Our Connection with Our Food

I apologize for not having posted anything in so long. I’ve been very busy and now I will start posting more regularly, at least once a week. For our English class, Henry and I had an assignment to right rhetoric on something we believed strongly in, so we both wrote about our food and vegetarianism. Here’s my essay and Henry will put his up soon:

I think one of the greatest aspects of modern society is the human will. It is unique to humans and it’s one of the driving forces of society: the will to get up in the morning, to finish a marathon, to bring a child into the world. The Spanish words for give birth are “dar a luz”- literally to bring to light. But the Spanish have a different word, parir, for when an animal gives birth. A sow doesn’t bring her piglet to light, she just gives birth. In this differentiation lies one of the faults of human will: the self-declared superiority of humans over animals. Our own will, emotion, intelligence contribute to our thought that no other animals will ever be equal to us in these respects. I think it is natural for us to say we think of animals as equals, but many of our actions contradict what we’d like to think. Seeing classmates pour salt on a snail or watching footage of chickens in a factory farm have proved for me how easy it is to disregard and destroy our important relationship with other animals. Perhaps the greatest criticism to our behavior is the contrast of an ancient Native American tradition.
After killing a bear, Algonquian Native Americans would talk to the bear’s spirit in words usually reserved for close relatives. This action illustrates a connection to food that modern America lacks. When is the last time we looked down at the hamburger, the bacon, the chicken on our plates and contemplated the profundity of ending another creature’s life to support our own? It seems very strange to a modern American mind to hold a chicken, some thousand miles away, in the same regard as a sister or a father, but the Algonquians were close enough to their food source to do so. They killed for food, just as we do, but with a much deeper relationship to their kill.
I understand that this killing is a fact of life- the survival of any animal means the demise of other living things. There is evolutionary evidence, like our teeth, that suggests a diet of both plants and animals. Even though I follow a diet free of animal meat, I support the idea of eating another animal, but only as long as we acknowledge that it is another animal, more than just a food source. I don’t think that our modern factory farming system allows for this acknowledgement. The regard Algonquians held for their kill has traveled a long, distorted path to come to our modern conception of food and the animal’s life. If we tried to tell an Algonquian woman that someone was “treated like an animal,” she wouldn’t understand because of her immense respect for nature and all living things. Humans are not above nature, we are part of it; we are animals, just like the distant livestock that make up our diet. The distance between humans and our food source is apparent in that most of us have never and will never see an animal alive before we eat it. This distance proves even further when we consider that rarity with which we contemplate this animal’s life. We must think of our ham as the flesh of a caring mother sow, our milk as the source of life for a newborn calf, but both are found on factory farms so outside our view that such thought becomes difficult.
I think the injustices of factory farming are easy to bring to light. The veal calf, for example, lives for a few days in a crate that doesn’t allow him to move. This paralysis along with his anemic diet ensures that his meat is tender. But this veal calf is a ‘him’, not an ‘it’. The belittlement of the animal life is a reflection of the little thought we give our fellow animals. To me, this thoughtlessness represents a sad downside to human will. We have the power to make so much happen that often we overlook some of our most important relationships with the world around us. If we think of our effect on the environment, we think of driving, recycling, but how often do we think of eating? When we abandoned our relationship with food, we abandoned a crucial part of our ability to shape the future of this earth. According to some studies, livestock makes up 18% of our greenhouse gas emissions. If we can keep this in mind, we can connect and remember the lives that went into our food. We can acknowledge the importance of choice, in diet and lifestyle. Choice is the gift of our will, the reward of our thought. When we turn our will into choice, we can fully understand the consequences of our actions, our thoughts, and our connections.


2 responses to “Our Connection with Our Food

  1. Simon, LOVE it! so glad to be reading this…so proud of you!

    Love Aunt Jeri in Boston.

    Ps: I hope I get to see you this winter, you are going to have an experience of a lifetime!

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