Tackling through a dietary preference debate requires the examination of various aspects of the subject. There is a likely amount of every person to touch; there’s nutritional health, politics, socioeconomics, clinical research, public health, moral and environmental considerations, etc. My greatest interest in this debate is on nutritional health, separate from the arts and ethics. It’s appropriate to discuss a topic just as important, outside of my comfort zone, and impacts every person reading this: personal responsibility.
Personal responsibility is a clear term people take to consideration on a daily basis. According to brookings, “Personal responsibility is the willingness to both accept the importance of standards that society establishes for individual behavior and to make strenuous personal efforts to live by those standards”. The website provided examples of personal responsibility being applied, ranging from student life to sex and marriage. There are clashes against personal responsibility, in which some exist in epidemiology and some in ethics.
In my field of interest comes one of many incomprehensible topics – obesity. The Surgeon General in 2001 announced the red light for obesity. This condition, part of a cornucopia of chronic diseases, is chewing millions of health care dollars annually. From 2013-14, the adult obesity rate rose from 27-27.7%. Childhood obesity rate has become an alarming issue, Michelle Obama decided to launch a campaign to address it. By 2030, it’s estimated 40-50% of this country will be identified as obese. Things appear worse and the question is why and how is this happening.
Here’s an interesting point: when you ask random people what’s the cause of obesity and how do they know, they’ll likely say it’s too many calories in, not enough eliminated through exercise, and how they know this is common sense. Common sense is what people arrive when they don’t have data however. Consider the following: There are around 240 million adults in the United States. At least 30% (80 million) of them are obese. At least 20% of them however are metabolically healthy while 40% of the nonobsese adults experience metabolic dysfunction or sickness. Considering these statistics, which of the populations are breaking health care? In addition, if obesity is a personal responsibility issue, why is it the government’s business? The obese epidemic isn’t about personal responsibility because there’s existing public health interventions utilizing resources from various sectors of society.
Continuing on with this personality responsibility theme, it’s appropriate to bring up the defense of ethical omnivorism. on January 19th, the New York Times posted an article explaining the effects of experimentation from the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, part of the USDA, on livestock. There were no legal ramifications; the Animal Welfare Act will not penalize scientists conducting research and experimentation on livestock. The aim for this laboratory is to increase number of offsprings and raise more meat to reduce cost. This decision doesn’t come without ramifications, being increase pain, susceptibility to disease and conditions, mortality rates, etc; in these animals. While the meat industry doesn’t appear to have any interest in improving animal welfare or accommodate to federal regulations, they’re just as bad as the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, which receive taxpayer dollars to perpetuate the cycle of cruelty.
This is a perspective far different than that of vegans, being omnivores who partake in the consumption of meat are perpetrators of a cycle of cruelty. It’s true what people consume is a reflection of the quality of their environment; Americans following their current dietary patterns will result in environmental ramifications (the decrease in soil quality, destruction of ecosystems, and increase in greenhouse gases). But with the Animal Research Center case, if animal cruelty were a personal responsibility issue, it’s at least the fault of the Research Center and taxpayers’ supporting them. In the end, determining the responsible party for the ramifications of industrial livestock makes the least amount of difference compare to figuring out the solution. Reforming and rectifying a corrupt food system requires consideration for its totality, from individual to industrial level. The same can be said about climate change for example, where the auto industry is releasing and introducing hybrid cars, communities are recognizing weekly Meatless Mondays, and President Obama attempts to address increase methane levels.
What of the ethical omnivores in the fight against climate change or environmental degradation? Ethical omnivores carry within the knowledge, consciousness, and conscience to address these issues. Activism is based on understanding the very roots of agriculture which is different from the practices of confined animal operations. I’d suggest given there will be nine billion people in the world by 2050 and the planet’s topsoil will likely be gone at the same time, the survival of our species is beyond personal responsibility. Let me know your thoughts on this issue in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!