Eat meat? For your consideration…

Let me begin by saying that I’m not anti-meat.  And by meat, I mean food from any animal flesh:  poultry, pork, beef, fish, etc.  I became vegan for health reasons.

So, as a vegan, I don’t mind that people eat meat.

As a citizen, I mind that people eat meat that comes from factory farms or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).  I understand that many don’t know what these CAFOs do and how their practices hurt the environment and the health of the people who live near them.  With the exception of a few brilliant, brave voices, we have been kept from the fact that these operations are the reasons that the larger society must confront threats like e coli, Mad Cow, and MRSA, as well as complex environmental challenges.

I also understand that that to purchase organic, grass fed, free-range can be crazy expensive.  I know that some people don’t have easy access to these foods.

That said, our general ignorance needs to be addressed.  Our priorities need to be changed.  Our idea of what our food should be has been skewed by standardization induced by hormones, antibiotics, and unnatural feeding practices of the animals; we must find ways to reject the practices that are so detrimental to us in so many ways.

Making a life change because it’s healthy for us and our families and because it’s the socially responsible (it makes a statement about what we accept for our fellow citizens) thing to do might be difficult.  But the right decision should be the decision.

I don’t eat meat, but I’d like to share a comparison that I think is apt.  I love coffee.  I’m addicted to it.  In our house, as soon as we were made aware of the difference between regular Folger’s or Maxwell House type brands and Fair Trade brands like Green Mountain, we switched to the more expensive Fair Trade coffee.  Fair Trade means that growers are paid a fair wage and cannot be exploited by large corporations who can set low prices because they’re the only game in town.  Further, these growers produce organic coffee that does not negatively affect the environment.  Once the recession unfolded, however, and our family took a serious financial hit, I made excuses and went back to cheaper coffee.  I was almost embarrassed to be seen taking it off the shelf and putting it into my cart.  The dissonance was so strong that I couldn’t take it anymore.  The result was that we cut back on coffee consumption so that we could afford to purchase the right coffee.

If we all consider our purchasing decisions more carefully, recognizing that an ethical purchase might mean that we eat more expensive foods less frequently, won’t we all be better off in the long run?  So maybe instead of accepting factory farmed meat, loaded with chemicals and antibiotics, with byproducts that include contaminated drinking water and polluted communities and watersheds, we should cut meat consumption to several fewer times a week and pay more to support sustainable, responsible agriculture.

As you think about this, I urge you to read David Kirby’s Animal Factory, watch the Oscar nominated Food Inc., and look up news stories about how these CAFOs hurt the very communities that they make their home.

Change is hard.  But with information, it is the only choice.


3 responses to this post.

  1. I suggest a novel “Two Caravans” by Monica L (can’t spell and somebody has pinched my copy but she wrote the book about Tractors in the Ukraine). Anyway, it is an entertaining read but after you’ve read the chapter about chicken farming you won’t ever want cheap chicken again.
    Like you I try to buy organic/fair trade/ nicely farmed/local/ sustainable food. It costs more, but it makes me think about what I eat. Also, because it costs more I am very careful not to waste food.


    • Thanks for the book suggestion. I agree with the sentiment about being less likely to waste when things cost more. That’s an excellent point that I hadn’t considered!


      • Yes! Yes! Yes!

        To quote you: “The result was that we cut back on coffee consumption so that we could afford to purchase the right coffee”

        We did the same thing!!!!!!!!!!!

        Doing it with coffee and meat.

        It’s really not that hard. We cut out other things in the food budget in order to do so: endless snacks.

        It can be done, and I’m tired of hearing “we can’t afford it”. I want to scream, “Yeah, well put back all those soft-drinks and bottled water and then maybe you will free up your money for the good stuff!”


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