Thursday, 30 August 2012

Ethical food - does it exist?

I have so many thoughts on this topic, that I don't really know where to start, and I'll probably forget to include loads of them.. But let's go with something I saw on Facebook, recently - vegan bacon.

Yes, you read that correctly - vegan bacon.

I wanted to know what the feck is "vegan bacon", so I posted about it on Facebook. (It's a public post, so you can see it unless you've given me a reason to block you - in which case, you'll probably still be able to see it if you log out, but you won't be able to comment.) I was informed that vegan bacon is made of tofu, and that there are also other "meatlike" vegan foods, which are obviously not made of real meat.

This is something I just can't understand, though. If you're a vegan or vegetarian, why in the world would you want to eat something "meatlike"? I mean, what's the point?!? I'm sure that there are endless amounts of really nice vegan/vegetarian recipes, so WHY have something that's trying to be like meat, if the whole idea is not to eat meat?

Someone suggested semi-jokingly, that it could be a bridge to entice meat eaters to turn to veganism. If so, it'd never work. Whatever it is, you just can't lure anyone away from the real thing, by offering to replace it with a poor substitute. However, you CAN lure people away from the real thing, if you offer to replace it with something nicer and/or easier.

Anyway.. Another comment mentioned vegan cheese.

Yes - vegan cheese.

At this point, I got curious and googled.. For example, I found Daiya Foods Cheddar, which is a vegan cheese. I'll quote the ingredients;

Filtered water, tapioca flour, palm fruit oil, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and/or pressed safflower oil, pea protein, coconut oil, salt, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, vegan natural flavours, gum arabic, lactic acid (vegan, for flavor), annatto, titanium dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral), natural smoke flavour, vegan enzyme.

The first thing I noticed was palm fruit oil. Just the other day, I was reading on orangutans being the victims of oil palm plantations;

During the early 2000s, orangutan habitat has decreased rapidly due to logging and forest fires, as well as fragmentation by roads. A major factor in that period of time has been the conversion of vast areas of tropical forest to oil palm plantations in response to international demand. Palm oil is used for cooking, cosmetics, mechanics, and biodiesel.

Another quote, from Wikipedia, on the social and environmental impacts of oil palm cultivation;

Biodiversity loss (including the potential extinction of charismatic species) is one of the most serious negative effects of oil palm cultivation. Large areas of already threatened tropical rainforest are often cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, especially in Southeast Asia, where enforcement of forest protection laws is lacking. The impacts of oil palm plantations on the environment is dependent on multiple factors, including the existence and compliance to environmental legislation, the pre-establishment habitat and corporate responsibility.

So, which is more ethical? To use cow's / goat's / sheep's / whatever's milk to make real cheese, or to make vegan cheese and contribute towards orangutans becoming extinct?

I was also reading about tofu, which I have only ever tasted in Kokoro Sushi Bento miso soup - which is very nice, btw.

Tofu, also called bean curd, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.

This lead me to soybean;

Soybeans are one of the "biotech food" crops that have been genetically modified, and genetically modified soybeans are being used in an increasing number of products. In 1995, Monsanto Company introduced Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans that have been genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup through substitution of the Agrobacterium sp. (strain CP4) gene EPSP (5-enolpyruvyl shikimic acid-3-phosphate) synthase. The substituted version is not sensitive to glyphosate.

In 1997, about 8% of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2010, the figure was 93%.

Read that last sentence again.. Genetically modified food is just something I'd very much like to avoid! It should be illegal.

As far as I know, vegetarian / vegan diets tend to include lots of soybean based stuff, but it doesn't necessarily seem that safe..

Should any vegan or vegetarian be reading this - I am not writing this entry to bash vegan or vegetarian diets, I am simply putting out some of my personal thoughts on this issue. I do eat meat, and I do feel guilty about it as I love animals and support animal rights, but I'm actually eating much less meat nowadays. I don't think I'll ever go fully vegetarian, because I am an animal as well, and I was created to have a mixed diet. I wouldn't ask my cats to go vegetarian, either, because they weren't created to live on vegetables. Of course, I could live on vegetables (and I love them), but I kind of want to eat just enough meat to tolerate it as well.

What I don't like, is some holier-than-thou vegan or vegetarian preaching at me because I eat meat. For example, after the recent ARAN march for animal rights, someone who was also there, sent a friend request on Facebook, which I accepted. Soon after that, I'd shared a funny hot dog picture on my wall, and they commented on it being disgusting because of the meat (btw, who knows, they could have been vegan hot dogs..). I was honest and said that I actually do eat meat. The response was enough for me to block that person. I do not need guilt-trippers on my friend list, and that's actually something I really like about ARAN - they work hard for animal rights, without casting stones.

It's ridiculous to assume that you can't be supporting animal rights, if you eat meat. Of course you can! I might as well say to anyone who's eaten vegan cheese, that they can't be supporting animal rights, since they're contributing towards orangutans becoming extinct. If you eat meat, it doesn't mean that you want the animals to live in horrible conditions. You want them to be happy!

Also wondering.. Many animals kill other animals for food. If we are also animals, why can't we kill other animals for food? It could be said that a quick slaughter is less painful than what goes on between other animals - for them, it can take a long fight to kill their food, with horrible injuries along the way, etc.. Animal babies can starve to death, if their mother gets killed and never comes back.. OK, we can survive on pretty much any type of food, so we can choose not to eat meat (unlike meat-eating animals), but we were also made to eat meat, so as long as we can farm and kill in a humane way, is it necessarily wrong? Is it not our animal right to eat the mixed diet we were meant to eat?

It seems that ethical food doesn't really exist..

Afternote; I was also wondering.. There are many people who are veg(etari)an for ethical reasons, but have meat-eating pets.. Farmed animals are also slaughtered for pet food.. How do those people deal with that ethical issue? I do hope that they still allow their pets to eat the food they need, rather than forcing them on some non-meat diet.. (Unfortunately, I've heard that some people actually DO force their cats/dogs/etc. on vegetarian diet.. That's just cruel.)

1 comment:

  1. Meillä syödään intialaistyyppistä kasvisruokaa, harvemmin noita blogituksessasi mainittuja valmisteita. Niitä (pääasiassa tofua) käytin enemmän ennen kuin mieheni muutti meille, kun aika ei vaan riittänyt ihan kaikkeen. Valmisruoat eivät ole sen terveellisempiä tai eettisempiä lihapuolellakaan. Ruoka mahdollisimman alkuperäisistä aineksista lienee paras vaihtoehto joka tapauksessa. Summa summarum: kiire ja helppouden halu se eniten tekee ruoasta epäeettistä.