quinoa, crustaceans, and the general impossibility of ethical eating

This past week I read a couple of articles that brought me back to that time when I first realized the impossibility, at least for this weak human, of eating ethically. One article, this one (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa), begins as follows: “Ethical consumers should be aware poor Bolivians can no longer afford their staple grain, due to western demand raising prices.” Oh god. My attempts to eat healthily are the direct cause of poor Bolivians being forced to eat crap!

And there was also this article (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/01/17/169443117/yes-virginia-crabs-likely-feel-pain-but-theyre-still-delicious), about recent research suggesting that crustaceans, specifically crabs, probably feel pain. Reading it, my first thought was, OF COURSE THEY FEEL PAIN!!!!

I don’t know, of course. I’ve never spoken with a crab, or a lobster. I’m not a scientist. But why would we imagine these living creatures don’t feel pain? Because they’re not like us? Does no pain qualify as pain if it does not mirror human pain? Are we really so blind to the fact that the universe does not revolve around us? I hope not.

There was a time, many years ago, when I grew so freaked out about our food supply that I had trouble eating anything. Even water was problematic. It seemed like every single thing, all food, was either poison or poisoned, polluted or caused pollution, suffered or caused suffering,or just generally made the world worse. It was awful. Particularly because I have a tendency to faint when I don’t eat. Which is embarrassing.

Luckily, this phase didn’t last long. In a perfect world, I would grow my own food and raise my own animals, which I would love right up until I ate them. But this is impractical. I have no land, no money, no farming skills. I only know how to go to the grocery store and/or eat at restaurants. I soon realized not only that my eating habits weren’t going to make or break the world, but that if I wanted to contribute I needed to stay alive, which required food.

So I made peace with reality. I accepted that we live in a broken world, that everything is imperfect.  I recognize the problem and that I am part of the problem but also that I didn’t create this world and all I can do is try my best. I try to buy organic, locally raised vegetables, and eat only animals that lived well and happily. But I fail a lot.

Honestly, I’m not sure where I’m going with this post. One of my goals with the idea of a bean cookbook is to try to make the wold a better place. Because beans really are better for us and for the planet than most foods. Yet I don’t always want beans. Sometimes I want a cheeseburger. Or a lamb chop. Or steak. I wish I didn’t. But I do. Honestly, I get shaky if I go too long without meat. I have other friends who have never liked meat, feel sick if they eat it. We’re all different.

Most of the time I prepare and eat vegetarian meals. If I buy an appliance, it’s Energy Star. I turn off the power strip to my television. My water use, while not minimal, is mindful. But I love taking long, hot showers, and baths. And I eat animals, not all of which lived very good lives or were given a good death. So I fail. I am imperfect. But I try to do my best. Which, at the end of the day, is all we can do. Live love.

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2 comments on “quinoa, crustaceans, and the general impossibility of ethical eating

  1. Robert says:

    Thanks for the link to the articles on crustaceans, found that very informative and somewhat disappointing, for I have often enjoyed the creatures.

    You might find that this helps explain why you crave meat.
    http://www.nutrientrich.com/news-story/is-meat-addictive.html

    There is no try. There is only do, and do not- Yoda.

  2. Wow. Thank you, Robert, for the link. I had no idea. And thanks, too, for the quote. You are the second person to say this to me in the last two weeks. My initial response was yes, of course. Then I started to push back a bit, think that no, of course there is try. Try, try, and try again. But now I think I get it. You decide what you want to do and then you do it. In the meantime you’re making a choice to do something else. Yes?

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