“Now I can look at you in peace…”
Food is tasty! It’s the basis of our life, comforting and at the center of our social, cultural and religious events: holidays, weddings, parties. But what do we know about our food and why don’t we know it?
For instance, tomatoes. Whether you have grown tomato plants or not, you know that a tomato seed germinates and grows into a plant bearing fruit (scientifically speaking, tomato is a fruit). It is a beautiful and magical progression. Even if you haven’t seen it, you would not object to watching a video of it, nor would you think that anything about tomato growing is appalling, horrifying or disgusting. You put a slice of tomato in your mouth and you can envision the plant in the warmth of the sun, or the fruit being picked off the plant, and still enjoy eating it.
Now, think about any food product that comes from non-human animals: cheese, a piece of meat, chicken breast, turkey, bacon, eggs; what do you know about the entire process of how non-human animals are made into food? Would you like to know more about it, see it, watch a video of the process? Would you like to envision it while you eat for example a piece of bacon? Do you think it’s as beautiful and magical as a tomato growing? Can you put a slice of ham in your mouth, visualize a female pig trapped in a gestation crate, not big enough for her even to turn around, and still enjoy eating her flesh?
Most of us never see how non-human animals are turned into food, from beginning to the end, and we prefer not to see, hear, or know about it. No one wants to imagine the whole process of how the egg or bacon, which he/she ate for breakfast, arrived onto their plate. The opposite, we are angry and/or extremely uncomfortable if anyone wants to tell us about it, or show us a video.
The simple reason is, we know the process is appalling, horrifying and disgusting. For example, most of us would rather not hear about, or see, the standard procedure in the egg industry in which the little male chicks are shredded alive, suffocated in plastic bags, or killed by other, no less, horrific methods. I’ve read, and seen pictures and videos of the grinding and suffocation, taken in the U.S. and other Western countries, and there are no words to describe the horror. Every time I see an egg, those bloody or suffocated chicks pictures come back to me.
We know that making food out of animals is an ugly, cruel, and violent process. However, most people do not think or consider the extreme physical and mental abuse we are taking part in. And even when we do (we know that an animal is slaughtered in order for he/she to be turned into “meat”), we compartmentalize, ignoring what we hold dear to our hearts: peace and nonviolence, justice, and the right to be free from harm and exploitation. All of those values are blatantly disregarded when it comes to our taste buds.
For the new year, I wish we can reflect on our choices and align our actions with what we say our morals are. When you wish peace, you can’t make that happen for all the humans you wish it for. However, you sure can for non-human animals, by removing sentient creatures from your plate. And by doing so, you too will find serenity, in the words of Franz Kafka, commenting to a fish, after becoming a vegetarian (p. 74), “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.”
I wish you, and all beings, Peace and Joy in the New Year!
Picture courtesy of Dana Ellyn, danaellyn.com