Meat-Eating and Male Critics

As many of you know, the Sunday Times has had a contest to write the best essay defending meet eating. It came to a conclusion this weekend, and the winners are announced.

We mentioned before its all-male panel of judges. And in fact the ethicist recognizes concerns about diversity, in a rather odd context:

Reader Responses

The contest is sexist and racist

The panel [of judges] consists of all white men. . . . And so the cycle of prejudice continues in which white male elite perspectives dominate the production of social facts. LORI GRUEN, A. BREEZE HARPER, CAROL J. ADAMS

The contest is harmless

This is a panel of five, for heaven’s sake, for a meaningless contest. How diverse can it be? Why should anyone care how diverse it is? ETHICSALARMS.COM

So we decided to go to the Gruen, Harper and Adams piece to see why they thought diversity would be an improvement.

One fact is that one is starting out from a biased position with all-men panel, since our culture identifies men with meat-eating. Secondly, A group of white western men are going to bring partial and fairly shared perspective to what is in fact a global problem. Third, when one picks for fame – as the ethicist said she was doing – one tend to create a circle which the men close.

Interesting reasons, hardly meant to be inclusiveexhaustive (thanks, SH). What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Meat-Eating and Male Critics

  1. My main objection to the all-male panel is not that the “output” of their judgment was going to be skewed or partial. Most of the women in animal ethics don’t particularly come at the topic as feminists, even if they happen to be feminists. With women on the panel, the outcome could have been exactly what it was. What bothers me instead is that the all male panel misleads the reader into thinking that women aren’t involved in animal ethics. (Why else would all five be men?) That couldn’t be more false. Tthere are lots and lots of women Kaminer could have chosen, including celebrities like Temple Grandin.

  2. What’s wrong with this panel? Three obvious possibilities: 1) Epistemic, i.e., because of the composition the panel is vulnerable to getting the “wrong” essay. Since the outcome is probably not too significant, this may not really matter. (And this seem to be the line of the Ethicist. 2) Social, i.e., the panel composition concentrates the good of being on the panel in a privileged group while also reinforcing the perception that that privileged group is rightfully privileged.

    Oops. I see that this distinction is basically what Jean K already said! Ah well. My 2 has a 2.1 (denying of a benefit) and 2.2 (reinforcing a perception).

    I think there may be a third one, essentially that by disregarding the possible epistemic skew even in this unserious case, they reinforce the the epistemic norms which privilege white men. If women (or other marginal groups) are not included even when it doesn’t matter, then it makes it harder to argue for inclusion when it does matter. Plus, the “the outcome doesn’t matter so who cares” tends to make people who do care seem unserious or otherwise bonkers.

  3. Nice catch, Jean, with Temple Grandin.

    Bijan, I really like your point. I’d add the obvious: And if only white men really matter, we surely can eat at least lots of the others. Maybe not the ones white men particularly like, but the result are fair game, as it were.

  4. Following up on what Jean said, it was bad enough to start with an all male panel, but the argument that there are not famous women working on these issues is both false and insulting. So not only does it send the signal to the thousands of readers that only men are popular and important on this issue, but it seems the ethicist has also bought into this. And what is doubly crazy is just how wrong/wrong/wrong the Ethicist is on this issue.

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