Animals.

If there is any justice beyond human justice, the human race should be eliminated yesterday.

Animal welfare activists don’t shy away from coining their message in radical slogans. We all know horror stories of illegal PETA activists setting fire to legitimate porc factories or chicken breeding facilites, and we shiver at the idea that such terrorists are allowed to publish their campaigns in our magazines. What are they fighting for, anyway? There is nothing remotely comparable to human desolation and misery hiding under a pig’s hide, is there? Compassion with animals is as ludicrous as compassion with a person on a photo, or a character in a fictitious movie. The screams of these beasts are mere mechanical noises like the cracking of a rock or the roar of a river; their gaze is but a numb reflection of the outer world; their heartbeat – meaningless pounding, functional only to the production of meat, leather and other “consumer goods”.

Is that it? Is that an adequate statement of our relationship to animals, at least the ones we don’t choose to be our mates and pets? It is clearly the implicit view of the vast majority of human societies that have existed on this planet. Sacredness of animals, as some religions have it, is either an application of the abstract principle of the sanctity of all life, or a corollary of a religious association with a deity.

Recently I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s excellent 2009 book “Eating Animals”. Based on three years of research, the famed New York writer blends the stories of slaughterhouse murder witnesses, PETA activists and small alternative family farmers with philosophical anthropological observations about how we remember and the role food (and hence, meat) plays in this. The pivotal question of his book, he says, is “Should we or should we not eat turkey at Thanksgiving?”

I am not going through the arguments pro and contra in this article. Everybody has to sort that out for themselves. You will have to go through unpleasant questions of what it means to be human, about the essence of suffering and pain, stewardship and responsibility.  Read, watch, observe as many videos of factory farming (readily available on youtube) as you can digest and decide if you will digest the meat of these corporations. To give you a hint, look for “Smithfield”, the #1 producer of porc in the US, chicken giant “Tyson foods” (a major supplier of KFC),  Temple Grandin (nonhumans torturing and killing facilities corporation), or Gail Eisnitz’s book “Slaughterhouse”.

Safran Foer compares a complete vegan lifestyle with the idea of being a selective omnivore, because he used to be one of the latter. Of course, it is good to decide consistently not to eat any factory farmed meat while eating “responsible” meat, but is it a commendable attitude in the long run? I find this a difficult question, a strong test for philosophical pragmatism. Foer mentions a vegan who is building more humane slaughterhouses (that are inflicting less pain). If we offer a sustainable alternative to factory farming that doesn’t torture, vivisect, force feed, brand, genetically manipulate into cripples, and deny basic “species-specific” needs to animals that surely is a good thing and helps consumers make the transition to eating better.

Eventually, with 7 billion people on the planet and counting (and more and more of them counting on a meat diet), it will be impossible to feed everyone a meat-rich diet without rendering the planet ultimately inhabitable. Already, meat production is contributing 40% more to global warming than all transportation combined. Vast areas of farmland are needed to produce food for the animals, and with depleting freshwater resources this amounts to sheer madness. If we are to survive and live long and happy lives as we have gotten used to, we need as humanity to lower meat consumption dramatically.

I beg you pardon for this frag-men-ted account of the topic. What have I just written? It has something to do with global warming, oh yeah, and there was some argument with pain did I miss that? He mentioned the word “slaughterhouse”  somewhere, how unappetizing. What were the names of the culprit corporations again? And in the end it was all just philosophy, wasn’t it?

I would much rather hit a hairy gorilla fist hard on your table and decree “Enough you damned fools!”

If you haven’t seen the documentaries “We Feed the World”, “Supermarket Secrets”, or “Food, Inc.” yet, I can recommend you to watch it and would be glad if this small article was helpful.

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Animals.

If there is any justice beyond human justice, the human race should be eliminated yesterday.

