Ethical eating

In the past few years, thinking more globally about my life and my actions has become an interesting topic of cogitation for me. It has led to decisions such as leaving my old job, going vegan, meditating somewhat daily and consciously trying to become a less judgemental person as a whole (the most difficult part of my journey!).

Some define ethics as a branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and the motives that support said actions. Unofficially, we tend to add a little thing called reflection, reinforcing the fact that ethics is mostly a process, a verb, constant and continuous.

My journey into veganism and onward is built on this idea that there isn’t a set of rules but the one I impose upon myself, and that reflection and thought should guide me, day after day, on how I should consume food and goods. The best solution one day may not always be the best one the next. I want to generate the most positive impact on the world from my actions and my intentions: I am not a religious person, and spirituality is still an uninteresting topic for me, but I clearly see it as my duty as a human being, for my fellow conspecifics, to be the best version of myself at all times. What I eat three times a day, 365 days a year seemed like an easy way to make a big change towards that goal.

It has been said and demonstrated with supporting data that the way we consume animal products in North America would not be sustainable if the whole planet joined in: even though meat production is more «efficient» in developed countries, we are still currently eating animal products at a rate that monopolises a third of our soft water and that generates one of the biggest amount of pollution. The rest of the world is catching up: according to the World Health Organization, meat and milk consumption in developing countries has more than doubled since the 1960’s. The numbers are growing for the industrialised country as well. The steaks are just getting bigger! Not only that, but animal cruelty has become the most bizarre topic of conversation ever in our western societies: on one side you are not allowed to hit a dog (meaning, it is illegal!), but shooting a veal in the head is considered okay. People carry spiders on a sheet of paper bringing them to safety outside, but grinding male chicks alive because they won’t produce eggs is considered completely normal. I find it very incoherent to say on one hand that this not acceptable and on the other whisk an omelet. I couldn’t just do that.

It came to a point where the pleasure of my taste buds was not a justification anymore to participate in that industry, especially since I am lucky enough to have the resources available, the money and the time to eat and consume differently. It came to a point where my belief that a human life is above all else was not a justification anymore to make other beings suffer, especially if said human life does not necessitate others constant suffering. And the more I studied animal cognition and behaviour, the more it seemed unjustifiable to eat some of them and be amazed by others. I’ll admit, these conclusions are clearly oriented by my situation and the opportunity that I have to make conscious decisions for most of the things I do. There are very few things that I choose out of necessity, and this privilege that I have needs to be used in the best way possible. It is not sacrifice, and it has nothing to do with self-discipline, it is deciding what values are more important to me and making the changes in my life that will express these values. It is taking the time, every time, to think things through.

What fascinates me is that a lot of people who go vegan for ethical consideration go back to eating animal products in greater numbers than the ones who make the change for health reasons. I don’t know how scientific these research and results are, but it does concur with the fact that most of us will easily adapt to a change for our own benefit more than for the benefit of others. Another argument that the articles linked above mention is that people who make the change for ethical reasons may not embrace the whole «eat whole foods» type of dogma that the other type may follow. Switching from meat to faux meat and cheezes made of 100% plant fat is not the healthiest choice ever and in the long run, it may have an adverse effect on one’s health. I try to not fall into that trap: the motive behind my diet is an ethical one, but what drives how I prepare the food I eat is, I hope, a health conscious one.

In the end, I’ll say that this has been both an easy and a difficult decision. Easy because it ended up being a very instinctive decision, and difficult because you do start to present yourself as different from the rest and people treat you differently for it. It is amazing how people can mock or judge this lifestyle change, as if you were doing something illegal or immoral when you are on the contrary trying to live a better life. The majority of my entourage are curious, interested and supportive, and I guess this also is a relfection of the goodness I try to express with a more ethical way of living.

I would love to hear about your reasons for eating and consuming goods the way you do, whether you have reached the same conclusions as me or not. This is and should be an on-going discussion, not a dogma.