Peas for Peace
We may not think that our food choices would be an example of our choosing peace over hatred or that what we had for dinner was an action for nonviolence over violence, or non-killing over killing. After I had been active in building peace and justice for more than a decade I realized that I needed to examine my life for my “value-action gaps”. Where might I be oppressive, disempowering or violent? What was I supporting with my actions or funds? This inquiry revealed that I was contributing to things I could not justify from a peace perspective. I had to make some significant changes. I no longer naively accepted all religious or cultural or economic institutions as benign or wholesome. In the process of examining my beliefs, practices, habits and lifestyle, I found areas in which changes were needed.
I started to educate myself about diets and the impact of food choices. Did you know that certain diets can contribute to dementia or depression? Who knew? And did you also know that workers in slaughterhouses and in precarious low-paying food processing jobs regularly suffer psychological and physical harm? When we humans form exploitive relationships with animals or other people, we develop the uncanny ability to not examine this exploitation. I came to be aware that abusers have an emotional incentive to nullify their victims’ feelings and individuality. Many examples in history reveal cases where this has led to acts of sadistic cruelty. In my reading, I learned that workers in slaughterhouses have been found to disproportionately demonstrate less empathy and a greater propensity for cruelty and violence (Joy 2011). This process of desensitization appears to be an adaptive practice to maintain the ability to dispassionately kill animals in a daily, routine manner. Not until this point was I aware that mistreatment of animals has been linked to violence against humans. My friend Gene Baur argues that rational humans have become rationalizing humans, ready to disregard science, morals, and our own well-being, as we rationalize slaughter and consumption of animals (Baur 2008; 2015). Most people can be empathetic and actually become disturbed by the suffering of people or animals. But when it comes to food choices, like many others, I had not examined how my food was made and by who and what I might do to help. So I chose to act in ways that place the least amount of pressure on our Earth’s ecosystems and do the least harm.
I appreciate that people have differing ideologies and beliefs around their food, how it impacts their culture and their right to choose. But for me, I am choosing peas for peace. I did not know that meat and dairy products were not necessary for humans to consume to be well or that actually consuming them generated poorer human and ecosystem health. Now I am well informed about diets and I realize that when humans choose diets low in meat and dairy and high in plant-based, succulent foods, they experience much more vitality, and overall well-being, particularly into their elderly years. So as a person seeking to radiate more peace, I wanted to develop a non-violent life style, including no-killing required in my diet. So on a daily basis I choose more legumes, vegetables and fruits, like peas. Peas are loaded with helpful vitamins like K that strengthens bone health. They provide high fiber, low fat and are a powerful source of vegetable protein. For me, peas for peace is an important act of non-violence, gratitude, and well-being.
Kathleen Kevany, Community Builder, Psychotherapist, Associate Professor