On having your octopus and eating it, too

Octopus vulgaris; photo by Albert Kok, used under Creative Commons license.

Octopus vulgaris; photo by Albert Kok, used under Creative Commons license.

Mayer’s real offense may have been forcing a community to realize that just because they’ve embraced local fare doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready to see, in gory detail, it slaughtered or hunted or punched out and dragged from the bay. [Marnie Hanel, The Octopus that Almost Ate Seattle]

Today’s special: octopus with a side of cognitive dissonance.  Read what happens when a young man legally hunts an octopus in full view of a public that apparently would rather not know how a local delicacy makes it to the menu.  Marnie Hanel’s feature in the NYT Magazine section is kind of a page-turner, and reminds me of another case of dietary disconnect I wrote about awhile back.  That post linked to a NYT story in which a chicken “producer” observed sagely, “Most of the time, people don’t want to think about how the animal was killed.”

Several years ago I co-taught an environmental ethics class at one of the member seminaries of the Graduate Theological Union.  The regular instructor for the course picked a different focal issue each year, and that year we chose “biodiversity and the moral status of animals.”  We were hoping to explore how attitudes toward animals influence attitudes about the value of biodiversity in general.

As the registration deadline drew near, we were dismayed to have just a handful of students enrolled, and a friend of mine offered to talk up the course among her seminary classmates.  After failing to persuade any new enrollees, she reported back to me that one of the comments she heard most often was, “I don’t want to spend a semester feeling bad about what I eat.”

Savor that for a moment.  The unspoken content of that sentence looks something like this: “I acknowledge that animals have (some degree of) moral status, but I also like eating many of them.  I have so far not had to admit the eventual incompatibility of these cognitions, and I’m afraid your class will make me do that.”  Where to begin?  Oh, hey… I know where!

As long as I’ve got you here…

  • I’ve been meaning to blog this since I read it last summer.

    “Cosmetics manufacturers use these micro beads, or micro exfoliates, as abrasives in facial and body scrubs. They are too tiny for treatment plants to filter, so they wash down the drain and into the Great Lakes. The biggest worry: fish such as yellow perch or turtles and seagulls think of them as dinner. If fish or birds eat the inert beads, the material can deprive them of nutrients from real food or get lodged in their stomachs or intestines, blocking digestive systems.”

    Please make sure you purchase exfoliating scrubs made with pumice or corn meal or apricot husks or some other biodegradable material that won’t end up accumulating in the stomach or intestines of birds and fish!

  • After I saw this photo feature in Outdoor Photographer magazine, I ordered Krista Schlyer’s book, Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall.

    Since prehistoric times, people have always migrated from one place to another to find what they need to survive. In this respect, humans aren’t much different than wildlife. And, while a wall ultimately doesn’t stop people from crossing a border, it does stop wildlife from finding what they need to survive.

    I will post a review of the book in the not-too-distant future, and if I can track down Ms. Schlyer online, perhaps a virtual interview, as well.

  • A moose “die-off” – likely due to climate change.  (Which reminds me, read it and weep.  Then do something.)
  • (Administrivia: I’m not loving the way this template displays text.  I might experiment with a few other looks in the coming weeks.)


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