My house is about twenty minutes from Berkeley, California. The entire Bay Area, and California in general, is known for having liberal politics and for embracing the latest eco-friendly trends. Naturally, I’ve heard much about organic food, the 100-Mile Diet, and the benefits of fast food abstinence. However, the extent of my knowledge of food production itself is rather limited.
I’ve seen Food, Inc., and I’ve read Fast Food Nation. I know that most of the food in US grocery stores are produced by a handful of companies, and I know these companies cater to the fast food industry. Upton Sinclair has informed me of the meatpacking industry’s shady, corrupt past. George Orwell has reminded me that governments are not always interested in protecting their people. I know all of this, yet I remain unfazed. This bothers me–it bothers me that I have been consistently unbothered. Maybe this is a way of suppressing my guilt from the treatment of animals, as Jonathan Safran Foer claims many do in his book, Eating Animals. A more likely reason is that I’ve been on a strict vegetarian diet for nearly twelve years.
I became a vegetarian the moment I walked away from the movie theater after seeing Chicken Run in 2000. The movie tells the story of a rag-tag group of chickens who devise an ingenious escape method after their farm converts from egg production to a pot pie bakery. My seven-year-old heart went out to the little guys, and I have not strayed from my meatless diet since. For a long time, I have largely ignored the issues of animal cruelty and unhealthy eating, as if they didn’t apply to me. Now I must ask, does my abstinence exempt me? Is ignorance bliss?