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.

 

 

Is Love Enough?

A few years ago I was taking a counseling Ethics class and had to do a paper and presentation on an ethical dilemma. I chose International Adoption, posing some questions like:

  • Adoption…or baby buying?
  • Is it ethical to adopt a child from a different culture than your own?
  • Is Love Enough?

These provocative questions got the class thinking, and discussing, adoption from a different point of view than is traditionally upheld. Each point could be its own entry, but I want to focus on this question about love being enough.

In my time as a crisis counselor, I worked with MANY families who had adopted: domestic infant, international, or from foster-care. And all of the families I met were dealing with some major issue (duh, it was a crisis counseling service), that stemmed back to adoption and adoption trauma…yes…even the families with the children who were healthy white children adopted as infants. While certainly other families had issues, there was something unique about these adoptive families, where they would mention things like, “but I love her, I didn’t realize that this could happen, I took her in, I showed her love.”

I keep thinking about the stories we hear, about Russian adoptees being sent back by their parents after being a handful, or even here, in Washington, so many stories of Ethiopian adoptees being starved and whipped for “bad behavior,” and ending up dead or in foster-care because of the abuse/neglect from their adoptive parents. Certainly those are extreme cases, but even the loving families that I saw, were struggling to make sense of why their child was so fucked up (to use a very non-clinical way of describing it). There was this overwhelming sense of naivete, that because these children were loved, and saved from a life of living with a crack-whore birthmom or in a foreign country (a dominate narrative told in adoption-land), that they would grow up to be okay.

But IS love enough?

For children who were raised in orphanages, who might be struggling with Post-Institutionalization Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, or any type of physical/cognitive delays, is simply loving them going to fix it? Standing from this perspective, the answer is clearly NO! But for some reason, families who desperately want children, who go to such great lengths to obtain these children, still operate under the belief that love is enough. Their love is going to fix everything.

But, who would tell a soldier’s wife that her love is enough to fix her husband’s PTSD from serving 5 tours in Iraq? Nobody I know would. And even, on a less-extreme case, when Potamus is sick, or if he broke a bone, or seemed to be suffering from depression, I cannot imagine simply trying to ‘love’ the pain away…ya know?

These questions were meant to get my fellow counselors thinking about working with families from a new perspective. Because, for so many, the myth of adoption being a miracle, has clouded over the fact that an adopted child is wired differently because of their experience, and simply loving them is not going to fix things…it will help, but there are many other things that need to happen to help the child be successful.

In my crisis work, I was fortunate to be paired with a 67 year old adoptive mother, who “got it” and had lived it, and was able to connect to many of these adoptive parents in a way that I was not. And I was able to connect to these children/teens in a way that other therapists were not. And adoption was discussed (because most often others hadn’t even recognized where the pain/dysfunction was stemming from).