• Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers

    Posted on February 2nd, 2014 mollyo92 No comments

    I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised as I began to read this week’s reading. I didn’t expect the topic of the book to be “blood and sex,” as it’s so often mentioned throughout the several beginning chapters. I was honestly a little taken aback as the book just jumped right in and began to discuss bestiality and it’s prevalence in previous centuries. For starters, I had no idea that it was such a normal thing in the past, and to continue, I didn’t exactly understand what the subject had to do with domestication. It seemed to me that bestiality would be more like a setback in the history of animal domestication; kind of like a mistake in the process of forging a successful, positive relationship between animals and humans. Despite my initial hesitation, I quickly began to understand the importance of the subject of “blood and sex.” It seems that it’s actually very important to understand the relationship humans have had with animals on a sexual level and also in how our view of animal slaughter has changed. As the readings progressed, I began to see the increased complications of animal/human relationships. Not only have sexual relationships towards animals developed over time, but as have our moral and religious connections to animals. As I have thought about domestication previously, I kind of imagined domestication occurring at one point and history, and after that point the relationship between humans and animals has been static and unchanging. This book has made me begin to understand that the development of the animal/human relationship takes place on so many levels, and furthermore how that relationship has been changing almost constantly with the development of society.

    Although I was able to overcome my initial hesitation with the book as it started off discussing “blood and sex,” I still wasn’t entirely convinced by all of Bulliet’s points. I believe Bulliet did a good job of making the reader aware of a change in animal/human relationships developing with the changes of society, but I think there wasn’t enough exploration into those changes. I mainly got this impression from the portion on elective vegetarianism. Personally, I do not eat red meat, and I tend to avoid most meats overall, and as I read this portion of the book I began to feel somewhat ashamed. It was as if Bulliet’s message was for people to suck it up and eat meat like humans used to and are supposed to. However, Bulliet ignores the fact that our society has drastically changed from the domestic era in which most people saw many animals slaughtered during their childhood. And apparently unlike Bulliet, I don’t really feel that this is such a negative change. For example, Bulliet mentions the way that meat gives people more energy than only vegetation can. This point was brought up as if it was a case for why people are making a mistake in shying away from meat, however Bulliet never mentions that most people no longer work on farms and exert as much energy as they used to. Therefore, it seems that eating foods that give less energy really isn’t such a big deal. Unlike Bulliet, I really think that the change in the eating habits of society that have arisen from the drastic change in the activities and lifestyles of many societies overall is not a bad thing. Obviously, these thoughts are mostly focused on American society, given that many countries around the world are still primarily farming societies. But in general, I didn’t have the same negative impression of the shift towards vegetarianism. I may have interpreted this section incorrectly, and I probably simply felt this way because I felt guilty while reading this portion of the book, but I do know for sure that Bulliet was attempting to place a negative connotation on vegetarianism, which I do not agree with. The book so far has been eye-opening, but I’m not yet fully convinced by Bulliet.


    3 responses to “Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers” RSS icon

    • It seemed to me that bestiality would be more like a setback in the history of animal domestication; kind of like a mistake in the process of forging a successful, positive relationship between animals and humans.

      I question whether forging a positive relationship with animals was ever the goal. If it is the goal, it’s the goal today, but I don’t think it was a century ago. If anything the goal was exploitation or domination with a hint of narcissistic self-preservation.

      >>Therefore, it seems that eating foods that give less energy really isn’t such a big deal.<<

      This is probably true from a physical activity standpoint. I don't want to get bogged down in unnecessary details, but our brains consume a disproportionate percentage of calories compared to other organs. Meat is just as important for brain function as it is for physical exertion. Some evolutionary biologists believe a major reason our brains grew so much was that we became omnivores (Many of our recent ancestors were herbivores).

    • Sorry… that the first paragraph above was meant to be quoted so you knew which part of your post I was replying to.

    • The issue of “elective vegetarianism” is really interesting, and I hope we talk about it more tomorrow. Tanner raises an important point stressed by some evolutionary biologists (about meat-eating being essential to the expansion of the hominid brain). But I wonder how (or if) you could ascertain that meat-eating always means bigger / better brains? Back to the point made last week about “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” (or whatever the quote was) – Isn’t the brain-meat connection about the quality of the protein in relation to the amount of energy expended to procure and digest it? Molly’s point about our much less active contemporary lifestyles (we do not have to hunt-gather our own food) would seem to suggest that you can still have a big healthy brain even if you don’t eat meat. Also, Molly, no need to feel guilty about not eating meat! (I’ll stop now, but there’s lots, lots more to say about this…)

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