Slow Meat 2014

» June 12th, 2014

Next week Slow Food USA will host an event called Slow Meat 2014. Allan Savory, the current guru of rotational grazing, will deliver the keynote address. Obscuring the ethics of slaughter behind culinary rhetoric, the event—among other stunts—will “honor” the American bison (the meeting is in Colorado) with an “artistic, narrated breakdown.” Which basically means Slow Foodies will slaughter the bison, butcher him, and discuss their actions with high-minded intentionality. They will not rush.

Ellen Kennelly (a frequent participant at the Pitchfork) and I recently discussed the importance of getting ahead of the media on these issues by attempting to preempt predictably uncritical coverage. Any reporter covering this event, for example, should understand that Allan Savory’s colleagues have seriously questioned his research. They should also know that there are ethical implications to killing a sentient animal for the purposes of entertainment and culinary indulgence.  Fast food or slow, these issues should be addressed, or at least fall on the media radar. In an important respect, there’s a reason that thousands of people will gather to witness the slaughter of a bison and not question the act: a lack of knowledge.

To that end, Ellen—who is one of those people who is constantly engaging the public on animal issues in the most tactful and effective manner—wrote the following letter to her acquaintances in the Slow Food club. It’s an invitation to discuss the issues that concern animal advocates. Not fight over. Discuss. She also outlined for me the kind of information we should seek to present to those who attend and write about this event. I think it’s all very smart.

The meeting will happen. Slow Food will go on. The bison will die and be eaten. But that doesn’t mean our outrage can’t exist more publicly, in the mainstream media, rather than merely seething in the confines of our little blogs.

Slow Food version 2

Appeal to Journalists

I trust you will share this information far and wide.

10 Responses to Slow Meat 2014

  1. John Maher says:

    Ellen is a media savvy MFA rep doing great work in Boston and is as sharp as they come — so her words are timely, are well worth the click-thru, and must be heard. As with all things involving killing, this is about who is sacrifceable [sic], and who is not, and who makes that cultural determination. To get that across in an accessible letter is a great skill indeed.

    Mara Miele writes about the CittaSlow network in Itaky from the UK and its effect upon welfare and whether the lives of animals are made to matter within the context of a “new appreciation” rooted in human epicureanism. I am not convinced because the result is always the same. In all fairness Miele does highlight the ethical ambiguities for critters concerning slow food.

    Sad about the buffalo but this is about ritual and reification of normalized othering and killing more than food. Without these rituals the othering and oppression of despised classes of humans would not be possible.

    For me slow food in this season means Tagine Aubergine, some broccoli rabe, and a glass of Montepulciano, all savored as the chariot of fire in the sky turns orange-mauve and stardust sprinkles over the horizon.

  2. James says:

    My knees buckled when you wrote “tagine aubergine”–my favorite.

  3. Ellen K says:

    Just so all my fellow ethical vegan friends here are clear: my horrible behaviour described in the SF letter is from my dark days back in the ’90s. I will carry that shameful burden always, and know that I can never fully atone. Nothing is getting harmed or killed in my kitchen except for stray aphids lurking in the kale!
    And although I write that I’m re-evaluating my beliefs and actions, that was for specific strategic purposes; I have of course long since answered those questions unequivocally for veganism.

  4. Keith Akers says:

    Ellen’s letter is most interesting. I wonder if there is a wedge of “Slow Food” sentiment which her letter might appeal to, in order to get the organization to question Allan Savory’s pseudo-science. If there is, I wonder whether they would have any standing within the formal Slow Food organization which organizes events such as this, and (even if both of these conditions are true) we have any way of appealing to this “wedge.”

    Would picketing or leafleting them do any good? Just a thought. On such short notice, and uncertain feasibility, this is more or less a theoretical question for 2014.

    • Ellen K says:

      Hi Keith,
      The original letter was written and sent in April, when the event was known but before Savory was announced. I was then hoping to find and/or encourage “wedge” people (they do exist, yes) on Nick Cooney’s point in Veganomics that people who buy “humane” meat can be more open to giving it up altogether (they’re at least thinking at all, as so many are not) — when they’re not using it as rationale to regress.
      The organizers have since been given, and have read, the Int’l J of Biodiversity piece, though too late for this year.
      Picketing or leafleting probably not effective with attendees who would only get more defensive, but critical media coverage could be, hence appeal.

  5. Karen Orr says:

    Would Slow Meat folk be interested in the upcoming documentary, “COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret?”

  6. Mountain says:

    I love Ellen’s approach to this. Tactful, thoughtful, informative, designed to persuade rather than create defensiveness. And in terms of raising awareness about meat-eating, it’s targeting the right audience– people who eat meat, but who are comfortable thinking about the consequences of their food choices.

    But it seems odd to me that people seem to get most upset about the forms of meat-eating that do the least harm. Eating bison kills fewer animals per calorie than grains, fruits, or vegetables. It kills fewer animals per calorie than tagine aubergine.

    The deadliest foods are small animals like chickens, rabbits, and small fish– more than 100 times as deadly on a per-calorie basis as plant foods. Meanwhile, eating large animals isn’t much deadlier than eating plants, and in some cases (bison, moose) is actually less deadly. Yet it’s the large animals who seem to draw all the attention.

    • Ellen K says:

      Aw, shucks.
      You’re absolutely right about “charismatic megafauna” bias, and also that this particular choice (bison) is the least problematic. But as I note in the amended pdf “Appeal” (the one here, not in emailed version to subscribers), the point isn’t to go after SF but Savory and to call out the hypocrisy of corporate sponsors wanting to humane-wash their factory farmed products. Also to educate journalists with information and critiques they’re unlikely to know about. I would have done this regardless of whose body was artistically laid on the bbq — anything to help pull down the humane myth that props up killing all critters for profit and pleasure.

      We volunteers are now well trained not to talk about the problems of “red meat” but to lead with chicken, eggs, and fish, and to recommend that if people are willing to let go of only one or two animal foods, it should be those. Chick-fil-A is obviously a favorite protest target for many reasons, and I’ve worked at promoting Beyond Eggs at university dining halls here. I hope this is reassuring!

      • Mountain says:

        Of course, I’m subject to charismatic megafauna as well. I read about Satao, the Kenyan elephant who was recently poached, and was sickened to think about it.

  7. Mountain says:

    “We volunteers are now well trained not to talk about the problems of “red meat” but to lead with chicken, eggs, and fish”

    That’s awesome. And smart. And obviously, it’s well worth reaching out to this audience, even if it’s bison they’re eating on this occasion. Most, no doubt, eat chicken, eggs, and fish (and CAFO beef) on other occasions.

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