Dear Mr. President,
Today, after finishing a friend's NaNoWriMo project, I started reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. As a life-long vegetarian, I'm not 100% sure why I'm reading this book. I won't claim more than a passing understanding of the horrors of factory farming, so I do recognize that I have plenty to learn from this book, I'm just not sure why I need this information. For one thing, i don't need to be persuaded that eating factory-farmed animals is bad. I don't eat animals and I go out of my way to avoid animal products that come from factory farms. Perhaps the information will help me persuade others to do the same, but I've never been comfortable with the kind of honest proselytizing that is really required to turn omnivores away from eating animals. (I did name the hamburger patties while working at Jack-in-the-box, but that was mostly in jest.)
As Safran Foer describes the sheer amount of land animals and fish killed each year to cheaply feed Americans, however, I can't help but feel like maybe I'm not doing enough. I can't reduce the number of animals I consume, so maybe I do have an obligation to try and persuade others to eat less, as well. Then I remember the intense anger many have had to government anti-obesity measure and even the Let's Move! campaign. People do not like being told or persuaded or guilted into changing their eating habits. My friend Eric gets angry when I even read the ingredient list on the processed product he calls food. Is my discomfort (or another person's indignation) at challenging the food choices others make greater than the suffering these animals face or the havoc such practices wreak on the environment?
I think that the reason the whole system seems so overwhelming is that people aren't willing to take responsibility for their part in supporting it. Very few people I know are ever directly exposed to the atrocious treatment of factory farm animals or the sea life destroyed in the process of fishing. And the glimpses we do get tend to be pushed aside. Safran Foer makes an excellent point while discussing our irrational aversion to eating dogs, despite the huge number of dogs put to death every year, because of our emotional connection with dogs. Why is this compassion extended to dogs and cats but not cows and chickens?
So much of our economic and social lives are tied up in the consumption of animals that I can't possibly ask you to suggest that the country eat less meat. It would be political suicide. But in your own life, in your own home, I think that's a decision you could make without any negative consequences. So I'm asking you, Mr. President, to decide as an individual, as a citizen, to cut back on your own support for the abuse, slaughter and environmental destruction caused by meat production. If you can't do this, I hope that you at least take the time to really think about your participation in this system, what it means to you and what it means to the animals, humans and to the environment.