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I appreciate Wyatt Williams’s honesty in “The Carnivore’s Dilemma” [interview by Finn Cohen, May 2022]. I, too, have loved eating meat. But thirty-three years ago, when I learned about the cruelty of our animal-agriculture system, I chose a different path than Williams and became vegan.
I’m not judging him for his choice to eat meat, but I was surprised by his passing comment about lab-grown meat. He said that it would be foolish to send lab-grown meat to the indigenous people in Alaska, as if this were the litmus test for a solution to a global problem.
Lab-grown, or “cultivated,” meat is grown from cells rather than obtained through raising and slaughtering animals. It’s animal protein without the cruelty, environmental destruction, pesticides, or antibiotics. It isn’t perfect — no food system attempting to feed 8 billion people ever will be — but it’s so promising that Williams’s dismissal was odd, especially because he could then eat meat without the moral dilemma.
Whenever the topic of killing animals for food is discussed, rationalizations, excuses, and inaccurate statements enter the conversation. Your interview with Wyatt Williams was no exception. For example, Williams says that blood meal and animal fertilizer are necessary for growing tomatoes and romaine lettuce. This isn’t true.
Human consumption of animal products is not necessary for good health. Animals are sentient beings who experience pain, loss, and grief. I acknowledge that not all killing can be eliminated — insects and small animals die in the farming process — but plant-based eating can reduce animal suffering, improve human health, and slow global warming.
In his interview with Finn Cohen on the morality of eating animals, Wyatt Williams says, “People aren’t going to stop eating meat.” I did. I went vegan ten years ago, when I was fifty-four years old. Like Williams, I learned about the animal cruelty inherent in our food system and the poor treatment of slaughterhouse workers. Unlike Williams, I did something about it.
I enjoyed Finn Cohen’s interview with Wyatt Williams but cringed when I read, “Civilization as we know it exists because of agriculture. It’s why we can be sitting here having this conversation, rather than worry about where our next meal will come from.” Many of us work long and often meaningless hours without much leisure time and still wonder where our next meal will come from. I question dominant narratives that reflexively elevate “civilization.” Not knowing how to gather, hunt, or even farm is the crux of food insecurity and also the norm in civilized society.
Kudos for the mostly factual information about meat production and slaughterhouses in Finn Cohen’s interview with Wyatt Williams. Though the interview didn’t shy away from graphic descriptions of industrialized agriculture, it leaves out a lot of detail.
While Williams admits that chickens are quite aware of their imminent slaughter, so, too, are cows and other animals because of their strong senses of smell and hearing. The chickens humans consume are mostly female — the male chicks are fed into shredders to produce the blood meal Williams imagines is necessary to fertilize tomatoes. The hens’ beaks are ground down, and they are pumped full of antibiotics, creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Pigs have their tails cut off and their ears notched, and the males are castrated without anesthesia.
At least 23 million animals are butchered per day in the United States, and 200 million are killed per day worldwide. There is nothing humane about animal agriculture.
It comes as no surprise that others look at the same questions about eating animals and come to different conclusions than I have. I see my own lack of optimism — whether for the promise of lab-grown meat or our ability to change our relationship to suffering — as pragmatic. The troubles we face with agriculture are so large that they necessitate many solutions.
I’ve read and reread Bruce Ballenger’s reflection on his alcoholic father a dozen times [“The Memory of Clay,” May 2022]. It is a relief to finally see my own experiences with an alcoholic parent so perfectly articulated.
As a forty-five-year-old mother of four, I wrestle every day with the memory of my own mother, who left when I was young and drank herself to death. I struggle to untangle these memories and realize I’m not alone. I am grateful for this painful and beautiful piece of writing.
I was in home-repair hell when I read Sparrow’s “Guide to Home Acceptance” [May 2022]. I wonder if this is the first time Sparrow has saved a life.
I want to read Daniela Kuper’s short story “Good Housekeeping” [May 2022] again and again. I am a cleaning lady in my late fifties, and I often marvel at the enjoyment I derive from making something clean. As the main character of Kuper’s story goes about discovering the beauty beneath the surface of her new home, I found myself wanting to help scrub her floor and tenderly wash those fireplace stones, eagerly anticipating the “big reveal.”
This kind of writing is why I love The Sun and why I am thankful that I received a postcard years ago inviting me to try an issue.
As a Mormon missionary in Southern California, I regularly met with a woman named Candy. She had worked with missionaries for years: reading with us, baking for us, and feeding us. She became one of my closest friends.
When I left the Mormon Church and came out as a gay man, she sent me two texts. The first said, “I guess I should stop asking you about the chicky babes and start asking about the dudes,” and the second was five paragraphs of reassurance that I was loved, lovable, and worthy — all things I doubted after being a member of a religion with a fiercely antiqueer doctrine.
Barbara Woodmansee’s essay “Every Baby Needs to Be Rocked” [May 2022] reopened my grief over Candy’s passing in 2015. Candy, too, worked in hospice care, and though she never intended to join the Mormon Church, she always made time to show the missionaries kindness. Woodmansee writes, “One of the most important gifts we give to families in hospice is our presence.” This morning I am centered in gratitude for people like Woodmansee and Candy.
Nursing can be difficult and demanding. Good doctors are important, but a good nurse can make a world of difference in a hospital experience. May we all be blessed to have nurses like Barbara Woodmansee.
Nicholas Dighiera’s essay “Kong” [March 2022] repeated the fallacy that hyperventilation allows one to stay underwater longer.
Hyperventilation does not increase the blood-oxygen level; instead it decreases the level of carbon dioxide, which dulls the sensation of needing to take a breath. If the carbon dioxide level drops very low from vigorous hyperventilation, it will not rise to a critical point before sudden loss of consciousness from lack of oxygen — a phenomenon known as shallow-water blackout.
It’s not wise to hyperventilate before entering a body of water. If you do, you may win a breath-holding contest by staying under forever.
In 2014 my daughter signed me up for a writing class at a junior college. I was afraid to go but more afraid of disappointing her. So I found myself in a classroom with a doctor, a lawyer, a published writer, and lots of other folks with stories to tell. I sat in the back.
The teacher encouraged us to submit to literary magazines. I’d never heard of The Sun, but I sent my best writing. It was published in Readers Write, and I was given a year’s subscription. After reading The Sun, I began to let other magazines pile up in my kitchen, unread. The Sun is honest, straight from the heart, and provocative. I read every essay, poem, and story. I’ve given subscriptions to each of my daughters and a friend.
I’m seventy-five years old. I hope to read The Sun for the rest of my life.