Racism, environmental decline, animal welfare, and human health are tied in a Gordian Knot around the issue of food. Common sense would suggest untying it be left to people with demonstrated expertise in its varying facets:
- Indigenous land/water protectors (which includes farmers) who protect 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity
- People of color who are most familiar with the intricate nuances of American racism
- Livestock and hunting cultures around the world that regard the sanctity of all life (animal and plant) equally and in ways utterly unfamiliar to Euro/Western minds
- Members of strong, older food cultures that enjoy robust health without an industry devoted to nutrition
With that in mind, it’s curious that messaging on this intractable problem is dominated by the people arguably least qualified to speak: white non-experts hailing from a nation founded explicitly on racism, saddled with a schizophrenic dominant food culture extracted from an environment in utter freefall.
Jonathan Foer — a novelist and creative writing professor — is the latest in a long line of authors continuing in this tradition. He was recently handed a bullhorn in the form of a New York Times opinion piece. In it, he buries a couple of good-if-copy-pasted points (e.g. Americans probably eat too much protein, CAFO agriculture is a huge problem) inside a mass of misinformation about animal agriculture’s share of GHG emissions, clumsy pairings of racial justice with conscientious consumerism, and lazy dismissals of alternatives — all bound together by the collective gravity of a litany of omissions.
The sin that drives America’s food/race/environment problem isn’t animal agriculture. It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about: the United States stole far and away more land than “necessary” from its Indigenous inhabitants, and our modern food system is the end result of 243 years…