Picked up Lucy Knisley’s French Milk off the free shelf where I live tonight and started reading. Up through page 77 (where I am now) it’s cool and I mostly like it so far—the art is great, and Knisley does the “this is just the stuff I do in my life, but I tell it with enough honesty and detail that it’s compelling” genre of comics really well—but page 41 is primarily devoted to saying that the way foie gras is produced (forcing ducks or geese to eat so much that their livers swell before killing them) is bad, but it’s not so bad, because animals are treated worse in American CAFOs than on French farms. She writes:
“Chicago banned the sale of foie gras last year. It’s made by force-feeding a goose or duck so their livers become fatty and engorged. (and delicious) Yes, it’s cruel, but in terms of slaughterhouse rituals it’s comparatively better than some—the geese live free-range until their last couple of weeks, when they are fed to immobility. I’d rather go like that than to be raised in a tiny box in some dark room, like most American poultry places… until my death,” (All punctuation Knisley’s, though the capitalization decisions were mine, as the original is completely capitalized.)
If you heard a news story about someone being tortured for a few weeks before being murdered and eaten, would you say “Well, at least they were only tortured at the end, and not from birth—see, it’s not so bad,” or would you think it was totally fucked up? Like Knisley, I would rather only endure tremendous suffering for a bit there just before dying than for my whole life, but that doesn’t make me willing to endorse the lesser evil.
It’s still evil.
Comics, like skating and music, is a community that I would like to see come to be known and admired for the right action of its members. I think about tunes and boards more often, like “Hey, I want to be part of the process of changing the public perception of musicians and skaters such that one day people will hear that someone plays the drums and be like Good for them, using art to speak for justice, or that somebody just spent the afternoon hitting stair sets and say Way to go; keep up that destruction of car culture.” Comics, though they’ve fallen out of my life a few times over the last six years or so, and as such I haven’t been thinking of them from that same angle, are totally comparable in some ways: All three pursuits can have really amazing impact on the world, and all three are approached fairly passionately by many of their practitioners—skating is not a hobby, it’s a way of life; I do not aspire to make music on the weekends, I aspire to have the option to take weekends from music, but decline to; you don’t just “like to draw,” you’re are a comic artist. And as all three can change the world around them, all three can be arenas for an individual’s contribution to humankind’s maddening slog toward justice. When a given activity has both the deep, all-out gut-love of its participants and the potential to make the world better, I want it and those who are part of it to gain renown for their excellence, to be recognized as people blazing a trail to the future we actually want to see!
So a flimsy rationalization of torture and murder that hinges on cognitive dissonance coming from a really good comic artist makes me upset.