Nov 25

Crone keeps hanging out on Savage Death Island

No sooner do I abandon my perfectly defunct patriarchy blaming blog in order to focus on A Crone’s Natural History Adventures in the Hinterland, than I start patriarchy blaming again. My genetic blamer mutation will not be denied, I guess. Clearly I have yet to work a few kinks out of the system. Well, until I do, here’s another blaming installment on the wrong blog.

The story so far: yesterday I posted an essay on, among other things, the gross degeneracy of the annual Thanksgiving turkeycide. Reader M.K. Hajdin took exception, accusing me of being not just a species-ist, but also something of an anti-diabetic-ite (which, I must say, was a first for me in all these years of being accused of every anti-ism in the book. Whenever I was accused of being an anti-BDSM-ite, however, it was entirely true).

I wrote this:

[W]hether a sentient being should be factory-farmed, tortured, and butchered for the fleeting pleasure of a nation of entitled hedonists should not hinge on its gentleness or intelligence. Either an act is wrong or it isn’t; the degree to which a species appears sympathetic to human conceits is irrelevant to the question of whether it deserves humane treatment.

Which moved M.K. Hajdin to write this:

I aver that because “sentient” is defined by humans as having traits similar to humans, this definition is speciesist. As is the idea that we should reward creatures who we perceive as similar to us by making a vociferous point of not eating them, yet consider the lives of “non-sentient” creatures such as plants and trees fair game for every kind of exploitation.

Those of us whose lives depend on animal products such as insulin don’t much appreciate being considered “entitled hedonists” for wanting to, you know, not die.

Before you even say, “I didn’t mean YOU”, consider this: if the attempt to persuade most of the people in the world to become vegans were successful, the supply of animal products available to those of us who don’t have sufficient economic or able-bodied privilege to deny ourselves food on ethical grounds would diminish to the point that at least some of us would die: namely, the poorest.

Since I’m one of those very poor people who can barely afford to live as it is, I can’t help seeing the proposed scarcity (and skyrocketing price) of meat products as a threat to my existence. Both the PETAloons and the more reputable vegan activists seem to either not believe in the existence of human beings who can’t adapt to a vegan diet, or to value the lives of animals above the lives of those humans. I find this attitude incompatible with social justice.

By way of responding to a couple of M.K. Hajdin’s remarks, I offer five points:

1. Your definition of “sentient” is inaccurate, thereby tanking your assertion that it is speciesist to argue against turkey factories. “Sentient” is not a synonym of “human-like.” To say that a creature is sentient simply implies that it is capable of processing sensory input. Arthropods are sentient. Octopuses. Clams. My argument against mass-producing sentient beings for the human food supply hinges on the depravity of the concomitant abuse and torture, not on the animal’s supposed human-like qualities.

As a matter of fact, the more time I spend around even domestic animals, the more I realize how completely unhuman-like even the most supposedly human-y of them are. And you know what else? As astonishing as it will be for you to read these outrageous words in a heartwarming nature crap blog, I can but declare that spending the last five years of my life with animals has taught me absolutely nothing about myself! That’s right, bupkis. I have had no spiritual awakening. No thunderbolt of clarity. No cathartic Zen-based cosmic revelation. I do not feel at one with “the land.” I am not “turkey brothers” with anyone. The animals and I are not “more alike than I ever would have thought possible.” On the contrary, we are exceedingly different in practically every conceivable way.

Which is fine by me. I just like hanging out with’em, is all.

But I digress.

So, although I would certainly advocate against mass-production of human-like species (like, close down that bonobo factory NOW), I would be against it even if scorpions were the food animals in question. This is because abuse is always an integral part of the animal factory program, and abuse degrades everybody.

2. There are arguments for veganism, and lard knows I’ve made’em in the past, but I didn’t make one in this essay. My actual argument in yesterday’s essay? “An individual’s personal conformity to arbitrary community values has no bearing on the community’s responsibility to adhere, always, to the highest possible philosophic code.”

3. You consider it disingenuous, or “speciesist,” for a crone to deplore factory farming with one side of her yap while cramming a spinach salad into the other. The thing is, spinach suggests, by its essential deficit of sensory organs, that farming it does not constitute an ethical crisis of any kind, let alone exploitation on the scale of a modern turkey factory. Indeed, agriculture would appear to actually benefit spinach, if one considers that procreation for its own sake almost certainly tops the list of spinacine ambitions.

