“If you’re outraged at conditions, then you can’t possibly be free or happy until you devote all your time to changing them and do nothing but that. But you can’t change anything if you want to hold onto a good job, a good way of life and avoid sacrifice.” – Cesar Chavez
An unexpected gift of vegetarianism is that I have no reason to visit fast food establishments. Even if fries or beans are served, I can’t trust that these products are truly animal-free.
I wasn’t a fast-food monger prior to my conversion to vegetarianism, yet I certainly partook of their wares on occasion. After watching “Super Size Me”, my husband and I both cut back drastically on fast food, sickened by the deep reality of what we already knew to be true.
I am coming upon a year of animal-free eating. There have been a few “surprises” in restaurants like bacon bits in the salad. And recently, Jason had a double-whammy of a day when his bean a burrito had meat inside of it and later, a “cheese” pizza had pepperoni hidden underneath its grease. Both had been requested meat free. Jason transitioned to vegetarianism a few months ago after tango-gone-bad with a Denny’s skillet meal. After that night, he swore off meat for good. For both of us, the switch has been a breeze and our health has only improved. Jason has thought more than once about even going Vegan, but I’m not quite ready to give up my beloved dairy and eggs.
Last week, we watched “Fast Food Nation”, the film based on the best-selling book exposing the dark side of the fast-food industry and it’s “drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed which has radically transformed American’s diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways.”
The spoiler all the reviewers choose to spill: Beware, there is manure is your meat. And while disgusting and alarming, this fact only scratches the surface of what the film unravels. The movie wove a sordid tale of the web the fast-food industry has entangled itself in. It touched on all the levels of this dire web: ethical, economic, environmental, health, and social. And while I found myself saying aloud with gratitude to Jason “Aren’t you glad we no longer eat them?” (Referring to the slaughtered cows hanging in the meat-packing plant), the movie left me more distraught at the struggles – and ultimate defeats – of the unfortunate workers involved in this machine (mostly the practically ungoverned meat packing industry). The movie was foreboding, eerie, shocking, and left even a vegetarian feeling oddly shameful. After all, I am an American and thus am responsible for promoting socially response practices, aren’t I? Or at least spreading the world about those that aren’t.
We’ve already joined the troves of citizens who have sworn off shopping at Wal-Mart (and have only faltered twice) after the film “The High Cost of Low Price” and made lifestyle changes due to inspiration from “An Inconvenient Truth”. And that’s what this all boils down to…it IS inconvenient to find out that those things we cherish and those things we cling to because they are quick and easy are sometimes fraught with so much sacrifice on behalf of people who never get to benefit from the convenience. The night after the film, I slept terrible. I dreamed I was a character in the movie “Fast Food Nation”, doomed to work in the paradoxically filthy, dangerous, and sterile environment of the meat packing plant. I cannot shake the images from my head; the next morning, watching the sweet-faced Mexican workers in our on-site cafeteria and wondering if they are treated fairly, envisioning the trails and tribulations they bore to get here, to make a buck, to be part of the American Dream. The dream that I fear is swiftly turning into a nightmare.