consent

Why eat eggs?

I just watched the short film Story Of An Egg after reading about it on Huffington Post. I found myself sympathizing with the farmers who are trying to find more ethical ways of farming eggs, and I used to love eating eggs myself – but I can’t help but be unsettled by the assumption that we have to go on exploiting animals to live happy, fulfilled, healthy lives.

story-of-an-egg

Watch 2013 Festival | The Story of an Egg on PBS. See more from PBS Online Film Festival.

Eggs can be a great source of nutrition for humans, it’s true. But do we need them – are plant-based proteins just not enough for us? Can we justify our need? More

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Animals are all made of meat: Now what?

Animals are all made of meat: Now what?

I read Lindy West’s F*ck Yes, I’ll Eat Some Horse Meat. Give It to Me. I Love It. on Jezebel with amusement and… shock? I’m not used to seeing things like this in mainstream media. It’s just so conscious, calling humans on our speciesism so clearly and bluntly and irreverently: Humans know that all animals are made of meat, she writes. (She doesn’t touch on the fact that humans are also animals, and also made of meat, but okay.) So if we eat cows, what business do we have being all upset when we accidentally eat a horse? Good point.

Back when I was 17 I went to Japan on a scholarship and resolved I would try to be really open, and would try any food that came my way. I was an enthusiastic omnivore then, comfortable with myself as an animal that had evolved to eat other animals (I, um, hadn’t read enough yet), and I was ready for anything. I ate a lot of flesh from members of species I never eaten before: octopi, eels, lots of unfamiliar fishes. No turtles. I had a ban on turtles and rabbits because I had had them as pets.

I had met a horse many times, a horse who was deeply loved by someone in my family, but I hadn’t ever gotten really close with horses. So on this trip, I ate horse. Raw, actually — there was a big plate of horse sushi at the reception the Japanese government folks held for us exchange students. I didn’t want to be rude, and I kind of wanted to show off how brave and culturally open I was, to defy some stereotypes about Americans. So I ate some. It tasted a lot like all the other sushi: Soft and chewy and kind of slimy. It was fine, but I didn’t enjoy it. And now, years later, when I’ve come to the realization that horses and cows and humans are all the same, I regret that I made the choice I did then. I have to live with that regret for the rest of my life. I wish that I had seen it then: If animals are all made of meat, what do we do? Eat all of them indiscriminately? (Why not humans then?) Or stop eating all of them, because we’ve realized that all the other meat is just as autonomous as we are?

For more on humanity’s apparently willful ignorance about our food choices, watch this clip from Real Time With Bill Maher, Episode 273 (wherein he says a number of insensitive things as he is wont to do, sorry):

It’s perhaps worth noting that despite his apparent grasp of the consent issues relating to animal exploitation, Bill Maher isn’t vegan.

I’m curious if human beings will always try to hold onto the idea that we’re somehow so special we should be allowed to treat every member of every other species on this planet like they’re property.

Loving sloths

If you haven’t heard, Kristen Bell likes sloths, and her husband, Dax Shepard, got one brought to their house for her birthday. Here they are telling the story in a cute segment from NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! (with a transcript if you prefer that over audio). And here’s the video they talk about in the segment — personally, I think it’s pretty adorable to see someone so excited to meet a sloth that they break down.

This story is so great on one level — I love that Ms Bell loves sloths so much. I love that her husband is so thoughtful to set this up for her because he knew it would mean so much to her, and that he’s so supportive and sweet about her emotional reaction. I love that when they got the sloth in their house that they were responsible about it, adjusting their homeowners insurance and bringing in a professional handler and a little play structure for the sloth — it looks like she mostly just played around while Kristen gazed at her adoringly. I also feel like it’s really great that humans are starting to love animals so much that this is a part of our popular culture.

On another level, and I hate to be a downer, but animals shouldn’t be treated like actors, or party entertainers, because they’re not able to consent to the situation, and are deprived of their autonomy. I guess I could imagine a situation where an animal is somehow orphaned and rescued, and for whatever reason can’t be rehabilitated to live freely in a safe, natural habitat, so they could maybe be a mascot for their species to help educate people about how awesome they are (some wolves come to mind, but don’t quote me on that). But why wouldn’t an animal in that situation be given safe haven at some sanctuary? For every two-toed sloth (or pony!) who has a lovely afternoon at an adoring fan’s birthday party, there are a whole lot of other animals who probably have a really crappy day sitting in a cage or being forced to do the same uncomfortable movie shot over and over and over. (This is why I’m such a fan of Andy Serkis.)

No judgements here for Kristen and Dax — they obviously have their hearts in the right place. But if we really love animals, how should we treat them, ideally? Is it appropriate for our love to be objectifying, focused on our own needs and desires? Or should love come with respect for others’ autonomy?