Suicide Food

Before I changed jobs a little over a year ago, a coworker of mine showed me a website bemoaning the pandemic of logos for eateries where the animal appears to be happy about you coming to eat it. I’ve attached a pretty par-for-the-course example.

There’s a pretty good article about the blog here, and a link to the site, here.

pigs-gone-wildjpgOne thing that caught my eye on the site was that the blogger denigrates free range food and the law California voters passed last year about animal caging. “Free range” you see is just a way to make ourselves feel better about the murder we’re committing.

Here’s what the article writer says:

… [to me] environmental sustainability is a more ethically precise goal than vegetarianism.

I don’t agree with the comment about it being more precise (not eating meat is an easy thing to do); I just agree with it [i.e. sustainability, regardless of its precision or lack thereof]. I have serious objections to both the treatment of animals and humans in our massive food production system, which is why I like things like Hekhsher Tzedek. But the idea that humans should never or were not evolved to eat meat is just vegan propaganda without scientific basis. I also think that our failure to create a sustainable food production system is literally civilization-threatening, so I do support organic food production.

The blogger’s criticism of free range food reminds me of pro-lifers who scoff at people who only are really bothered by late term abortions, or extremists among them who even consider birth control murder. At the end of the day, when a large majority of society does something, just labeling it wrong isn’t going to do anything. You might be right. But a mere judgment rarely persuades. Sometimes, it takes a war to make “right” real.

Just in case it’s not clear, I do support this guy’s right to say what he’s saying, and I don’t think vegans are weird. There are a lot of reasons not to eat meat. I personally go long stretches as a vegetarian (eggs, honey, and cheese are still on the menu even during these times). What I don’t like is this zeal for converts. In that sense, they who do act as such,remind me more of Operation Rescue than MLK.

Update I:

[In case the latter isn’t clear, the judgment-laden moralizing of the vegan position—yes, I’m sure YOU are an exception—is a poor means to the end of getting people to comply with what you want. To the extent vegans aren’t self-aware of their community’s judgmentalism, they are imperiling their goals. To the extent they are aware and take the Goldwater defense (extremism in defense of liberty is no vice) they are similarly imperiling their goals, to which I am sympathetic, if not fully on board.]

Update II:

P.P.S. I acknowledge that moralizing about free range food is not the emphasis of Suicide Food, but this is not a review of the site in toto, but a comment on this kind of  phenomenon in general. Just in case it’s not clear, the author’s judgmentalism comes through regardless of the topic.

19 thoughts on “Suicide Food”

  1. What zeal for converts? I’m confused about the point of this post. It seems like you are looking at Suicide Food and then going off on some related tangents that aren’t related. But that isn’t made clear.

    When you say that a judgement doesn’t mean anything, do you mean we should act instead? Like acting on our beliefs and trying to get others to also do what we believe is right? That sounds like support for those trying to convert. Confusing.

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  2. I think you’re off base with this post. Suicide Food is a blog about advertising imagery and its bizarre lack of connection with the food and products it relates to. Free range issues are not a big part of the blog, and the same goes for vegangelicizing and searching for converts.

    As a vegan, I thank you for not thinking I’m weird, but I think you need to do more than a skim of the Suicide Food blog if you’re going to write about it.

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  3. Honestly, this is a silly and manipulative blog. You use loaded words to slant readers’ viewpoints and cover your own lack of research. The point of suicidefood is not zealotry or vegangelicizing. It is about blinders in advertising.

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  4. “I don’t agree with the comment about it being more precise (not eating meat is an easy thing to do); I just agree with it. ”

    Huh?

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  5. I think these commenters reveal my points exactly.

    1. Virtually nothing. In other words, you’re not denying what I’m saying, you’re just trying to get away with me not noticing.

    2. It’s a blog. Tangents are par for the course. And I didn’t say judgments were meaningless—just that they, in and of themselves—rarely tend to persuade.

    3. Again, “not a big part of the blog.” Not a denial.

    4. I get it. So, because I get it, I *must* agree?

    5. In other words (again it’s a blog, I have no editors or staff, so my apologies for just typing)… I don’t think there’s anything less precise about sustainability; if anything it’s harder to specify what it means than not eating meat.

