We’re on page 21 now and still not through with compost larnins.
Globally, phosphorous is available in extremely limited quantities. “Next to clean water,” writes Bill Mollison, “phosphorous will be one of the inexorable limits to human occupancy on this planet.” It exists in sedimentary rock. I didn’t put rocks in the same category of animals: I didn’t mind using them.
Homigosh—anthropocentrism! How dare Lierre Keith judge inanimate objects by human standards!
(Yes, I’ll get to the point in a minute. I just couldn’t pass up that jab.)
The problem was getting them. They had to be quarried—mined—then ground up, and transported. Without vast amounts of fossil fuels, would that even be possible? … I asked the question, and hated the answer.
“Bone meal from land animals is a traditional source, and most farms (up to 1940) kept a flock of pigeons as their source. Or I could theoretically get it from “seabirds and salmon [who] do try to recycle it back to us but we tend to reduce their numbers by denying them breeding grounds.”
Keith asked the question, but she asked it of the wrong person, and she didn’t go looking for any other answer.
Let me tell you a little story about pee that I learned when I was just a youngin from my Horrible Science books.
In the Medieval ages, human piss was supposed to be a lot of things. Non-human piss was, too. If you bathed in the pee of a prepubescent boy, you could cure some diseases (supposedly), and so too with the piss of other animals. It was also a big thing used in alchemy, beauty products, etc. etc. What can you expect? I don’t really remember, but I’m pretty sure all of them were dying of mercury poisoning.
Anyway, so some dudes got a bunch of human pee together in barrels and promptly forgot them for a couple months. They came back to find that the barrels that used to be full of pee were now not-so-full of some strange, faintly-glowing substance. OMFG IT WAS MAGIC.
Except not—it was phosphorous.
That’s right, folks. You can get phosphorous from pee, and you don’t even have to let it ferment inside your house. Just designate a plastic cup or something as “the pee cup,” and take it out to your compost pile and pour it on top. It will also keep centipedes from breeding in your heap, as I’ve mentioned before.
Sounds disgusting, you say? Unsanitary? I fucking dare you to even try to explain how completely, 100% sterile fresh pee is “unsanitary,” but manure, blood and bones isn’t. Chop, chop, now—I’m a busy genderqueer, and I can’t wait around forever.
Anyway, here are some more phun phacts about phosphorous:
– Phosphorous actually appears in nature, and at night can be seen glowing. It’s called “foxfire,” and it usually occurs because of decomposing trees and mushrooms (not necessarily decomposing).
– Many animal species use phosphorous as a cold bio-flourescence system.
– Phosphorous is extremely inflammable—and its catalyst is oxygen. It burns real fuckin’ hot and real fuckin’ fast. Don’t expose pure phosphorous to air or you won’t be around to witness the fireworks.
– Because of that potential for explosion, during World War II phosphorous was actually used for bombs—basically just lumps of a volatile phosphorous compound. My great-grandfather, who lived in a small German village during the war (well, he was German, after all) managed to save his house by actually picking up the phosphorous bombs and tossing them out—even though they could have gone off at any second. That’s badass, seriously, stories are awesome.
The problem isn’t that Keith asked the question; it’s that she asked the question and, after the initial, incorrect answer, she didn’t keep asking it.
And then there was K, potassium, available in ash, bones, urine, manure and some cover crops.
… “Some cover crops?” Potassium exists in all fruits and vegetables, ever. When eating 811, I generally get about twice as much potassium as the RDA, which might explain why you feel so goddamn energetic—potassium is one of the primary electrolytes your body’s nervous system uses in order to make its synapses fire.
Compost. Why do I have to keep repeating this? FOR THE LOVE OF PELE, COMPOST ALREADY.
I could pretend I’d find a supply of ash—woodstoves being as ubiquitous as maple trees in western Massachusetts …
Wait, “pretend”? If they’re that ubiquitous and ash was that easy to find and obtain, why would you need to “pretend” you’d find it? If you weren’t getting it from compost or carnism, wouldn’t you be getting it from the woodstoves? Because it’s necessary?
—and grow some cover crops, but I think by the time I got to K I was to intellectually exhausted to bother.
Ah. Because it would have been inconvenient. And/or she was running much too low on carbohydrates for her brain to function. Starvation’ll do that to ya—always make sure you get at least 1,800 calories every day! Minimum, not “around there.” Your brain needs carbohydrates to function properly, or it’ll start converting protein into carbohydrates to get the energy it needs.
Calcium is always a limiting factor in the soil. When the calcium is gone, growth stops. And again, the calcium would come from … [script ellipses]
… GREEN PLANTS? You know, since green plants are where the animals got all the calcium for their bones? Since it is physically impossible for animal bones to provide the calcium in the soil for more than even 2% of the world’s dirt? Since, you know, plants outnumber animals by an outrageous amount? Since, you know, we are QUESTIONING THINGS HERE, not merely taking the self-serving, easy answer?
Yeah, you know what Keith’s answer was: I should raise animals and kill them myself!
Or would I learn the grammar of my great-grandparents, and feed the trees with the bones of animals that lived beside me?
Now that is some vegan pioneering, right there.
I’m going to ask this honestly, because clearly she didn’t start doing this until well into the 90s (she only started eating meat in 2000, according to her timeline): why not build a farm sanctuary? You can take care of the farm refugees, love them, not exploit them, and then “return their bodies to the earth” in a way that wouldn’t actually require, you know, owning and dominating them?
The standard narrative of Man the Hunter was repugnant to me, with its biological determinism, its celebration of dominance, violence, rape, death.
Oh, my. I don’t even know what to say about this hypocrisy.
I rejected the assertion that hierarchy was inevitable, that the Cosmos had chosen humans as the pinnacle, that men had to be men. And I like to believe I’d have rejected this propaganda just as firmly if I were a man, though I know that privileges of power make that less likely.
Given how willing Keith was to accept a “nice” form of exploitation, proving that no, she hasn’t rejected this assertion, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that she’s actually perfectly fine with power/dominance as long as she’s in power, and as long as she doesn’t have to face the fact that it is power/dominance no matter how “lovingly” she owns them.
I don’t think that it’s productive to make these kind of what-if tales, especially since they’re clearly not true. Had I been born into a more prestigious place in life—say, born Aryan, or balls-out rich, or whatever—I don’t think I would have ever given up my power. Because my primary driving force has always been personal—if my family had not so soundly rejected me once I rejected the kyriarchy, if I had not been running my entire life to find a way to be someone different from my narcissistic mother and passive-aggressive, enabling father, I don’t think I ever would have gotten to this point. But then, here’s the thing: I can never know. What has happened has happened. Aslan will never know what would have happened if zeir fiance hadn’t killed herself, or if zeir mother hadn’t been a fucking pedophile.
We just don’t know. And acknowledging the ambiguousness of your own “goodness” is a vital part of maturity—because you’re just like anyone else: if part of your life had gone differently, you’d be just like Keith. Self-deceptive, self-indulgent, self-obsessed and willing to take the easy way out—a 180 worldview shift—instead of honestly and carefully modifying her behavior to see if she had been doing it wrong.
At a groovy Earth Day gathering, a line of costumed dancers was supposed to represent the food chain, starting with plants and ending with humans. But it doesn’t end with us, I kept insisting … What about the scavengers, the coyotes, the carrion birds? What about the insects, the maggots, the bacteria? We’re not at the end because it’s not a line, and if it ends anywhere it’s with the degraders feeding the producers. We’re just a juicy snack.
Correct. In natural circumstances, we’re not any different than a lemur or a bonobo: a juicy snack to a predator, another person to anyone else.
Keith continues on in this vein, saying that we’re eaten as well as eaters, but she keeps sidestepping the one, fundamental problem with her argument here: she. is. farming. She thinks that herding/farming is natural when it’s a system entirely created by artifice—but because there’s no factory farm, she refuses to see the walls, the fence, the pinning down, the rapist breathing down your neck. None of it exists because she has never gone beyond carnism, she’s just modified it to suit her whims.
Yes, in nature this is how it is. But Keith refuses to acknowledge that humans have put in a lot of energy to stop that from happening for precisely the same reason she farms animals instead of solely hunting them: they don’t want to face the fact that this may fail, that they can starve, that they might go home hungry, that they can disappear from the Earth and no one except those they loved will ever know they were gone.
This is one of the reasons I am primitivist—because I don’t want to change the Earth outside of the small community I live within. I don’t want to carve gashes into the side of the rock. I want to pass on and away, because as farming animals is stealing the free, untrapped lives they would have had, so too is marking the Earth stealing from all creatures—all those who can experience their lives—coming after me. It’s stealing from their quality of life, from their own richness, from their own awesomeness. Stealing an object is entirely different and, depending on the circumstances, neutral or good. Stealing from someone’s life never is. I don’t want to be like Keith—a sexual abuser, pinning down my victim so I can feel out places to kill them inside and out, benefiting from the fact that they can’t fight back, that they can’t get away from me.
