When food means identity
and identity means food
from IVU News
We are what we eat. How many of us take this saying for granted without
ever reflecting on the substance of its truth, if indeed there is one?
We do not know what animals think about food when they eat, neither do
we know what our ancestors thought about it hundreds, thousands or millions
of years ago.
We can assume that traditionally food has been considered as something
purely physical, something we take out of the environment, ingest, transform
and turn into bodily substance. What we eat, then, is of utmost importance
for our physical growth and constitution. Even our embryonic growth depends
on the quality (and quantity, of course) of the food our mothers pass
on to us through the blood, food that they ultimately draw from the environment.
Little do we know about how nutrition affects the sperm and the ovule
of our parents and therewith our own genetic make-up.
Nonetheless: if our body is affected by what we eat, why shouldn't our
emotions and our thoughts be likewise shaped by the quality of our diet?
Of course, our identity isn't all determined by food alone. The social
aspects of the culture we get born into influence our personal development
too. But there again, the type of victuals and the eating habits a culture
indulges in come to the fore. This can be seen best when people have to
evolve in a society where the meat-eating habit is all-pervasive and indeed
plays an important role in socializing, mutual acceptance and social recognition.
When we join the earthship's crew, food is our first preoccupation. As
toddlers we are dependent on someone giving us nutriments. In fact, we
never eat alone in early childhood. Some day very soon mother's milk is
traded against cows' milk (actually meant for calves, but who cares?)
and wee bits of meat are introduced in the baby's diet. As the child grows
older, the wee bits become chunks of meat. Early cultural conditioning
thus goes through the stomach.
And while the new earthly citizens become full-fledged members of a meat-based
culture, they may occasionally question themselves about the detrimental
health effects of their nutritional habits. But they will rarely bother
to ponder over the ethical aspects of our having turned the earth into
a huge slaughterhouse in which hundreds of millions of animals are killed
a year for the pleasure of delicate human palates. Nor does the meat ideology
like to face the enormous waste of land, energy and natural resources
concomitant with industrialized meat production and its assembly line
Yet there have always been folks that, for various reasons, do not want
to abide unquestioningly to the sacrosanct tenets of the meat cult. These
people go for a meaningful ecologically and ethically correct identity
built on their awareness of where food comes from, an awareness that includes
compassion for all living beings.
If ethics and compassion are the art of getting along with all human and
nonhuman animals without harming them, then dignity is its most beautiful
and noble outcome. Dignity will turn into a work of art that everyone
will be able to create for himself - a work of art that will become our
identity, our food.
Claude Pasquini is the IVU Liaison Officer for Europe and
a member of the IVU Council