Eating Ethically

...[H]ow we eat is not an isolated issue. While we would like to think, and often do think, with our independent human personalities, that what we eat is our own business, the truth is that what I eat, what you eat, has further reaching consequences than merely staying alive and being healthy. In this world of infinite connections, our interdependent web, there is no such thing as an isolated event, and because of that fact it matters what we do. It matters what we eat.

It matters where our food comes from. It matters how it’s grown. It matters how an animal is slaughtered. It matters that the earth is heating up and that eating food that has been transported long distances (the average is said to be 1500 miles) is contributing to the greenhouse effect because of carbon dioxide emissions. It matters that raising livestock produces copious amounts of methane, another carbon compound, which is twenty-three times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. (The Cheeseburger Footprint) It matters if the food we are eating was harvested by people being paid less than a living wage. Nothing is an isolated act.

But, it also matters that eating is one of the most intimate and pleasurable of human experiences. The food we eat becomes a living part of us. We are literally what we eat. It is ethically important to feed ourselves and our loved ones food that makes us healthy and happy. Yes, I think enjoying our eating matters, too. Why would our taste buds have survived evolution if tasting and enjoying our food were not beneficial to our survival in some way? And, it matters very much that eating with friends is fun and a way to get to know each other better. These kinds of things may all play into our decisions about how, when and what we eat.

The cost of buying food involves more than dollars and cents. [And] the benefits of food involve more than protein and carbohydrates....

This is an excerpt from a sermon delivered at Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst MA, April 22, 2007.