This weekend I was lucky enough to listen to some incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking discussions surrounding the idea of kindness (a post about the Kindness Conference is on its way). One of the many amazing moments for me was when one of the speakers talked about how out-of-touch we are with the seasons and rhythms of mother nature. She also produced this little gem: The life’s work of one bee is equivalent to quarter of a teaspoon of honey. It was an astounding thought. The next time I eat honey on toast I will certainly think about the four or five little bees that worked their whole lives in order for me to have just one yummy breakfast.
It’s so easy to forget that every day we rely on animals for so much sustenance. And it’s easy to be in denial about whether our food is produced in a way that is as ethical and as kind as possible to animals. But recently we have been confronted with some harsh realities in the news. Like so many other injustices in the world, it makes me feel overwhelmed thinking of all the cruelty that is occurring against animals every day. But the guest blogger of this post, Lesh, gives me so much hope that we can be part of the positive solution by making the simplest of changes to our eating habits. She is an amazingly creative cook and inspiringly passionate and ridiculously well-informed animal rights advocate who writes a beautiful blog called The Mindful Foodie. Bon Apetit!
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Kindness can be shown in every act we make – not just to others, but also in so many other ways that are not immediately obvious. Like choosing the food we eat. I don’t think many people realise what a great opportunity that is for showing kindness. I call it mindful eating – where you’re conscious of the impact your food choices have on you and everything around you, including the planet and its creatures.
What I’m most passionate about is the impact food has on animals. I became aware of the inhumane treatment of animals in the food industry through Animals Australia’s campaigns on bobby calves and the live export trade of cattle to Indonesia. Everyone I know is against animal cruelty, but many aren’t aware of the animal cruelty that goes on behind the scenes in food production ¬– it crosses the line by leaps and bounds.
So how did we get here? It has to do with industrialisation. Commercial food is produced on a large scale, and cheaply. So, not only are we are far removed from food than we once were, we don’t know what goes into it. I bet you can remember your granny or a great-aunt making jam, or even churning butter. Do you know anyone who does that now? Now we rely on the shops for these things and have no idea about how many foods are processed – or what impact they’ve had on the environment or any living being for that matter. But there are easy steps you can take that will help you make kind food choices. Here are 5 tips to get you going:
Eat less meat
This is not a sly ploy make people become vegetarian. It’s just a simple and easy way to show kindness to the planet and its animals (you can read more here). Besides, the Western world eats copious amounts of meat – way much more that what’s necessary for our health. There’s so much variety and colour (read: nutrients) to be had with adding a few vegetarian meals to our diet, and they’re yummy too! To start off, you could try Meatless Mondays. Or, if you’re up to it, why not try being a weekday vegetarian? If you’re stuck for ideas on what to cook, take a look a some blogs – 101Cookbooks and thePPK springs to mind – or some great veggie cookbooks – like Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, Plenty by Ottolenghi, World Vegetarian by Madhuri Jeffery or The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. These sites and books well and truly bust the myth that vegetarian food is boring!
Shop at farmers’ markets
Shopping at farmer’s markets hits so many kindness acts with one stone:
* you’ll support local farmers, making sure they get a fair price
* pesticide-free and organic produce is easier and cheaper to purchase – they are kinder on the environment and your body
* the produce hasn’t travelled far, is generally freshly picked and is in season, which not only benefits the environment but also your health because it’s full of nutrients
* you can support suppliers who offer humanely treated animal products
To find a farmers’ market near you check out the Australian Farmers’ Market Association.
Choose to eat only ethical animal-based products
If you’re not vegetarian, you can make kind choices by avoiding factory farmed meat, eggs and dairy products. This is what Peter Singer, the author of The ethics of what we eat, calls being a conscientious omnivore. Make sure you ask questions and not taking labels like ‘free-range’ for granted! Find out the living conditions of animals, before you choose a product. These products may seem more expensive, but the higher cost is for good reason – the cost is not shifted towards poor living conditions for animals. The cheapest way to get cruelty-free animal products is at most farmers’ markets (another reason to shop there) or directly from the farm gate – some farmers have an online ordering system and will home deliver.
Reduce your food waste Did you know that Australians throw out 5.2 billions dollars worth of food per year? That’s $239 per person, per year (1). That money could be spent towards pesticide-free produce and cruelty-free animal products. Food waste also has a considerable impact on the environment (by producing gases in landfills). So another all-encompassing way to display kindness is to reduce your food waste. Here are some quick tips:
* Store your leftovers properly so you can take it for lunch or eat it for dinner another night instead of buying takeaway
* Make a menu plan for the coming week and only buy what you need
* Get creative and make up some recipes using what you’ve got left in the fridge
* Use your limp, older veggies to make homemade vegetable stock – you can use vegetable peelings too, especially if they’re free of pesticides
* Buy less packaged foods, and cook more things from scratch. This will reduce food-packaging rubbish.
Check out this excellent book for more great ideas.
Choose fair-trade foodFor some things we can’t go local, like chocolate, tea and coffee. Such products are usually grown in third world countries. To make sure you buy products from companies that don’t exploit their workers, go fair-trade for fairer income and kinder working conditions to those who bring us these yummy treats. Look for the fair-trade symbol and check out their website.
I hope these tips give you some insight on how your food choices can make a powerful statement of kindness. I find that thinking about food – where it comes from and how it affects all beings and our planet – makes me want to make kinder food choices, naturally.