Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bites of Bittman

Mark Bittman has written two pieces of interest this week in his NYT Opinion column, both on factory farming.  This first one I agree with for the most part.  Of note, I am impressed that he is discussing Common Farming Exemptions (CFEs) in some detail.

The follow up piece, on the other hand, is a bit harder to swallow.  Bittman makes several errors that I have difficulty forgiving him for.

Below is the comment I wrote on Erik Marcus's public Facebook page,, regarding my reaction to the above piece:

I personally have some issues with this follow up piece. Bittman makes the fatal error of linking the words “radical”  and "crazy" with "vegan" on two occasions when it is completely unnecessary, promoting a harmful stereotype. He writes, "If activists, radical vegans, or whatever you want to call them, break the law..." Simply put it should have been, "If people break the law," or "if activists break the law." Bittman's word choice is dismissive and invalidating to both vegans and activists.  Maybe as a clinical social worker who practices psychotherapy I am especially sensitive to both word choice and stereotyping, but I know from all my years of professional experience that both make quite a difference in personal and public perception of any cause, especially a cause as vulnerable as the dismantlement of animal agriculture.

In the next breath, as you point out, Erik, Bittman completely minimizes the problem of factory farming, blaming only "the few farmers that are giving the rest of them a bad name," when many, many accounts of animal rights and welfare violations have been documented and are considered typical of the farmed animal industry as a whole.  Cruelty on CAFOs is certainly not an anomaly and to have it framed as such without any supporting evidence whatsoever was in terrible form.

Then he calls vegans "crazy" for no reason at the end of said paragraph, implying that exposing industry cruelty is "our job." Although some of us certainly choose to make it our job to educate the public about factory farming and animal cruelty issues, we aren’t crazy because of that or in spite of it. 

I appreciate the point of the article, but I do think the errors I mentioned warrant significant attention.  Maybe it was just sloppily written or done quickly under the gun of deadline, but it bothered me enough to write this mini-treatise.  Thanks for listening.

What do you guys think?  Overall, I think I am having a bad week with the NYT.  Don't get me started on the other article everyone is talking about.  I refuse to give it any credence at all.  I won't even link to it.

Have a great rest of the week, guys.  Think I'll make some brownies now instead of dinner.

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