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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Knickers in a Twist

So, Obama and the Democrats narrowly passed a bill to ensure that every American has access to some health care. Undoubtedly, there are going to be problems -- with implementation, loopholes, claims of who is covered, what is covered, how long people wait for appointments, etc.

Just because I am ecstatic over this legislation doesn't mean that I don't recognize there are going to be problems as it becomes the new norm. Any change this big brings problems!

This is going to affect doctors' patient loads and probably malpractice insurance too. We already need more primary care doctors and now we're going to need even more. It's likely that some people will have to give up something (not clear what yet) in order that other people have a wee little bit of health care. There is no aspect of health care that won't be affected, but it's clear that this is a long-awaited attempt to FINALLY give Americans -- living in the land of "I-did-it-myself-I-never-accept-government-help" myths -- a contemporary welfare state where ALL citizens have similar rights to health care.

Change is afoot.

And boy, are some people PISSED OFF.

They have their knickers in a proverbial twist.

It's the end of the republic; the constitution has been abandoned; Armageddon is on the horizon, if not already here. We're socialists now.

I can't help but compare the restructuring of the American welfare state and the accompanying growing pains/economic ripple effects to my favorite obsession, veganism.

*IF* enough people went vegan, there would be ripple effects throughout the economy that are not unlike the upcoming changes in the health care industry.

Corporations like Tyson and Smithfield might go under, or perhaps be pressured to produce only free-range, grass-fed animals who aren't left to stand in their own manure in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). This vision is not the vegan dream, to be sure, but it is admittedly a better vision for animals than the current factory farming nightmare.

Farmers, currently under the thumb of these huge corporations, would not have the same incentives to mass produce food -- they would either go under along with the corporations who have been cheaply supporting them, or they would have to find other, more sustainable ways to farm for the few (hopefully environmentally conscious) meat eaters that remained.

Having considerably fewer meat eaters would also affect corn production -- if there aren't animals "needing" to eat it, there's not much of an incentive to grow so much of it. (This is particularly likely since there is so much press lately about the evils of corn throughout our food system; turns out that high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin and related products aren't so good for us and may be the prime culprits in the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Imagine that!)

Meat would likely become more expensive, making it less of a go-to food and more of a special occasion one. Again, not the vegan dream, but one that is environmentally sustainable and better for our overall health.

Perhaps (though this is probably wishful thinking) working conditions for the (usually poor, minority, or immigrant) workers in slaughterhouses would improve.

Farmland currently used for animals would be turned over to other sources of food (i.e., plants).

With dramatically fewer animals to feed, there would be a huge decrease in the amount of poop they produce. Runoff from factory farms would be lessened, leaving water sources (and crops) healthier.

The current argument that a-vegan-driving-a-Hummer is-less-of-an-environmental-hazard-than-a-meat-eater-driving-a-Prius might have to be reexamined.

Oh, and assuming that people eat well and don't just find ways to stuff different crap into their meat-and-dairy-free mouths, people would likely, as a whole, be healthier. That would have to be a good thing for our new health care system, don't you think?!

I'm not expecting that this will actually happen, at least not anytime soon. But the parallels between the two processes -- restructuring the American welfare state and restructuring the American diet -- are intriguing.

The Democrats get labeled socialists and babykillers and constitution destroyers and big government, pull-the-plug-on-granny freedom haters. The vegans get labeled crazy and excessive and out of touch, elite and obsessive.

I am happy to accept the following labels: democrat-leaning-toward-socialist, almost-vegan, and happily obsessive. I think we'd all be better off if we were, collectively, almost vegetarians and almost socialist democrats.

So, now that "we" have done the work for the new health care system, "we" have to work on the new American food system too.

It's for OUR OWN GOOD. And the good of the planet, and the good of a whole lot of animals.

Can't wait to hear what the opponents yell back.


  1. Thanks for the post Elaine! I get a very positive energy from you, but wonder how you can favorably compare the two scenarios. Change is hard, to be sure. But the change you propose in terms of animal agriculture, would be more than hard. It would be unsustainable. Our planet already is overwhelmed by the human population. I can't feel optimistic about a plan that initially requires even more land for the inefficient conversion of plant to animal for human consumption. Seems the time for strong action. People really need to reduce and even eliminate animal consumption.
    A system this far out of balance should be completely abandoned. Perhaps this sounds radical to some. To me, destroying our planet for an inefficient and cruel diet seems radical and wrong!


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