Give your food a face.
“We love dogs, and eat cows not because dogs and cows are fundamentally different – cows, like dogs, have feelings, preferences, and consciousness – but because our perception of them is different.” —Melanie Joy, 2010, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”
Why do we eat what we eat? There are biological reasons – we eat for hunger. But in our culture of plenty eating is not often driven by biology, it is driven by habits, seeing, smelling, reading, or even thinking about food (are you hungry now??) Recent studies show that our physical levels of hunger shows little correlation with how much hunger we say that we feel or how much food we then go onto eat. This is because we are surrounded by food which is cheap, widely available, delicious and easy to obtain. We are disconnected from where we get our food. That is why we seek out, select, and consume foods that may or may not be healthful, and may actually harm us. We even consume foods that harm the environment.
Take the lovely cow, for example. We know from experts that eating animals is a leading cause of many of the most serious diseases in the Western World today, including cardiac disease, diabetes, and cancer. Even the ultra conservative Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has stated that eating a plant based diet is sound nutrition and more healthful than an animal protein diet. In addition to the high saturated fat levels in animal protein we face other issues – contamination with dangerous chemicals including arsenic, ammonia and mercury; drugs such as antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones which may lead to drug resistant infections and growth of breasts in boys; pesticides, and even high levels of fecal matter.
CAFO’s and Animal Welfare
Learn the truth about our American food supply, and how animal protein is produced in this country by big production methods. Learn that our meat is far from the idyllic family farms. 99% of the meat, eggs, and dairy that we eat come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Not only is eating animal protein harmful to our health and the environment, animals are raised in factories for us under extraordinarily inhumane and dangerous conditions. Eating animals for food goes beyond our own and the environment’s health, and takes us, if we awaken to the information to our own empathy, compassion, and humanity.
Animals that are raised in CAFO’s live and die in misery. They are born into gigantic, filthy, overcrowded, windowless factories. Taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, they are castrated, debeaked, dehorned, and branded without anesthesia. Female cows are forcibly impregnated over and over in a process where they are confined an unable to lay down or turn around. When they are no longer productive, they are slaughtered.
Nearly every animal-based meal comes from a sentient being, who lived and died in agony.
Mindfulness and change
Take a pause for a mindful moment. What do you notice as you contemplate your own practices and beliefs about animal protein? Notice your body. Do you feel tightness, tension, or other holding? Notice your breath. Breathe into any tightness or tension you feel, allowing your body to soften and expand. Notice your judgments. Allow thoughts to come and go like clouds floating through the sky. Go deeper. Do you sense any emotions, such as sadness, sorrow, or compassion? Allow the feelings of compassion toward yourself, as you courageously face your own beliefs, practices, and habits regarding the food you eat.
Give your Food a Face
As humans, we possess an incredible capacity to look the other way when things are inconvenient or dissonant. In one respect, it is part of our humanness. Ancient wisdom might suggest that looking the other way is a hindrance to mindfulness. A mindfulness practice gives us the capacity to change, by examining with curiosity and compassion our habits of mind and body. As we develop compassion toward others, we develop compassion for ourselves, and for all living things. It is up to each one of us to decide for ourselves whether the actions we take are wholesome or unwholesome. We can recognize our connection to all living things.
And when we give our food a face, when it moves beyond a shrink wrapped pink sanitized package in a grocery store into a beautiful, majestic creature we can choose whether or not our habits of eating have room for a more compassionate choice.