Picture of a symbolically tortured animal (homo sapiens “sapiens”)

Animal welfare activists don’t shy away from coining their message in radical slogans. We all know horror stories of illegal PETA activists setting fire to legitimate pork factories or chicken breeding facilities, and we shiver at the idea that such terrorists are allowed to publish their campaigns in our magazines. What are they fighting for, anyway? There is nothing remotely comparable to human desolation and misery hiding under a pig’s hide, is there?
Compassion with animals is as ludicrous as compassion with a person on a photo, or a character in a fictitious movie. The screams of these beasts are mere mechanical noises like the cracking of a rock or the roar of a river; their gaze is but a numb reflection of the outer world; their heartbeat – meaningless pounding, functional only to the production of meat, leather and other “consumer goods”.

Is that it? Is that an adequate statement of our relationship to animals, at least the ones we don’t choose to be our mates and pets? It is clearly the implicit view of the vast majority of human societies that have existed on this planet. Sacredness of animals, as some religions have it, is either an application of the abstract principle of the sanctity of all life, or a corollary of a religious association with a deity.

Recently I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s excellent 2009 book “Eating Animals”. Based on three years of research, the famed New York writer blends the stories of slaughterhouse murder witnesses, PETA activists and small alternative family farmers with philosophical anthropological observations about how we remember and the role food (and hence, meat) plays in this. The pivotal question of his book, he says, is “Should we or should we not eat turkey at Thanksgiving?”

I am not going through the arguments pro and contra in this article. Everybody has to sort that out for themselves. You will have to go through unpleasant questions of what it means to be human, about the essence of suffering and pain, stewardship and responsibility.  Read, watch, observe as many videos of factory farming (readily available on youtube) as you can digest and decide if you will digest the meat of these corporations. To give you a hint, look for “Smithfield”, the #1 producer of pork in the US, chicken giant “Tyson foods” (a major supplier of KFC),  Temple Grandin (non humans torturing and killing facilities corporation), or Gail Eisnitz’s book “Slaughterhouse”.

Safran Foer compares a complete vegan lifestyle with the idea of being a selective omnivore, because he used to be one of the latter. Of course, it is good to decide consistently not to eat any factory farmed meat while eating “responsible” meat, but is it a commendable attitude in the long run? I find this a difficult question, a strong test for philosophical pragmatism. Foer mentions a vegan who is building more humane slaughterhouses (that are inflicting less pain). If we offer a sustainable alternative to factory farming that doesn’t torture, vivisect, force feed, brand, genetically manipulate into cripples, and deny basic “species-specific” needs to animals that surely is a good thing and helps consumers make the transition to eating better.

Eventually, with 7 billion people on the planet and counting (and more and more of them counting on a meat diet), it will be impossible to feed everyone a meat-rich diet without rendering the planet ultimately inhabitable. Already, meat production is contributing 40% more to global warming than all transportation combined. Vast areas of farmland are needed to produce food for the animals, and with depleting freshwater resources this amounts to sheer madness. If we are to survive and live long and happy lives as we have gotten used to, we need as humanity to lower meat consumption dramatically.

I beg you pardon for this frag-men-ted account of the topic. What have I just written? It has something to do with global warming, oh yeah, and there was some argument with pain did I miss that? He mentioned the word “slaughterhouse”  somewhere, how unappetizing. What were the names of the culprit corporations again? And in the end it was all just philosophy, wasn’t it?

I would much rather hit a hairy gorilla fist hard on your table and decree “Enough you damned fools!”

If you haven’t seen the documentaries “We Feed the World”, “Supermarket Secrets”, or “Food, Inc.” yet, I can recommend you to watch it and would be glad if this small article was helpful.

Why I like cooking

This is not a recipe blog. There are far more knowledgeable cooks maintaining interesting blogs like this one here.

Why, then, does this blog write about cooking? To be sure, I do love cooking for reasons other than the psychodairy this blog serves at times. The smell of fresh rhabarber, a good garlicky hummus, a Lao noodle soup, fried tofu, Korean kimchi, palak paneer… Being busy in a crowded kitchen cooking with friends, telling political jokes while cutting shalottes and dancing to the roaring sound of a blender – I like it a lot.

