Sunday, April 8, 2012

Coetzee- The lives of Animals

Hi all!
I was, and still am, so nervous to post the main blog for this week. One of the reasons is that eating and killing animals for human ends has never been a problem in my country and in my life. I am afraid of saying something ignorant or stupid. I just don’t know, and should I be sorry? On this topic, I have the inclination to use ignorance as an excuse, and I will try to suppress it, but still, I do not know, and I have never thought about it. So please excuse me if my argument is naïve, shallow, or illogical.
Firstly, I would like to talk about how this topic is related to the previous topic, mass incarceration of people of color. There was a time in history that white American truly believed that black people were less than human, just a little bit more than a beast. Aristotle said that slavery is natural because there are two types of beings: one that cannot use reason and can only work with the body, who deserves to be the natural slave, and the other can use reason and logical thinking, who is by nature superior and should be the master. European colonizers used this logic to argue that black people, since they were savage and could not use reason, they should remain as slave of the white men. Moreover, the notion of teleology—everything is created for an end, a reason, a purpose—is deeply ingrained in the mindset of the European, so this is the logic: Black people are created, and they are natural slave, so we are entitled to use them for our purpose, if not, what else are they good for? And can I say that we use the same reason to talk about our use of animals for food, clothing, safety, and medicine? However, I am unwilling to say that we are doing any great injustice to animals, and even if we do, it is a different kind of injustice that we cannot, and should not, compare it to what happened to the Jews and people of colors. (now, I start to sound like a horrible person! But it’s fine. Call me out and criticize me! That’s fine. Don’t be nice!)
Even though I understand Elizabeth Costello’s logic, I cannot agree with her. To me, there is still something special about human being that I hold above everything else. And the comparison between the Holocaust and the slaughter house Costello used is just absurd to me. That comparison is wrong because, as Mr. Stern the poet put it, “the inversion insults the memory of the death. And it also trades on the horrors of the camps in a cheap way.” I am not saying that there is no similarity between the two, but the comparison itself is just wrong. Since I don’t understand religion, I don’t want to use the religious argument that we are made in the likeness of God so that we are superior to animals. I also hesitate to play the technological advancement card to prove our superiority because that is just a wrong Westernized standardized measurement that even I will lose the game myself. We just do not know about animals and what really is happening in their minds, so that any assumption and comparison is just not enough and is just another iteration of human arrogance and imposition.
I am identified most with Norma in the story, especially when Norma said that relativism leads to intellectual paralysis. If we started to think about animals’ perspectives, should we start thinking about plants’ too? What do we know about any of them, or any of us any way? And now we should ask: where to draw the line? We are trapped in the concerns about those philosophical questions and the different unfathomable supposedly existing perspectives of plants and animals. Yes, we can try to put us in their positions and feel their pains, but I refuse to think about those pains all the time. It is exhausting. It is not because I am lazy, or maybe I am, but I just want to save my energy for other things, like the pain and suffering of other human beings. To me, the use of animals for human’s purpose should not be a moral question.
People eat everything in my country: grasshoppers, rats, animals’ intestine, and partially shelled balut eggs, one of the reasons is that we were starving, and another is that we can. My neighbor used to herd pigs, and at night, they killed the pigs. I cannot count how many nights that I slept in that horrible sounds, and how many times that those sounds truly sounded like human’s call for help and mercy. I grew up in that environment, based on your standard, is my soul messed up?


  1. While I may not fully agree with everything that Hoa wrote above, I do have sympathy for her perspective, especially because her background allows her to approach issues with a non-western view. It seems integral to remember that our perspectives and beliefs towards certain issues are influenced by the society which we grow up in, and resultantly, that there may be more than one “correct” approach to issues such as the ones addressed in this reading. So when Hoa asks, “is my soul messed up?” my answer is no. I think it’s necessary for me to admit that I am an avid meat eater—a self-proclaimed carnivore—and for this reason, I am perhaps slightly biased. But honestly, I could not imagine my life without eating meat. Despite my possible bias, I think that many of Hoa’s arguments are both interesting and necessary to consider. She writes, “People eat everything in my country: grasshoppers, rats, animals’ intestine, and partially shelled balut eggs, one of the reasons is that we were starving, and another is that we can.” Her first reason for people eating animals in her country, that they were “starving,” was of particular interest to me. If one believes that eating meat is morally wrong, do they still hold by this when people are starving and have no other forms of nutrients available? While I recognize that animals do deserve a certain level of respect, I have a hard time privileging them over humans in all situations, especially when human lives may be in jeopardy (as when Hoa alludes to her country’s history).

