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Why is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg killing animals for food?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s new goal is to “only eat meat from animals I’ve killed myself.” What’s missed in the reactions (from disgust to confusion) is Zuckerberg’s own motivation: becoming a more thankful person.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s new “personal challenge,” reported last week in Fortune magazine’s blog, is to only eat meat from animals that he kills himself. Yes, the world’s youngest billionaire is suddenly killing for food. Responses to Zuckerberg’s May 4 Facebook alert (“Today I killed a pig and a goat”) apparently elicited reactions from dismay to disgust to confusion.

Mark ZuckerbergInteresting, the killing is what everyone seems to be focused on. What’s missed in the chatter is Zuckerberg’s own motivation: becoming a more thankful person. In his Facebook response to the May 4 post, he elaborated, “Towards the end of last year I reflected a bunch of how thankful I was … and I decided to make this year's challenge around being more thankful for what I have.” Zuckerberg decided that the best way to implement this was by “forcing myself to get personally involved and thank the animals whose lives I take in order to eat them [as] the best day-to-day way to remind myself to be thankful.”

Is this just a self-indulgent stunt? Or an authentic attempt at character growth? As an eternal optimist, I’m hoping the latter. And for better or for worse, Zuckerberg – Time magazine's 2010 Person of the Year – has an immensely powerful voice, especially among young people worldwide. The fact that he wants to be more thankful and has decided to focus on that most basic human need, food, strikes me as encouraging.

People (especially vegetarians) may counter: “How about not eating animals at all? That would really be a positive step.” And I agree – but let’s remember, his goal is gratitude, not a diet overhaul or a statement about eating meat (at least not yet). Most carnivores are not going to give up eating all meat, all at once. But taking a serious step toward understanding what must occur to eat meat (killing, preparing) is huge, and a desire to change one’s heart and not take gifts for granted is, in my opinion, more profound than any outward change of habit.

I was also thrilled to read that Zuckerberg’s mentor in this process is Jesse Ziff Cool – a Delicious Living contributor from way back and a champion of the organic and local foods movement for decades. As Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto neighbor, Cool introduced him to local farmers and, reports Fortune, “advised him as he killed his first chicken, pig, and goat  … ‘with a knife, which is the most kind way to do it.’” (Thanks to Elephant Journal's blog for posting this video of Jesse Cool speaking at Google.)

Not insignificantly, Zuckerberg added, “This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian. … I'm eating a lot healthier foods and I've learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.” If that kind of knowledge starts making its way into his speeches (and, of course, Facebook posts), he could exponentially increase the conversation about our food supply. Ignorance is the enemy of a sustainable food world - it’s a lot easier to deny the reality of grossly inhumane factory farms when you simply pick up your food all shrink-wrapped and Styrofoam-backed at the local grocery store. So I’m thankful for this seemingly eccentric goal, and look forward to hearing about what Zuckerberg learns and how it changes him.

What do you think - virtuous goal or self-important gimmick?

Intro image by Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on Jun 2, 2011

He's got more guts than I do, I think. As a society, we have allowed ourselves to get totally disconnected from what we eat (and what we throw away). It just magically appears on store shelves, in cold storage, on a restaurant plate or tray. This in contrast to the tradition (still a way of life in many places in the world) where people devote most of their time and effort to raising and storing food. We can't go back, but I welcome this growing awareness I see all around me. When we are truly grateful for the food we eat, maybe we will all be able to experience more empathy, and then do more, for the millions don't have enough to eat everyday, and who, more and more, can't afford to buy basic staples for their families.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2011

If every carnivore was mindful of what it actually takes to get that meat to their plate, I it would encourage more vegetarians. This is also more ecologically sound for the planet as well. Read "Diet for a Small Planet" by John Robbins, or "Skinny Bitch" (don't recall the author). There are many other books that make the case for vegetarian diet being better for the planet too.

on Jun 4, 2011

Wise take on this interesting celebrity news.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 8, 2011

I don't think that he had to go that far, just say you are a new vegan. people will do what they want to do... I would love to be a vegan, but I am allergic to wheat/gluten and I don't see a whole lot of other choices out there. The vegan mean, cheese has so much salt that it isn't funny. why do you have optional in () when we have to put it in anyway...

Kyle (not verified)
on Jun 10, 2011

I am so fully behind his actions on this topic. I personally do not kill every animal that I eat, but I have killed animals in order to eat them, most recently while living amongst a group of indigenous people in Peru, witnessed poultry we raised be killed on my grandparents property in order that my family may eat, etc. I firmly believe that in order to eat the flesh of an animal, a person must be willing to kill that animal. It creates a greater awareness of the sacrifices that animal is making in order that one may gain sustenance; the ultimate sacrifice, its life. By separating the public from the source of their sustenance and the sources lives and deaths we allowed room for the growth of inhumane factory farms that completely brutalize the animals we have depended on for millenia, who are then of course turned into caricatures of themselves in order to market these animals as happy creatures loving to be eaten or hapless goofballs, a la the Foster Farms now long-running ad campaigns. If people were required to just once kill, witness the slaughter or visit a factory farm before eating their fully processed chicken McNuggets, our entire food production system would change. Never thought I'd express this but, Go Zuckerberg!

huntergatherer (not verified)
on Jun 30, 2011

I always find it ironic that meat eaters decide they can't do it, don't want to or refuse to acknowledge it - how can someone maintain that level of self delusion. Face up to it or don't do it. For all it's narcissism Zuckerberg's announcement will hopefully make other stop and think about it - after all they are killing everytime they eat meat!

This little doco was made before Zuckerberg piped up, and actually shows a young girl going through the same realisations about slaughtering your own animals...

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150265359020407

huntergatherer (not verified)
on Jun 30, 2011

I don't think the point is that it would encourage more vegetarians, hopefully it will just encourage more responsible and aware 'use' of animals - respect.

Killing your own as far as I can tell is the only real way to educate yourself about meat eating, without doing you're gonna be missing an element of understanding.

This girl goes and kills her own lamb and documents it - should be required viewing for any meat eater!

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150265359020407

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