Part 15: Michael Pollan and His Omnivore’s Disappointment

It is our experience with nature, our increasing awareness of ecosystems, the operational norms of animal agriculture, and the sentient and non-sentient individuals under the yoke of carnism that lead millions of people to campaign for what must come next: a deeper, new human ecology that reflects the intrinsic worth of ecosystems and where we expand the circle of justice to include individuals from other species.

 

Unlike Michael Pollan I did not need to buy, watch the mistreatment of, and have killed steer 534, shoot a pig, cut the throats of chickens, nor pretend that we possess unique genes that compel us to hunt other species to figure out what the Earth and the impoverished other half of all humans on Earth need. The intentional, premeditated purchase, transfer, and slaughter of 534 for the purposes of writing Omnivore’s Dilemma is, in my mind, an act of inexcusable cruelty. Observing any one of the millions of cattle who are in the industrial agriculture machine would have been sufficient. Pollan’s self-indulgent thrill after he shot a feral pig is the same mistake.  I want to believe that the omnivore movement will wake up from its carefully crafted dream that is really the same old nightmare for ecosystems, individuals from other species, and us. The vegan new human ecology, though far from perfect, responds thoroughly to our collective environmental and moral responsibilities as no omnivore’s human ecology can.

 

We can join hands and create a humane existence that is undeniably wonderful. Who would disagree with the warmth and truth of what Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his book, Going Home: “If we observe things deeply, we will discover that one thing contains all the other things. If you look deeply into a tree, you will discover that a tree is not only a tree. It is also a person. It is a cloud. It is the sunshine. It is the Earth. It is the animals and the minerals. The practice of looking deeply reveals to us that one thing is made up of all other things. One thing contains the whole cosmos.”

 

From the very base of the food chain to the very top, from bacteria to baboons, there are countless chemical and biological interactions, and dynamic trends and changes that alter the outcomes of ecosystems and our future. We must not abandon our awareness of the complexities swirling around us. We are biologically attached.

 

Writing in another one of his books, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan does not take much time to dismiss directly the validity of vegetarians and vegans. He does continue his defense of cultural preferences and the epicurean’s approach to “ethical” eating. He writes that he has not found compelling health reasons to exclude meat from the diet, but puts in parentheses, “That’s not to say there aren’t good ethical or environmental reasons to do so.” This is the same pattern that we found in Dilemma earlier; he gives a brief nod instead of an answer to the evidence that calls for a vegan human ecology. Then he moves on. And we all lose, left with the dilemma of not being told the truth, the whole truth.

 

Next: Series Summary

Michael Pollan: Where Plants are Animals

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