Thursday, October 15, 2009

An existential crisis, of sorts

So there is this issue that has been bothering me, on and off, for – lets say the last couple of weeks. Here’s the thing.

I eat meat.

I like meat, I always have. I like vegetables and vegetarian food too, but I’ve never been able to come at the idea not ever eating meat. I can’t even imagine living without eggs or dairy.

All my life I have seen trucks carrying livestock; often they invoke a twinge of guilt/anger/sadness at the way we treat these animals – stuffing them in the back of a truck and shipping them off to an abattoir – but rarely any thought beyond that.

Last week I saw a truck full of cows just down the street from my house as I was driving home one afternoon. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, except that – fair warning, this is gross, you probably don’t want to be eating right now – as it lurched off through the roundabout, there was liquid excrement running off the back of the trailer with every jolt and bump. Uhm, ew? And we treat sheep, cattle, chickens and who-knows-what-else like this all the time?

It got me thinking, and my problem is as follows:

How can I justify eating meat when we treat animals like this?

The more I think about it, the more this logic extends to other animal products. I mean, I buy free-range eggs – RSPCA or Animal Liberation certified if I can find them – but I never thought about how these animals are treated when they get old. To be quite honest, I have no idea and while I want to believe that free-range chickens are also treated well at the end of their life, I’m not sure I can take that for granted. The same applies to the cows who produce my favourite organic, bio-dynamic milk and yoghurt – what happens to them? I’m not so picky about cheese or butter or cream and have even less faith in the way those producers treat their animals.

It would be so much easier to just stick my head in the sand, but part of me wants to do the research and ask the hard questions so that I can make more informed decisions about what I eat. But I am scared of the answers, to be quite honest, and of the implications of those answers, and all too aware of the people I know who have gone vego/vegan for exactly these reasons.

And that doesn’t even touch on the ecological side of the debate, which is, well, complex and I can’t even begin to pretend to understand it.

So I guess I am asking for advice and opinion; what I am interested in is the ethical and ecological stuff. I have the resources and expertise to mostly figure out the health implications for myself. But I don’t know where to go for good ethical info and perspective, so I’d love some opinions and links :)

(I don't want to stop eating meat, but I'm worried that the price may be too high. What I’d love to find is that my certified free-range eggs and organic dairy come from animals who are treated ethically throughout their lifetime, or at least that those products are available to me. And that there is accessible, ethically produced meat out there and I can make an informed, ethical choice without having to stop eating meat altogether - even if it means considerably reducing my meat consumption. That’s my ideal.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Op-shopping! and 100 ideas...

My housemate loves her op-shops, so when she saw a big one in Millicent last weekend she knew straight away she wanted to go back one day when they were open. Yesterday afternoon we both finished at uni in time to get down there before their 3:30pm close, so that's what we did :)

A very successful trip, I must say:

Black/grey jeans, purple v-neck 3/4 sleeve top, green strapless summer dress.

A bag of yarn - grey, wool/ wool blend, ~5ply. 7 balls, so enough for a small garment, I'm thinking maybe a cardi.

These dark green teacups were on the free table.

Pretty handkerchief, I think maybe hand-embroidered.

Total spent: $17.

Also, this week I came across Keri Smith's 100 ideas for a journal. Seemed like a fun idea, so I printed out the pdf and cut it up.

I've done one so far, and considering my options for the next. I was hoping for one a day, but time and creativity constraints have got in the way somewhat! There will be photos when I've done a couple more though.

In the mean time, here is my little stack of squares sitting on the kitchen table, waiting for their turns :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blue Lake

Blue Lake
Originally uploaded by imogenesis
You can find this and other photos from my Mt Gambier placement to date over on flickr :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

"The kindest Africans had not changed at all, and even after all these years the best of them are bare-assed."

I have been travelling a fair bit recently; I will spare you the details as they are pretty mundane, suffice to say that I have been in Mt Gambier for 4 weeks on a university placement and this weekend will be the first one I have actually spent in the town. In fact today was the first Friday I have spent at the hospital…

I have been reading Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari on aeroplanes and at airports… two sets of flights to Canberra and back was enough time for me to finish it. The book is subtitled “Overland from Cairo to Capetown”, but this is as much a book about Africa itself as it is about travelling, and about the writer re-discovering the continent where he had lived and worked 40 years before this safari.

Theroux writes in a way that I find evocative and engaging without being wordy; he makes me want to visit Africa and Egypt – which is ‘not Africa’. He keeps the distance and observer role of a journalist, but seems to have a talent for talking to people, for drawing their stories out of them. He is also not afraid to ask questions about the political situation, a thing that should be done carefully in some countries!

Overall, I would have to say that the picture Theroux paints of much of Africa is pretty bleak. It seems to be a continent of corrupt governments, dependant on foreign aid – even propped up by it. Too many people have ‘inherited’ this same dependence and feel entitled to assistance from white people with no effort on their own part. Theroux’s view of foreign aid workers and missionaries is dim; to put it a little harshly, they feed nothing but the culture of dependence and their own egos. His portrait of Robert Mugabe is almost terrifying, and his depiction of Zimbabwe at that time nothing short of tragic… in the 10 years since, little seems to have changed.

Perhaps most depressing of all is that he does not find the situation improved in the 40 years since he was a teacher in Malawi. In fact he finds it worse – the school where he once taught is falling over, the library devoid of books (they have been stolen by students) and few of his former pupils have made much of their lives. Throughout Africa he finds the same thing – Western-built infrastructure is falling apart and there is nothing to replace it. Indian immigrants have been scared away, their shops closed and no Africans have the ability/ willingness to open new businesses in their place – rows of shops in countless towns lie empty and abandoned. There are many other examples of this sort of degeneration.

Theroux’s eventual conclusion with respect to foreign aid seems to be this: for hundreds of years, Westerners have been doing more harm than good in Africa. We should get the heck out of there, and let Africans fix their own problems in their own way*. And herein lies the ray of hope. The idea that “the best of (Africans) are bare-assed” (usually literally) runs strongly throughout this book. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, there are many good and kind Africans. There are those who are willing to work against the status-quo and even their own governments to improve their countries. Despite everything, he seems to see a ray of hope for Africa.

*My words, his ideas.