The recent report from the World Health Organization’s Cancer research branch has prompted me to publish this article that I’ve been working on for a good two months now. I hadn’t posted it sooner for hopes of sending it to a larger aggregate site (like Huffington Post), but alas I know when to hedge my bets and make hay in shining sun.
I hate the word diet, it seems to imply an impermanent change. In this case, I mean the clunkier “conscientious lifestyle change.” I do not identify with the harcore vegan community, nor do I condemn anyone for participating in it. A culinary outsider, I see eating meat, specifically factory farmed meat, as morally inexcusable because of the environmental and ethical issues; however, I cannot accept that occasionally eating eggs from a local farm with happy chickens is equally so. I have therefore taken on a mostly-vegan, hard-to-explain diet. Eating organic, ethical dairy sometimes, avoiding meat always, and not being a dick about it are the tenants of my diet. Above all, I believe in choosing the least destructive choice at every turn and trying to reduce my personal involvement in the horrors of the world.
Factory farming is a horrible practice. Not only do the animals suffer, the animal products that come from them are compromised. From antibiotics-laden meat to eggs soaking in feces, the food is not high quality. In a recent point of inquiry podcast, Paul Shapiro discusses his tenure as a farm inspector and how ubiquitous abuse has become. Chickens have their beaks cauterized to keep them from pecking their eggs and are often kept in cramped cages leading sad, tragic lives. We know that these animals suffer. Because I find that practice morally reprehensible, I choose to avoid passively participate in the mistreatment. Factory farmed animals and animal by-products are straight out.
I am; however, unable to find a satisfactory argument against occasionally consuming dairy that complies with my environmental and ethical concerns. I see no ethical problem with taking eggs from happy chickens, considering that not every egg is fertilized and many would end up being eaten by the chickens or other wildlife. Similarly, I do not believe drinking milk from otherwise well-taken-care-of cows is not stealing as the lactation period of the cow lasts beyond the time in which calves need the milk. Whether one can properly digest the milk is another matter entirely.
I not only concern myself with the ethical treatment of animals, but seriously consider the environmental impact of my food, as well. In truth, I find the mere existence of cows damning thanks to the carbon dioxide they contribute to the atmosphere. There are far too many cows on the earth; our addiction to red meat and dairy is certainly a huge contributor to global warming. Not only do the cows require huge amounts of water and food to keep alive, they off-gas methane, a greenhouse gas more destructive than carbon dioxide.
I had been a vegetarian on and off for years and had always been fascinated with the vegan diet, but was put off by the strict nature. I didn’t want to be rude or put friends and family out trying to feed me. I’ve come to realize that my intention to reduce world suck is perhaps more powerful than an abstract ideology. In truth, most days I do eat a vegan diet, but if a co-worker brought me a cupcake for my birthday, I wound’t reject their kind offer, or If someone wants me to try their cooking, I will gladly do so. I don’t want what I eat, something I find boring and banal, to be on the forefront of others’ minds when thinking of me; as long as I’m kind to myself, others, and the planet, I’m satisfied.
PS: My featured image is from Grimes’ new video for Flesh Without Blood/ Life in the Vivid Dream, which you should go watch right now if you haven’t seen it.