Re: RARA-AVIS: Pelecanos on dogfighting in the New Republic

From: Richard Moore (
Date: 04 Sep 2007

--- In, "Brian Thornton" <tieresias@...> wrote:
> I'll say this to Miker, who I like and respect and with whom I
frequently disagree: regarding your dog-fighting vs. steak-eating argument, speaking as someone who grew up on a farm, descended from cattle ranchers, I'm here to tell you that there is a world of difference between training otherwise tame pets to kill for sport and butchering cattle. I've participated in the latter, and I have to tell you, half the time the cattle didn't even know they were dead. There's a reason that a group of mindless people are frequently referred to collectively as "cattle." Smart, they are not. They never know what's coming to them, and they have a pretty good life up to that point. More to the point it's done humanely.
> That's more than I can say about any aspect of dog-fighting, and I
hope they throw the book at that asshole Michael Vick.
> Attached below for your collective amusement is a link to
something topical about this subject:
> As for discussing dog fighting as it occurs in fiction, I think
this list has not only a right to discuss it, but an obligation to do so if it's topical. That said, there are many topics on this list with which many list-members don't bother.
> All the Best-
> Brian

Actually, Brian, no one (certainly not me) objected to discussing "dog fighting as it occurs in fiction." In fact, I specifically said that was quite appropriate. Perhaps not an "obligation" as if we were a governmental agency but certainly the right to discuss anything that occurs in the fiction for which this list exists.

If your are proposing to discuss the broader topic of the comparitive treatment of animals for food (as you did in your earlier paragraphs), I am happy to do that as well, although I think it inappropriate to this list.

Like you, I have killed and/or helped butcher cattle, pigs and all forms of poultry. I've long told my daughters (who thought food comes neatly packaged in stores) that when we had chicken for Sunday dinner when I was a kid (lunch to your yankees), I was an integral part of the process. I had to catch the chicken and kill it. Often I also had to pluck it. The fact that I can still eat chicken while remembering the smell of scalded feathers is a miracle.

I found particularly interesting your comments about the awareness of cattle of their fate. This is a key element in the book I recommended to Miker--THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA. The author wanted to follow the food chain for various meals, including a McDonald's hamburger, from the inputs (corn) to the animal to the slaughter hourse. He was not allowed in the slaughterhouse. However, he quotes the vetenarian Temple Grandin, who was a consultant to the slaughterhouse to insure proper treatment of the cattle. She said that unlike humans, the cattle had no capability of anticipating their fate. To the very moment of their death they did not have an awareness of their fate which served to reduce significantly the impact of their doom on their anxiety.

While fascinating in and of itself, I also recognized the name of Dr. Temple Grandin. She was the subject of Dr. Oliver Sacks'title essay of his book AN ANTHROPOLOGIST FROM MARS. Grandin is a brilliant person who happens to be autistic. Growing up she realized that she was at a complete loss to understand (much less anticipate) what everyone considered "normal" human behavior. In order to adapt and cope, she began to imagine herself as an anthropologist from another planet so she could study what humans were doing (and expecting) and respond appropriately. Another example of her "difference" is that she had the typical aversion of autistic people to touching another person. Yet, Temple recognized she needed this form of contact. The result was she built a machine to "hug" her. She would climb into it when she felt the need and be squeezed without human contact.

Man, you can't make this stuff up. There are people out there so different from anything we might anticipate.

All of this was fine as coping mechanisms but how could she make a living among humans? She discovered that she had more natural empathy with animals and became a world renowned vetenarian. She tells her story in her own book THINKING IN PICTURES, which I also recommend. It is because of her special insight and understanding of the animal mind that she was hired to observe and comment on the methods of the slaughterhouse utilized in Pollan's book.

Now all of the above is pretty much a direct outgrowth of the posts by Miker and Brian. I don't think the subject directly applies to our stated interest here EXCEPT should we give more consideration to the particularities of the mental state of the fictional criminals and murderers that we discuss here? I think of some of Patritia Highsmith's characters as an example. Was Ripley a bit autistic? Does it matter?

Richard Moore

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