Saturday, December 07, 2002

oof, once again posting to my blog on a Saturday night, but I'm going out later to a friend's birthday party. I know, I know, defensive much? I went out again last night with my nerve date. I'm oddly enjoying his company, and I was happy I had gone out with him. Nothing physical, and I'm not sure there ever will be. I say oddly because he's in a kind of nether region of my possible feelings for a boy, one I don't encounter too much. There's: wow! I really like you and am attracted to you and you like me and are attracted to me too! (very rare, and even when it happens, it often doesn't last much longer than three weeks). Then there's: I really like you and am attracted to you and you think I'm a great/interesting person but don't want to date me (more common). There's also: You really like me and are attracted to me but only my ability to be personable and kind for a couple of hours keeps you from seeing that I would never want to date you and probably don't want to be friends either (definitely more common than (1); probably more common than (2)). There has been: I think you're an amazing person and that creates a certain degree of romantic interest, but I just don't know if I can be attracted to you. To create a bracket that would containg much of humanity, there's mutual non-interest and/or dislike (including everyone in China, Saddam Hussein, anyone who's been President of the U.S., Dan Savage and all gay men, most people who play lacrosse, any of the boys I knew in eighth grade, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Keanu Reeves, anyone whose sexual fetishes include vomiting, etc. I could go on along time.)

But this boy doesn't quite fall into any of these categories. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that I will never be seriously romantically interested in him. In order to find someone really sexually exciting, I have to think they're dazzlingly smart, or at least have a worldview that is different enough from mine (in a way I respect) to make me want to know that person really well, top to bottom, including knowing what they look like when they orgasm, in order to understand it better. It's also good if they have a deep well of pain they want to express to me so I can help heal it. (Speaking of which, I really am going to add to the end of this post some day...) I'm never going to be seriously interested in this boy because he can't dazzle me, and while his worldview may be different enough from mine that I want to explore it, he doesn't really articulate enough complete thoughts to let me see that. That's really the problem. In any conversation with him, you can tell he's thinking hard about things, but he's really not good at coming to conclusions (actually, I was once in love with someone who was better at pondering things than coming to conclusions, but I was really physically attracted to him, he had the well of pain thing going on, and he often expressed his pondering more forcefully so it sounded a little more significant than it was). This is not to say that a man I love has to be concluding right and left. I mean, there's a virtue in not concluding too much, not thinking you know more than you do, which the arrogant guys I tend to fall for (like Ariel, whose blog I discovered because it linked to my campaign, who said she too had a habit of surrounding herself with arrogant guys. Though I think it is probably unique to neither of us, since young+male+very smart often = arrogant), often are guilty of. But I think you should be able to make tentative, intermediate conclusions--I think this right now about religion or art or whatever--a lot of the time, and have really well-thought out coherent philosophies on a small, but not minuscule, portion of the world's questions. At least that's what I like to see in a boy. And I think it's lacking in this one. I mean, he's a computer artist who expresses himself in pictures and code, which is great, but I need someone who gives words as well as he gets 'em. That's just me.
But he somehow doesn't plummet down to the level of people I don't want to see again. I like spending time with him. We had fun; we ate at Dojos, wandered around in the cold, we threw a couple snowballs, we considered sneaking into this undisturbed snowy parking lot through a small opening in a wire mesh fence with barbed wire around the top (my idea), but I kind of chickened out about it (I think if I had wanted to, he would have done it), saw a movie. I guess I like him because he's certainly interested in engaging with me about all of the topics I bring up (which is better than not so smart boys who think they're smarter than they are and dismiss what you say or think they can lecture you uninterrupted), and he wants to think about them, and he is a smart, thoughtful person, but probably it's mostly because it's pleasant right now to be with someone who obviously likes me, thinks I'm cute, and seeks out my company. I am definitely *not* in a pursuing mood right now, and I just want to bask in the faint warmth of someone who wants to be with me.

