UPDATE II: A Halibut's Heart In A Harpy's Hand

Environmentalism & Animal Rights,Ethics,Foreign Aid,Morality,Sarah Palin


On her eponymous reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” the former governor of Alaska and her daughter Bristol bond over ‘stunning’ halibuts and gutting them.” There is nothing wrong with showing the public something of the realities of commercial fishing. The Palins once made their living this way. Fishing is the most dangerous of occupations; it’s a tough and arduous life.

However, Palin took the clobbering and killing to a gratuitous level. She was not matter-of-fact about it. Rather, she cheered on the act, spoke about it in repetitive, gory detail, and climbed in herself. Then, like an Aztec priestess, she whipped out the still-beating heart of the Halibut she had beaten and was about to bleed for big Bristol to moo over.

This woman can be a pathetic primitive.

Not so long ago, I read a Times Literary Supplement book review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.” His is the first philosophical treatise arguing against eating animals that has captured my attention because of its appeal to logic and fact.

Safran Foer’s conclusion: “We should not – for both moral and prudential reasons – eat animals in the way we now eat them. ‘In the way we now eat them’ denotes their utterly miserable lives in intensive rearing facilities – factory farms, aka CAFOs or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation – and their horrific deaths at assembly line slaughterhouses.”

Note that this careful philosopher has not said we should not eat animals, but that given what we do to them, we should not eat them. This libertarian writer who had penned a defense of Michael Vick (I & II) has not changed her views on natural rights, but she has become more convinced than ever about our moral and ethical obligation to treat animals kindly.

Arguably, commercial pig farming is crueler than dispatching dogs, then-and-there, as Vick did. These “Babe” look-alikes wallow for ages in their own waste, in pig pens so cramped, the creature cannot even collapse when exhausted. The animal’s skin often ulcerates and its muscles and bones atrophy. Food farming can involve practices such as tail docking, tooth-clipping, “castration, branding, debeaking, and other painful processes.” I solve this ethical problem by patronizing farmers whose animals roam and graze, not by agitating for government to criminalize commercial farmers and hurt the multitudes they feed.

I don’t often eat meat, but when I do, I buy it from my local Natural Markets store, where it is guaranteed to have come from animals that have lived a good life and died painlessly. However, reading this review, we can’t even be sure of the “humane meat” promise:

“Even if the animals we eat had decent lives, which they do not, we would still have to face up to the manner of their deaths: “No jokes here, and no turning away. Let’s say what we mean: animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious”. Safran Foer is talking specifically about cattle here, but the deaths of other animals differ only in minor details. Typically, cattle are led down a chute to a “knocking box”. Here, theoretically, a steel bolt is shot into the cow’s brain. “Sometimes the bolt only dazes the animal, which either remains conscious or wakes up as it is being ‘processed’.” “Processing” continues with wrapping a chain around the animal’s leg, and hoisting it into the air. Then, it is moved to a “sticker”, who cuts its throat. If the knocking hasn’t done its work, then, as one slaughterhouse worker put it: “They’d be blinking and stretching their necks from side to side, looking around, really frantic”. Then they move on to the “head skinner”, where the skin is peeled off the head of the animal. Some cattle, not the majority but a non-negligible minority, find themselves still conscious at this stage. Then, on to the “leggers”, who cut off the lower portions of the animals’ legs. At this point: “As far as the ones that come back to life \[go\] . . . the cattle just go wild, kicking in every direction”.

It’s pretty obvious, though, that no fisherman has invented a merciful way to kill fish. Sarah Palin should have been sober and mature about what she was partaking in on that commercial fishing boat: “This is how it’s done, it’s not pretty or even merciful, but people have to eat.” Something like that. Instead, she put on a phony, blood-thirsty, eager display that was both inappropriate, creepy, and plain cruel.

UPDATE I (Dec. 13): Palin is wrong so often and on so many fundamental issues it’s hard to know where to begin. Go to the latest news item about her Haitian excursion, and there you’ll find this gormless woman giving it up for more foreign aid. (De-program by reading “YES TO US AID, NO TO USAID.”)

“I know that there’s been some discussion of U.S. aid perhaps being lifted from this area,” she said. “Again — not to get political — but if some of the politicians would come here and see the conditions, perhaps they would see a need for, say, a military airlift to come bring supplies that are so needed here.”

