Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Exercise in Futility

Anyone who knows me knows I try to keep the rants to a minimum on this blog (as opposed to real life... my poor friends). It's supposed to be uplifting and about personal triumph in the face of a full-time job. It's supposed to be practical and inspiring about how one small human with zero farming experience can make a positive impact on the environment, the animals, and fellow (wo)man.

But sometimes, I can't help myself. Sometimes, I just rant. I am feeling that urge again. I broke down and watched Food, Inc (I linked to it on PBS, because you can watch it for free starting in April) the other night. I told myself I didn't need to watch it, I already knew most of what was said. I had heard of it, of course, and how good it was, so I finally caved. And I have been in a clinical depression since.

The scale of the problem is simply overwhelming. One single processing plant slaughters 32,000 terrified, screaming pigs A DAY. The downer cows, cruelly tortured to get them to their feet for slaughter, number in the hundreds PER DAY. And the corruption and lies go all the way to the top, from former Monsanto employees holding positions in the USDA and other conflicts of interest. Who polices the police??? What can one woman do against such reckless hate? And it is hate; hatred for the animals, hatred for the customers who die from e-coli contaminated food, hatred for our humanity which has been stripped away from something as vital and base as our food.

The answer to the question of what one woman can do is answered in the movie: Nothing. My withdrawing from the industrial food supply will probably mean better health for me and my family and more dollars to local farmers (all good things), but we're not the ones driving the cruelty in the slaughterhouses anyway. We've already opted out. The people who shop at Walmart are making the difference. Walmart starting carrying Organic products because consumers demanded it, not because they thought it was a Nice Thing to do. Organics are a mixed bag, but at least they are not GMO and use fewer pesticides in their production. The shoppers of Walmart took THOUSANDS OF TONS of poison out of the environment. Kind of staggering to think about, isn't it?

The lesson is clear: If we, collectively, demand cleaner food, the big businesses will deliver. Despite my pastoral dreams, the world is not going to change so that each family can have a couple of hens and a goat in the back yard. Our economy *needs* us to be workers, not farmers. We need 8-12 productive hours a day doing "work", not growing our own food, to keep our insatiable economy going. People are not going to give up their satellite TV money (apparently) to eat "Slow Food". Big business will remain in the picture, but if we can change Big Business, we can change things on a colossal scale.

You know, I was wrong, I did learn quite a bit from Food, Inc. One of the things I learned was about the treatment of hamburger with Ammonia to "cleanse" it from salmonella and e-coli. I have already discussed the ubiquitous practice of bleaching chicken. Now the NY Time is running an article about our favorite little magic meat machine, Beef Products Inc. It's a good, if scary read, and speaks to the corruption lack of oversight at the USDA.

We, collectively, must demand change. None of my readers have taken my up on my offer for free seeds yet, so if gardening is not your bag, buy something Organic from a grocery store today. If none are available, ask the store manager why not. Go to a farmer's market and buy one single item and look the farmer in the eye and thank them for giving people an option. Ask your butcher where they get their beef, show them you care about where the food comes from, even if the answer is "Out West".

If you are still reading this, thank you. I will tantalize you with a promise that my next post will be about rendering the lard from our pig. Exciting stuff!!


B said...

Oh jeeze! I must have missed your seed swap offer! I'm totally in. I'll have to dig through and figure out what I have left though. I know I have something that will be of use. And I think they're all from 2009.

I'll try to email you... Or leave me a message on my blog, Epona Report.

And everyone needs to rant now and then. The plus side to ranting on the blog is that if someone doesn't like what you're saying, they can just click the "X" at the top of the page.

Funder said...

Heeeeey, I should be eating meat from Out West! ;)