    Given my views, I had a difficult time relating to most of Elizabeth Costello’s beliefs. On page 166, Elizabeth enunciates her belief that to eat meat is a “crime of stupefying proportions.” I found this particular way of wording to be quite harsh, and almost borderline ridiculous. This phrase made me question, would Elizabeth Costello go as far as equating the murder of a human with the slaughter of an animal? In her mind, should we imprison people for eating meat? Her wording makes me believe that she might believe these things to be true. Perhaps this post makes me seem like I lack any sympathy for animals—this was not my intention. I think that growing up eating a LOT of meat has severely jaded my perspective and I recognize that I am hesitant to fully consider the possible legitimate arguments for not eating meat.

    1. Hi Ally,
      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I am a meat eater myself, and to be honest, one of the exclamation that I made when I first read this article is that "Without meat, what is left for Vietnamese cuisine? Or any kind of cuisine???" I would love to know what in my post that you don't agree with because I think disagreement is the basis for better understanding.

  2. For years now I have oscillated between varying degrees of vegetarianism and meat eating. Something that I have personally struggled with, and has driven this oscillation, is the stigma of elitism that is often a source of critique of vegetarianism--as Hoa says, many poor and starving countries and communities are forced to be resourceful and eat what is available, and most often meat is what is readily available. Even America, an affluent, Western nation, has industrialized the raising of meat in this country so that meat is what is most affordable. It is in this way that vegetarianism has become a phenomenon of the lettered-classes in Western countries--vegetarianism is a costly lifestyle that requires the financial means to be able to purchase expensive produce and meat-alternatives. Access to vegetarianism, generally speaking, is reserved for those in a position of privilege, those that are blessed with the ability to choose what they eat. Coetzee plays with this idea of elitism, observing a superiority complex associated with the abstinence from certain foods. Norma addresses Elizabeth Costello, “We are the people who abstain from a or b or c, and by that power of abstinence we mark ourselves off as superior; as a superior caste within society” (Coetzee 140). This deliberate exercise of privilege to further an image of superiority is purely colonial, and I have had no desire to be lobbed in with the “we” Norma discusses above.

    For me, I was abstaining from meat out of a deep-seated fear of what was in meat (this is most likely a function of other control anxieties), and was very careful to explain that to people when they asked me why I was a vegetarian. I did not (and admittedly still do not) want to be labeled one of those, to use Elizabeth Costello’s language, “kooks”—I really was just terrified of not knowing what was in my meat, I was not interested in being superior due to humanitarianism or the like. But as I read Coetzee, I am becoming even more confused about my thoughts on vegetarianism. On the one hand, Norma’s banter reminds me that despite wanting to distance myself from the elitism associated with vegetarianism, I cannot because I am in a position of privilege from which I dictate what I eat and do not eat. On the other, Elizabeth raises the point that in eating meat, I abuse a position of power over animals, and exercise just a slightly different iteration of colonialism. I am thoroughly befuddled.

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  4. Okay, so I have a lot of thoughts on my mind, so bear with me. (I sincerely apologize…)

    First, Hoa, in your response to Ally, you said that “disagreement is the basis for better understanding” – I think you are so right. I always love when people disagree and argue (with me) cause that leads to more interesting conversations and makes each person involved think about different perspectives, which can then be a learning experience for all the people involved.

    Second, on to the topic at hand, Hoa, I think the way you related this topic to the treatment of people of color (in the United States) is insightful. But it has me feeling some type of way and I dunno how easy it will be for me to parse this out, but I will try. So, we can all agree that people of color were (are) treated as less than human. Why does this less than human automatically equate to animal? Why is animal less than human? Animal is not human in the first place, so should it even be compared on the same level? This reminds me of a quote on page 146: “The Jews died like cattle, therefore cattle die like Jews, you say. That is a trick with words which I will not accept.” Like Stern (Abraham in the article, not Prof. Stern), I am really uncomfortable with reversing the comparison and comparing animals to how humans are treated. I dunno, something with that just doesn’t sit right with me. I dunno, I don’t know though if comparing humans to how we treat animals is entirely comfortable for me either, though not on the same level. In general though, I think comparing different (or even similar) situations is not good or productive and is rather destructive. For example, in an argument I was having with friends recently, we were talking about wealth and comparing the situations of families who make $35,000 vs. families who make $100,000. I dunno, comparing the situations of even something as seemingly simple as that was not right… it was more destructive for the conversation. It is not something that can be compared. The struggles of the $35 vs. the $100 families are so different, that I dunno… it just doesn’t make sense to compare them cause it trivializes the struggles that the other has to go through. In taking that philosophy and applying to this argument, I think it is destructive to compare how humans and animals are treated. We can agree that humans and animals are inherently different (though the levels to which we believe they are different may vary, we must agree that humans and animals are different, even if only on biological levels). If humans and animals are inherently different, then comparing their “struggles” and treatment is entirely un-fruitful. It is degrading to humans for animals to be compared to how they (humans) are treated. (Ex. comparing the treatment of cattle to the treatment of people during the Holocaust – not right.) It is distracting/___ (can’t think of the right word) for animals for humans to be compared to how they (animals) are treated. (Ex. comparing how people were treated during the Holocaust to how cattle are treated – it’s I think harmful for both sides.)

