Monday, May 14, 2007

I finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and am really inspired to make more of a point to eat local foods. The book focused very much on the pleasure and joy of eating mostly-local foods, rather than the difficulties and hardships. We're starting small, and Dan isn't completely on board, but my personal goals are to:

1) Only buy locally-grown fruits and vegetables from June 1st through November 1st. Exceptions: frozen peas (major convenience food for the kids that we don't want to commit to giving up) and lemons and limes in small quantities (I want lemon juice in my tabouli and Dan wants limes in his beer).
2) Process for the winter at least one vegetable/ fruit that we've never done before. Maybe we'll can tomatoes or pickle squash.
3) Learn to extend our growing season further into the fall, through cold-weather crops and good use of our cold frame.

The one chapter of the book I found disappointing was, not surprisingly, the one focused on meat-eating. Kingsolver and her family only eat animals that are treated humanely, and even raise and butcher some of their own. While I disagree with that choice, it is one I can respect as an ethical decision, even though it's following a different set of ethics than my own. (Eating factory-farmed meat, on the other hand, I can only view as an ethical decision if someone truly believes animals have no emotional needs and feel no pain- which of course would mean they are very stupid.)

So it wasn't so much her choice to eat free-range meat that bothered me, but the justifications that she used for it. She equates animal-harvesting with plant-harvesting, ignoring the obvious difference (sentience that we can recognize). She discusses how humans evolved to eat omnivorously (but doesn't mention how humans also originally evolved doing all sorts of things we now eschew, such as commit infanticide). She asserts that non-Westerners living in harsh environments require animals for food (irrelevant to most Americans' situations). She points out that farm animals can't live in the wild (the potential extinction of turkeys whose feet cannot support their weight is one that we should applaud). She fails to discuss hunting, arguably the most ecologically friendly and least cruel method of obtaining dead animals. She even contemplates the huge cultural void we'd suffer if there were no farm-animal-based nursery rhymes. Overall it felt like she was trying a bit too hard.


shannon said...

I haven't read the book, but it seems like you might be a bit unfair on her reasoning for eating meat. Perhaps she didn't mention sentience because it wasn't at all germane to her decision.

I think it's too bad she even tried to address it. By acknowledging that she needed reasons to eat meat, she cornered herself. You can't justify things like this to the satisfaction of one who believes it needs an excuse.

It is easy to set up arguments to blast her point of view because she ceded the moral/ethical ground a priori.

I bet she felt compelled to address it, but she would have been better off not doing so. She should have discussed their meat-eating ways as being the natural thing it is, how they they treated their animals well, worked with local providers they trusted, etc. She doesn't need to justify it, and shouldn't have tried.

(Again, I didn't read the book so my comments have no backing substance.)

Sarah said...

I agree; her justifications were for the most part irrelevant to her choices and the book would have been better if she'd just gotten on with the beheadings.