Food Authoritarianism in The New York Times

Did you see that anti-meat piece in the New York Times last week?

The author teaches creative writing at NYU, and he wrote a book about factory farming. The Times lent him their platform to educate us on how we ought to eat.

Here’s how he went about it:

The headline of the article, scrolled across an image of goat carcasses (this image was later replaced with an odd cartoon of a man in a fleshy cavern seeking a forest of broccoli on the horizon), proclaims: “The End of Meat is Here.”

Muscle tissue, blood, and bone are lit vividly against a shadowy backdrop. 

I can only imagine the jarring imagery is meant to prime you for submission to his demand that follows:

“You have to stop eating animals,” reads the subheadline.

And if the glistening pile of skinless bodies isn't enough to convince you, just wait.

You are promptly informed that your unwillingness to comply with these ordained-from-on-high food choices might actually make you a racist. Who doesn’t care about poor people. Or the environment…

No, I’m not kidding. These words were published in the New York Times last week.

“If you care about the working poor, about racial injustice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals.”

OK.

The article clearly has one goal: changing the eating habits of Times readers, a group that certainly wouldn’t take accusations of bigotry or anti-environmentalism lightly.

The Times knows their audience.

And appealing to readers in such a politically charged way allows the author to avoid addressing the true complexities of today’s issues in food and agriculture. Issues that simply eating plants can't solve.

Issues like the over-centralization of our food supply, a lack of regional/cooperative agricultural entities (where workers could be redirected), rapid topsoil obliteration, toxic pesticide use, and a multitude of other negative externalities of the way things are generally done today.

So it's not like we aren't concerned. We've talked about the ravages of factory farming on people, animals, and the environment quite a bit.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t sustainable alternatives. 

But in this article, factory farming alternatives that don’t result in an “end of meat” are not addressed.

The author is brash enough to tell us there’s no need to pursue them either. The case is already closed. His way is the only way. And these aren't his opinions he claims. They're just the "facts.” Hmm.

Any thinking person has to take the arrogance of such statements as a bit of a red flag, no?

Of course, many his boldest points are easily disputable, like livestock's share of greenhouse gas emissions. And there are some that aren't, like factory farm working conditions - they're terrible. 

But these ideas are nothing new. They are recited over and over again by anti-meat crusaders in this exact same type of article that pops up all the time, always with the one-size-fits-all solution that plant-based diets will save the world.

But one size doesn't fit all, and the world's a complicated place. Unfortunately, that can't be accounted for when distributing propaganda. 

Oh well. The New York Times knows what they’re doing. They got themselves a lot of clicks. And here we are talking about it.

Let’s just make one thing clear: media authorities don’t get to dictate how people eat. 

And we all know all too well by now how the “experts” change their opinions on public health issues all the time. So the case is certainly not closed.

I don't claim to have all the answers myself. But I am certain that anyone who does is full of it.

Don’t let anyone scare you into eating one way or the other. Learn about the issues you care about, listen to your body, and most importantly, make up your own mind!

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