Time to think again about food

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Time to think again about food

by Mari Marcel Thekaekara


Do we need to change the way we think about food? (willg willg.photography, under a CC License)

Jokes about the horsemeat scandal in Britain made me think about something that happened to me recently. We were on holiday in Nagaland where dogmeat is a special food people give to guests. We were excited about visiting a Naga family – college friends of my daughter. It would be interesting to stay with the family and get to know local people – not like normal tourism.

But I didn’t go to the Naga house. I really wanted to meet our Naga friends, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to eat the “special” dogmeat. I thought that logically, intellectually, if you are not vegetarian, how is dogmeat different from other meat?

I can understand British people feeling sick at the thought of eating horsemeat. I probably would too. Then I read that some Swiss people eat dogs and cats too. I didn’t know that before. It made me remember that you can’t make other people believe what you believe. Animal rights activists will scream in anger. Anyone would. When I lived a house in the forest, it was exciting to have a visiting leopard. But when the leopard ate our dog Elsa, I wanted to shoot it (although I usually love wild animals).

For more than 25 years, I’ve felt, intellectually, that vegetarians have evolved to a higher level, but it was difficult for me to say this to the anaemic adivasi women who could die in childbirth because they didn’t eat enough protein. The protein they ate came mostly from fish and game. And if they didn’t eat this, there were terrible results – dead mothers and babies.

As I come from a country where many women’s lives could be saved if they could eat a little dal (lentils) and green vegetables, I understand what the German minister Hartwig Fischer was saying. She said we should, in a time of crisis and cuts, not throw away food with horsemeat in it, but give it away to the poor.

Rich countries don’t like using the word ‘poor’ – it’s not politically correct. But I think it makes sense to give the horsemeat, meatballs, lasagne, sauces and other food to people who will eat it.

In India too, in a country with very high maternal and infant mortality, rich and middle class people throw away a huge amount of food. I am always amazed. We have a new generation of spoilt middle-class Indian kids who usually only eat half of what’s on their plate. Europeans might remember the war and after the war, when it was very important to eat everything you had. My grandparents lived then. They walked through the Burmese jungles, and there was no food.

I understand that there are problems of trust, food chains, poisoning, and chemicals in the horsemeat. But as the Swiss farmer said, ‘meat is meat’. If someone’s not killing your pet dog or cat, do we have a right to stop them? I can see that a lot of people will not agree. I support vegetarianism to save the planet, and have reduced the amount of meat I eat. I think we need to discuss this a lot.

But I don’t like food fascists.

Now let the battle start!

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/2013/02/26/horse-meat-dog-meat-food-waste/