Be Veg?

The video below is about an ad campaign running in the Toronto subways called: Be Veg.ca.
I was vegetarian for a decade and believe, as Michael Pollan does, that people should have a plant based diet and that CAFO’s are horrible things that need to be eliminated.  I do not think that means you have to be a vegetarian or a vegan, I think that means we all need to eat less meat and know where our meat comes from.  All I want to point out her eis that is some middle ground options, a lot of vegetarians eat fish, dairy and eggs there is a lot of gray area which I feel it is important to point out.

It’s unrealistic to ask people to make a drastic change in the way they eat and not present them with the alternatives, which are: Eat local, sustainably, compassionately raised, food for straters – eliminate the factory from all your food not just the meat/dairy/egg part.

Grass fed Cows live longer and happier lives and are making a invaluable contribution to the lives of the farmers who raise them. As do the chickens, two animals that would be extinct if it were not for farmers.  Yes factory farming is disgusting inhuman and totally not acceptable, but to suggest the best way to battle it is to not eat any animal products is, to me, not realistic.  It is an option and one that many people are taking being vegan is an option,which if fine and good, but it’s not for everyone.  And if you want to still eat some meat or animal products in your diet there are ways to do it humanely.

Our diet has developed over decades, cheese is a way of preserving food so it last longer so we can have something to eat in the winter and to use al the left over milk the cows are producing.  If we were to truly only eat food from farms, if we were to ask every time we went to a restaurant: Is your meat from a farm or a factory?  Then ask what farm?  Or say: Oh I don’t eat factory meat then more and more food vendors would start supporting sustainable agriculture and more and more people would start eating it.  This seems to me to be more of a sensible transition….but before anyone makes a decision they need to read Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan and in particular Richard Wrangham’s: Catching Fire.

It is so important for us to be compassionate to animals, and the factory farming of them is disgusting, but that is not the entire story it is only part of the story and most people don’t seem to realize that Farmers have a had go of it and need to make a living, animals have been an intrinsic part of agricultural life for centuries.  They provide free fertilizer (allowing us not to have to by chemical fertilizers), they mow the lawn, eat larvae, maggots and insects that would otherwise be hazardous to the crops or annoying to both people and animals and their eggs and milk provide important food sources that can either sustain the farmer and her family but also be sold at market.  And these are only some of the things farm animals can provide.   The important thing is to make the distinction between factory farming and real local family farming. Animals and humans had developed over the years a symbiotic relationship they depend on us for life as we do on them.  Chickens and cows would become extinct if it were not for humans keeping them safe from the wolves in the woods.  And vegetables would not thrive with out there help either.  So to suggest we should just abandon them because they are cute and have intelligence and feelings is to me simplistic and narrow minded. The issue at hand is how can we get back to a more sustainable compassionate way of farming that doesn’t involve CAFO’s and businessmen crunching numbers treating life like a commodity.

Oh and for the record lots of other cultures eat dogs, the market I went into in Hanoi had pet dogs running around all over and cooked ones for sale in the food stalls.

I admire any campaign that takes on the evils of factory farming, but I think that there are other compassionate options than “going veg” and that the conversation needs to be expanded to include them.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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