Let’s talk about food..
I notice a lot of positive change in society. People become aware of the way in which food is produced, they become aware of the fact that animals die to miraculously turn into sausages, steaks and minced meat (fascinating that some people never really made that mental connection), they think about sustainability, about biological ways to produce things and much more.. still, what concerns me, are those mad fights going on between defenders of a certain diet and much more, the many extremists out there that defend their way of eating with a fierceness that scares me.. And this discourages other people, to move forward into the same direction.
A little example for my daily dilemma: standing in front of a shelf in a shop, trying to figure out if I should buy soy-milk or real milk… the evil-cow-baby-robber-industry on the one hand, the Amazonas-destroying-soy-producers on the other hand.. so which evil should I choose if I want milk into my healthy breakfast? The problem about all this: do we really think about these choices to their very end and source? If we talk of soy as a good alternative to animal-protein, are we not making a greater damage in the end? Already now the available agricultural surface to grow soy beans is not big enough to meet the demands (soy is also used in the meat-industry to feed the millions of farm animals that are bred every year)… So thousands of hectares of biotopes of all kinds are destroyed all over the World (Top 7: USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, China, Paraguay, Canada) to plant and harvest soy. Soy production is mainly in the hands of MONSANTO – I will not even talk about that. The Brazilian Amazonas loses millions of hectares of wood – never to return again; people lose their homes, defenders of nature die in that progress!
So. Has the one litre of soymilk really a less damaging impact on the world than the litre of milk from European cows?
Back home this answer is easy for me. I know our local milk-brand and I know the farmers who produce it. So there I chose that kind of milk without feeling bad about it. Those cows feed on grass and locally produced hay. They graze on real meadows and have space to wander around. Some of them spend their entire summer up in the mountains, some with, some without their babies. I can absolutely live with that… At least better than with the idea of millions of hectares of woods being chopped down for the soy milk… Still, here, where I am now, I don’t know where the milk comes from. If there is Bio-Milk, I take that. If not.. well, honestly, I once take the soy, once the other. Always alternating and always wondering and feeling weird on the way home – I think I will stop using soy actually, because I find more and more disturbing information about it. It’s the same question about other dairy products.
I kinda stopped eating meat here, because I have no idea where it comes from and how it is produced. But back home, if my family cooks meat, I do eat it. Because I know it comes from neighbours where the animals grew up in a friendly environment, in nature, respected by the people. I’ve been in the stables and local the slaughter-houses (local, small, calm), I know the people, I have no problem eating this (maybe, growing up on a farm gives you a different perspective about that – respecting life and eating meat does not give me an emotional conflict – I’ve been around where massive efforts were made to safe a cow that was ill, doing everything to make her better and have a great last summer, and then killing her the next year for food – eating that meat with a feeling of thankfulness for that animal and nature is different than buying meat in a supermarket)
My travels showed me one thing very clearly: Eating vegetarian or even vegan is a luxury. Tell ANY indigenous people in this world to stop eating animal products – they will not even understand the idea!! They live with their cattle, they treat those animals with respect in their live and in their death. And so should we! So, if you can manage and afford to be vegan: awesome! I appreciate this move and thank you for all the spared lives (I mean this). Still, think about where your alternative protein sources come from and how much damage is made by growing these. I’ve read so many articles about these topics, that I can only come down to one solution for myself (important bit here, I only talk about me): choosing locally produced food (fruits, veggies, grains, meat) has less impact than being strictly vegan or vegetarian, but then eating food that comes from all around the globe and has a huge impact if you calculate all the transport and the plantations themselves. Just think about the energy and emissions that are wasted! Think of all the lost habitat, and all the animals that die in that process and the chemicals that are used for it… that’s also not worth it!
If you are vegetarian, it comes down to the same thing. On the other hand I don’t think we need meat on our table every day. Or even every week. But I feel less bad having a piece of meat that is locally produced and where I really know the origin, than having some exotic fruits or crops where I basically have no idea about their origins. Everyone can find his balance of what he eats – and every bit of meat less is a good start, I totally agree – because we have to force the industry to go back down to localism again. But then, also make sure your fruits and veggies are grown in a way that does not make things worse either… So whatever you choose to have on your plate: buy it local, if not available – buy it bio. If not available, buy something where you can deduce that is from a place as close as possible, and in season (do we need strawberries, mangos and pineapples in a season where they actually don’t grow?). If you want meat, make sure you know where it comes from – same for dairy. Choose proper packing (none, paper, or as little plastic as possible), if you buy fruits and veggies, do you really need that little plastic bag for every type?? Just put them in your bag/box as they are, they will survive… just buy enough so you will eat it all and not throw away anything. Try things you never ate before, that are produced locally! You might like it! Whatever you buy, think about it and ask yourself a few simple questions:
Where does it come from and how far does it have to be transported to land on my plate?
How is it produced – what has it been treated with (pesticides, fungicides)?
Do the people who produce it get a fair price for it?
How much land is destroyed in the process and what are the consequences for nature?
How much water and electricity are used to produce it?
Is it normal that it is around at this time of year?
You will find your balance, just be aware. There is no “ideal” diet, everybody is different and every taste is different. But everybody can also MAKE a difference. If only food produced locally and in a sustainable way was sold, the industry would be forced by this demand to change their way of producing. We have this power, it is in our hands! But as long as we are victims of publicity and easily manipulated consumers, things will go on as crazy as they do now… And this vision should scare us all. Make a change! Every day.