It’s a wonderful life

(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…


64 thoughts on “It’s a wonderful life

  1. Good for you. There’s nothing like a good morning rant to get the heart started.
    I thought your war connection was interesting – imposing screwy food morality onto other people’s dinner plates similar to the war. But it isn’t just the neocons wanting to spend 700 billion dollars in a foolish effort to spread their perverted view of democracy around the world.
    It is also linked to this new hypocracy of food by the fearsome power of huge corporations. ConAgra and company love it when the food debate is over Foie Gras. It turns everyone’s attention away from their raping of the planet. That’s no different from Cheney and co. leading the country on a rousing rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” while they demolish our children’s future for an extra $100 billion here, there and everywhere.
    And you’re spot on to scream at the people with the power to stop it. In both cases, it’s the media folks that sit back, collect their corporate sponsorship fees, claw and fight each other in a desperate quest to be as famous as Paris Hilton and, oh, completely forget to do their damn jobs!

  2. From a non-sensitivo in California (Northern California, even worse):
    I’ve never eaten foie gras, but now that I can’t get any I’m dying to try it. It is interesting that the real food issues (which Pollan reveals so brilliantly) aren’t on the table, so to speak. Maybe it’s coming… I know that the CSAs are starting to become fairly standard in the Bay area.
    All I can say is, you can have my last oyster when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

  3. Have you ever been to a stockyard or a slaughterhouse?
    Just go there instead of ranting.
    And – for what it is worth – I eat meat and even kill my own during hunting season.

  4. Any rant that name-checks Steingarten is kosher by me.
    And, I kill my own chickens. No kidding.

  5. Dogs and cats are different from cows and pigs and chickens ans ducks? By commodotizing a living and feeling (the jury is still out on self aware… how do you know an animal isn’t self aware? how do I know that you’re self aware?) creature you create an economic incentive to torture it for your own cullinary pleasures. You would be outraged if I took your family pet, confined it in a small space to live in its own feces, force fed it, killed it by snapping its neck, then had a nice feast on its flesh.
    By choosing to eat meat (I don’t force you not to, and if you don’t like the foie gras ban you can take democratic means to have it revoked… so start writing those letters to your elected officials Mike) you torture feeling creatures, consume tremendous amounts of energy (it takes about 40 barrels of oil to produce one cow… the equivalent amount of calories for corn takes one barrel of oil to produce), pollute our waterways (where do you think the shit from the factory farms goes?), and stress our medical system with preventable illnesses (clogging your arteries with cholesterol and contributing the the epidemic of obesity)… all so that you can eat a hot dog.
    People complain that herbivores/vegans play high and mighty, but that’s because in the face of overwhelming evidence we are making the ethically correct choice. It’s too bad that makes you feel uncomfortable (but those battery hens probably feel much more uncomfortable than you, so I won’t feel too sorry for you ya’ freakin’ cry-baby).

  6. Thanks for the rant Mike, you gave me great perspective on something I’ve been struggling with recently. I’m a Midwesterner who grew up on farm-raised and butchered beef, pork and poultry. I then attended an ultra-liberal, “I hate my daddy” art school where most of the hypocrites there were vegans. Since those were my informative years, I flirted with the idea of becoming an herbivore/vegan myself, but after much debate decided against it. The fact is, we ARE at the top of the food chain, and while our “self-consciousness” gives us the power to decide between ethical and unethical, our mere placement at the top of this mechanism gives us the best opportunity to sustain our own kind. I know plenty of vegans who really aren’t that healthy in their pursuit of so-called “morality”. If they were meant to not eat meat, then why does their body shut down when it doesn’t get the protein and nutrients meat offers?
    On the flip side of this, if we’re going to argue that other animals are in fact “self-aware” like ourselves, then how come we don’t attack the lion or tiger for preying on other animals? When is that race of animal going to start eating tofu and spinach greens?
    The beef I eat roams in an unfenced expanse of land where it can graze on food at its own leisure. The owners of these cattle raise the beef and nurture it because they know that some day it will provide nourishment for them and their family.
    I can’t put it any simpler than that, but at least I didn’t call you a cry baby, which would negate my otherwise intellectual post.

