Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My Hero, Daniel Lazare

takes on Vegetarianism.


OscarTate said...

Everyone in the vicinity of Fresno, California should go to Senses Cuisine, a wonderful restaurant that tries as much as possible to cook slow food -- locally produced and organic. Meat? You bet. But avoiding the streams of industrialized food production. Good essay. I think Lazare holds back though, until his very last sentence where he suggests eating meat should be a celebration of creating abundance out of scarcity, it seems he can't help but let fly with his true feelings: "It's a lot better than wallowing in the silly defeatism of a diet of tofu and sprouts."

anton said...

I agree. I was somewhat disappointed. Maybe the radlibirati at The Nation didn't want to offend.

Living in a crunchy circle and in a tattoo and punctured milieu it is hard to rail on such subjects, making allies/trying not to be totally alienated and all. But I think the lasting sustain for the whole foods/organo movement of the 60's is because of a loss of politics not an embrace of real politics, particularly these days when the left has been defeated. People found that getting off the capitalist grid and fighting the boss was much more difficult than changing to whole wheat. They also like markets because they give you Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and lots of tasty olives from Greece (I plead guilty here). It's nicer to think you are doing the planet a favor by buying Ethiopian Organic Blend than joining a sympathy strike with the Whole Foods workers who want to join the union. And isn't it nice that Archer Daniels Midland gives to PBS?

The talk does seem much more about how it is good for the individual and the impending mass poisoning/apocolypse from tap water than the political economy of agro-industry.

On the positive side regional planning and cooperative shares are on the rise. Can this feed the planet? No.

Anonymous said...

TW via email says:

well..., I found the article by Lazare wrong in more ways than I can quickly count. Maybe when I have more time I will go through it point by point. The crux of the matter for me is surely his belief in human sovereignty. Crypto-mystical perhaps? I suggest taking a look at the history of the planet, the history of life on the planet, the history of human life, and the historical record of past civilizations. There is no good reason to believe that our current civilization won't meet the same fate as past civilizations. There is no good reason to believe that humans won't eventaully meet the fate of other species. Unless you believe that humans are qualitatively different from other animals. That's obviously a very prevalent believe. Why? Where does this come from? Look no further than your Bible. (although you could trace it back further no doubt if you were so inclined).

I agree with your comments that vege is ineffectual as a political gesture. I think alot of people are vege not for political reasons but because they empathize with other animals. Yeah I know, not too hard-nosed trotskyist is it?

anton said...

To TW's post:

I'm not sure if I would describe DL as an advocate of human sovereignty-my understanding of this concept, in a blog shell, is the idea of self-ownership in a Randian/Objectivist way, so I guess I would request how you see him as such or for your definition. Or do you mean that he see's humans on top and damn the rest?

I would think that DL is a misanthrope (and likes to pick a fight?) but a collectivist who thinks while we are here we should make sure we all eat and live as long as possible in this period of human domination of the planet. Environmentalist would also be a tag I would lay on him but not a utopian. In other words he knows why we have 6 million humans on the planet these days; because of the industrial revolution that begat the "Green" Revolution-the application of industrial/chemical methods to agiculture which has massively expanded production thus allowing enough food for the rabble.

The debate about the Green Revolution is actually one of my favorites because it sheds light on the utopian world that many of the crunchy live in, i.e. we live our fat and happy lives in the first, and many in the third, world because of the mass production of food and the poisoning of the land.

On your longer view, I agree if we stick with the current carbon based system we are in trouble. And when I say we, I certainly do mean the humans but also the rest of life en Gaya because if we aren't fed we fight and blow up things. Thus equal distribution of wealth is the key to any further procreation for all life.

anton said...

On the primary motivation for vege:

I don't think it is because of the love of the cute. I see it as a retreat from radical politics. In a period of crisis, economic and political, many of the pierced, punctured and stinky would be on the right side of the barricades. But in these days of neo-liberal ascendancy the message of radical transformation is drowned out by irritainment of all sorts; Walmart, cellphones, American Idol, fast food (some of it quite healthy) easy credit, etc.... And lets face it, for millions the system is delivering so it makes sense from a material perspective. Lots less death squads, cholera and famine for millions in the last 50 years. This is not to ignore the externalization of these things to the south but more are now able to feed at least minimally at the trough. This does not mean exploitation, there is more wealth and fewer sharing it, has ended, it's actually increased, but the modern world has eliminated the short, dirty and violent world of old.

