Animals: Friends or Food?
To the Editor:
I am deeply disgusted by a photograph in the February issue article entitled “In the Flesh.” The photo featured author Julie Powell casually leaning on a dead cow. Are readers supposed to be turned on by this photo? Should we be undressing the author in our mind’s eye and finding underneath her butcher’s apron a piece of meat just like the one that hangs beside her? Or is it just supposed to be cool, confrontational, and down-home in some way? It’s more necrophilic than anything else. This picture simultaneously arouses readers’ carnivorous and sexual appetites, by showing a strong amazon of a woman, leaning over her victory kills; beautiful corpses like inanimate objects that never lived, never suffered.
Or is just supposed to be funny?
This picture is sexist, speciesist, anti-woman, anti-animal, and offensive to anyone who gives a damn about animal use in our society. But the real offensive part is what this photograph reflects, the absolutely casual ways in which we use animals without any concern for their intrinsic worth. All animals have interests to protect. Human oppression is rooted in animal use. Speciesism, is just like sexism and racism, which still remain and will never disappear without the abolition of animal exploitation. It’s not just factory farming that’s the problem. The romantic return to family farming as promised in this photograph is taking hold of the Hudson Valley. While bettering the treatment of animals, they are still chattel property, and they will always have their interests sacrificed for our pleasures as long as we use them.
The great irony is found at the end of “In the Flesh.” After much gossip, little talk of actual butchery (unlike what is advertised), and glowing praise for Julie’s vocabulary (“smug bitch”—a female dog, reapplied as a derogatory term for women; and “sanctimonious prick”—a penis or an obnoxious man, with sharp painful connotations), it is revealed that Julie and her husband are in a series of “pet health crises.” Their brood of three cats, a dog, and a python, are a “decrepit bunch” with kidney disease, lameness, and other ailments.
So the invisible obvious question is: Why are some animals used as companion animals and others as consumption animals? What criterion makes an animal friend or food? Why are animals of equal ability to feel, used in completely opposite and arbitrary ways by our culture?
The answer is: simple pleasure. There is no need to eat meat, dairy, eggs, honey, or any other animal product, as expressed by the American Dietetic Association. There is no necessity to use animals for clothes, and entertainment. It is only for pleasure. As long as we exploit animals, we will exploit ourselves, and we will be stuck in the same predatory paradigm that shackles us in its food chains.
Please present a more balanced viewpoint in your magazine regarding animals. With so many articles spent highlighting local cuisine, you’d think you could do one on vegan food, with an open discussion of ethical veganism, coherently presenting the moral dimension.
Evan Stormo, via e-mail
Editor’s Note: We respect Mr. Stormo’s point of view and we’re pleased to share his reaction with other Chronogram readers. There is a strong ethical, nutritional, and environmental case to be made for not eating animals. That being said, the dead animals referred to by Mr. Stormo in the photo of Julie Powell are pigs, not cows. —BKM
The Effect of Chronogram on Sung Myung Moon Devotees
To the Editor:
I was visiting friends and just happened to pick up a copy of Chronogram in Red Hook. I used to live in the area and I love to soak up the good vibes of the Hudson Valley area.
Upon reading your piece about “Patience with God” in the February issue, I was profoundly moved by the honesty and candidness of Frank Schaeffer. The comment about Limbaugh (“Limbaugh is the fart in the American elevator and we’re all stuck between floors with him”) and the absurd Fox boys was priceless!
I believe there is room for levity and patience in this ongoing discussion that seems to create, as he suggests in his interview, fanatics (clowns on the left, clowns on the right).
I have some personal experience with this issue, as I am and have been for 35 years, a student of the teacher Rev. Sung Myung Moon (with whom the Hudson Valley area is most familiar). You might be amazed to know that he (Rev. Moon) would probably be in more agreement with Mr. Schaeffer’s position than you would think.
At any rate, your article prompted me to want to read Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism) by Schaefffer. (By the way: as a lifelong Republican, I “jumped ship” and worked to elect Obama in this last election. I say give the man a chance.) As a further aside, Rev. Moon “predicted” (decades ago) that such a presidential figure would emerge as a man of mixed race who would “embody the best ideas of the right and left.”
I enjoy the thought-provoking articles and cultural touchstones in your fine publication.
Gregory Davis, via e-mail
To the Editor:
This is a spontaneous fan letter to tell you that, month by month, I appreciate Chronogram more and more. Thank you for what you do to benefit all of us living in the Hudson Valley.
May Chronogram have a long, prosperous, and beneficial life.
Susan Barbarisi, New Hamburg
- Julie Powell in the meat locker at Fleisher's in Kingston.