It’s Not Just Food

It’s a Vote

If people ever spend any meaningful time with Cindy or me they quickly learn about our eating habits, and invariably this information is never accepted at face value. This is probably because making health choices are not the same as being tall, or blue-eyed. “I don’t eat meat” is not something you can casually say and move on to the next topic. It is a deliberate decision that has an origin or passion unique to the individual. The motivation can be environmental, political, health or animal rights related, to name a few. So when people sit down to a meal and choose what to eat, they are voting on issues that are important them. To avoid eating a hamburger for lunch is a vote, whether it is viewed that way or not.

Everything we do and don’t do as a consumer is a vote. Capitalism is a system in which the consumer shapes what products and services a corporation provides. McDonalds wouldn’t offer Chicken Nuggets if no one ate them. But, it’s not that simple. By choosing to order the hamburger instead, you are not only voting against the Chicken Nuggets, but you are also supporting a number of other things:

  • You’re voting “yes” to the cattle farm where McDonalds gets it meat.
  • You’re voting “yes” to what those cows are being fed.
  • You’re voting “yes” to how the cow you’re eating was slaughtered.
  • You’re voting “yes” to the farm where the lettuce and tomato was grown.
  • You’re voting “yes” to the environmental implications of eating that hamburger.

And the list goes on. Now some, if not many, will tell me that I’m being ridiculous, and that it’s just a hamburger. I don’t buy it. If we all refused to eat McDonalds unless they used organic products, the entire industry would change its farming practices. It wouldn’t have a choice. So don’t tell me that eating that hamburger isn’t a vote for all those things I mentioned, because choosing not to eat it clearly is.

Now I’m not trying to rag on meat here, I was just using it as an example. The same thing applies to apples. Choosing to eat organic apples that have not been sprayed with pesticides is sending the apple farmers the message that you don’t want to eat apples caked in chemicals.

Of course, there are people out there that just don’t care – they like hamburgers or apples with or without pesticides and have no regard for where it came from. For those of you, however, that might care a little that the cow you’re eating might have been raised in its own feces, fed corn, pumped full of antibiotics and steroids, tortured and then killed, know that your choices are a vote. It’s well within your right to ask a restaurant where they get their meat, or if it’s organic, and order accordingly. You think if they get asked that question 25 times a night they might reconsider where they get their meat?

Finally, let’s look at each “food vote” you make as not only about how that product was grown, fed, slaughtered, or shipped, but also about much larger issues, like the environment. Our current industrial farming system and meat eating society is an environmental catastrophe, to put it lightly.  The UN itself recently came out and recommended that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. I won’t dive into this because frankly, I’m not an expert, but here are a few more tidbits worth thinking about:

  • Transportation is responsible for 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases; livestock is responsible for 18%.
  • Animal waste pollutes American waterways more than any other industrial source combined.
  • Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption and 38% of the total land use.

Basically, the animals are getting the majority of our water and polluting the rest. They are living on 1/3 of our land and contribute to destroying it at a higher rate than our cars. Again, the list goes on.  Some advice for those meat eaters: find the local farmers out there who do it right, and vote for their products by insisting they be in your markets and restaurants.

My goal here was not to preach or insist on a particular way of life, because as I’ve said before, I’m no expert. I did, however, want to write about something that has become somewhat of a recent revelation for me. Every meal we eat is a vote, whether we like it or not, and those votes are heard loud and clear.

We can shape the way the world is being fed. We can demand to be healthier. We can help save the environment. And we can do it every day of our life, three times a day.

Remember, it’s not just a hamburger.