I read Peter Singer and Jim Mason's The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, and as I said to my friend Evan today, I don't think a book has changed my life so much since I read Ulysses.
In our household we've eaten sustainable meat and dairy for some time (coming from local farmers at our Green Market or from Amish farmers who also deliver raw milk to us). That felt like a step in the right direction.
We assumed that the animals were better cared for than factory farmed animals (and this was confirmed by word-of-mouth from friends who had visited the farms, and from website information about the farmers' practices.)
A couple things came up in Peter Singer's book that revised our food-thinking yet again. Firstly, we don't own a car and don't drive because of its impact on the environment. I've always thought of that as a basic important step I can take to help. But cow-eating (and milk-drinking) has as much of an impact on the environment as car-driving. So now I ask, do I really need to eat cows? The answer is no. Chickens? Well chickens are treated really poorly, sometimes even in "organic" farming contexts. Cage-free doesn't mean free-range; it can mean that the chicken is kept in a shed in close proximity to a lot of other chickens with its beak clipped off. It can not see sunlight and still be cage-free. So, this is a bummer, as they say. Fish? Forget it. Fishing is almost entirely not-sustainable in the 21st Century. Our old friend salmon is either farmed (requiring tons to fish-food which is trawled from the ocean in the form of fish that are then ground up and processed to feed the salmon fish-pellets) or mislabeled as "wild" when often it is farmed. Turkeys: see Chickens. Pigs: pigs have really awful lives in captivity, and yes, they are pretty smart.
I'm always trying to conserve. (I take public transport, I turn off lights, I dislike plastic bags, etc. etc.) It's nothing radical, and in most of the world it's really just the way things are (in Europe people are food and energy conscious, in the Third World they don't have choices— they eat less meat because they can't afford it or can't access it.) But the impact of animal-eating on land, water reserves, and oil energy (pesticides are oil-based and necessary to grow cattle-feed) is phenomenal. The impact of vegetable and fruit eating is usually three times less and sometimes ten times less than the impact of meat eating. Under these circumstances, I think I shouldn't eat meat. I certainly don't need cow milk. I might still eat some goat cheese. And eggs, yes, I use them for our morning pancakes, but I have an egg connection, and I know those chickens personally. (They're pretty happy girls.)
This is the news from the Lisablog headquarters. I think everyone should read The Way We Eat. I think people should stop eating cows too. I mean people who are worried about global warming need to stop eating cows. People who are worried about corral reefs should stop eating fish and shrimp. People who are worried about global warming and about corral reefs should just give up and become vegetarians.
More on this soon. Meanwhile, keep eating the rich!