  7. Jesus, Ruhlman!! Is this what happens when you forget to take your lithium? An inspired, and delightfully cranky rant. I would like to assure you that I have just returned from a long book tour and due entirely to your relentless nagging, took every opportunity to vent energetically, repeatedly and tiresomely to each and every journo, TV host, radio DJ and press organ I encountered on the subject of cruelty to mollusks (I’m FOR it!), the Chicago foie ban (see Chicago Tribune–or was it Sun Times in which I am quoted as referring to Chef Milhouse as a “gutless punk”–guess I won’t be getting comped at Trotter’s any time soon) and other noble yet probably “lost” causes.
    The fucktards at Whole Food, however, have done us a real service by providing the most ludicrous example of “animal welfare” concerns with their public hand wringing over the fate of shellfish. Comedy Gold. Extraordinary that in a time when we’re force feeding PEOPLE at Gitmo–and when hundreds of thousands of PEOPLE are starving to death in the Sudan and elsewhere, that there is no more burning issue on the minds of educated, well-fed, financially comfortable citizens than whether or not a clam feels pain–or whether a duck can handle what any respectable adult film ingenue considers routine.
    The result of my (and your) wailing on this subject? The grill bitch has had to smack around a rare aggressive vegan who lunged at me with his spindly, pallid arms and foul, carrotty breath..(the gaseous emissions caused by pressure on the chronically flatulent man’s chest were terrible)…Enraged readers of a recent interview at have started a never-ending flame war and will no doubt seek to do me bodily harm should they ever leave cat-clogged apartments. PETA–if anything, more empowered than ever by their Chicago victory–will of course do nothing that impacts America’s bottomless hunger for fried, battery raised chickens–and will continue to concentrate on “winnable” battles–like foie gras. Not Emeril, Rachael–nor in fact any sensible, career minded chef or politician–will step forward and say they are FOR the force feeding of geese or ducks–or the killing of small but tasty creatures. I will continue to fight the good fight, Ruhlman–out of spite more than anything else. The Manrique incident–as you know–got my back up way too much to stop now. But I fear that we are on the losing side of history. Eat now. While you can. And for God’s sake; take your meds! You KNOW what the doctors told you!

  8. Great rant, thank you! I keep thinking, that like with politics in this country in general, eventually the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction, and in favor of consumer choice, but it may be too late by then for some products.
    And for Andy–foie gras is STILL available in California, the ban does not go into effect until 2012. Though I don’t eat it often, I plan to seek it out until then–and I live in Berkeley, so wish me luck…

  9. If they were meant to not eat meat, then why does their body shut down when it doesn’t get the protein and nutrients meat offers?
    Heh. Carl Lewis, 9 time Olympic Gold medalist, says that he had his best performances on a vegan diet.
    Every vegan I know is happy and healthy. That vegans are anemic is a myth.
    how come we don’t attack the lion or tiger for preying on other animals?
    First, the lion is a carnivore. It could not live without meat. We can. Second, we do attack carnivores. Populations of wolves, bears, mountain lions and many other carnivores have been systematically killed precisely because they are carnivores. Third, a lion hunting in the wild is a natural process. The process to bring ground beef to a human is contrived and unnatural.
    Finally, good for you and your free range beef. However, defending the meat industry as a whole because as an individual you try to eat humanely raised cattle makes absolutely no sense at all. Maybe you do it because not 100% of the meat you eat comes from that farm of yours, and you still need to rationalize what you seem to recognize as a bad decision.

  10. Wow, nice rant. Now I know what a gauvage feels like.
    Unless the sensitivos are beating down your door and trying to rip that salmon roe dotted blini out of your mouth, please quit with the needless whining and posturing. You are in no danger of losing any of your prized foodstuffs.
    By the way, thanks for the link to the Bruni article. Too bad you dismissed out of hand. It was the most thoughtful and reasonable thing I read all day.

