Foodshare Toronto is a taxpayer funded NGO that serves food to people. Meat-eating is not healthy or environmentally sustainable, and it involves unnecessary violence and injustice against non-human animals. A whole-foods plant-based diet is more consistent with Foodshare Toronto's stated mandate of "good healthy food for all" and a "just food system", yet Foodshare insists on serving meat. It thus undermines its own mandate. These points are elaborated below:
Health. Meat-eating is unhealthy, increasing cancer by 40%, heart-disease by over 27%. Eating animal products is strongly associated with occurences of arthritis, asthma, adult-onset diabetes, kidney stones and gall stones, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, strokes, and ulcers.
Environment. Meat-eating is an environmental disaster, contributing the most to global warming (more than all human transport combined), causing 10 times as much water pollution than any other source from humans, using more than half of our fresh water, taking up most of our croplands for animal feed, leading among sources of topsoil depletion, and doubling fossil fuel consumption.
Cruelty to animals. Eating animal products is associated with great cruelty. Killing animals for food is an act of violence, or at least we would call it violent if humans were victimized this way. Only species-bias encourages denial that extreme violence is occurring.
Foodshare Toronto has advanced this myth that vegan food -- not serving meat --discriminates against the poor. In fact, a whole-food plant-based diet of fruits and veggies, legumes and rice, and nuts and seeds can cost less than a diet subsisting of animal products. One does not have to eat buy fancy foods to be a vegan. Of course the speciality foods would go down in price if there was greater demand for them, as veganism increases in popularity.
If meat were not so heavily subsidized by the government, it would go up in price - which would be a good thing for the poor, who (in N. America) suffer from cancer, heart disease, and obesity from government subsidized animal products. To serve meat to poor people undermines their health.
On a macro scale, veganism is what could solve world hunger, if grain now fed to livestock were diverted to human beings; far more human beings can be fed this way. It is far more sustainable in the long run, and sustainabilty is a key part of food justice and food equity. If we destroy the world though global warming, caused in large part by factory farming, that certainly does not help the poor.
Finally, the most important argument of all is that non-human animals are also `the poor` and the oppressed. They have minds, thoughts, emotions, and lives of their own, which the science of ethology has established as fact. To reduce them to food is like murdering half the poor people in order to feed their bodies to the other half.
Serving meat is therefore inconsistent with Foodshare Toronto's mandate to provide healthy, sustainable food, with food justice and equity.
Foodshare Toronto, please do the right thing and stop serving meat.
The Foodshare slogan is "good healthy food for all." Serving meat furthers food injustice and food inequity, since feedcrops used to feed animals deprive human beings of food and water, increase risk of preventable diseases and pandemics (representing a global health threat).
Foodshare is supported by municipal funding and has a public mandate; therefore it is correct for its practices to come under public scrutiny.
Many Toronto residents support Foodshare, believing that it represents healthy, sustainable food and would be shocked to learn that Foodshare supports food practices that undermine human health and the environment.
Until Foodshare understands these basic issues, it should not continue to receive public or private donor support. Foodshare, please change your practices: stop serving dead animals as food.
In 2012 Foodshare supplied hamburgers to students and says that Foodshare is "not a vegetarian or vegan organization." But the issue is not about adopting a certain identity; it is about adopting and promoting food practices that are healthy, sustainable, and ethically sound.
Serving hamburgers to students conveyed the message to impressionable young people that eating animals is healthy and morally permissible, which is clearly wrong. This undermined Foodshare's mandate of "healthy food for all."
Either Foodshare should stop serving meat or it should not continue to receive the considerable public financial support it now enjoys, since it is contributing to a very serious social evil, rather than contributing to a social good.
Foodshare's response: Foodshare staff have made a variety of excuses to justify this practice, but none of them are rationally supportable, and all are easily debunked.
For example, they have said that to deny meat is to discriminate against poor people, but it is far more discriminatory to feed people unhealthy food than not.
