Saturday, April 01, 2006

Catch up -- why veg?

Ok – time to catch up on various of the topics that I flagged during training, but didn’t have time or energy enough to tackle at the time.

Today’s topic, a propos of my father’s questions earlier today: why veg?

As I told Aminda several weeks ago over the disembodied digestive track of a cadaver, I’m not at all persuaded about the continuation of individual existence following mortality. Nor am I persuaded of the distinctions between plants and animals. So I’m not a “don’t eat the little birdies” kind of person.

A birdie, as far as I can tell, is an evolved carrot.

So, not veg because I think it immoral to eat another being, carrot or birdie.

And I’m not overly persuaded by veg-for-health, either. I’m not overweight. My cholesterol, even pre-veg, was where it is supposed to be. I attribute some of both of those factors to yoga, but also to lots of other various things, none of which bear significantly on veg.

So what’s gotten under my skin?

A couple of things – maybe one more than a couple.

First, I come from a tradition that involves a blessing before a meal. We typically thank God for providing for us and ask that we be blessed to be aware of the needs of others. It’s a small formality. But I’ve never fully forgotten its similarity to the sacrificial practice of offering up a portion of our food to God. We don’t burn it on an altar, but the prayer that precedes the meal reminds me of the sacrifice involved in feeding myself. For me to live, other life must come to an end. Again, as I noted above, that doesn’t really point me in any particularly veg direction. But it does sacralize eating – the life-from-death thing. What it has done most relevant to this question is this: it reminds me of the death-that-I-might-live that happens each day over the kitchen table. Nothing wrong with that, but when I find us discarding too-many-days-left-over meats, I cannot do so without realizing that I’ve wasted another’s life. It is, literally for me, de-secration. To have slain another for my own food, when I don’t even trouble myself to eat the other, strikes pretty deeply in me. And I do feel that wastage more with an animal than I do with veg, but not exclusively so.

The second reason I referred to in my prior post – yoga training brought me to ask myself: “What do I not want to know?” And part of the answer was “How much suffering my lifestyle imposes on others, particularly “how much suffering results from factory farming practices that produce most of the animal food I consume.” A friend, Beth, loaned me a book that described in some detail the lives that animals lead in feedlot/breeder agribusiness. Whether one thinks of an animal as the equivalent of one’s next-door-neighbors or as something significantly different and lower on a scale of worth, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t suppose that an animal is capable of suffering. It’s the basic reason we have animal cruelty laws. Those laws don’t apply to agribusiness, but if what I’ve learned is accurate, and it certainly seems to be, if they did, agribusiness would be violating them daily. If you’re up to learning along the same path I did, try The Food Revolution, a book by John Robbins. If you’re up to a greater challenge, try I Saw Earthlings, a documentary film by Shaun Monson. They were enough to persuade me that my food choices can cause suffering that I would never perform myself, nor countenance another to perform at my direction. This takes me away from factory-farmed meats. It probably should take me away from dairy and eggs, too, but I need more information on that score. That leaves me with fish. I’m probably ok with that.

The third reason is one that intellectually I’m persuaded about, but I’m not sure I feel strongly enough to allow it to drive my conduct – but maybe I am. That is the impact that consuming animal-based foods has on the environment of Mother Earth. We clear forests to grow cows for a few years until the soil is depleted. Then we clear more forests. Ratio of pounds of grain per pound of cow produced: 7:1. That doesn’t constitute sustainable conduct on a planet populated by 6 or 7 billion more folk like me.

I should emphasize that these are my thoughts today. I don’t intend to foist them off on others. I don’t plan to refuse foods of any kind prepared by others for me. I think I see some weaknesses in my part-in, mostly-out posture. The details will work themselves out over time, I’m sure.

But that’s why I’m trending veg.