30 January 2008


In this New York Times story, author Paul Lukas glorifies a New Jersey custom known among the locals as a "beefsteak." As Lukas informs us, a "beefsteak" is a raucous sexist feeding frenzy where 350 (all white) men sit shoulder to shoulder at long tables and gorge themselves on beefsteak soaked in a blood and butter sauce. Harkening back to a more primitive time, the men proudly dispense with silverware and savagely compete to see who can consume the most flesh with their bare hands. This testosterone-laden spectacle would only be complete if, at the end of the melee, these sated men sat in a big circle and banged on their drums (think Iron John). Lukas also reports that these beefsteaks "are popular as political meet-and-greets, annual dinners for businesses and civic groups, and charity fundraisers." "Charming little events, really"—that's the impression one gets from Lukas's article.

Whatever happened to gluttony being one of the seven deadly sins? Did it somehow get dropped off the list without my realizing it? Is that why Americans are so fat? Is the gluttonous sexist beefsteak food orgy really the sort of tradition that should be nostalgically celebrated and encouraged in print? With 30% of Americans being morbidly obese and another 30+% being seriously overweight, with 50% of Americans suffering from coronary artery disease, with red meat increasingly linked to colorectal, esophageal, liver, and lung cancers, perhaps it's time that beefsteaks go the way of the Edsel. Self-interested health considerations aside, wouldn't it be better and fairer to celebrate and encourage "political meet-and-greet" events that are open to both men and women? (According to Lukas, about 25% of these beefsteaks remain male-only affairs.) As for charity fundraisers, they don't have to support animal cruelty on a massive scale to be effective. There are many alternative, equally effective, charity fundraisers (e.g., walkathons, bikeathons, raffles, art auctions, benefit concerts, etc.) that don't involve the callous disregard of animal interests. These latter fundraisers are the types of events that ethically-minded individuals should be celebrating and encouraging both in print and in practice. If you care about animals, refuse to support charities that support animal cruelty. A list of humane charities can be found here.

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