Hot-Button Topic: Ethical EatingPosted: May 9, 2010
As I was driving home this weekend, I saw a large truck getting ready to pull out into my lane. Thrilled, of course, at the prospect of being stuck behind a 40-mile-an-hour tanker for the next hour and a half, I sped up to try to get in front of it. Even with my bat-outta-heck attempt, it pulled in front of me, and as a flurry of feathers began to cloud up my windshield, I realized what it was:
A chicken truck. Transporting easily 200 wire cages, each containing easily eight to ten live chickens.
That is not food. Animal carcasses shoved into a wire box, carted around for God-knows-how-long to God-knows-where, is not my idea of dinner, thankyouverymuch. Seeing this, my recent decision to become a vegetarian was solidified eight thousand percent. Granted, many meat-eaters are able to do so without compromising ethical standards, but my stomach turned over as I realized that that was what I had been eating on a near-daily basis for the last several years.
I’d been exposed to my share of anti-meat movement arguments, I generally assumed them to be extreme examples from the worst sectors of the industry – in essence, “shock-value” media. Stubborn to my core, I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me what not to eat.
As this Weston Price Foundation article points out, most anti-meat arguments are “compelling argument[s] against the meat industry, not meat-eating”. I’ll be the first to admit that there are plenty of options for cage-free/free-range meat and animal products. No singular dietary commitment is synonymous with ethical eating, yet there is always room to “clean up” our consumption. On a personal level, I’m not sure that veganism is a commitment I can adhere to in the long run, I do know that I can easily and wholeheartedly commit to making sure any dairy I choose to purchase is ethically derived.
What, then, are some of the steps towards maintaining a more ethical kitchen?
- Be realistic. Unless you are working with unlimited finances, you will have to prioritize. Free-range chickens can ring in at $9 and cage-free eggs can easily fall in the $5-a-dozen range. I don’t know about your budget, but mine wouldn’t go very far at that rate. Ethical eating should not be an all-or-nothing decision – working within your means will likely require prioritization. Understand that complete ethical perfection is impossible, but carefully informed choices can certainly make a difference.
- Do your research. Relying entirely on store labels can only do so much. Company websites are often a wealth of information about products and food philosophies beyond what is available in-store. While no company is going to advertise shameful procedures, many take pride in their steps towards ethical production and will promote their corporation as such. There is NO SUCH THING as being too informed.
- When possible, visit the farm/factory where your source your food from. Granted, this may be a highly impractical idea, but seeing the source of your food can be a massive eye-opener; in my case, seeing the chickens crammed in the back of the truck brought so much relevance to the ethical eating issues I’d previously glossed over. Checking out your food’s origins can be made so much easier if you…
- …Buy local products. Locally sourced food is not only maximally fresh and a major step in sustainability, but independent farms also tend to have more attentive procedures.
- Take a stab at DIY. Growing your produce allows 100% confidence in its origins. For those who have the time and the space, this may be the easiest and most economical approach.
If you are a vegetarian/vegan, are your reasons ethical, nutritional, religious….otherwise? If you consider yourself a conscientious consumer, was there one moment/incident that sparked your commitment? What other steps do you take in eating ethically?