But I had to accept death before I could take my place.
Funny, that. Looks like she only felt the need to accept the death of others before she got to take what she’s now justifying as rightfully hers by necessity.
I wish I could go back ten years and tell my younger self: the day will come when you have a flock of pigeons, and you’ll spread their manure and bury their dead among the berries and apples. And you’ll cry when you do it, but not just because it’s sad. Because it’s holy and it’s been done well.
You know how I keep saying that domination, the kyriarchy, is a religion?…
You’ll have chickens, too, and ducks, geese, guineas. They’ll eat the bugs. You’ll eat the fruit, the eggs, the meat. They’ll accept you—come to you for help and cuddle sessions—and you’ll love them.
I’ll get to how completely unnatural it is for a predator to do this—and why no predator will ever do this—later.
For now, I want to ask: why this choice? Why farming? Why exploitation? Why betrayal? Why sociopathy? Why objectification?
Keith lives in Massachusetts—I pegged it; I saw the picture of her and pegged the foliage to either the Pacific Northwest or the northern East Coast—where deer, elk and moose abound. Why not hunt? Why not, as I suggested before, make a rescued animal sanctuary, take care of the animals who have been used up, instead of trying to use them up instead? Instead of being the molestor’s ingratiating, pretend-friendly, poisonous hand?
There’s a post up on Unpopular Vegan Essays entitled On Ex-Vegans. Now, we know that Lierre Keith was not vegan, but it’s still valuable when he writes:
As a way to activate the smoke alarm on the “failure to thrive” health nonsense, ask ex-vegans and non-vegans if they are still vegan except for the particular animal product(s) in the particular quantity that they cannot thrive without. I have asked this question to many who plea “failure to thrive”, and while I have received many different responses (usually some version of avoidance or silence), I have not yet received the response “Yes, I’m vegan except for that.”
If such ex-vegans are serious and genuine about a “failure to thrive”, we should expect them to continue veganism in every other way they are reasonably able, and to continue to fully support the ethical reasons and environmental benefits they previously did. If they do, and they are genuine and sincere about their health issues, and consume limited, prescribed quantities of animal products with the strong reservation that a person who was prescribed a highly undesirable medicine took the medicine, I see no reason why they should announce that they are no longer vegan. Inherent in the concept of veganism – the way genuine abolitionist vegans define it – is reasonableness: Vegans avoid using or consuming animal products to the greatest extent reasonably possible.
While I’m almost certain that, based on significant reading of materials written by experts in nutrition science, absolutely no animal products are necessary for any human to thrive, I could believe in the sincerity of someone who embraces veganism in their lives as much as they believe they possibly can, even if they consume some “limited, prescriptive amount of certain animal products” with the regret and reservation of someone who undergoes a painful treatment to maintain their health. Sadly, I have yet to see one case among ex-vegans that would even remotely fit this description. What we have is not a failure to thrive, but a failure to justify.
Why farm animals? Why not hunt? I think hunting is fucked-up even so, but you gotta admit, it’s a helluva lot closer to the predator/prey relationship Keith thinks humans have with other animals than it is to the sexually-abusive-parent/child relationship she’s actually describing. There is exactly no reason to promote this kind of unhealthy, abusive relationship with animals, especially since she’s clearly moneyed enough to afford a garden, an orchard, a house, and to replace animals when their production rate goes down too much to justify keeping them around—especially since, while she may not be sex-selecting the pigeons, I damn well bet you she’s buying replacement hens and geese because she wants to eat the damn eggs.
This is what makes me believe Keith has no actual interest in fighting domination/subordination. Because there are ways she could survive without farming animals, ways to leave more of it up to nature, and she’s not taking that route.
Additionally, she clearly doesn’t think that fruits and vegetables are poison if she has a garden, so it’s not like she’d only be subsisting off of whoever she hunts. Though I gotta say, apples and berries are a pretty damn poor selection, given that they grow peaches up in WA and peaches are definitely closer to the fruits native to our actual, tropical environment. So what the hell is the problem with eating lots of fruit?
What is wrong with this person? Why does she come to anything that even seems like an answer and then just stop there? Where’s the fun in that?
Speaking of, I need a little fun myself, and while hilariously bad, this isn’t cutting it. See you next time!