Speciesism The Movie – discussion snippet

ANON Pretty sure I will show this in my Real Cost of Food class this fall. Great film!

Ria Del Montana nice. is that philosophy, cooking, ecology… Do you have it posted somewhere online?

ANON A mix of all those things. The class basically explores the many social and environmental costs associated with producing, processing, distributing, consuming and disposing of food. I don’t have the syllabus online anywhere, but have considered developing it as a Salon that I can offer online to non-college students who are interested in the topic.

Ria Del Montana If I may ask, how did you get interested in this?

ANON If by “this” you mean the social and environmental impacts of food, there were a lot of things that contributed. While working on my BS in college (studying ecology and evolution) I also practiced with a Zen meditation group and was intrigued with the vegetarian and vegan philosophy attached to Buddhism. In addition to pushing me to become vegetarian and eventually vegan, my experience in the Zen group also inspired me to clean and simplify my life. Health-wise I didn’t do so well on a vegan diet though (or on a vegetarian one), so these days I consider myself a conscientious omnivore who explores the nuance of ethics, killing and eating. That’s the short version, anyway.

Ria Del Montana Surely you remember what it felt like to hold the ethics of veganism. So you do understand that I’d be remiss if I neglected to inquire as to why you left veganism, and then to get you back on track. If you don’t want to go there, that’s fine, I’ll just drop by for a visit tomorrow. jj

ANON I do remember what it felt like. Looking back at those ethics I understand why I found them attractive. They were simple, black and white, and at that time in my life that sort of simple philosophy was very appealing. Killing animals is bad, living in a way that avoids killing animals is good. Part of what led me away from veganism was the realization that while my diet didn’t require the killing of animals, it did require the killing of plants and fungi. I wondered what was wrong with plants and fungi that made killing and eating them okay, while killing animals wasn’t. While there are obvious differences in appearance between plants/fungi and animals, the former group was certainly no less alive and research has shown that plants and fungi can respond to physical damage (aka feel pain), think, strategize, communicate, and exhibit other behaviors that we value so highly in animals and, above all, our own species. Drawing such a stark line between plants, fungi and animals seems quite arbitrary to me now.

ANON And as an afterthought, I’m curious why you feel comfortable killing and eating plants and (I assume) fungi, but you don’t feel comfortable killing and eating animals?

Ria Del Montana that’s another of those challenges that keeps coming from nonvegans. i think this may be the first time i’ve been authentically asked that question. in my time as a forest steward i’ve grown aware of the feelings and intelligence of all life, so I’ve given this a good deal of consideration. I remember when I was a toddler, I refused to eat fish because I knew it was an animal. I remember that primitive feeling of not so much disgust, but unnaturalness, for me to consume what I perceive to be an animal. My belief is that humans have always been folio-frugivores by our nature, but in dire times we can eat outside our natural diet, like many animals. That’s why there’s such a long history of stories and rituals to overcome our nature in order to hurt and eat animals. Have you ever read Jim Mason’s An Unnatural Order? A friend just recently recommended it to me, and it resonated strongly with what I’ve felt my whole life. For me the litmus test is simple: when I’m in my wildest being, I forage plants easily. But I can’t fathom putting even an insect in my mouth, much less capturing a lizard or fish to kill, tear its flesh, and eat. So for me, I am by my nature a predator of plants, fungi, etc., but not animals.

ANON What is it about plants that allow you to forage them easily, while at the same time you can’t fathom putting even an insect in your mouth? In asking this, I’m reminded of frequent foraging trips down to the Intervale, a region in my city down by a river where there are several small farms that aren’t allowed to use pesticides. I’m friends with several of the farmers, and have permission to walk their rows and gather whatever wild edibles I want. As I walk it’s common for me to grab insects and eat them on the spot, including certain types of caterpillars and definitely grasshoppers. I don’t feel any difference when eating plants vs animals (in this case insects). Either way I’m killing. And I view both plants and animals as a necessary part of my own diet, and both have been vital to all humans throughout history as far as archeologists can tell.

Ria Del Montana though i never ate fish because that feeling was so strong, i didn’t realize chicken & hamburgers were animals, so i did eat them. when i finally realized that those too were animals, they had been normalized as part of my diet, so i didn’t stop eating them until i was 17. all those years the feeling was just a nagging feeling in the background, nothing close to the feeling i had about fish. this tells me the power of normalization. in civilization we humans live in deep denial on many issues in order to cope with our own everyday existence. i remember when my son was one, without ever doing it before or seeing anyone else do it, he went up to a grapevine and picked a grape to eat. what an epiphany, it came so natural for him. when i was a toddler, and when he was a toddler, we never foraged insects. perhaps if we were in a culture where foraging insects was the norm, we would have overcome our natural instinct to do that. i’m rambling, but all i can really say is that the difference in feeling between eating animals and eating plants is instinct. primal.

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