Recently someone shared a photo of our pigs on her Facebook page, recommending that her friends get their pork from our farm, because our animals are healthy and well-cared for. Someone responded, “Right. Like I’d want to eat one of the cute pigs.” She replied that he would think differently if he saw factory-raised pigs and he responded, “I try not to think about where my food comes from.” Someone else commented that they once bought beef from a local farm, then gave it all away because they couldn’t stand the thought of eating cows kin to the one’s they’d seen.
I don’t think I need to dwell long on how I feel about that kind of attitude. I can’t count the number of times people have told me that they could never eat an animal they raised themselves (implying that they are more compassionate than a person who does–like me for instance).
But of course the fact that as a society we “try not to think about where our food comes from” has given industrial agriculture a blank check to raise crops and treat farm animals and farm workers anyway that yields the greatest profit. Because no one is looking at them, they don’t have to concern themselves much with ethics or husbandry.
We try hard to convince people to look behind the curtain of industrial agriculture. Often people don’t like that. I’m convinced that’s because they know they won’t like what they see. They’re afraid their conscience may cause them to change the way they eat–and that is something they do not want to do. It’s more than just blissful ignorance; it’s stubborn denial of facts they already know in their hearts to be true, facts that would be confirmed if they dared look.
So instead of being seen as advocates for a more ethical and sustainable food system trying to help people eat better, some folks see us as killjoys, out to ruin their appetites for junk food and meat from mistreated animals.
Of course the sins of industrial agriculture run far deeper than just abused farm animals, and the closer one looks at the system the more corrupt its products are revealed to be. The other day I wrote about strawberries–a seemingly healthy wholesome food. But not if they’re bathed in pesticides and harvested by mistreated workers. What about the chocolate Easter eggs many will be eating tomorrow? Unless they’re made from fair trade chocolate there’s a good chance some of the cocoa used to make them was harvested by child slaves in the Ivory Coast. That’s not very appetizing. And the list goes on and on.
Not long ago one of Cherie’s friends was telling her about the changes she had made to her diet. She mentioned that she was now drinking almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Knowing the truth about almond production, Cherie told her, “I can ruin your food for you.”
Learning about food production does come with a cost. Sometimes it will mean learning things that will cause you to change the way you buy and think about food. Sometimes it might seem easier to stay in the dark; to try not to think about where our food comes from. But the first step toward a better food system is awareness of the need for one.
Cherie loves olives. They’re one of her favorite foods. When I read Ella Dee’s recent post about olives I sent it to Cherie with a note: “I can ruin your food for you.”