  5. (Point 2 continued) So to bring it back to the original point with Hoa relating the treatment of people of color to the treatment of animals, I think those are two things that need to be teased out separately and not compared. People of color have been treated as less than human (not like animals, but less than human). Animals have been treated poorly (the exact lengths to which I will not debate right at this moment). Two separate thoughts and comparing these two separate thoughts inherently hides and loses the main argument of each, I think. Because in the first, people should not be equated to animals at all, and by equating how we treat people to how we treat animals, I dunno how to explain it right now without making this 700 times longer than it already is, it’s just degrading without directly addressing the real issue at hand – the maltreatment of the people we were talking about in the first place. Humans (whether looking at the Holocaust or people of color in the U.S.) were not treated like cattle. By saying that they were treated like cattle/animals, we are glossing over the individual wrongs committed in each situation. You know what, humans in these were treated very differently from cattle anyway. In each respective case, the people who were (are) in power are behaving in a way to specifically target the people they are affecting. They are not treating the people like cattle. They are treating the people like people who they want to dehumanize and harm and degrade. I dunno. No matter where they got their tactics from (even if from slaughterhouses in the U.S.), Nazis treated Holocaust victims in the way they treated them not because they thought they were cattle, but because they thought they were humans that deserved to be humiliated and used and degraded. Their choices of how to treat those in the concentration camps directly related to how they wanted to treat them and what they wanted to deny them, not treat them as closely to cattle as they possibly could. In comparing their treatment to the treatment of cattle, we are losing the individual aspects of the treatment of Holocaust victims (as well as people of color in the U.S.). Does this make sense?

    Third, HUGE apologies, this got super long, there are a couple more points I want to make, but I will not tease them out in the same way I did above.

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  7. Fourth, I used to be vegetarian for 4 or 5 years, but stopped over the summer. My reasons for being vegetarian changed at times, but mostly revolved around two ideas: 1 – I could not kill my own meat, so why should someone else do it for me and 2 – I hated factory farming. The first has been hard for me to reconcile in general (as in if I believed solely in this, I would still not be eating meat cause I would never be able to kill an animal), but as for the second, this left room for be to stop being a vegetarian cause what if I was in a place where there was no factory farming. The second situation played out this summer. So to rewind a little, I am Polish. And Polish people, like Vietnamese LOVE their meat. My family here in the U.S. used to joke around that I wasn’t Polish cause I didn’t eat meat (you should hear their cries of relief and joy now every time I eat meat, even 10 months after I once again became a meat-eater). On the vegetarian section of Polish menus, there will be meat: ham, chicken, beef. Also, in Poland, my family lives on farms, and we raise and kill our own animals. So when I went to visit over the summer for a month, I didn’t eat meat for a couple of weeks until finally, I got sick of asking if something has meat it and getting the same reply “yes” and the same blank stare saying “I know you have told me that you are vegetarian about 50 times, but this has only a smidgen of meat – see I was obviously listening to your needs as a vegetarian.” And I thought, heck, at least this is not that processed ish that is in the U.S. and sucked it up and ate it. And let me tell you, that meat was delicious. Even now, oh man! My mom, woo! She knows how to make meat! I usually hate meat in the U.S. cause that factory processed ish has no taste (in comparison to “real” meat), but woo! My mama knows how to get out the most succulent flavors out of the meat. But then this is, I dunno for me. Cause I been toying with the idea of going back to being vegetarian (at my family’s heartbreak), but I dunno. I dunno what I agree with or think anymore. Cause I still do hate factory farming. That ish is nasty terrible. But at the same time, what about my family’s farms? I dunno.

    Fifth, sorry I lied a little in #3, I promise to actually be concise now.

    Sixth, really, really, REALLY love the part on page 156 where O’Hearne says that the “human-rights movement is just a Western crusade against the rest of the world, claiming universality for what are simply its own standards.” Woo! So many fun discussions can stem off of this, but I will resist, just wanted to emphasize that quote.

    Seventh, Ally, as to your points about the quote on 166 saying that the slaughter of animals for our own purposes is a “crime of stupefying proportions,” I would argue that it is. Keeping in mind what I talked about in point #2, I do not think that Costello was equating the slaughter of animals to the murder (or maltreatment) of humans. I think that sentence needs to be taken on its own and comparing it back to humans is destructive. So, taking that statement on its own, I think it is entirely feasible (dunno if this is the right word). We kill something around 9 Billion animals every year in the U.S. alone. That is ridiculous. Especially cause we do not use the entire animal and trash the rest of it. I dunno. There is something really disgusting about that in my eyes. I mean, chickens should not have to resort to eating other chickens. Chickens should not be 3 or 4 times their natural weight. (Has anyone here seen a REAL chicken? WAY smaller than the American chicken…) Animals are also fed ish that is not in their real diet. I dunno. Factory farming is disgusting. Ugh, maybe I will be a veggie again, at least with American meat…

    Eighth, I agree with what Kate is saying about vegetarianism being elitist, but to a certain extent... I just didn't want Kate's statement to blanket that everywhere poor people must resort to eating meat, cause that is not the case all the time.

  8. I agree with Hoa’s assessment of the Coetzee article. I don’t put human beings and animals on the same level. I believe human beings’ ability to reason and think puts them in a place above animals. I don’t see the death of animals as equal. I don’t think anyone can validly argue that they will feel equally devastated if, for example, while driving they hit and killed a person versus an animal. It may come down to human arrogance, but I see humans as superior to animals. We have the ability to rationalize and understand the world we live in. As Thomas Aquinas argues, “Animals, lacking reason, cannot understand the universe, but have simply to follow its rules blindly, proves that, unlike man, they are part of it but not part of its being” (page 121). I think another point we need to consider is that all animals in the animal kingdom kill and eat other animals. It is part of the food chain; it keeps the world balanced. Animals kill other animals for sustenance and I believe we do and have a right to do the same thing.
    With this said, however, I don’t agree with the way in which the human population raises animals for slaughter. We are the only species who raises other animals for our own benefit. We kill animals in excess, not to maintain us physically, but in numbers that are far beyond what is actually necessary. This is not essential for our survival and demonstrates what I believe to be an example of human beings taking advantage of their position of superiority.
    I agree even less with the tactics used to “prep” these animals for slaughter: the treatment used on animals to “fatten” them up, the abuse demonstrated on them, the ways in which they are forced to survive in harsh and life threatening conditions. The industrialization of the meat industry has been enacted in a way that makes meat the most affordable and available. This has resulted in a gross system of degradation and cruelty towards innocent creatures.
    My main point is that although we need meat to survive and in my opinion there is nothing unjust about our eating meat, we should not take advantage of this. We have no right to abuse other creatures for the sole purpose of making our lives more convenient and affordable. The intentional abuse of animals is as unacceptable and indefensible as the same treatment of humans.

    1. Hi Jen,
      Even though we come to the same conclusion that we don't see the death of animals and the death of a human being as equal, I would like to say that I don't want to justify my argument by using human's ability to reason. Again, there is just so much that we don't know. As Olivia , in a very very long posts, put it, we should not even compare the two, and I agree with her. The comparison is absurd, and there is no base for that comparison.
      You mentioned a point that I failed to touch on in my post, which is the abusive ways human use to prep animal. If we focus on this as the central issue, I wonder if the problem would be solved by changing the farm and the slaughterhouse a little bit, a reform of the meat industry? Is this question is too practical? Is there something more about human's consumption of meat that we should talk about?

  9. Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your honesty. Secondly, I can relate. Being raised on a farm in Puerto Rico, there was no livestock that did not go uneaten- that’s to say that the cow provided both the milk and meat as the chicken graced us with both breakfast and dinner. I couldn’t imagine not eating meat – it just not something Puerto Ricans think about (I asked my parents and some cousins).

    I think the issue with eating meat, for those who don’t, lies more so with the torture of the animal before death (unless you don’t like the taste or it doesn’t something funny to your stomach). With this said, I presume that (maybe) you would see the problem in this too. Costello argues that “being cruel to animals may accustom us to being cruel to men” (120) and I think this is absolutely true. Once we have attained the skill to kill another living being, we then become numb to seeing pain and death and if we think about what the word “humanity” means, things don’t really seem to match up.

