Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Dominion" and how reading a book can change your life

Not always in a fun way...

I recently read "Dominion" by Matthew Scully, a Conservative Catholic vegan. He wrote Sarah Palin's VP nomination speech! We could not be more different. It's eloquently written and very, very compelling. It's about a number of things, but mostly about stewardship and how we are failing to live up to what we are called to do, from both a Biblical and an ethical standpoint. Among the topics explored are big game hunting (and hunting in general), whaling, animal experimentation and factory farming. I wonder if part of why it's so viscerally affecting is that I came to this book from a place of skepticism. What does a Conservative Catholic vegan have to say to me? Lots and lots. I spent the last two hours of reading with a knot in my stomach caused by grief and guilt. It's not a fun read, but I believe it's an important one.

For me, the sum of this is that the thin veneer of plausible deniability that I have so carefully cultivated over the years has been removed, and I've been wrestling with what this means for me and my relationship to food - particularly meat and dairy. It's easier to not read this book. It's easier to not think about what goes into what I eat, but I can't pretend that I don't know anymore, and I can't keep contributing to the amount of suffering that takes place in the meat industrial complex.

I am fortunate to live in a place where an organic, ethical food movement has taken hold. There are a number of farmer's markets and co-ops in the area where pasture-fed meat can be obtained. I can easily find Shatto milk at the store (if I really wanted to, I could take a day trip out to the dairy itself). Tomorrow, I'm probably going to check out Howard's Organic Fare/Vegetable Patch, which is a kind of local 24/7 membership grocery thing (I'm not entirely sure how best to describe it, but it's fascinating to me).

Equal in importance to this accessibility, I am in a position financially where purchasing these products is something I can do. This is certainly not something I could have even considered when I was younger, so in some ways, I'm lucky that I've come to this quandary at this point in my life.

I've considered vegetarianism, and there are many health benefits (as well as the prospect of environmental sustainability) but my biggest motivator is the guilt I feel over the living conditions of animals in factory farms. I'm not concerned about my health, and I'm a fatalist when it comes to the state of the world. We're doomed! I have come to accept this! I don't go out of my way to do awful things - I recycle, I try to minimize my driving, but we're not headed in a good direction, and I haven't seen anything in policy or other sea change that makes me think that we're going to turn this around in the time we have left to do that! I'm oddly chipper about it. But in the time we have left, I'd like to at least reduce the amount of suffering that my own personal existence encourages.

What's probably going to happen is that I'll go mostly vegetarian, and on the rare occasions that I eat meat, I'll try to buy it from ethical, local sources.


  1. Yeah, I try to go Shatto when we have the funds, but usually that is only the first grocery trip after payday -- we're kind of scrambling the rest of the month. I do buy Campo Lindo eggs though. They are so sweet -- they put little notes in the boxes with stories about the farm and chickens. The Price Chopper at 95th and Mission carries Campo Lindo chicken, but only whole chickens. I suck at butchering chicken, but I do pick one up once in a while.

  2. I basically joined Howard's Organic Fare so I'd have an easy place to find cage-free eggs and humanely sourced meats. Haven't actually bought anything yet, but I have plans! ALDI has organic soy milk, which surprises me. It is delicious. I'm doing that for the time being, but I will definitely try Shatto at some point.