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Don’t Critique What You Don’t Know

by Paul Neubauer, guest writer

Certainly we tread on dangerous ground when we attempt to analyze and qualify the work our neighbors and peers dedicate themselves to, day in and day out. However, my objection to the “Eco-Feminist Collective Response” is not rooted in a personal insult sustained from its publication. In fact, I wholeheartedly sympathize with the “Collective’s” pain and indignation over issues of environmental degradation, the mistreatment of livestock and the historical and contemporary abuse of women. Where I draw contempt for the article within the most recent edition of the Echo has far more to do with the pathologically ichorous weeping of their misguided and hole-riddled argument than it does the content of their activism.

Ask me who of those on this campus is most intimately aware and knowledgeable of the life of animal raised for meat. Ask me who it is that cares most deeply for that animal while it lives. Ask me who, in our community, raises themselves in the dark of a cold, late-winter night to check on calving cows, farrowing hogs or lambing ewes. Ask me who is willing to push themselves to utter exhaustion in 0° wind-chill, with their arm shoulder-deep inside a cow, fighting with all their energy and heart to save her life and pull out her stillborn calf. Ask me who feels that strange mixture of pain, accomplishment and pride when the animals they have worked so hard to raise and care for are sent off to the most dignified and painless death they know how to provide. Ask me who feels no such pride or accomplishment, but instead sadness and frustration, as they bury an animal against whose sickness they fought so long, and for the end of whose suffering they begrudgingly culled her. To all of these inquiries the answer is undoubtedly the student workers of the Warren Wilson College Farm: a crew populated by young women and men whose greatest purpose there is to garner a more profound understanding of what it means to raise an animal for meat.

When one asks themselves the above questions and considers my response, perhaps it is easier to understand my confusion at the “Collective’s” assertion that the “college as a whole” conceives of meat as nothing more than a product for consumption “completely disconnected from where it comes from.” Not only is this statement patently false in regards to Farm Crew members, it also terribly undersells all those students and community members who visit our College Farm regularly and support the Farm and its operation by purchasing our products, helping to build our facilities or praising our dedication and hard work.

Surely, if our 270-acre farm were strewn with warehouses, where factory workers toiled heartlessly to breed and feed sows in crates or foie gras ducks in tiny cages, I would understand the “Collective’s” anger at seeing such images as the Echo has so recently portrayed. But when we look at the Warren Wilson College Farm we are seeing an operation managed by the Supervisor of Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation, thriving on the cutting edge of sustainable pasture and forage management, populated by workers dedicated to the advancement of all forms of Sustainable Agriculture, existing as a tool and resource for research and design towards the ends of more sustainable models and finally, serving to connect students, faculty, staff and outside community members more deeply to the heritage and history of our school and region than almost any other facet of this institution. Within this vision the article in question is not only a grave misappropriation of the “Collective’s” meat-targeting-ire, but also an unjust indictment of the portion of this community doing the most to work against the identity of meat as a “commodity, a lifestyle, a choice… a demonstration of privilege and power.”

I have attempted above to answer only to those sections of the “Eco-Feminist Collective Response” which I felt most qualified and entitled to dispute. Not being well-versed in the philosophies of intersectionality or gender binaries, I leave those hearty servings of said subjects to whosoever might have the appetite for their own response. I may have been misleading when I said my response had nothing to do with an insult sustained, please understand my perspective.


2 Responses to “Don’t Critique What You Don’t Know”

  1. I am a member of the EcoFeminist Collective and I had no part in the “Eco-Feminist Collective” response to meat.

    I also disagree with the way it was written and how it’s content was skewed.

    I am upset that is was titled on behalf of the collective because it had one primary writer and not all members took part in it’s creation. It is no surprise to me that it is getting negative responses.

    The environmental and feminist movement is hindered by radical and aggressive dialog that attacks those who have different ideals.

    What I think happened was a couple of students were upset by the graphic image on the cover of the Echo and responded in a similarly aggressive and carelessly crafted way.

    If you want to have a non aggressive conversation on the environment, feminism, and the food we eat, feel comfortable bringing it up with me.

    I do not want to fight. We are in this together.

    Posted by Jordan | November 7, 2013, 9:37 pm
  2. Hello everybody, my name is Gabriel Setright, I am a Junior Psychology/Philosophy student , I work with the Environmental Justice Crew and with the Empower crew. I am also a part of the Ecofeminist Collective and I wrote “The Ecofeminist Collective Reponse to Meat” that was published by the Echo. As a part of the recent comments targeting my article, I wanted to clarify a couple of things.
    First, this article does not represent the entire view of the Ecofeminist Collective. There were members that were not consulted during the writing, editing and submission process, therefore I recognize that it falsely represent the views and tactics of the Ecofeminist Collective.
    Second, I admit that this work is not as polished and as eloquent as it was meant to be. This piece was written very quickly and I personally feel that it could have deserved careful and concise preparation, since it is discussing a very controversial and delicate issue. As Philip said, it is hard and naïve from my part to try to reduce 20 years of studies into a couple paragraphs. I accept full responsibility for what was terribly written and I encourage the Warren Wilson Echo to change the title of “Ecofeminist Collective Response to Meat” to “Gabriel Setright’s Response to Meat.”
    Thirdly, it was my intention to continue the conversation inspired by the people who attended the Carol Adams presentation of “The Sexual Politics of Meat” I feels that the people who attended her presentation could better understand where this article was coming from. Again, I apologize for my brute and aggressive way of approaching this delicate and personal issue.
    Thirdly, I am very glad that so many people have responded to this article and that people are actively discussing this. I personally admire Paul Neubauer and Virginia Hamilton’s well articulated responses to all the energy and comments. I thank them both for taking the time to writing their thoughtful perspectives.
    Finally, and most importantly, I agree with both Sheridan and Philip in encouraging responses that can evolve into an open dialogue. I would gladly organize and participate in a public discussion and or public debate so we can formally address our concerns and perspectives in a way that is productive, concise and with a neutral facilitator. Would an appropriate theme, time and place for this discussion be “Feminism, Animals, Food and the Environment” in Canon Lounge sometime next week after dinner?

    Posted by Gabriel Setright | November 7, 2013, 10:23 pm

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