More on the Sexual Politics of Meat

There has been some great follow-up discussion in the blogosphere today that pick up on some of the same issues raised earlier in this FP post and this FP post about the NY Times “Calling All Carnivores” contest.  Our Hen House has an alternative contest: “Calling All Herbivores” that asks vegans to tell us why it’s unethical to eat meat. And Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meatposted on One Green Planet today about “The Sexual Politics of Ethics,” addressing directly the choice to have a panel of white male judges for the NY Times contest.  The ethics of eating meat: still a feminist issue.

12 thoughts on “More on the Sexual Politics of Meat

  1. So the all-male panel is an obvious no-no, but I’m a bit surprised at some of the critiques of the contest itself. It’s being interpreted by some as a quest for a vindication of meat eating, but I read it more in the spirit of “ok, meat eaters, in light of all this criticism of meat eating, do you have anything to say for yourselves?” Given that some of the critiques lament that meat eaters tend to refuse to try and justify their behavior, I would have thought inviting them to try and do so would be more welcome. After all, a possible outcome is that the best arguments that can be mustered in favor of meat eating are unconvincing, and the contest might help reveal that (at least to the thoughtful reader).

  2. I think the contest itself is a great idea. Meat eaters usually aren’t required to justify their choices. I thought I might even give it a go, as a vegetarian, since there are things to be said in favour of the permissibility of eating meat. I just don’t think, in the end, that the considerations in favour outweigh the costs in terms of animal suffering,

  3. On the masculinity and meat question, I am always amused that a local chain of strip clubs is called The Beef Baron. Watch naked women dancing and eat large hunks of meat, bringing it all together.

    But you can’t get a steak at all strip clubs. Portland, Ore has a vegan strip club.

    “Are you a man who cares about animals but thinks it is fine to treat women like one? Then Casa Diablo is the place for you. The world’s first vegan strip club, in Portland, Oregon – a hippyish town in the US that prides itself as the most vegan-friendly in the country – serves up meat- and dairy-free chilli cheese fries, chocolate/strawberry cheesecake and mushroom burgers along with the naked women. The owner, Johnny Diablo, describes himself as an “ethical vegan”, and claims that half of the dancers are vegetarian or vegan. The place is sleazy, without even the veneer of a “gentlemen’s club”: bar staff are topless, while the dancers take absolutely everything off and are instructed to sit on customers’ laps. The naked women draw the men in, says Diablo, which, in turn, means they will learn to love vegan food.”

    “The world’s first vegan strip club: Will topless dancers really be able to teach customers at Casa Diablo to shun meat?”

  4. That was truly weird, Sam. Why would vegans be opposed to giving sheep a haircut? Or keeping a room full of insects for their silk?

  5. Xena: The trouble with wool isn’t shearing itself (but google “mulesing” for an exception to this). The trouble is that the wool industry is a lot like the rest of animal agriculture. You don’t get wool by walking up to wild sheep & cutting their hair. Rather, you breed sheep, keep them around as long as they’re growing profitable amounts of wool, then you send them off to slaughter. Oh, and you don’t have to keep them in particularly nice conditions for them to give you profitable amounts of wool, either. There’s lots more here:

    I’m less up on the issues with silk, but it’s a similar sort of thing: when you’re keeping animals for the money they’ll make you, it doesn’t go well for the animals.

    (Just in case it’s not obvious, I’m not trying to defend or explain the vegan strip club. I think it’s both a bizarre idea (honestly, how many people were crying out for this?) and offensive/problematic/etc for all the obvious reasons.)

  6. Shocking response from the NYTImes “Ethicist” to my letter:

    I’m aware that the demographic diversity of the panel leaves something to be desired. I find you can’t win that battle every single time you fight it: when, in the course of writing a column, I invoke a hypothetical “she,” people write in to tell me I’m sexist for assuming the person in question was a woman; when I invoke a hypothetical “he” they say I’m sexist for assuming it was a man. In general I’m accused of being blinded *by* feminism more often than I’m accused of being blind *to* it, but I confess I lost count at some point.

    Many of the experts I consult in my week-to-week columns are women. But in this one case I opted for fame over diversity. Those judges are best-selling authors with vast built-in constituencies; their involvement alone makes the contest an event (as the hundreds of entries that have already poured in have shown). In the relatively narrow field in which ethics and food overlap, there are – alas – no women of equivalently high public profile, not even Breeze Harper.

