Great news to end the week, Juicers! In his excellent book The Better Angels of Our Nature—which makes good summer reading or listening, btw—Steven Pinker writes about Europe’s 18th and 19th century “humanitarian revolution,” the period of moral evolution during which people stopped indulging in such cruel medieval pastimes as recreational torture, dueling, cat-burning, and (for realz) cutting noses off.
It’s hard to deny that we’re going through a new revolution, this time focused on the animals. (Nick Kristof recently called it The Humane Revolution.) Every day it seems like there’s another piece of good news—and this week, two huge, wonderful stories broke:
1) Wednesday’s Washington Post reported that the Senate approved an update to the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act that included provisions to reduce the number of animals used in tests of toxic chemicals:
The EPA should use non-animal alternatives where possible, the legislation says, and must come up with a plan to develop and adopt more non-animal methods, such as computer modeling or cell-based tests.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an advocacy group which seeks to to reduce animal testing, predicts the bill will save hundreds of thousands of animals from being used in painful and often pointless experiments (such as the infamous Draize test). And it sets a great precedent:
Millions of animals are killed in U.S. lab tests and experiments each year, the vast majority of them mice, rats, birds and fish. The legislation addresses only some of these tests, and it doesn’t forbid them. But animal welfare groups say it sets an important precedent that is a reflection of both changing public attitudes and a slow, ongoing movement away from animal testing by some industries and research agencies. The National Institutes of Health, for example, has deemed biomedical research using chimpanzees unnecessary and ended it.
Kudos and thanks to PCRM and all the other great animal activists who worked diligently on this issue, and thanks especially to Corey Booker, who spearheaded the inclusion of the provisions. The bill has already passed the House and President Obama is expected to sign.
From hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions…
2) As Vox reported yesterday:
In a massive victory for animal rights activists, and for America’s chickens, United Egg Producers, a group that represents 95 percent of all eggs produced in the United States, has announced that it will eliminate culling of male chicks at hatcheries where egg-laying hens are born by 2020.
This may sound like a technical development, but its magnitude in humanitarian terms is difficult to overstate. That’s because standard practice at hatcheries that supply egg farms with hens is to kill almost all male chicks shortly after birth, usually by grinding them to death, as you can see in this horrifying video…
Gassing is also sometimes used. [Also, many are buried alive.–HR.] Hundreds of millions of male chicks are killed this way, every year, in the United States alone.
Ending chick culling has become possible recently due to technology. United Egg Producers says it will replace culling with “in-ovo egg sexing.” This is a process that can determine the sex of chicks before they develop inside their egg. That enables egg producers to terminate the male eggs and potentially use them to help make vaccines or for pet food (most humans would presumably be grossed out by cooking fertilized eggs). Horrific infanticides will be replaced with humane, painless chicken abortions.
This link contains a good description of the in-ovo process and technology.
Egg consumption is declining big-time, as people say no to both the cholesterol and the cruelty, and also as great plant-based alternatives come on the market. So that may also have something to do with the announcement.
Kudos to the activists at the Humane League who helped make this happen, and here’s to an ever kinder and less violent world.
How long until in-ovo egg sexing is used on humans?
We should just test on humans, would provide a means of income for many.
How does this “humanitarian revolution” explain the two World Wars of the twentieth century. Not to speak of the atrocities and genocides during Europe’s colonial era?
Humane, painless chicken abortions
New band name, called it.
I’m all for eliminating cruelty to chickens — after all, the cranky hens in my small flock are my pets — but I think the stat on egg consumption linked in your second-to-last paragraph is outdated. It only goes to 2011, and in the last few years, the scientific consensus on the link between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol has evolved. That has caused nutrition guideline revisions reversing prior stances on egg consumption, and there’s some evidence that egg consumption is in fact rising now. Therefore, folks who care about the humane treatment of chickens (and I am definitely in that camp) should probably focus arguments on humanitarian rather than dietary grounds, IMO.
