Thankfully I am not what I eat

Just some thoughts I had after watching Our Daily Bread.

screenshot of our daily bread the documentary
Ah the joys of a life in the country…

I watched a documentary called Our Daily Bread recently. It’s a fly-on-the-wall look at modern day food production. It’s not an easy watch, firstly because it’s style is so different to most of the documentaries you see on t.v., and secondly because it shows the factory style farming of chickens, cows and pigs. It also shows vegetable farming and salt-mining. I would recommend watching it but I did find it very upsetting so if you’re sensitive about these things approach it with caution.

When I say fly-on-the-wall look I think this is one of the few documentaries I have seen which actually managed to achieve this style. There is no commentary, no interviews, no in-your-face you-must-get-this-message heavy-handed editorial stance. So, you really do get that detached observer seeing-things-as-they-are feel. There is no background music and no human speech to follow. It’s not just without commentary, it’s without the usual hooks and grips that keep the viewer alert and demand constant attention. This all combines to slow your mind down as you watch. Without the usual watch-me-watch-me cues you have to consciously decide to remain watching, but at the same time the quietness of the film lets your brain quieten down so that what you see really leaves a deep impression on you. And it’s also captures the fly-on-the-wall feeling because it doesn’t attempt to show the viewer everything, it alights on something and stays just a short while before moving quickly elsewhere.

I loved this style. I hate how so many things these days seem to tell you what to think before they’ve even bothered to give a proper description of their subject matter. That is not to say that this is completely without a viewpoint. I think the makers of this film have a very definite viewpoint on mass production and factory style farming – but I’ll let you be the judge of that if you decide to watch it.

As I said I was very upset by it. I was much more upset by the conditions in which the animals shown live their lives than I was by the acts of slaughter (although that was not an easy watch either). I don’t think it’s wrong to kill members of other species for food. I don’t think that meat is murder. But I do think that forcing an animal to live its whole life as a mere product, denying it any sort of freedom or the basic pleasures of life, is terribly wrong.

There was one part that really delighted me though, the machine that harvested the potatoes. I grew up in the country, not on a farm, but I knew people who had small farms. I always loved whenever I was allowed to do any kind of “farm work”. It wasn’t often. But I remember once picking potatoes when I went to visit one of them. Picking potatoes is not fun. It’s the only “farm work” that I remember as not being fun and actually felt like hard work. So when I watched the potatoes being mechanically fired into the steel drum I just felt incredibly proud of our species for inventing a machine which could do this back-breaking and boring work. I know that might sound ridiculously over the top, but honestly that is how I felt; a surge of pride at the inventiveness of man.

I’m not going to say anything more about the documentary. Provided you’re not easily upset by these kinds of things I’d recommend watching it. It made me reflect a lot on my food choices among other things. I’ve decided to have at least two vegetarian days a week and I’ve given up chicken completely (before I had just decided not to cook it anymore). That said I still think that people should not have to pay more for their weekly groceries and if factory farming were to end tomorrow the price of food would inevitably rise. It surprises me the amount of people who believe that we should simply pay more for our food. I may be in a tiny minority here (of 1 individual) but deep down I don’t believe we should have to pay for necessities like food, healthcare, housing or education. That’s my emotional response to the issue. Deep down I’ve never understood why we let any factors other than a person’s need determine their access to these necessities. Imagine a world where only luxuries were affected by the vagaries of the markets, where everyone got the best medical care available regardless of their income, where no one went hungry unless by choice, where everyone had access to the same level of education. It would be such a relief to know that we all accepted that taking care of each other is a basic duty we owe each other, that our societies would be focused on ensuring the basic well-being of our whole species – it’d be lovely. Today it sounds completely unrealistic but deep down I believe this is where we are headed.

I’m reading a book on world history at the moment. I’ve actually been reading it for months, I tend to read a bunch of chapters and then get distracted by something else but I keep coming back to it – I’ve read about 80% so far. Two things really struck me 1. the amount of stuff I didn’t know and 2. we, humanity, seem to be marching (and sometimes it seems being marched) on a long rocky towards equality. We are all equal and always have been but we don’t behave like we are. In fact I don’t think we even know what equality truly means yet. I don’t think I do. Equality is about more than simply not discriminating against someone because they are in a different group to you, it’s about accepting that everyone else is just as valuable and important as you and this doesn’t in anyway detract from your own importance or value. If you accept that at the very core of your being, how do you behave? I’m not sure.

It’s funny where one’s mind wanders when given enough space.

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