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American cultural bias

I was planning to write about the moral imperatives of publishing (celebrating Christmas, even in our nonsecular way, led to a lot of conversation about this), but I’m so riled by a newspaper story, “A Sure Thing for Kazakhs: Horses Will Provide” in today’s New York Times, that I need to say a few words about that instead.

There’s nothing wrong with this detailed article about the role of the horse in Kazakh culture, except that it has no context. It is written to appeal to the most sentimental of American animal lovers (the vast majority of animal rights activists are older, white, female, and wealthy). What makes me angry is that it suggests that people elsewhere are violent, insensitive, and rather disgusting in their tastes. How about turning the tables and looking at what went on our tables yesterday, and how the animals most Americans tucked into were cared for, and slaughtered? I doubt that many of our turkeys, pigs, or cattle died after a prayer of thanks for the nourishment they would provide. There’s a tone of cultural superiority here that makes me cringe.

We’re planning to start an annual award for the best published article with a global perspective; I’m going to clip this article to show what we’re trying to change.

(And I admit it: we had roast beef for Christmas dinner. My guilt about eating beef–occasionally–is more about environmental impact than animal welfare, though. It was a wonderful meal, with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, and the other English accoutrements. Homemade mince pies were avaiable but none of us had room for dessert!)

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