About three weeks ago I kind of made a decision. I say kind of because it wasn’t a very conscious decision but more of a logical step that just seemed to happen.
I became something of a vegetarian.
Wait. Stop. Don’t throw your hands up in anger just yet! I know that for many this is a cardinal sin and until only a couple of months ago I too would take great pleasure in mocking vegetarians about the absurdity of their dietary requirements. Just hear me out a little.
The truth is I’m not entirely a vegetarian. What I’m aiming for is more localtarian but this is my first step. I don’t have any ethical issues with the actual consumption of meat, nor do I get very sentimental about the treatment of the poor wee animals in its production. My concerns are primarily social and ecological.
This year I’ve taken two ethics classes, one on economics and one on technology, which have taught me a huge amount and challenged me on many things. One of those is how the production of our food impacts our environment and our human relationships and, more so, the potential that our food has to positively impact these things!
Food that is produced on mass, under the auspices of a few multi-national corporations, in highly controlled environments that rely primarily on technology, I believe, is incredibly destructive. In order to grow more cheaper and sell more bigger we have compromised the integrity of our food production. We’ve lost crop variety, become reliant on pesticides, farmed so intensively that the land cannot cope, manipulated the biology of our livestock, increased the amount of waste and pollution from the industry and robbed farmers of their craft. It’s not right that a supermarket chain can dictate the length, diameter, colour and straightness of the carrots I eat. Nor is it right that they can tie a farmer into a contract which allows them to give him three days notice for a full harvest. We have become so detached from the reality of nature and the reality of our food. We don’t know what’s in it or how it is produced. I no longer want to be a part of that system.
I want to know where my food comes from. And I mean know as in more than a country of origin on a label. I want to be able to visit that farm and see the crops that could one day end up on my table. I want a farmer who understands how the land works, how to care for and conserve it as much as, if not more than, his profit margins. I want a farmer who respects her livestock and sees it as a part of the bigger cycle of nature, rather than just meat to be fattened up and consumed. I want my food to have used as little oil as possible – in feed, in fertiliser, in packaging and in shipping.
Maybe I’m being idealistic. Perhaps this is completely utopian, fine for me as an individual but unrealistic if we’re to feed the world. Fine. I’m okay with that. I’m going to work on the log in my own eye first and maybe someday I’ll get to the speck in my brother’s. So I’m not going to buy or cook meat for the foreseeable future (my one exception will be an In’n’Out burger when I get to California – if you’ve had one, you’ll understand) and I’ll be looking in to more local fruit and veg very soon. I should point out that if other people buy and prepare the meat, I’m going to be okay with eating it because I won’t have directly contributed to the industry, so friends and flatmates can rest easy. It’s a Romans 1:20 kind of thing.
Localtarianism. I like it.