My guilty little food secret


Hello from freezing Wellington,

There is something that about being a so-called ‘food ethics blogger’ that really bugs me. I think it’s that sense that maybe I should be a model for all my readers (yes, both of you)…a paragon of virtue if you will. The unfortunate truth is that I’m not really all that ethical when it comes to food. I mean well, but I have a couple of guilty food secrets.

The first is that sometimes I do let food go off and throw it out. It’s not deliberate. I don’t have a vendetta against market gardeners or anything. It just sort of happens. I know there’s no excuse, but sometimes I get busy or just forget what’s already in the fridge when I’m at the supermarket. Then, when I get home, I just can’t face eating food that’s limp or got stuff growing on it. Even worse, as a gardener, I know how much effort and time it takes to grow things. But does that stop me chucking that partly mouldy orange? Not a bit.

Even worse, I eat meat. I know, I know, I feel terrible about it. At least I do until that first mouthful of delicious butter chicken. Then my morals are drowned out by the siren song of a belly that’s nice and full. I think chickens are marvellous creatures and I genuinely mean them no harm. It’s just really unfortunate they also happen to be so tasty.

I know the meat industry is terrible in so many ways. It is a major contributor to our environmental footprint. It accounts for 18% of our greenhouse gas emissions, including 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, which are 300 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide. Animal agriculture is also soaking up much of our arable land, drinkable water, edible food and combustible fossil fuel resources. Intellectually I know these things, but tell them to my hungry belly. Vege-burger? Um, no thanks.

Vegetable burger

                Plant patties? Um, no thanks, I’m not that hungry

So yeah, not proud. I have found that, as I’ve gotten a bit older, I was able to wean myself mostly off red meat at least. And somehow once I ate less, the attraction of it also kind of wore off. I hasten to add that if this transition had required more than a minor tweak, there’s no way I would have done it. But now that I’m there, I feel pretty good about it.

What I’ve realised is that I don’t think to myself ‘I’ll be ethical’, then act ethically. The best I can do is go shopping before I’m hungry (and plan to buy just chicken and veges), then, well, use my inherent laziness for the rest. It’s kind of like saying I’m mostly moral…when it’s convenient…and when my resolve isn’t tested too much. The trick is to do the shopping before I’m actually hungry.

As it turns out, there’s a name for wimpy, low-self control, semi-vegetarians like me: flexitarian. So, if you manage to go the whole distance and become a card carrying vegetarian, big kudos to you. But if you’re a morally ambiguous, weak willed, flexitarian like me, I’m certainly not judging.

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