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When food means identity and identity means food
from IVU News Oct 2000

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 mentality.

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

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