But I don't know if that's a good enough reason to keep seeing him. I mean, I don't want to string him along. Although I don't think anything I've done so far counts as stringing him along; we haven't even kissed. I actually feel very mildly attracted to him. If I thought he were a really stimulating person, looks would be no barrier. He's not handsome at all, but he does have a certain kind of appealing oddball cuteness that would be sufficient if the other stuff was there. I wouldn't mind kissing him, for comfort. But then is that a bad thing? To allow yourself into some physical encounter with someone only for comfort when they might want more out of it? I don't know.

The movie, by the way, was Solaris, which was terrible. This review called it visually astonishing, which is ludicrous. There was not one visual element in this movie that was not easily identifiable as coming from another movie (and I am not a Film Person who has some vast catalog in her mind)--the outside shots of the ship: 2001: A Space Odyssey, the inside shots: Alien, the pretty planet colors: Contact. These may not be the best or first examples of these particular visual elements, but they're examples I could summon off the top of my head. (I might mention that A.I., a movie that I am the constant and passionate defender of, did have really exciting shots, like the moonrise which turns out to be a mecha-hunting balloon.) I mention this first because I basically think the only defense of this movie could come from art-house "it was so well-made" circles, and I want to head that vintage t shirt, black glasses wearing wagon train off at the pass. And further: what was the point of all the philosophizing and abstraction that's allegedly in this movie? People criticized A.I. for biting off more than it could chew; I loved it for that, but the carefully guarded secret of Solaris is that it bites off less. There isn't any there there. There's one scene in which George Clooney and his (then still alive) wife are having dinner with friends. George Clooney and friends deride the idea of God. The wife defends it. The scene has about four lines, and from this we are supposed to take away, "Ooh, I get it. This movie is about the divine. Religion. Spirituality. It's very deep." But the problem is that these questions are never considered in any interesting, complex, or profound way. The "suprise ending" of the movie is so truncated, so empty that it doesn't really give you interesting options to consider (I mean, I can try hard to come up with them: Is it heaven? Is it a state in which two conscious beings can think they're interacting with another live person but they're really interacting with a being that's a projection of their desires; they're just somehow doing it mutually? Would that be heaven? But the point is I have to work hard to summon the "questions" the movie is raising, because nothing in the dialogue or the way the movie was filmed really suggests them; I'm just extrapolating from the basic scenario. Nothing like, say, the stunning scene in A.I. in which little David takes a crowbar to the hundreds of replications of him, which was a genuinely frightening portrayal of one of the elements of human experience: the thirst for individuality, the need to believe we have a soul, the desire to escape from a mechanized stimulus-response, genetically coded representation of our own existence. Sorry, just can't help getting in my plug any moment I can). The one interesting line in the entire movie was when George Clooney says, "I couldn't escape the idea that I had remembered her wrong," which was a sort of touching allusion to how painful it is to love when you realize you can never really know what you love. But in general, every idea that was raised was treated with so little dialogue or interesting visual illustration that it just remained there, a hovering point of dim light in the dark, never flushed out to the fullness of a star, much less an entire moving picture. And Clooney was totally wasted; he has so much humor and he wasn't allowed to use it. The point of the chick's role seemed largely to look large eyed and vulnerable and quiver with emotion (motivated by what, one is never sure). I don't blame either of them for failing to be interesting; they had nothing to do.

There is one thing this movie gets some points for: more male ass than female. That is truly "a cinematic rarity" and "visually astonishing."

