In response to my on-going quest for utopic living, my ex-husband would often quip some clever sociological quote that investigation deep into any culture you would find a horror. In my opinion he was a party pooper. But there is something about Patent Law, of all the things, which brings me face to face with that horror.
It’s the most behind the scenes of the behind the scenes, steeped in greater intimacy than a company’s books, for this is not external property, it is internal property. The patent world revolves around what people know, and know deeply. If you want to know about a company’s integrity, explore how they handle their intellectual property.
The chemist I work for is an honest and kind man, who, sensitive to my sensitivities, is very up front about matters he handles which I may find, well, not in keeping with my ethical ideal.
It’s an interesting journey.
Today, I found myself slogging through a mountain of scientific data about the synthesis of civetone. As an aspiring vegan, I was aware of the use of civet absolute in flavorings. Civets are members of the cat family, found in the Phillipines and Indonesia. Civet absolute is a substance used in natural flavorings which is made from the secretions of the civet. Now here I was, sorting a pile of chemical literature about manufacturing civetone synthetically. I thought it was time I did a little more digging about the abuse of the civets. Were they still being exploited for their flavorful and aromatic secretions? I’m always hopeful that controversy will create change.
I uncovered a landmine, and forgive me if you already know about this (it won’t be the first time I’ve been the last to know). While the data on present time civet natural flavorings industry was a little bit scanty, there was a mountain of information about Kopi Luwak. A mountain of poop.
Kopi Luwak is a high end coffee, upwards of $200 a pound, made of coffee berries eaten and pooped by civets. That’s right. The high end coffee drinkers of Kopi Luwak are drinking seeds plucked from poop.
Generally, wild civet poop is considered to make a more tasty brew than farmed civet poop. The civets still running wild are happier, eat better, and apparently, their poop is finer. Wild civet poop has to be “found”, although, in the wake of how the food industry has abused the term “wild” in reference to fish, and “humane” in reference to farm animals, one can’t really be sure. When you are dealing with a price tag of $200 a pound, one can expect a few frauds and tall tales to emerge.
Of course, such economic gain from an animal substance is sure to lead to deeper and deeper levels of exploitation and abuse. Civets are being imprisoned for their poop. Taken from free lives in the jungle and confined in a foot of two (if they are lucky) of space and fed prison meals on rigid schedules. As if that is not abuse enough, often the conditions (as the conditions are for all other farmed animals, including the ones from whom dairy products are taken) are extreme, the animals being treated like objects without sentience, without feelings at all. As Lakshmi the cat sits here next to me as I write, I feel sad not only for the civets, but for those who see them as no more than objects to be used.
No one, absolutely no one, can argue that this is a necessary evil. While one can argue that living in the perception that drinking brewed poop refuse and thinking it’s delicious is its own kind of punishment, there is no reasonable argument which anyone could make for allowing this to continue. There is no need for these beings to suffer.