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Friday, March 2, 2012

Meat Eating Enviromentalist ....

I am a rabid user of a service called 'Stumble Upon.'  If you don't know what it is then it is worth seeing if you might enjoy it.  It can steal several hours of your day though if you are not careful.  Basically you sign up for it, check on the subjects you find interesting, and then it works to find the best websites/articles/news/etc. on the internet that you might like to view.  One afternoon I found myself reading two separate articles on vegetarianism/vegan-ism.  I find it as fascinating as I imagine people find my diet fascinating so I tend to always read these articles.  One of the articles began by saying; "You cannot be a meat eating environmentalist." 


It then went on to state that changing a people or culture to vegan-ism would create a more 'compassionate culture', and that vegan-ism is the 'natural order of human evolution.'  I wish I had had the forethought to actually bookmark the article but I'm sure if you wanted to you can find many articles that say the same things online.  I wrote a few notes to ponder over and moved on to other articles.  but I found myself mulling over these sentiments in the last few days, and since a blog is perfect for public mulling......

The arguments for encouraging vegan-ism are valid.  Living in California I often found myself driving by the 'Happy Cows' section of the state.  Thousands (millions?) of animals are stuffed into small spaces and fed re-processed dead animal parts and pumped with hormones to make them mega milk producing and to make their fat marble. (As you can tell some of my best friends are vegans or vegetarians).  I timed my trip once and it took me 30 minutes of driving 65 mph to escape the stench that these animals endured and created.  The methane could be literally explosive.  Forests all around the world are demolished to raise cattle.  An ex-boyfriends mom used to work at a modern slaughter plant, and she said she still had horrible nightmares of the place.  So yeah.

But then I think of those tiny stickers I find on my vegetables and fruit at the grocery store.  You know the ones that say another countries name? How else would I be able to buy 3/4 of my veggies in the winter, if they did not come from warmer countries across the globe?  And I have to wonder exactly under what humane conditions these farms have.  Do they pay their workers well?  Did they destroy acres of forest to plant these plants? What impact did this one banana I bought at Fred Meyers have on the natural world?  Unfortunately none of that information is on that tiny round sticker.

The argument that vegans are more compassionate as a whole is probably just a selling line, like something that would be dreamed up on the show Mad Men.  But it really bothers me that people automatically assume that if you kill animals then you must be less compassionate.  To me it is the complete opposite.  Compassion is almost always defined as being able to identify with another beings pain, and the need to alleviate or lessen it.  To be a good Inupiaq hunter you must always be in the mind of compassion, you must always work towards creating a situation that maxes out on the compassion level.  You must be aware of what pain you cause.  Your guns must be cleaned and sighted in.  You must have the ingrained physical memory to adjust your aim for wind, weather, distance, and circumstances, which demands hours and days of practice and training.  You must know every single behavior, trend, and instinct of the animal you are hunting.  Your gear and vehicle must be in shape, as well as your body to go where the animals are.  Every single thing we do all year long is to ensure that the animals we harvest are taken quickly and efficiently, without waste of our resources, without allowing an animal to be in unneeded suffering.  I once watched my husband run after a caribou for 5 hours straight to put done a bull that was wounded, but we thought nothing of it, besides making sure that it would never happen again.  To me that is compassion, knowing what impact you are having and ensuring that it involves as little pain as possible, and feeling that bit of guilt and changing your behavior accordingly.  Compassion is an act.

Of course this doesn't mean that I encourage everyone to grab a gun and go out hunting. But if you have the opportunity to use meat from a hunter or small local farm, or eggs from that neighbor down the street, or even just ask around and see if you have options for a once a week fish dinner, it can lead you to a more compassionate life.  In my opinion.  

I consider myself to be an environmentalist type (not Lucy Lawless environmentalist though). Simply because my own health and well being depend on what is going on in the environment.  Most of my family, including my mother, died of cancer.  And it is generally believed it is because of what exists in our environment today, the chemicals and imbalances.  The arctic tundra does not forget or process toxins the same way most places do, it tends to become more concentrated as it goes up the food chain...into our stomachs.  A lake here has always been a source of winter ice for drinking for generations, but a couple years ago it was declared as 'toxic' and hazardous.  Apparently the military stored some not very well protected liquids like gasoline near the lake and it leached into the ground.   The military had a weird thing about dumping massive amounts of gas in barrels all across the tundra, like a toxic pepper.  Me and my husband joke around and say we should start a line of camo clothing that makes you look like a rusted out metal barrel, because they are so incredibly numerous. A good book to read if you are a history buff is The Firecracker Boys by Dan O'neill, which talks about the beginnings of the Inupiaq Environmentalist movement here in Alaska....

What I always advocate to people is this: Know where your food came from and how, and reduce your burden on the food type exchange as much as possible.  Living in the rural village makes it possible for me to get meat and food that is almost as pure as you can get it, but it also makes us dependent on other foods that we don't really know where they come from and that even contribute to the unhealthy environment here.  Like a can of ravioli.  A gallon of milk.  Or a microwave pizza.  Alaska imports most of it's food, and so it's almost impossible to purchase anything at the store in the winter that has come through knowledgeable means. 

I think this is why I am moving towards growing a garden, to maybe ease some of that imaginary guilt.  We are also discussing getting some chickens, both for meat and eggs.  We hopefully can produce enough for us and a little for family here in AKP.  But I figure that anything we do will help.

So can you be a Meat Eating Environmentalist?  Absolutely..... After all we are all on a diet of souls, whether they be fauna or flora. 

For those that would like to try some gardening (even just a container or two in your kitchen) you can find Alaska approved seeds here at Denali Seed Company.

a picture of my mother and my uncle as teenagers

my husband and me took a ride into the valley


  1. Spot on - I grew up with a father who's hunting practices gave me the respect I have for those I eat and those I care for everyday here at the farm. I might add the only thing eaten here is the eggs that my hens lay. I raised organic lamb for many years until my heart could not do that any more. If folks truly had a connection with their food in some way, any way I think we could change the world. Most of what folks eat can not even be considered food - there is no life force in it and so their bodies receive no benefit. The chemicals they eat willing is killing them but yet they destroy the planet to let more chemical companies make their food - it is nuts. I thank you for sharing and hope that it touches many to not convert to veganism but rather to mindfull eating. Thank for your your insightful blog.

  2. You said a lot about what I feel when vegans say that they are more compassionate eaters.

    In reality, most vegans I know are white, middle-class have a privileges and luxuries that many don't have. Eating an apple from a commercial orchard doesn't mean your are more compassionate, taking vitamins to supplement the nutrients that you are not consuming doesn't make you more enlightened. Knowing what you eat and where you got it is far more important.

    We're consumers, vegans need to get over it.