Several minutes after the SEA Banquet ended, this exhange took place amongst some of my friends who had attended it with me.  The following conversation has been paraphrased, and names have been changed to protect the innocent:

Fiat: I have something to say but I don’t want to offend you.

Adom:  Just say it!

Fiat: You know you’re eating…. (gasp) chicken!

It’s times like these when I question whether I truly support the environmental and animal rights movements. Of course if you ask anyone, s/he will say that if given the choice between torturing and killing animals or not, s/he would prefer not to (HOPEFULLY), but if the question is framed as a choice between eating meat and saving animals, it becomes a much more contraversial issue. Many people don’t want to give up their meat-eating, fast-food loving ways, and I am one of them. I don’t feel bad for eating chicken, although I myself have experimented with vegetarianism and understand the argument for it. Even suggesting that a friend turn vegan can develop into a heated and accusatory debate.

However, despite my lack of motivation to address these problems, I attended the semesterly SEA banquet with my friends this afternoon, mostly for the free food, and got the benefit of listening to senior Max Fischlowitz-Roberts, Prof. Brian Donahue and Brown-student/Real Food coordinator David Schwartz present their cases for environmental justice, arguing in favor of sustainability and animal rights.

After a meal of tasty, “Real” (local, organic, vegan or fair) food prepared by SEA-ers, each of the 3 members of the panel spoke for 5-10 minutes, and then took questions from the diners.

Fischlowitz-Roberts focused on animal rights, characterizing the way many meat-producers treat their animals as animal cruelty, and opining the lack of laws to protect against such behavior, as well as the high incidence of worker injuries in these factories.  Donahue spoke on the importance of students going out and experiencing farming firsthand, and the ability for students to make a difference in the food industry. Lastly, Schwartz discussed the Real Food Challenge, and the way the fast food industries have corrupted our perception of what a healthy diet is.

While I still find it hard to relate to issues of environmentalism and animal rights when there are people suffering whose lives I feel I can have an impact on more directly, when I hear about the small ways people can help, such as reducing the amount of industrial food they consume and replacing it with organically-grown or local food, it is hard to come up with a reason why I shouldn’t do my part to help, other than pure laziness. In fact, Brandeis has made somewhat of an environmentalist out of me, as evidenced by the fact that I now know what compostable means, and actually hold onto my recyclable garbage until I can find the appropriate bin for it. I found the panel intriguing and enlightening, though not necessarily inspiring, and learned more about what “Real” food is defined as.

I suggest you all come to the Eat Out this Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the garden in Massell Quad (behind Renfield) to eat veggies grown by Brandeis students on that very patch of land, and enjoy the company of your friends! It’s a cool site to see, I swear.

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7 comments on “Sea-Food anyone?”

  1. Kenny T. Says:

    Hey there, I want to thank you for writing this and taking time to look into what you eat. Most people don’t want to confront these issues so it’s admirable that you have and continue to do so!

    “While I still find it hard to relate to issues of environmentalism and animal rights when there are people suffering whose lives I feel I can have an impact on more directly…”

    I felt the same way before deciding to become vegetarian, but the reality is that going vegetarian will not hinder your human-rights efforts in any way, it won’t take time away from your human-rights work and in fact, you’ll probably have an even bigger impact!

    If a factory farm sends tons and tons of manure into our waterways, that directly hurts humans. If workers at slaughterhouses are losing limbs, working 16 hr shifts and paid next to nothing, that directly hurts humans. If thousands of people are dying of starvation every day, while the majority of the world’s grain is fed to animals in order to provide meat for the global rich, that directly hurts humans. Eating animals in no way helps humans (I mean, unless that human is starving), and in many ways hurts humankind; and of course the animals and the environment.

  2. Seth Says:

    “While I still find it hard to relate to issues of environmentalism and animal rights when there are people suffering whose lives I feel I can have an impact on more directly”

    I dont believe that you have to make a choice between not eating meat and helping people. I went vegan because I want to reduce the amount of suffering in the world, plain and simple. I think it is wrong to neglect animal suffering just because human suffering exists.

    In fact, since I went vegan I have noticed that my dietary choices have a positive impact on those around me. Often times when I am eating with my friends they consciously choose to eat healthier. I have also been able to educate them about how the decisions they make when they sit down to eat matter. Hows that for making an impact?

  3. ChayalovesSahar Says:

    I love Max!

  4. Liat Says:

    “Of course if you ask anyone, s/he will say that if given the choice between torturing and killing animals or not, s/he would prefer not to (HOPEFULLY), but if the question is framed as a choice between eating meat and saving animals, it becomes a much more contraversial issue.”

    Elly, whoever this “Fiat” person is, I don’t think she meant that as an attempt to offend. In fact, I think may have been there and I’m pretty sure Fiat didn’t want to “gross out” Adom. Fiat was simply observing the fact that Adom was eating a chicken because this idea has become foreign to her.

    Anyway, what you’re saying about making the choice between torturing animals or not–it’s not necessary always that sort of a choice. For me, the issue of animal rights is fairly tangential in my reasoning for only eating vegan food. It’s more about my unhappiness with the American food system and not wanting to contribute, as well as the unbelievably positive environmental impact.

    However, that isn’t to say that vegan food is the only path to a greener future–that’s not it at all. Though it’s the quickest way, there is always the option of eating all the local chicken you want, or simply making the better choice between two evils. If we all make the greatest amount of change to our lives that we’re willing to realistically make, these changes will be sustainable and they will make a difference.

    So please, eat chicken if you want to eat chicken and don’t let this Fiat person make you feel like she’s offending you… especially because that wasn’t her goal!

  5. Adam Hughes Says:

    Liat,

    Whoever this “Adom” person is, I’m sure he wasn’t offended or grossed out.

  6. Parvaneh Says:

    It’s always been very interesting to me when people criticize my decision to eat meat. Perhaps more people are more vocal about it in Seattle communities, but I really dislike the implication that any meat is bad. Of course a lot of companies mistreat animals, but if you’re concerned and don’t want to eliminate meat from your diet, there are other options, and those will actually SUPPORT industries that can perhaps help us move away from this gross mistreatment.

    Go to farmer’s markets, local produce stands, local everything. Not eating meat, but buying your produce from big companies can be JUST AS DESTRUCTIVE in other ways. Support sustainable agriculture and farming. Boycotting meat is one thing, but supporting companies that do things RIGHT is making more of a statement, in my opinion.

    As far as effort goes? Any major city has numerous farmer’s markets, as well as local and organic shops or co-ops. It’s not really any more effort than completely cutting meat out of your diet.

  7. Seth Says:

    eating meat is mean