Pollan Giveth, Pollan Taketh Away

May 23, 2010

Michael Pollan’s got a new article out that is, as usual, at once enlightening and infuriating.

The enlightening and supremely useful part is his unified vision of the food movement, and his description of how people with wildly different goals and agendas are nevertheless managing to push in the same direction:

Where many social movements tend to splinter as time goes on, breaking into various factions representing divergent concerns or tactics, the food movement starts out splintered. Among the many threads of advocacy that can be lumped together under that rubric we can include school lunch reform; the campaign for animal rights and welfare; the campaign against genetically modified crops; the rise of organic and locally produced food; efforts to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes; “food sovereignty” (the principle that nations should be allowed to decide their agricultural policies rather than submit to free trade regimes); farm bill reform; food safety regulation; farmland preservation; student organizing around food issues on campus; efforts to promote urban agriculture and ensure that communities have access to healthy food; initiatives to create gardens and cooking classes in schools; farm worker rights; nutrition labeling; feedlot pollution; and the various efforts to regulate food ingredients and marketing, especially to kids.

But this being Pollan, he just had to fuck it up. While he includes animal advocates as members of the food reform movement, in his eyes we’re clearly the outcasts. Once again, Pollan engages animal welfare just enough to make a dickish dismissal, before moving on to the next topic. His article is supposedly an interwoven review of five books, one of which is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. And here’s all Pollan has to say about Foer’s book:

Animal rights advocates occasionally pick fights with sustainable meat producers (such as Joel Salatin), as Jonathan Safran Foer does in his recent vegetarian polemic, Eating Animals.

That’s it. Not a word from Pollan assessing whether perhaps Foer makes some useful critiques of Salatin. Apart from that, Pollan ought to show a little more restraint when using a word like “polemic.” In my eyes, Foer tackles food politics in a calmer and more reasonable, informed, and nuanced manner than Pollan has ever exhibited.

It’s tragic that one of the most influential leaders of the food politics movement is so dismissive toward animal advocates, but that’s been clear for quite a while. Link.


Previous post:

Next post: