When The New York Times recently moved long-time food critic Mark Bittman to the opinion page, Bittman dropped his tasting spoon and picked up a pounding-mallet. Specifically, he started penning a "food manifesto" for reaching his gastronomic utopia. This week, Bittman added another chapter to his culinary catechism that likens meat eaters to animal "torturers." (It sounds to us like a certain columnist just signed up for PETA's e-mail newsletter.)
Bittman began his "Opinionator" column today by suggesting that "it's time to take a look at the difference between 'pet' and 'animal.'" It wasn't hard to figure out where this food pundit was going with that premise:
Arguing for the freedom to eat as much meat as you want is equivalent to arguing for treating farm animals as if they could not feel pain.
Bittman's editors provided links to hidden-camera videos produced by radical animal rights organizations whose primary purpose is to systematically eliminate animal agriculture from the American landscape. We find it ironic that less than a year ago Bittman was joyously extolling the "pleasure" he derived from animal protein:
There is undeniable pleasure in a plain beef burger — juicy, tender, and well browned over a backyard grill — but there's even more in a jazzed-up one.
Apparently, Mark Bittman has replaced his tips for backyard-grill gurus with a new kind of grilling—that of farmers who don't heed his growing list of gripes.
When Bittman acknowledges that "most of today's small farmers and even some larger ones" raise animals humanely, his Michael Pollan-esque agenda is on full display. It's clear that Bittman has a foodie's aristocratic gripe with large-scale farmers and ranchers, and looks down his nose at meat that's not produced for upper-class niche grocery boutiques.
Bittman also completely ignores the work of Temple Grandin and other animal scientists who strive to improve livestock housing and slaughter methods. And as Grandin has made clear, farming's few bad apples are a minority, and no one supports animal abuse—even when animal-rights wingnuts try to paint all of farming with a broad brush. Most farmers treat their animals remarkably well, getting up at all hours of the night and in any kind of weather to care for them.
Ironically, the animal-rights movement sees "humane" farming practices as counterproductive, since they focus on improving the lives of livestock animals instead of on converting the masses to vegetarianism. Bittman, too, is emphatic that he also sees no defensibly "justifiable purposes" for Americans' taste for meat.
Surprisingly, he stops short of explicitly advocating the abolitionist views of today's vegan foodies. Perhaps that will come in the next chapter in Bittman's "food manifesto." As it is, his screeds are already starting to resemble the anti-meat agendas of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.