Friday, August 22, 2014

Vegetarianism: doing no harm?

I recently came across this article written by a guy who used to be vegan but gave up on the diet once he realized it's impossible to avoid causing any harm when consuming food. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water! Here's a quote from the article: 
Whatever romantic notions we might have about ourselves and our ethically or environmentally motivated food choices, the boundaries between vegans, vegetarians and veal eaters are somewhat ambiguous. We are all part of the same food systems.
Vegans and veal eaters are "part of the same food systems"? Gimme a break. Just because it's true that producing lettuce crops (especially large-scale) undoubtedly causes the death of insects, rodents, and other small mammals because of heavy-handed harvesting machinery doesn't mean we shouldn't consider the potential benefit to larger sentient beings like farm animals when we decide to not eat this type of meat. I've heard arguments from those who say if the whole world turned to eating only plants we'd destroy the environment with all the land space we'd need to grow vegetables. C'mon. I just don't buy it. We're already growing MASSIVE monocrops of corn, for example, to feed beef cows. So this argument just doesn't hold water. And I would argue there's much merit in avoiding meat and sticking with plants despite a vegetarian or vegan diet not being truly 100 per cent cruelty-free. 

Even in following a vegetarian diet in the last five months, I've realized it's impossible to avoid causing harm in the act of eating. By its very nature, eating is a destructive, harmful act, which, if you really think about it, causes damage and ends the life of WHATEVER it is we put in our mouths to chew and digest. I've been taking a supplement – N-acetyl glucosamine – on a daily basis now for about a month for a digestive health condition. Today I looked at the ingredient list and realized it's sourced from shrimp, prawn, and crab (exoskeletons). 

So it seems there's no way around it – things will be harmed and/or killed so that I can be nourished and sustained. 

Of course, I could choose not to take this supplement and suffer worse health, but I'm not on the PETA bandwagon that considers the life of a crab as equal to a human's. I agree with the former vegan – it's impossible to avoid any destruction in my eating or consuming habits. That's just the nature of being a part of this living, interconnected planet filled with all sorts of living things. But this doesn't mean I won't try to avoid harming those that suffer the most in our world today. The writer of the above article hunts deer. Okay, fine. But he's also gone back to eating dairy. This supports factory farming, which I would argue is much different than consuming wild game, which doesn't equal animal suffering. 

I hadn't planned on it, but I ate fish and seafood about five times in the last few weeks; at friends' houses, restaurants while I was on holiday, and at home. I've had a pretty wide variety: fish cakes, fried cod, baked salmon, sushi rolls, a tuna sandwich, deep fried prawns and scallops... and I made a conscious decision to not resist consuming these sea creatures. Going back to a pescatarian diet this month certainly wasn't the original plan... but I must say I felt differently about eating seafood than I would have about eating mammals. I have less than zero desire to eat chicken or beef and the thought of eating pork makes me feel ill. (Except, I have to admit, for bacon. The sight and smell of bacon is still appetizing.) The thing is, I know most of (if not all) the fish and seafood wasn't factory-farmed. I know this because fish and seafood is a plentiful natural resource where I live. 

While I agree with the above writer's opinion that it makes no sense to try to avoid being part of destruction or suffering (I don't feel at all guilty, for example, about swatting flies or accidentally stepping on bugs when I go for a hike), I think it's silly to argue there's no point in being vegetarian or vegan simply because it's not totally removed from all forms of suffering. At least this kind of diet – the vegetarian diet – is a massive step in the right direction.


Starting this weekend, I'm going to take the one-week vegan challenge, partly to see if I can, partly to know I've had the full "no animal product" experience in this six-month vegetarian experiment, and partly to counter my fish and seafood indulgences this month. I'll be posting recipes and notes as I go, beginning Sunday. If you want to give it a go yourself, here is a useful guide:

No comments: