Hunting, Slaughter, Eating, and Vegetarianism
Historically, hunting for food has represented one of the most direct ways in which people have engaged with nature. Some scholars even believe that the “hunting instinct” is a fundamental aspect of human identity. People in modern industrialized societies, however, often have little idea about the origins of the flesh they consume. While the majority continues to eat meat, poultry, and/or fish, a minority have chosen to restrict their diets by becoming locavores, vegetarians, or even vegans for ethical, religious, cultural, health-oriented, or environmental reasons. Others still hunt and fish but within ecosystems dramatically altered by human intervention and amidst cultural landscapes complicated by commercialized and trophy hunting. Modern factory farming, fish farming, and ocean fisheries produce the vast majority of flesh consumed in the developed world, but growing awareness of their environmental, hidden economic, and ethical costs has motivated many consumers to search for alternatives in smaller-scale farms, community-supported agriculture, innovative forms of aquaculture, and other approaches. In this course we will explore the ways in which humanistic perspectives can be brought to bear on these fundamentally important issues. Ultimately, we will strive to develop nuanced and firmly grounded ethical stances concerning our relationships with some of the key animal species with whom we coexist and upon which many of us subsist, as well as the challenges and opportunities that confront those who hope to eat responsibly, whether they choose an omnivorous or plant-based diet.Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit or ENST 324 and satisfy one half of their Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.
Ian Helfant holds a joint position in Environmental Studies and Russian and Eurasian Studies. He was a founding member and chaired Colgate’s Sustainability Council from 2005-2010 (and again in 2015-16). He has also participated in a number of campus/community initiatives including climate resilience planning, sustainable food systems, the Hamilton deer cull, and mentoring the Colgate beekeeping club. His first book was on gambling in Russian culture, and he is currently completing a second book on hunters and wolves in Russia. See his faculty profile webpage for additional information.