Worlds Apart? The Unity of Liberation
Critical Theory and Animal Liberation
, John Sanbonmatsu, Ed: Rowman & Littlefield.
Review by Polish theorist Kris Forkasiewicz
In the introduction, editor John Sanbonmatsu sets out to sketch the structure and contents of the book. “The question posed by the
chapters in this volume,” he writes, “is how much closer we ourselves need to get to the reality of our own society's violence
against other animals to perceive that violence for what it is — atrocity” (2). That violence, as well as the cruelty humans
inflict on each other, is normalized and thus made entirely tolerable, largely an ordinary part of life, except in those relatively rare
instances where it stands out in plain view and shocks us into attention. Still, they “pale in significance beside the smoothly
functioning planetary system of routine extermination” (3). The public pays little or no attention to it, unless something goes wrong.
And it does; examples abound of when the system malfunctions and then becomes widely noticed, if in a form reduced to a spectacle for mass
consumption. Whenever public health is thought to be jeopardized, hundreds of millions of other animals are killed “just to be
safe.” The point is precisely that there are no limits to the violence humans are capable of visiting upon victims in attempting to
demonstrate their own superiority. “Those wielding total power annihilate those with no power at all,” and so “the idea of the worthlessness of the other, the other’s lack of a right to exist” becomes a reality. Reduced to a ready-made
category of contemptible “animal,” the other is up for extermination. But Karen Davis's essay, “Procrustean Solutions to
Animal identity and Welfare Problems,” introduces a twist . . .
“Blood and Soil”: Lierre Keith, Michael Pollan, and the Trouble with Locavore Politics
The Vegetarian Myth
by Lierre Keith
Review by John Sanbonmatsu
The Vegetarian Myth
, by Lierre Keith, is a recent entry in this new genre of apologia for human empire. It is noteworthy for showing us that that majority now
includes a portion of the radical Left, which has received Keith’s intellectually dishonest book with apparent enthusiasm (enthusiastic
blurbs from Alice Walker and Derrick Jensen accompany the book). With the wind of the locavore movement at her back and food writer Michael
Pollan as her lodestar, Keith, a radical feminist turned animal farmer, sets out to destroy vegetarianism and, en passant, animal
rights. The author’s own vegetarianism almost killed her, she tells us, and unless vegans and animal rights activists are stopped, they
are going to destroy the earth. This frankly apocalyptic narrative sets The Vegetarian Myth apart from scholarly critiques of animal
rights by philosophers on the Right. The Vegetarian Myth may be many things – a paean to diet fads, a primer on the sins of
agriculture, a primitivist anti-vegetarian screed, a Bildungsroman of Keith’s passage from infantile veganism to the “adult
knowledge” of the necessity of killing other beings. But as a literary form, its nearest cousin is the millenarian tract. With its
determination to divide the world into friends and enemies, its willingness to scant reason and traduce fact to compel the reader to its
fevered conclusions, and above all its steely determination to abolish a civilization it deems hopelessly corrupt and wholly evil,The Vegetarian Myth ultimately has more in common with John’s Revelation than with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring . . .
John Sanbonmatsu, PhD is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Humanities and Arts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in