Biologically, humans are animals. We need to eat, nourish ourselves, or else we cannot live. Nowadays, for everyone who isn’t in a situation where food deprivation is an issue, eating is not only a need; everything evolves around food, and food always brings people together. But do we ask ourselves enough about what we eat, where our food comes from, how do our bodies take it and where will the rest of it go? I don’t think so.
Since the industrial revolution, people can eat almost anything out of bags and cans. With globalization and the increasing international trade, even perishable foods can be found almost anywhere. That means food can be kept for a longer period of time and can be shipped from almost any corner of the world right to our tables.
As a meat-and-everything-else-except-tomatoes-eater and a food-lover, I had never asked myself about why do we eat or not certain things until October 2013, when I entered a philosophy course about animal ethics. Each week, after the teacher had presented many philosophers who touched the subject of animal rights, we had to sum up their opinion and conclude by telling our own. As I did the last part, I realized more and more every week that what I wrote contradicted itself. Once, I even wrote that I agreed with Peter Singer (an utilitarian who is against making animals suffer and killing them simply for our own gustatory pleasure), followed by “but I could never be a vegetarian”, as if it was an obvious statement which couldn’t be questioned. I remember that when the teacher handed me the correction, it was written near this in a red pen “Why? Explain”. That’s when I realized I couldn’t explain it. It was totally irrational. Then I started thinking about what I eat.
Most people don’t want to know where the beef they’ll eat for dinner comes from, how that animal lived and how it was killed. Ironically, they treat their dog pet like a family member, they cry in movies when a horse suffers or a kitten dies, and they feel personally attacked when someone “comes out” as a vegetarian or vegan. The thing is, when it comes to real life, when it comes to actually challenging family traditions and changing daily habits, suddenly others don’t matter that much. Suddenly, we forget about how that piece of bacon came to be on our plate, and the three seconds that it takes to devour it seems to be “worth it”.
It is needless to say that after that 7-weeks class, I decided to become a vegetarian. It had changed so much my relationship with food in such a short period of time, and even though almost every other student made fun of that “nonsense and hippie” course, it had changed the way I think about food, and it made me not take food for granted.
However, this decision was made too radically, and it took me an iron deficiency, a lactose intolerance, and other uncomfortable symptoms to understand the relativity of things. Since I radically changed my diet in an very short period of time and without proper research, my digestive system couldn’t adapt and so I became sensitive to foods I had eaten my entire life. It took me more than a year of struggling with all this and lots of visits to multiple doctors, a naturopath and an acupuncturist to finally understand what was happening, and most importantly, how to learn to live a healthy lifestyle adapted to my ethical and environmental conscience as well as my new eating habits.
As I started to ask myself more and more questions, I came to find out my personal opinion. Most important of all, by trying to explain my new way of life to my friends and family I became aware that everyone has their own perception of the world and it isn’t worth it to impose our views upon other people. It isn’t worth it to criticize those around us, or become actively unpleasant to prove our point. The reflection has to come from each and every one of us, but what I can and attempt to do is to make people rethink the way they eat and live, plant seeds of ideas in people’s minds, in the form of questions to which they will have to find the answers themselves.
We may feel powerless or small sometimes, in front of all the huge complex system of animal products consumption and the suffering of living beings which seems completely out of our individual control. But I deeply believe that each and every one of us can make a difference. Because “if we only think of our own interests, we are headed for collective disaster” (Peter Singer). Most importantly, I think it’s crucial to take things slow, since transforming our ways of life is a long and not always easy process; try to always remember why you are doing it.
Let’s simply start by saying: NO MORE BACON!
*Update: Check out my post Tips on Eating Fewer Animal Products!