Friday, December 06, 2002

The author of Rittenhouse Review emailed again to say he was nominating me to be included in Ms. Magazine's upcoming list of women bloggers. (I hope that link gets you there; I can't permalink.) I'm so flattered. Still another possible source of readers. My god...
Breaking News: I just heard someone in my office saying that NYU is recalling all the condoms they distributed this year because they break. It sounds like the brand was Lifestyles, the brand I always used in college. I'll look for a link.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I got to venture from the windowless island of cubicles in the middle of my office into the President's office. She has the most beautiful view, and right now the sky is this gorgeous shade of indigo and looking out of her window you can see the Empire State building (red and green--but what about Hanukah?) and the Chrysler building lit up against it. My heart swelled with love for New York.
You know, often the letters page on Salon is better than the articles. This woman (scroll down to the second letter) made a point I've been meaning to make for months. For all that conservatives snipe about how liberals want to ignore the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism (which for some unknown reason they have annoyingly renamed Islamo-Fascism), and for all Andrew Sullivan wanted to paint all feminists as apologists for their regimes, the first time I ever heard the word Taliban was from the Feminist Majority. They gave a shit back when the Bush administration sure didn't.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

What lesser-known Simpsons character are you?

I'm a little bit concerned about the veracity of my results. Sometimes the truth slaps you in the face.

Well, in fact, I hope that I am very rarely truly an asshole. I also think that the two sides to me, sunny comedienne/cynical and depressed, bleed together a little bit more than they do for Krusty. No matter how unhappy I am, I can almost always joke about it.
Welcome, new readers! No, really, I'm excited you're here, even if you are scared away and never come back. So far, I know of three people who have read my blog, so now that four more people have expressed interest in it I'm totally jazzed.

Why I didn't want to link directly from my website: although my identity isn't a secrety on my blog, it's not splashed all over with my picture on the front page either. You will notice that in a couple of posts in particular, I said thinks that were, um, rather harshly critical of people I associate with, or rather, one person in particular. When I posted these posts I was still envisioning my blog primarily as a way for my friends to keep track of what I was up to, as a replacement for the mass email. The chance that people I was writing about would just randomly happen across my blog seemed so remote as to not make it at all worrisome that I technically publically said mean things about them. However, if I linked to my blog from my website, the chances that someone I knew would happen across and read my blog, while maybe still not great, would go up a lot, considering how many hits my site is getting and how prominent I am on it. Anyway, it turns out that only two of my friends are really that into reading my blog (*sniff*), so I would like some stranger readers. I'm not saying that anything on my blog is a secret. I just don't want to attach it to an site that trumpets my real-world identity. In three months, when I've left my job, it won't even be an issue. I really don't want to delete the harshly critical post, though, because even if maybe parts of it were gratuitously catty, it's overall point was one I really wanted to make. Maybe you'll have comments about what's appropriate to say on a blog and what's not, how you, as bloggers, negotiate between really wanting to say what's on your mind and knowing you're publishing in a public forum, etc. I'm a new blogger (I forgot to note yesterday the one month anniverary of my blog), and I don't really know how to do this yet.
Ways you know you're becoming a New Yorker.

Back when you were a tourist, you used to get up at seven in the morning on Thanksgiving Day so you could get out and watch the parade.

Now that you live in New York, you stagger back home on Thanksgiving morning from your friend's house in Williamsburg and realize Broadway (aka the parade route) is smack in between you and home, and as you try to find the crossover while carrying the trays of food you cooked the night before, carrying more heavy groceries in your backpack, waddling because your tights have scooted down to about four inches below your crotch because you get lazy and machine wash them and it makes the elastic all funky but you can never tell that before you first put them on, you curse the Parade, Jimmy Neutron, who has the bad luck to be just passing by and thus become a special target for your hostility, all little children, and most of all yourself for not thinking to take the A Train.

