Midterm Essay Prompt
Review the essay (you should have already read it, it will be one of the example essays we’ve already
discussed). Make sure you understand it before you write your response.
Remember the guidelines you’ve studied on how to write a rhetorical analysis, including the rhetorical
analysis prompt, the example essays, our text, and the logic handout—all of which you can use. Use
them in writing your response. Feel free to review them now, but remember the clock is ticking.
I would make yourself a scratch outline before you write. Your response should be an essay which is at
least 3 paragraphs long. Your evidence should consist mainly of quotations from the essay, and your
analysis and evaluation of those quotations.
Your thesis should probably be that the essay is 1) effective, 2) ineffective, or 3) partially effective in
convincing the reader that the author’s world view is correct. You should follow this with a plan of
development, laying out your arguments.
I wouldn’t worry about a hook, or a long summary at the end of the essay. While I often encourage
synthesis, please DO NOT relate any long stories about your life in your response. That would miss the
point of the question and get you a poor grade.
You should take no longer than two hours to write your response.
Proofreading is always a good idea.
If you fail this test, you will have an opportunity to revise.
Please write on the essay “No Need To Call”
Some questions to consider when writing your response (you do not have to answer these, they are
suggestions for ways to approach the issue, the rhetorical analysis prompt suggests many other):
What is her argument?
What is her primary mode of argument (emotional, rational, ethical)?
What evidence does she use to support her arguments?
Does she use the other modes at all? Where, and how effectively?
What is her tone? How do you know? Does it help her argument?
What assumptions does she make? Do you share them?
You might want to take some notes on what you want to write about:
You might want to make a “scratch” (quick) outline of what you want to write about:
17 April 2017
To Meat or Not to Meat, That is NOT the Question!
Go to the refrigerator, open it, and take out every item that contains beef. Ground beef,
steaks, roasts and all the dishes prepared with beef go in the trash. Now see what remains and
consider how many of our favorite American meals are centered on beef. Bill McKibben, author
and environmentalist, writes of how consuming such large amounts of factory farmed beef has
contributed to pollution and climate change in his article “The Only Way to Have a Cow.” While
he effectively describes the environmental impacts of eating feed lot beef, he confuses the reader
with an unclear thesis and fails to support his claim that it is unethical.
McKibben gives a thorough explanation of how modern beef production is a major
source of methane gas and other pollutants, which many link to climate change and other
environmental problems. He even lists some possibly unforeseen contributors, such as
deforestation, manure filled cesspools, and the use of diesel fuel and its fumes during the
transportation of corn and cattle. This works well at revealing the scope and depth of the
pollution problem and engages readers who may be unaware. He adds to his point by including a
UN Food and Agriculture Organization study which concluded “that a half pound of ground beef
has the same effect on climate change as driving an SUV ten miles.” McKibben humorously
mentions that methane belched or “eructate[d]” from cattle accounts for 18 to 51 percent of
worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. In a related article using similar tactics, Mark Bittman
cites the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s findings that “an estimated 30
percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production.” He
strategically inserts statistics to help readers visualize the size of the problem, as McKibben does
to the same end. Bittman’s article also concurs that “livestock production generates nearly a fifth
of the world’s greenhouse gases.” These statistics demonstrate the sheer size and influence of
meat production in the world, and clearly benefit McKibben’s argument. What McKibben’s
article lacks is a clear purpose for presenting this information.
Throughout his article, McKibben is unclear to his audience with identifying his overall
message and goal. At first it appears he will advocate for vegetarianism, but McKibben veers in a
different direction and instead promotes rotational grazing as a solution (McKibben). In his
introduction he identifies himself as a vegetarian but insists that he is not a moral abstainer of
meat. He claims that he does “not have a cow in this fight” (McKibben). This initially feels false
as the article gives the impression that he is going to champion vegetarianism. He even cites
studies which measure the environmental benefits of veganism, but does not ultimately push for
this in the end. He identifies the main issue as the decision “to meat or not to meat,” but then
abandons this question and discusses alternative sources of beef. Although he is now supporting
beef consumption, sporadic attacks on meat eaters throughout the article make his intentions
unclear and muddle his point. McKibben states that eating meat purely because it “tastes good”
is a “pretty lame…excuse,” and is “indefensible- ethically, ecologically, and otherwise.” If he
wants to focus his message on the people with the most power to affect change, he should resist
these attacks and avoid alienating his audience. He should support the carnivores in his audience
and encourage them to buy meat from farms with different practices. Instead, he even goes as far
as implying all Americans are overweight by describing how we “lodge [meat] in our ever-
enlarging abdomens.” Mark Bittman avoids any such confusion in his article with his
consistency and flow of ideas. He mainly focuses on the exorbitant price of producing beef and
its ecological inefficiencies (Bittman). Even Bittman’s title, “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler,” is
clearer at defining the article’s purpose. Bittman lists the problems associated with our meat
heavy diets, and then offers multiple solutions. He does not take a judgmental posture like
McKibben, and stays focused on educating his audience. In the end however, both McKibben
and Bittman miss the opportunity to appeal to their reader’s emotions by discussing the ethics of
Modern factory farms, especially feed lots packed full of cows, do not even closely
resemble the natural habitats of the animals they hold or allow their occupants to behave or eat as
they naturally would. Thousands of animals confined to a small area concentrates their waste,
leaving them to live in filth and disease. McKibben claims that “industrial livestock production
[and slaughter] is [ethically] indefensible” but fails to discuss how. Ethicist Leslie Cannold,
however, works to justify our killing of animals for food, “so long as we ensure the animals we
consume have lived and died without unnecessary suffering.” In her article, Cannold questions
vegan’s intentions, wondering if their decisions are based on “animal welfare or moral
superiority.” McKibben decides to focus on our responsibility to the ecosystem rather than
providing backing for his ethical concerns with feed lots. He leaves out any mention of the
documented animal abuse at factory farms, which could have greatly strengthened his argument
against them. Giving a picturesque description of the bleak living conditions at a feed lot might
have conjured questions of morality with his readers. Cannold directly asks if “being vegan [is]
the most ethical way to live.” She at least acknowledges that raising cattle in a different manor
could solve the ethical dilemma of eating meat. McKibben, however, does not mention how
rotational grazing solves more than just the environmental problem; giving cattle freedom to
move and a more natural, healthy life. Cannold uses the ideas of Peter Singer, an animal rights
leader, to explain that although animals may not possess the “right to life”, we must do what we
can to “stop…the unnecessary suffering of animals.” This differentiates humans from the
animals we eat and morally defends carnivores, as long as certain ethical conditions are met.
