A whole bunch of friends, some of whom are self-described anarchists, have been posting a vile article from The Making Progress Blues along with comments blaming individuals as consumers for the horse-meat scandal here in the UK. For those of you not privy to the peculiars what has been happening is that a whole bunch of beef products have been found to be “contaminated” with horse meat. It started with Tesco’s supermarket own-brand products, but has been spreading through all the big names. While some people voiced concern that horses are often killed using a poison that could be harmful to humans, this never seemed to be taken seriously but nobody knew why. That is until the scandal of illegal horse poaching came to light, then it all kinda starts to fall into place where the horses were coming from. The fact that a cow has the same level of sentience as a horse seems to be passing most people by.
Anyway, back to the shite from that article The main drive of the post to my eyes read as:
“Good, concerned, middle class people LIKE ME have been yelling into the gale of working class idiots LIKE YOU about the need to shop locally and to oppose the supermarket drive to the bottom on price and quality for years. It was because of all you filthy proles that horse meat is in YOUR food. Oh, and by the way FUCK YOU because I don’t eat any of that peasant swill.”
The writer is an idiot, and I’ll tell you why.
First, their whole concept of how the food production chain works is far too simple. It isn’t just a case that someone produces the raw materials, the components are produced, the shop buys in bulk, then you buy the end product. Each and every segment of every aspect of each component is tied into a huge web activity that ultimately alienates the whole production chain from itself. This huge game of smoke and mirrors occurs whatever product being brought to you, be it a sentient creature needlessly killed, vegetables and other foodstuffs, high end electronics, or a duvet. I recommend “Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization on the Tomato Trail” by Deborah Barndt for a detailed look on the huge impact of a single item of produce, or if you want to get into the meat & bones of how we turn animals into products and the impact that has I’d look into “Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights” by Bob Torres (review soon).
Next, the piece is written from such a position of comfort in comparison to the people it is criticising that Joe Hill himself couldn’t have written a song to show the social class divide with any more clarity. People may be choosing to take other “luxuries” by reducing the cost of the food they purchase, but that isn’t because they didn’t realise the difference in quality of the food they buy, it is so they can give their families the small things that mean they can enjoy some time together and celebrate cultural norms without feeling ashamed. Sure that is also part of the consumerist drive, but social pressures and conventions work that way and if it brings a little hope, no matter how false, folks are going to take it. If state benefits are the base level within our capitalist system that are required to live a satisfactory existence then we should be able to eat as the piece describes and still have enough for a modest luxuries with what is given, but I think we all know that this is an absurd notion. The writer thinks that only a small number of people are a position to have to buy the cheapest foodstuff available is laughably sick because even if you do have the money, they may not have the transportation or time to get to the locations where these “good products” are being sold.
“Capitalism not only validates pre-capitalist notions of the domination of nature by man; it turns plunder of nature into society’s law of life. To quibble with this kind of system about its values, to frighten it with visions about the consequences of growth is to quarrel with its very metabolism. One might more easily persuade a green plant to desist from photosynthesis than to ask the bourgeois economy to desist from capital accumulation. There is no one to talk to. Accumulation is not determined by the good or bad intentions of the individual bourgeois, but by the commodity relationship itself, what Marx so aptly called the cellular unit of the bourgeois economy.”
– Murray Bookchin, Toward an Ecological Society, 1980
Key to this is that the problem isn’t people buying cheap meat. The problem is in the ecology of how we interact with all animals and our environment. The capitalist system treats every animal, including humans, as an exploitable part of the process of capital gain. We are busy creating profits for someone else in order to get tokens that we then exchange to give someone else profit. Some animals don’t get these tokens and so are not given even the sliver of the concern we give to those with tokens in this system. The consumer isn’t to blame, the system of withholding people from their needs is to blame. The idea that we can “buy well” is a sleight of had that hides those worst effected economically behind a slur of social oppression. Capitalism will always seek to maximise capital gain and the state will always protect this exploitation. If the best we can hope to do within the current system is club together in co-ops, self-produce, or
steal expropriate from those who hold our needs ransom then while we should do this to alleviate some of the pain, ultimately we are still living the same shadow of the existence we deserve. This piece, and the concerns I’ve heard others voice, are not calls to implement better choices within capitalism while we organise its demise, but are kicking the worst off when they are down.
Fuck capitalism. Fuck the state. And fuck anyone who blames any animal for trying to live rather than exist.