But it is the psychodairy I want to whip up a little here. When we do something, when we engage in any action, we can distinguish between the process and the result. When we write something, when we travel, paint, repair a bicycle, sew, drill, comb, brush, scratch, walk, meditate, breath, talk, and so on we can differentiate between the process itself and how it affects the status quo post. Now if we judge each other’s activities (which is our normal mode of interaction), we intuitively want either

A) to demonstrate we can do the activity better, or
B) to demonstrate that we have very compelling reasons why we can’t – so compelling that our inability becomes normative.

In order to show A) or B) we can refer to the process as well as the result, whichever supports our argument. If I want to show that you are a bad driver, for example, I can argue that the driver itself (the process) was too dangerous, uneconomical, or slow. But if this doesn’t work, because I drive irresponsibly myself, I can refer to the result that you arrived later at the party. This practice mixes the activity and the result because it derives its arguments from both and hence achieves functional unification and blurring of the semantically important distinction.

This doesn’t appear harmful at first sight. But if someone on whom rests bad prejudice want to accomplish something, he can be too easily denied because of the way he does things. People don’t look plainly at the result because they have been preoccupied with establishing A) or B).

When we cook, the distinction between process and result becomes very clear. Someone can tell you that you have to cut your vegetables in a different way, that you have to lower the heat or boil the water first or cut the onions in finer dices, out of a sickening appetite for power, but he can’t argue with the results. The freshly cooked food, waiting on our tables to be eaten, is the result of an action that is still relatively independent of the process leading towards it. Here is our opportunity to defy the madness of power-slaves telling us how to do anything we do. Here we don’t have to waste any words on counterarguments but we let what we cooked speak for itself.

And a friend might be even interested in how we did it, so over dinner we share our ideas; A) and B) stand untouched with the table salt.

Bon appetit.

Why I like cooking

This is not a recipe blog. There are far more knowledgeable cooks maintaining interesting blogs like this one here.

Why, then, does this blog write about cooking? To be sure, I do love cooking for reasons other than the psychodairy this blog serves at times. The smell of fresh rhabarber, a good garlicky hummus, a Lao noodle soup, fried tofu, Korean kimchi, palak paneer… Being busy in a crowded kitchen cooking with friends, telling political jokes while cutting shalottes and dancing to the roaring sound of a blender – I like it a lot.

But it is the psychodairy I want to whip up a little here. When we do something, when we engage in any action, we can distinguish between the process and the result. When we write something, when we travel, paint, repair a bicycle, sew, drill, comb, brush, scratch, walk, meditate, breath, talk, and so on we can differentiate between the process itself and how it affects the status quo post. Now if we judge each other’s activities (which is our normal mode of interaction), we intuitively want either

A) to demonstrate we can do the activity better, or
B) to demonstrate that we have very compelling reasons why we can’t – so compelling that our inability becomes normative.

In order to show A) or B) we can refer to the process as well as the result, whichever supports our argument. If I want to show that you are a bad driver, for example, I can argue that the driver itself (the process) was too dangerous, uneconomical, or slow. But if this doesn’t work, because I drive irresponsibly myself, I can refer to the result that you arrived later at the party. This practice mixes the activity and the result because it derives its arguments from both and hence achieves functional unification and blurring of the semantically important distinction.

This doesn’t appear harmful at first sight. But if someone on whom rests bad prejudice want to accomplish something, he can be too easily denied because of the way he does things. People don’t look plainly at the result because they have been preoccupied with establishing A) or B).

When we cook, the distinction between process and result becomes very clear. Someone can tell you that you have to cut your vegetables in a different way, that you have to lower the heat or boil the water first or cut the onions in finer dices, out of a sickening appetite for power, but he can’t argue with the results. The freshly cooked food, waiting on our tables to be eaten, is the result of an action that is still relatively independent of the process leading towards it. Here is our opportunity to defy the madness of power-slaves telling us how to do anything we do. Here we don’t have to waste any words on counterarguments but we let what we cooked speak for itself.

And a friend might be even interested in how we did it, so over dinner we share our ideas; A) and B) stand untouched with the table salt.

Bon appetit.