aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
A call for glass walls
There’s a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig-an animal easily as intelligent as a dog-that becomes the Christmas ham.
We tolerate this disconnect because the life of the pig has moved out of view. When’s the last time you saw a pig? (Babe doesn’t count.) Except for our pets, real animals-animals living and dying-no longer figure in our everyday lives. Meat comes from the grocery store, where it is cut and packaged to look as little like parts of animals as possible. The disappearance of animals from our lives has opened a space in which there’s no reality check, either on the sentiment or the brutality. Several years ago, the English critic John Berger wrote an essay, ‘’Why Look at Animals?’’ in which he suggested that the loss of everyday contact between ourselves and animals-and specifically the loss of eye contact-has left us deeply confused about the terms of our relationship to other species. That eye contact, always slightly uncanny, had provided a vivid daily reminder that animals were at once crucially like and unlike us; in their eyes we glimpsed something unmistakably familiar (pain, fear, tenderness) and something irretrievably alien. Upon this paradox people built a relationship in which they felt they could both honor and eat animals without looking away.
Since reading that, I look animals in the eye. In his most recent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, there’s another passage that calls on us to honor the animals we eat by not looking away - from slaughterhouses (p.332):
Sometimes I think that all it would take to clarify our feelings about eating meat, and in the process begin to redeem animal agriculture, would be to simply pass a law requiring all the sheet-metal walls of all the CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operation], and even the concrete walls of the slaughterhouses, to be replaced with glass. If there’s any new right we need to establish, maybe this is the one: The right, I mean, to look. No doubt the sight of some of these places would turn many people into vegetarians. Many others would look elsewhere for their meat, to farmers willing to raise and kill their animals transparently. Such farms exist; so do a handful of small processing plants willing to let customers onto the kill floor, including one-Lorentz Meats, in Cannon Falls, Minnesota-that is so confident of their treatment of animals that they have walled their abattoir in glass.
The industrialization-and brutalization-of animals in America is a relatively new, evitable, and local phenomenon: No other country raises and slaughters its food animals quite as intensively or as brutally as we do. No other people in history has lived at quite so great a remove from the animals they eat. Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do. Tail docking and sow crates and beak clipping would disappear overnight, and the days of slaughtering four hundred head of cattle an hour would promptly come to an end-for who could stand the sight? Yes, meat would get more expensive. We’d probably eat a lot less of it, too, but maybe when we did eat animals we’d eat them with the consciousness, ceremony, and respect they deserve.
Video: A Peta primer. If you’re willing to watch.
We have a food safety crisis on the horizon
The federal agency that’s been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.
The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.
“We have a food safety crisis on the horizon,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.
Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.
It’s even worse for US produced food, a nearly 75 percent drop, from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year, according to the agency’s own statistics.
Amero sentencing postponed
The former Norwich substitute teacher convicted of exposing her seventh-grade students to Internet porn is getting extra time to bolster her defense team.
Superior Court Judge Hillary Strackbein agreed Monday, court documents show, to postpone Friday’s sentencing for Julie Amero, 40, the Windham woman convicted last month on four counts of risk of injury to a minor. Her sentencing will take place March 29 in Norwich Superior Court, where she faces 40 years in prison.
Attorney John F. Cocheo, who represented Amero at trial, requested the postponement to allow time for a new attorney and consultant to familiarize themselves with the case.
For all the others who have not gotten our attention, the plea I’ve appended to all of my Amero posts:
WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. This is hardly the first case of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence.
I know you are but what am I?
I’ve had a go at producing three different models or types of blogs that, I think, might be useful if one wanted to try to categorise all the blogs out there. Not that I’m sure doing that would actually be useful! But for the purpose of giving an idea of the different types of blogs out there, each of them perfectly valid in their own way, I propose the following, which you can view as a slide show here:
Closed Blogs are, as the image here shows, at the centre of an audience that resembles a closed network. Blogs of this type include baby blogs and wedding planning blogs. Characteristically they have a:
* small but extremely passionate and engaged audience
* audience unlikely to grow
* audience potentially super-served - they all have a very strong personal connection, usually running both ways.
See, for example, the Aitken’s wedding blog
Blogs as Conduit of Information are blogs that act as the conduit between individual audience members and information or ideas. That is, the blog is the centre of the relationship between the information consumers and information producers. The blog itself may not be the origin of this content, but may merely pull it together in a useful way. This sort of blog is characterised by:
* potentially larger audience than closed blog model
* audience highly engaged with personality and/or topic
* audience unlikely to grow rapidly because it serves same audience without reaching out
Blog as Participant in “The Conversation” are connectors of ideas and people, but also of conversations that flow between them. Blogs of this sort have an audience potentially as big as the numbers actively engaged in the conversation. New people who get involved in the conversation, or who discover a node of it, may very well follow contextualised links, visit other sites in the chain, and become regular audience members of those sites. Bloggers who create blogs like this tend to engage with the comments on their blogs and link out heavily, using tools like RSS readers and technorati to follow the "buzz". Some also use social bookmarking or social recommendation tools to save, order and share links.
This is highly evolved blogging as both use of technology and technique which, I think, an ideal that bloggers should strive for.
I strive to be a conduit and participant.
I may even be that in some small way. But I know my blog is a globally accessible database of information that I find personally or professionally interesting, and a platform for deliberation through which I shape my views on those interests; it allows me to engage with those I admire, respect or criticize and helps me keep my sanity when I feel intellectually isolated; and it lets me develop and use my technology skills.
Via Martin Stabe.
Where have all the honeybees gone?
Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction.
Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.
As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis. [...]
They are also studying a group of pesticides that were banned in some European countries to see if they are somehow affecting bees’ innate ability to find their way back home.
It could just be that the bees are stressed out. Bees are being raised to survive a shorter offseason, to be ready to pollinate once the almond bloom begins in February. That has most likely lowered their immunity to viruses.
Mites have also damaged bee colonies, and the insecticides used to try to kill mites are harming the ability of queen bees to spawn as many worker bees. The queens are living half as long as they did just a few years ago.