17 February 2015
So This Is Our Food?
“The Carnivore’s Dilemma”, an essay by Nicolette Hanh Niman, incorporates rhetorical elements, such as logos, ethos, and rhetorical questions, in an attempt to convince the audience that meat itself is not the root of global warming. Written from a rancher’s point of view, the essay relies on studies and logic to prove itself. Niman starts out with a short acknowledgement that the meat industry has a hand in the increasingly noticeable global climate change. She then quickly changes gears, stating that the studies that show the meat industry is a major player in global warming only take the prevailing methods of producing meat into account and spews facts that show the flip side of the food industry. The author starts off strong with logos, which appeals to logic. In response to the comments about animals in our food production, she writes, “the studies show only that the prevailing methods of producing meat — that is, crowding animals together in factory farms, storing their waste in giant lagoons and cutting down forests to grow crops to feed them — cause substantial greenhouse gases” (Niman), meaning that small farms and farms can cut down on greenhouse gases if, “they keep their animals outdoors on pasture and make little use of machinery.” (Niman) She points out, “In contrast to traditional farms, industrial livestock and poultry facilities keep animals in buildings with mechanized systems for feeding, lighting, sewage flushing, ventilation, heating and cooling, all of which generate emissions,” which are what most statistics pointing the guilt finger at meat production are referring to. The author, being a “rancher…who raises cattle, goats and turkeys the traditional way (on grass)” (Niman), neatly brushes off relations of “meat (especially beef) is closely linked to global warming” (Niman), to her own farm. Meat and dairy would certainly win the greenhouse gas competition if not for the fact that, “Wetland rice fields alone account for as much 29 percent of the world’s human-generated methane.” (Niman) Following the logic that people do not simply subsist on rice alone, how much more methane is produced by the rest of agriculture business? Ethos, the appeal to ethics, is applied next. The author reassures us, “Meat and dairy eaters” (Niman), that we “need not be part of this” (Niman). In contrast, it is the vegetarians and vegans among us who ought to worry, given that, “Methane is agriculture’s second-largest greenhouse gas” (Niman), and as such, would mean that their lifestyle may not be as pristine as they previously thought. “World agricultural carbon emissions…result primarily from the clearing of woods for crop growing and livestock grazing" (Niman), which means that ethically speaking, crops may be more harmful if we consider that, “Much Brazilian deforestation is connected to soybean cultivation. As much as 70 percent of areas newly cleared for agriculture in Mato Grosso State in Brazil is being used to grow soybeans.” (Niman) On top of that, the author points out that soy product labelling is not sanctioned as much as we think, “as the Organic Consumers Association notes, Brazilian soy is common (and unlabeled) in tofu and soymilk sold in American supermarkets.” (Niman) People who partake in meat and dairy products however may rest assured in their dietary choices, since the greenhouse gases aren’t, “a problem at traditional farms. “Before the 1970s, methane emissions from manure were minimal because the majority of livestock farms in the U.S. were small operations where animals deposited manure in pastures and corrals,” the Environmental Protection Agency says” (Niman), so if they take a little extra care when choosing ground beef, their meatloaf can be eco-friendly as well. Perspective is strategically used to cement the arguments from the author’s point of view. To the readers, who are first world consumers, this is a view that most do not think of on a regular basis. Stating that she is a rancher who raises livestock in the traditional fashion stabilizes her position on this matter as someone who knows their facts. On the other hand, it also makes Niman appear unreliable since in a small part, her work relies on people thinking the meat industry can redeem itself. In that way, this essay appears to be a direct attack on the vegan and vegetarian political activists against the meat industry. She certainly pulls no punches when it comes to bluntly stating that most soy comes from Brazil, where it is a major factor in rainforest deforestation and production of that country’s greenhouse gases. The essay is a great example of an appeal to logos, or logic. Unfortunately, logic alone is not enough. Niman only throws out studies and facts, and leaves the evidence to support itself, which is not enough to be persuasive. Furthermore, there is no “side” she takes, rather the author appears to be asking the reader to pass judgment on their own, so there is not really anything to persuade the readers of. In terms of rhetorical elements and their usage, Niman has written a well organized, informative essay, but has failed to persuade anyone of anything with, “The Carnivore’s Dilemma”.
Niman, Nicolette Hahn. "The Carnivore’s Dilemma." The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2009. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.