Ethical Eating: Omnivore? Vegetarian? Vegan?


What do you eat? Do you think about where you food comes from? What goes into making it, and setting the price and it getting into your body? Do you stand in the grocery store and read labels or research food companies?

Well, I don’t.

At least, not until yesterday.

I think my class material is beginning to have an effect on me, which is good, but puts me in a conundrum, because…when faced with information (be it racism, sexism, privilege, systems) that rings true, I must make a choice. Inaction is a choice in itself, and I think that I’ve been doing that for awhile, burying my head in the sand, but now I need to figure out some steps, because something deep inside of me is stirring and I can’t quite get it to be quiet.

I’m talking about ethical eating. Which seems daunting. But, I’ve been watching these shows like Food Inc and Vegucated on Netflix, in an attempt to spark a conversation with my class about nutrition and racism and poverty and economics, and I’m being effected by it. I’ve mostly tried to avoid any sort of PETA video or information, and always try to change the chanel when Sara Maclaughlin’s song plays on the TV because I’m sure to see sad little puppies being abused. But it hasn’t been until last quarter, after watching Food Inc (which is tame in comparison to some video footage) where I realized that I might need to take a closer look at where my food comes from.

What I don’t like about some of these “radical” groups of animal lovers, is that it feels sensationalized. So watching a show that matter-o-factly shows a dairy cow giving birth and being separated from the calf so that the milk can be used for humans (and getting re-knocked up again ASAP via artificial insemination) it gave me pause to think…hmm….that might not be…right.

Maybe it’s because I am a mother, now, but the thought of that calf being raised without its mother and a mother giving birth and being separated from its calf, bothered me. And seeing baby male chicks simply thrown (alive) into the garbage because they won’t grow to something “useful” or piglets being torn from their mothers…I dunno, it put a whole new spin on this whole eating thing.

In the past I’ve justified my habits as, just that: habits. A whole “well, this is the way it’s done” mentality, paired with my childhood indoctrination that ‘God gave us dominion over the animals,” line that my fundamentalist father used to preach when we’d ever talk about saving whales. Though, I’m not sure God wants a pig to be mutilated and tortured just because of cost-saving techniques or laziness.

So, what do I do?

I’ve known people who learn this information and jump straight to veganism. They adopt the “radical” animal-free lifestyle and hope that it makes a dent in the overall consumption and destruction of animals. But, I’m not sure I’m ready to make that leap, yet. There are all sorts of practical and financial and habitual things I feel that I would have to change in order to go that route. Vegetarianism is something I am more familiar with, having been raised in a mostly vegetarian environment. I didn’t have my first steak until I was 14, and we indulged in mostly chicken/fish and very little hamburger in childhood meals. It wasn’t because my parents were animal-lovers, but because my dad had high cholesterol.

But, I keep going back to that dairy cow separated from her baby and think, well, if I go vegetarian, then what about all the dairy I consume (helloooooo cheese!) and also, what about those eggs and other animal by-products that are keeping animals in cruel environments?

Right about now is when I usually numb-out and try to forget I’ve ever seen an image of a dying chicken from too-big-of-breasts, but I can’t. The overwhelm of trying to change EVERYTHING is daunting. Not to mention….I have a child…and a husband…and my choices have an impact on them. Also, I’m not the world’s best cook, and I can’t just march home asking Boof to be vegan for my meals, he’s already doing a shit-ton to make my belly full every night.

So I feel the answer is somewhere in the middle…which might seem as a poor compromise on either side, but at least I’m moving in a direction. So here are some things I’m already doing, and some things I’m going to try to do:

Already doing:
Don’t drink milk
Don’t really eat eggs (maybe when I’m out to eat), and if I do use them I buy cage-free eggs
Morningstar sausage patties

Things I want to do/try:
Vegetarian substitutes when out to eat
Eat more veggies/fruits/nuts to feel full longer in an attempt to avoid fast food
Soy milk in lattes
Check into certified humane eggs/dairy/meat options from local places (Trader Joe’s) and farmer’s markets
Check into buying a 1/2 cow from a local certified humane butcher for beef needs
Buy Wilcox Farms eggs/dairy, they’re Certified Humane AND local from south of Seattle!
get more information about practical and small things I can be doing
try and talk to Boof and family members about making some small changes, too.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. It is so hard ‘un-learn’ something once you know, isn’t it? That’s the hard part! I have been a vegetarian for 11 years and consider myself an ‘aspiring’ vegan, but it is very difficult for me to know what is in everything I eat here in Japan and hard to obtain some ingredients.

    I really applaud your efforts, the hardest of which is simply recognizing the reality of the meat/dairy industry and admitting that we all have to play our own part in the ethics of it all. As with everything, education is key and understanding the limits of labels is crucial (ie: organic milk still means a calf is ripped from it’s mother who has a strong emotional response to this, cage free eggs still mean male chicks being thrown into a wood chopper, free range beef are still terrified as they are hung by their ankles and slaughtered). There is, of course, a wide range of choices to be made even in light of this information, but unfortunately so many people would rather ‘avert their eyes’ and eat mindlessly. It is really wonderful that you are strong enough to ask yourself such tough questions! Good luck!

    • Yeah, living in India and being vegetarian was WAY easier…simply because the culture revolved around not butchering cows/pigs.

      I have started researching some local farms who raise cows with their babies and butcher humanely. I’m not yet ready to give up all meat. Right now I’m okay with humane slaughter…I’m more concerned about my dairy, and how that is really going to impact me on a daily basis (I freaking LIVE off cheese).

      Boof is on board with moving in this direction, but the whole prospect scares the bejeesus out of me. So many decisions to make on a daily meal basis…and I already have a hard time making decisions when I am hungry! But I can’t go back. I don’t know what that means yet, but I can’t go back. Ya know?

  2. I would so love to only buy ethically sourced foods too but agree that it is difficult and more expensive to do that. I could never give up dairy unfortunately as that is my favourite food but we eat a lot less meat these days. I try to avoid anything processed and read labels avidly but still have a long way to go. I just hope that as I learn, I can teach my children along the way so that they make informed decisions when they’re old enough. Good luck on your journey.

    • It IS a hard process, isn’t it? I keep having discussions with Boof about the cost/convenience of certain products and where we are financially and the ease factor (especially in places like Costco!), and dairy is my favorite food and I just keep wishing that I could change my heart about it. Ugh. For right now I’m going to be making the dairy free choice for breakfast/lunch and then see about dinner because he ususally makes dinner, or we eat out, or we’re over at my in-laws. For those meals I’ll probably try to do some other ethically right choice.

      It feels daunting and I just wonder if any of it makes a difference, you know? Ugh.

      thanks for commenting 🙂

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