As Christmas approaches, I too have begun preparations to celebrate the festive season with my loved ones. Now a core component of the Christmas festivities across the various regions of our world is food. And a big part of food– in my part of the world at least– is the meat to be consumed. For most people, this season is all about poultry whether grilled, roasted or fried. But for others, depending on your economic well-being, you could go as far as planning for the upcoming celebrations by electing to buy goats, rams or even cows.
To prepare for the coming festivities, I recently visited the livestock market nearest to my home to purchase rams. And even though I am no vegetarian, I have become more conscious of certain sustainable issues as they relate to the rearing of meat especially its farming and slaughter. I wrote a while back on lab-grown meat as a possible replacement to natural beef, and I have spent hours listening to workers at the biggest abattoir in Nigeria, share their fears of unemployment in the wake of the use of machines in the Nigeria meat sector.
All that said, my visit to the livestock market in question was not solely from the perspective of a consumer, it was also out of intense curiosity as both a natural observer of persons and a writer. Unsurprisingly, the market was stuffed full with people; sellers and buyers alike and at the end of it all, I came away with the realization that meat in my part of the world was not just another source of protein. It isn’t just another form of luxury either; here it truly is a peculiar way of life. The traditions we associate with the buying of meat (whether for festivities or not) and the role these traditions plays in the social context of things over here elevates meat to something grander than food.
It is easy to dismiss this as a peculiar African issue but I can I assure you that it is not. For instance, every year millions of Muslims around the world fast and subsequently celebrate the Holy Eid. This celebration is inextricably linked to the slaughter of rams which are often distributed to poorer neighbors. And no, this is not just about religion either. Think about your fondest memories of your Thanksgiving celebrations. You will find that oddly enough, a huge part of the celebration for most families lies in the preparation of the Thanksgiving turkey.
In fact, an estimated 46 million turkeys were eaten by Americans in the celebration of Thanksgiving this year alone. Wild right? And let’s not forget those cozy barbecues over which we swap personal stores with the ones we love. Would plant-based or lab grown meat ever be able to offer the same feeling? Would the insect meat that sustainable folk are expecting will become popular come shaped like a Turkey? Or would the companies create a plant-based bird that the President can release on this occasion as tradition demands?
I have spent ample space talking about meat here but this article isn’t wholly about meat. Not necessarily. It is about our ability (or inability) to provide sustainable solutions for the eco-community and the world at large. It is about our ability to provide those solutions not just for the sake of well, the solutions, but for them to be adopted by the common person, beyond the eco-community. I think this is important because oddly enough, most of us often exhibit a linear view about sustainable solutions.
Emphasis is often placed on a more sustainable alternative being available. We tend to lay it all at the foot of common sense and simply assume that once we have better options, more environmentally friendly options, people will just go for them. I mean people ought to want better for the planet right? Why do you eat meat when you can get protein from plants? Why use plastic toothbrushes when there are bamboo alternatives?
When it turns out that some people aren’t crazy about those solutions after all, we are quick to demonize them, and we often do so without looking beyond the surface to understand why. This is a result of certain echoes of the eco chamber that effectively makes one faction forget the complexities of the issues faced by some other class of people. I have seen this linear thinking manifest from reusable cups to electric cars and all the way to elections.
When the pro-climate action party lost in the Australian elections, the general response from the eco-community was that of disbelief and righteous indignation. The blame was laid squarely at the feet of rural dwellers who were deemed to have acted unreasonably in voting for their well-being and putting their interests ahead of the planet’s. A similar situation is currently playing out in Britain, and judging from precedents, one can predict how the entire affair will end.
As with most personal thoughts I share, I don’t have the solution to the issues raised here. Not entirely anyway. Ultimately though, a step in the right direction here would be the realization by the eco community that behind people’s reluctance to adopt certain sustainable alternatives, there lies a myriad of human factors that we had better recognize. Because when it comes to certain lifestyle choices, there are always complex angles to consider.
Ignoring these issues and continually shaming those reluctant to make the lifestyle changes we desire can only take us so far.
- Amazon Rainforest Fires: Why a ‘People-First’ Approach to Climate Action is Better Than Telling Folks to Go Vegan
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- How To Be A Political, Social Equality and Environmental Activist In Your Own Way
- 30 Things You Can Do If You’re Feeling Helpless About Climate Change
- How to Have Better Arguments About the Environment (or Anything Else)
- Voting Green: How to Encourage People to Vote for Politicians That Support Climate Action
Title image by Daiga Ellaby/Unsplash.