I decided that I can no longer eat meat when I go out. I just oppose the way that meat is produced commercially so much that I can’t make any more exceptions. This is not to say that I oppose the consumption of animals for food. I find it to be a natural, nourishing, and sustainable (it really is if you do it right) practice. I get all of my meat from a local group which provides me with raw milk, beef, etc. from animals who get to live their lives, eat grass, have babies, and generally just be what they are.
I don’t feel particularly gushy about the fact that animals die for my food. I see the way that nature works, and I don’t see any other meat-eating animals crying over it. I see death as a necessary part of the cycle of life. No matter how hard we may try, my guess is that we won’t achieve photosynthesis any time soon… sadly. I have, however, made food and my relationship with it a principle moral issue in my life. Once I started doing research I couldn’t stop. It’s as if the veil was lifted from my eyes and I could no longer deny my own responsibility. I am constantly trying to learn how to live more sustainably, more in harmony with the earth and all creatures, and to do my best not to unknowingly support inhumane and immoral practices.
That being said, I have seen the chasm that has grown between people and their food- hell, even the ground they walk on. It’s amazing the ability that we as humans have to transform the world we live in and create our own convenient reality. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly open and wistful, I will look around and think “this is all made up for us… we just created it all.” It will suddenly, and only for a moment, seem incredibly bizarre to me that our lives are made up of appointments, bank accounts, a sweater, the hardware store, bubble gum, gasoline, Heroes… We have become so far removed from the actual world around us- yet we rely so heavily on it to fulfill our new needs.
In this new world, we have learned that food comes from the shelves of the grocery store, and that stuff that grows in the ground is merely a fairy tale- or maybe an educational special on TV. We know the reality of what our food is, but do we really know it? I know a few people that are avid meat eaters, yet have a hard time cutting up a chicken or handling raw meat. I know vegetarians who eat bean burritos from Taco Bell- all the while supporting a business (fast food in general) that, to my knowledge, is one of the chief offenders in the meat industry. I do not mean to sound preachy- we all are in some ways victim to the system and cannot control the world around us. I do however pose the argument that we are more in control than we think. I pose the argument that we have more responsibility.
When I started growing my own food I felt invigorated. I knew that I was doing better things for the earth, my body, and my community. What I didn’t know was the profound impact that it would have on my spiritual life. The appreciation I have for the work that goes into the food we eat, the science of it all, the miracle of soil and sun and water- this was all stuff that snuck up on me. I had no idea that the smell that tomato vines leave on my skin would make me feel the way it does… gardening can be incredibly sexy. I had no idea that seeing my seeds sprout would fill me with energy and pride. I had no idea how thankful I could be for a plate of food that I had a real and tangible relationship with from start to finish. The gratitude that one develops when one is truly involved in their own life’s direction is remarkable.
I used to suffer from an eating disorder, but ever since I started deepening my relationship with the world around me I have ceased to have any issues with it whatsoever. It’s been a few years since I really had any trouble with it. Is that a miracle or what? I no longer saw food as an obstacle, but as a friend. I started to see my body as a gift, something that grew from a seed just like the plants all around me (well, I continue to work on this). I remember recently I had a brief thought about calories or fat or something, but I was able to purposefully redirect that thought and say “Who are you to tell me that I can’t enjoy the gifts of the earth?” I feel like this process has healed me, and continues to heal me in unexpected ways.
It’s hard for me to really put everything I want to say down- it’s such a complicated issue. I will say that I think this is an important issue for everyone, and that if you don’t know how you feel about it then it’d be worth the time to figure it out. I have a few recommendations:
The books Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Omnivore’s Dilemma (I have yet to read this, but I’ve heard the author speak and it’s on my short list), and Fast Food Nation. Or you can just search and read about it on the web! There is so much out there.
Wanna know what prompted me? Well… by twenty minutes in I was bawling. I plan to finish it this week, but it’s tough to watch. Regardless, I think it’s important.