Sociologists refer to "interlocking oppression." In this case, poor people are oppressed by unhealthy food billed as healthy, and animals are oppressed by being brutally exploited, and future generations are oppressed by the climate change that meat-eating contributes to. Foodshare oppresses poor people by serving them carcinogenic food, and it oppresses animals. Both are wrong.
Human oppression of non-humans does not help humanity; in fact it harms humanity, through preventable diseases (cancer, and heart disease, linked to meat-eating), and environmental destruction caused by livestock agriculture, and it erodes human compassion by teaching animals are expendable for unnecessary uses.
There are no excuses if you consider the fact that human beings can obtain more than sufficient protein, iron, and other nutrients from a whole-foods plant-based diet, and with out the risks of heart-disease and cancer associated with meat.
Foodshare also speaks of "food options", as though animals should be reduced to food. There are far more food options in a healthy plant-based diet, so why isn't Foodshare promoting that?
This is an organization that represents itself to the public as healthy but in fact undermines public health in a very serious and objectionable manner.
Foodshare also uses the phrase "culturally appropriate" to describe meat-eating. There are two ways to respond to this. The first is to point out that the "meatification" of society – the doubling of meat consumption per capita since the 1960s -- is wholly inconsistent with many traditional cultures; it was imposed by the industrial livestock industry and advertisers over the last few decades. It is hard to understand how hamburgers could be thought of as "culturally appropriate" except in American fast-food culture imposed on us by corporations like McDonalds.
The second way of responding is to show that invoking "culture" and "tradition" are not sound reasons for unethical or environmentally destructive practices to continue. For example, foot-binding and bride-burning are no longer considered acceptable cultural practices because they violate human rights; in the same way, violating animals' right cannot be justified by tradition or culture.
Another example: human beings no longer enslave each other (at least legally), because we recognize that it is wrong to do so. In the same way, enslaving non-human animals for food purposes is also wrong, and for exactly the same reasons: harming others who can feel pain and depriving them of basic liberties is wrong.
Many cultures serve very unhealthy foods, but that does not make it correct; some cultural practices should change and Foodshare has a responsibility to promote only the healthiest food.
Fooshare refers to "halal" as a standard, but there is a Muslim interpretation of halal (meaning "lawful") that conforms to ethical standards regarding the humane treatment of animals, and therefore does not permit meat-eating, since animals are inhumanely treated in modern industrial production facilities, even those that claim to be "grass-fed" and "organic." The same argument applies to "kosher" standards. See the site for the Jewish Vegetarians of North America.
Furthermore, it has been argued, by scholar Paul Waldau, that "environmental justice" should include consideration of animals; in the same way, "food justice" needs to be defined as the prevention of injustice against all sentient beings, not just our species. The fate of humanity and non-humanity is inextricably linked.
Emails on this issue ...
MY INITIAL EMAIL TO FOODSHARE, 2012
Dear Debbie [Field] at Foodshare:
I have long thought that Foodshare was a good idea, to promote healthy local food. However I was disappointed to run across Foodshare giving hamburgers to school children who were on a field trip from North York (Jane Finch I believe). This was last month sometime. I can look up the specific date, if necessary, as I recorded it somewhere. There are thousands of good vegan foods out there so to feed carcinogenic unsustainable animal flesh is simply wrong, on so many levels, and contradicts the basic spirit of Foodshare -- if Foodshare is about local sustainable food. There is nothing sustainable about meat. I hope you know this?
Serving meat reinforced the idea among these kids that this is okay food to eat. Should they not be taught about truly healthy food? There is nothing healthy about hamburgers. If anything, they increase risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and they contribute to global warming and water stress, and they are unethical insofar as they come from exploited sentient beings. So, needless to say, I was shocked and disappointed.
Sincerely, Paul York
I got your voice message. I know exactly what the event was, and from our point of view, there is a very good explanation for what you saw. It was the Terry Fox run that a French school that we work with were involved and their teachers and the students asked for hamburgers. The children were actually from downtown Toronto not North York and they eat healthy food through our Good Food Cafe, which includes healthy home cooked food, but not only vegan foods.