    I want to reach further into your point of ‘human arrogance’ in relation to the thinking about animals in general. I think it’s a beautiful idea to attempt to bridge the barrier of language between human and animal because (I believe) in some sense they do know more about the planet, or even about the universe since they have been here longer than the humanoid and have a deeper connection to nature. I think Costello would agree that to believe the humanoid to be superior is to degrade the integrity of nature and with that disrespect the fluidity of the world we live in.

    With regards to Norma’s concern on relativism, I think it’s healthy to think about the animal perspective. Why not? Do we not do this with other humans? When we begin to confine ourselves to the mentality of superiority because we are humans and believe that we are the only species to exist with the ability of reason, we fail. We fail because we’re not considering the intersection of all the universe has to offer.

    In the end, I agree with you. I don’t think that animals for human purpose should be a moral question when it is a matter of instinct and survival. And I don’t think your soul is messed up- not one bit!

  10. It may seem that I don’t really care to be politically correct or nice or sweet in regards to this issue, but that’s not the case. Actually, no, it is. I understand the horrid treatment and the atrocious “prep” techniques that are used when creating food for us to eat and it’s mean. But deeming it immoral? Based on how familiar something may be to what it is to be human? How do you understand something in terms of morality when discussing animal cruelty: when it has a face? But fine, let’s entertain this notion and stop stuffing 38938293 hens into 2 by 2 pens and injecting them with hormones and stop herding pigs preventing them from moving and mating so that they have heart-attacks before even getting butchered. I mean while we’re at it, why don’t we name them and grow close to them, watch them grow up and hold their hands before they are killed. Or maybe we should sing them to sleep before being murdered (notice the change in the word choice because they are our friends now so let’s speak about their death properly). Granted non-“third-world” countries, like America, are creating a surplus of food with no purpose (or maybe there is a growing population so logically the demand in turn will rise) we probably should stop these cruel techniques being used when dealing with animals, or at the very least alter them. But why stop with just animals? I agree with Hoa’s point where she alludes to this phenomenon of “relativism leading to intellectual paralysis” outlined by Norma in the reading. We aren’t particularly great with dealing and growing plants either, so why don’t we raise issues in regards to that as well?

    My basic point is this: we are at a position, again of privilege, that allows us to analyze the issues of animal cruelty in terms of how we consume our food. Yes, there is something wrong with slaughter houses and how they deal with the animals before, err, slaughtering them (the reactions of disgust and uneasiness are a tad oxymoronic seeing that the name kind of speaks for itself) but when people like Costella compare the Holocaust and the slaughter house in her writing, I share Hao’s sentiments when she says this comparison is absurd. It is almost as if we are saying we are treating animals inhumanely, which is impossible seeing that yes, all humans are animals but not all animals are human. If people really want talk about immoral treatment, why don’t we look towards the hundreds of sweatshops and factories in these starving third-world countries and look at how those individuals are mistreated. It’s a luxury o be able to complain and protest against how our food is created when there are so many who don’t even have access to food themselves. Just a thought. But I suppose priorities are subjective so who am I to say animal rights are more important than human rights, right?

    1. Toni Benjamin, you are actually out of line. Your hyperbole goes to the same lengths that Elizabeth's do in the article. Your reasoning is just as absurd as hers. There is miles of gray area between treating animals humanely and holding their hands before they are slaughtered.

      The problem with the treatment of animals is that in the US we breed them to be eaten. So it doesn't matter how they are treated while they are alive if we are going to kill them and eat them. But in my opinion, it does. It does a lot. How we, as humans, treat others, be they human or animals, defines part of our humanity. If slaughterhouses are an example, we seem to have lost ours completely.

      (Don't throw the Kelsey example at me; there are healthy ways to go about being a vegetarian. Korea just wasn't up on them (or maybe they were and we didn't know enough Korean to ask).)

      This is it, by the way. This is the visceral, emotional response I have that may have some reasoning behind it, but cannot be explained entirely in rational lines. But my stomach is actually turning, and my brows are furrowed, and my heart is cringing under the weight of knowledge and guilt. This sickened response is why I stopped eating meat in the first place. I can't do it. And I'm not saying that anyone else has to feel the way I do, or change their lifestyle or even acknowledge that I changed mine. Because even though I like meat, the mere fact that I like it is not reason enough for something else to die for me to experience that enjoyment. It's not worth it to me.

