Respecting the Food Chain

To me, being a vegan is really about living a natural life. We manifest that mainly by choosing not to consume animal products, because they are not renewable resources like for example plant products are. Plants don't eat other plants to grow - they consume natural, renewable resources such as sunshine and water (although that too should be used wisely.) Plants don't produce pollutants - instead they clean the air we breathe by recycling "greenhouse gases." And finally, if you remove a plant from the ground in order to eat it, you can instantly turn around and plant another seed in it's place, directly contributing to the ongoing cycle of life. Perfectly natural, perfectly reasonable.

But let's face it, there is this thing called the food chain, and whether we as humans make a conscious decision not to participate in the animal consumption end of it, it doesn't mean it will go away. Many animals hunt and eat other animals - this is natural, normal, and even necessary in terms of population control and the overall balance of the planet.

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When I ate meat and dairy products, I really thought I was exercising my natural position at the top of the food chain. It's normal for animals to eat other animals, and I didn't think there was anything wrong with buying beef from the butcher case. But let's understand the difference between hunting and mass production. If you go into the woods, kill a deer, bring it home and cook it, this is exactly what our prehistoric ancestors did, and in fact, it's not so different than what most other natural predators do (cats, snakes, birds, etc.) As a meat eater, I never bothered to contrast this natural behavior with buying beef at the supermarket. But now as a vegan, as part as my "acceptance phase", if you will, I spend a lot of time rationalizing this. It is impossible to compare hunting animals in the wild like all natural predators do with rounding up, breeding, feeding, and slaughtering animals exclusively to bring their products to mass market for profit. There is just no comparison. No matter how humane or "organic" the products you buy may be, the concept is just not natural.

"Well, what about planting plants exclusively to pick them and sell them at a profit?", you may ask. If you buy produce from organic farms, the process is not so different than what occurs naturally in the wild. Plants grow, live, and die in close proximity in forests without man ever intervening. You can argue that farming uses resources in ways they are not used in nature on their own, but if you buy seasonal, local produce, there is again not so much of a contrast. For example, apples grow in the Northwest during winter whether man farms the apple trees or not. When it comes to grains, again, man's involvement is simply to pick the grains that are there, and then replace them with new grains. Even if man did not pick the grains, they would still grow there. Sure, some may organize fields of grains for maximum production, but compared to factory farming and slaughtering of animals, managing fields is much, much closer to nature.

Okay so let's say you don't eat meat, but you see no problem with consuming dairy products because animals are not being killed to provide them. While your argument may have merit, the concept you are promoting is still not natural, and I would argue, not humane. First of all, human beings are the only mammals who continue to consume milk into adulthood, and who consume the milk of other mammals. Is this really necessary? Baby humans are designed to consume human milk. Bovine milk is designed to feed animals that are many times larger and heavier than humans, and have very different nutritional needs. Furthermore, once animals are large enough (human or otherwise) to consume other foods, they stop drinking their mothers' milk. This is just how it works in nature. Sure, milk is nutritious and all, but you can substitute it just fine with other products and in fact realize many health benefits that come with avoiding lactose (which is brutal to digestive systems), and saturated fat, which has been associated with everything from heart disease to Alzheimer's. Let's face it if you drink lactose-free or low-fat milk, you should just be drinking soy milk instead. If you don't "like it", put it in the blender with some frozen fruit and drink it as a smoothie - you will never know the difference, trust me.

In humane terms, I believe that forcing animals to lactate well beyond their natural cycle is quite cruel. Again, animals produce milk in order to feed their young - as humans, we are asking them to continue to produce milk in order to feed as many other animals as possible. In fact we are not asking them, we are forcing them. If you are a lacto-vegetarian who favors animal rights, please think this through rationally. I will not even harp on the natural parallel that starts with "imagine if human mothers were", because this should be quite obvious to you, I hope.

In summary, while I don't see an ethics problem with animals killing and eating other animals, I do see a problem with doing this outside the natural process of the food chain. Honestly it took me becoming a vegan to realize and respect this - I chose veganism for health and environmental sustainability reasons, but now I have come to realize and appreciate the obvious: factory farming and/or slaughtering is not the natural way of the food chain!

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Posted in Churches/Faith/Religion Post Date 04/25/2017