@Persia: Damn it, you beat me to it!
I’m curious if they’re basing this on purchases or surveys. More and more municipalities are allowing homeowners to have backyard flocks, and I have seen egg sellers do brisk business at both roadside stands and farmer’s markets. I wonder if this is less a decline in egg consumption and more going back to sourcing our own eggs. I know I haven’t actually bought eggs in the store in years, since my parents have a ready supply from their humanely raised flock.
@Betty Cracker: Between your point and my point I’m thinking that stat is way off.
@srv: uh, fetal sex determination has been possible for a very long time. In modern technology, it is as simple as drawing maternal blood and testing free fetal DNA.
@schrodinger’s cat: Pinker discusses this as great length in his book, which is heavily quantitative. the tl;dr (which is heavily counterintuitive) is that traditional societies are far more violent than many people realize, with somewhere between 30% – 50% of people dying due to violence. (This is just my approximation of his argument.) And so even taking what he calls the “hemoclysm” of the 20th century into account, the trend is still toward less violence.
His first chapter illustrates this by delving into great depth into the vast amount of violence in the bible, and also how glorified that violence all is.
Last year Christopher Clark, who is one of the preeminent WWI historians, came to give a talk at Kalamazoo College. I asked him about Pinker’s thesis and he said that the feeling among historians was (again, my paraphrase) “he hits the numbers pretty hard but has some valuable things to say.”
@Yutsano: Also a good point. I haven’t bought an egg at a store in ages, and I eat a LOT of eggs. And my cholesterol level is in fine shape!
You could also contribute to sparing billions of native animals in America by keeping your cats indoors:
The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States
Scott R. Loss, Tom Will & Peter P. Marra
Nature Communications 4, Article number: 1396 doi:10.1038/ncomms2380 Received 06 September 2012 Accepted 12 December 2012 Published 29 January 2013
“Anthropogenic threats, such as collisions with man-made structures, vehicles, poisoning and predation by domestic pets, combine to kill billions of wildlife annually. Free-ranging domestic cats have been introduced globally and have contributed to multiple wildlife extinctions on islands. The magnitude of mortality they cause in mainland areas remains speculative, with large-scale estimates based on non-systematic analyses and little consideration of scientific data. Here we conduct a systematic review and quantitatively estimate mortality caused by cats in the United States. We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce this impact.”
@Betty Cracker: Valid points, Betty, and thanks for the link. I will check it out.
Good news presented here. I wonder about the
theory, are people that squeamish? we get fertillized eggs all the time from the Mennonite farm stands in our area. They aren’t advertised as free range, but they do have much better flavor, so what ever they eat it seems to be good for them. I don’t think being fertilized affects the flavor though.
Here ya go:
The Republic, Blah Blah Blah...
Didn’t Germany recently ban culling too?
I have a friend who keeps chickens in her back yard and I’ve gotten to know that flock pretty well over the last couple of years… I like chickens now that I’ve been around them for a while and it bothers me to see just how badly people routinely treat them w/out eve thinking about it…
Those poor birds deserve to be treated better…
Came here to point out the nutritional profile of eggs is actually quite good, just that doctors had long misunderstood that dietary cholesterol does not equal serum cholesterol.
Once erroneous nutritional information hits the public, it takes decades to go away.
Once you dive into the topic, you find nutrition is actually still quite poorly understood.
@The Republic, Blah Blah Blah…: yes! – the link on the technology discusses Germany’s advances in this area.
@Bob2: nutrition is hugely complex, and it seems like a moving target a lot of the time.
@Yutsano: I eat eggs pretty much everyday. My local supermarket carries free-range eggs, so what I can’t get from the farmers market I get there. While my great-uncle kept hens we got our eggs from him. So yeah, I think especially in places like South Florida that data would be completely out of whack.
Also, I moved “down” the food chain on the recommendation of my oncologist. Most of my animal protein consumption is fish and eggs. I spend a lot of time sourcing them, and it’s become much easier over the years.
