Local Nonsense

» September 19th, 2014

Typically, vegans don’t care much for locavores. The gist of their discontent is a largely correct sense that locavores—who, you gotta agree, have invested themselves in what’s become little more than a marketing slogan—use food miles to obscure animal and environmental ethics. It’s as if “the local” launders taste onto selfish palates to spite the ecosystem, much less basic ethics.

I was reminded of this relationship after a reporter called (well, technically, I called him so he could record me) to discuss the pros and, more so, cons of making a fetish of the local. As I spoke, it occurred to me that, nine years after writing a book challenging the “go local” food ethic, I was never more vehement in my opposition to the local food movement. For a while, I’ll admit, I thought maybe I’d overreached with my initial argument. Now I wish I’d hit harder.

What fuels my fire is all the “I’m eating the head of a local pig so all is cool and awesome” attitude that pervades this remarkably thoughtless movement. Ink yourself into oblivion, grow your beard to a caveman chic density, rent in a gentrifying area, spout some Pollanesque anti-industrial bromide, move to Austin, and you, carnivore, are exonerated from taking the time to consider the severe ethical implications of killing an animal who, in Tom Regan’s terms, “is a subject of a life.” Probably more so than you are aware of your own subjectivity, you jerk.

So, yeah. I got fired up after the interview, recognizing as I did how casually we dismiss the interests of sentient creatures under the guise of our own self-declared noble choice. What needs to be acknowledged in this moral delusion is this: it does not matter where your animal’s ethically unjustified death happened. Your ethically unjustified animal death remains ethically unjustified if it happened half a world away or in your own backyard. It’s still unjustified. An animal does not care where it’s slaughtered. It cares about not being slaughtered.

So, to demand what I’ve been demanding of meat eaters for almost a decade: justify it.

10 Responses to Local Nonsense

  1. Sam Gardner says:

    If only food miles would be really indicative for carbon content.

    There too localism is too simple.

    If only local farmers would be always more ethical or deserving than the poor buggers far away.

  2. Elaine Livesey-Fassel says:

    As you note Slaughter is slaughter is slaughter no matter who, what, why, how, where and by whom, et al., and if one is opposed to that then THAT is ALL one needs to know! Thank you!

  3. Anita Walsh says:

    Local produce is a great idea. When it comes to food security, knowing your local grower, learning growing tips from your local grower, supporting your local grower, all makes sense. If the stores empty out, you have friends, you can trade, they can possibly be kind. In the village where I live, when the Depression hit, nobody went hungry, because the community has so many growers. Also, encouraging local growing provides habitat ( when it’s That great kind of growing ) and discourages over development of good growing land. If there is a market for anything anyone grows, and I certainly don’t mean animals, providing a local venue, i.e. growers’ market encourages growing… good for them, good for the land, good for the community. Slaughter is slaughter. Cruelty is cruelty, and should not be a part of it.

  4. Mountain says:

    “What fuels my fire is all the ‘I’m eating the head of a local pig so all is cool and awesome’ attitude that pervades this remarkably thoughtless movement.”

    Apparently, the fuel for your fire is straw because that’s a straw man argument. No reasonable person thinks local solves ALL problems with the food system. Every movement has its halfwits (like people who think raw veganism makes you immortal), but the locavore movement doesn’t claim to be the way, the truth, and the life (to paraphrase the Bible) or that nothing else matters (to paraphrase Metallica). It just states, correctly, that localism is a useful lens for examining our food choices.

  5. Mountain says:

    “An animal does not care where it’s slaughtered. It cares about not being slaughtered.”

    True. Whether an animal is killed in industrial slaughterhouse or by an agricultural combine, it didn’t want to be slaughtered. It doesn’t care if an omnivore intentionally ate its head, or a vegan unintentionally ate its body which had been ground up with the grain, or if a bird ate what was left of its body after the combine passed through.

    Local is far from perfect, but it does typically cause less harm than the standard food system.

  6. Karen Harris says:

    Living for the past few months in upstate New York in a dairy community full of “happy farms” producing “happy meat,” I daily see veal calves tethered to their portable shelters. These are small scale family farms in bucolic settings, supposedly the good kind. I know that these sentient beings meet the standard for humane meat sold in such places as Whole Foods and farmer’s markets.
    Soon they will be trucked off to slaughter. They never had a chance to live a life.
    Thanks for this blog.
    (By the way, as a resident of Austin for most of the year, I could easily conjure up an image of the interviewer – given that, the blog is restrained!!)

    • Mountain says:

      Did you talk to your neighbors? I would like to ask them why they tethered the calves to their portable shelters. And if there is a better way to manage the calves, one that’s better for the calf & easier and more profitable for the farmer. Some bad practices may come from hate, but most come from ignorance.

      • James says:

        When you own an animal for the ultimate purposes of exploitation, you are incentivized not to really give a hoot about a calf feels about being yoked to a shelter. You yoke a calf to a shelter because you lack labor and are stressed and the animal is $$$.

        • Mountain says:

          Interesting. I guess that explains parents who beat their children, dog owners who tether their dog in the yard, and cat owners who lock their cats in the house all day. Silly me, I’d thought it had something to do with the culture they grew up in, and not realizing there is a better way.

        • Mountain says:

          More to the point, why do farmers in the European Union not tether calves? Why does the largest veal producer in the US not tether? Is it because they care more about animals than other veal farmers? Not likely. Is it because they care less about the bottom line? Not likely.

          So, about your claim: justify it.

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