UPDATE II (Dec. 14): Huggs makes a perceptive comment; he is a perceptive, courageous reader, because, unlike so many of my WND readers over the years—he is intellectually curious and has never demanded that a writer confirm his opinions.

JH also nails Sarah: Her strength is in her fabulous persona; her life story, her family, her vigor, her sheer physical loveliness. I’ve always said that it’s a shame she doesn’t hone her expertise—energy issues—and, in matter of politics, listen to Todd more (he was a card-carrying separatist). I’d like to see more of the terrific Todd in her TLS series.

13 thoughts on “UPDATE II: A Halibut's Heart In A Harpy's Hand

  1. Ryan

    Ilana, Love your column – have read you daily for several years. As one who has commercially fished for halibut, let me tell you your perceptions would change if you did the same.

    At first you want to gently remove the hooks and humanely kill the fish. After getting your hands nearly bitten off a few times with needle-sharp teeth, etc, your perspective changes.

    Not to mention the danger, the rough seas, the fatigue, the financial worries, etc. Soon, you will be clubbing them senseless and laughing about it, in the same manner that ambulance drivers laugh about the morbid things that occur their daily lives.

    We’ve got bigger issues than how an animal dies. Love your blog. R

  2. MeMyselfI

    “Rather, she cheered on the act, spoke about it in repetitive, gory detail, and climbed in herself.”

    This is what happens when women try and become or perform “masculine” activities. They don’t actually understand the man’s view of the world, so they fake it – usually poorly. I see this in situations like when my wife tries to watch football and be one of the guys… her comments are over the top, and lack a certain depth of understand of the game that most guys share intuitively. Your descriptions of how she *should* have reacted capture what a man would think/do in the situation much better. [An extremely perceptive comment.—IM]

    This is further proof to me that she is not very feminine, and is likely to be much more of a closet feminist than I think anybody realizes. Imagine how she will “grow” if she get’s a ticket to Washington. Yuck.

  3. Myron Pauli

    She’s pretty and media savvy and on special occasions, a sensible remark will pop out of her mouth … but why people think that this self-absorbed clown should actually BE President is beyond me. Sure, some people were actors or store owners or teachers or farmers who later went into politics. Here is someone who left the governorship to become a modern day version of a carnival barker.

    But then, Sarah is cuter than Hucakbee or Romney. And Obama has turned into a colossal bore. What is truly sad is there seem to be some reasonably competent governors in both parties who have balanced budgets without raising taxes (Gary Johnson of New Mexico, for example, is a very sensible guy) or adding “public health plans” (Mitt!) but America will be saddled with the pick of the garbage in 2012.

  4. james huggins

    Well said. Let’s pile on Sarah every chance we get. Even if it’s over something which has absolutely nothing to do with anything that matters. And we got to take a shot at Bristol too. Two for one cheap shots. One more and we would have had a Hat Trick.

  5. David Smith

    All too frequently, within broadly conservative circles, there is a false dichotomy concerning the use of creation. To argue for any kind of ethics is automatically to be included among the PETA, tree-hugging, radical “Earth-firsters”. On the other extreme lies the perceived blood thirsty, kill everything and rape the planet mentality.

    As a Christian, I have to believe that the earth is God’s and that I am His steward. To live in this world, I must eat, but there is a right and proper way to go about practicing my dominion that precludes greed, inhumanity, and the abuse of fellow men and His created order. The proper care of this order seems to me to be one of the most intuitively-obvious-to-the-casual-observer, self-interested conservative ideas around. It would almost – almost, mind you – seem a complete mystery how the radical left ever captured this debate, but we need to revive a proper conservatism that returns food ethics back into our thought and vocabulary. The writings of Wendell Berry, I’m sure many readers here know, are useful in these discussions.

    The radical left has captured the debate on this topic.

  6. David Smith

    Oops! Sorry for that redundant last sentence! I thought I’d deleted it!

  7. ThePaganTemple

    I never saw the episode in question, but if she was clubbing the fish in question, you have to put it in perspective.

    I couldn’t do that myself on a large scale basis, but clubbing a fish and stunning it into unconsciousness, if not death, has got to be a little more merciful than just hacking its head off with a big knife or a meat cleaver while its still alive and conscious.