Also, you walked around today in nothing but a medium weight sweater, some light pants, and a long but not very heavy coat (no hat, no scarf, no gloves) even though with the wind chill it was 18 degrees. If you were a newbie Californian just off the plane, you never could have done that.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

A few weeks ago, I sent my thoughts on the Britney-Christina catfight to Rittenhouse Review so they could be tallied, along with the URL of my blog. He just wrote back today, and said, "And I finally got to look at your blog. Wow. You're just tearing it up over there. I'm looking forward to adding it to my blogroll the next time I update." We here at Katie's blog are very excited about this (I'm having to surpress the instinct to write in the first person plural since that's what I do on my website. Now I don't even think in the singular. I say things like, "We here at Campaign Headquarters would like a veinte soy mocha, please," and people look at me like I'm crazy) I'm very excited about this because it means my blog might actually get readers. There are currently two, by my count. Actually, I should add Site Meter, and then I'd know for sure. Not that I mind having only two readers. It's one more than I'd need to have to keep blogging. It's sort of like my radio show in college, "Wanna Sing a Showtune." There were only a couple of people I knew were listening, but I knew they cared that I soldiered on, bringing showtunes to the Swarthmore campus.

Funny I got this email right about when I was thinking of writing about how something in Rittenhouse Review annoyed me. I then rethought talking about how he annoyed me. Mickey Kaus, at a recent blogging conference at Yale, said something about this phenomenon: "among bloggers there is a 'Darwinian self-interest in being nice to each other and maintaining a civil discourse.' He may disagree with Andrew Sullivan but he doesn't really want to piss him off; it's about links; it's about traffic; it's about -- gasp -- community." (I'm quoting buzzmachine quoting him.) If you read between the lines of his quote, it sort of means that bloggers have many of the same incentives to be snivelling and sycophantic that the Washington Press Corps has, in contrast to Rittenhouse Review's recent argument that they were more independent (scroll down to the part about Sally Smith). (I did like the Rittenhouse Review piece, although I thought he ought to have at least mentioned the Howler, the site that has done the seminal work on the-media-as-mean-clique-of-popular-kids-that-picks-on-Gore thesis, and which had to have been influencing him as he wrote it.) But anyway, I'll prove myself wrong about the sycophancy of bloggers, and say what it is Rittenhouse Review said that annoyed me, even if it costs me my place on his blogroll. Live free or die!

It was this: "WEIGHTY MATTERS: The fun folks at PETA sure don’t care for anyone, any human beings at least, who are carrying a few extra pounds. Their latest target: John Madden."

But you know, now that I'm reading it again, I'm not even annoyed anymore. See, at first I thought this was some weird combination animal-rightists-don't-care-about-people/and-they're-anti-fat-bigots post, and I was gearing up to write an inflamed post of my own saying that the John Madden's weight was a legitimate issue in the same way it wouldn't have been inappropriate to make fun of some corpulent aristocrat eating in the palace while the peasants were starving at the gates; it's because his weight is gained at the expense of other creatures that it's an issue. But now I read it again and I think there's no way to know whether that was what was implied at all. So I'm not annoyed, and Rittenhouse Review will still add me to the blogroll, and I won't have sold my soul for it. Whew, that was a close one. Oh wait, I forgot, I am annoyed. Just a throwaway comment, that a vegetarian Thanksgiving is a contradiction in terms, but annoying nonetheless. Although the Thanksgiving I attended was not vegetarian, the two items I contributed were vegan: pumpkin pie and a "harvest loaf" which I served in a big mound with a bed of red swiss chard (the chard stalks dramatically protruded six inches from the platter) and tangerine slices--it was quite striking. They were both thought very yummy by the omnivores present. (Which was something of a relief, I have to say, because my last ambitious cooking endeavor was my attempt to make tofu-olive quiche for the Scrabble player. I wanted to make some fabulous vegan meal to vindicate the yumminess of vegan food and to show him what an amazing cook he had given up the chance to date, but my quiche turned out tasting like chopped up wet sponge. I was traumatized by the whole experience, and I've been eating shrink-wrapped sandwiches from the health food store ever since, but now that I made such good food for Thanksgiving I'll be able to boil water again without getting flashbacks.) Vegetarian Thanksgivings are very possible, thank you very much.

