On Veganism and Local Foods

Earlier today Eric the Red forwarded me this blog post on Veganism and the Ethics of Local Food to get my thoughts on it.

Although I’ve been vegan for close to 16 years now, I’ve never really bought into the belief that the consumption of animal products is morally wrong.  I came to veganism based on a belief that modern factory farming techniques were indeed ethically questionable, environmentally hazardous and unsustainable.  For me, veganism was less about being an answer to the problems of modern farming and more about being a protest in regards to them.  I’ve generally been less concerned with whether or not someone kills an animal for food, but more about their connection to and understanding of the ways their food came to end up on their plate.

To that end, I think that both veganism and the local foods movement often do a great job of asking — where did your food come from?  What were the costs of bringing it to your plate?

Of course, both movements have their blindspots.  As I pointed out to Eric, if you are eating organic/naturally-grown, then the majority of your veggies are being grown with the assistance of animal manure.  Where does that manure come from?  In most instances, I’d say it’s from animals destined to be someone’s food.  Non-organic/naturally-grown foods grown with manmade fertilizers and pesticides have whole other issues, including their reliance on Big Oil (oilspills! wars!!) and their effects on the environment and the people exposed to them.

Local foods sometimes suffer the same problem.  As that blog points out, food miles are just one indicator of a food’s impact.  The book The Locavores Dilemmawhile mostly a piece of bullshit, makes some valid points that sometimes importing food is more energy-efficient than trying to grow it locally.  If you need to heat greenhouses or maintain food in refrigerated storage over the winter to keep an active local food supply, then there is the question of whether that climate control is more or less efficient than shipping in the product from elsewhere.

At the end of the day, being a true vegan or a true locavore takes a commitment that few of us have.  As vegans we have to accept that things we do on a daily basis kill animals.  A true vegan wouldn’t use cell phones, wouldn’t drive , hell, probably wouldn’t do much but spend time growing their own food.  A true locavore would be forced to give up things like coffee and tea and would subsist on lots and lots of root vegetables over the winter.

But many vegans do drive and many local food advocates do drink coffee.  We make compromises to live our human existences.  We choose our battles and are forced to find a balance.  To quote another lyric that I wrote (a practice that seems weird to do, but I think it’s a relevant one) – “Hypocrisy.  It’s a part of life.  Not a way of life.”

So, in conclusion: Eat local.  Get to know your farmers.  Go vegan (at least 85%) (or go fuck yourself).  Eat well, sleep well.  Life fast / Die young.  So on and so forth.

-Q

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