  11. OK, let me officially say that Bourdain is not to be included in the list of Paris-Hilton-Wannabe Media Folks so deserving of Ruhlman’s rant and everyone else’s contempt.
    He HAS been speaking out on these issues for a long time. I just hope he’s wrong that we’re on the losing side of history. I agree with Kasey, I can’t believe we have a future where the vegans win at the table and the facists win at the ballot box.

  12. That vegans are anemic is a myth.
    A good friend of mine, who was a vegan for something like 12 years and ate a balanced, nutritious vegan diet supplemented by multivitamins, recently was ordered by his doctor to start eating meat in order to correct a severe B12 deficiency (severe enough to require months of B12 shots in addition to the meat diet). It may be an unfair stereotype, but it does happen.

  13. Of all your thoughts, I’m curious about this, “…she’s got a pair of brass knuckles in the pocket of those fat pants…” because Rachael Ray isn’t fat. If you were going for a laugh, it would be one thing if she was fat, but she’s not. I’d bet she’s even below her target weight for her height. Fat is fat, skinny is skinny, and funny is funny, but you’re part of the problem if you’re throwing around comments like that. It’s, at least, irresponsible to the population of impressionable people at large.

  14. “Unless the sensitivos are beating down your door and trying to rip that salmon roe dotted blini out of your mouth, please quit with the needless whining and posturing. You are in no danger of losing any of your prized foodstuffs.”
    Um… John? I was at Aqua, as a cook, during the ‘Manrique incident’ Tony alluded to. The “sensitivos” were threatening my chef and his family with bodily harm if he didn’t stop developing Sonoma Saveurs (his foie shop). They videotaped his kids playing and sent it to his home address.
    I honestly wouldn’t put the beating down of doors or ripping away of roe past these people. Michael and Tony seem to understand that. Do you?

  15. Amy Jo,
    Relax we are all friends here and friends should be honest with each other. Have you not seen the show recently? It is very apparent that Rachel does in fact eat all those meals for her show and then some. I am not saying she is built like a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns but if she fits into the target weight for her size then america does indeed have a weighty problem.

  16. Wow – you sure got a lot of comments on this one!
    I gotta agree with you 100%, Michael. The mass-farmed, featherless, huge-breasted, clipped-beak chickens and hormonally-enriched cows of agribusiness are a far more insidious evil than the small potatoes of foie gras production. But PETA doesn’t stand a chance against them, so they beat up on the little people. I think that’s called bullying.
    I find it funny that having an opinion is catagorized as “needless whining and posturing.”
    And…Rachael Ray does too own fat pants – have you seen the size of her ass?

  17. I think the issue here is that, at least until the PETA-driven future Tony and Michael presage comes to fruition, eating is a personal choice. And like other personal choices it is driven by a lot of factors and does not exist in a vacuum, but rather in the sloppy gray world of compromise that most of us inhabit. I say most of us because extremists — be they of the animal-rights, religious, environmental, or whatever type — live in a world of absolutes, and they would very much like for all of us to join them there. But that’s not going to happen.
    We are all not going to agree that one god is the right god, or that there’s even a god. We’re not going to agree about if or when another life should be taken (e.g. death penalty and abortion debates in addition to meat eating discussion). I wish people would keep in mind that their choices do not reflect the choices of those around them. And there is no one right way, not for anything. But when you live in a world of moral absolutes, you deny the fuzziness of human existence, and you deny the experience of others who may have spent as much time as you to arrive at their view point. You forget that your “ethically correct choice” is not necessarily the same as mine.

  18. Um … Ryan? Obviously that incident didn’t merit a mention in Michael’s original rant, which is what I was responding to. Perhaps he could have talked about that instead of Rachel’s fat pants?

  19. Enough about Rachael Ray and her fat or not fat pants. It’s not the real issue here and does not warrant further discussion.

  20. I have three things to say:
    (1) When I cooked a lobster, it fought for its life;
    (2) I won;
    (3) It tasted good.
    The end.

  21. this discussion is never a good one. people should eat what they want and that should be that, but NO ONE should preach it the way that Michael Ruhlman was (as well as plenty of vegans i’ve heard in my day). it’s annoying and it turns people away from whatever you’re trying to say.
    with that in mind, i think one of the main misunderstandings people have about the vegan and vegetarian (V) lifestyle is this:
    most Vs don’t think it’s wrong to kill animals. Vs think it’s wrong to raise them they way they are raised, kill them the way they are killed, and pollute and endanger the world as a result of it.

