Posts Tagged ‘food security’

World Hunger explained for 12 year olds

October 20th, 2010 No comments

Feminism, vegetarianism, and cultural imperialism, cont.

September 20th, 2010 No comments

I’ll be summarizing Cathryn Bailey’s observations about foodways and racial identity in a subsequent post.  For now though, consider her response to Kathryn George’s feminist anti-vegetarian arguments …

One of the problems with George’s argument in Animal, Vegetable, or Woman? and in a 1994 article that received much criticism, is that many, if not all, of the reasons she cites for why vegetarianism may be out of reach for many poor women is precisely a result of the patriarchal system that devalues women and animals in the first place. It is not a randomly produced feature of the world that women and children make up the greatest poverty class or that the health of women and children is especially precarious. Nor is it an accident that “animal protein” in the form of cheap lunchmeat or fast food is often more readily available than vegetables in the United States. From the point of view of feminist ethical vegetarianism, these conditions result from the very racism, sexism, classism, and anthropocentrism that is being challenged. As Greta Gaard and lori Gruen have pointed out, “What she [George] ignores is the well-known fact that, around the world, it is the men and boys who eat the first and most foods, while the girls and women eat last and least” (1996, 236).

Not incidentally, George’s suggestion that feminist vegetarianism is classist and ethnocentric ignores the fact that “most non-Western diets are largely vegetarian (perhaps by virtue of necessity): consider Chinese, Indian, and African traditional cuisines. If anything, it is meat-eating that is a Western norm that ‘development’ has imposed upon non-Western nations” (Donovan 1995, 227). Ironically, George’s position erases the number of poor women who are vegetarians by ethical choice, revealing the hidden privileged perspective that serves the edifice of her argument.

Cathryn Bailey,  “We Are What We Eat: Feminist Vegetarianism and the Reproduction of Racial Identity,”  Hypatia 22, 2 (2007): 51-52.

Defending the feminist-vegetarian connection against the charge of cultural imperialism

September 18th, 2010 No comments

One of the claims that Kathryn George makes in her book Animal, Vegetable, or Woman? is that Western feminists are engaging in cultural imperialism by arguing for ethical vegetarianism.  Sheri Lucas has written a response defending ethical vegetarianism against George’s claims.

Here’s the gist of Lucas’ response  to the cultural imperialism argument specifically (emphasis mine) …

Are Western feminists who promote ethical vegetarianism guilty of cultural imperialism? This question was raised at the 1990 NWSA Conference. The prevailing sentiment matched George’s charge of cultural imperialism. Most of the feminists present thought of ethical vegetarianism as “a white woman’s imposing her ‘dietary’ concerns on women of color” (Adams 1994, 123). A white woman’s imposing her dietary concerns? Ethical vegetarianism is idiosyncratic in the West, not to the West. In North America, vegetarians constitute roughly 5 percent of the population, and vegans less than 1 percent (Davis and Melina 2000, 12). In comparison, most of the non-Western human population is vegetarian or nearly so (Fox 1999, 183). While this is often of necessity rather than by choice, many of these vegetarians are morally committed to abstaining from flesh (Gupta 1986, 3).

The International Vegetarian Union has been “Promoting Vegetarianism Worldwide Since 1908” (IVU 2003). On their Web site is a map that marks the territories housing a branch of their association: Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Russia, Latin America, and North America. The only unmarked land region is the North Pole. The billions of vegetarians dispersed throughout the continents, islands, and countries of the world are not following an ideal the West has developed and forced, coerced, or swayed them to follow. There is, as Donovan says, no reason to accept George’s charge that ethical vegetarianism “is the product of a wealthy society,” and harbors “class bias” against so-called less developed societies (1995; citing George 1994b, 408).

However thunderous our hubris, the West does not have a monopoly on ethical vegetarianism. To suggest otherwise silences the diversity of ethical vegetarians and suspiciously ignores Western traditions as though they are irrelevant to the feminist-vegetarian debate. But they are relevant. We have turkeys for thanksgiving, ice cream with our birthday cakes, “chicken soup for the soul,” and summertime barbeques. At our conferences, weddings, and cafeterias, in our lunch bags and homes, most of the foods we eat contain flesh, eggs, or milk products. To treat ethical vegetarianism as an ideal that Westerners want to force on the rest of the human population is to lose hold of reality. In reality, it is we who would have to change the most if humans became a vegetarian species. And it is we who would most disparage the loss of nonhuman animal foods. Most of the human population would not feel the pinch. They live it.

