Thursday, 28 July 2011

The problem with cultural relativism


I've heard this phrase many times when discussing various issues online, particularly with regards to the the foods and cooking practices that different cultures may have. There is a school of thought that seems to think that there are no wrongs with what different cultures may eat, that no one should be able to judge a culture that is different from their own. 

Up to a point, this is true. However, this phrase is usually thrown into the mix when the subject relates to a food that involves unnecessary cruelty. For example, I came across several videos on Youtube recently depicting sashimi.  Sashimi consists of very fresh raw meat, most commonly fish, sliced into thin pieces. Or to be more precise, it consists of fish that has been partially cooked, and is served while it is still very much alive. Indeed, it is considered an insult to serve the fish if it is dead. While the partly cooked fish is still gasping for air and in terrible pain as it will have been cooked and sliced (but not killed), the diner will tear slices of the flesh from the fish with chop sticks to eat it. 

In one particular video, sashimi is served to a family in a restaurant. The family can be heard laughing while they prod the fish with their chopsticks. As soon as the fish opens it's mouth to gasp for air, they can all be heard applauding. Happy that their meal is still alive, they all begin to tear pieces of the fish's flesh to eat it.

While everyone who eats fish understands the importance of having it fresh, there is no excuse for going to such extreme lengths to keep the fish alive while you eat it. Serving up a fish that was killed just moments before will be just as fresh as serving up a live one.

Sahimi is just one example of a cultural difference in eating habits. 

The people who defend such cruelty under the guise of cultural relativism obviously think that people who are critical of such eating habits are simply being intolerant, ignorant and unable to understand that different cultures should be free to have their different ways of preparing, cooking and eating their food. And I agree that they should, but not when it involves such unnecessary cruelty. 

Eating an animal while it is still alive and gasping for air can never be considered anything else but barbaric. 

The term cultural relativism when it relates to food is simply a byword for cruelty. Like so many other phrases such as collateral damage, it hides the real issue behind benign words. 

There is never, ever an excuse to cause your food unnecessary pain or suffering. 

I fully understand that different cultures have their own ways of cooking and eating their food. I lived in Singapore for three years and frequently used to eat at their hawker centres where the food is cooked in full view of you. 

For those proponents of cultural relativism, maybe you would also like to defend female genital mutilation and female suppression too. After all, are they not too just differences between cultures. Some things are just plain wrong, and we shouldn't be afraid to say so, whether it be a different culture to our own or not. We need to be critical in our thinking, and see things for what they truly are, and not hide behind cowardly phrases such as "cultural relativism". 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The psychiatrist and the bartender


Ever since I was a child I've had a fear of monsters under my bed, so I went to a psychiatrist for help.

'I've got problems.  Every time I go to bed I think there's a monster under it. I'm scared. I think I'm going crazy.' 

'Just put yourself in my hands for one year,' said the psychiatrist. 'Come talk to me three times a week and we should be able to get rid of those fears.' 

'How much do you charge?' 

'Eighty pounds per visit,' replied the psychiatrist.

'I'll sleep on it,' I said. 

Six months later, I met the psychiatrist on the street.  'Why didn't you come to see me about those fears you were having?' he asked. 

'Well, eighty pounds a visit three times a week for a year is an awful lot of money!  A bartender cured me for £10.  I was so happy to have saved all that money that I went and bought a new car.'

'Is that so!' with a bit of an attitude he said, 'and how, may I ask, did a bartender cure you?' 

'He told me to cut the legs off the bed! - Ain't nobody under there now!' 

Forget about those psychiatrists, go and have a drink with your bartender!


What I like about far!

Google launched their new social media application recently called Google+. At the time of writing it's still in beta testing (a testing term that refers to the final cycle of testing before an application is released to the public) and access to it is by invitation only (from someone who is already usng it). Here's my Google+ page.

As it is still in beta testing it's still therefore subject to change, so anything I I write may be subject to change too.

My initial thoughts of it are very positive. I won't write an in-depth analysis of it yet, as it's far too early to do that (it's still in beta testing and has not been rolled out fully yet). I thought I'd simply list my initial thoughts in no particular order.