Maybe I've spent so many years saying things like, "My vegetarianism is a personal choice. It does not imply anything about the ethics of your actions," which was always a big fat lie designed to grease the wheels of social intercourse, that now I'm looking for a scrap. Especially a scrap with someone who's suggesting that PETA should just go away. When the fabulously dedicated and even more fabulously named Fab Tepper started the Animal Rights Coalition at my college, I heard a lot of comments like, "Why can't they just make their own choices and leave us to make ours?" And I was always horribly torn in my conversations about vegetarianism between my desire not to say something that would make them uncomfortable, like "I think what you're doing is wrong" and my desire to speak the truth. I usually went for the former, and tried to make the conversation pleasant, especially because if you're vegan the subject comes up soooo much, and eventually you get tired of having to go into political mode when all you want to do is settle down for a nice meal (in all the conversations I'm describing I was never the one to bring up the subject of vegetarianism; it was always omnivores who were challenging me). But ultimately the answer to the "why can't they just make their own choices" question is this: because we have a serious ethical disagreement. You think it's okay to buy factory farm produced meat and support with your dollars the torture of sentient beings, or at the very least, you shield yourself from thinking about the consequences of your actions. I don't. As an ethical vegetarian, saying, "my vegetarianism is just a personal choice and everyone should just eat what they want to" is a morally relativistic copout that I'm sure not a single one of them believes, as I in fact didn't believe it. This is not to say that there shouldn't be "personal choice" in the sense that laws should dictate what one eats; I've never heard an animal rights activist say that the eating of meat should be illegal. I'm saying that what one eats is not a matter of "personal choice" because it affects other creatures. (In truth, abortion is not just a matter of personal choice either, and whether or not it is legal (and I strongly believe it should be), there exists a question about whether it is moral (I'm ambivalent about that one)). So I get tired of ominivores when they have a "why can't they just shut up" attitude toward animal rights activists (or even a "why can't they say it nicely, like: 'we like eating vegetarian, try it,'" as if vegetarians shouldn't say anything about the profound suffering of animals and the substantive contribution to it eating factory farm produced meat makes as they express their views. Should abolitionists have said, "Paying your laborers is fun too!"?). Even I don't have a "why can't they shut up" attitude toward abortion protesters. I have a "why can't they stop harrassing people and bombing clinics" attitude, but I recognize the moral imperative which drives them engage the polity in debate, and if I'm going to support laws that keep abortion legal, I had better be able to face their arguments and counter them with my own, especially if I ever have an abortion, which I hope will never be necessary. Saying "why can't they shut up" about anyone one has a moral disagreement with suggests that the speaker is not entirely comfortable with his own position, and can't stand to face the opposition to it within himself. In fact, a few weeks before I became a vegetarian (and I became a vegan a few months after that), I saw someone had spray painted "Go vegan" on a sign about eggs and I felt compelled to say that how wrong it was that that vegan had been so in your face about their message, not leaving us egg eaters alone. Memories of my own pre vegetarianism have led me to develop a theory of latent vegetarianism, which, like latent homosexuality, is very uncomfortable and conflicted and requires outward expressions of hostility for all the overt vegetarians in order to reduce the cognitive dissonance the latent feels.

Or maybe it's all just an excuse to link to this very good New York Times Magazine article, "The Unnatural Idea of Animal Rights." Highly recommended. His conclusion is not to advocate for vegetarianism, which is fine with me. Although I said rather broadly in Number 25 that I thought there were no good reasons not to be a vegetarian, what I meant and should have said was, "there are no good reasons not to be a vegetarian, or, in the alternative, to make every effort to make sure that the animal you're eating lived a good life with a chance to express its own animal-ness, and if you do that by eating animals you've hunted and killed, by fishing, or by buying meat, eggs, and dairy from small farms you've inspected personally (and that actually really is necessary; labels don't mean much; there's no standard as there is for organic food), that's just fine." Since becoming a vegetarian, I've never maintained that hunting or killing animals who live good lives on small farms were anything but eminently ethically defensible acts. (I actually did have a (very illogical) objection to hunting before I became a vegetarian; I think it sprang from my nascent sense that animal rights was something I cared about but my unreadiness to take the logical step.) I still wouldn't eat the best-cared for cow because at this point I have such a strong flesh aversion, at this point not eating flesh is such an integral part of who I am that I have periodic "I forget I'm a vegetarian and eat meat" nightmares which I interpret to be symbolic of larger fears about losing my identity and not acting in accordance with my true self, and besides, I like being a vegetarian; it's really not a hassle. But even though I'll never eat flesh, I also think the small farmer in the article who runs a farm where every pig can express its essential pigness, every cow its cowness, and so forth is doing good work in the world.

