To my surprise, my food posts (I am, after all, supposed to be feminist & foodie) have sparked serious controversy ’round these parts. So let’s see what happens today, when we throw religion into the mix.
Interestingly, though, here it is religion that is the issue around which people are converging, or at least a motivating factor for that convergence. Yesterday, the NY Times Dining & Wine section featured an article pithily titled “Of Church & Steak,” which surveyed various religious movements working toward more ethical food production. Movements are emerging among Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, and Muslims that push not only to slaughter animals in the most humane way possible (a focus of the Jewish kashrut laws or Muslim Halal), but also to ensure that the animals live cage free and that the people who care for and slaughter the animals are treated with respect and are paid living wages (not minimum wage). It’s food as social justice.
It’s not that this blending of green/sustainable/humane living and religion is anything new (eco-Kashrut has been around for about 30 years, as the Times notes, and which finds a modern home here). What’s new is the growing popularity of these movements, and their increasing power within their own religions. In Judaism, for example, the Conservative movement (less tied to the texts of Jewish law than Orthodox but more concerned with tradition and law than Reform) is in the process of creating a new kind of Kosher seal that would take into account issues of sustainability, humaneness during life, and treatment of human workers. (Apologies for the focus on Judaism; it’s what I know most about and would welcome perspectives from other religions on comments).
This change is clear both in the growth of interreligious work on ethical meat and in each religion. In the words of the inimitable Joel Salatin, proprietor of Polyface Farms, and a central figure in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, put it well in the Times article:
“Ten years ago most of my farm visitors were earth muffin tree-hugger nirvana cosmic worshipers,” Mr. Salatin said. “And now 80 percent of them are Christian home schoolers.”
I can’t preach from a bully pulpit on this issue — I’m headed to Peter Luger‘s tonight, where I doubt they use what I would call ethical and sustainable meat. But for me it’s something to aspire to, for ethical reasons that are both religious and secular.
(also at Feministe)