Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Endeavoring to Change Eating Habits

The recent foot-and-mouth problem in Korea has results not easily seen by the non-effected observer; for those affected the pain has been great: many Catholics in certain dioceses canceling their Marriage Encounter and Cursillo programs, their retreats and meetings. People would not go to Church to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease, though rarely affecting humans; we can be carriers. For New Years many would not have relatives come to their homes. It was not like the New Years of the past.

Even those not directly affected couldn't  sell their animals, and money was hard to come by. Seeing the animals buried alive was especially difficult. Some even left the homestead to go with their sons and daughters to the city to forget their troubles. Many of the villages were in mourning, very much like mourning a death in the family--and it's not over yet. 

This was the worst outbreak of the disease in Korean history. In the papers, we hear daily about the possibility of  contaminating the ground water supply because of the burial of so many animals. One bishop, in his pastoral letter, asked his diocese to be concerned for the problems of the farmers and to remember them in their prayers. Compensation from the government is slow; without it the living conditions of the effected farmers, already difficult, becomes worse. The pain of even one farmer, said the bishop in the pastoral, is the pain of all.

Also mentioned were the additional problems that have come along with factory-farming, which has evolved to keep up with our current eating habits. We are eating meat, as if we're eating rice. And raising more livestock than ever before to feed this runaway habit.  As more animals are bred and raised in ever more confining spaces, and given unnatural feed, we are not only inviting the onset and spread of the disease, but also destroying the environment.

In the Catholic papers, we hear a great deal about the need of Koreans to change their eating habits. Back 30 or 40 years ago Koreans would have meat on the big holidays, once or twice a year, but this has all changed; they probably consume more meat now than Americans.

This past week five religious group got together to talk about the problem, concluding that the present diet is bad for our health, and that there has to be a change in eating habits. They pointed out that the raising of livestock requires more water and energy than does the growing of grains, and decided to initiate a network that will help spread a more healthful habit of eating.

Their plan: eat more vegetables than meat, and when eating meat choose pasture-raised animals. Eat vegetables that are organically grown, and eat with no waste.  If we change our way of eating to more sensible, healthful, eco-friendly meals, the world will soon change, providing us with a sensible, health promoting, sustainable food supply.

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