Happy Feet (2006)

Kat Eschner's newsletter about animal-human relationships Vol. 3 Iss. 3

This issue of CREATURE FEATURE is brought to you by Ben Wurgaft’s book Meat Planet, which I read and commented on when it was in its formative stages. Scroll down for an excerpt.

The book is about chasing cultured meat through the glossy halls of venture capital, but it’s also about animals—how could it not be—and surviving in a late capitalist world and what the future could mean to each of us.

Image description: My dog Zelda lies on the couch with a bone in front of her paws, licking her adorable chops. A hardcover copy of Meat Planet leans against her fuzzy tummy. (Credit: Kat Eschner)


Flush butt slugs not drugs

Meth-gators? In spite of claims by some Tennessee cops on the department Facebookpage, more like myth-gators, an expert told Alex Luben writing for Vice. Still, Luben writes, flushing drugs can have unintended consequences for wildlife.

Extra credit: Speaking of made-up animals, have you heard about the shit hawk? Also, hat tip Shannon Palus for the euphemism in the headline.

TINY PENGUINS INVADE NZ SUSHI STALL WHILE SEARCHING FOR A HOME—TWICE

I think the headline says it all. Two little blue penguins (yes, that is the species name) somehow made it to Wellington, New Zealand’s busiest railway station and tried to build their nest under it, Amber-Leigh Woolf reports for Stuff.

A Department of Conservation (DOC)  spokeswoman said they've now been moved to nesting boxes near the harbour. 

"They seemed to like it and they were cooing which is a good sign." 

The Calgary Stampede got way way deadlier

This year’s Calgary Stampede, which we talked about last week, got several hundred percents deadlier for horses as it went on. The major culprit now, as in years past, was the chuckwagon races. A total of six horses died, reports David Bell for the CBC.

Extra credit: The deaths have prompted yet another conversation about whether chuckwagon racing should be done at all. CBC’s Maggie Macintosh considers the competition’s past–and its future.


The four-wheelers flattened the tall grass as Evan made his way back to the moose. He made a quick inventory of the meat they’d have for the winter: three moose, ten geese, more than thirty fish (trout, pickerel, pike), and four rabbits, for now–more rabbits would be snared through the winter. It was more than enough for his own family of four, but he planned to give a lot of the meat away.

Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice


Meat Planet: An Excerpt

By Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft

If cultured meat were adopted so enthusiastically that its architects’ dreams were achieved, and it actually began to displace conventional animal agriculture, the earth’s animal biomass would be transformed in the process. The bulk of that biomass consists of domesticated creatures living and dying in our food system. The geographer Vaclav Smil has estimated that, as of 1900, some 1.3 billion domesticated large animals existed on the earth. As of 2000, the live weight of domesticated animals had increased some 3.5 times. Memorably, Smil imagines “sapient extraterrestrial visitors” concluding, on the basis of the sheer abundance of one creature in particular, “that life on the third solar planet is dominated by cattle.” If cultured meat suddenly replaced its conventional antecedent, billions of gregarious vertebrates would become unnecessary, their fates uncertain, much like the fate of the land used to feed and house them, and the water consumed by their care and processing, not to mention an entire industry and its workers. Some 75 percent of the earth’s agricultural land is currently used, either directly or indirectly, for animal agriculture that produces meat, dairy prodcts, and eggs. That land, too, would become a series of question marks. The critic John Berger once called the zoo an epitaph to a lost relationship between humans and animals. Our feedlots and slaughterhouses are, in a very different way, also epitaphs to lost relationships, ones likely beyond recovery.

Yet for all its novelty, cultured meat emerges out of a set of older, preexisting ideas and practices around meat, a set of linked histories of carnivory that are difficult to access from the standpoint of Mark Post’s 2013 hamburger. If Post’s burger represented the sum of our knowledge about meat, it would be impossible to work backwards from that starting point and reconstruct the history of humans eating other animals. Such a thought experiment might run for hamburgers made out of cows, to in an industrial fast-food format, back to the original European hamburgers of the mid-eighteenth century (sometimes called “Hamburg steaks” by English cookbook authors, which were produced in a world of preindustrial meat. Our experiment would quickly reach periods when humans ate species that have disappeared as food animals, in many parts of the world. Swans, for example, no longer grace the tables of European elites. If we recognize that meat has changed many times, and for many reasons, it sheds a new light on the modern, Western habit of using the word “meat” to signify solid fact, or bedrock reality, or the most salient issue at hand. It makes that habit seem curious.

Reprinted with permission. Meat Planet comes out in September. You can pre-order it here.


Please read me

My work from this week.

  1. Unilever’s plan to stop massive plastic pollution from destroying the oceans

  2. The wrong kind of sleep could keep you dwelling on bad memories

  3. Anorexia may be more complicated than we thought

  4. Plans to build a massive telescope on sacred Hawaiian land have sparked protests–and arrests

  5. Canada to pay C$1bn to sexual misconduct victims in the military


Questions? Comments? Complaints? Contact me at my email or on Twitter. If you enjoy this newsletter and would like to tip me, I am on Ko-fi.

CREATURE FEATURE is edited by Tracey Lindeman.

All images in CREATURE FEATURE are used under Creative Commons licensing. Efforts have been made to ensure that photographs of living animals or natural scenes have been taken ethically, in responsible pet ownership conditions, at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums or under safe, non-damaging conditions in the wild. If you see an issue with any image we share, please notify me.