People often mistake me for a vegetarian. (Maybe it's the beard?) I'm not, but thinking about where our food - and in particular our meat - comes from is something which brings home to me how sick the world is right now. In particular, the juxtaposition of factory farming, in all its obscenity, with the criminalisation of older and more respectful ways of rearing and killing animals.
This short piece from Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the Idler, is the kind of thing I have in mind:
Yesterday morning we had a knock at the door from our local environmental health officer. He had come round to tell us that according to a law that was brought in two years ago, what we had done with our pigs—that is to say, have them killed at home— was illegal. You are not allowed to kill and eat your own pigs. The law says that you have to take them to the slaughterhouse. This is, they say, so they can be checked by the slaughterhouse for disease. We argued that it is surely more humane to have them killed at home, because the pig does not suffer the stress of being bundled into a van and then lined up on the racks in an unfamiliar place and killed. He actually agreed that meat that has been killed at home, stress-free, tastes better than meat that has gone through the abattoir. So that is why our meat tasted so good: because it was killed at home. But that is illegal now.
One of the friends I gained through the Illich colloquium in Cuernavaca is Dean Bavington. I've already mentioned his powerful presentation on the history of the Newfoundland cod fishery. At the core of Dean's argument is the distinction between treating fish as food and treating it as a commodity.
Certain processes, certain laws, even certain well-intentioned environmental measures, only become thinkable* once you have stopped thinking about things that you can actually experience (taste, smell, touch...) and started treating the world as made up of interchangeable units and mathematical patterns.
* For 'become thinkable', I almost wrote 'make sense' - but the issue here is precisely the absence of 'sense'.