Quote of the Day

Monday, July 6, 2009

they say you are what you eat...

So recently I've decided that I need to make a few changes in my consumption habits. For a start I've decided I should really buy only cage free eggs and organic, hormone-free dairy products. I’ve kind of already implemented this into my grocery shopping routine, but I really want to be more diligent about it. Yes, it can be a little unfriendly on the wallet, but I’ve started to feel kind of hypocritical saying that I don’t eat meat and then turning around and using eggs from chickens kept immobile in cages and cruelly clipped of their beaks, or milk from cows pumped full of hormones and strapped to devices that milk until their udders bleed.

To be honest, the poor treatment of animals is only one of the reasons I stopped eating meat, but it is something I loathe. I’
ve always striven to be nonjudgmental as far as eating practices go, and frankly any intolerance on either side annoys me. I find it amusing that I’ve been out at a restaurant and actually had people apologize to me for eating meat once they find out that I don’t, and then had to explain that no, I am not offended by their carnivorous ways. I have even on occasion voluntarily stared morbidly fascinated at my television screen as Bear Gryllis tears into a fresh gazelle carcass (or some other unfortunate beast of the wilderness) with unnatural zeal.

My point is that everyone has their own reasons for eating what they will, and I'm a great believer in to each their own, live and let live.
But I do think it’s important to know what you’re eating and to think about where your food comes from. Personally, when I think about the horrible conditions many farm animals are subjected to for their edible goods, I can’t in good conscience bring myself to contribute money to those practices, and I can't help but think that if more people were really aware of the ugly history of their hamburgers or scrambled eggs, they wouldn't want to either.

I have to wonder: how did we come to this? How did we get so removed from our food source that we so often don't know or don't care how our meals get to our plates?

When Native Americans presided over the plains of the US, they depended on the buffalo for their nutrition and overall survival. They recognized the fact that they were reliant on these animals, and as such they respected and paid tribute to them. They
acknowledged the noble and spiritual nature of the beast, neither wasting nor killing unnecessarily.

Even today in certain parts of the world a family with barely anything to their name will butcher an animal that was like a pet in order to feed a guest and fulfill their culture's code of hospitality. To most of us in the US this is unthinkable. We would probably consider it shocking, backwards or even cruel behavior. And yet when you think about it, it's actually far more enlightened than our western way of thinking, because they know where the food on their table came from, they mourn the animal and recognize its sacrifice. Unlike most of us who pick up a sandwich at the market having little to no knowledge of where exactly what went into making it, they can fully appreciate where their meal came from and the meaning behind it.

By contrast, our western culture, as it seems to usually do, has followed its own path and continued a downward spiral of
bastardizing the treatment of the creatures we use for food. I'm not sure exactly how this attitude evolved. Maybe it has to do with the Western tradition of needing to "conquer" and dominate anything and everything in sight instead of finding a way to peacefully coexist and develop mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships. Maybe it's because of the rampant consumer culture that dominates our society. Or perhaps it developed gradually as we became more and more removed from our food sources. After all, it's a lot easier to remain ignorant of and lose appreciation for what you eat when you're not the one farming the vegetables or hunting, skinning and carving up the meat.

Most likely it's a combination of these and other factors that led to the often callous attitude we hold towards the creatures we consume. Of course, some of these same things probably helped create the
privileged society we know today, where it is no longer even necessary to eat meat in order to survive and indeed one can thrive on a vegetarian diet, which I for one am grateful for. But regardless of our diet and what we call ourselves, when we eat something, we should have at least some knowledge of where it came from and what it took to get on our plate, because only then can we really appreciate what goes into keeping our life force going. If instead we willingly choose to remain ignorant, we are only helping to continue and worsen a dangerous attitude of apathy and disconnectedness from the earth that provides us all a home.

To make what's become a very long and rambling story short (too late, I know), I guess the bottom line for me is this: animals are not machines, and should not be treated as such. The passing of Prop 2 in last November's election was a positive sign and a step in the right direction. But there is a long way to go in mending the
dichotomy of societal standards in which we buy our pets clothing and Christmas presents and yet don't care about cruel slaughtering practices or substandard conditions for housing farm animals. I can't help thinking that if things like reincarnation and karma do indeed exist in the universe, the people who perpetuate inhumane treatment for profit with little or no thought to the ethical implications should probably be a little frightened for the future.

1 comment:

  1. ohhh how i wish we could have a neighborhood organic garden! or a "cooking locally, cooking ethically" club.