Sheri Lucas,  “A Defense of the Feminist-Vegetarian Connection,” Hypatia, Volume 20, Number 1 ( 2005): 164-165.

Alton Brown in a space suit and tofu 101

August 30th, 2010 No comments

So, back in my foodie days I loved me some Food TV and of course, Alton Brown.  I wish I had seen this when I first started my tofu adventures.  Jumpstart your tofu learning curve with this episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats featuring tofu – from Worcestershire Sauce to chocolate pie.  Good times.


Watch Good Eats – S3E12 – Tofuworld in Educational & How-To |  View More Free Videos Online at

Oh, and I got your blender right here

“Changes Along Your Journey”

July 19th, 2010 No comments

One of the most unbelievable (as in how can you say that) things that comes up in discussions about vegetarianism, animal rights, etc. is that those are only concerns of urban elites (whatever that’s supposed to actually mean) who “don’t know anything about” animal agriculture and farming etc.   I have animal agriculture on both sides of my family – my father was a ‘hog man’ and my husband comes from a family based around  his grandfather’s small dairy operation.  They can’t run the actual dairy anymore but his grandfather still trucks cattle to slaughter.  My brother and sister in-law have worked in slaughter houses.   I don’t talk about any of that here.

I’m happy, however, point to other people who “know some things” and who are talking about it.  I just found this full documentary about Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowbow: The Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Wont Eat Meat.  I’ve pointed to him before and have to highly recommend this film – it’s in 6 parts here on youtube.  Check it out.  Here’s part one, click though to see all 6.

“How else are you gonna do it?”  That’s from the end of part 4.

One answer is, of course, is that we don’t actually have to do it in the first place.  You can get the farming, the dignity of producing food, the closeness to nature without being involved in the hideousness (that is the totality if not just the end game) of most types of animal agriculture.  We can get the good without the bad.   But we have to want it to be that way.  And we have to act, vote, shop, and eat like we give a damn.

2048. The End of the Line. Oceans Without Fish

June 18th, 2009 No comments

To quote Brian McLaren, “Everything Must Change“.  No but seriously,  Everything.

for theological reference … The Belly and the Body in the Pauline Epistles.

Swine Flu, Part Deux

April 29th, 2009 No comments

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m happy about any reduction in meat eating.  I’m happy that many people are learning about CAFO’s because of swine flu who otherwise would never have known, or cared for that matter.  I’m not happy about fear mongering, the threat of real pandemics, or human illness though.  I hope this thing plays out in such a way that we can move beyond the panic and get down to looking more seriously at how CAFO’s are breeding grounds for new bugs, viral and bacterial alike (antibiotic resistance is something that is being acknowledged as an issue in terms of CAFO’s already), this isn’t the first scare and it certainly won’t be the last if we don’t change the system that’s currently in place – which begins with our appetite for flesh.  

Here’s a interesting site – Food and Water Watch.  It has interactive maps of CAFO’s, information about industrial food production, etc.    And an article from the HSUS on factory farming & swine flu.

Another connection that might be of interest regarding a nasty little bug called Pfiesteria, here and here.

Swine Flu and Factory Farming

April 28th, 2009 No comments

I was trying to link to relevant articles but there are getting to be too many.  The whole world is now having to look at CAFO’s and the other white meat.

  • This is my favorite so far on the (potential) link between CAFO’s and the current problem.  Nature Biting Back
  • I can’t help but include this one though – it’s one of my all time favorites.  Pork’s Dirty Secret (from 2006)

Of course there are also some links to older articles (not just now because of the flu outbreak) at the bottom of the resources page.

Net Protein Loss

November 10th, 2008 No comments

Jesus fed the masses, who went on to worship their appetites.  

The case is worse than that. When it comes to farmed fish, there is a net protein loss: it takes three pounds of fish feed to produce one pound of farmed salmon. This protein pyramid — small fish fed to farmed fish, pigs and poultry that are then fed to humans — is unsustainable. It threatens the foundation of oceanic life.

