Wednesday, July 8

Up in arms

Last night I saw a solid documentary called Food Inc. As expected, it got me all riled up but it made me realize a few things about myself too.

I half expected to be completely grossed out by all meat after the film but that didn't happen. I still don't mind eating meat, I just prefer it be a bit on the natural side and as cruelty free as possible. The film interviewed one fantastic independent farmer who (gasp) allows his chickens, cows and pigs graze almost entirely freely around his farm. The animals eat/cut the grass, while naturally fertilizing it. They seem to live very nice lives up until the last 5 seconds before being slaughtered quickly and personally. You'd think this was all some great new concept by how rare it is these days. Meanwhile, the big meat companies stuff animals in tiny pens, feed them corn, not the grass as they are naturally inclined to eat. What's wrong with corn? Isn't "corn-fed" a good thing? Not really. Think about it, corn may fill you up but humans and animals are not capable of digesting it. It goes in and comes out virtually the same. It will fatten you up quickly without offering any real nutrition. It's just not something you'd want to live on. These days the cows we eat stand in 18 inches of manure (that's where all that Ecoli comes from) and develop and spread disease. Their meat is eventually washed in ammonia, to kill the bacteria (yes, THAT kind of ammonia) but, obviously, this isn't always effective. The meat eventually gets churned up together then packed in nice clean Styrofoam packages for us. One ground beef patty can contain meat from thousands of cows. I know... blechh! All the while our local independent farmer struggles to stay afloat while trying to harvest fresh produce and good, clean, happy livestock.

It's a mess I tell ya!

I left the film about 12 kinds of angry. Angry at the treatment of workers, angry at the treatment of animals, angry at the nepotism that is allowed to exist in government, angry at the way the poor are not able to afford fresh foods, angry at the thugs running the soy bean industry who roam around at all hours of the night spying on and harassing farmers, angry about the deaths that happen more and more frequently from the disease that comes from mass produced meat, angry at how corn is subsidized and in virtually everything we buy (everything from Motrin to cola). Angry, angry angry!

In the end I realized I already have clean living tendencies. I shop at our farmer's market, I recycle and I regularly freak out when people waste water. For God's sake, I just bought a hybrid! Thing is, I didn't buy the hybrid to save the planet. It's nice that it's a low emissions vehicle but the number one reason I bought it was to ensure that I pay oil companies as little money as possible. I believe a reckoning day is coming to the oil industry and I want to do what I can to speed the process up.

Turns out I am most motivated by retribution. That can't be a healthy attitude but there it is. Case in point: My lottery dream. If I were to win the lottery I'd do some traveling and buy my dream house but what exactly is my dream house? Well, it's a small cottage with enough solar panels, fresh water and natural gas to pull it entirely off the grid. I'd plant a decent sized garden and spend time roaming around picking up additional fresh produce, meat and baking supplies from local/organic farmers. Would I do this to save the planet? Not really. Oh sure, I'd do it to leave a smaller carbon footprint and to improve my health but mostly I'd do it so that I paid as little as possible to big business. They're awful, terrible people and they all deserve to go under. I'd love to be a part of their undoing.

By the way, this is all incredibly hypocritical of me. I work for and with the biggest companies in the world. As I've said on numerous occasions, I genuinely enjoy my job. It's just that given the choice and ability the first thing I'd do is leave it all (well, except for a satellite dish and WiFi) behind and do everything I could to tell "The Man" to stick it.

So that is what I really walked away with after watching Food Inc. If nothing else, it really made me think. The film didn't obsess on animal cruelty which I appreciated. (I am completely turned off by hard core imagery and believe it rarely helps a cause.) I only had to avert my eyes a couple of times so don't be scared. If you have a chance you really need to check this one out.

Other docs that got me riled up were Why We Fight, Who Killed the Electric Car and Fog of War. I recommend them all. Speaking as an obviously hard core liberal you might be surprised at how these films avoid laying blame on any one administration or political party. (Well, Why We Fight is not exactly pro conservative but check it out anyway.)

The woman I sit next to at work is a vegetarian. She first tired it out about a year ago and it stuck. She immediately admitted that it had nothing to do with ethics or politics but entirely about her health. She was turned off by what she was learning about growth hormones and thought they were messing with her skin. As a result, she stopped eating chicken, pork and beef. She believes it has helped her skin but admits that despite all the research she's done and all that she now knows about how bad modern food is for us she still craves a chicken McNugget every time she passes a McDonald's. I like that kind of honesty in my friendly vegetarians.

My point? I guess I'm just trying to say do what you can to improve the world no matter what your motivation.

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