An ethical omnivore’s challenge

The challenge

When I saw the Bompas and Parr event “Kill it, eat it” I was intrigued. “The focus of the event is on drawing attention to a culinary area that is typically veiled with mystery. With most consumers inured to the reality of what raising, culling and preparing animals to eat actually entails”. As an ethical omnivore I try to be as connected, and informed, about the food I eat as possible. This seemed the perfect experience, and challenge (would I be able to do it). I did not grow up in a fishing, farming, or game shooting household. I have never killed anything more than a cockroach. If I am going to eat such things, I feel I should have respect for the creature to know how it is done, in theory, or practice. This knowledge can then inform my decisions.

The inspiration

The impending experience reminded me of the “Kill it, cook it eat it” series on BBC 3 in 2007. A TV studio was placed on the side of a small UK abattoir, with the best standards in animal welfare. Audience members were able to view (via one way glass and cameras), the entire process. From the animal arriving on a truck, to it becoming pieces of meat you might buy in the supermarket, arriving in the studio for a chef to prepare. It was hard hitting, but I felt it was important to know, and come to terms with, how some meat is produced. I was under no illusions that this was best practice, and many animals do not get this humane end (or life).

The experience

The Bompas & Parr event was understandably quite different, logistically and practically. Also we were the ones doing the dispatching! Crabs arrive at restaurants across the UK alive (for freshness). They are kept in the fridge (this puts them to sleep) and then brought out when a chef is about to cook them. Crabs used to be dropped into boiling water as the killing method. This is is now understood to be inhumane, it has been proven they suffer.

My crab, my responsibility.

As is current practice in the UK hospitality industry, we were taught how to firmly, and quickly, push a metal skewer through the underside centre of the crab, into the central nervous system, paralysing it. We then pushed the skewer between its eyes (into its brain) to kill it. The whole process was very fast and simple, but I still felt nervous, and a sense of importance about getting it right. Doing it myself felt very different to just eating crab in a normal restaurant.

Other guests were foodies, a food photographer, architecture professionals and Bompas & Par fans. All were interested in being more connected with their food. Most people had not killed anything other than insects before. For more information on this experimental food duo, check out their website for the wide range of thought provoking interactive events they create.

My personal food philosophy

Has been heavily influenced by the writings of Michael Pollen (food activist and writer) his summation of what he chooses to eat resonates with me.

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”

By “food” he means real food which is as unprocessed as possible.  As someone intolerant to artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colourings, flavour enhancers, and sulphates, this is an important factor in my food choices.

“Not too much”. For me this is not too much of one thing. I aim to consume a wide a diversity of food items, seasonal, as local as possible, within the framework of my own personal ethics and values.

“Mostly plants”. For me, I choose to eat vegetarian, or vegan, often, especially when eating outside my home.  But when I do choose to eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy I purchase within my own personal ethics and values system. Based on the information I have at the time. If there is limited information then I assume it not suitable for me.

It’s complicated

I believe what we eat is highly cultural, personal and emotive topic.  I recognise I am privileged to be part of the UK population who have the education, freedom, access to information, and financial luxury, to make informed intentional choices. However not all sources of information are created equal. Be mindful of where you get your information, and cross check facts / research, before changing your purchasing or eating habits. It is terrifying how much media hype, company sponsored research, sudo-science and plain bad science gets reported as fact.

Do Chris (my husband) and I eat the same all the time? No, we are different people with different views, experiences and knowledge. But we do inform each other of new information we discover in our respective networks. Then respect each other’s decisions. Will my eating habits change in the future? Yes certainly, as I learn, new studies are carried out, and the food system we have changes.

6 thoughts on “An ethical omnivore’s challenge

  1. Wow, what an awesome (and a bit terrifying) experience! I remember I once saw how a fisherman caught a fish, I couldn’t bare to see the poor fish drowning in the air, I was desperate to put it inside the water so I just left. I must confess that I still eat fish (I’m working towards having a mostly plant based diet), though not very often. I don’t know if I could take it going to one of this events, I am afraid I am too sensitive. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Glad you found it interesting. Bompas & Par do a wide range of food events, many suitable for those on a plant based diet, check them out if you are in or near London. I read your post about Wasted so guess your a bit of a foodie too!

  2. I remember that programme and it was a real eye opener for the people taking part. I eat meat but it is meat I have raised for myself and in the case of poultry, killed and processed myself. I know the birds have had a great free range life and a quick end, not transported far to an abattoir. Many people say to me that they could not kill themselves but accept I do … however a few are horrified that I do this and some of these are meat eaters. THAT I find totally hypocritical. Too many people have become too distanced from their food and and without thinking about where it came from will happily eat factory farmed animals. I would not expect anyone to have to kill their own animals but I do think everyone who eats meat needs to be much more away of where their meat comes from and what sort of a life (and end) the animal had.

    I run a green linky once a month called Going Green – the next one opens on July 3rd and I would love it if you could join in.

    • Rosie
      Thank you for your very thoughtful comments, I couldn’t agree more 🙂
      I love your “Green Linky” concept. I have made a note to participate on 3rd July. Just need to decide which three posts to use!

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