FoodShare promotes healthy, culturally appropriate food, local when possible. We only sell produce through out Good Food Programs, but we are not a vegetarian or vegan organization and serve a variety of protein options each day in our Good Food Cafe program for students which include meat for those who eat meat, and vegetarian and vegan options for those who choose those options. Through our Good Food Cafe, the very same students you saw eat local kale but they also eat halal hamburgers that are usually baked rather than on a bbq as you saw one time in the year, and other home cooked dishes.
We may have a difference opinion with you on meat, and though I respect your view that eating meat is not something you would do ethically, FoodShare as an organization does not take the same stand on meat as you suggest below. We are trying to move thousands of children (and adults) to try healthier options, and we are happy to add kale and home made cole salad to a healthy halal burger for lunch and hope that this will move them closer to choosing healthy food options later in life.
Thanks for sharing your concern.
90 Croatia Street, Toronto, ON, M6H 1K9
416 363-6441 ext. 228
416 576-7349 cell
416 363 0474 fax
MY EMAIL COMMENT ON THIS:
So it seems that Foodshare Toronto -- which gets public funding -- thinks that meat is healthy. Healthy for whom? It is not healthy for humans, not for animals (who are eaten) and not for future generations (faced with global warming and water stress) as a result). PCRM and T. Colin Campbell and other doctors would disagree with Foodshare on this. I think this is a battle that should be waged, since Foodshare is a public entity that claims to be promoting healthy food. I would like to contest their position publicly, in an open forum, somehow. If the groups that say they are for health and the environment continue to promote meat-eating what hope is there?.
A FOLLOW-UP LETTER TO FOODSHARE:
Dear Debbie, thanks for writing back.
Clearly, Foodshare is unaware of the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine reports on the detrimental effects of meat-eating. Please read this article: http://www.pcrm.org/search/?cid=263
You may also wish to consult the China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, and see the film Forks Over Knives. Meat-eating is tied to cancer and heart-disease, and to obesity. One can acquire high-quality protein from plants. I have been a vegan for five years and I have never been healthier. I was a lacto-vegetarian for 18 years before that, and if anything my health improved when I cut out dairy. Last year Harvard Medical School came out with a report tying dairy to cancer, and also saying that eggs contribute to unnecessary cholesterol build-up.
Eating animals is a preference, not a necessity, and it is not healthy. People used to smoke cigarettes and believe they were healthy as well. Now we know better. I urge you to look into this further. Why not err on the side of caution and serve only healthy whole plant-based food? It is not hard to figure out how to do this, but it does require a paradigm shift in your thinking. Perhaps team up with Toronto Vegetarian Association on this.
Secondly, if Foodshare is for environmental sustainability, I urge you to read Livestock's Long Shadow (link below), a 2006 report published through the United Nations, which demonstrates beyond a doubt that industrially produced livestock is profoundly harmful environmentally, in terms of greenhouse gases, water stress, biodiversity loss, air and water pollution, and soil degradation. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
Did you know that the IPCC advocated meat-reduction? And yet Foodshare is doing the opposite! This is not healthy, and it is not sustainable.
Local "grassfed beef" is also unsustainable as well, because to produce it still requires more resources than healthy plant-based diets. Plus it is not regulated and very often "grassfed beef" is raised in industrial settings and given a bit of hay prior to slaughter. Not much of a difference, environmentally and certainly none ethically. Teaching children that non-human animals should be reduced to food for humans is a very bad lesson, contributing to a general lack of compassion for all living beings, including our fellow human beings. Instead, educators and community organizers need to promote what Albert Schweitzer referred to as a "reverence for life."
If that is your final position, I will have to forward my concerns to Toronto City Council and the public, however I can. Foodshare, which is publicly funded I believe, should be more aware of the negative health and environmental impacts of meat-eating, and should be setting a good example for kids and the public in terms of meat-reduction and (ideally) meat-elimination. We simply do not need it in our diets to be healthy, and given the global warming crisis it is our moral imperative to do what we can. Eliminating animal products is the single best way to live sustainably. Foodshare should be leading the way on this.
Sincerely, Paul York