The New York Press cover story is an outdated one. A love-lorn, former vegetarian, author Linnea Covington laments about her “meat-loving tendencies go[ing] dormant while in the throes of a romance with a veg-head“. In her attempts to analyze and validate her own taste for animal products by virtue of the “happy meat” trend (humane, free-range, etc), she fails to logically articulate any justification aside from bacon tastes good and, (as one of her subjects attests) “If I wanted to eat bacon, I would eat bacon”. As every parent of a teenager knows, there’s no arguing with flawless reason like that.
Most glaring is Covington’s personal disdain for vegetarians. She reduces Jonathan Safron Foer’s thorough and 300-page work, “Eating Animals“, to “eating meat is bad…toting his dogma…whining about Bourdain.” I wonder If she’s even read the book, as she later refers to animal advocates as “fundamentalist animal lovers” who are “preaching the benefits of this diet“. Her most extensive example of a vegetarian is Sylvester Graham who “took these theories to a religious level”. The point that Covington tries to make is that veganism and vegetarianism are like annoying religions beliefs based on personal choice, whose proselytizing followers are falling out of style. As another of her interviewees says, “Everyone who was eating tofu in 1992 is eating lamb now.”
But unlike faith or a personal belief, (or the reality that vegetarianism and veganism in the US are rapidly growing from 0.3% – 1% of the total population in 1994 to at least 3% in 2009 [6-8 million adults]) there is the huge inconvenience that animals have their own desires outside of what we choose to believe about them. One thing we know for sure is that in almost every single case, an animal will not willingly subject him or herself to the customs of the slaughterhouse. They want to live and they want to avoid suffering, and this is demonstrated in their own behavior, not in a person’s belief. If animal advocacy were a religion based in personal belief and blind faith, as opposed to a very real social justice, scientific, and advocacy movement, it would conveniently suit Covington’s argument.
Another flagrancy is Covington’s avoidance of the unmatched environmental benefits of limiting one’s meat intake. “Humane” or not, livestock are contributing the single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the world! But in the realm of short-term self-gratification, this does not factor in.
The vegetarian-cum-butchers who Covington interviews wear the “former vegetarian” label like a boy-scout patch: Oh you’re still a vegetarian? Been there, done that. The Meat-Hook, a trendy Williamsburg butcher shop that opened in late October of 2009, is owned by the former “indy-rock loving vegetarian” Tom Mylan, who is depicted in the article resting his hands on a pig’s head as he demonstrates the proper way to butcher a pig. Covington finds validation among these former-vegetarians who are OK with eating and butchering “happy” animals so long as they know what happened to the animal. But does “being OK with what happened to your meat” as The Shameless Carnivore author, Scott Gold says, justify it? Can you imagine a rapist standing over his victim and proclaiming, “You had a very happy life up until this point, and I want to let you know that I am totally at peace with what I am about to do to you.” It’s preposterous. The same can be said in any case of exploitation, because clarity is simply that. It does nothing for the victim.
Like a support group, the surge of meat-pride in a culture that is already overwhelmingly meat-centric is bizarre to say the least. What articles like this, and publications dedicated entirely to “meat-culture” reveals is that some meat-eaters who have learned more about meat production than the mainstream are searching for everything from a rationalization that suits their palate to a defiant stance against a percieved religious crusade. This Flesh Mob provides, as Covington says, seemingly “…guiltfree grub, and there’s no shortage of eaters buying into it.” That’s for sure. But if the “Humane” myth proves to be just that, and you’re still sick of the “outdated dogma” why not just get cheap Chinese takeout and screw it all? That is, as long as you’re OK with that.
For more on this issue please check out my previous articles: