I am fortunate to have the privilege and mental space that allows me to seriously consider the way in which I eat. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering various ethical considerations that are relevant to food production and consumption. Relatively speaking, in my place of origin, I am not ‘rich’ (monetarily). However, by the virtue of my birthplace – and, indeed, my education and upbringing – on a global scale, I am incredibly privileged in so many ways. I think about it regularly. Simply thinking about the ethics of eating is likely contingent on the fulfilment of basic physical and emotional needs. I am aware of how lucky I am to be able to have access to enough food – and a variety of it. I am very fortunate to be able to choose how and what I eat, and to consider the implications of my choices.
Where I live, society is constantly bombarded with confusing messages that promote certain food products. Billboards herald McDonald and KFC slogans, the television and radio attempt to entice us to buy chocolate, burgers, ‘instant’ soups – anything that is profitable. More-often-than not, these foods are directed toward quick gratification, rather than nourishment. Food advertising used is carefully crafted by corporations, whose interests are deeply entrenched in profit rather than environmental and public interest. Given the constant exposure to these messages from a young age, most people grow up with confused relationships to what we are eating.The dislocation from food, that we are conditioned to experience, is remarkable. Neatly packaged in plastic, a cow is marketed as ‘beef’, without any resemblance to its previous form. Vegetables, that take months to grow, are able to be bought pre-chopped, pre-cooked, and are scoffed down in minutes. Overly processed foods, such as chips, many chocolates and fast-foods, are an amalgamation of imported and local ingredients; large amounts of energy and resources are utilised to create a product that is not only unhealthy, but is invariably wrapped in plastic. Further, the amount of waste generated throughout the production and consumption processes in the West is astounding.
Why does it matter? Why should I bother thinking about such things, if we are so far gone? Well, eating takes place a number of times each day. And the way in which we eat can have a marked effect on our fellow humans, fellow sentient beings and nature in general. Therefore, it is important to me to check-in with myself, regularly, to ensure that I am eating in a way that aligns with my personal ethics and values. Ultimately, I view myself as an extension of the Earth. To continue to thrive and to live, I must eat other parts of the Earth. In doing so, I am nature eating itself. But I am not unaffected by the society in which I exist. Although I grew up eating a healthy and mostly vegetarian diet, in my adult life I have certainly become susceptible to over-indulging, or simply eating unconsciously without thinking about where my food actually comes from.
Now, for various ethical reasons, I choose to eat a plant-based diet and where possible, a locally-sourced diet. Still, I am constantly checking in with myself, and trying to be aware of and grateful for the foods that I utilise to sustain my life. I try to be as close as possible to the source of foods – growing my own plants with a community of others would be ideal, but unfortunately due to circumstances is not currently possible. Instead, I attempt to eat whole foods, and be mindfully involved in the process of preparation and cooking. Prior to eating, I am attempting to sit with my food, say a prayer of gratitude (to nature) and truly realise what it represents; the end of life to sustain life. Hopefully, by shifting my focus, and my relationship to food, I will foster unity and connection, and be guided by what we really need to flourish.