albeit standing ankle deep in own waste eating a diet that makes them sick.”
b. “Boiler chickens get beaks snipped off with hot knife to keep them from cannibalizing each other under stress of confinement.”
c. But at least they don’t spend 8 week lives in cages too small to stretch a wing –As do egg laying hens, “whose natural instincts so thwarted that they often rub body again wire mesh until featherless and bleeding” and 10% die and the bunch is force molted (food withheld for days so produce more eggs)
d. “Pigs weaned from mothers at 10 days (13 weeks in nature) as gain weight faster on hormone and antibiotic fortified feed, thus have life-long craving to suck and chew, so bite tail of animal in front of them and pigs are so demoralized that don’t fight it off and this leads tails to get infected. Solution is to ‘dock the tail,’ make it short and leave a stump that is so sensitive that they will fight it off.”
14. Role of Capitalism: Mistreatment of animals in factory farms is a nightmare of unfettered capitalism (capitalism unconstrained by morality or regulation)
a. Tension between capitalist imperative to maximize efficiency and moral imperatives of religions/community that serve as a counterweight to moral blindness of market
b. Economic impulse erodes moral underpinnings of society
c. Mercy toward animals is one such casualty
15. DESCRIPTION OF HUMANE AND ECOLOGICALLY SOUND FARM
16. Polyface Farm is a family farm where six different food animals raised in a way that is ecologically sound and humane
a. Each species can fully express its nature
i. Chickens live like chickens, cows like cows
b. Portable chicken coop put in pasture after cows grazed there
c. Chicken manure feeds the soil
d. Then sheep move in to eat lush new growth as well as weeds that cows and chickens won’t eat
e. Pigs happily turn farmer’s compost (looking for food);
i. Compost used to fertilize his fields
17. Here animals are happy; a sentimental conceit to see it as death camp (as say animal rightists)
a. Is this a fair criticism of animal rights folks?
18. POLLAN’S VIEW OF DOMESTICATION AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS AS A MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL EXCHANGE
19. The good life for domesticated (food) animals can’t be achieved apart from humans, thus farms, thus meat eating
20. In principle, animal agriculture is mutualism, not exploitation
a. We give them food and protection and they give us milk, eggs, and their flesh
21. Domestication an evolutionary development by which certain species evolved to survive and prosper in alliance with humans
a. Both humans and animals were transformed by this relationship
b. Animals grew tame and lost ability to fend for themselves
c. Humans gave up hunter-gatherer lifestyle and became agriculturalists (and developed lactose tolerance)
22. FOR ANIMALS, ALLIANCE WITH HUMANS HAS BEEN A GREAT SUCCESS (AT LEAST UNTIL OUR TIME)
23. One: Domestic animals have survived and in greater numbers that wild counterparts
a. Cows, pigs, dogs, cats, and chickens have thrived, while their wild ancestors have languished
b. 10,000 wolves in North America, 50 million dogs
i. Dogs doing better than wolves both because we’ve taken care of dogs and destroyed wolves and their habitat
ii. Is number of members of a species a sign of success?
(1) Or is the average welfare of members of that species a better measure of success?
24. Two: If we didn’t eat them, many of these animals would not exist
a. Rights for chickens would mean extinction of chickens
b. Domesticated animal can’t survive in wild
c. If we didn’t eat them they would not exist
d. Two questions:
i. (1) Are these claims factually true?
ii. (2) Would the extinction of these domesticated breeds be a bad thing?
e. (1) Some (many? most?) domesticated animals can exist in the wild (although in great numbers they would damage ecosystems)
i. Not dogs, chickens?, some cows? and sheep?
ii. But horses could, pigs could, turkeys? Cats do.
iii. If (some of) these creatures are going to exist in great numbers (more than a few as pets, in zoos, or as feral animals), they will have to be raised and slaughtered for food
f. (2) Would it be a loss if such animals didn’t exist in great numbers?
i. Regan and Singer: It would be good if they didn’t exist, because then they can’t be wronged (and can’t suffer) and species (as not sentient or subjects of a life) have no interests or moral standing.
25. Three: Domesticated animals are (could be) happier and flourish more than their wild counterparts.
a. Life in the wild would be worse for these farm animals
b. Humans treat animals better–less badly--than does nature
c. They live longer in captivity
i. Chickens lives longer in their brief life in a pasture than likely to lived in the wild
ii. True? Depends on species?
(1) Depends on whether or not made it past infancy–most wild animals die in infancy
(2) If make it past infancy, perhaps they live longer in the wild?
d. In “humane farms” die less painfully
i. Way animals die in the wild is typically very painful
e. Animals happy to be used as our means
i. Animal happiness involves the animal expressing its creature character
ii. Instead of being wrong to treat animals as a means, their happiness consists in serving as a means
iii. Says for “working animals” (e.g., draft horses and seeing eye dogs. But pigs, chickens and cows?)
iv. Is the idea that “food animals” have been selected to be content to stand around and eat and that is all.