Read the full article after the jump.

Scripture and commentary for thought:

Phil.  3:18 For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ,  19 whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things.  20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;  21 who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself. 

Commentary –

19 Greco-Roman philosophers and non-Palestinian Jewish writers (especially Philo) repeatedly railed against those ruled by their passions, often remarking that they were ruled by their “belly” (KJV, NRSV) or their (sexual or culinary) “appetite” (NASB), disdaining their neglect of eternal things. Gluttony especially became part of Roman culture, and its practice by the aristocracy was a frequent butt of satirists’ humor. But being ruled by one’s “belly” meant more than gluttony; it was used to mean any fleshly indulgence (cf. “bodily desires”— TEV). This would be a serious insult to those who thought they were zealous for the law; but Paul had already “shamed” their “glory” by his own example in 3:4-8. ~ IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament

19 The ultimate end for such persons is “destruction” (apoleia, the regular NT word for eternal loss, the opposite of soteria, “salvation”). (See note on 1:28.) “Their god is their stomach.” … It is easier to explain it of sensualists who indulged various physical appetites without restraint (Rom 16:18; 1Cor 6:13; Jude 11).   ~ The Expositors Bible Commentary

Intelligent and Free?

August 31st, 2008 No comments

Let’s talk about one of the many ways in which our food choices are a moral issue. We’ll start with a comment from Pope John Paul II talking about consumerism …

“A given culture reveals its overall understanding of life through the choices it makes in production and consumption.  It is here that the phenomenon of consumerism arises. … In singling out new needs and new means to meet them, one must be guided by a comprehensive picture of man which respects all the dimensions of his being and which subordinates his material and instinctive dimensions to his interior and spiritual ones. If, on the contrary, a direct appeal is made to his instincts — while ignoring in various ways the reality of the person as –  intelligent and free – then consumer attitudes and life-styles can be created which are objectively improper and often damaging to his physical and spiritual health.” ~ Pope John Paul II, Encyclical, 1991.05.01

Compare that with what’s been happening to animal agriculture in the U.S. in recent decades with the development and expansion of factory farming:

One of the best things modern animal agriculture has going for it is that most people… haven’t a clue how animals are raised and processed … the less the consumer knows about what’s happening before the meat hits the plate, the better.” ~ Cheeke, Peter, Contemporary Issues in Animal Agriculture, 2nd ed., 1999 pg. 248

We demand an endless supply of cheap animal flesh but we insulate ourselves from any understanding of it’s true cost to our environment, our health, or our ethics.  We allow our government to subsidize animal products that we don’t need and that are produced in ways that we can’t even bare to witness to the exclusion of grains, fruits and vegetables for human consumption.  We bemoan the rising cost of food while the Standard American Diet kills us with diseases of affluence, lifestyle diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity.  We reflect with condescension on the ancient Israelites and their insistence on worshipping their golden calf, complacent in the assurance that “we don’t worship cows”.  Meanwhile, according the United Nations Food and Agriculture report entitled, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”  we learn that:  “In the absence of major corrective measures, the environmental impact of livestock production will worsen dramatically. … Livestock-induced degredation of the world’s arid and semi-arid lands will continue, in particular in Africa and South and Central Asia, again contributing significantly to climate change, water depletion and biodiversity losses, and sometime leading to irreversible loss of productivity.  The poor who derive a living from livestock will continue to extract the little they can from dwindling common property resources while facing growing marginalization”.


“Beef has become a symbol of the extravagant, resource-consuming American who is destroying the global environment to live a life of luxury, while most of the rest of the world suffer pestilence and famine …. Strictly on a scientific basis, there can be no dispute that corn and soybean meal are used with more efficiency, and can provide food for more people when they are eaten directly by people rather than being fed to swine or poultry to be converted to pork, chicken meat, or eggs for human consumption.” ~ Cheeke, Peter,Contemporary Issues in Animal Agricultre, 2nd ed. 1999, p.74

This is something that Christians, vegetarians, and vegans care deeply about, surely we can talk about this together. Further reading and additional resources:

  • here, Sources for livestock and climate change
  • here, Study: vegan diets healthier for planet, people than meat diets
  • here, How Meat-centred Eating Patterns Affect Food Security and the Environment