Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No Icing, No Cake

I wanted to begin this blog entry by saying that I'm hungry and there is
nothing to eat in this apartment, but that's not least, the
latter is not. I have grains and pasta and chick peas and rye bread and
frozen spinach and berries. There is a lot I have in my apartment to
eat, but what I'm really craving is a cupcake from Snice. And as I almost started this blog entry by writing that and then veering off onto another subject, like the subject of the all-important cupcake or
the even more vital icing, I was reminded of a panel discussion I
attended yesterday at Cardozo Law School on the subject of food policy.

So much of my life revolves around animal rights, and mostly,
the non-human animal variety. I advocate, I write, I do my best to
listen, and I fight. (And sometimes I rhyme by accident.) I'm
traumatized and angry, but I'm also empowered and, in many ways, happy. Okay, that's not really true...I can't exactly be HAPPY when I know what I
know (I said the other day that the key to happiness is ignorance), but
I am fairly contented and have moments of happiness. The statistics of animal oppression are so big that there are no words to describe it. 10 billion land animals in the US will be killed this year for food. I can't even conceptualize that number, to be honest. All I know is that like most people who are open enough to learn the truth of how their choices affect other beings, they can't not do something. It's not virtuous or noble--it's obvious.

And when people yell at us during demos that there is a war going on and
why are we screaming about duck livers, or that they are first and
foremost concerned with human rights, we remind them that it is not an either/or, and that animal rights include human rights--both in direct ways (slaughterhouse workers are amongst the most abused and abusive workers out there) and in indirect ways (oppression of one kind leads
to oppression of another--see "Coming Out for Animal Rights").

So why did I not realize what is going on under my nose in the city I live in, on the very island where I crave a Snice cupcake and claim to have no food in my fridge when that is a lie that lucky people like myself tell ourselves in our blinder moments?

According to City Harvest:

1.5 million New Yorkers currently live in poverty*, struggling to afford basic necessities such as rent and medical care and put food on their tables.

Of those living in poverty, more than one million rely on emergency food at some point during the year.**

Of the more than one million New Yorkers who rely on emergency food:

34% have had to choose between food or paying their rent
34% have had to choose between food or paying their utilities
22% have had to choose between food or medical care.**

* Data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
**Data from "Hunger in America 2006: The New York City and New York State Report."

And according to Just Food:

New York City's soup kitchens and food pantries fed 45% more people in 2002 than in 2000. In 2003, 1.6 million New Yorkers will turn again to these
emergency food sources. That's one in five NYC residents.

I'm sitting here at my computer trying to come up with what I want to say, but in all honesty, I don't know what to say. There were other statistics given too, such as obesity rates being double in poverty-stricken areas of the inner-city
("dietary racism," according to Dr.Milton Mills).

Yet when my BFF, Marisa Miller Wolfson, Outreach Coordinator for Global Green Foundation and a smart and sassy panelist yesterday, talked about the obvious (albeit underspoken)link between animal agriculture and global warming (commodification of our planet!), nobody said anything. The other panelists (and leaders in environmental activism) focused instead largely on local and organic. (Yes, yes, that's important too...)

Animal agriculture is entirely unsustainable. On the front page of this past Sunday's NY Times Weekend Review, the article, Rethinking the Meat Guzzler,laid it on the line:

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor , an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

An audience-member at yesterday's discussion said that she was vegetarian,
but was from a middle-state where animal agriculture basically employs
every resident, and what would happen to them if--poof!--factory farming
was no more? Marisa said that she understands that concern, but it is
not a black or white all movements (including slavery), it
will be gradual, and as the demand drops in one area, the demand of
other areas will rise, and so too will employment.

The other panelists continued to talk about transportation, and how if NYC lost its bridges and tunnels, we would lose our food supply within 8 days--that's how reliant we are, that's how unsustainable this all is.

Maybe we should stop creating a demand for animal foods, and eventually there will be so much more land to feed those who are starving, those who really don't have food in their fridges. Dietary racism is just one example of oppression feeding oppression.

Everything is animal rights. Everything.

OBVIOUSLY there are a million other issues involved in what I am saying here. I do not claim to have all of the answers. But I KNOW that many of these problems could be significantly lessened by going vegan.

Now I have to do my homework. For me, ignorance is not blissful--it's annoying and damaging.