      Thank you, Toni, for reminding me why I am (again) a vegetarian. I don't know what I'm going to do when I go back to Korea. But I can't have both things, being aware that I have both things, without being a self-righteous hypocrite.

  11. I appreciate and respect the honesty of our class’s meat-eaters (of which I am one), but I don’t agree that we always kill animals because of “instinct and survival,” as Christine says. There are more than enough vegetarians and vegans to tell us that to be carnivorous is not our only option. I hear Kate’s point that vegetarianism can be a luxury of the elite, but does that mean those who can afford healthy, meat-free diets should refrain from them? To me, that’s like saying the wealthy shouldn’t fund nonprofits or donate money to research because not everyone is able to do so. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t question the legitimacy or fairness of the circumstances that lead some people to have more options than others; we absolutely should. But if vegetarianism is an option that many people wish to pursue, shouldn’t we be happy when someone is able to do so, regardless of their wealth? If anything, increased demand for affordable vegetarian options should drive prices down and offer more people the chance to truly choose for themselves.

    I think that disdain for privilege is only productive to a certain point. Why is it wrong to be concerned about the treatment of the animals I eat? Compassion is compassion, and while compassion for other humans may be more significant or complex (again, debatable), to genuinely care about the suffering of other living creatures can bring only good. I can care about how horribly we treat the animals we eat without forgetting about the “sweatshops and factories,” as Toni reminds us. I don’t think there is a limit to our capacity to care, nor do I think that vegetarians are all declaring that they care about the suffering of animals more than or instead of the suffering of humans. The more we exercise our compassion, wherever it is directed, the more natural it becomes.

  12. Well, I would be correct in saying that this argument has taken an interesting shape on our class’ blog in response to Hoa’s initial post. I assume that a lot of this will be fleshed out in class tomorrow, but I want to get some of my initial thoughts down before they escape my mind.

    As Hoa points out, eating meat is a deeply engrained part of her native culture. I think it is safe to say that eating meat is a deeply engrained part of my native culture too, growing up in the United States. Although vegetarianism and veganism have become very popular eating styles (ways of life?), human beings have always been OMNIVORES. Therefore, Hoa does not stand alone. Neither do Norma and John.

    I want to further Hoa’s point, using my reference to human beings as omnivores. In the world, there exists an animal food chain. As Coetzee and Ms. Costello point out, we are at the very top of it. However, there exists millions of animal species below humans, and the vast majority of these animals are omnivores as well. This is pointed out in the essay, as Coetzee says “you wouldn’t want to put a jaguar on a soybean diet...Because he would die” (155). Jaguars, like many other animals, NEED meat to survive. Even though we, as humans, could subsist off of an entirely vegetarian diet, why should we? Other animals are not condemned for eating meat, why should we be?

    I think this is where LaBroski’s comment comes into play. I also believe that this argument would be less tense if animals were treated respectfully and “humanely” before their (inevitable) death. As Toni points out, many of these animals grow up without seeing the light of day and are shoved in 2’ by 2’ cages. To me, this is the biggest problem. I do eat meat, however, I choose to eat meat with labels such as “free range” and “cage free”. Whether it is correct or not, it leads me to BELIEVE these animals were treated better than most.

    Therefore, it seems to me an issue of treatment, and as Ms. Costello puts it, power. “Today these creatures have no more power”, she claims (123). If human kind made their meat-eating habits more “fair”, I do not think I would have an issue. If we went back to the days of hunting, where it is man versus animal, and man is WORKING for their food, it would appear to be a more equal playing field. Just as an animal hunts for its prey, a human can hunt for its animal.

  13. A lot of people discussed Norma's idea that moral relativism leads to paralysis. This brings up an important point regarding the idea of deep ecology, which recognizes the inherent worth of all living things. When taken to it's logical extreme, however, deep ecology suggests that a blade of grass is equivalent in value to a human life. While I think that it is important to recognize, as Costello points out, that the "scientific experimentation that leads [us] to conclude that animals are imbeciles is profoundly anthropocentric" (159), it is difficult to draw the lines of how far moral relativism can extend. In regards to Nagel’s question of what it’s like to be a bat, I interpreted his explanation as an understanding that animals all have different subjective experiences of the world, humans included. That is to say, we are not in a position to determine that animals are inferior to humans because humans have a unique, subjective experience of the world and can not understand, for instance, "what it is like for a bat to be a bat" (129). While I can't disregard this as insignificant, I am also unsure of where to draw the line of moral relativism, as I have a hard time thinking that my life is equivalent in value to a blade of grass.