  22. The self righteous crap from so-called animal lovers who have supported the ban on foie is a cynical abuse of the political system.
    They know that foie and lobster are seen as elitist products (they don’t know their food history, but that’s another matter) and they reckon not enough people will give a toss about these products. They are too cowardly to go after real targets, like McAgribusiness, because they know there will be far less support if food prices start rising as those flaccid battery farmed chickens become scarcer.
    In the US, Ruhlman is right to coral some heavy hitters, I just hope they’re not too late to do some good.
    The likes of S Parrow on this thread should not be free to spew their crap. Thankfully, Ruhlman, Bourdain et al have a wider platform and if they can only raise the volume, they’ll drown out the nonsense from the other side.

  23. Oh my. Herself, a psychologist, works in a small city where the two main employers are a state mental hospital and a chicken processing plant. I think there’s something symbolic to be dragged out of that. Strangely, not so many PETA protests at the nugget factory.

  24. most Vs don’t think it’s wrong to kill animals. Vs think it’s wrong to raise them they way they are raised, kill them the way they are killed, and pollute and endanger the world as a result of it.
    If that’s the case, then I think a lot of non-Vs are in agreement with them.

  25. I think one of the critical issues is that we (American society) are so disconnected from our food supply, we no longer understand it.
    For most of us, “Farm Fresh” eggs means getting our eggs at a supermarket. I certainly never think of the chickens that produce them. The same can be said for plastic wrapped chicken and beef parts. Is it really from a bird or animal if it comes plastic wrapped as pieces?
    That disconnect, yet demand for these products, has produced terrible food (but, I suppose good economic) practices. Bourdain has it right — I can’t remember if he said it in his comments above — we should all kill the animal we are going to eat at least once to better understand what we are eating.

  26. Not only is the Whole Foods decision to ban live lobsters silly, it runs counter to the purported philosophy of Whole Foods. Whole Foods will now be selling lobster meat processed in a factory where the live animals are crushed to death in huge automated machines. Worse, the lobsters will all be coming from a large-scale corporate operation in Canada, Clearwater Seafoods, that doesn’t abide by the sustainable-fishing measures practiced by small-scale Maine harvesters.

  27. Maybe the decision makers and “leaders” of this country should focus their ethical decisions on what’s right or wrong for the earth for HUMANS instead of for lower species of animals. We fought our way up to the food chain apparently just to wreck the whole planet and now we’re gassing, oiling, bombing, mining and drilling our way into drowning from overflowing polar ice caps and myriad other problems. I wish the animal rights people would focus their efforts differently. With the entire race of polar bears dying off because they are drowning due to said ice caps melting, and multiple entire species being wiped out due to the changes we are causing to our environment, surely there are better ways to direct their enthusiasm.

  28. I agree with the rant and all its implications. We’re animals and it explains a lot. If a specific population goes unchecked, the ensuing ecological damage is horrendous. This is seen in the wild as in humanity. So this is the natural order of things. However, that thing that Michael states that separates us from the ducks should give us pause.
    What is the natural conclusion of a species gone wild?
    I’m a proponent of people eating what they want to eat. I don’t plunk down a couple of hundred on a meal just to feed myself. I want to experience something new and wonderful. I’m sure that vegans would be very surprised how their vegetables are raised as well.
    Our only recourse is to buy intelligently. Go to the local farmer’s market and buy local and in-season. Go to your local butcher and fish-monger and talk to them about their sources. Understand that items labelled organic are mainly for marketing purposes. You will not regret it.

  29. Im glad someone with some umph finally wrote this. Its about time someone with some clout told these neophyte fuckheads what the real deal is. They don’t have to fear our use of foie or the inhumanity in the slaughter of lobster. They should seek to topple these megacorporate agricultural conglomerates doing far more disgusting things and on a much larger scale. If you are pissed at izzy for forcefeeding his ducks, and treating them (rather well might I add) in the way he does, than you better be all out fucking outraged at what tyson chicken does and on a 1000th larger scale.