    It just so happens I care about sustainability—it’s intrinsic precision or lack thereof are irrelevant to me.

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  6. The bit about the inchoate quality of “sustainability” reminds me of a bit that a Grad school Professor I had passed on from a friend of hers.

    This person did not like the term ‘sustainable’ and would say: Imagine someone asking you, ‘how’s your marriage going?’

    Your answer: “Sustainable.”

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  7. Is expressing one’s views the same as judgmentalism? Are you being judgmental by expressing your views? Is expressing one’s views—even judgmentally—the same as “extremism”? If someone opposes, say, the free range movement, what options are available to them? That is, what options would meet with your approval? Expressing judgments about them is out. (Although in some circles, expressing judgments is known as “discussion” or even (gasp!) “argument.”) So what’s left? Surely you wouldn’t rather people go to more extreme lengths to persuade people to support a particular position? So I don’t have a clue what you’re trying to say, except “free range is good,” although you’ve offered no facts, opinions, or arguments in support of that proposition. Oh, and that, lest they imperil their cause, vegans should smile and go along.

    And, again, in my blog—in one of the two or three references I’ve made to free range (out of hundreds of posts!)—I actually offered support for California’s Prop 2. Did I denigrate it, while asking Californians to vote in its favor? Wait, isn’t that the sort of non-extreme compromise you would otherwise encourage? (In other words, “Hey, this isn’t so great, but it’s better than nothing.”) It was certainly an imperfect ballot measure, but I apologize for hurting its feelings.

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  8. I don’t understand this blog post. If you want to talk about Suicide Food then do. It’s an interesting blog that brings up important points regarding the way our food is marketed to us and how the marketing is designed to play with our emotions (oh, look, the piggie wants to be eaten! I don’t need to think about how these ribs got on my plate anymore!). These are points that are important for vegans and omnivores alike to think about.

    If you want to talk about the free range movement and criticisms of it, look at something like http://www.civileats.com.

    Also, your comparison of Suicide Foods’ blogger’s stance on free range meat to anti-choicer’s abhorrence of late term abortions is nonsensical.

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  9. @Ben:

    Your own vitriol in response to this post, which is largely sympathetic to your position—I’m suggesting how to move the ball in the direction you want, not trying to thwart it—only underscores my point.

    Being confrontational and making a splash has its time and its place, but, in terms of gaining widespread compliance, getting in people’s face and condemning their behavior as felonious is not a winning strategy. Is that what you want? To get results, or just to demagogue?

    Also, thank you for confirming what you made out earlier to be my spurious allegation: namely that you don’t like free range, that it’s a sellout.

    @J-Dub

    I’m sorry you don’t understand it. I’m not really sure why you think I should comport with your editorial demands. I’ll talk about what I like, thank you very much.

    As for the concept of Suicide Food, it’s overwrought. You’re giving the people who come up with these things far too much credit for what they’re doing—mostly red neck kitsch. I doubt it even crosses their mind that they are engaging in this kind of irony.

    If you don’t understand the comparison, I’m also sorry. Condemning free range meat, which at least seeks to eliminate some of the bad things about the food production industry and some of the conditions during the animals lifetime, is a plus in my book, and if I were anti-meat, I would still see it as a plus, a move in the right direction, not a sell out or an opiate for the guilt ridden amongst the carnivores.

    In that sense, the position is exactly parallel to radical anti-choicers who, say, actively fight against RU486 even though it might potentially virtually eliminate most abortions.

    In the same vein, they are not really against abortion. They are against women’s equality and nonreproductive sex. You are not against merely the aspects of BigFood that gain some traction in wider opinion.

    As long as you’re straight up about that, we’re cool. But the sturm and drang over my purportedly overemphasizing that position seems to reveal some uncomfortable feelings about it.

    Why hide it?

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  10. Oh, and that, lest they imperil their cause, vegans should smile and go along.

    This is the Goldwater defense. Extremism in defense of animals is no vice, right?

    I’m also sorry you don’t see some oracle in this post. It’s just a blog. Yes, free range, in my opinion, is better than cage farming. Both for me eater caring about his health and the animal. Perfect? Nope.

