Memo to Tom Philpott RE: Screeds

I’ve linked to your work several times, and think you do a great job of covering the health and environmental side of animal agribusiness and alternative agriculture. So I was disappointed to see your tweet this afternoon about the James McWilliams article:

Like most vegan screeds against pastured meat, James McWilliams’ latest neglects agro-ecology.

Of course it neglected agro-ecology. McWilliams’ piece wasn’t about the environmental costs of agribusiness, it was about the ethics of slaughter, and whether ethical objections still exist even when farmed animals are comparatively well cared for.

In attempting to marginalize McWilliams’ work by labeling it a “screed,” you’ve demonstrated your own limitations as a food writer. It’s commendable that you consistently churn out important stuff about the health and environmental costs of our food system, but when you dismiss a piece that covers the ethics of killing without offering a substantive response, you reveal your own blind spot regarding food politics, and, ironically, you open yourself to charges of being an author of screeds.