Monday, April 16, 2007

You Will Read It or My Computer (HAL) Will Destroy You

So my computer done broke (*gasps of horror and shock and shock and horror*), hopefully temporarily. It refuses to upload any of the food-p0rn from my camera, and it's been emailing me death threats every morning. (Ok, mostly just the former and not so much the latter. "Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?") Hopefully it'll be all fixed tonight (*fingers crossed*), but obviously I don't have any glorious food-pics and recipes today to share because of it. (Well, I have recipes, but what are recipes without food pics to entice you? Not much, I'd say.)

So I've decided that in lieu of a recipe today, I'ma post a little write-up about my three favorite vegan-books and why you should read them if you already haven't.



  • The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, and
    Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

    I'm lumping these two together as they're both by Peter Singer, and they're both necessities. Animal Liberation is old-school Singer and one of the bibles of vegetarianism, so you really should read it. The stats have changed since it was written (and since it's been republished), but philosophically, it still stands strong.

    The Way We Eat is a necessity as well because it is sort of a follow-up to the first book (in that it applies many of its ideas to our suddenly more organic-savvy society of recent years) and it will give you a bit of hope that perhaps things can change after all. Since it was published recently, the stats are all new, and although they reveal that we still need to work harder at changing the way animals are treated in the U.S. (and globally), they also ring of hope with stats showing that things *ARE* in fact starting to change (albeit only little by little).

    For those of you unfamiliar with Peter Singer, he is a brilliant proponent of vegetarianism and of utilitarianism and is, hands down, one of the most lucid, interesting, and argumentantively-coherent philosophers (and speakers--I saw him speak at CWRU last year) alive today. Back in college, one of my majors was philosophy, and let me tell you, I've read some dense and confusing text in my time--from Kierkegaard ("the self is a relation which relates itself to itself") to Heidegger. And I can attest for the fact that Singer is no doubt one of the most enjoyable philosophers to read--he never fails to keep his readers' attention, and he is very skilled at keeping his writing interesting, clear, and well-organized while driving all his arguments home with great persuasiveness. He does not bog himself down with heavy, uninteresting, dense text that could put an insomniac to sleep (granted, this may be due to the subject matter which deals with ethical theory rather than, say, metaphysics, but still...), and he bears witness to the fact that philosophy need not be boring, indecipherable, or incoherent; simplicity can be leaps and bounds more effective. He keeps things light and lively and interesting WHILE MAKING BRILLIANT POINT AFTER BRILLIANT POINT, and that is why I heart him so.

    And lest you think that the only reason I'm yammering on and on about him is because he shares my viewpoint towards animals, let me also state that there are many things I disagree with him on, and yet I still think he is a brilliant man and amazingly talented at what he does.

    So there.

    Read him.

    Some excerpts from Animal Liberation:

    "If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering - in so far as rough comparisons can be made - of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. So the limit of sentience (using the term as a convenient if not strictly accurate shorthand for the capacity to suffer and/or experience enjoyment) is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color?

    The racist violates the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of his own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race The sexist violates the principle of equality by favoring the interests of his own sex. Similarly the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to over ride the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is identical in each case.

    The people who profit by exploiting large numbers of animals do not need our approval. They need our money. The purchase of the corpses of the animals they rear is the only support the factory farmers ask from the public. They will use intensive methods as long as they continue to receive this support; they will have the resources needed to fight reform politically; and they will be able to defend thcmselvcs against criticism with the reply that they are only providing the public with what it wants

    Hence the need for each one of us to stop buying the produce of modern animal farming - even if we are not convinced that it would be wrong to eat animals that have lived pleasantly and died painlessly. Vegetarianism is a form of boycott. For most vegetarians the boycott is a permanent one, since once they have broken away from flesh-eating habits they can no longer approve of slaughtering animals in order to satisfy the trivial desires of their palates. But the moral obligation to boycott the meat available in butcher shops and supermarkets is just as inescapable for those who disapprove only of inflicting suffering, and not of killing. In recent years Americans have boycotted lettuce and grapes because the system under which those particular lettuces and grapes had been produced exploited farm laborers, not because lettuce and grapes can never be produced without exploitation. The same line of reasoning leads to boycotting meat. Until we boycott meat we are, each one of us, contributing to the continued existence, prosperity, and growth of factory farming and all the other cruel practices used in rearing animals for food."

  • Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail Eisnitz

    This book has a less philosophical and more journalistic approach to the issue of meat-consumption in the U.S., but it is *THE* book that pushed me over the edge into vegetarianism. Eisnitz very skillfully captures the atrocities being committed against animals in the U.S.'s slaughterhouses, and yet, she is smart enough to appeal to those folks who don't care all that much about the suffering of animals by *also* focusing on human-welfare issues as well, from the horrendous slaughterhouse conditions workers are faced with (carpal tunnel, deaths) to children dying from E. Coli (due to lack of stringent testing of meat in slaughterhouses). As I mentioned, her approach is a journalistic one, so it is geared towards mainstream readers and is consquently very easy to read--I think I breezed through it in one day. Many of the stats will now be outdated, but there is enough information in there that withstands the test of time and makes all her points just as important today as it was ten years ago.

    Read some excerpts HERE...

*By "die" I, of course, mean "Go read them, shithead."

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