Greetings EOM Nation and thanks for tuning in to installment #2 of “Stuck in the Middle” where we take an in-depth look at what it means and takes to be an Ethical Omnivore.
In this segment we discuss ETHICS. In 2012 when I (Lana) thought of all the things I could call the Facebook page… where it all began, social media speaking, it was important to have OMNIVORE somewhere in the title. The reason for this was that I thought it important to distinguish us from the vegetarians and vegans. I saw the growing trend long ago in the push for a plant based world and wanted to help grow the conscientious meat eater’s voice in a positive and proud yet powerful manner. With the vilification of meat eating growing rapidly each day I now see ever more clearly the importance of my decision. Am I a damn visionary?? 😉
At the time, with my background in holistic, I was mostly focused on the positive effects of meat eating on the human body, especially after my horrible experience as a vegan as well knowing other’s similar stories. I also knew there was a huge difference in animal welfare measures but what I have learned in the past 5 years was the positive environmental effects of grazing animals on Holistically managed land and it came as a hugely welcomed bit of knowledge and more that a bit of a surprise quite frankly.
So with regards to where we stood in relation to the vegetarian stance, I came in TOTALLY convinced about the human health aspects, semi convinced about animal welfare (don’t kill the at all must be better right?) and if I were honest, probably not convinced that eating meat was better for the environment no matter how we did it. What I did know was that I loved my species and human health (that I dedicated most of my adult like to) while there were humans on the planet… we must find a way to come to terms with the other two to help my species thrive.
What a difference 5 years has made! I now know that not only is eating meat the best possible option for optimal human heath, I am also pragmatic enough to know that for the first to happen the second NEEDS to happen but in the best possible way of course and to my eternal amazement… grazing animals can actually save the damn planet through carbon sequestration as properly managed cattle grazing is carbon NEGATIVE. A non biodiverse vegan planet is not only a never gonna happen fairy tale but is also a detriment to our planet’s health… as surely as it is to our own.
Now having said that.. I never really have much to say about factory farms other than to say, eating unhealthy animals can only mean we are creating poor health for ourselves. The environmental damage is so clear as to be blatant and so is sub standard animal welfare practices. So where is the choice.. cheap I guess and cheap can be damn expensive.
SO I guess I’ve made myself pretty clear about what I NOW KNOW to be true about the ethics of meat eating and it’s also clear that I believe our community needs to stay somewhat meat-centric focused especially with so much working against our very right to eat meat.. no matter how it’s raised… but what about the rest?
Does our very name insinuate that we only care about meat eating? Did I make a grande and ignorant mistake? Do we need a new logo? OF COURSE NOT! Our name says we are proud meat eaters (which I’ve always believed we must KEEP saying loud and clear) and if we came to that conclusion it’s a ridiculous to think that we would care about nothing else. The fact that we look at all the environmental implications of our choice to eat meat (the hardest and most tangled web we would ever have to defend ourselves out of) would by default suggest we got the rest pretty covered too.
I’m just writing the intro to Allister’s impeccable research on the topic of OUR overall ethics so at risk of blathering on too long…. I bring you ALLISTER!
This post will explore ethics and how the Ethical Omnivore Movement answers some of the driving ethical questions of our day. I know not everyone is interested in all the nitty gritty details, so I summarize as much as possible. EDIT: I have rearranged some things and re-worked it to make it more readable. Hope this helps.
Table of Contents
- So what is an “Ethical Omnivore”
- Modern History of Ethics in Food
- Modern History of Ethics in Clothing
- Modern History of Ethics in Durable Goods
- Ethics in Entertainment
- Modern History of The Culture of Consumption
What is an “Ethical Omnivore”?
The source of much of the world’s conflict is based on how each person or group of people defines what is moral or immoral. Many a Facebook battle has raged on these finer details. However, morality is not ethics. Morals are defined by culture or religion whereas ethics are ‘universal’ truths. Ethics are principles of behaviour that we can see in other mammals, as well as in the various cultures of humans.
We will look at a set of questions quoted from The Ethics Centre through the lens on being an EOMer in a moment. For now, let’s look at what EOM means by “Omnivore”. I could disect the Latin and get all Professor-Dull on you, but I will get right to it. For the purposes of the Ethical Omnivore Movement an omnivore is one who makes use of animal and plant products (including, but not limited to food).
Using the above descriptions of ethics and omnivore it is clear that an “Ethical Omnivore” is a person who makes use of animal and plant products and considers carefully the consequences and impacts of those choices. Using the questions from the ethics section let’s review the decision to eat meat for an ethical omnivore.
- Would I be happy for this decision to be headlining the news tomorrow?