  30. I’m a vegetarian because I have seen animals slaughtered, and I know that I would never be able to slaughter my own food. Killing is always nasty and tragic–no matter what the circumstances and no matter what sort of creature is being killed.
    Ruhlman and Bourdain, of course, have a financial interest in ignoring this moral question. But for a lot of us eating is a tricky issue that requires much careful thought and conversation–not tough-guy rhetoric and personal attacks.

  31. Responses…
    Parrow: For crying out loud, I’m not advocating torture, nor is anyone, and I’m with you on the agribusiness issues, the awfulness of clipping pigss tails precisely to cause pain and other agribusiness practices are not defensible on any grounds.
    John: I didn’t dismiss Bruni’s blog, I really LIKED it and his article—what astonishes me is the confused cultural climate that makes it necessary in the first place.
    Amy Jo: I wasn’t trying to be mean to Ms Ray—I admire her, in fact—re: the fat pants remark; it’s what she herself called when I was watching a production of her show. I don’t believe she requires them anymore.
    Megnut: Sensible megnut! You’re like a mom walking into a roomful of bickering teenagers. Thank you for you calm good sense.
    Eli: I agree that we should eat what we want to eat and not be told what to eat. Unfortunately, agribusiness is leading a largely uniformed public around by the nose and sticking our head in its trough—a more insidious form of “telling.” … And I wasn’t preaching, I was ranting; rants, by their nature are not entirely credible. Also, I’m a writer, that’s what I do, sorry.
    Andrew: Killing should never be a fun business, it should be uncomfortable. But for most of us it’s necessary. We’re meat eaters. (I don’t have a problem with vegetarianism; if they want to deprive themselves of extraordinary pleasure and efficient nutrition, that’s their business. Veganism, though, is unnatural and unhealthy.) We need the protein, the amino acids, to build and restore our bodies, to be fruitful and multiply and all that. Yes, there’s a time for beard-stroking hand-wringing discussion fraught with balance (not to mention insightful commentary from Bruni and Pollan, and many insightful folks here), but not here. If there’s one sin in writing after willful cruelty, it’s boring the reader.
    Thank God everyone here seems united against not just the horrors but also the economic and environmental and health dangers of agribusiness. Every single thoughtful human being in America needs to know about these matters.
    Which is why, Bourdain, you need to get off your off your fatalistic ass and rally the masses.

  32. Its odd that people seem to think I can’t protest the eating of foie or lobster until I’ve shut down Tyson chicken. I have enough room in my heart find all your actions reprehensible. On the one hand, Tyson destroys the lives of millions of animals yearly, after forcing them to live in the most degrading conditions I can think of. On the other hand, while you all talk about one needs the nutritional value of animal to thrive – no one needs foie. No one needs lobster. You take a duck, you force it live in a way that benefits you, and then you kill it, not because you have to, but because you enjoy the end product. I’m sure if I asked most of the people here to slaughter their own food, they’d balk. And that’s really the hypocrisy here, not where or who I protest. Eat what you want, but dont act like this is a matter of survival – this is a matter of passtime. Your passtime just happens to require the killing of other living, feeling, things.

  33. Justin, no one is saying you can’t protest luxury foods, or that somehow luxury foods and mass-market foods are mutually exclusive. It just appears hypocritical to complain about animal treatment and then work towards solutions that have a very minimal impact on the lives of animals in the US.
    27,000,000 animals are slaughtered every day for food in the United States, mostly under brutal conditions after living miserable confined lives. Yet people are focusing their energies on outlawing foie gras production, where the largest producer kills only 1,000 ducks a day. Everyone is free to pick their battles. What seems odd to me is why those who purport to care about animal welfare aren’t fighting the biggest one.