4. Supporting the abolition of poultry torture-factories is hardly the equivalent of calling for the demise of impoverished diabetics, and it is disingenuous of you to credit me with making that obnoxious leap. As a side note — and I welcome corrections on this point, as it is only tangential to my area of expertise — it is my understanding that modern insulin is no longer made with bovine pancreases (pancreae?), but is genetically engineered using using human DNA. I am further unaware of any disease that specifically contraindicates a meatless diet; if such an affliction exists, it must be so rare as not to materially figure in the argument against factory meat production. But even if a human does suffer from a medical condition the management of which depends entirely on consumption of meat, there are ways to accomplish that without stooping to the abuse that characterizes the livestock industry and debases the entire human community. It is, as you say, “incompatible with social justice” to inflict suffering on anyone, cow, human, or otherwise.

5. Finally, to address your issue with my characterization of Thanksgiving as “hedonism,” I assert that not only is it entirely feasible, it is in fact entirely preferable, that wanton, unexamined gluttony cease to be the focus of a national holiday purporting to enjoin the populus to “give thanks.” Thanksgiving gives nothing, thanks or otherwise. Like Christmas, it is a festival of consumption. And that’s just tacky.


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  1. Helen

    I aver that because “sentient” is defined by humans as having traits similar to humans, this definition is speciesist.

    I can’t figure out whether this is a horrible misinterpretation of Singer (or similar writer) or a complete failure to read anything of his (or similar). Because that’s simply not how educated humans define sentience.

    procreation for its own sake almost certainly tops the list of spinacine ambitions.

    Oh dear, now Ms Hajdin’s going to accuse you of anthropomorhising spinach.

    Supporting the abolition of poultry torture-factories is hardly the equivalent of calling for the demise of impoverished diabetics

    On a political group blog on which I used to hang out, we had a “Long Bow Award” for arguments like these. I think this should be awarded a Long Bow Award for the week.

  2. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    “I think this should be awarded a Long Bow Award for the week.”

    This here blog is still new enough that it has no traditions, and is sore in need of some. If you can explain the context of the name, it will be so awarded. I know what a longbow is, but I don’t quite grasp how it applies to the non-sequitur (you are against poultry farms, therefore you are a threat to diabetics) in the post.

  3. Jessie

    Insulin production is indeed done by recombinant bacteria with human insulin genes.

    Even if it were from pigs, using insulin to save one’s life wouldn’t really fall under “fleeting pleasure.”

    On another note, PeTA’s characterization of all sorts of animals as “gentle and intelligent,” annoys me as well. Most animals aren’t gentle, and the ones that are tend to be trained domestic ones. It doesn’t really matter because they are animals. An animal that acts in an aggressive manner doesn’t have the cognitive ability to reflect on the moral implications of its actions. That doesn’t mean we should treat it in an inhumane manner though.

  4. Comradde PhysioProffe

    The vast majority of insulin used in human patients–at least in the United States–is recombinant insulin manufactured without the use of any animals. There are some patients who do use porcine insulin.

  5. Friend of Snakes

    Please don’t be awarding any Awards, cryptically named or not. That always seems to me to smack of an unnecessary piling-on.

  6. Helen

    “To draw a long bow” means to come to some wildly out-there conclusion from premises which don’t seem to support it (or, usually, can’t possibly support it).

  7. Val


    Home computer is not being cooperative about copying & pasting, but about 95% of insulin users are injecting a genetically-engineered pharmaceutical product that is created using E coli bacteria, i.e. no longer derived from bovine or porcine pancreases.

  8. Iris Vander Pluym

    Type I diabetic here. I take two different kinds of recombinant human insulin, made in what I can only presume is a bacteria torture-factory.

    I live in terror of bacteria unionizing.

  9. Betty C

    Finally delurking after a long while of reading your blaming, to offer this hilarious video. Many people will no doubt be familiar with Lierre Keith, but did you know eating veges gives you cancer? Put down the spinach sandwich!

  10. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Good lard, people can embed videos in comments? What the heck kind of crazy blog is this?

  11. buttercup


  12. Betty C

    Ooops! I had no idea that would embed – thought it would just be a link, sorry!

    (But still worth a watch if you feel like a giggle).

  13. Linda

    I shudder at the thought of being ravaged by the Crone or the…uh…”cronies” here, but am risking it because I have a couple points to add to the discussion.

    1) In reading the original post it seems that what you are objecting to is the factory farm model and not so much carnivorism in general.

    2) While it may be true that diabetics no longer rely on pigs for their insulin, there are still medical uses for animal parts.I ingest pig thyroid (natural desiccated thyroid, or NDT for short) every day in order to function normally. There are a few brands on the market and the one I use is called Armour Thyroid. There are synthetic “thyroid replacement” hormones available, but there are several reasons people with thyroid dysfunction choose NDT instead of the synthetics. Here’s a link to a fairly balanced article about the use of NDT and other thyroid replacements. http://thyroid.about.com/od/hypothyroidismhashimotos/a/Thyroid-Patients-Do-You-Need-T3-Natural-Desiccated-Thyroid.htm Also, my stepmother recently had a heart valve replaced and it was from either a cow or a pig (I can’t recall exactly which). This procedure allows her to live for several more years with fairly normal functioning.

