The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Culinary Cult

The Culinary Cult

We’re all opposed to animal cruelty. . . until the definition of “animal cruelty” becomes so broad and far-reaching that it includes ordering McNuggets.

Matt Scully wrote on NRO earlier this week a defense of animal rights that included a de facto call for veganism — “you don’t really know your fellow man until you’ve pondered the fact that most people say they love animals, professing admiration and sympathy, and most people eat them” and a pretty harsh assessment of the world’s hunters, characterizing them as “the 5 or 6 percent of our population who still think it is normal, and indeed praiseworthy, to stalk, sneak up on, and dispatch animals for no better reason than the malicious thrill of it, memorializing these moments with their ‘trophies.’”

(I notice Scully never mentioned fish in his piece. Is it because fish just look more like food to us than cows or pigs? Is it because the fish on our plate can look more like a fish in the sea than a steak looks like a cow? Or is it that when fish is literally the main course on Jesus’ catering extravaganza, it’s harder to argue that eating a fish is inconsistent with Christian values?)

My friend Cam Edwards objects.

Scully’s moral argument against meat eating sounds great, as long as you don’t think about the mice, rabbits, squirrels, moles, groundhogs, and other creatures great and small killed by the combines in the cornfields and green spaces where our vegetables are grown. Anybody who lives in the country has seen turkey vultures circling and swooping down on the fields where the cornstalks have been reduced to stubble, or the murders of crows that gather to slowly hop and pick their way across the earth, taking sustenance in the animals killed in the raising of vegetables. There’s a hard truth in life that many of us either don’t think about or choose to ignore: We all eat to survive, and that means that something had to die in order for you to live. Chances are, even if you’re the most committed vegan you know, animals died in the making of your last, and next, meal.

Knowing this and recognizing this doesn’t make you a monster. It makes you mature. It gives you a greater understanding of your place in the world, and the responsibilities we all have to treat the creatures we eat with care and concern. Yes, we should be concerned about wanton cruelty to animals. We should actively work to stop it where we find it. But we shouldn’t define animal cruelty down to the point that eating free-range chicken is comparable to mass murder, nor should we casually condemn millions of Americans for being “trophy hunters” without considering the benefit that their hunting provides.

My friend Trent Marsh, who lives, hunts, farms, and writes in rural Indiana, thinks that Scully’s argument may make sense from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or among those Americans who only view animals as a commodity, but it’s different for those raising and hunting these animals. To those Americans, these creatures aren’t abstract ideas or data points. “To the farmer the hog is a partner, both in life and death,” Marsh told me. “For the hunter, the hunted is the embodiment of the wild they seek to protect. These aren’t lives that can be read about in books. They can’t be studied, or made into role-player games for the masses to enjoy. These lives are earned through nights spent tending a laboring sow, or moving a herd of cattle into safer pastures ahead of a blizzard. Because for the farmer, large or small, reliance is a two-way street.”

Modern American society features many, many Americans choosing to embrace all kinds of dietary restrictions. Millions more have dietary restrictions imposed upon them by their health. Just contemplating holiday meals in the coming days, I’m realizing that at our house we’ll have at least two pescataraians (no meat, but eat fish), several lactose-intolerant folks, at least one gluten-free attendee and several kids who are picky eaters. Oh, and every once in a while I try to avoid carbs. (God bless my wife preparing Christmas dinner with this set of Byzantine culinary expectations. Also, I notice everybody drinks.) Everybody’s chosen the diet that makes the most sense for them. If everyone around the extended family dinner table tried to persuade everyone else to change what they choose to eat, we would have. . . well, an even more chaotic Christmas day than usual.

Why is it so hard to choose a dietary set of ethics that’s right for you. . . and just stop there? Why must everyone turn into an evangelist for the One True Dietary Faith? You’ve heard the joke: “A vegan, an atheist, and a cross-fitter walked into a bar… we all knew because they all chose to announce it to everyone else within the first two minutes.” Yes, we know, you’ve figured out which combination of super-foods will give you a better memory at age 98. I congratulate you on enjoying what will be, probably literally, the last laugh.

When it’s Lent, and I remember I’m not supposed to eat meat – which is usually 50-50 odds by dinnertime – I don’t run around the restaurant haranguing the other Catholics to order fish. If your set of food ethics satisfies you, go right ahead and enjoy that. . . and let everybody else eat in peace.

Tillerson’s Got a Surprisingly Wide-Ranging Fanbase

Secretary of State John Kerry, on Donald Trump’s pick to be his successor, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson:

He praised as thoughtful some of Trump’s nominees, including defense secretary nominee James Mattis and Rex Tillerson, who Trump has selected to be Kerry’s successor.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s assessment of Tillerson:

“He has the vast experience, ability and judgment to deal with the very dangerous world we find confronting us,” he said. “His extensive knowledge of the global situation will be an asset in representing our nation.”. . .

“As the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, he has operated in nations all over the world and managed one of our largest corporations,” Cheney added. “I’m confident that he will do a superb job promoting our national interests in dealing with the complex and difficult choices that are on the agenda for the next administration.”

Between John Kerry and Dick Cheney, somebody’s going to be disappointed.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas met with Tillerson Monday:

“Rex Tillerson is one of the most distinguished business leaders in the world and he will bring a remarkable set of skills and experiences to the role of Secretary of State. Rex and I enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about Russia, the Middle East, human rights, and many other geopolitical challenges and opportunities. Like Dick Cheney and Bob Gates, I’m confident that Rex will bring the same clear-eyed, hard-nosed approach to the interests of the American people as Secretary of State that he brought to the interests of ExxonMobil shareholders. I look forward to supporting his nomination.”

I Guess ‘Fake News’ Only Comes on Facebook and Is Written in Macedonia

A lot of professional journalists griped about this post, contending that quoting a Harvard professor making an unlikely prediction – that 20 Republican electors were ready to flip to another candidate — doesn’t qualify as “fake news.”

Oh, okay, fellas. That perspective may pervade in the newsroom, but I’m not sure the average news consumer draws that much of a distinction between a made-up news story and one that credulously transmits an implausible claim.

Who did you hear more about in the past few weeks? Texas elector Chris Suprun, who announced in the New York Times that he wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump? Or Robert Satiacum, the Washington state Democratic elector who announced months ago that he wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton? (As Jolt readers, you heard about him on November 23 and the morning of December 19.) Did the coverage in the mainstream media leave you with the impression that there would be more faithless Republican electors or more faithless Democratic electors?

Call me crazy, but I think the mainstream media was much more interested in Suprun’s preening and Larry Lessig’s implausible claims of significant GOP defections than any reports of dissention in the ranks among Democrats. They overhyped one side of the story and largely ignored another, because one story made them feel good and the other made them feel bad. And when your reporting creates an impression that is the precise opposite of what actually happens, I don’t see a huge difference from those nonsensical reports on Facebook, made up by Macedonian teenagers. In fact, the nonsensical reports on Facebook made up by Macedonian teenagers are easier to see as implausible and farfetched. If you place your faith in them, you get what you deserve.

It’s the mainstream media reporters who are supposed to be more reliable, more discerning, and have a better understanding of what’s actually happening in the world. We count on them to separate the likely from what they want to see happen – i.e. “wishcasting.”

ADDENDA: For those not riveted to Jeopardy!, last night the program aired the sixth-straight victory of our departed friend, Cindy Stowell. She won $100,000 and counting; that money will be going to cancer research. We knew she had been just well enough to tape her Jeopardy appearance, but had no idea how well she did – and how many more episodes she’ll continue.

Her longtime boyfriend Jason got a chance to talk about her on CNN yesterday.

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