M: Just the way the animals were kept in clean enclosures. That they have legitimate pasture access. That they’re not [only] being let out for an hour a day. Pasture raised is a big thing. I don’t see anything wrong with eating meat, but I do see something wrong with treating animals poorly while they’re alive. I think they should be treated–I would eventually like to get to the point where everything I eat is something that I’ve killed myself. I think things living in the wild are living as close as they would naturally before they are processed for food.
B: You tried to have exchanges with people online. I can’t imagine you tried to have a conversation with people over the phone about any of these issues.
M: No, and I really didn’t even have many exchanges with people. When somebody’s coming at you in a threatening, neurotic manner, it’s not even worth the energy it would take to try and bring them down [to a reasonable discussion]. If somebody’s a fanatic, they don’t want to hear about some other point or perspective. They have their opinion and they just want to be enraged and be illogical and you can’t have a conversation with an illogical person.
B: You did at least make an effort online in the comments section following that article.
M: At the very beginning when it first happened and there was just a couple comments, I was trying to individually address things and then I realized the more logical I tried to be and the more I tried to put facts out there, the more angered these people became. I just had to stop. It wasn’t even worth it. I am a big proponent of being responsible for yourself in all aspects, not just in food. I take that across the board in my life. I’m going to have the same conversation whether I’m in person–I’m more apt to have it more passionately in person than I’m going to online.
B: Getting back to the irony of it all, it had to be pretty frustrating. You had to be thinking, this is stuff I actually care about. We actually care about a lot of the same things.
M: That’s what’s ridiculous to me. They create enemies where they don’t need enemies. They can have camaraderie with people who do care about animals but they’re so set in the way that they just–but they’re entitled to their opinion. They’re entitled to think we shouldn’t eat animals and all that. That’s their right. I don’t think they realize how much they close the circle and not allow conversation to continue and grow. I’m a huge fan of debating and talking with people. I’m perfectly fine with people having a complete opposite opinion of mine. But have facts to back it up. Be able to talk about it in a logical manner without getting completely overwhelmed by emotion. I think that that’s when you’re dealing with fanatics. That’s their problem–they don’t have anything but emotion. And they’ll spit facts at you, but they don’t understand them in the grand scheme of things. It’s really easy to cherry pick little bits and pieces of information from either side. I can make a compelling argument for either side of this with ten facts. It doesn’t mean that either one of them are right at all.
B: They don’t realize that we have a shared middle ground that we can proceed with. I remember seeing two presenters at Ecofest at Headhouse square whose displays on animal cruelty had the takeaway message of become a vegan. For the casual passerby who never thinks of these things, who doesn’t want to, their reflexive response is going to be fuck off–you want me to be a vegan. It’s a non-starter. I didn’t want to read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals at first because I thought that was his message. But then I saw a Larry King interview where he said, “if you’re going to eat meat, eat the right kind of meat.”
M: Exactly, that’s an argument I have with people all the time. I actually went to a farm sanctuary last year up in New York. They’re a big vegan group and they save a lot of animals from factory farms. I went there. They assume that everybody there, I think, is vegan. It was funny because about halfway through the tour I think our tour guide realized that I wasn’t, but they were actually pretty cool about it. We got along good. She wasn’t trying to be extremely preachy and trying to convert me. We were just having a conversation about things and you know, more gets accomplished that way, than just telling people, no you’re wrong, no you’re wrong. Nobody is going to get anywhere by constantly not wanting to hear the other side of the argument.
B: Why did you go up there?
M: I went on a camping trip up in Watkins Glen. It was like, oh this place is up here–let’s go check it out. I’m really open-minded. Even if I don’t like something, I tend to want to learn more about it. I don’t like to just not like something. I like to know and have a viable opinion on it.
See a photo of Melissa Torre’s pig brain cannoli from the Fine Swine dinner here.