In this essay, I will focus on the aspect of eating animal meats in our everyday life to demonstrate what eat or consume is not as simple as we think. Besides, supporting fair trade foods and reducing food wastage in the food buying and consumption process will also be discussed.
Indeed, there are social and psychological factors affecting our personal choices and what we choose to eat will have subtle and even significant implications to various stakeholders such as the farmers, the food producers, and the environment. To begin with, many people insist saying that “Eating animals is just a personal choice.” It is merely a debate between choosing animal meats and vegetables for the meal. First of all, I think eating animals can be considered personal only when it is acted upon public scrutiny. When we are sitting around the dining table with our family and friends, we seldom discuss topics like whether our food choices are ethical or unethical.
Instead, what we usually do is to wait for our dishes to arrive so that we can consume them as soon as possible. In my opinion, if a person who tells you that eating animal meats is merely a personal choice, I think that person is probably experiencing a state of cognitive dissonance, a term in social psychology which means that there is a discrepancy between the person’s belief or thoughts and his actual behavior. To be specific, they know that eating animal meats involves killing tons of animals inhumanely and unethically but they still choose to consume the animal meats. The second point has to do with personal awareness towards food choice.
I believe that we choose what we eat with careful consideration. There is no such thing as “free choice.” When we are thinking about what to eat for lunch or dinner, we usually take into account the price of the food, nutritious value, food portions as well as the type of cuisines. Let me provide an example of non-vegan in defending their choice to eat animal products as a personal choice. Many non-vegan will usually say that consuming animal products is a reasonable and natural practice.
Without eating meats, human beings are unable to survive and maintain a balanced diet. To many non-vegans, eating meats are necessary for their daily life. In addition to personal awareness, the third point has to do with a universal misconception that making personal choices do not have victims. Some people may think that we have the freedom to choose what to eat without any restrictions. Let us consider from the animal victim’s perspective. In essence, animals are perceived and viewed as objects but not a victim because they are treated as essential sources in our diets.
Without eating meats, human beings may suffer from malnutrition and subsequently lead to underweight. Many health-related issues may arise. I believe that animals do have consciousness and emotions same as human beings. When they are being sent to the slaughterhouse, they tend to resist and develop a strong sense of fear to death but unfortunately, they are unable to escape from it, and at the same time human beings often take it for granted that eating meats are essential for them to survive. In many cultures especially the Western society, torturing and eating cats and dogs are universally unacceptable and highly unethical because cats and dogs are usually treated as pets, which needs to be protected.
But when it comes to livestock such as pig, chicken, and cow, people think that it is perfectly acceptable to kill them. It seems that human beings have rationalized the perception of eating animal products (i.e., livestock) as part of our routine. The fourth point has to do with choosing foods according to their food labels printed on the wrappers. The food that we wish to buy and consume will affect the life of farmers as well. More specifically, I am relating the buying decision to support the fair trade work. According to the lecture materials, “Fair trade is an alternative approach to convention trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers.” (Lecture 3, Slide 9).
Consumers are often encouraged to buy foods that consist of a fair trade label. In fact, there are some benefits of supporting fair trade food. First, in developing countries such as China and India, there are millions of hardworking farmers producing meals every day. Their work condition is harsh, and most of them are required to toil under the sun to provide the food for us to consume.
Unfortunately, their wages are low with little to none work compensation. Also, they are not being paid enough to support their families. So if we buy food products without carefully thinking where they come from or who produced it, then we are feeding exploitation to farmers. So we can do to choose fair trade products so that farmers working in the developing countries can be able to get a better deal. Farmers can have a stable income, and they can subsequently use the income earned to buy nutritious foods for their family, pay for their children’s tuitions and improve the quality of life of their whole family.
Fair trade requires the collaboration between consumers (food buyers) and farmers (food producers). When farmers sell their crops through Fair trade cooperatives programs and plantations, they can be able to receive more money to invest back into better farming methods, clean water and improving the health of their communities. Quality of life will significantly rise as a result. Last but not least, food security, wastage and adverse impacts to the environment should also be taken into account when we are choosing for foods. According to the lecture materials, “food security exists when people can obtain, nutritious, personally acceptable food through normal food channels, and do not fear losing this ability” (Rock et al.
2009: 168; Lecture 4, Slide 14). Many people living in developing world have limited and even no access to clean drinking water and obtain nutritious foods in a socially acceptable way. Ironically speaking, the problem of food wastage is quite prevalent, especially in developed countries/regions. Tons of unfinished and leftover foods can be found on the restaurant table.
I think people should think about the following questions in depth: Am I able to finish all the foods I buy at the grocery store/supermarket? What portion of a dish should I order at the restaurant? How many pieces should I cook when I am preparing for lunch/dinner at home? These are essential questions to consider. It is believed that food wastage has a detrimental effect on the environment as the leftover foods will become trash, and they will ultimately be discarded at the landfill. Destroying the trashes at the landfill will emit harmful substances such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other poisonous chemical materials, which will likely pollute the environment. Our health will be adversely affected as well. For instance: air pollution will cause chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic cough to the vulnerable populations like infants, children and elderly. It will thereby increase our chances of exposing to infectious diseases, and a large sum of money will subsequently be spent on the medical treatment.
Thus, from the above examples, we should be responsible for protecting the environment when making the food buying decision. To sum up, what we eat is not merely a personal choice; it is causing pain on animals (i.e. livestock), affecting the farmer’s income and quality of life in the developing countries and to a small extent impacting the environment that we live. We should carefully take all the above factors into consideration when making the food buying decisions. What we eat does not just affect our own life but it is also affecting others.