This semester I have been taking an Anthropology of Food class as part of my degree in Cultural Studies. For this class, we have been asked to keep weekly food journals that describe experiences related to food, and how they are relevant to what we are learning in class. This week I have learned many important things about food to me, both as an autistic activist and a Buddhist. After doing my last two food journals, which talk about the things I learned, I learned the importance of one autistic woman, and how the world would be if autistic people weren’t here. These two pieces below are my food journal entries, which show what these lessons are, and what together, what I learned from writing them.
The Value of Humanely Treated Animals
When we were talking in class the other day, something a student said rang a bell. We were discussing how cobras in Thailand, fed in many restaurants, were agitated more they were slaughtered, in order to get their blood increasing, in order to add a certain value to the meat for its consumers. That makes me think back to a story in the meat processing industry that sort of relates to this story. I learned years ago that a woman named Temple Grandin, an autistic activist and professor on animal studies, once helped change the humaneness of animal treatment in slaughterhouses. I don’t know what she did (I think it was allowing the cows to be less cooped up in small spaces), but she said that the animals were stressed from the aspect to the slaughterhouses she helped change. I realized when we were discussing cobras how cows may produce more blood when they are agitated. Back when I was a kid, I used to hear a lot of scared talk over Mad Cow Disease, which can happen due to ingesting blood from sick cows. Cows perhaps can become sick due to just as humans can. Being cooped up in small spaces is also more likely to cause disease, just as stress here in the dorms at UCM we are often prone to the flu. Auschwitz and other Nazi German concentration camps were infamous for disease, which weakened people’s ability to work until soon they would be sent to the gas chambers. Being cooped up in small spaces when it is not necessary clearly seems like it is an awful way to live, and perhaps for that reason it is good that we now have free-range meats available.
To Eat Steak or Not to Eat Steak
For many years, I have sometimes doubted my decision to eat meat. I am a convert to Buddhism and many Buddhists are vegetarians, believing that vegetarianism best follows the Buddhist teachings of respect for all life. The problem is my many ‘taste issues,’ that would make doing so a real challenge. I could eat free-range meat, but even meat being free-range is not always what it seems, and still contributes to the deaths of animals. For that reason, many Buddhists and followers of other faiths choose not to eat meat.
However, I think, if one wanted to stop contributing to the destruction of life, there are other things one could look at. Currently, machines that help plow fields use large amounts of energy that contribute to the destructions of animal’s homes. Slash-and-burn, a technique used in many countries to raise farm land, also helps contribute the destruction of habitats. Raising farm land also causes trees to be cut down, thus further endangering animal’s habitats, in addition to taking life. Rice farms in Ghana, a great exporter of rice, have workers living in inhumane, life-threating conditions, much like China’s Apple factories, where many workers commit suicide. Rice farmer’s children in Ghana, not having enough to live on, wander off into the cities to make a living, where crime is rampant and they often don’t have places to live. In Southeast Asia, where great rice producers are located, indigenous people are often forced off their land to raise fields for rice for outsiders who threaten the native flora and fauna. These in turn, such as in Burma, cause armed conflict with indigenous militias and government armies, whose families also depend on them for support. That being said, it seems that a “vegetarian” life-style could lead to the endangerment of children and armed conflict in the Third World, and destruction of wildlife and deforestation in the Third World and elsewhere. As I understand it, the Buddhist precept “Do not hurt the life of any living beings” does not apply in cases where it is necessary, such as where your life or the life of your loved ones is threatened. Rather than seeing all this death and destruction, I think slaughtering cows would be more human. Obviously we need grains in our diet, and we must treat animals more humanely. Farmers in the Third World could be treated more humanely too, but a diet based more on grains could possibly lead to all this devastation at home in the Third World that has yet to be taken care of.