Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The rise of vegetarianism?

Through the past year I've been having ups and downs in my vegetarianism. A few nights back I went to see 'The fast food nation' and it put me right back on track. I think this was the first movie I've ever seen that used the images of animal treatment on big screen and well, it worked. I support some cases of animal activism, but have always avoided looking at the pictures and videos they display in the streets - I've seen them once and don't really need a repeat. Having been 'forced' to see them again last night put me back in touch with some of the reasons why I used to be more strict about my diet.

I think everyone should read the book 'Guns, germs and steel' (or see the movie, as I lazily did). The author, Jared Diamond, sets out to explore the roots of inequality in the world's distribution of wealth today and I think has a some good points to his thesis. He starts his analysis at the point before the rise of the great civilizations and walks the reader through the development of human societies around the globe. In his thesis a society's success boils down largely to 'geographical luck' - lands that were home to most nutritious crops and most easily domestic-able animals had the winning card in the history, as they were able to produce enough food to allow a percentage of a community's individuals to not farm the land, but develop new technologies, skills, philosophies and culture. From then on, the colonization came with Euroasians' technology, animals, foods, and their immunity to diseases acquired from their long cohabitation with domesticated animals - their attributes made colonization a relatively 'smooth' process. Diamond's theory sheds light into histories of lands like Africa and societies such as the native Americans and Australians. This is not to say that his arguments fully explain the phenomenon of the rise of the modern-day West versus say China or India, which is altogether a more complex issue and perhaps depends more on cultural, economic and technological advancements.

In the developed countries, food is no longer a problem. Agricultural technologies and widespread distribution on the market has led to an ease in both providing and acquiring nutrients. True, humanity got where it is largely because of how they harvested animals, but you would think that at least in the highly developed parts of the world, societies will soon reach a level in which they can substitute meat nutrients with the variety of foods they provide. The shopping cart is one of the easiest ways to send a message to the providers around the world - a consistent message on what people want can steer production and marketing around the world. Also, through human history force and violence has become less and less acceptable in most societies - both towards other nation states and to members of the same communities. Penalties such as cutting off thieves' hands are no longer in the books, except in certain fundamental societies. Perhaps this lessening in accepting of cruelty not just to humans, but also to other creatures such as the animals we farm is going to be the way to go a 1000 years from now. Maybe in another 1000 years (if our lovely kind is still there) people will look back at factory farming and think of it as today we think of stoning women for adultery?

p.s. I don't want to send another bulk email about this, but my photo site is actually supposed to be at rather than at the link i sent out in the 'just making sure...' email...sorry for the confusion everyone.


Kate said...

But what about the goose at Koleves?!

mark said...

1. Agree about the vegetarianism, one's own purity is irrelevant. If I buy a lump of meat, I'm paying someone to produce the next lump of meat. The less I do that, the less suffering I'm initiating.

2. Anyone who reads Jared Diamond shoud read this as a corrective: .

3. As with slavery and mass cruelty to other animals, so will abortion be seen as an aberration by a society brainwashed to sanctify convenience.

Lewis Akenji said...

Psychologist Tim Kasser, of Knox College, Illinois, USA has shown that those who tend to make choices that respect their awareness of positive trends have a higher tendency to feel better about themselves, and a more positive psychological outlook in life. This in turn makes them to feel even better. Those healthy choices could include things as simple as cooking your own food, taking garbage to the recycle bin, meeting friends often, eating organic food and less meat, smiling.

Interesting enough, researches recently published in National Geographic, Science, Newsweek, have all picked on the relationships between happiness or longevity on the one hand, and eating habits or lifestyles on the other. By looking into studies on Psycho-cardiology, “the profound connection between emotion and the cardiovascular system,” Newsweek underscores that better psychological outlook is a strong determinant of cardiovascular health. The National Geographic, looking into vast studies done among populations with a high density of centenarians, highlights that besides having a strong vision in life and being active in the community, one of the common characteristics of these centenarians is that they have diets rich in grains, fruits and vegetables.

Should everyone then be vegetarian – or vegan? Labels would often have a reductionist tendency – flawed with judgements, charged with self-defences – that easily act contrary to the intended practicalities of a concept. Not to be sidetracked by semantics, it’s not the label that matters. It’s the consciousness we have of living wholly – the attitude, and ultimately the behaviour. Choosing consciously and responsibly can benefit our personal lives while also conserving natural resources and improving the environment.

P.S. Paulina, was the Fricci Papa soup vegetarian?

Paulina said...

Lewis: despite having no meat in it, I highly doubt that the soup was fully vegetarian:)

Let me guess, this is one of your articles posted in?:)

I hope to see you this Saturday night!