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For Our Children’s Sake: Why We Urgently Need to Change the Way We Eat

For the past thirty years or so, we in North America have been hammered with the message from the corporate media that a market-driven consumerist economic system is the only option and is synonymous with democracy, that war is a permanent feature of modern society, and that giving corporations and financial institutions free reign to maximize profits is best for everyone.

This has led to a new Gilded Age with stratospheric disparities in income between the uber rich and the burgeoning poverty class, as well as increasing privatization of health care, public lands, prisons, education, and virtually every other dimension of community life and the commons that have been heretofore administered for the public good.

The result has been that we have created what some call a “suicidal state” in which a small plutocracy is gutting what remains of our democracy, and seems intent on replacing it with a corporate security state that devastates both human communities and ecosystems to maximize its wealth and power, and is also replacing social welfare and economic Support systems with prisons and punishment systems. This is suicidal because it is a direct attack on the creativity, trust, freedom, health, and sustainability of the human and ecological communities that are the foundation of our shared life on this Earth.

This is seen especially clearly in the war against young people, particularly young people of color, epitomized recently by the killing of Trayvon Martin. In the US today, many young people find themselves in a violently materialistic, competitive market culture that doesn’t nurture them as valued members of society, but instead treats them as commodities and as superfluous. Millions have been and are being pushed out of high school, denied job training, and face the stress and degradation of ending up either in prison, poverty, or the military. The US has the largest prison system in the world, as well as the largest military, and about one of every five children lives in poverty, with half of all US children and 90 percent of black youth being on food stamps at some point while growing up.

While we can see this happening around us, the deeper question is, what is driving this suicidal war on children, on ecosystems, on human relations and egalitarianism, and on peaceful, positive states of mind?

The one place that everyone seems unwilling to look is on our dinner plates. Our meals are our most powerful social rituals, and our massive agribusiness and food processing and delivery systems affect humans, animals, and ecosystems more forcefully than anything else. This system kills over 75 million animals for food daily in the US, and virtually all of these animals are babies or children, or in the case of the oldest animals killed—dairy cows and layer hens—mere adolescents. Agribusiness scientists have developed methods of breeding, feeding, drugging, and hyper-confining cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and farmed fish (over two thirds of the fish we eat now) so that they reach slaughter weight in just a few weeks or months. Chickens are slaughtered today at just 39 days old!

As we sow, we reap. If we are authentically interested in creating a better world for ourselves and for our children, deeper understanding is called for, questioning and changing our attitudes and behavior so that we recover our respect and compassion for the animals and the children of animals with whom we share this Earth. Disrespecting, commodifying, abusing, and killing billions of animal children needlessly every year for food, we sow the inevitable seeds of a suicidal state at war with its own children. Our culturally-mandated daily mealtime rituals inject into all of us the precise mentality that invisibly churns and generates our conflicts and dilemmas: a mentality of privilege, elitism, might-makes-right, predation, exclusion, disconnectedness, and the relentless commodification of life and domination of the feminine. All these are the hidden subtexts of our culture’s meals as it programs us by requiring us from infancy to participate in eating the flesh and secretions of enslaved and trivialized beings, whose interests are to them as important to them as our interests are to us.

We are called, now, to make an effort to make the connections between our massive ongoing violence toward animals for food and the mentality that is required for that, and the violence we all experience in the war and inequity of our culture. As we awaken from the obsolete cultural program of eating foods sourced from animals, and change our behavior, we will be finally capable of creating a culture of lovingkindness, equality, respect, freedom, abundance, joy, and sustainability. It is a beckoning possibility and is always available.

The price? Saying no to animal derived burgers, hot dogs, pink slime, fish sticks, tuna, eggs, cheese, and ice cream, and saying yes to plant-based, organic, unprocessed foods of life, freedom, and radiant health, grown in organic gardens, orchards, and fields and reflecting respect for the Earth and all living beings. We can each transform our world. Let’s work to understand the nature of the insidious cultural indoctrination that is devastating our world, remove it from our minds and our food habits (that means going vegan!), and help others do the same. We are all in this together!

Image Source: Don Lavange/Flickr