    As for slaughterhouses, yes they can be cruel and there are liable to be times when there are unfortunate and sad, tragic mistakes in the process. But let’s face it, they can’t just wait for the animal to die of old age.

    What would be worse, dying in a slaughterhouse or being abandoned by your herd when you’re old, or sick and weak, and being left to be ripped apart by a predator, or eaten alive by vermin?

  8. Myron Pauli

    James H: You are right that this has nothing to do with “anything that matters” – I usually pay ZERO attention to rap musicians, top model searches, and other popular TV junk. If Sarah Palin just wants to be another entertainer like Soupy Sales, Bozo the Clown, Lady Gaga, Snoop Doggie Dogg (sp?), Ryan Seacrest, Captain Kangaroo, Yitzhak Pearlman – then it is just consumer taste. If this media personality wants to start Wars in Afghanistan, etc. as “commander in chief”, then that is a concern.

  9. sunny black

    I remember seeing this episode and simply thinking she was unusually enthusiastic. I didn’t have a problem with her clubbing the halibut because my understanding is their meat gets destroyed if they’re allowed to thrash around for an extended period of time. So she went ahead and did it.

    Palin describes everything on her show with a certain child-like zeal. Sometimes it seems over the top and staged (e.g. telling her daughter to opt for reloading rather than retreating, etc.). And if she wants to show someone a bleeding heart, I’m fine with it. I’d be the same way. Internal organs ARE fascinating. I was pleasantly intrigued by this oddly macabre aspect to her personality; hadn’t seen it before.

    re: Myron Pauli… my only concern with Palin is that despite her talk of small government, she could be easily persuaded, as President, to invest in government warfare. My preference would be a Gary Johnson. But, as far as the criticism of Palin’s intellect, I don’t think that argument holds much weight any longer. Apart from her vocal tics, I don’t see her as considerably dumber than the ‘electable’ dreck that’s already out there. And Palin v Obama is a no-brainer for me (accidental pun).

  10. james huggins

    Myron, Programs about Alaska or having a daughter going on Dancing With the Stars is a manifestation of a home and family oriented person. In other words a regular housewife. But she is no ditz. No, she probably would not be presidential material but she is a person who rouses the troops and is on the right side of most questions. I like her and hope to see her have success. It’s good that she’s on our side. The other side must be scared spitless of her from the way they openly hate her. Maybe she isn’t presidential material but to call her a Harpy, as I’ve seen her referred to, is not right.

  11. irongalt

    So, Sarah has stooped to an even lower low.

    James – (Sarah is) on the right side of most questions? – does she support taxation? If yes, then she’s a thief, and that brings a whole lot of evil with it. Immorality is a slippery slope.

    Not that Sarah is worse than the rest of the oink-sector leaders: she simply suffers from the SAME malignancy that the rest do, and brought to fruition, would be no different.

    A Harpy…sure, any thief can certainly be called a Harpy, as the word originates from a Latin word literally meaning “snatcher”. And a sadistic one that gets excited at the pain of others (man or beast) doubly so.

    Oh, on the animals: that’s truly sad and disgusting. There are a myriad of far more humane methods…but they would all require a reduction in profit margin/throughput, which would not be possible under the oppressive taxation. As taxes go up, corners must be cut to stay afloat. Yet again, “our” government is the problem.

  12. ThePaganTemple

    In what way exactly is Sarah Palin responsible for the mess this country is in, including but not limited to the fourteen trillion dollar and rising national debt? I’m having a hard time grasping why the same people who have “governed” us thus far, or others exhibiting the exact same mindset as those who are destroying this country, is superior or preferable to Sarah Palin in any way, shape, form or fashion.

  13. james huggins

    I like Sarah because she is like me in many ways. Yes, she slobbers over Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln as many do but she came up in lilly white Alaska and has no experience with some of the less glamorous facts of life. And, yes she’s not perfect. But on the whole she’s good for the country compared to the enemy on the left and we are lucky to have her beating the drum for our side. Do I always agree with her? No. I don’t always agree with anybody. Ilana is the A-1 best writer on the net yet I probably agree with her less than some others. So be it. Quality always wins out. Sarah, you go girl..

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