- Yes, I am not ashamed of the fact that I source my food with care, and I am not ashamed of the fact that I eat meat or wear wool.
- Is there a universal rule that applies here?
- Yes, the fair and kind treatment of animals is a high priority for ethical omnivores, so the universal rules that apply would be to ensure that the animals are treated with kindness, dignity, and their health and well being are ensured.
- Will the proposed course of action bring about a good result?
- Yes, humans are biologically omnivores (more on that in a later post in this series), and as such our optimum health requires we eat meat.
- That said, the impacts of non-ethically sourced animal products can be very damaging to the animals, the farmers, and the environment and economy at large. So, sourcing ETHICALLY is the key to bring about a good result.
- What would happen if everybody did this?
- Well, the local and macro economy will flourish, the environment and soils will regenerate, and the animals (human and non-human) will live healthy, care-free, comfortable lives.
- What will this proposed action do to my character or the character of my organisation?
- Choosing ethically sourced goods over Big Ag goods (both plant and animal) will help build the ethics of diligence and careful decision making. There are many many more virtues that apply here, but I am trying to keep this as brief as possible.
- Is the proposed course of action consistent with my values and principles?
- Yes, it most certainly is consistent to source my food from local producers who care about their animals’ welfare. However, eating a burger at McDonalds would not be… at all…
Modern History of Ethics in Food
Since the 1940s people have been increasingly concerned about what we are doing to our food. From the carbon impact to the use of chemical fertilizers, from the genetic modification of our food to the use of poisons in our soils, consumers are becoming more and more aware and more concerned about what is in their food. With the changing climate, the depleted soils, and the poisoned rivers it is more important than ever to ask the hard ethical questions, and really think about how those answers will affect our lives.
Modern History of Ethics in Clothing
EOM is not just about food, and clothing has a rough history ethically. Cottons are environmentally damaging to grow, flax (linen) is considered too expensive, hemp is (in some places) illegal, and furs and leathers require an animal’s death which is unethical in the minds of some people. There is also the human cost of sweatshop and child labour, poor working conditions, and even suicide nets outside of clothing factories.
Modern History of Ethics in Durable Goods
“Durable Goods” is a name used for things you can use more than once. This includes furniture, technology, and even clothing. However, these are not made very durable anymore, and that is done on purpose. An actual conspiracy by General Motors to ensure that the people at the top made more profits. The concept of the convenience of disposable goods was emphasised so again, we would buy more. That is not very ethical behaviour, nor is allowing ourselves to be part of that cycle.
Ethics in Entertainment
There are many ethical dilemmas in the consumption of entertainment. It can show us just how pervasive the corruption of our society has become. Animals and humans are abused, misused, and mistreated throughout the entertainment industry. The only way for an ethical consumer to protect themselves from adding to the problem is to research and question your choices.
Modern History of the Culture of Consumption
Tying in to what was said earlier about the conspiracy of non-durable ‘durable goods’, a culture of consumption was created by the General Motors by starting to allow people to buy on credit. Now credit cards are everywhere and your credit score can even determine if you get a job or an apartment! This is not only unethical, it is slavery without the overhead.
Being an ethical omnivore is not an easy task. There are many aspects of life that will need to be reconsidered. Our food choices, our clothing, our furniture, even our entertainment sources can all be tainted with corruption, needless harm, and wanton environmental damage. This does not mean the situation is hopeless, there are MANY ethically minded consumers forcing businesses to change (or close). These battles take time, but they have been, can be, and will be won.
Our generation (be you 50 or 15) has been taught that you MUST buy in order to survive, even Presidents during a time of emergency have taught that it is essential that we buy stuff. It would be impossible to fight this indoctrination head on; instead, we re-direct it. By teaching and promoting ETHICAL consumption we can help people to make decisions that will ultimately benefit the environment, the animals we source from, the economy, and the well-being of the consumer themselves.
Put another way “Your Body, Your Food, Our Planet”.
Stay tuned for the next edition where we will explore how the policies and practices of the US and Canadian governments have shaped modern agricultural and production practices.
References and Timeline
- 1760: The Industrial Revolution made goods available cheaper and more readily
- 1840: Department Stores offer a variety of goods, easily accessible and, thanks to the industrial revolution, cheaply
- 1862: The first manmade plastic (derived from cellulose) was unveiled. It could be molded when heated and retained its shape when cooled, since then plastic packaging has seeped into every aspect of our lives. Click here for a full, detailed history.
