Looks like plucky Sarah Palin is expanding her fan club from evangelicals to vegangelicals. Seriously, how could any animal rights activist not love the sight of Palin blathering to the press while a worker in blood-spattered overalls blithely slaughters turkeys a few feet away?
The media deemed it necessary to blur this bloody backdrop, in deference to the "unspoken covenant of ignorance" between consumers and the food industry that historian Ann Vileisis documents in Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need To Get It Back:
...we have ended up in the absurd situation today that most of us, as consumers, know very little about what we eat; and, sensing a "dark side" to our food production, many of us don't even want to know.
So now the blogosphere's a-Twitter with talk about "turkey carnage" and the "surreal... gruesomeness going on over her shoulder".
But you could argue that Palin performed a public service, however inadvertently. Americans are totally in denial about the way our livestock live--and die. Can you imagine the Food Network ever allowing Rachel Ray to slaughter a chicken in front of a live audience and millions of viewers, the way Jamie Oliver did back in January? After electrocuting the chicken, he told the visibly shocked audience:
"As far as killing anything's concerned, it's never nice. I was trained to do it, I don't feel particularly good about this. But, I eat chickens, and I'm a chef."
As the New York Times noted:
Mr. Oliver said that he wanted people to confront the reality that eating any kind of meat involves killing an animal, even if it is done with a minimum of pain.
Michael Pollan took it upon himself to learn how to slaughter chickens because, as he wrote in The Omnivore's Dilemma:
It seemed to me not too much to ask of a meat eater, which I was then and still am, that at least once in his life he take some direct responsibility for the killing on which his meat-eating depends......In the end I personally killed a dozen or so chickens before moving on to try another station...I wasn't at it long enough for slaughtering chickens to become routine, but the work did begin to feel mechanical, and that feeling, perhaps more than any other, was disconcerting: how quickly you can get used to anything, especially when the people around you think nothing of it.
Sarah Palin clearly thought nothing of the fowl play taking place behind her, and why should she? She may be disconnected from the "fake" America, but as someone who's comfortable gutting a fish or field dressing a moose, she's more connected to the food chain than most. The fuss over this clucked-up photo op says as much about our own willful ignorance as it does about Palin's blasé embrace of topless turkeys.