Lying on my back, the supporting forest floor only separated from my skin by a thin shirt and rain jacket. The view, shrouded in fog; I stared upward some four hundred feet to where grateful trees greeted the much welcomed rain. The smell, fresh, soul cleansing. I closed off my vision and took several deep breaths. As I opened my eyes from this brief meditation, I took notice of a water drop rolling down my nose. My face, quite cool from the constant barrage of water, and even as the sun began to break through the clouds, droplets continued to spatter my face. With the rain subsided, and the sun now fully emerged, I bore witness to a show of nature. A spectacle created by the rays of light slicing through the freshly wetted canopy, the tiny tears of clouds reflecting, adorning the redwoods like prismatically illuminated Christmas trees.
I've been caught between vegetarianism and a "well sourced", but infrequent, meat diet for a while now, even having been vegetarian for a six month period. And I have to say, I really enjoyed it, I didn't miss meat at all. But eating vegetarian is very time consuming if you want to go beyond tofu and vegetables, and make some "meatless meat" for burgers or chili or meatloaf, or whatever. I never got past a simple recipe that somewhat mimics ground beef, no chickn' or fish type creations, unless I ate out. And that right there, eating out, is the reason it's so hard to stay vegetarian. Not because the meat dishes are so tempting, or because of a lack of options, but the food is generally more costly and the portion size is rarely filling. However, when I upheaved my life and moved to Seattle, I no longer had a kitchen to use for extended periods of time, the time required to make interesting and edible vegetarian dishes. And so, out of necessity, I began eating meat again.
I will continue to avoid the worst of it, over processed grocery items, fast food, slave trade fish, etc. But having recently drove a few thousand miles through the west coast states, I passed many farms that, at least on the surface, seemed to be doing it right, Pasture raised cattle, enjoying the sun, the grass, the shade. I even saw a few cows running and playing. This brought me to the question, what is inhumane?
We all eventually die, everything dies. And so death cannot be synonymous with suffering. Certainly death can incur suffering, but to say death is suffering is simply incorrect. One could make the argument that it is inhumane to raise animals solely for the purpose of food, but is it really different than humans being raised to work, or cats and dogs being bred and raised for companionship?
There are aspects to this that do cause suffering, regardless of how well cared for, and how happy the life of food animals are. The razing of forests to clear land for grazing, the essentially poisoned supplemental food made from GMO wheat and corn; which if it wasn't laden with pesticides, I would advocate for it being used to feed the world's hungry instead. The vast majority of us have become quite disconnected from our food sources, assuming the corporate conglomerates would for some reason have our best interest in mind. But they, like most over commercialized industries, have one thing in mind, profit.
We are starting to see a resurgence of locally raised/grown food in many areas of the industrialized world. People are awakening to how terrible poorly raised animals and pesticide rich harvest foods have become, not just for us humans, but for our communities and our environments. People are learning how to grow food again, and doing it cooperatively with neighbors. It may seem for some a task out of reach, but spend a little extra time and care on raising your chicken or beef, growing your tomatoes or apples. It may seem out of your budget to buy the eggs that are $5 over the $2 eggs, but if you buy one less beer at the bar, or one less latte from your local corporate coffee house, you can afford it. Food is the most important choice you make, so it is imperative for your future, and the future of our planet to start making better choices.
I'm not advocating that we abandon the corporate structure, and go back to how things were. This line of thought is shear insanity. Progress mean moving forward and improving on what has been done. If we as the consumer demand change with our money, the corporations will evolve, or they will fail. But this needs to be done collectively, we may need to drag some unwilling people along, but in time they, or their kin, will evolve too.
The base issue here is seen with many other aspects of modern life. We need to become mindful of over-consumption, as it benefits very few people, generally being those who already have the most. They depend on consumption for profit, and that profit is rarely shared with the consumer or worker. As an individual, it is your citizen duty to check you consumption, not just to reduce waste, but to reduce the toxins, both physical and mental, that we consume when making mindless, commercial influenced decisions.
I've come to the conclusion that a living being is a living being, and we need them to sustain ourselves. And while plants may not exactly feel pain, at least not in the way we associate with animals, they do have multiple senses. Of these, I find their ability to hear to be the most intriguing.
"But researchers, says Pollan, have played a recording of a caterpillar munching on a leaf to plants — and the plants react. They begin to secrete defensive chemicals — even though the plant isn't really threatened, Pollan says. 'It is somehow hearing what is, to it, a terrifying sound of a caterpillar munching on its leaves.'" PRI
This is not to say that eating plants is as bad as eating a creature with a heart and brain, and with eyes that we can see human emotions, such as joy and fear in. But we as humans, for whatever reason, are the dominate species, whether you believe in story books or evolution. But we as humans must also recognize the importance of treating both plants and animals with respect and restraint. These living beings are our life source, and so if you eat meat or don't, the importance of caring for what goes into your food, whether pesticides or growth hormones, is an imperative part of all our survival. Factory farming practices, for meat or grain or produce, simply are not sustainable. Not only do they poison whatever the end result food product is, the byproduct of waste poisons our water. So I encourage everyone, as much as you can, try to eat sustainable, local, well cared for food.