Monday, August 31, 2009

Thoughts on "The Omnivore's Dilemma"

I read the book that succeeded this ("In Defense of Food") first, but having enjoyed Michael Pollan's writing, I grabbed this when I saw it in the library.

I enjoyed following his journey of discovery about food and his own life-stance towards food. The section on Joe Salatin's Polyface Farm is entertaining and heartening -- especially as it follows his awful discoveries about industrial food. It's good to know that truly ecological farming can be done, though many would say it's not practical in face of the world's current population. But industrial farming isn't either -- not in the long term in view of dwindling petroleum supplies and the pollution it causes.

His sortie into vegetarianism is interesting, particularly his thought processes in backing out of it. He nicely teases out the shaky philosophical foundations of the animal rights movement -- it views rights as applying to individual animals, much as human rights apply to individual humans. As long as individual animals survive, it doesn't matter if the species that the animal belongs to doesn't. Doesn't that seem to be the underlying assumption for placing economic gain over ecological practicality?

There are good ecological reasons to be vegetarian or vegan, or to at least reduce the amount of animal flesh and animal products as currently consumed in North America, but there are locales in North America where such a diet cannot be locally sustained. The hills of New England are conducive to pasture and the animals to convert that grass to food that humans can digest.

We are all going to have to do a lot more local eating in the future and for many some of that will involve meat and animal products. I can get local wheat, local hemp hearts, local buffalo, local emu, local vegetables, local maple syrup, local honey, local cheese and local eggs, but I've not seen much in local dried beans.

I'm content to live the omnivore life and its dilemma.

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