May 05, 2015

Alienation from the food you eat.

Another procrastination post. I was talking to my friends about the potential "grad" trip that I want to go to Japan and the topic of food came up. I have always been quite adventurous with my food (to a certain extent) and mentioned my desire to try raw octopus in Japan. this resulted in a mini debate about karma and the food you eat.

Here is how our conversation started.

So this was where I left the "debate". Ours is clearly a difference in mindset, and I do not foresee us agreeing on this topic. But I thought about this before.

In sociology, we learnt that because of capitalism, we are alienated from the product itself as well as the process of making the product. Marx said this with regards to the people producing it.

However, I think (and many other think) that the producers are not the only ones who are alienated from the product. The consumers themselves (yes, that's us) are also alienated from the products we consume. Have you ever thought about the number of chicken wings you eat from the roasted chicken wing shop? 2 wings = 1 chicken. How many chickens were killed for your consumption? It may be just the wings, but one chicken only has 2 wings! If you eat 10 wings, that's 5 chickens killed.

Many of us cannot even stomach the thought of killing an ant. Much less a wriggling live chicken. So how can we even bear to consume so many wings?! Because somehow, we forgot that the chickens had to be killed. Then, in this case, if you get bad karma from killing the chicken, who gets the bad karma? The one who killed the chicken, the one who cooked the chicken, or the one who consumed the chicken? If you think about this, 100 years ago, unless you are a rich lord with kitchen staff to help you. The person who would be doing all those would be the same person. Alienation from the process of making food is one of the reasons why people consume so much food in modern society. That is my opinion. If you had to kill, defeather and cook 5 chickens to eat 10 wings, are you going to do it? What would you do with the rest of the meat? How long is it going to take you to do all that?

Back to the question of karma. I am not an expert on my own religion, but I think that the idea that eating meat that you didn't kill does not give you bad karma vs eating meat that you have to order to kill on the spot gives you bad karma. I highly doubt that the idea of karma is so simple. My friend's family does not eat crab because crabs need to be steamed alive/killed on the spot. So the idea that you ordered the crab to be killed is bad for your karma. BUT. I beg to differ. Although you may say that the food in the supermarket we buy are already killed and therefore it is less cruel to purchase them, but they were killed for your consumption. And pretending that they died a better death before you purchase them does not make the consumption of meat less cruel.

In fact, the way animals are being killed in the slaughterhouse can be seen as even more inhumane. I had to watch this documentary for one of my modules previously, called "Our Daily Bread" hit the issue to the core. The documentary shows how food is harvested, slaughtered etc. Do you think that being killed by emotionless machines are more humane? These animals were treated like food even before they were food.

Although I know all these and I understand all these, I do not see myself turning vegetarian anytime. I think the whole point is to understand where your food is coming from and acknowledge that even if you did not kill your food by hand, you played a part in its death. And birth as well, of course. And accept that if there is karma for eating other living things, you have to live with it. Not killing your food by your own hand does not mean that you are less guilty of the part you played.

I don't know how to put this through to my friend and I am not sure if it will offend her. So Qinglin, if you ever see this blogpost of mine, please don't get offended. We agree to disagree. :)

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