But I did, of course, have some problems with the article. Pollan writes:

Yet here's the rub: the animal rightist is not concerned with species, only individuals. Tom Regan, author of ''The Case for Animal Rights,'' bluntly asserts that because ''species are not individuals . . . the rights view does not recognize the moral rights of species to anything, including survival.'' Singer concurs, insisting that only sentient individuals have interests. But surely a species can have interests -- in its survival, say -- just as a nation or community or a corporation can. The animal rights movement's exclusive concern with individual animals makes perfect sense given its roots in a culture of liberal individualism, but does it make any sense in nature?

He goes on to describe the case of the sparrows on Wrightson Island, an isolated ecological community. A few hundred years ago an explorer accidentally let a pregnant goat escape onto the island, and the goat community that developed wound up eating so much of the vegetation that the sparrows were severely endangered. A British environmental group wanted to shoot the goats, but they were forced to leave off this endeavor when radical animal rights protesters bombed their offices. All this, he goes on to argue "suggests at the very least that a human morality based on individual rights makes for an awkward fit when applied to the natural world."

But species *don't* have rights in the moral sense (they do in the legal sense), and for that matter, neither do corporations or communities, except to the extent that discussing the "right" of a group is shorthand for discussing the rights that are conferred to (or intrinsically possessed by) individual members of the group. So, for example, there's really no such thing as "gay rights." There are rights that all human beings have, and talking about gay rights is a shorthand way of saying that by protecting the rights of the group, all the individuals within the group will be protected. Communities have rights in the sense that the individuals within them have a right to the continuity and safety and health of their community, but not rights in and of themselves. A "right" is meaningless to an entity that doesn't have the consciousness to experience what it is to be prohibited or not prohibited from exercising it. This is not to say that the Wrightson sparrows should not have been protected, or that the animal rights bombers were right in their ends (it goes without saying they were wrong in their means). But the sparrows species has no intrinsic right to existence. The interest in preserving the sparrows is entirely a human one, which is why it's pretty absurd that he argues that the concept of individual rights makes for an awkward fit with the natural world, then goes on to argue implicitly in favor of the concept of species rights, or at least somehow to argue that there's some non-human interest in the survival of the sparrows, which is just as awkward. Extinction is just as natural as predation. Species rise and fall, and someday maybe there will still be an earth that supports life, but no more human beings on it. Human beings are the only species that sits around wringing its hands over the passenger pigeon. I think the Wrightson sparrows should have been protected because of the human interest in preserving unique things, but they weren't the linchpin of any other ecosystem; they lived on an isolated rock, and no one but humans ultimately would have been harmed if Wrightson island eventually became the home only to goats and trees. Of course, there are arguments that extend beyond human interest for greater biodiversity in general, but not for the protection of individual species.

The farmer would point out that even vegans have a ''serious clash of interests'' with other animals. The grain that the vegan eats is harvested with a combine that shreds field mice, while the farmer's tractor crushes woodchucks in their burrows, and his pesticides drop songbirds from the sky.

Speak for yourself about the songbirds, buster, some of us spend a lot of extra money and eat about 95% organic food.

