Pollan, “An Animal’s Place” Explorations


  1. What is Pollan’s argument? Why does he spend so much time summarizing the argument of Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation? In a traditional argument structure, sometimes called a classical argument, the writer (or speaker) marshal’s evidence for each argument, refutes opposing arguments, and only occasionally concedes points to the “opposition.” Pollan takes a very different approach. He summarizes Singer’s viewpoints and looks for areas of agreement with Singer. Look up the term “Rogerian argument” and find a few examples. Is Pollan writing a Rogerian argument? What is the evidence from his article and your research?
  2. Pollan finds a great deal of evidence in Singer indicting the treatment of animals in so-called
    “Factory farms.” Find more evidence of how animals are treated on these large farms. You can start by reading the following article from The Guardian that calls factory farming one of the worst crimes in history. Do you find the evidence convincing. Why?


Here’s another argument that seeks to end factory farming:

Farm Forward: Ending Factory Farming


  1. Summarize this argument. What evidence is brought to bear in support of the argument? How effective is the argument? What would you do to improve the argument for a skeptical reader? Identify the rhetorical techniques Pollan uses to create his argument: how are they used?
  1. Is it permissible to raise animals for slaughter? Pollan presents an alternative to factory farming through the example of Polyface farm. Why does Pollan find the practices on Polyface farm superior to typical factory farms? What criteria are used to judge the different approaches to farming? Here’s a link to a site describing Polyface farm in detail: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ How does Polyface farm present its practices? How does it differ from so-called factory farms?
  2. Not everyone is convinced that Polyface farm presents an improvement on traditional practices. For example, here’s a website that considers such “alternative farms” a “humane hoax”: http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/factory-farming-alternative-farming/

In addition, here an article that presents several views on the idea of sustainable meat: http://grist.org/sustainable-farming/farmer-responds-to-the-new-york-times-re-sustainable-meat/

  1. After reading these viewpoints, what is your perspective? Write an argument citing Pollan (and perhaps Singer) along with at least two other sources supporting a viewpoint about whether animals can be raised and processed for food humanely. You might consider the economic and environmental consequences, in addition to the ethical questions that Pollan discusses.
  2. In Twenty-First Century America our experience of food, especially meat, differs from other cultures around the world. Why do we eat certain animals in America, while other animals occupy a special relationship to us, even becoming part of the family (I’m looking at you, Spot)? Find examples of cultures and countries that eat very different foods from the American diet. Why do they eat what they do?
  3. Use Pollan (and/or Singer or Wallace) to analyze the perspective on food exemplified in Simmons’ book. You might compare the early American cookbook to one or more popular, contemporary American cookbooks. How has our attitude towards food, cooking, and especially food animals changed since Eighteenth Century America?
  4. Read David Foster Wallace’s celebrated essay, “Consider the Lobster.” http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/consider_the_lobster.html

Think of an essay as a conversation between the writer and his or her readers. “Consider the Lobster” was published during 2004 in Gourmet              Magazine. We are lucky that his editor, Jocelyn Zuckerman, commented on the editing process in this article from The Observer. As she notes,            Gourmet had never published anything like Wallace’s article before (or probably since). Visit the website for Gourmet Magazine and discuss                what the reaction might have been among Gourmet readers to Wallace’s challenging article. You may want to compare Wallace to Pollan on                the ethics of eating animals.