    If you read as much of this blog as I read of yours, you’d know that this blog is, as much as anything else, about results. We have our dogmas, but we care enough about them to want to move the ball. Having a keen eye for how hard you can push an issue and when is what brings about progress. Doing it at the wrong time can only set you back.

    I put my concern for the environment second to nothing. I believe animals and all life play an important role in human survival and well being, and, that as important as that is, human well being is not the only yard stick for our tenancy of the planet. I believe that, at this point in human history, it is more important to address the environmental defects of food production than it is to bring about a sea change in the human diet that we evolved into over hundreds of thousands of years.

    Obvious counterarguments apply. Does this mean I would justify slavery, or the Holocaust, or some other huge immoral practice? Of course not, two wrongs don’t make a right. But, to refresh your history, hundreds of thousands of people died to end the Holocaust and American slavery. It wasn’t just a PR campaign. Were those lives justified to be lost? I think probably yes. Similarly, I think that right now the war to be fought is for sustainability.

    These are opinions.

    If you don’t agree that’s fine, but your methods of seeking compliance, especially with someone at least willing to engage you in good faith like me, leave a lot to be desired.

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  11. For someone writing for a magazine called Polemic, you are surprisingly delicate when it comes to argument.

    You don’t present your arguments clearly, you complain when others present forceful arguments, and the whole business of argument seems to leave you exasperated and offended.

    I still have no idea what you’re talking about when you criticize my “methods of seeking compliance.” What methods? And compliance with what? I write a measly blog and express my opinions. (Almost never about free range, by the way.) Is the Polemic writer taking issue with people using argument to advance their cause?

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  12. I don’t get the focus on free range. Suicide Food barely mentions free range. I suggest you follow the links others have provided to learn about the free range trend.

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  13. Wow. Methinks thou dost protest too much.
    You really do feel bad about eating animals. Sad you don’t realize it.

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  14. First off, I don’t think suicide food has very much to say that is negative about free range animals. I think most vegans would agree that the idea of free range is certainly better than the idea of cages. In reality however, the laws that specify what is “free range” are so twisted that in the end if a chicken has a window it is considered free range. Additionally, if all animals were out on sunny green pastures there wouldn’t be NEARLY enough meat to feed everybody. Even just all the Americans, that is why factory farming was invented in the first place.

    At some point when you have researched this and you see all the cruelty that goes into meat, milk, and egg production you realize that you don’t want to be a part of it. And then, a lot of people blog about that to get their feelings out because it drives us crazy that people don’t even realize what they are contributing too.

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  15. This seems to be a classic example of goals versus tactics. To paraphrase the point of this blog’s co-author (and more prolific contributor) Jochanan: vegetarian impulses and a commitment to inchoate
    but laudable “sustainability” is a good goal; however, simply labeling people that do not believe in or practice such tenets as “bad” is not a good tactic to move society towards that goal. This does not mean that one should not have judgments, opinions, or arguments etc. etc. it’s just that labeling, in this case, is a poor tactic.

    As for Suicide Food itself, in my opinion, it makes a clever and worthwhile point, but it also reminds me of one of those right-wing organization “We Hate Everything On Television!” screeds that feature a meticulous collection of all of the things that the organization hates about television. The hipsterfied local-organic-sustainable BBQ joint I frequent features a large neon pig with the letters “BBQ” inside it, and a pig’s head in a star as the logo on its menu. Pretty straightforward iconography for a place where one goes to eat pig (although personally I prefer the beef ribs). The icons on Suicide Food appear to be kitschy versions of the same thing likely befitting their locale and regulars. Perhaps, for some, their is some Freudian making-a-joke-out-of-something-that-makes-you-uncomfortable going on, but by and large these icons, in my opinion, are directed towards people that don’t give a flying rats ass and are poking fun at the whole sloppy eating all day obsessing mediocre beer drinking cultural aspects of BBQ. BBQ is a “fun food,” and if the idea of eating a pig ethically okay for you, then these icons are just silly fun.

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  16. I don’t feel bad about eating animals. I feel horrible about eating animals produced by our system the way they are produced, in an environmentally destructive, unsanitary, exploitative of nature, animals, and humans, kind of way, all for multinational profits.

    But that feeling isn’t limited to the animals I eat. It extends to the plants I eat, and even to the water I drink.

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