This post is inspired by anUnrefinedVegan’s recent post about school lunch menus, health, nutrition and public policy. I agree wholly with the sentiment that we should vote with our dollars (thanks to Citizens United, it may be all we have left) and buy products that calm our collective conscience, but we’re restrained surreptitiously by our government in the decisions we can make. While the government doesn’t control what we eat, and nor should they, they have yet to put our [tax] money where their mouth is.
You may be familiar with this graphic from the USDA campaign, prominently featuring our first lady as spokeswoman for health and nutrition. So this seems pretty straightforward but somehow the policies don’t reflect this sentiment. We place huge subsidies on animal products that we’re then convinced/lobbied/taught that we must eat for ‘health’. Sitting in my doctor’s office waiting room, a girl relates how her doctor tells her to eat red meat to help bruising caused by anemia. Huh? Anemia doesn’t cause bruising (though it can happen the other way around), but deficiency in clotting factors like vitamin K can. SPINACH!!! I digress…
Dairy, meat and eggs aren’t cheap, they just seem cheap because you’ve already paid for them at least three times: once to subsidize the corn the animals ate, again to subsidize the farming of the animals themselves, and again when you buy them at the supermarket. This doesn’t take into the cost of air and water pollution caused by farming animals or the public health costs wrought by foods contaminated with animal waste (like E. coli or Salmonella spp.), bred in factory farms (like swine flu or bird flu)) or caused by eating animal products themselves (like obesity and cardiovascular disease.)
Voting with your food choices is an empowering way to shape policies but it doesn’t have to end at your meals. You can also boycott products made from or tested on animals too: leather, wool, feathers, lanolin (sheep grease, ew), albumin, etc. I actually find it an excellent way to reduce the dizzying array of cosmetics, toiletries, shoes and clothes available on the market today to a manageable selection of options. I’m not suggesting that you toss out your leather shoes or bags, that doesn’t undo anything or serve a positive goal. Technically I’m an anti-consumerism advocate and prefer to buy only from small, independently owned local businesses but consider letting the principles of vegan living inform all of your purchases, not just food.
This is Christie, signing off… to go window-shop for some sparkly jelly shoes!