Carrot Oppression and the Othering of Unwanted Species
by Miki Kashtan
(Below is an excerpt of the article that you can find on Medium)
Some time ago, over lunch, Emma, with whom I have been vagabonding for almost three years, mentioned casually that she had just seen a big truck entirely full of carrots go by. I immediately became curious to know how carrots are picked to make a whole truckload of them possible. I confess to never having thought of this before, which, at this point, I feel mortified about, as will become clearer momentarily. Emma looked it up and came back with this video. As I looked at it, I immediately understood, in a deep and visceral sense that I can’t fully make sense of, that there’s no way that carrots want to live in these long, dreadful, orderly, equal, symmetrical, and lifeless rows. And I burst out crying, which surprised me and then didn’t.
A conversation then ensued among the four of us currently vagabonding together. Three of us are meat eaters, and one of us is mostly vegan. We are at full peace with each other, including having had conversations about it, though never all the way.
Through my tears, I expressed to them what I have expressed a number of times to others and have never expressed in writing. The way life evolved on this planet means that there is no food without killing something else that is alive. My tiny knowledge of indigenous cultures includes the information that there is full awareness of this immense challenge built into how they function. Every taking of a life is done within relationship, not instrumentally. This is done whether it’s an animal or a plant, even just harvesting parts of a plant to keep the rest of it alive. This is done for whatever purpose the interference with another being’s life happens, whether for food or for weaving baskets. As I understood it, no life would be interfered with in any way without asking for and receiving permission.
To create some line and say that all the life to this side of the line is OK to kill and all the life that’s to the other side of the line is not, is actively painful for me. I’ve had conversations with many vegans and heard multiple explanations about the “why” of such a decision. All of them make sense up to a point, and none of them escape the Western hubris of thinking we know and then deciding for others, for life itself, what will happen. I mourn the loss of the humility of treating all life as sacred.
Full article to be read on Medium
- Carrot Mayhem Milking Slade Lane, by Michael Trolove, on Wikimedia Commons.
4 thoughts on “Carrot Oppression and the Othering of Unwanted Species”
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Just very sweet.
I have the same kind of feelings.
I live vegan, but I haven’t had a conversation about it since getting into NVC. I still wonder what that conversation would look like. I do believe that if we’re honest, we all feel a scale of magnitude difference in our feelings of compassion for animals Vs. Carrots. At the same time, I DO feel compassion for carrots, for the flies I kill to keep them from interrupting my sleep and ruining my ability to enjoy the day, etc.
I didn’t in any way tried to imply that the feelings we have in relation to animals are no different from those we feel in relation to plants. What I am saying is only that this difference is telling us something about us and not about the reality of the situation. It simply tells us that our distance from carrots makes it impossible for us to discern what it’s like to be a carrot and we can’t rely on it as information about how much volition carrots do or don’t have.
Thanks for writing! I appreciate it when people comment.
Thank you for sharing your detailed thoughts. What supports you in not falling into either/or dichotomy between “rotten to the core Western philosophy” and “inherently good indigenous peoples”? Despite knowing that nothing is really “bad” or “good”, I still don’t feel fully open to the two without judgements.
Once I heard in a lecture on applying queer studies to ecology that a rat can be considered queer in a city’s ecosystem. It sounded true to me although I have very limited knowledge of queer studies and I couldn’t understand why this adjective suits the rat. I had been digesting it until I read this piece of yours and realized that the state of being unwanted yet existing can make things queer. I would like to know if you have any thoughts on this.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I remembered a song called “Virus” by Björk. To a certain degree, it subverts the idea of viruses being destructive by the metaphor of love: letting someone in through your membrane. The song is accompanied by an app/game where you can protect the cell from the infection but if you do it, the song stops in the middle and you are not able to hear the whole story – you need to let the “sweet adversary” in. I found some peace within myself thanks to it. I could start to simply accept their existence without portraying them as enemies. I didn’t share this song or my thoughts during the period because I was afraid of it being labeled as an attempt to get some attention by saying provocative claims. I deeply mourn it and at the same time, I find this article courageous. I would like to ask you if you had needed some courage to publish it.
Violence is inevitable and I want to use just the minimum amount of it needed – maybe this is the thought that people who put demarcating lines between species have.
Thank you for the article,