(by Michael Ruhlman, guest blogger)
This continual talk about the ethics of eating creatures that were once living is starting to get on my nerves. It’s not enough that those knuckleheads in Chicago and those sensitivos in California want to waste their time on the foie issue and the Whole Foods people figured out a cool marketing tool in playing to our arrogant anthropomorphist inclinations—giving lobsters spa treatment so we feel better about driving a knife through their skull? Brilliant.
What’s next, no oysters? No sir—they’re alive! No more salmon roe—think of all those unborn salmon you’re smearing on your toast and dotting on your blini! All the good salmon deeds that will remain undone! All that emotional life of the unborn chickens! Gone! Delicately poached and nestled on frissée! Clarence the Angel where are you?
What is going on here? Lobsters are insects! Ducks are not harmed by gavage! The real victims are the agribusiness chickens, cows and hogs, but the animal rights activists can’t touch the culprits responsible, true goliaths. So instead The People try to save the little animals. But I say such people are either motivated by self-interest or ignorance.
Beyond the fact that our current hand-wringing foreshadows an America that increasingly regulates how we live our lives (with a government attempting, via warfare, to regulate how other countries run their lives), which is scary enough, the more insidious danger to me is that we think clams and ducks and lobsters are people too. They’re not. But the flip side to this is that, in a way, we’re not all that far off when we believe such things. This is the height of human arrogance, to think that we’re somehow above the animal kingdom. We have one trait beyond our handy opposable thumb: we know we’re conscious. Ducks are conscious, yes but do they know it? No. Perhaps some very advanced French duck is right now fitting a Gauloise into its cork-tipped filter and adjusting its existentialist beret, but not in America. They’re animals.
And so are we, but in our self-consciousness have become hubristic, and therefore harmful. Make no mistake: we are animals. I am no different from a salmon. Why else would I return to Cleveland!? Cleveland! I had to return. I returned by smell. I returned to spawn. I’m not kidding. There is no other logical justification for the apparently ludicrous decision to live in Cleveland when I don’t have to. I think if we acknowledged our place in the animal kingdom—happily at the top of the food chain—and stopped thinking we were so damned superior to animals, it would be a better earth all around. We are animals who eat other animals. There is nothing wrong with this. Has this country gone insane? Even the restaurant critic for the New York Times, former Italy bureau chief, a thoughtful and reasonable man with a powerful pen, he’s having a moral dilemma over his shrimp! This is crazy!
Where is Bourdain? Tony, you’re an evil motherfucker, but I know you’re with me on this one. Help me. Where are you? Iran? Turkey? Put down that opium pipe and get your skinny ass back to your own country and do your show here, before we lose it. We need a full and clear view of how far off the track we’ve gone with our most common and basic pursuit, to nourish ourselves and our families. We need smart voices to get us out of these woods. Where is Steingarten? Jeffrey, you scaly curmudgeon, speak up! We can’t lay it all on Pollan—he did his part. What about someone with real power to sway the American masses. Rachael Ray! How about it? She affects the cutesy Suzie next door but I know for a fact she’s got a pair of brass knuckles in the pocket of those fat pants of hers. Emeril! Millions listen nightly to you! Put down that tube of Crest and teach people about the food we eat! Wake up! It’s not about the ducks and the lobsters. It’s about the corn and the oil. About big business and powerful lobbying in DC. They want your money and that’s all they want. They want your money and you can give it to them or withhold it. Make good choices about what you buy and what you eat and what you feed your kids.
All right, I’m done, I haven’t even started my work this morning and I’ve gone and shot 700 words on a rant. I’m going to go eat a hot dog, that’s always a good morning restorative…