@Betty Cracker: My cholesterol is wacky, but that’s genetics. It’s also true that cholesterol is necessary for many different functions in the body. It’s interesting how much biochemistry has evolved in just the past few years.
@Bob2: I remember even up into the early 90s margarine was considered a healthier option than butter. Then they started studying the trans fat relationship to several health problems and yeah I haven’t touched margarine since if I can help it. Plus butter tastes better to me.
@MikeS: I can’t tell you the number of friends I have tripped out by showing them the bright orange yolks I get from my parents’ eggs. And yes they taste better too!
Limiting animal testing is also good for labs’ bottom lines because animal testing is very expensive.
Saying no to eggs?
Come on, now.
I have good cholesterol, but last checkup, my protein was down. I was like, ‘ that’s a thing? not enough protein?’
I love me some eggs…pretty much anyway, except for poached.
anyway here’s a link (from a pro-vegan site, but linking to peer reviewed research) with some evidence of egg industry manipulation of the facts: http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/03/06/egg-industry-caught-making-false-claims:
“From the beginning, their arch nemesis was the American Heart Association, with whom they fought a major battle over cholesterol. In documents retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act featured in my 6-min video Eggs and Cholesterol: Patently False and Misleading Claims, you can see even the USDA repeatedly chastises the egg industry for misrepresenting the American Heart Association position. In a draft letter to magazine editors, the egg industry tried to say that the “American Heart Association changed its recommendations to approve an egg a day in 2000 and eventually eliminated its number restrictions on eggs in 2002,” to which the head of USDA’s poultry research and promotion programs had to explain that the “change” in 2000 wasn’t a change at all. Nothing in the guidelines or recommendations was changed. What happened was that in response to a question posed by someone planted in the audience, Heart Association reps acknowledged that even though eggs are among the most concentrated source of cholesterol in the diet, an individual egg has under 300mg of cholesterol and could technically fit under the 300 mg daily limit. In 2002, they eliminated the specific mention of eggs for consistency sake, but the American Heart Association insists that they haven’t changed their position and continue to warn consumers about eggs.
“The guidelines on the AHA website at the time explained that since one egg has 213 and the limit for people with normal cholesterol is 300 you could fit an egg in if you cut down on all other animal products. If you have an egg for breakfast, for example, and some coffee, some skinless turkey breast for lunch, etc., you could end up at over 500 by the end of the day, nearly twice the recommended limit. So if you are going to eat an egg, the Heart Association instructed, we would need to “substitute vegetables for some of the meat, drink our coffee black, and watch for hidden eggs in baked goods.” Furthermore, the limit for folks with high cholesterol is 200mg a day, which may not even allow a single egg a day.”
Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown)
a) @Hillary Rettig: Speaking of violence in the bible, have you looked up the story of well-known biblical hero Sampson? He has adventures like trying to con 30 of his own groomsmen into buying him new clothes (bets them they can’t solve a riddle, then sets an impossible one). When they lean heavily on his wife to get her to help bust the con by finding out the answer, he now owes them all suits… so he goes to a neighbouring town, kills 30 innocent people, and takes their clothes to pay it off. A few shenanigans later he gets angry at his now ex-wife, so:
Remember, he’s a good guy. Better times.
b) Can I be the first to invoke rule 34 on in-ovo egg sexing?
@Yutsano: I agree — it’s genetics. My 96-year-old grandma practically lives on bacon, eggs and sweet tea.
Per capita egg consumption has actually been increasing recently in the U.S. as food scientists have concluded that dietary cholesterol is not a factor in human blood cholesterol levels. The statistics suggest a significant uptick since 2011:
Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown)
@schrodinger’s cat: Dunno about the aborigines, but the native americans had some unbelievably violent stuff rolling. The stories are hair raising.Not worse than Europe I’m sure, but you’d have a hard time arguing for much better.
