Are our eating habits destroying the planet?

world-in-black-and-white-hands-1Some months ago we decided to get our own chickens, as part of a long-term project to make us more self-sufficient. We chose the French Marans because they are renowned for being especially disease-resistant. The dark-brown eggs are of a high organic quality.

Our five hens provide us an ample supply of eggs for our four-member family and have the freedom to roam around the property as they please. Its what I see as our small protest against the poultry industry. We were therefore aghast to learn that all private owners of poultry in our region here in northwestern Germany have been ordered to vaccinate their chickens against Newcastle disease, which broke out at a mass animal farm of 24,000 chickens in Norrkoeping, Sweden.

The only vaccination available is for 1,000 and more hens and has to be carried out by a registered vet every three months at a cost of around 75 EUR (97 U.S. Dollars) minimum. Meanwhile I have learned that severe vaccination rules apply for pigs and other farm animals. Several organic farmers, who started innovative projects to revive rare farm animal species, have been forced to give up their ventures because of the prohibitive compulsory vaccination costs.

The reason I’m mentioning this small example is that animal diseases, stemming from intensive mass animal farming is out of control worldwide. We’ve had food scandal after food scandal and nothing seems to change. A generation from now will ask us: “How could you have been so stupid and left us with this mess?”

The way we live, and especially our choice of foods, is not only destroying our health and quality of life but rapidly destroying our planet. According to a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), our diets and, specifically, the meat in them cause more greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and the like to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry. (Scientific American) 

There is a chain reaction starting from depletion of water resources, pollution from animal waste, loss of habitat to grazing lands and destruction of biodiversity on many levels.

I’m not a proponent of a purely vegetarian diet. But I think we should radically cut down our meat consumption for the reasons mentioned and boycott food coming from the mass animal farm industry.

Yesterday I attended a most inspiring lecture by the Gyalwang Drukpa in Hamburg. He is the head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Buddhist Order, founder of the Live to Love foundation and was awarded the United Nations Milennium Development Goals Award. The topic of the talk was “Mindfulness and Happiness”. He highlighted the importance of individual responsibility in taking concrete action to save our world for the next generation. Volunteering action such as planting trees or becoming more mindful on the ways we can contribute positively to the wider world is a key to living a happy, fulfilled life.

Most people go into resistance or denial when told to change their lifestyle habits or being preached at with a pointed finger. The Gyalwang Drukpa has a different approach. He sees “compassion” as an individual process of understanding that comes from the heart and then translates itself into positive action, into a deep understanding to the needs of the wider world and all living beings.

Looking at the Biblical quotation “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Mark 12:30-31) this translates into developing a deep sense of compassion for oneself within the unity of humanity and our world of which we are an intrinsic part of.

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