Dominique Lestel’s short but provocative volume Eat This Book: A Carnivore’s Manifesto is an important intervention in this debate. His text raises some difficult questions for abolitionists concerning the metaphysical and spiritual groundings of their ethico-political project. Lestel’s chief critical target in this book is not vegetarianism or veganism per se but specifically what he refers to as ethical vegetarianism. This version of vegetarianism is based on the idea that ‘it is evil to eat meat particularly on the grounds that such consumption is based on murder, suffering, and egoism’ (p. xix). As such, the ethical vegetarian seeks to prohibit and ultimately abolish the practice of meat eating tout court. Lestel senses in this kind of vegetarianism a deeply anti-natural disposition that desires to remove both human beings and animals from the ecological and metabolic relations that constitute life. To hope for the abolition of meat eating as such would, in other words, orient oneself against the basic biological and ecological principles guiding the evolution of life (and death) Animal Studies | 15 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ywcct/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ywcct/mbx003/3748561/Animal-Studies by Tufts University user on 01 September 2017 on earth. Lestel suggests that, as one continues to think through the logic of this kind of ethical vegetarianism in more detail, several paradoxes and contradictions begin to emerge. For instance, in aiming to bring sentient animals within the sphere of moral considerability, the ethical vegetarian condemns all of plant life (much of which is sentient as well, under a broad definition of the term) to the realm of sacrifice. If killing and eating plants poses no moral question, then the ethical vegetarian can eat them and similar foods in good conscience, secure in the belief that she has removed herself from the unethical violence associated with meat eating. But, as Lestel notes, this kind of abolitionist stance does not avoid violence; instead, it simply shifts violence to other registers, while disavowing such a shift is actually taking place. If it can be acknowledged that first, violence is inherent in life, second, to live one must eat, and third, to eat is to do violence, then there is no path out of the circle of violence. The ethical vegetarian, by contrast, wishes ‘to remove himself from the circle of life’ and hence from the reciprocity of relations and the messy questions posed by eating (p. 38). Paradoxically, though, such an effort to remove oneself from the flows of life is tantamount to annihilating one’s relation to animality. It betrays a profound discomfort with the basic structure of animal life, in which violent encounters with others are intractable and irreducible, whether a given animal is a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore. Lestel reiterates this ‘anti-nature’ criticism of ethical vegetarianism multiple times throughout his analysis, ultimately suggesting that the vegetarian project untenably hopes to redraw the world in a prelapsarian, enchanted, Disney-like manner (pp. 49, 85). In place of ethical vegetarianism, Lestel offers a counter-practice of ethical carnivorism that takes as its point of departure the irreducibility of animality and its concomitant consumptive violence. To be sure, Lestel does not seek to glorify or romanticize such violence, but he does want to insist that violent interactions can be entered into in a more or less ethically sensitive manner. To be an ethical carnivore would thus not be a matter of simply shrugging one’s shoulders and continuing to follow mainstream, Western, meat-heavy diets. Instead, it would amount to understanding the consumption of animal flesh as belonging to a larger cycle of reciprocity and exchange. Inspired by native American and other indigenous traditions, Lestel argues that ethical carnivorism is a way of eating that inspires humility in the eater and involves clear recognition of one’s place in the cycles of life (p. 68). This is why, for Lestel, actual metabolic ingestion is essential to the ethical carnivorist position; only the literal consumption of animals places us in interdependent relations (p. 71). A hands-off, non-interference vegetarianism, or even a symbolic carnivorism that acknowledges dependence on animals in principle, falls short of this practicedone might even say liturgicalenactment of human–animal symbiosis. Readers who follow Lestel carefully through these arguments against ethical vegetarianism and in favour of ethical carnivorism will find several interesting and thought-provoking points. However, Lestel’s overall argument is far from intellectually, practically, or politically satisfying. The ethical vegetarian position against which he argues is clearly a strawman, which is made evident by the fact that he can attribute it to no major thinker and is able to flesh it out only by taking isolated snippets from a variety of provegetarian writers. Similarly, the argument in favour of ethical carnivorism is extraordinarily ill-supported, both logically and in terms of Lestel’s rather surface (and reductive) appropriation of indigenous approaches to foodways. What to do, then, when one is confronted with a text that manifestly fails at the level of its basic argument, especially when that text is written by an author who is very bright and well informed about his subject matter? The reader would do well to pause and reflect at this point rather than simply quit reading out of frustration, and then return to the epigraph from Søren Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Irony that opens the book: ‘Just as philosophy begins with doubt, a human life worth living begins with irony.’ With this paean to philosophical irony in mind, it would perhaps be wise to go back and reread Lestel’s entire book ironicallythat is to say, under the assumption that he is adopting a position he does not truly hold in order to generate an aporetic stance in readers who do, in fact, uncritically hold some variety of the positions under discussion. Thus, rather than reading the text in view of whether his argument against ethical vegetarianism is well constructed or whether the argument in favour of ethical carnivorism is cogently defended (I have suggested the clear answer to both of these questions is ‘no’), we might instead take Lestel’s book to be asking us whether there might be something anti-natural in vegetarianism and whether there might, in fact, be ethical ways of eating animals. And if both ethical vegetarianism and ethical carnivorism as presented in his text fail to offer persuasive articulations of such a position, what would an adequate way of eating look like? An ironic reading of the text would push the reader into this aporetic space in which we must, once again, raise the question of ‘eating well’ (to use Derrida’s phrase). What specific forms might ethical eating take? What would eating that acknowledges human dependence on animals entail? If not ethical vegetarianism or ethical carnivorism, then what? Lestel offers a clue as to how one might begin answering such questions from a perspective that acknowledges the fundamental animality of human beings when he touches on the issue of human beings being eaten by animals (pp. 79–80). Discussions concerning vegetarianism and carnivorism almost always centre on the ethical responsibilities of the humancharacterized solely as an eaterand very rarely pose the question of the edibility of the human. What if we were to approach the question of eating ethically and respectfully starting from the deep acknowledgment of human edibility? What if we thought of human beings as also being meat and sustenance for other animals and other more-than-human beings? Starting from this vantage point of human edibility, debates surrounding vegetarianism and carnivorism would open onto additional questions involving the burial of dead bodies, life-extension technologies, anti-natalism and population (to recall Haraway’s concerns), as well as the numerous ways in which those individuals who claim to care for animals might metaphorically sacrifice their lives for the well-being of other animals. In the Postface, Lestel turns from his critique of vegetarianism and defence of carnivorism to what appears to be his ultimate concern, namely, how might we institute more respectful eating practices on a large, planetary-wide scale. He argues that we ought to reorient our focus away from personal dietary purity and toward the issue of stopping factory farming, with the latter approach being understood primarily as a political matter rather than a personal moral one. Lestel is, to be sure, correct in emphasizing that mainstream vegetarian ethics and politicswith its focus on personal ethics and legal abolition and concomitant faith in liberal democracy to effect changehas failed to shift the culture away from factory farming (indeed, factory farming has grown exponentially in the past several decades under just such democracies). What is required to contest this situation, Lestel argues, is a more radical political approach that calls into question the very social and economic foundations of the dominant culture and the proposal of alternatives that reconnect human eating and foodways to the immanence of animal and earthly life. Lestel’s proposal that ‘nonreligious federal theocracies’ might be adopted as a partial political solution to the problems at hand is undoubtedly meant to be read ironically; but, once again, the irony points the reader toward a genuine problem that must be addressed. Can justice to animal and plant life be done and ethical ways of eating within the ideological coordinates permitted us by the dominant social order be found? Might there not be a need to rethink not just the socioeconomic basis of the human way of life but also its (lack of) spiritual dimension? Lestel poses these questions butfittingly, for a philosophical work does not aim to resolve them entirely. Readers can, however, certainly anticipate more writings in animal studies in the coming years that address this spiritual deficit in human–animal relations, especially as animal studies comes increasingly into contact and dialogue with the new animisms, new materialisms, religious studies, indigenous thought, and post-Hadotian and post-Foucaultian discourses on aske¯sis.