Pollan: Section III

The third section of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals focuses, literarily, on the “omnivore’s dilemma.” Specifically, Pollan takes an analytical perspective on the ethics of consuming animals. Considering that the human species has fed itself for 99% of its time on earth, Pollan attempts to take a balanced approach and positions existing preferences between vegetarianism and omnivory as a paradox of sorts. Pollan incorporates human anatomy to explain our “natural” ability to be omnivores. For example, our teeth are designed to tear animal flesh and grind plants. Further, our bodies need nutrients that are only found in animals, others only in plants. Hence, if proper food intake distribution is optimized, it may be better for our health to combine plant and animal matter as food. In addition, it is important to consider that omnivory is what allowed humans to adapt to a great many environments all over the planet. On the other hand, the transition from omnivory to vegetarianism is frequently motivated not by health reasons but by peoples’ personal decisions to consider the well being of animals – their treatment and their perception of pain/suffering. Ergo, choosing to be a vegetarian is often motivated by ethical questions concerning the killing of animals. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that nature, seeking balance, requires the existence of predators and prey. Hence, animals are killed in the wild. Ultimately, the question concerning the right path to take – to hunt animals, to raise and then kill them, to protect animal rights, or to deny oneself meat – pose the existing paradox that all of these option become inevitable realities that cannot be escaped. Each path has its own benefits and downsides. That is the mission of Michel Pollan – to show the prevailing philosophies of food consumption and unravel the inadvertent ignorance concerning the origins and the value of our food.