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.