Perhaps only in Iowa could a candidate for the Senate declare that her experience castrating pigs qualifies her for office.
Yes, OK, she means it as a wry, gateway metaphor for her promise to “cut pork.” But it’s precisely this promise, not the tasteless image of detesticled pigs, that I find most objectionable. The words have sound but signify nothing. And that’s the point, really. They are short on meaning, long on emotional resonance. The promise to cut pork is comparable to promises to resuscitate the American Dream or restore the middle class, to bring change you can believe in or apply sane business practices, to transcend mere politics or be impregnable to the Washington Beltway ethos. The words are lexical black holes into which all meaning disappears. What’s left is an emotional residue, a purr or snarl substituting for substance. That, and the cynicism that thinks that is enough.
It’s always nice to know we can kill a sentient creature and feel righteously comfortable about it.
The Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary, two animal welfare groups, have petitioned the Department of Agriculture to step up inspection efforts at poultry slaughterhouses, so that birds whose necks are not cut by an automatic knife are not dropped alive into scalding tanks. A Deputy Administrator of the Food Safety Inspection Service says birds boiled to death in the scalding tanks violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act; therefore, the FSIS would “take action, because the animals would be dying other than by slaughter — they'd be drowning, and not slaughtered in a humane way."
I confess I struggle with the ethical distinction being made here. Aren’t the birds being slaughtered in any event? Does slaughtering a creature “in a humane way” even make sense? Can the words “humane” and “slaughter” dwell in the same linguistic neighborhood? Is dollying the adjective “humane” into place before the noun “slaughter” a kind of verbal juke to avoid ethical anxiety? Emerson says, "You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” Wouldn’t the really humane thing be not to slaughter the birds at all?