Cannold believes that “we have a duty to...[boycott] businesses that treat animals cruelly,” and
more effectively discusses the morality and ethics of eating feed lot beef. By inadequately
supporting one of his main statements, McKibben missed a chance to convince a portion of his
readers that eating feed lot beef is unethical.
Supposing that McKibben’s main purpose is to educate others about the environmental
detriments of feed lots, his paper is a success. He presents a layered analysis of how each
element of factory farming causes pollution and identifies new problems we have caused by
altering cows’ natural behaviors. He leaves no doubt that feed lots create massive amounts of
pollution and greenhouse gases that may change our world drastically. His article’s main fault is
that his readers might be unclear with his desires until very late in his paper. Does McKibben
want us to become vegan or vegetarian, or simply avoid feed lot beef? Why does he insult
carnivores and question their reasons for eating meat in general? Is his goal to convince others to
support a better beef industry which allows cattle to move and graze, or does he covertly want
society to be vegetarian? McKibben wants us to switch to a different method of meat production
which could drastically reverse environmental damage, but does not utilize all of the tools on
hand. Although McKibben is more notably a proponent for the environment, he may have
strengthened his argument by appealing to his readers’ emotions. He states that feed lots are
unethical, but does not elaborate further. The treatment and living conditions of the animals we
eat should have been illustrated as an emotional appeal for change. Though he surely has
presented enough information to convince many people to change, others may need an extra
emotional push to do so.
Bittman, Mark. "Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler." New York Times. New York Times, 27 Jan.
2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
Cannold, Leslie. "Are Vegetarianism about Not Harming Animals, or Feeling Morally Superior?
| Leslie Cannold for the Ethics Centre." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 01
May 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
McKibben, Bill. "The Only Way to Have a Cow." Editorial. Orion Magazine Mar.-Apr. 2010: n.
pag. Orion Magazine. Orion Magazine. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.
Rhetorical Analysis Prompt
BRING THIS PROMPT TO THE WRITING LAB WITH YOU.
You are required to write two out-of-class rhetorical analysis papers this semester. They should be in MLA format.
These papers will be due the Monday of the week the essay you are analyzing is due in class.
1. Carefully read the essay you are supposed to respond to. Read actively—take notes, highlight, argue with the
text, note what it reminds you of, or other essays that might support or refute it.
2. Your job is NOT to agree or disagree with the essay per see. Your job is to determine if the essay is “well
argued.” There are a number of things to look at that we will be covering in class. Use what you know now (& if
you’re ambitious, look in to some of these ideas before we get to them) to analyze the essay.
3. You should be applying at least 3 kinds of knowledge to the writing of each and every paper for my class: 1)
understanding of what constitutes rhetorical analysis (which points 6 & 7 below cover in some depth, and we
will try to do every day in class), 2) effective rhetorical practices, as covered in They Say, I Say, and 3)
understanding of logic, critical reading & critical writing, as covered in the handouts under Files.
4. Use outside sources to support your arguments about the essay. Each four page paper should have at least 2
outside sources. An acceptable paper will use all its outside sources in the text (not just list them in the Works
Cited page). A very good paper will use each several times. You must have at least three sources (including the
original essay) listed in your Works Cited page. Use sources as outlined in points 6 & 7.
5. Paper page counts are meaningful, and do not include Works Cited, covers, or anything else which isn’t writing.
6. Use your sources to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the argument you are analyzing, not the
arguments themselves. So…not “The original essay says X is wrong, but this essay says it’s right,” but “The
original essay had few facts supporting its case, but this essay, by so-and-so, uses dozens of facts in the first two
pages to build a rational argument that is very difficult to dispute.”
7. You may analyze the essays a number of ways. Here are a few of the most effective:
Compare to other essays on the same topic by others. Sometimes you can find articles that
respond directly to yours, other times you will have to find pieces which are simply on the same
topic. Who is more logical? Who uses more or better evidence? Who is fairer? Who is more
Look, in depth, at the appeals (rational/emotional/ethical) that the author uses to make their
arguments. Rational appeals are about logic & objective (science/observation based) evidence.
Emotional appeals are about appeal to others’ feelings or shared humanity. Ethical appeals are
about how a writer argues: Do they use & identify reputable sources? Does the evidence say
what they say it does? Do they deliberate lie/distort or confuse the audience? Are they fair,
Look at the logic used in the essay. Does the author use any logical fallacies? How do you know
it’s a fallacy?
Look at the evidence the author uses. Does it come from reputable sources? Is it current? Does
it say what he/she says it says? Is it plentiful enough?
Does the author anticipate opposition? When they bring up objections that they will argue
against, are they “real” objections (that an actual human would make?) or are they “straw
men”—designed to make their opponents look foolish, and not meaningfully critical or realistic?
Does the author make any unfair arguments: attacks on his opponents’ personal lives, name
calling, slander, etc.?
You should ask them.
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