The problem is, the evidence shows that the amount of cholesterol you eat doesn’t relate to the amount you have in your blood. This has been proven with research.
200 mgs a day? Your body alone produces way more than that regardless of what you eat.
@Hillary Rettig: I haven’t read his book but somehow I am skeptical of his hypothesis, besides Europe is not the World. I am sure decimated civilizations like the Native Americans or the Aborigines will disagree with his hypothesis of enlightened Europeans.
China and India were enlightened before Europe was, they fell behind while Europe caught up and moved ahead. If you look at the history of the colonial era, you can see how enlightened Europeans were. Perhaps what Pinker means is that they were kind to their kind, which I guess is something.
@Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown): I don’t think any particular group has a monopoly on cruelty. Human beings suck. Europeans because of scientific progress just had better means of destruction, that’s all.
also it’s worth noting that even if egg consumption has bumped up, recently, there’s still been a massive decades long decline.
also i’m not sure how big a piece of the “egg-o-sphere” backyard hens represent but I imagine it’s pretty small compared to the industrial stuff. The UEP statement mentions that it represents 95% of all egg production, so maybe that’s one clue.
@Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown): yup, that’s a good one. also, Lot giving up his virgin daughters to be gang-raped by the mob, etc.
@rikyrah: Some of the vegetarian fundies in India cut out eggs from the free lunches that students got, result: malnutrition.
@Hillary Rettig: Here’s recent information from this year. I realize one person’s anecdote is not data but I think that cholesterol issues are very complicated. I am clinically obese but my cholesterol is rock steady as it has always been, while a good friend of mine, an athlete who weighs in at less than half what I weigh, lives on lettuce sandwiches and cholesterol medication. Go figure.
Still, the idea that the industry as a whole is moving towards more humane methods is always a good thing.
The average American eats about half as many eggs as he did in the 1940s. But he eats twice as much meat.
This change is due to the relative costs of the foods.
@schrodinger’s cat: these are all valid points, and I agree that the thesis is counterintuitive. but it’s a massive book, and he covers a lot of ground. i don’t think he argues that Europeans are inherently less violent, and (not that you say this) I don’t think he’s racist.
He is definitely more conservative / pro-capitalist than I am, for instance – he says trade acts against violence. He may be right, but there are other kinds of violence than the obvious kind – like poisoning the ecosphere. And capitalism excels at that.
The book is also full of fun stuff, for instance that Chinese cuisine often comes out of the kitchen already chopped up because hundreds of years ago they decided it was better if people sat down to eat *without* knives. :-)
pseudonymous in nc
This is where I get to wrinkle my veggie nose a little, because it comes across as vegansplaining. I buy deep-orange-yolked eggs from farms where I can see the chickens happily roaming around, and where roosters are passed on to other farms. Haven’t bought a grocery store egg in years. I know that doesn’t account for restaurants or prepared foods, but I don’t eat many eggy things any more that aren’t simply eggs.
The biggest impediment to more humane large-scale egg agriculture in the US is the subsidy that WIC provides the battery-cagers. Make cage-free eggs eligible for WIC — and yes, I know that cage-free isn’t a panacea, but it’s an improvement — and you can get rid of that horror. Then it’s time to go after the bastards at Perdue and Tyson.
btw I did not embed the video of the male chicken cull because it is very tough to watch. but if you have any doubt about how brutal this practice is please watch it.
@schrodinger’s cat: that’s just wrong, and a form of violence in and of itself.
@Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown): yup and widespread infanticide and stuff like that. (and not just among traditional peoples, either.)
@Hillary Rettig: His entire hypothesis seems to be that after enlightenment, Europe became less violent.
@Hillary Rettig: I realize this is only a statistic of one, but I have very high cholesterol due to bad genes. Over the years, I have tried a number of different combinations of diet and medication to lower it. My conclusion is that lipitor and low carb works better for me than anything. I eat decent amounts of protein and lots of vegies. I also eat plenty of eggs, and my numbers are excellent. Maybe the Heart Assn.’s prescriptions work for some people, but they are not the end all and be all for everyone.
