Over the last year of spontaneous travelling I’ve learnt an amazing lesson that has eternally shifted my perspective of food. This lesson has fully redefined the value of food to me and within the same foul swoop addressed the difficulty I often previously had in balancing my respect for all living creatures with my respect for my stomach. I have come to a conclusion that I would never wish to impose on others, but satisfies my need to feel at one with the universe. I believe we can all learn a lot from exploring our relationship with food.
When in Wales earlier this year I met a strangely friendly cow (pictured above) and I enjoyed its playful presence for quite some time. It is very peculiar, and slightly morbid, to think that this cow is likely no longer alive and probably fed a fair few families. I thought about becoming a vegan during the cow connecting moment and for a split second this seemed like a good idea. A few months later I ate the biggest steak I have ever eaten.
Aside from the fact that I knew it would make me ill for a few days, I was at that point quite happy to indulge in this 500g slab of undercooked flesh. I didn’t asscociate it with the cow I had met in Wales. Desensitisation is so easy when one doesn’t wield the weapon.
It was shortly after this meaty monstrosity that I visited Peru and attempted to consume the national dish, Cuy Chatcado. In short, it was a flat-crushed guinea pig deep fried in an old wok with a rock placed on it to stop it from floating. They invited me into the kitchen to watch the process. The chef was very excitable as I attempted to converse with him in broken Spanish.
I have to admit that although I ate it all, out of politeness, I did not revel in the experience and was sick later that night.
My mind started thinking again and it seemed strange to me that the Andean national dish is a mammal considered a treasured pet to many other nations. Although this seems barbaric to some, other find the consumption of cows to be highly offensive. Therein lies the issue that I struggled with. I didn’t truly feel comfortable eating any meat aside from fish.
By the time I had returned from Peru and slid sadly back to normality, I returned to my old food habits and it wasn’t till I saw this particular poster campaign on the Toronto Subway that I got to thinking again.
Particular points that caught my attention:
– Male chicks have no value to the egg industry, so annually almost 30 million chicks are thrown away, literally as trash, just hours after hatching.
– Chickens suffer ammonia burns from their own waste and may be trampled or suffocated by overcrowding.
– A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks, even before they hatch, by softly clucking to her unhatched young, who chirp back to her from inside the shell.
I have since accepted pescatarianism, something that satisfies both my love of nature and personal difficulty with validating the killing of furry things for food; hence fish aren’t safe – sorry Nemo. I would never impose this on others, nor even recommend it. It’s my choice, and we are all entitled to one.
All I would say is consider what true cost is attached to the meat you eat and in weighing this up do what is right for you.
As with all things in life, there is truly no overarching right. But, there is personal truth. I urge you to find it.
(Photo by Eli Woodbine – 2015 – Wales/ London/ Toronto)