  • It has a very uncluttered and simple interface, making it easy to use and learn.
  • The concept of Circles is a neat and simple way to categorise the people you interact with. You create Circles called Friends, Family, Mad People etc, and you add people to them. You can then read and interact with just those Circles. This is a simple way of sharing your personal content with those you trust. 
  • Deciding who sees what content is easy in Google+ (friends, family, work colleagues, your crazy followers etc). In Twitter your updates are seen either by just your followers (your account is locked down) or the whole of the Internet. A very crude approach to privacy. In Facebook, allowing specific groups of peope to see your updates and to interact with just those groups of people is fiddly to do. So Google+ wins hands down in the privacy department.
  • No one other than you sees your Circles, and only you know who is in them. So feel free to create Circles called 'My crazy friends' or 'Annoying work colleagues'. Only you can see them.
  • All my interactions with other peolpe are NOT posted on my Google+ profile as they are in Facebook. I've never really understood this, and think it just promotes stalking. I know you can remove them, but the default behaviour is to post everything that I do onto my Facebook wall.
  • I don't get bombarded with invitations or updates involving Mafia Wars, Farmville etc. I don't play games and don't want to see them in my feed. 
  • You can add anyone to your Circles, whether you know them or not (like following someone on Twitter). So if your favourite celebrity, athlete, singer etc is on Google+, then add them to (an appropriate) Circle.
  • Google have launched a Google+ button. This is similar to the Facebook Like button, only it works across the entire Internet. I've added the Google+ button to my web site and both my blogs to allow people to publicly Like them. What's the betting that Google will use Google+ in their search engine rankings? Content with higher Google+ votes will rank higher than those with lesser votes (all other things being equal).

I haven't used Huddles or Hangouts yet, so I'll post another article as a follow up when I've got round to using some of the other features of Google+. 

My impressions so far are positive. It's simple, easy to use and very powerful. In it's first two weeks it had 10 milion users. 

Should Facebook and Twitter be worried? Only time will tell.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The dark truth behind slaughterhouse walls


Do you think slaughter houses are humane places, where the animals are treated with a certain level of compassion before they are slaughtered? That the people that work there show them respect? The following quotes are taken from slaughter house workers, and are sourced from the book Slaughterhouse by Gail A. Eisnitz.

The next time you eat meat, you are condemning an animal to a life of neglect, pain, suffering and a barbaric and tortured death at the hands of sadists.

"I seen them take those stunners – they’re about as long as a yard stick – and shove it up the hog’s ass… They do it with cows, too… And in their ears, their eyes, down their throat… They’ll be squealing and they’ll just shove it right down there."

"Hogs get stressed out pretty easy. If you prod them too much they have heart attacks. If you get a hog in a chute that’s had the shit prodded out of him and has a heart attack or refuses to move, you take a meat hook and hook it into his bunghole [anus]. You’re dragging these hogs alive, and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I’ve seen hams – thighs – completely ripped open. I’ve also seen intestines come out. If the hog collapses near the front of the chute, you shove the meat hook into his cheek and drag him forward.”“Or in their mouth. The roof of their mouth. And they’re still alive.”“Pigs on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe."

"These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water and start screaming and kicking. Sometimes they thrash so much they kick water out of the tank… Sooner or later they drown. There’s a rotating arm that pushes them under, no chance for them to get out. I’m not sure if they burn to death before they drown, but it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing."

"Sometimes I grab it [a hog] by the ear and stick it right through the eye. I’m not just taking its eye out, I’ll go all the way to the hilt, right up through the brain, and wiggle the knife."

"Only you don’t just kill it, you go in hard, push hard, blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood. Split its nose. A live hog would be running around the pit. It would just be looking up at me and I’d be sticking, and I would just take my knife and – cut its eye out while it was just standing there. And this hog would just scream."

"I could tell you horror stories… about cattle getting their heads stuck under the gate guards and the only way you can get it out is to cut their heads off while they’re still alive."

"He’ll kick them [hogs], fork them, use anything he can get his hands on. He’s already broken three pitchforks so far this year, just jabbing them. He doesn’t care if he hits its eyes, head, butt. He jabs them so hard he busts the wooden handles. And he clubs them over the back."

"I’ve seen live animals shackled, hoisted, stuck, and skinned. Too many to count, too many to remember. It’s just a process that’s continually there. I’ve seen shackled beef looking around before they’ve been stuck. I’ve seen hogs [that are supposed to be lying down] on the bleeding conveyor get up after they’ve been stuck. I’ve seen hogs in the scalding tub trying to swim."

"I seen guys take broomsticks and stick it up the cow’s behind, screwing them with a broom."

"I’ve drug cows till their bones start breaking, while they were still alive. Bringing them around the corner and they get stuck up in the doorway, just pull them till their hide be ripped, till the blood just drip on the steel and concrete. Breaking their legs… And the cow be crying with its tongue stuck out. They pull him till his neck just pop."

"One time I took my knife – it’s sharp enough – and I sliced off the end of a hog’s nose, just like a piece of bologna. The hog went crazy for a few seconds. Then it just sat there looking kind of stupid. So I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really went nuts, pushing its nose all over the place. I still had a bunch of salt in my hand – I was wearing a rubber glove – and I stuck the salt right up the hog’s ass. The poor hog didn’t know whether to shit or go blind."

Please think about how your choices affect the lives of other animals, which have NO choices. It is not just your choices that matter. No animal should ever have to endure such wanton cruelty and torture. 

Consider going vegetarian or vegan. Make compassionate and ethical choices. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

Wow...what a ride!


"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming– “Wow! What a Ride!” "

Hunter S. Thompson