Funny how hydrogenated vegetable oils ended up being worse than butter, but people seemed to fear butter for decades as a result. Margarine only got pushed because of a butter shortage in World War II, and kind of stuck around for decades being promoted as a healthier option.
@Hillary Rettig: Oh I agree that nutrition is absolutely moving target, but the point I was trying to make is that doctors are far less informed on the topic than they’d have you believe.
The history of food and food research tends to be a rather fascinating topic to me. The institution of the food pyramid is one of the more aggravating things to ever read because it was intentionally pushed with poor research. Likewise, the resulting people’s fear of fat caused companies to increase sugar in products to compensate for reduced fat in products when they tested and found out people could accept less fat in snacks, but not less sugar.
Also, no one’s saying to eat a ton of eggs a week, but as people have pointed out, genetics play a much much larger part in serum cholesterol than previously thought and vilifying butter and eggs may have ended up making things worse for a while.
The difference between HDL cholesterol and LDL, triglyceride levels, Omega 3 vs 6 consumption as well. It’s a little difficult to tie down in any research whether feeding cattle and chicken products that result in high omega 6 eggs and meat is also a major issue.
@Hillary Rettig: Their dogma is more precious to them than the pain they inflict on others.
I know many people who have their own hens now so they don’t need to buy their eggs at the supermarket.
Many people assume that I am a vegan because my baking is vegan, but this has happened due to household allergies.
@pseudonymous in nc: these are good points, and sorry for the vegansplaining!
as noted UEP apparently accounts for 95% of egg production – I’m guessing all industrial.
agree that cage free is a big improvement and *step* in right direction.
@schrodinger’s cat: I think that’s true, but important to note that: he does address global issues, and also that in the book he mostly reports on and synthesizes others’ work. so it’s not him just stating his own opinion and making random claims. You seem interested in the topic so might want to check it out. (Or read some reviews from non-US/European sources.)
@schrodinger’s cat: Dogma isn’t a good thing.
@Hillary Rettig: Yes, I will check it out. But how he defines violence is key and I am pretty sure that some forms of medieval violence did go down substantially.
However racism and eugenics were also the products of this so called enlightenment.
@Bob2: Totally agree with your political points. Doctors get really very little training in nutrition – until recently only a few hours. Right? Has that changed at all? Besides that, the whole medical establishment remains strongly oriented toward disease cure rather than prevention, which is insane.
Double agree with the food pyramid, which is hugely politicized and also does a lot of damage. Although it improved a lot (from a vegan standpoint) a few years back, when they replaced “meat” with “protein” and knocked dairy off to the side: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
Even warfare is ‘less bloody’ between states than between hunter-gatherers or tribes (or during medieval warfare, for example). The fact is hidden by the larger numbers involved–10% of a warrior band numbering in the double-digits is a lot less than 2% of the US Army in World War II, but the rates of those killed is higher in ‘primitive’ (and, arguably, asymmetric warfare) than in state-warfare. Lawrence Keeley’s book,War Before Civilization, cited–I believe–by Pinker is a thorough study of the higher casualty rate in primitive war. He of course doesn’t excuse or whitewash the larges-cale killing of the twentieth century, but he does note that the “most homicidal regime in history” (Nazi Germany) still had a homicide/war death rate less than that of some tribal warfare.
@strato: I’ve brought this up repeatedly in prior threads (especially the ones where Cole talks about how his cat likes to kills birds). In places like Hawaii in particular, feral cats, and house cats that are allowed outdoors, are decimating bird populations.
@Josie: sure. and I’ve known some really fit and healthy people with genetic high cholesterol. I’m glad you found a solution that works for you.
I’m going to have to sign off now and get some other stuff done, folks. Thanks for the discussion! I’ll check in later. If anyone ever has questions or comments or concerns related to what I post I welcome your emails.