Steve Davis, an animal scientist at Oregon State University, has estimated that if America were to adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, the total number of animals killed every year would actually increase, as animal pasture gave way to row crops.

This is interesting. It doesn't make me not want to be a vegan, because as I've said before, it's an issue of the way the animal lived, not so much that it died, and veganism, if nothing else, constitutes a boycott on factory farms that if adopted by enough people would force them to alter their practices. And of course, the biological trade-off argument he himself used earlier in the article pertains: obviously the woodchucks are getting something from the deal or they wouldn't be in the fields.

When I talked to Joel Salatin about the vegetarian utopia, he pointed out that it would also condemn him and his neighbors to importing their food from distant places, since the Shenandoah Valley receives too little rainfall to grow many row crops. Much the same would hold true where I live, in New England. We get plenty of rain, but the hilliness of the land has dictated an agriculture based on animals since the time of the Pilgrims. The world is full of places where the best, if not the only, way to obtain food from the land is by grazing animals on it -- especially ruminants, which alone can transform grass into protein and whose presence can actually improve the health of the land.

The vegetarian utopia would make us even more dependent than we already are on an industrialized national food chain. That food chain would in turn be even more dependent than it already is on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizer, since food would need to travel farther and manure would be in short supply. Indeed, it is doubtful that you can build a more sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients and support local food production. If our concern is for the health of nature -- rather than, say, the internal consistency of our moral code or the condition of our souls -- then eating animals may sometimes be the most ethical thing to do.

Uh, lots of problems with this. First of all, a "vegetarian utopia" could include well-treated cows and chickens raised for milk and eggs, and there would still be ruminants transforming grass into protein, animals cycling nutrients, and the earth and our souls could be healthier. He did not successfully support an argument there for eating flesh, though his last sentence seems to claim some triumphant Q.E.D. As for the "food needing to travel even further," I think he's being just a bit disingenuous about what's going on in New Hampshire. Fine, people are raising cows in New Hampshire, and thus producing some food locally. That doesn't mean that even in our current omnivorous culture the vast majority of those New Hampshirites' nutrition isn't coming from trucked in food, tomatoes from California, bread from Iowa, even cows from other states, and I don't necessarily find it automatically credible that the amount of transportation needed to truck in just a few more grains and vegetables would offset the other environmental benefits of eating lower on the food chain. What his arguments basically advocate for, anyway, is a "small farm utopia" that may be just as difficult to attain at this point as the "vegetarian utopia." If he's going to try to argue that it's better for the environment to eat meat, he needs to do it based on the reality we're living in, not some "if all cows were grass fed and came from local small farms" fantasy world.

Surely this is one of the odder paradoxes of animal rights doctrine. It asks us to recognize all that we share with animals and then demands that we act toward them in a most unanimalistic way. Whether or not this is a good idea, we should at least acknowledge that our desire to eat meat is not a trivial matter, no mere ''gastronomic preference.'' We might as well call sex -- also now technically unnecessary -- a mere ''recreational preference.'' Whatever else it is, our meat eating is something very deep indeed.

This analogy is not quite right. The true analog to giving up sex would be giving up food entirely in favor of some kind of flavorless nutritional cake. The analog to giving up meat is more like never having oral sex or never having sex in the missionary position. A sacrifice, yes, but not one which totally denies the exercise of our animalistic instinct. Anyone who knows me knows that even as a vegan I enjoy my food plenty.

What this suggests to me is that people who care should be working not for animal rights but animal welfare -- to ensure that farm animals don't suffer and that their deaths are swift and painless.

This is just unnecessarily weaselly. The notion of "animal rights" is not inconsistent with even his conclusion that it's okay to kill them. Even he said most animal rightists support medical testing if it's truly productive and done humanely. Maybe their rights are to express their own dogness or chickenness, not necessarily to die a natural death, but it doesn't mean they aren't rights and shouldn't be defined as such.

Those are my thoughts on it so far. I might have more later.