  34. if there were no meat commercially available to purchase i guess we’d all have a very easy choice to make, either raise the animals, and then slaughter them ourselves, or, susbsist solely on whatever else we could get
    i’m assuming that if no meat was available for purchase, we probably wouldn’t be able to buy fruits and veggies either, so we’d have to grow and harvest them too
    growing and harvesting fruit/vege is hard work, and you probably wouldn’t be able to eat enough of them to get the calories your body needs to survive and harvest/cultivate more fruit & vege (and don’t forget grains and their grinding, oh, and tending the cattle for butter/milk/cheese, and the sheep for milk and wool)
    after a few months of a rumbling belly, you’d probably decide that that cow out in the field looks like a pretty nice source of some much needed fat and protein and, squemish or not, slaughter it
    of course, this is all just hypothetical, but so is believing that banning the sale of live lobsters and foie gras is going to crush cruelty in this world
    if people actually did have to work that hard to get food on their own table, we wouldn’t see so much obesity, and we sure wouldn’t see so many people acting all cultish and telling me what not to put in my mouth
    my body, my choices

  35. This discussion seems as fruitless to me as the abortion debate. There is no mutual ground among fanatics and extremists. The PETA people are like the right-to-lifers. All killing of animals (fetuses) is objectionable and they will take any win in the fight to stop animal slaughter that they can get–be it foie gras, lobster, or cattle. Meanwhile, extremists on the food-choice side of the argument see the actions of the PETA people as an affront to their rights, traditions, tastes, etc.
    The difference here is that unlike the abortion debate, there is a common enemy when it comes to the foods we eat (agribusinesses, ConAgra, Tyco, and the like). But like the abortion debate, the argument over the ethics of eating sentient/concious versus insentient/unconcious creatures always becomes an argument over philosophy or belief. And such arguments are never going to reach consensus. We are never going to agree on when life begins, just as we are never going to agree on whether a lobster has feelings and cries when it dies (and even if it does, whether it is okay to eat them simply because we have devised the means to do so).

  36. “I don’t have a problem with vegetarianism; if they want to deprive themselves of extraordinary pleasure and efficient nutrition, that’s their business. ”
    That’s the biggest misconception about the vegetarian diet: you can’t get enough protein from non-animal sources. That’s BS. There is protein in all veggies, beans and grains. Meat is a particularly INEFFICIENT way to get your protein because of the added fat and lack of vitamins/minerals, as opposed to veggies, grains, etc. BTW, most Americans eat too much protein.

  37. Listen – I’m not insane. I know that not eatting lobster doesnt end all the cruelty in the world. I know that there are bigger fish to fry (what a great choice of words) than foie gras producers. Im going to put the well being of people in front animals. Im pretty sure my girlfriend isnt eatting healthy enough and I’ve encouraged her many times to start eatting fish to complete her diet.
    But if this were dog fighting, or bull fighting, rather than foie gras, as entertainment, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
    Were not talking about the life and death of people here. This is about entertainment, and I think its perfectly normal to take a second and think about what your entertainment costs.

  38. Honestly, I don’t think Bourdain’s ass is skinny or fatalistic. It seems like a pretty nice ass for a white guy his age.
    I really hate the word fucktard.
    Didn’t anyone notice that Bourdain was saying gauvage was like fellatio? Maybe in his bedroom.

  39. For several years of my childhood, my mother was vegetarian. Every once in awhile, Dad and I would sneak off to Maurice’s Barbecue or Rush’s hot dogs in Columbia, SC. Then we moved back to Alabama, and my grandmother fed us. I don’t think the word “vegetarian” has ever entered her vocabulary.
    I’ve thought about going vegetarian (not vegan – those people need a special home), but then I remember that I love sushi. And my best friend’s crab cakes. And Gulf shrimp. And my pot roast. Life is too short to deny our inner carnivore.
    As for the foie gras issue, I see the feeding of ducks as no different than the mass feeding of chickens in chicken houses. You don’t see SuzyQ getting all up in arms at Tyson chicken, do you? (Especially not when it’s on sale!)