@billcoop4: How would you classify death by mass starvation that happened in Ireland and British India that were a direct result of British policies, for example.
Eggs are good for you.
If you already have diabetes because you don’t know how to eat, eggs can exacerbate an already ridiculously horrible situation.
The “cholesterol problem” usually comes from too much saturated fat. A small amount of saturated fat is good [required] but not at infinite levels. But of course if you can’t stop yourself from eating 4 eggs a day with sausage and cheese in that frittata, then yes, you’re not eating right.
As with all things, a small amount of it is usually good. But many Americans hear “good” without the context and act as though they can now shotgun 8 a day of whatever it is.. with zero effect.
Sugar? Good in small amounts. Used in ridiculous quantities to make up for the lack of taste that results from having no fat in food? Hello, type 2 diabetes.
Cholesterol? Good in small amounts. Used in ridiculous quantities? Hello, cardiovascular issues later in life.
Fat? Required for taste and digestion in small amounts. 3 meals a day at Burger King? That person is soon to be a People Of Walmart picture.
The one thing I have zero patience for : Whoever/whatever caused the spike in egg prices over the last year. That was entirely useless and I have zero sympathy for whatever pie-in-the-sky “cause” that was.
@Emma: Yes, which brings us right back to where we were (egg consumption-wise) before the decline began. It should also be noted that the graph in the article Hillary linked to is deceptive-looking–the YUGE drop was actually less than 4%.
And kudos to Costco for selling cage-free eggs: not only are the chickens happier, but the eggs are nicer, with soother, thicker shells. I say this as an egg “artist.”
Gin & Tonic
@schrodinger’s cat: Or death by mass starvation in Ukraine directly caused by Soviet Union policies.
Wonderful news all around, Hillary. Though I am not a vegetarian, I really enjoy your posts.
@Hillary Rettig: Last I checked with my GP friends, medical school nutrition education was still pretty terrible. I just googled up something quick from 2015 here
From this, it seems to be slow movement on that front with only minor improvements.
To be fair, I don’t think a more comprehensive course needs to be applied to med students unless they want to be GPs or a specialty where it’s actually needed. It might be easier just to sub it out to nutritionists in the end since getting nutritional compliance from patients is damned near impossible.
@Josie: This is interesting because people don’t eat in an vacuum, and it’s long been a point of contention that studies focused too much on the eggs, cheese and meat, and not enough on the sugars, breads, and starches that get eaten with the proteins, particularly when it comes to insulin response.
@Gavin: That was avian flu decimating chicken populations iirc. Egg prices have dropped again thankfully.
@The Republic, Blah Blah Blah…:
Unfortunately No. The state government of Northrhine-Westphalia tried to ban chicken culling via a decree in 2013, but that decree was last month overturned by a court because the court considered in-ovo diagnostic technology not yet suitable for practical use.
There used to be more creative ways to enjoy eggs. Lightly poached, even mixed raw into some dishes. Sometime around the ’80s (coincidentally around the time Ronnie loosened regulations on food safety) I remember seeing newspaper and magazine articles every day about food poisoning from undercooked eggs. So now folks are somewhat reluctant to do anything but fry them to death or scramble them to the consistency of tire rubber.
I remember my aunt making poached eggs in a little “poacher” thing on her stove. We’d add a pinch of salt and spoon them out in their little egg cups. Does anyone even do that anymore?
To me, there are few things finer than a poached fresh egg, served on toast made from hearty bread (preferably griddled rather than toasted, actually).
As a diabetic, eggs are an essential part of my diet.
@germy: I don’t eat raw eggs here, but my husband has work in France a few times per year, and I do there, without hesitation. It’s one of my favorite things–an actual lyonnaise salad in Lyon or spring asparagus with a soft-poached egg are divine.
Then we come home and do our jet lag breakfast at our favorite place and order the egg on my biscuit “over hard.” Sigh.
Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown)
@Gin & Tonic: the phrase “scorched Earth policy” is one that long precedes the advent of mechanized starvings of populations.
pseudonymous in nc
Yes. You can also steam them in a poacher, which is a neat trick for more control over the softness of the yolk. And the current sous vide craze works as well.
Americans don’t seem to do soft-boiled eggs in eggcups with toast soldiers, though. I was asking a local potter about it and he said that while he knew how to make really lovely eggcups, having trained under a British master potter, there wasn’t the demand to have them in his regular line. I’m going to arrange a custom order from him at some point.
the spike in egg prices last year was due in large part to the discovery of bird flu in some of the u.s. flocks.
@The Republic, Blah Blah Blah…: Yes! We got hens mostly for the eggs, but how interesting, and dare I say charming, they are was a pleasant bonus. They would make great house pets if someone could figure out a diaper for them…
Damned at Random
@Yutsano: I buy my eggs from my husband’s cousin and I know her hens are well treated/spoiled.
I’m about 2/3 of the way through the Pinker book. He does lean a little conservative on a couple of thing (e.g., the 1960s), but it’s a fascinating and fun, if heavy (no contradiction!) read. What is especially gripping is his detailing (MANY graphs) of the shift in attitude toward violence. Paraphrasing now, but he writes that things that were once commonplace and unremarkable became frowned upon, then outlawed, then unthinkably abhorrent, then not even imagined. For example: public execution of minors; public execution; burning of cats for popular entertainment; slavery; child labor. And the following have at least made it to the No Longer Acceptable category: child beating; wife beating; cruelty to animals.
Modern military forces now go well out of their way to avoid civilian casualties. (See: U.S. and — not to start an argument, but — Israel.) Drone strikes are far from surgical, but they kill a lot fewer innocents than bombers and waves of infantry, and the attacking forces — U.S. again — apologize and wring figurative hands when innocents are killed. That’s a long, long way from rape, pillage, and calculated mass murder.
Pinker shows that humans deserve some credit. We’re getting better all the time.
Never underestimate the power of food fads. Post-demonization of dairy products, lots of parents are setting their kids up for a lifetime of tooth decay by giving them sugar-laden juices instead.
And most of us know that the vast majority of people now waxing hysterical over any trace of The Demon Gluten in their food will have totally forgotten that once the next food fad catches their attention.
@schrodinger’s cat: IIRC, Pinker posits several historical trends that resulted in decreases in violence at different points over the centuries, including such things as organization of nation-states (which helped increase rule of law), increase in international trade (you don’t want to go to war with those you rely on for trade), growth in literacy and communication (enabling people to learn about other cultures and no longer see them as the “other”), and a few more. Obviously, none of these things is absolute, and some had drawbacks (for example, as nation-states organized, colonialism grew). But overall and over time, these things have contributed to decreases in violence. His book is very well-documented, so obviously my little comment here can’t do his thesis justice.
I can’t think of anything less appetizing than mayo made with fake eggs. You might as well be chewing on a mouthful of plastic.
My egg consumption has declined because you can’t find a decent egg for sale any more. The shells are so thin you can push your finger right through them and the whites are as runny as water. Cracking makes me wonder about the misery of the poor hen who laid the lamentable thing.
@Gin & Tonic:
Utterly tragic. Keeley largely focuses on combat related deaths, rather than subjugation related deaths. I rather suspect the Nazis still win even over the Soviet Union (although not by much).
Keeley (1997) does note that
The author making the ‘liberal estimate’ was Richard Rhodes in The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
I’ll include the deaths caused by subjugation in with war-related deaths (and I note also that Keeley stresses that in primitive war, there are no prisoners, and civilians are more than fair game). I still think his thesis holds, even including those who died because of famine or conquest.
Keeley, L (1997). War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
@Monala: I’ll note that Pinker does use Keeley, as I recall.