    Additionally, I have to wonder if raising and treating animals humanely is an adequate solution. Temple Grandin is an Autistic woman who feels she relates better to animals than humans and therefore can understand cattle from the cattle’s perspective. She has utilized this ability to build equipment that takes advantage of the natural tendencies of animals. The equipment she’s developed has significantly reduced the use of violence in the treatment of cattle throughout the United States. However, while I think it is possible to develop humane ways to treat animals (and I realize that we are still a long way from achieving this), my issue with the meat industry stems more from the environmental impact of eating meat than actual animal rights issues, as the pollution generated from the meat industry has profound, undeniable environmental consequences on all living things, be it a blade of grass or a human being.

    Despite this, I think Kate brings up a good point regarding privilege. While I can’t remember the last time I ate meat, I have never referred to myself as a vegetarian because, quite frankly, I think it sounds pretentious. I am fortunate to have many options other than meat to fulfill my dietary needs, and I recognize that not all people have access to adequate nutrients if they eliminate meat from their diet. Not really sure where that leaves me in all of this...

  14. I respect Hoa’s post and her honesty. I also appreciate that she shared with us a bit of her life back home and the terrible sound that use to keep her up at night. I cannot even image having to hear such a thing while trying to fall asleep at night. Like Ally I also paid close attention when Hoa said, “People eat everything in my country: grasshoppers, rats, animals’ intestine, and partially shelled balut eggs, one of the reasons is that we were starving, and another is that we can”. Is this a good enough reason to kill animals and eat them or is this an excuse for why humans kill and treat animals the way they do. I am not a vegetarian by any means and I am not trying to preach to anyway about their eating habits but I would like to hope that the animals I eat were treated well and had a happy and long life before they were killed and ended up on my plate (I can dream can’t I). However, even though I do eat meat and have no problem eating a cow or a pig I do have a problem with eating a dog or any animal that could be kept as a pet. I know in her post Hoa said that in her country they eat everything because they can and they are starving. But just because humans can eat what ever they want just because they can does that mean they should? Why is it that we grow custom to eating certain kinds of animals in the United States and not others? Is it because we treat some of our animals as pets and others as food? And if so how do we make this distinction. People don’t just have dogs and cats as pets. They can have horses, cows, goats, pigs, and any other animal you can think of. We are very confusing individuals that we treat some animals as family and others as our dinner. I know my dog Ruby is a part of the family. She sleeps on my bed with me and goes on vacations with my family and me. But how did we make this distinction between what animals are family and food?

    In The Lives of Animals by J.M Coetzee, she references Cf. Summa III, in saying “I could tell you, for instance, what I think of St. Thomas’s argument that, because man alone is made in the image of God and partakes in the being of God, how we treat animals is of no importance expect insofar as being cruel to animals may accustom us to being cruel to men”. Is this true? Is it possible that anyone who has ever murdered another individual may have been cruel to animals or killed an animal? If this were true there wouldn’t be butchers left to sell us meat because they would all be in jail. But, maybe this is where it starts, killing and torturing animals for food. If this was scientifically proven that being cruel to animals could lead to being cruel to humans would they make everyone become a vegetarian or make sure that all meat that was sold was “free range” and “cage free”?

    I don’t know the answer to these questions I do know that I had chicken in my salad today and that I will probably always have chicken in my salad no matter how many articles I read on caged chickens. Why is that?

  15. I am struggling to start my response post for this week, and I’m afraid it won’t be as earnest and content-filled as those in the past. To be perfectly honest, I would say I need more time to reflect on the arguments in this week’s reading before arriving at a point of complete conviction.

    I do want to say that I think Hoa’s post is very articulate and well done. Her conviction that “the use of animals for human’s purpose should not be a moral question” goes to the heart of what this week’s reading made me reflect deeply on. I think, for now, my response is to agree with her.

    I also absolutely agree with her emphasis of Norma’s point that “relativism leads to intellectual paralysis”—there has to be a balance between respect and reflection, or your own opinions will never become as deep as they could be. I was actually annoyed with Norma for parts of the reading, but I think that particular point is a strong one. I would also say (on a somewhat related note) that the most dangerous issue I can see with Elizabeth Costello’s lecture (and point of view in general) is her consistent comparison of animals to oppressed or marginalized human beings. Although some of her points of comparison seemed valid, the arguments seemed to augment the importance of animals at the price of subtly diminishing those human beings. It’s all very well and good to say that you’re raising animals to the level of humans and not vice versa, but in making that statement, for anyone who does not have the capacity to see all living things as fundamentally equal (which I truly believe is at least the majority of us) you are creating a continuum of “value” on which both humans and animals fall, endangering what I think is more important, respect and equality for all human beings.