  40. Michael:
    This is just a quick note from a fellow disciple of Michael Pardus (I’m one of those career-switchers who’s now making a living pleasing people instead of tending to their neverending litigious needs/wants).
    Love your logic as well as your off-the-cuff phrasing. Foie gras … live lobsters … OUI CHEF!
    Ummm, with very few exceptions, our food is killed in some manner before we eat it. That is, unless you are Chef A. Bourdain, in which case you might be able to travel to some obscure locale (damn him, that chain smoking bastard … I want to go!) and eat you’re food while it’s still moving.
    Hey, I’m as sensitive as the next guy, but, uh, we are talking about food here. And none of the examples under scruntiny come under the heading of “unnecessary roughness” as far as I can tell.
    I agree wholeheartedly that agribusiness offerings are far and away the worst offenders. I’ve seen it first hand and, while I’d love to be the tough guy and claim otherwise, it does turn my stomach (and that’s coming from someone who used to hunt, dress and eat his kills as an adolescent and young adult).
    You’re right! Support M. Pollan’s efforts and remember what you are … a human being … an omnivore. An animal meant to partake in all of nature’s bounty.
    What’s in season and what looks good at your local purveyor? That’s what I’m eating! All the best…

  41. I have very little to add here, other than thank you Ruhlman for the incisive rant; PETA is missing the point, as usual; this debate among foodies seems much like the splintering Democratic arguments over, well, everything; Bourdain reminds me of my friend Ben (this is very good for both parties); the fois gras I had at Plouf was sublime incarnate; and I would hit Rachel Ray every way til Sunday. That’s it.

  42. Lobsters are insects????? “Ewwww gross” was Richard’s response as I was reading your entry aloud.

  43. I love hot dogs for breakfast! I go to Walter’s in Larchmont and buy 30 cooked hot dogs with their own special spicey brown mustard with relish in it, split and cooked in butter on a hot griddle then slipped into a griddle toasted bun and rolled and wrapped individually in tissue paper.
    I freezer bag them and yank one out for the perfect morning starter. Better than any Egg McMuffin and probably just as bad for you. But if I have one life, let me live as a glutton.
    As for your rant, ended up reading the entire thing to Richard, up her in Liberty New York, visiting Lily at Stagedoor Manor.
    Just couldn’t stop reading it. Have I told you lately that you’re good…real real good.

  44. Ruhlman, welcome back to Cleveburg. Like you, I’ve returned after some years, and there are many reasons – other than the inexpensive, excellent food available both raw and cooked – to love this place. Where else can you have the amenities of a large city and the ‘feel’ of a small town? What other American suburb has its own poet laureate (I’m referring to Cleveland Heights)? Thank heaven the weather is so iffy, or everyone would want to live here and it would morph away from its gemlike state.

  45. meg, i wonder if trying to fight the big companies is such a huge deal that it can seem overwhelming? i’ve seen PETA’s campaigns against companies like KFC go on and on without any sense of victory, even when they make small gains.
    in order to effect mainstream change, don’t we need groups such as PETA, who are willing to get out there, be first, and articulate the extreme point of view? the battle over lobsters may seem silly but it has a symbolic value that (i think) raises awareness of the bigger issues.

  46. I agree with your rant of July 8th. Look, for myself, I just refuse to get into debate over something that is not debatable. We are carnivores and I won’t discuss my right to be what I am with anyone. I just go to Esposito’s and buy the meat I want to eat. I don’t explain it to anyone and if anyone interferes with this process, I kick them in the ass and get on with it (not that they have a right to force me to such exercise, but I do that gladly). I love trout and wish I had the skill and patience to go fish for it in a stream, but I don’t. So I go to the Sea Breeze fish market on 9th and 40th and buy trout. With the head still on but the guts taken out. Butterflied, they call it. And I dredge it in flour and saute it in butter. With fresh herbs, which I’m sure some mad botanist somewhere can prove shriek in agony when they are torn from their mother plant. I eat scallops, too, but I draw the line at lobster. I’m alergic to the bastards, as I am to shrimp. But I don’t like insects, although I do occasionally down a crab cake or two.
    I say, just ignore the idiots — on Food TV as elsewhere. They are not going to save your food rights for you. They’re making money and don’t want to upset any apple carts, anyway. I say, just eat! Eat to your heart’s content. Eat until you are quite happy. Eat until your ethical equanimity is reassured.
    Frank Rocca

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