These are research sketches of pigs I did for a new comic called “Showmanship,” which is going to be about my experience raising 4-H hogs for the county fair. They were inspired by a lame-ass interview I saw of Jonathan Safran Foer describing why he’s a vegetarian that I came across while researching Everything Is Illuminated for our book discussion on Wednesday:
There’s no paradox when you’re a child between loving animals and eating animals because you don’t realize that they’re one and the same. Then when you do, people move in one of two directions, either finding ways to reconcile that in their lives, or saying, ‘I don’t have to reconcile it, I just won’t eat animals.’ And that’s what I did.
Foer became a vegetarian when he was nine, which was exactly the same age I was when I started showing hogs. Growing up in Southern Ohio the son of an ex-meatcutter and the grandson of a farmer, I don’t think I even MET a vegetarian until I got to college. And even then, I’ll admit that my reaction to vegetarians was pretty identical to Alex and his grandfather in Everything Is Illuminated :
“You should know…” “Yes?” “I am a… how to say this…” “What?” “I’m a…” “You are very hungry, yes?” “I’m a vegetarian.” “I do not understand.” “I don’t eat meat.” “Why not?” “I just don’t.” “How can you not eat meat?” “I just don’t” “He does not eat meat,” I told Grandfather. “Yes he does,” he informed me. “Yes you do,” I likewise informed the hero. “No. I don’t.” “Why not?” I inquired him again. “I just don’t. No meat.” “Pork?” “No.” “Meat?” “No meat.” “Steak?” “Nope.” “Chickens?” “No.” “Do you eat veal?” “Oh, God. Absolutely no veal.” “What about sausage?” “No sausage either.” I told Grandfather this, and he presented me a very bothered look. “What is wrong with him?” he asked. “Hamburger?” “No.” “Tongue?” “What did he say is wrong with him?” Grandfather asked. “It is just the way he is.” “Does he eat sausage?” “No.” “No sausage!” “No. He says he does not eat sausage.” “In truth?” “That is whht he says.” “But sausage…” “I know.” “In truth you do not eat any sausage?” “No sausage.” “No sausage,” I told Grandfather. He closed his eyes and tried to put his arms around his stomach, but there was not room because of the wheel. It appared like he was becoming sick because the hero would not eat sausage. “Well, let him deduce what he is going to eat. We will to go to the most proximal restaurant.” “You are a schmuck,” I informed the hero.
Of course, I really don’t care whether someone is a vegetarian or not. And I’m fully aware of all the ethical, moral, and health issues involved in meat consumption. I just don’t dig on self-righteousness.
What I do dig is the few authors who love to eat meat and have done some really good writing on the meat-eater’s dilemna.
The first is David Foster Wallace in his essay on the Maine Lobster Festival, “Consider The Lobster ,” where he poses the question “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?” and after trying his best to answer it (considering everything from a lobster’s neuroanatomy to the difference between pain and suffering) admits, “I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it, and…I haven’t succeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient.”
The second is Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, whose book is all about tracing the origins of our food, and whose solution to the problems of meat-eating is to find local, organic meat suppliers who feed their animals well and treat them humanely.
Who wants a cheeseburger?