    Beyond this, however, I think I need a little time to think.

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  17. While I do not agree with everything Costello says in her lecture, she did provoke me to think of eating meat and the slaughter of animals in a different way. Often when we discuss things like the Holocaust, or any other instance of mass violence or genocide, we talk about the dehumanization of the victims. In attempts to explain how genocide happens, we often say that the perpetrators are essentially brainwashed to view and treat their victims like animals. One cannot refute that the treatment which prisoners of genocide face is horrible, so why then is it acceptable for animals to be treated in the same manner? I never really thought of comparing slaughterhouses to something like the Holocaust, but is true that the conditions are very similar. That being said, I am not sure if I am against slaughterhouses for the same reasons I am against genocide of human beings. What bothers me most about this type of mass killing of animals are the environmental consequences, particularly the pollution that is created by slaughterhouses that pollutes water supply and goes on to affect entire ecosystems. I simply have a hard time feeling the same emotional empathy for animals being killed than I do for humans. Perhaps it is because in our culture we are not raised to see the similarities between the torture practiced in the Holocaust and slaughterhouses.
    I wonder if Costello would consider it ever ethically correct to kill animals? Certainly animals of one species kill animals of another, and are we not animals ourselves? Would she accept the hunting of animals if it were with basic tools or no tools at all? Here is where I think we need to come up with a concrete definition of what it means to be human, and what it means to be a human who abuses modernity to disregard any other form of life.

  18. Okay, so whoever reads this please know I am not even close to being done. I just figured I need to start posting or I’m going to fail this class (believe it or not im still working on old posts, it’s rough out here. Anyway, these are basic until later when I can add the awesome quotes/ speak directly to certain people’s points). Okay, so I read this book a long time ago and I thought it was soooo interesting because it really made me think about things I

    1. Our privilege as humans: I agree with Jenny completely with her comparison to our conversations about torture. It’s true, we benefit from this violence against animals and we choose to care and learn about what’s happening. We are disgusted and appalled for a few moments but then later eat out meat without questioning how we got it to begin with. It is our privilege as human beings not to care. We’ve created this hierarchy) maybe it has to do with the food chain, maybe not) and the fate of certain species relies on how much we care about them. One thing I don’t think the book expands on is why we focus so much on distinguishing animals from humans. Many people were upset with comparing the two, especially with the events of the holocaust because we are different. I don’t know where im going with this yet, but it reminded me of another book I read called The Open: Man and Animal by Agamben, and the whole book talks about why we are different from animal and why it’s important. Some things he says: “The total humanization of the animal coincides with a total animalization of man” (77) and on p. 22 he pretty much says the method of distinguishing the human and nonhuman ruins our distinctions and hurts us because we as humans created our identity by separating us from animals. I wish they talked a little more bout why we distinguish ourselves from animals, and what we use to separate us.

    2. What animals get treated better/why: A lot of people mentioned the protection of cute or exotic animals that was brought up in the book. I suggest it has a little more to do with how we identify with these animals. We protect the animals we domesticate and the animals we think are exotic. But at the same time we protect animals who remind us of ourselves, like dolphins and gorillas because of their mind. For example, we can’t experiment on monkeys anymore because they’re too much like us and it’s inhuman, yet we can do whatever the hell we want to mice. We have control over this hierarchy and there’s a really interesting essay by peter singer at the end of the book about speciesism that kinda speaks to this. *will quote later.

    3. Why I personally don’t care: Personally, I’m going to care more about humans at this point. i need to pick and choose. i pick and choose lgbtq, race, ethnicity, class, gender, education, war... i know it sounds contradictory but i get so angry when i see commercials for dogs. i would die for my dog and love them to death, but when we care about animals more than we care for each other i get pissed off. No.

    4. Confusion about the problem: is killing the problem? or how we kill? I am also Puerto Rican and see how my great grandmother raises her chickens and cows and then kills them. Theres no overstuffing, cruel treatment, she’s just living. She does this quick death thing and uses everything in the animal to eat. Is that wrong? Are we mad at the way America does it or the fact that we do it at all?

    5. Comparing animals and humans: I am responding I think to olivia’s discomfort with comparing people of color and Jews with animals. I think comparing parallels with the acts and mindset of the people doing the harm its okay. We’re not talking about the slave and the animal, their point of view. We’re talking about the person doing the harm, what allows them to do this, what prevents them from caring, what its going to take to stop them.