What I’ve Learned in 2010 . . . Related to Food.

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I don’t get a lot of free time. I’m usually working on something or tracking down freelance projects. But when I do have a few spare moments, I try to read or watch films. These are two things that make me happy. And in 2010, for whatever reason–maybe it’s because this topic has moved closer to the forefront of the national conversation, or maybe it’s because something inside of me knew the time was right–most of the reading I did and a handful of the films I viewed were about factory farming in America.

It was about five months ago, after much of this information sat in my head and I ruminated on it for a bit, that I decided to make the switch to a plant-based diet. I went vegan. Other blog posts have talked about this and all of what I’m saying right now is probably redundant, but I watched a film last night called Our Daily Bread that really reminded me of the decision I made and reminded me why I did it. The movie was made in 2005 I think, so I don’t even know that the practices portrayed in it are even as intense and unbelievable as they’ve become in the last four years, but nonetheless, watching it still made my heart hurt. And while the it was filmed in Europe, much of the processing is similar–though most likely on a smaller scale–to how it’s done in the U.S. Our Daily Bread seems to have a similar message to most documentaries about farming, but what makes it unique is that it’s all visual. There are no words at all in its 92 minutes (which is good, because I think it’s German or Austrian). Instead, it’s just the average day on factory farms and in laboratories without someone giving you facts and figures about how the chicks’ beaks are burned off, or how the turkeys are unable to naturally reproduce because of their genetic modifications. In some ways, it’s even more horrific to see these settings in this way–how employees mindlessly take these lives into their hands and completely disregard any feelings of pain or suffering, like these animals are products–units–and not living creatures.

I don’t want to be preachy. I know veganism isn’t for everyone. And many people believe that ignorance is bliss; If they don’t see what’s happening on farms, they won’t feel guilty about eating meat that comes from them. That’s fine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating meat if you know where it comes from and that the animals were treated humanely prior to slaughter. But to me, this movie–like Food, Inc. and the books Eating Animals, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, and Fast Food Nation, among others–just solidifies my belief that I’m doing what works best for me. Most people don’t really think about where their food comes from; If they think about it at all, it’s more about how many calories something has or how it could taste better. But I’m very happy and very proud of myself for putting so much thought into it in 2010. I feel like if I’ve achieved nothing externally this year, at least I’ve grown by leaps and bounds inside, and isn’t that more important anyway?

If I have one wish for 2011, it would be for everyone who isn’t vegan to learn a bit about where their meat and dairy comes from. There are amazing organizations like Farm Forward and Sustainable Table that can help you to find local, humanely treated meat, which is much better for your health as well as the animals’. Please look into them.

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