Compassionate eating beyond just animal rights

One of our readers recently requested clarification on a statement I made in my previous post on the human rights issues involved in our dietary choices. In this post, I’ll address what it is I think these groups are missing in their intention to commit to a compassionate diet.  The reader asks:

You pose the question “if we are to truly embrace a compassionate diet, don’t we need to include our fellow human beings in the equation?”. However, this reader is unclear as to what you are alluding to that “numerous organizations, non-profits, and vocal individuals calling for animal rights, vegetarianism, and slaughterhouses with glass walls” are missing. Please elaborate.

So, what are the people who speak out against animal cruelty and for a vegetarian diet missing?

The humans behind our food

What are we missing? The easy answer—human beings.  When many people hear the phrase “compassionate eating”, they immediately about  a vegetarian or vegan diet.  However, to truly be compassionate with our food choices, we should consider all efforts and factors that go into getting it to our table, including the humans affected along the way.

Does compassionate eating include all living beings or just non-human animals? It’s relatively easy to label oneself a vegetarian or vegan, to write off meat and dairy, and to claim to live a guilt-free lifestyle. However, food choices based in compassion require us to be even more responsible for our purchasing and consuming decisions. Compassionate eating takes into consideration not just the animals, but also human beings’ working conditions, living conditions, whether forced or underage labor was involved in our food production.

The environmental effects of our food choices

Compassionate eating also requires us to consider the impact our food choices have on the natural environment. So not only do consider the wellbeing of animals, but also do our best to ensure that we do as little damage as possible to the earth in the process of getting our food from its source to our tables.

Consider these facts:

  • A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.
  • In the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread—approximately the cost of the wrapping.
  • Farmers’ markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.  ( )

Supporting animal rights, following a vegan or vegetarian diet, and encouraging others to do the same is surely a step in the right direction toward compassionate eating. But what we’re missing is the fact that compassionate eating doesn’t stop with a vegetarian or vegan diet.  It is not that the cause of animal rights is missing its point; it’s that its scope must be widened to include all living things — even human beings.

Why is it so difficult to find information about the human rights issues involved in factory farm production on PETA’s website?  It’s tucked away under “More Reasons to Go Vegan” — almost as if it’s an aside, something you wouldn’t find unless you were really looking for it.

The rights of all living things — humans, animals, and those of the earth — must be brought into the dialogue. All must be considered and championed at the grocery store and at out dinner tables.  Compassionate eating means taking actions with our food and purchasing choices that ensure all beings on earth have a right to life, not just the animals.

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- who has written 5 posts on Yoga Modern.

Ashlee is Assistant Editor for the Earth Current at Yoga Modern and considers herself a lifelong learner. After graduating from university with studies in Political Science and Spanish, she fell headfirst in love with yoga. She loved not only the deep physical experience yoga provides, but also its connection between mind, body, and spirit and seemingly endless opportunities to learn. Having grown up on a fruit farm in rural Maine, Ashlee resonated most with the yogic philosophy of interconnectedness and the observance of ahimsa. She takes her practice off the yoga mat by delving deeper into the interconnectedness of the global food chain, by following the thread of a simple dietary decision to its impacts on the consumer, the local economy and the local and global environments. Ashlee currently lives and teaches yoga in Dallas, Texas.

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