So What’s The Big Deal?
The problem is the kind of backward system we’ve created. One where energy and resources are being poured into upholding farming methods dependent on exorbitant amounts of petrochemicals, and feeding into a food system based around highly processed and packaged foods that are unsustainable for our own health, and the environment.
We’re feeding animals grain and soy crops they were never intended to eat. Cows have four stomachs to digest grass. A diet of grain is extremely acidic to their body and creates an environment for inflammation and disease. Chickens are being fed soy-based feeds that are extremely estrogenic in nature because it’s cheap to produce and readily available. Most soy seed, unless specifically organically grown, is also genetically modified. Not to mention chickens are omnivores and thrive on a bug and insect rich diet found outside and not in huge factory sheds.
I’ve had some great teachers who have taught me, “our dependence on yesterday’s energy, in the form of fossil fuels, is doing nothing to regenerate the energy for tomorrow.”
A food system based on annual crops creates an addictive energy cycle. Soil that has been repetitively and intensively tilled, requires minerals and nutrients to replenish its stores. Do we create these inputs through synthetic fertilisers using more fossil fuels from yesterday? The kind that is finite. Or do we try and employ more regenerative practices leveraging one of nature’s greatest gifts – animals?
Ask any gardener and they’ll tell you their garden doesn’t just happen. It’s not without its fair share of inputs; time, energy, resources and backbreaking labour. Even if you forgo synthetic fertiliser, animals still play a key role in producing plant-based compost (thank you worms & microbes) or manure composts (thank you chickens and cows). There are certain farming methods that are very well in tune to all this, such as Biodynamics and Holistic Management.
Our existence falls back to our reliance on both plants and animals. If you choose to impose human words like ‘exploitation’, ‘slavery’ and ‘murder’ to a food web we cannot separate ourselves from, you’re ignoring the beautiful synergy of what it means to work with nature as part of her ecosystem. One where death is very much at the core of its sustenance.
The Care Factor
What becomes of all humans is the same. Death. Whether you eat meat or not. What becomes of all animals is the same. Whether they eat grass, eat each other, or eat us. Welcome to the circle of life. But even this view on things negates everything that happens in between. The part were we live. Yeah, let’s not forget that. And the quality of that life.
As someone who has made it her mission in life to drive herself crazy pondering these deeper questions about human existence and how we can improve the quality of that life, and exposing myself to criticism as I explore these topics more vocally to engage others in the conversation, some days I do have to ask. Why bother?
But I bother because I care. Beneath it all, I just care. I just want to live better. I want to live in connection with other human beings and nature. I want to care about the food I eat because I care about my health and the world around me. And because it feels good. My life is all the more richer because of it.
And to this, I wish I could just end it here because fundamentally, I believe we’re not that different. We all want to be better off. We all want to live long, happy and fulfilling lives.
Then our egos get in the way. Because we also want to be right. More to the point, we want to feel like we’re doing the right thing.
The world is complex and humans are not apart from this complexity. We, alongside nature, are continually evolving and transitioning. Our minds, our bodies, our entire world.
The moment we start making blanket statements that there’s only one way to live or one way to eat, we eliminate diversity within our own species, ignore the need for different diets to exist based on geographical and ecological limits, and remain closed off to the possibility that your needs and preferences may change based on any number of factors (health circumstances included).
How Do You Fit In?
Which is why we need to be asking more questions like – how can we work towards building a more resilient local food system that supports and encourages farmers to steward the land in a regenerative and earth-centric manner (and equitably financially compensates them, just like everyone else who holds a job)? Not one that demands a crucifixion of nature for the sake of greed and entitlement, where we pillage her from bone to dust. This is as much about your own health as it is about this planet’s.
In our luxurious lifestyles where everyone is fighting for our dollar, it’s all to easy to become complacent. Get curious but be understanding. We’re all in this together. Use your online detective skills. Educate yourself. Rock up at farmer’s markets and ask some questions about farming methods. Certainly, as farmers, we need to become clearer with our own marketing messages. But as a consumer, embrace the challenge. There’s a halfway point here where we can meat (see what I did there).