Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Killing animals and killing people

Questionable taste is everywhere. This article on vegetarianism by (full bragging disclosure: my Facebook friend) Stuart Rachels looks very good until you get to part 6: Industrial Farming and the Holocaust. The tone goes way off right here:
To compare industrial farming to the Holocaust, let’s consider the number of victims involved in each.
You can almost hear the sleeves being rolled up as we eagerly set about our business (at the beginning of the sentence and especially on the word 'let's'). There is no need to bring the Holocaust into the discussion at all. The previous five parts have catalogued quite enough horror.

Nothing by Coetzee is mentioned in the bibliography.


  1. Well, #'s matter when you're a utilitarian...

    Have you looked at Eternal Treblinka by Charles Patterson? A rather different tone, in its attempt to work out the comparison.

    The omission of Coetzee can be explained in part simply in that Costello's horror is not the sort of sentiment in which rational utilitarians like Singer (and, I'd guess, the Rachels's) want to traffic: too much emotion.

  2. I haven't seen Eternal Treblinka, no. Thanks for the tip--it looks good.

    Yes, too much emotion might be part of it (although there's quite a bit of emotion, it seems to me, in the descriptions of the treatment of animals). The wrong kind of emotion, too, perhaps. It seems like an aesthetic matter in the end, Stuart not hearing, or just not being bothered by, something that is very jarring to my ears. And by that I don't just mean the sentence I quoted but the whole thing. In a way it's the attention to numbers that bothers me. Then again, I haven't read the whole piece, so I can't be too critical. Most of it looks very good indeed.