A Journey Toward Conscious Eating
Acknowledging the Remarkable Capacities of the Animals We Eat
by Carol Marriott
Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the Sight. —Albert Schweitzer
My dear friend never fails to say a sincere and lengthy blessing for every meal. When I am in her company and sharing a meal, I am reminded once again to cherish the abundance and sacredness of our food.
Somewhere in my early teenage years food became my enemy. Now at age 52, I still am no closer to befriending food. This is my daily battle. A battle ground where no amount of preparation and planning results in sustained victory. I am surrounded by disciplined conscious eaters, not driven from vanity, but instead from a place of sacred respect for their bodies, Mother Earth, plants, and our creature beings. Every day I vow to make the changes to embrace the depth of self-care and conscious awareness that I want for my life.
So it may surprise the reader when I say that my struggle with weight and food was my starting point, and still is, in my journey to spiritual awakening. Many years ago I attended a workshop called “Your Perfect Weight” in Calgary lead by Carmen Boulter, Director of The Women’s Centre. I signed up thinking this would be all about losing weight and eating right. To my surprise and deep gratitude it was so much more than that; three days in an exquisite environment of rich, nurturing, and sacred space where a room full of women struggling with a variety of food and body image concerns found their hearts and learned to love themselves a little more.
Carmen said at that workshop that some women may walk away from the weekend with the inspiration and tools to make an immediate difference in their lives, and others would walk this journey as their path to wholeness and wellness for as long as it takes, which would be the perfect time for them. It seems I have chosen the long and winding road!
I am deeply inspired, engaged, and fascinated in learning all about sustainable agriculture, the slow food movement, and conscious eating. My passion though, lies in the care and respect of the animals we raise (or hunt) for food. If I followed my heart, I would be a vegetarian or even a vegan. If I had to kill for the food that I eat, I doubt I could do it. I know that if I visited a slaughter house it would be the end of my meat-eating days. And yet, I continue to eat meat. A friend and nutritionist recently commented that if we would all eat like paupers, our world would be far better off. She meant, of course, that eating simply, consciously, and in moderation would do wonders for our bodies, minds, spirit, and Mother Earth.
With the intent to eat more consciously, we might look for assurances such as free-range, humanely-raised, cage-free, etc. There are many farmers who deeply care and respect the animals they raise, and with expanding consciousness and food safety issues, they are becoming more prevalent. I believe we must still be vigilant and closely examine the various marketing methods to ensure that we are truly buying from the many farmers who use the utmost of care, respect, and humaneness in the raising and killing of their animals. It saddens my heart to know that the majority of our farm animals are considered “products” raised by “producers” and that old habits, attitudes, and appetites die hard.
My most recent inspiration came in the form of a poignant and moving book called The Inner world of Farm Animals by Amy Hatkoff, with a foreword by Jane Goodall. The touching and tender stories and pictures describe the amazing social, emotional, and intellectual capacities of cows, ducks, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals and how barnyard creatures demonstrate sophisticated problem-solving abilities, possess rich social lives, and feel a wide range of emotions. Amy says, in other words, they’re much like humans in countless ways. And, like us, they suffer physical pain and mental anguish. And she joins the growing call for treating these aware, feeling beings with greater compassion and respect. She dedicates her book to the twenty-two billion animals who are currently being farmed throughout the world, often under conditions that are harsh and inhumane. (amyhatkoff.com)
Author of The World Peace Diet, Will Tuttle (PhD) writes that, “The motivation underlying veganism is compassion. As each of us awakens to the power of this idea, we will reduce animal cruelty and suffering, as well as our abuse of the Earth. Our personal, social, and spiritual health are all connected. In our culture, there is no more powerful lifestyle change than switching to a plant-based diet, because this shift will lead to sustainability, to healing, and to compassion for the countless animals, humans, and future generations to whom we are related. As we allow others to be free and healthy, we become free and healthy.” (worldpeacediet.org)
Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness, explains that conscious eating means simply this: remaining awake and aware of how food gets to our plate—and then choosing what we eat according to our values. (www.kathyfreston.com) Whether we choose to eat animals or not, being conscious means we look more closely at how our farm animals are treated. A Google search of conscious eating will bring much information to awareness, and much that will be hard to look at. And yet, we are called to look more closely. My personal belief is that the animals are being loud and clear in their messages to us. Consider the various dis-eases that are in the daily news such as swine flu, mad cow, bird flu, and other devastating conditions. I am deeply grateful for the many and growing number of humane and conscious farmers who treat their animals with respect and consideration for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Farm animals are living, breathing, feeling beings. They feel fear, sadness, grief, pain, and suffering. This I know for sure!
Carol Marriott is a Certified Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) facilitator and the “Lead Mare” at Ravenheart Farms near Humboldt, SK. For more information, workshop dates, and/or private or group sessions call (306) 682-4641, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: www.ravenheartfarms.com and see the colour display ad on page 43 of the 15.3 September/October
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.