    I’ve had discussions with friends who are dedicated vegans about the pros and cons of their lifestyle. It seems that simply eliminating meat from one’s diet isn’t addressing all the moral issues around how food is produced for U.S. consumers. http://www.ciw-online.org/101.html I suppose that moral arguments alone don’t matter much to the individual turkey (or farm worker) who has to deal with the consequences, but we are each complicit in causing death or misery on a fellow living person/creature as long as we ingest food to live. And it has always been that way.

  14. Saurs

    Normally I think of list-makers as unimaginative, asinine toads incapable of cobbling together a halfway intelligent argument without resorting to numbering things*, but now I’m just shit-scared of getting on your bad side, lady. If I wasn’t already a dirty, spinach-slaying speciesist with unnatural compulsions towards molesting stone fruit, you’d soon have converted me. Now where is my vegan taco?

    *cf every other dude on the interwebs

  15. The Crone of Cottonmouth County


    You are correct. I am against the factories and the abuse, not the entire concept of omnivorousness.

    Nobody asked about my own foodal habits, but that won’t stop me from explaining that I’ve run the gamut of the usual diet “lifestyles” over the years, and have found them all wanting in one way or another. Lately I appear to have settled on what my brother-in-law calls “flexitarian.” Under this regime there are no hard-and-fast rules like “eat nothing with a face” or whatnot, but rather the goal is to have a little bit of everything once in a while, with a focus on the origin of the food, while making judgment calls as needed, such that I can sleep at night. I am vehemently against abusive factory farms, so I don’t eat that stuff when I can avoid it. But if someone hands me a plate of wild-caught salmon, and it seems reasonably feasible that no whales were murdered in the process or humans enslaved or whatever, I’m strappin’ on that feed bag, dude.


    Oh, I’m right there with ya on the lists. It’s a slothy shortcut, for sure. If I were, let’s say, writing a book for publication, for which I expected people to pay money, I promise you it would contain no numbered lists of any kind and be composed entirely of No. 1 First-Quality prose. But this is a free blog that I don’t really have time to write, so: lists. And words like “foodal.” There are only so many hours in the cronal day!

    And to clarify: that’s right! Money would make me write better!

  16. Owly

    “As a matter of fact, the more time I spend around even domestic animals, the more I realize how completely unhuman-like even the most supposedly human-y of them are… The animals and I are not “more alike than I ever would have thought possible.” On the contrary, we are exceedingly different in practically every conceivable way.”
    Dear god, you are brilliant.

    I am frustrated by the notion that animals have some kind of mystical understanding of the world around us that we spiritually out of touch humans are too self-absorbed to see. I see self-awareness in some animals, I see emotions, but by no means do I see some kind of “soul” (work with me) there. This is certainly not to say that we have the right to abuse or cause any kind of physical or emotional pain to animals, but we simply cannot place them on the same plane of consciousness that humans occupy. I think it’s how we treat animals more than how we bond with them that tells us the most about ourselves.

    Also, Iris Vander Pluym, I can assure you that the bacteria are indeed unionizing. Soon, they strike! No one will be able to digest anything! And as punishment for everyone calling us nerds all these years we microbiologists will do no negotiating for you all.

  17. Ron Sullivan

    I’m frustrated by the generalization “animals.”

  18. admirerofemily

    Been a long time between posts, and this is really off topic, but, given Madame Crone (love the transition/transformation/whatever and wondering what’s next!) no longer shows an email address, thought to post this in case it is of interest, given one will fall off the crone wagon onto the patriarchy blaming floor on occasion when one is so provoked:


  19. phio gistic

    In addition to being tasty, spinach has photoreceptors and exhibits phototropism – that is, the plants can sense where light is coming from, process that sensory information, and turn towards the light. Plants can also smell each other and react in different ways to sensed aromatics.

    If you want to be totally freaked out, check out this movie of morning glories’ nastic movement, finding things to climb on via the sense of touch!


  20. ElizaN

    That video from Betty C is just begging for a drinking game to be made of it.

  21. Jeanne

    He said you had an anti-diabetic point of view not because of insulin but because you have two choices when going vegan: either eat a crap ton of soy, or eat a high-starch diet. Neither option is a good idea for a diabetic and isn’t really a good idea for anybody else either. Having meat in the diet means getting protein not coupled with phytoestrogens and it means you can get energy from a type of fat that isn’t rancid long before it hits the grocery store shelves (as most plant oils are).

    Please don’t act like factory farming is the only way to obtain meat, either. You know better.

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