I think the best way for us to make sure our diets are in line with our morals is to stay connected with the end-to-end processes that we support through our food choices.
For example, if you’re a meat eater, then I would strongly recommend that you go hunting once in a while and eat what you kill. I think it’s important to have that experience, so you can fully appreciate your choices. If you can’t personally kill an animal and prepare it for consumption, that would signal a major internal incongruency, so perhaps it would be wise to reevaluate your food choices.
I wouldn’t say you need to do this every time you eat meat, but do it at least once a year to stay connected to the process from killing to consuming. For someone who only eats fish, then going fishing would suffice.
For a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I’d suggest having the experience of milking a cow and drinking its milk. Or visit a chicken farm and get some fresh eggs right from the source. Hang out with the cows and chickens to see what they’re like up close. Notice how you feel about taking and consuming their milk and eggs.
If you like to eat processed foods, see if you can arrange a visit to one of those food factories you’ve been supporting, and observe the production line. For example, Ethel M. Chocolates in Las Vegas offers a free factory tour with free chocolate samples at the end. Going on that tour probably won’t make you love or hate chocolate, but it may raise your awareness of the types of jobs human beings do to make gourmet chocolates. It helps raise your awareness of the consequences of your actions.
For a few years now, I’ve kept a small garden in my backyard. I’m not much of a gardener, but it’s been a learning experience to grow and consume some of my own food. I noticed that I prefer eating plants that renew themselves as opposed to pulling them out of the ground and killing them. I have some green onions, for example, that have been thriving for years. I snip off pieces here and there, and the plants auto-renew. The same goes for herbs. Fruit trees are also great because you can eat the fruit, and the plants live on and bear more fruit. I favor fresh fruit as a large part of my diet.
I can’t see myself hunting down and shooting a deer or some other animal. I’d rather watch the animal continue to live. If a lion wants to kill it, that’s fine, but I’m not a lion. If someone is going to eat meat though, then I think that hunting and eating the prey would be an essential experience to have. Otherwise it’s too likely to lower one’s awareness and slip into incongruency, which erodes self-respect over time.
I saw many deer up close on my recent road trip, along with cows and various other animals, and I never felt the desire to pull out a weapon and kill them and eat them. Instead I saw them as quite beautiful and peaceful. I wanted to sit and watch them, not end their lives.
At one point Rachelle and I got pretty close to a deer and practically had a conversation with it while we took some photos. At no point did we talk about the deer’s potential tastiness and satiety. Perhaps that’s why it allowed us to get so close, almost within petting range. Afterwards we thanked it for the photos.
I see inner congruency as a matter of degree more than essence. Improving the congruency between our values and our decisions is a lifelong process. It’s not about achieving perfection. As soon as you complete one step, you may think you’ve achieved some new level of moral godhood for a while, but shortly thereafter the next steps will present themselves.
I think about 9 billion farm animals are slaughtered for food each year in the USA. I wonder how many of those deaths would occur if the end consumers had to do the killing personally. I think we can all agree that it would be a lot less than 9 billion killings.
If you eat meat but you’ve never personally and deliberately killed and eaten an animal, and you resist even making the attempt, does that make you a chicken? Yeah, I think it does. After all, if your values support eating meat, then surely they must support the most basic process that makes it possible to eat meat: to deliberately kill an animal and eat its flesh.
There are lots of ways to extend the ideas in this article of course. Food choices are just one application. The overall point is that if you can’t bring yourself to participate in the processes you’re supporting right now through your choices, then do you really respect those processes?
And if you continue to partake in processes you don’t respect, then do you really respect the choices you’re making?
And if you continue to make choices you don’t respect, then do you really respect yourself?
When you take steps to increase the congruency between your values and your choices, your self-respect increases. And with greater self-respect, you’re less likely to allow yourself to be trapped in abusive situations, and you’re more likely to maintain high standards for your life, both personally and professionally.
If your values and your choices are out of sync, it means you don’t value yourself.