I have been thinking about animals lately.
One of my biggest personal takeaways from my stay in Ithaca last year is all the perspective I gained about the natural world. However brief, staying in an environment where I can go into the woods everyday or go for hikes whenever I wanted to did the city girl that is me a ton of good.
Thinking about it now, a lot of the people and friends I met there were either conscious about their meat consumption or were vegetarian. It makes sense as our work revolved around animals and, ultimately, conservation.
I admit that I have been ignorant about why people actually become vegetarians, and I’ve never really taken the time to learn about it properly. Meat is a very big part of Filipino culture and cuisine, and that is the reality I grew up with. We have big commercial animal farms, but a lot of people (especially the ones in the provinces and the small vendors in the markets) just raise enough animals to sell, or for their families to eat day to day. It’s also a reality in our developing country that so many people have nothing to eat that it’s a shame to be picky with food, and to refuse whatever is served at the table or whatever you can afford.
However, I really appreciate having gained a wider perspective about eating animals these past months. Reading about it, having conversations about it, and watching conservation documentaries have taught me a couple of things:
A) meat consumption at the rate and scale that the world runs on now has adverse effects on the way the environment works. Overfarming, horrible industry practices, illegal trade. They say the biggest step we can take to reduce our carbon footprint is to stop eating animals (and to reduce air travel!). Also, I learned that the reason some restaurants in Hong Kong don’t allow photography is because they use illegally harvested ingredients in some of their dishes.
B) Most of the creatures we eat ARE sentient beings. Octopi and pigs, they taste very good, but they are also very intelligent animals.
OK. I’m not going to pretend: I can’t go vegetarian, at least that’s how I feel now. I still need and want meat. But! I guess my more immediate goal right now is to eat in moderation and opt for more naturally-prepared food. Be more conscious about my fish choices, and, especially when I do get to choose, try harder to eat more plants than animals. Learning to cook good food (versus the easier route of having instant junky food all the time) for myself during my internship, I found that vegetables are easier to buy and cook if you’re just making food for one, so that’s something that worked out well to get me to eat less meat.
On a different note, I’ve also been thinking about the other things besides food that relate to animals on some level: toiletries, cosmetics, and art materials.
A lot of toiletries and cosmetic companies test on animals, and it’s always a very good idea to be conscious of this. Here’s a good list of cruelty-free brands and those that do test on animals. Now you know~
As for art materials, I’ve read a lot of things about the regulation on Kolinsky brushes in the US, and this really made me change my mind about getting another one. Kolinsky brushes are amazing, there’s no doubt about that, and they last a long time if you take good care of them. I’ve had mine for years and was looking online to get another one in a different size, but now I know I’ll go for the synthetic ones instead. The weasels aren’t endangered, but they are on the CITES list of animals that may be endangered or extinct due to international trade. Read more about the regulation here.
I’m not sure how the rest of my art materials fare in terms of being green. I do use a lot of paper, so that in itself I guess is sadly not too friendly on the trees?
So. A lot of energy goes into the production or harvest of everything that we use, but I think conservation has more to do with balance than just giving up everything. It’s always good to know more, and be aware of where the little things we do and buy are in the grand scheme of things.
Here’s to more informed decisions and conscientious consumption!