Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How's Your Food Karma?

As much as we may try to deny it or ignore it, our actions have profound consequences. This is certainly true in the area of our food choices.

I have personally chosen a vegan path. Having said that, I'm not very judgmental. Some of my best friends and most of my relatives are meat eaters. We all need to make our own choices. I do, however, encourage people to look at the full impact of our choices and make decisions in light of that. BTW, “vegan” diet means a plant-based diet focusing on grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables with no animal products. So in addition to no animal flesh, that means no eggs or dairy as well. And, no, fish are not plants). So my purpose here is to inform rather than judge peoples’ choices in life.

After growing up as a typical omnivore eating my share of meat (and even teasing my then vegetarian sister for her diet), I first came to a vegetarian diet after being captivated by the philosophy of nonviolence so eloquently articulated by Mahatma Gandhi. Inspired by that, I was seeking to live a more nonviolent life and promote that in the world, however, I realized that my food choices directly brought violence to other living beings. I saw the hypocrisy in that and I decided to change it. The close second motivation for me was realizing that it was not only better for other living beings, but it was healthier for me to exist on a diet free of meat. I was moving into a new household, and one of my roommates was a vegetarian, so I asked him all the typical questions like "what you eat?” and "what you do for protein?” That was more than 25 years ago and I haven't looked back since.

Some years later I realized (and finally admitted to myself) that the egg and dairy industry also brings its share of death and suffering to other living beings. And I decided to go vegan. Again a close second concern at that point was the negative health impacts of dairy and eggs (see Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine for some good info on plant-based diets here). I had often experienced a lot of sniffling and running nose, and although my intake of eggs was minimal, I had at times been consuming lots of dairy products, and those have more than their fair share of cholesterol. I did find that once I went vegan, my energy got a subtle boost and I found that my nose was much clearer. I continue to be in great health and rarely get even a cold or flu.

Around the time I was going vegan, I also started understanding more deeply the environmental impacts of our food choices, which are huge and which I'll cover more in a future post. Suffice it to say that the closer we are to maintaining a plant-based diet, the better it is not only for our health, but for that of the planet (not to mention the animals are happier too). One great source of info related to environmental and health impacts of our animal-centered diet is John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America (http://www.johnrobbins.info/other-books-by-john/diet-for-a-new-america/).

If I am to articulate a concise piece of my philosophy, I would say that we and the planet would be better off to let go of our anthropocentric view that whatever is outside of us exists for our pleasure, use, and abuse. The current environmental problems we face are directly related to acting according to this viewpoint. I believe other living beings have a right to exist of their own accord, or more eloquently in Alice Walker’s words, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men." Again, I put this out not as a judgment, but as a perspective that I hope is helpful for those who choose to see it that way.

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