Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Large Cap(sicum) Company

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

The New York Times business section this morning has a story on a local treasure, the McIlhenny Company, makers of Tabasco sauce (notice the clever way I have categorized this post, below).  According to the lead,Tabasco

AVERY ISLAND, La. - In April, board members and shareholders of the Mcllhenny Company plan to gather here for their annual meeting.  Unlike well-publicized events at big public companies this year, where activist shareholders often hope to create a stir, a private gathering is planned, and the agenda will probably not be debated.

So I was ready for a story of family corporate autocracy, hateful siblings, warring cousins, and Jarndyce-like litigation in the parish courts.  Was I disappointed or what?  They don't do anything wrong.

- All 145 shareholders are related, but they cede management control to two to four family members because they don't want the company to become "insular and resistant to change."

- The managers make sure decisions are transparent and issue financial statements every quarter to their shareholders.

- The factory on Avery Island was saved by inches during Hurricane Rita, and the company is now building a 17 foot levee.  [Editor's caution:  I am writing this early Saturday morning and Professor Houck is not here, so I cannot confirm whether the levee is actually a good thing or not.]

- The company maintains its core brand, but has diversified into mining rock salt, pumping oil, and operating a botanical garden.

- The company is a ferocious recycler and reuses "everything, from selling their used oak barrels [in the pepper mash is aged like whisky] to selling the seed mash to a company for use in candies."

Note to P. Caron:  This has very little to do with the legal profession, but I wanted to add some local flavor.

Additional Louisiana note:  It is now "crawfish season" in Louisiana.  That means that everywhere you goCrawfish_boil there are crawfish boils.  Last evening, the Tulane Law School Student Bar Association had its annual "Spring Fling" crawfish boil, and I admit, I came face to face with the crawfish and flinched.  It's not the crawfish meat itself, which I have eaten in etouffee and jambalaya.  Nor is it an objection to Cajun and Creole cuisine.  I am now a red beans and rice addict.  It's that the little creatures, which look like miniature lobsters, are boiled and literally shoveled onto your plate en masse, and you pull them apart.  Somehow it all didn't sit right.  But I'm willing to let Professor Childress step in with a responsible opposing view.

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Are you insane? Crawfish are great. The natives even suck the heads. I am not there yet but how different is this from peeling boiled shrimp? Is it the eyes?

The best part is the little 'new potatoes' and corn on cob boiled with.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Mar 31, 2007 8:00:53 AM

Professor Childress,

Would you be at all interested in my bibliography for 'animal ethics, rights, and law'? Not a few of the titles offer, directly or by implication, rational arguments for vegetarianism, presuming that's it better to be persuaded by the gentle voice of reason (well, as Pascal reminds us, the heart may also have its reasons...) than visceral squeamishness over the prospect of eating creatures killed to satisfy our seemingly insatiable desire for gustatory pleasure. If your're interested, I'll send it along as a Word doc. [Courtesy of someone who used to cook ribs while pouring beer over them at Busch Gardens in Van Nuys before they paved paradise and expanded the brewery: a reliable memory if only because it's there I got to shake hands with former Los Angeles Mayor, Thomas J. Bradley, one reason I used to proudly proclaim, 'I live in LA,'...or perhaps it was: 'I love LA'.]

All the best,

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 31, 2007 8:56:56 AM

I suspect you will have more success aiming that word weapon at Jeff. I for one can't stand the thought of torturing and dismembering plants and so, for obvious altruistic reasons, limit myself to animals and pets. I am just big that way. And no seeds, anymore, *sigh.*

But seriously thanks for reading us and we really do appreciate your heady commentary here and on many blogs.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Mar 31, 2007 9:47:17 AM

As something of a Kantian, I of course view the justification of vegetarianism as a duty accessible by practical reason to be superior to a justification by mere physical disgust. But in the same vein (get it?) I think my obligation is not to be cruel, as opposed to having an ends-means relationship with a crustacean. (Unless it's Sebastian the Crab singing "Under the Sea.") How else can I deal with the fact that I like sushi (but not eel or squid)? It's clear that Alan goes to the other end of the spectrum and sees avocados as rational agents in the kingdom of ends. That's a pit-y.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Mar 31, 2007 11:16:45 AM


You may know of his work already but Tom Regan made the Kantian-like case for treating many non-human animals as possessing inherent value on par with those humans that don't meet Kant's rather clear critieria for moral agency (e.g., children, those mentally enfeebled for one reason or another, etc.), in other words, as 'moral patients' rather than 'moral agents.' It's not how I've come to vegetarianism, but it should appeal to those fond of German philosophical prose. Please see: The Case for Animal Rights (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983). And although it represents a distinctly minority perspective within Judaism, there's this:
Finally, a pro and con argument about vegetarianism from within Judaism is found in Martin D. Yaffe, ed., Judaism and Environmental Ethics: A Reader (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001) [The latter book I review in the next issue of Philosophy East and West]

Apologia: I don't take part in PETA actions, so I suppose this is the next best thing.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 31, 2007 12:56:11 PM

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