TW said...

anton said..."I'm not sure if I would describe DL as an advocate of human sovereignty."

Well don't take my word for it, this is from the article: "The idea is that instead of reigning supreme over nature, humanity should take its place within nature alongside its fellow animals. Instead of domination, this implies sharing, harmony and other New Age virtues. But the trouble with sovereignty is that it cannot be fragmented or reduced; either it's supreme and indivisible or it's not, in which case it's no longer sovereignty. Although vegetarians may think that surrendering human supremacy will reduce the harm that people do to the environment, any such effort is invariably counterproductive. Denying humans their supreme power means denying them their supreme responsibility to improve society, to safeguard the environment on which it depends and even--dare we say it--to improve nature as well."

I've got to say its worked great so far, all the improvements we've made to nature...

My problem with his argument is that he doesn't allow for the possiblity of non-sovereignty: " the trouble with sovereignty is that it cannot be fragmented or reduced", in other words its just a done deal, get over it. This is just another, more palatable to some, version of dominionism.

Here's another quote: "Somehow, amid the myriad slaughters of World War II, it takes a frail and worthless kitten". That "worthless" speaks volumes. Certainly the kitten is worthless to the author and that is the only consideration.

Here's another one: "Freeing an animal so that it could return to its natural habitat meant subjecting it to a life of greater pain rather than less. This was disconcerting because it suggested that animals might be better off on a farm even if they were to be slaughtered in the end." Who would believe this? Someone who would rather live his life a slave in a pen? Or someone who is not willing to grant any non-human animals any sort of inherent worth outside of their utility to humans?

Jake said...

i don't understand leftist hostility to vegetarianism. we don't like exploitation and needless suffering, we don't accept it when someone says those things are natural or necessary, so why would we participate in the domination of animals? we believe in sustainable environmental practices, so why would we support the meat industry, which is responsible for 1/5 of human-induced greenhouse gases, sucks up huge land and water resources, and destroys waterways? we oppose the exploitation of workers, so why would we support the industry that in the US at least probably has the worst working conditions? we believe in global equality, so how could we wish for everyone to be able to eat as much meat as we do when that is just not ecologically possible?

no doubt vegetarianism is an easy way out of politics for some people, but for all the people i know it's a logical extension of radical politics. it doesn't do anything but strengthen our commitment to fundamental change.

Jennifer & Ted Fons said...

I guess I think about vegetarianism less categorically than Lazare.

On the continuum of "all meat all the time" to "no animal products ever" (neither one actually exists), I'd rather be closer to the no animal products side.

Why? Lots of reasons: health, economics, sentimentality. I'm probably not even very close to the "no animal products" side of the spectrum, but the labels aren't what motivate me and I know I am closer than I used to be.

anton said...

T from Madison via email says:

a very good review except for the "unsatisfying," or let's just say,
> stupidly antagonistic, final paragraph which after lots of thoughtful
> comments, puts us back on the single axis of debate pitting (the
> almost inevitably racist) Malthusians against the arrogantly
> delusional champions of capitalism, the Techno-optimists (What me
> worry? "Man" will always come up with a solution to overcome "limits
> to growth").

Jake said...

the ipcc report on global warming is out, it's being criticized for being too cautious but it still paints a very ominous picture of what climate change is going to do to the world unless we make some changes.

one of the effects of global warming that's not getting too much attention is how it will increase global inequality. it's tough to be sure about these things, but it looks like places that already have trouble growing food will be subject to worse droughts, and places prone to flooding like bangladesh will get even worse. some of the worst-off people in the world are going to be the biggest victims of global warming.

global warming is not just a bourgeois environmental issue, it's a global social justice issue. radicals should all be working to fight it, in our own lives and in our political work.

going vegetarian, or at least substantially reducing our meat consumption, needs to be part of that struggle. the meat industry produces 1/5 of human-induced greenhouse gases, and that's not going to change till we stop supporting it.