Relationship Between Sustainability and Food Essay

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¶ … evidence you draw from one or more of the articles we have read and (if applicable) "real world" experience; a logically sound line of reasoning; properly integrated evidence in APA format; a counterargument; clear evidence of critical thinking and reading. Each prompt poses a number of questions. Your essay does not have to answer all or exclusively these questions. They are there to help you brainstorm about some of the challenges related to issues of sustainability and food.

Choose one of the four texts we have read ("Feeding the Olympics," "An Animal's Place," "Food, Sociality, and Sugar," or the excerpts from Holy Feast and Holy Fast) and assess how it addresses the relationship between sustainability and food. How does it define (explicitly or implicitly) sustainability? How does it relate sustainability to food? Does it present this as a positive or negative relationship? Does it engage ethical issues? What are they, and how does the text explain them? Write an essay in which you argue for the importance or impact (positive or negative) of the relationship between sustainability and food. This will require you to explain carefully what you (and your source) think that relationship is. Though you may use examples from your own experience or from other texts you have read, you must engage one of the texts we have read for class and use it to formulate and direct your argument.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Relationship Between Sustainability and Food Assignment

In his essay "An Animal's Place," food journalist and activist Michael Pollan suggests that there are two fundamental questions we must deal with regarding the consumption of meat. First of all is it ethical to eat animals at all, and secondly is it possible to do so in a sustainable manner? Pollan's solution raises more questions than it answers. He presents the reader with an image of Joe Salatin's sustainable farm in which animals are allowed to live as they would in nature -- moving around, scratching, and eating a diet which they can process in their guts without antibiotics. Salatin is presented as showing a former vegetarian how chickens are slaughtered: "he saw that the animal did not look at him accusingly, didn't do a Disney double take. The animal had been treated with respect when it was alive, and he saw that it could also have a respectful death -- that it wasn't being treated as a pile of protoplasm." Given that we eat animals for food, says Pollan, this is the best and most humane way to do so. Unfortunately, the question of whether the Salatin model could feed the rapidly growing world's population and appetite for meat remains unanswered.

Pollan begins his essay discussing the question of the ethics of meat consumption in general. He portrays himself eating a rib eye steak while reading the vegetarian philosophy of Peter Singer. Singer, a professor at Princeton University and an animal rights activist, points out the many contractions in Western society's attitude towards meat consumption. We raise dogs as pets yet slaughter pigs, who have equal intelligence. We ban experimentation on all humans, even the severely disabled, while allow it upon some of the most intelligent and highly sensitive animals such as monkeys. Singer points out that not all human beings are 'the same,' but that is not viewed as grounds for denying them rights -- and the same is true of animals.

While Pollan makes light of eating a steak, joking that "what I was doing was tantamount to reading Uncle Tom's Cabin on a plantation in the Deep South in 1852," his metaphor underlines the unstable nature of what we consider to be ethical eating practices. Not so long ago in history, slavery was considered normal. A handful of radical zealots opposed it, while a larger group of economically-invested people supported it and even called it a moral good. Most of society, however, thought African-Americans were innately inferior to whites but found the institution unpleasant. They might feel guilty not fighting against it but they did not want to side with the radical activists. Substitute PETA for abolitionists, cattlemen and a few militant foodie steak-eaters for slaveholders, and the average supermarket consumer for the vast majority of the American non-slaveholding public, and Pollan's analogy eerily show how what we consider 'common sense' -- that we must consume animals -- does not make something a fact. "Will history someday judge us [meat-eaters] as harshly as it judges the Germans who went about their ordinary lives in the shadow of Treblinka?

But while animals have gained some legal rights in terms of the conditions they enjoy, overall "at the same time many people seem eager to extend the circle of our moral consideration to animals, in our factory farms and laboratories we are inflicting more suffering on more animals than at any time in history." As people become disconnected from the animals from which they derive their food, living in cities and away from farms, they feel that they have no alternative other than to become vegetarians or simply to ignore the source -- and the suffering -- of animals.

However, followed to its logical conclusion, if one were to take as radical a view as Singer to the question of animal liberation, this would mean it was morally wrong to kill a tick on a dog, if every living being was accorded equal rights. and, of course, some animals need meat to survive. Animals, according to Singer, deserve equal consideration in having their needs satisfied as humans, but what happens when those needs involve killing other animals? All animals may be able to suffer, but the suffering of a rabbit is necessary to feed a fox and cease its hungry suffering.

Pollan states that "besides, humans don't need to kill other creatures in order to survive; animals do." As Singer sees it, the choice is between "a lifetime of suffering for a nonhuman animal and the gastronomic preference of a human being?" However, this assertion is somewhat questionable, at least for all humans. While there are many people who live as vegetarians, even as vegans and appear to thrive, others do not. Just as some people seem to tolerate certain foods better than other people, many people who adopt vegetarianism complain of gaining or losing weight, feeling hungry all the time, developing anemia, and other health problems. For diabetics, the lack of protein can make their blood sugar unstable, and not eating fish means doing without one of the most available sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, a vital component in heart health. While it is unlikely a vegetarian diet will kill most people, the idea that it is 'equally suitable for all' is questionable.

Very few societies have sustained entirely vegetarian diets, although some societies eat more meat than others. Additionally, as Pollan points out, to be a truly ethical society would require people to abstain from eating eggs and dairy products as well as meat. The conditions under which chickens are raised to lay eggs ere worse than those raised for meat, and these chickens are killed after they are no longer useful. The calves that milking cows give birth to are slaughtered. But radical veganism as an alternative to being an omnivore is even more extreme and more questionable as a viable health strategy. Furthermore, from a sustainability vs. A rights perspective, it is questionable if the land and the energy expended in processing required to may soy burgers and other vegetarian staples is that much better than meat. "The vegetarian utopia would make us even more dependent than we already are on an industrialized national food chain."

Pollan also notes that "under the pressure of the hunt, the human brain grew in size and complexity and around the fire where the meat was cooked, human culture first flourished." Denying all human beings meat would also mean ignoring the fact that our ability to eat meat enabled us to create a more advanced society, relying upon more efficient hunting rather than grazing methods. And it also denies us our own animalistic qualities. In trying to be vegetarian or vegan, we are essentially denying our animal needs. "Surely this is one of the odder paradoxes of animal rights doctrine. It asks us to recognize all that we share with animals and then demands that we act toward them in a most unanimalistic way."

Pollan points out proudly that the sustainable farm of Joseph Salatin seems to be the answer to all of these problems. Animals are able to enjoy being animals while they still live on the earth. Even Peter Singer had difficulties condemning the way these animals were raised. "I would not be sufficiently confident of my arguments to condemn someone who purchased meat from one of these farms." However, Singer also pointed out the obvious point that such small-scale farming is not practical to feed populations. This is not only true of the United States, but also China, which has a rapidly-increasing appetite for meat, thanks to its increased size… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Relationship Between Sustainability and Food" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Relationship Between Sustainability and Food.  (2012, September 22).  Retrieved April 3, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Relationship Between Sustainability and Food."  22 September 2012.  Web.  3 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Relationship Between Sustainability and Food."  September 22, 2012.  Accessed April 3, 2020.