    I think it’s more important to strike an overall balance in one’s work than to make sure that every single grouping of humans achieves perfect statistical parity. Don’t you?

    Regardless, I do sincerely hope you will consider entering the contest. Lots of people have convictions they want to blurt out on this topic; few have put the time into it that you have. I would be delighted to read your thoughts.

    Ariel Kaminer

  7. Yes, Roger. I did google that. Obviously, American sheep farmers will make their sheep look as Brokeback Mountain as possible when they’re advertising their product. But from what I could tell, mulesing is an Australian practice. Surely there are farms where the animals are treated humanely? I mean, we have to draw the line somewhere. I try to stay away from beef&pork (when I have a choice–poverty pushes me to soup kitchens sometimes). I do eat birds, fish, milk& eggs, or my mental functioning starts to deteriorate. For the cost of a bottle of St. John’s wort I can get a good sized turkey, so why be snooty about buying overpriced herbal supplements for my deficiencies? I don’t wear fur, and only wear leather footwear for my oddly sized feet (I need the stretch or I get painful blisters). But trying to survive a Canadian winter–or an Oregon winter for that matter–without wool? Is that even possible?

    I googled silkworms, too. They kill them after they spin their cocoons, so they never have the opportunity to grow into a moth.
    I can at least grasp the logic, but I’m of a different mindset where the rights of r selected species are concerned, especially when said species is a parasite. I don’t think it’s hypocritical to be more concerned with the rights of marine mammals, primates, cute mammals and marsupials, than I am with the rights of worms and cockroaches. There have been experiments that *suggest* (inconclusively) that plants, while lacking the ability to locomote, may not be far behind insects in their capacity to feel pain/emote(?).

    We have to eat something. We have to wear something.

    I’m not really offended by the strip club. I’d do it myself if I were 30 lbs. lighter and didn’t have these aching knees. I’ve known a few dancers, and my guess would be that the girls had something to do with the vegan rules. Ladies who work so few hours for so much money often have the time and the wearwithall (pun definitely intended) to develop some unusual hobbies. I guess Dancers Lobbying For Insects isn’t that much weirder than LARP or g-string collecting when you think about it.

  8. Lori, that response is awful in so many different ways. I thought first she was trying to justify her decision with the stuff about pronouns, but I now think it is better to think of it as a narrative supposed to assure us she has some primitive awareness of some issues of concernAssA aa to women.

    The second half seems to invoke a principle shocking in an ethicist. that is, Some sexism is fine because in a sexist society it often gives us the winning strategy.

  9. Kaminer’s logic is so dreadful in that letter that it seems unfair to pick on it. But I will anyway. How does only picking famous men achieve balance? And at least two of them (Pollan and Bittman) are famous because they wrote for, or write for, the Times itself. And no offense to Professor Light, but is he really more famous than any of the women or men of color listed above? Or the many others who we could name (Cora Diamond, Jean Kazez, and many more who I’m forgetting)? To be clear, I am by no means trying to insult Prof. Light, because as an academic his public profile was bound to be limited, but his presence does betray just how silly her argument is.

  10. Hi Xena:

    (Sorry for the very late reply, & for not getting to everything you bring up–)

    Canadian winters w/o wool: very possible. I grew up in Toronto, and it was synthetics that got me through. (Vancouver winters aren’t all that Canadian, or I’d appeal to more current experience.)

    I wouldn’t think the case against silk etc would depend on the alternative being hypocritical. That is, I think you can consistently care loads about big animals & not at all about bugs–but a view can have failings other than inconsistency. All things considered, I think it’s better to avoid silk & honey than not to (partly because that avoidance isn’t particularly burdensome), but I don’t think it’s *logically* required, given care for sheep & dogs & humans.

    And I probably was too quick to take offence to the strip club. I was thinking (characteristically, I suppose) from the male patron’s point of view rather than the performers’. I’m still offended by the idea that this is an effective way of campaigning for animal rights/veganism. Are strip clubs really known for good food–good enough to convert people to veganism? Eugh.

  11. It’s not a terrible idea to have a vegan strip club – re:Casa Diablo. I mean, if you’re going to have one, might as well make it not harmful for animals.

    I believe that women who want to strip absolutely should. Some women love stripping and are making incredible amounts of money doing what they enjoy. How many of us can say that about our jobs?

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