26. Issue: What relevance is what happens in nature for human morality toward animals?
27. Here Pollan seems to be using the way nature treats animals as a standard or justification for the way humans should treat them
a. Is Pollan assuming this principle: How humans treat animals is permissible as long as it is better than how nature treats them?
b. Or is this argument only suppose to show that domesticated animals have benefited from their relation with humans vis-a-vis their wild counterparts?
c. At other points Pollan rejects idea of basing human morality on nature
28. Nature not a moral guide for culture and cultural ethics not a moral guide for nature
a. Just as nature doesn’t provide adequate guide for human social conduct, it’s “anthropocentric” (?) to assume that our moral system is an adequate guide for nature
b. Human morality based on individual rights awkward fit when applied to nature
c. We may require different set of ethics for natural world (not rights)
29. VEGETARIANS KILL ANIMALS TOO (AND PERHAPS MORE THAN MEAT EATERS)
30. P. 12: Makes Kerasote point that eating vegetables kills animals too as they die in the production of vegetables (pesticides, tractors kill field mice and wood chucks)
31. Oregon State Univ animal scientist says strict veggie diet would INCREASE animals killed, as animal pasture gave way to row crops
a. What % of animals graze versus are fed crops grown for them?
32. To kill as few animals as possible, eat largest animal possible that can live on least intensively cultivated land (grass fed beef )
33. EATING MEET ESSENTIAL TO HUMAN ANIMALITY
34. Eating meat part of human evolutionary heritage, reflected in design of our teeth and structure of our digestion
a. Eating meat helped make us what we are (socially and biologically)
b. Because of pressure of hunt, human brain grew in size and complexity
c. Human culture first flourished around campfire as meat was cooked
d. Granting rights to animals will entail sacrificing part of our identity, our own animality
e. But our history is not our identity
f. Many animals are vegetarians (e.g., gorillas, buffalo, elk) so why is giving up meat to sacrifice our animality?
35. MEAT EATING IS NO MORE A TRIVIAL DESIRE THAN IS OUR SEXUAL DESIRE
36. Desire to eat meat is not a trivial matter, no mere “gastronomic preference”
37. Might as well call sex (also no longer technically necessary) a mere recreational preference
38. Our meat eating is something very deep indeed.
39. POLLAN ON VALUE OF ANIMAL LIFE AND NECESSITY OF RESPECTFUL KILLING
40. Taking a life is momentous
a. People have been trying to justify animal killing for centuries
41. Slaughter does not preclude respect (can kill w/o treating animal as a “pile of protoplasm”)
42. Ceremony Ceremony/rituals is what can make killing animals okay
a. Like natives thanking prey for giving up its life so they could live
b. Saying grace over a meal
c. Need to eat animals “with the consciousness, ceremony and respect they deserve”
43. GLASS ANIMAL AGRICULTURE SOLUTION
44. What is needed to redeem animal agriculture in this country is to require glass in the confined animal facilities and slaughterhouses
a. Tail docking, sow crates and beak clipping would disappear overnight
b. End of days of slaughtering 400 head of cattle an hour
45. ONE CAN FIND MEAT HUMANELY GOWN
46. Pollan has found it entirely possible to limit meat eating to nonindustrial animals
a. Look for labels indicating meat & eggs been humanely gown
b. American Humane Association Free Farmed label
c. Visit farms where chickens and pork come from
d. Go visit the kill floor
48. Animal activists have trouble with existence of predation in nature
a. Singer wonders whether we should do anything about carnivorous predation
b. Animal right/liberation advocates people have an abiding discomfort with our and the animal’s animality
i. The tendency to kill sentient life to live?
ii. Why is it bad to have this discomfort rather than a sign of our humanity?
iii. Perhaps because it expresses a profound disappointment with (or negative evaluation of) the way nature works
49. Animal rights only survive in a world where humans lost contact with nature, where animals no longer a threat, and where no serious clash between human and animal interests
a. Not clear to me this is true
50. For bioregions that can’t grow crops but can graze animals, vegetarianism would require more transportation of food (which is ecologically bad)
51. Pollan’s Email exchange with Peter Singer
52. Pollan asks Singer what he thinks about farms where animals live according to their natures and do not appear to suffer
a. Better for these animals to have lived and died than not to have lived at all
b. If death is not painful and lives happy then farm is good and can kill as long as you replace the animals killed
c. Does think it wrong to kill animal with sense for own existence over time and have preferences for own future (not chicken, but perhaps a pig)
d. “Not sufficiently confident of his arguments to condemn someone who bought meat from one of these farms”
e. Worries about practicality of such farms on large scale–pressures of market lead owners to cut costs at animals’ expense
f. Killing animals is not conducive to treating them with respect
g. Because this is more expensive, only well to do will be able to afford morally defensible animal protein
54. Pollan thinks Singer’s views are consistent with Pollan’s main point:
a. What is wrong with animal agriculture is the practice not the principle
b. We need to eliminate the suffering and also make the killing respectful