04 June 2007

Soylent Green and Veganism

Remember the film Soylent Green? If not, the link will provide an overview of its themes. In general, the world is overpopulated (NYC alone has a population of 40,000,000 people). Food is in short supply as is nature in general. Charleton Heston as the protagonist of the film discovers that "Soylent Green is people!" The government is recycling the dead to make food for the living. Lovely isn't it?

I have been reading a book entitled "The Ethics of What We Eat: Why our Food Choices Matter" by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. The equivalent line if this book were made into a movie would be "Animals Suffer Horribly." Its a hard message to hear or act upon - wilful indifference, tradition, custom, Genesis and convenience make it all to easy to dismiss the message.

But there is no preaching, no soap box, no proselytising, the authors quietly and quite thoroughly and carefully evaluate and dissect what and why we eat in terms of the ethics, environment, cruelty, culture, economics, and so on. Its gentility, careful phrasing, and effort to avoid shrill polemics makes its disclosures on the animal agriculture business even more disheartening, horrifying and ethically stupefying then it would otherwise. It is an undeniable book, a lucid book, and book of truths that no one, including I, really wanted to hear.

We purchase our carefully and craftily packaged meat, poultry and fish products from refrigerators or freezers at our local grocery of choice from Wal-Mart everywhere to Dean & DeLucca in NYC. We purchase it ignorant, whether willful or not, of the cruelty to animals, environmental degradation, health issues for consumers and folks living by these meat production lines. The costs of animal protein consumption is so shockingly high from ethics to oil as to be undeniable.

That said, I've always loved a good steak, dropping a lobster in a pot of boiling water and eating ice cream with milk from cows that never ever ever leave the little crate they exist in or the building that crate is inside of...at least not until they are past prime milking age and are disposed of.

In light of all this information, can I ethically continue to be an omnivore, continue support the destruction of the environment from raw sewage run off of cattle and pig farming destroying streams and lakes all over the South, to the population collapse of numerous fish species worldwide? Not to mention unspeakable cruelty to animals. If you treated your dog or cat in the manner that cattle or pigs are in the production process you would be arrested for extreme cruelty to animals.

I cannot begin to do justice to the Singer/Mason book. I can only ask you to read it and reach your own conclusions. Mine is that the planet cannot sustain the production of animals for food either environmentally or ethically. As a Buddhist and yoga practitioner, my eating of animal protein has long been a contradiction that was not very empowering to me in my practice of these two great traditions.

So, for my part, I've taken the the veg pledge.


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