- 1867: Paper Plates invented
- 1901: Disposable Razor Blades invented
- 1910: Dixie cups invented
- 1906: The original Food and Drugs Act is passed. It prohibits interstate commerce in misbranded and adulterated foods, drinks and drugs. (Weingarten, 2013)
- 1919: General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) created to enable people to buy on credit
- 1924: General Motorsidea of new model every year
- 1924: General Motors head Alfred P. Sloan Jr. suggested annual model-year design changes to convince car owners that they needed to buy a new replacement each year, an idea borrowed from the bicycle industry
- 1930s: Disposable dishes popularized to feed workers at factories and remote sites
- 1932: Bernard London’s pamphlet “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence” coined the term (and popularized the concept) of Planned Obsolescence
- 1935: Nylon invented, and became the disposable hair and tooth brushes we know today
- 1929-1945: The Great Depression and WWII the end of this period of forced scarcity was celebrated by a boom in consumption.
- 1940: This has been around almost since industrial agriculture itself (The Organics Institute, 2016).
- 1940s: Mahatma Gandhi said “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it causes hunger and unhappiness”
- 1945: Disposable ballpoint pens become popular
- 1947: Disposable diaper invented
- 1948: McDonalds popularized disposable dishes and cutlery for the masses
- 1950s: Diner’s Club card (the first credit card) promoted to travelling salesman
- 1950s: Mass Media took off in a big way, and with it a constant stream of advertising
- 1958: Food Additives Amendment enacted, requiring manufacturers of new food additives to establish safety. Manufacturers were required to declare all additives in a product (Weingarten, 2013)
- 1960: Vance Packard published “The Waste Makers”, an exposé of “the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals”.
- 1966: Fair Packaging and Labeling Act requires all consumer products in interstate commerce to be honestly and informatively labeled, including food. (Weingarten, 2013)
- 1970’s: Hippies were popularizing the idea of making your own clothing
- 1980: Disposable Cameras become popular
- 1980: The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had their first legal case in 1981 (PETA, 2016)
- 1980: Eat Local – The Society for Nutrition Education wrote guidelines in 1981 to encourage eating locally produced foods (Wikipedia, 2016).
- 1988: Fair Trade: the first major Fair Trade label is produced
- 1991: PETA starts the “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign
- 1991: First organic cotton conference held in Visalia, California
- 1995: Preloved is founded. “Preloved is the brand that put ‘up-cycling’ on the map in Canada. Preloved features unique clothing made from vintage fabrics, such as men’s suits, sweaters, and pants.”
- 1995: Free the Children An organization devoted to freeing the child slaves of the clothing industry founded by a 12 year old Canadian.
- 2000: The US Department of Agriculture had a law passed creating organic standards and labelling laws (Cornell Law, 2000)
- 2002: The 2002 Farm Bill requires retailers provide country-of-origin (COOL) labeling for fresh beef, pork and lamb. After repeated debilitation and stakeholder pressures, the law finally went into effect only 7 years later, on March 16, 2009, and even then with many loopholes. (Weingarten, 2013)
- 2002: Global Organic Textile Standard founded
- 2006: Omnivore’s Dilemma published (Wikipedia, 2016)
- 2007: Fashion Takes Action founded
- 2007: Non-GMO Project was created by two grocery stores, The Natural Grocery Company in Berkeley, California and The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto, Ontario – both of which had spent the preceding years working diligently to provide their customers with more information about GMOs.” (The Non-GMO Project, 2016)
- 2008: Fair Trade Cotton is introduced in Canada
- 2009: Sustainable Apparel Coalition founded
- 2009: Ecouterre Magazine founded, it focuses on environmentally friendly fashion
- 2009: Green Shows founded, focusing on fashion shows for environmentally friendly fashion
- 2009: Green Carpet Challenge for dressing celebs in ethical fashions for high end events
- 2009: The book “100 Mile Diet” was written (PRH Canada, 2016).
- 2010: The Green Shows start as part of New York Fashion Week
- 2013: Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh garment factory collapses, and highlights the high cost of cheap clothing
- 2014: First ever Fashion Revolution Day raises awareness of the dangers of ‘fast fashion’
- 2015: Documentary called True Cost highlights the high costs of the fashion industry
- 2016: Government of Canada had a law passed creating organic standards and labelling laws (Government of Canada, 2016)
- There is currently pressure to label foods that contain GMOs and desire for Country of Origin Labeling. (Weingarten, 2013)
- Sex with minors (Complex has a 40 year timeline, the Hollywood Reporter talks about a documentary, and even Fox News has covered this topic)
- Animal Abuse in circuses (Lady Freethinker, The Huffington Post, Ringling Beats Animals)
- Animal Abuse in zoos (Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Macleans, The Huffington Post)