Category Archives: Agriculture

Quinoa in Peru, and Bolivia

From Ari LeVaux’s January 25th, 2013 Slate article “It’s OK To Eat Quinoa”:

Most of the world’s quinoa is grown on the altiplano, a vast, cold, windswept, and barren 14,000-foot Andean plateau spanning parts of Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is one of the few things that grow there, and its high price means more economic opportunities for the farmers in one of the poorest parts of South America.

Continue reading Quinoa in Peru, and Bolivia

Against the Personal Preference Diet

If our going-in belief is, “Meat-eating is morally acceptable as it is a personal decision,” this belief equates acceptable morality with personal preference: “I like to eat beef; therefore, it is acceptable to kill and eat cows.” This easily permits the equivalent expression, “I like to eat Soylent Green; therefore, it is acceptable to kill and eat people.”

However, if we use unnecessary suffering as our benchmark, we can easily defeat both arguments. We first grant that unnecessary suffering is bad. We then grant that the more unnecessary suffering our actions cause, the worse those actions are.

We know that eating animals causes suffering in at least one direct way and one indirect way.

Factory farming is a direct way in which animals suffer. Conditions in many large-scale meat production operations cause animals to suffer cramped quarters, little or no outdoor grazing ability, and inhumane slaughter. Continue reading Against the Personal Preference Diet

Report: Number of Animals Killed In US Increases in 2010: “~10 billion land animals were raised and killed for food in the United States in 2010.”
Farm Animal Rights Movement
Do Chickens Suffer in Wire Cages?: “Dawkins explains that if hens kept all their lives on wire floors are suddenly given access to a floor of wood-shavings or peat, they have ‘an immediate and strong preference for these more natural floors over the wire ones, which is all they have known until then.’ “
United Poultry Concerns
The Human Cost of Animal Suffering: “The sheer volume, scale and rate of killing, the way the animals form a continuous stream rather than individual creatures, makes it clear the animals are seen as raw material.”
Timothy Pachirat

Discussion Concerning Delicious Foie Gras Ice Cream and Ethics


There is foie gras ice cream in my freezer. (And yes, I had a bite for breakfast.)

Before you decide to be a Debbie Downer:



I think it’s a bit dishonest for Bourdain to imply that D’Artagnan, an organic farm, says something about broader duck farming practices.

This document appears to me to paint a more realistic picture: An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Duck Industry. Also, at base, the fact remains that, when we eat an animal, the animal’s lifespan has almost certainly been reduced unnecessarily. Yes, I understand that most people experience a feeling of extraordinary apathy at this idea, but there it is anyway.



There are plenty of farms that treat their birds humanely and I am fortunate enough to have a chef friend who has just such a source. I’ve come to terms with my carnivorous tendencies, but agree there are some practices more humane than others. So long as AVMA doesn’t see a problem with foie gras, I can sleep just fine and with a very happy tummy.

I am but a selfish glutton of a human who loves the taste of delicious so much I’d probably even try braised human gastrocnemius if served by capable hands. Especially with a side of foie gras.



So, they made their non-decision, “because limited peer-reviewed, scientific information dealing with the animal welfare concerns associated with foie gras production is available.” The translation seems to be, “When in doubt, assume that the thing you want to do is just fine.”

Anyway, I respect that some people put in extra money and effort to make sure that the animal they’re eating was pampered and then received fellatio/cunnilingus as its organs were being gently massaged from its body.

I just think that people should feel something more like reverence for the meat they eat. I think of watching my mom gut and fillet a giant catfish. “They’re so magnificent,” she said, cutting into the yawning animal with an electric knife, its sleek body twitching and wagging. “Listen to it!” she said, teary-eyed, as it made its last stridulation grunt. “They talk to you! It just kills me ’cause they’re so smart!” She punctuated the last word by plopping some slimy entrails into a nearby bucket.

I think she earned her happy tummy by breaking her own heart.

So, I wonder, is it too much to ask that someone at least recite a monologue out of The Old Man and Sea every time they eat a Big Mac?



I believe they made their non-decision as Doctors should; with evidence. And as there was none, they acted accordingly. We are in agreeance that there should be more reverence. I think this Old Man and the Sea idea is excellent. I would like very much to hear “Food, I love you and respect you very much. But I will eat you dead before this day ends” instead of a prayer prior to eating. Much more fitting. There is an awful lot of disconnect between people and their food and everything else we devour as consumers. If a life is going to be lost, albeit sooner than it may on its own, at least it’s something that’s appreciated and not left to waste away, or gobbled up without a second thought of its origin. Hearts are broken in so many ways, to me, a happy tummy is a nice condolence.



Well, I would say that absence of evidence of pain in the animals is not evidence of absence. Therefore, people concerned with such things would be safest choosing a vegetarian alternative, a “faux gras” perhaps.

But, more than the discomfort to the creature, I am concerned with that relationship between the animal and its eater. The titular old man, after all, clearly has little alternative (monetarily and dietarily) than to fish. His love and respect for the animal are intimately connected to his knowledge of his reliance on that animal for, not pleasure, but survival.



I gave vegetarianism a go for a few years, but ultimately decided I don’t eat for survival, but for pleasure. As I realize I will never be an idealistic Hemingway character, I will continue to enjoy the innards of helpless animals. I appreciate and respect your valiant efforts to be a better human than I, and will be sure to enjoy my pain ridden ice cream with the most reverence possible.


OK, Emeril. I appreciate you entertaining my thoughts at least.

It was really the Bourdain clip that prompted my initial response. I’ve had a beef with Bourdain ever since I read in Kitchen Confidential that he has “naked contempt” for vegetarians: “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn…. [They] are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”

Why the disdain, Bourdain? The only other justification he gives is that he once worked with a vegetarian who was a butthole. Nice.

What do I care? Well, like a lot of people, I think Bourdain is generally pretty cool. I don’t need him to speak up in favor of vegetarianism, but it would be nice if he didn’t actively undermine it.
He might say, for instance, that vegetarianism is just one more way to (not) skin a cat.

All right. I’ll dismount my high horse since it’s dead now and thoroughly beaten. (Though, if it will go to waste, I would suggest it be eaten.)

From The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Few people realize this, but cutting down the trees is one of the things that keeps us Malawians poor. Without the trees, the rains turn to floods and wash away the soil and all its minerals. The soil — along with loads of garbage — runs into the Shire River, clogging up the dams with silt and trash and shutting down the turbine. Then the power plant has to stop all operations and dredge the river, which in turn causes power cuts. And because this process is so expensive, the power company has to charge extra for electricity, making it even more difficult to afford. So with no crops to sell because of drought and floods, and with no electricity because of clogged rivers and high prices, many people feed their families by cutting down trees for firewood or selling it for charcoal. It’s like that.