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Every grain of rice

August 31, 2011

People are often to surprised to find out that I am not a vegetarian. “But you love animals so much, Jackie!” they explain.

Yes. But I love plants, too.

<–[Garden harvest a couple days ago]

I’ve been the self-proclaimed founder (and so far sole member) of the RSPCP* for years – on th lookout for withered, mistreated plants at supermarkets and reporting to the produce manager that their plants outside need watering, or rescuing (and occasionally confiscating) abused plants from my friends.

To me, it’s not so much about animals vs. plants. I eat both. It’s about not being disrespectful of their lives: ensuring them good quality of life while they are alive, and not being wasteful with them.

I do eat meat. But I am very careful about where I source it from. I avoid anything that is industrially raised. Anyone who claims to be an animal-lover, yet will eat standard that supermarket chicken or beef packed on a styrofoam tray is living a lie. Sorry – get informed, and live consistently with what you say. Either that, or stop claiming to be an animal-lover.

So I will eat deer or seal or wild duck – animals that I know had a good and natural life until, literally, the final seconds. (Not to mention are not pumped full of hormones or antibiotics that are bad for both me and the environment).

[Watch it, Bambi. Just cuz I grow my own veggies – doesn’t mean I’m a vegetarian!]

I eat some small-farm raised chicken, turkey, beef or lamb – but I always try to source small-scale local producers, where I can be sure that the animals truly did have a reasonably good quality of life.

Unfortunately, this whole thing about “certified organic” has become big industry. Once animals are being raised on large industrial farms, organic or not, their quality of life is sacrificed. They are herded around in buildings, they are not permitted to graze on real plants, they live in their own shit. I don’t want to know that animals are being forced to live such horrible lives for my meals.

And “certified organic” has kind of lost its meaning anyway – industry has a lobbyists who push for products and chemicals that would surprise many people to find that they are permitted in the so-called organic products they buy. Here’s ine example – of Anheuser-Busch pushing the USDA to allow them to make so-called “organic beer” from hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides!

To me, it is not the act of killing an animal for food that is wrong. It is that the animal lead a pathetic, unhappy, and often tortured life up to that final moment. And the same goes for plants.

The other aspect of respecting our food sources – the plants and animals that die for us – is reducing waste. Here in North America, the average person throws out 110 kg of food per year. (Source: Wikipedia) That is nearly a pound of food wasted a day! Add to that the amount of food wasted in the production and retail stages, and we are talking a total of 650 kg of food wasted per person each year. That is not only disrespectful – it is stupid.

I think that one reason that I do respect plant lives every bit as much as animal lives is that I am a gardener. I nurture my little tomatoes, my lettuces, my beans, from seed. I treat them well – both so they will have good quality life, and also so they will produce well for me in return.

My greatest eye-opener, though, has come from my attempts to grow rice here on Vancouver Island. I did actually manage to produce 19 grains… although, when I planted them this spring, only three of them turned out have a real rice kernel in them.

<–[My rice plants, grown on the outer coast of Vancouver Island!, about to seed.]

But rice is something most of us think of as cheap bulk food – along the lines of pasta. We don’t see rice plants here, and it is easy to forget that rice is a seed: every grain of rice has the potential to become a plant that, itself, will produce another handful of rice. Now, I am careful to scoop every grain of rice out of the pot, to eat every grain of rice in my bowl, so that none of that potential ends up in the garbage.

Because, to me, it’s about respect.

*Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Matthew permalink
    January 3, 2012 10:27 am

    You know, I am against cruelty in all forms and about respecting all life. But you are the only sane person I have come across who actually takes “Animal Rights” to their logical conclusion. Not that I agree with you entirely, but you are not a hypocrite like literally %99 of the conservation, animal rights, and “save the whales and dolphins” groups. No life is more important than others and I highly, highly respect you. Whenever a eco animal rights nazi approaches me I always say “A bowl of rice is mass murder, while a whale feeds hundreds. You aren’t a vegetable bigot are you?”

    Take care! :)

  2. November 28, 2012 7:27 pm

    Oh my gosh! You are NOT the only member of RSPCA. A few years ago, I took my friend’s sole houseplant from her house, and took it home to water it and save its life. I mailed my friend a formal letter from the SPCA (mine didn’t have “royal” in it!) explaining the reasons for the confiscation. My friend thought it was funny. (She hadn’t noticed the plant was missing). I still have the plant, and it’s doing well. (She went back to silk plants).

    So if you’ll accept me, I’ll join your society! :)

    On a more serious note, today I was working on my foreword to the book, and some of what I wrote today really echoes your ideas in this post. I am vegetarian, and for a long time, though everyone should be. Lately, I’ve been changing my mind, coming to similar conclusions about supermarket meet vs. small-scale local farming and even (gasp!) hunting. (David Adam’s Richards’s book “Facing the Hunter” has helped me moderate my previous anti-hunting sentiments.

    Anyway, it was a pleasure browsing your blog.

  3. Charles The Fukuoka Follower permalink
    March 11, 2014 12:49 pm

    Do you still try to grow rice?

    • March 11, 2014 2:24 pm

      Yes, I do! I live in Port Alberni now, which is a better climate than Tofino for rice-growing (more sunshine and heat in the summer). I had my best harvest ever last summer (which is still not a REAL lot, because I am only growing a few smaller containers). But the rice I grew last summer was from my own seed that I had grown myself, and this summer will be the seeds from that crop… so I am gradually developing a strain that is more adapted to our growing conditions.

      I seeded in March last year, which proved to be way too early (I ended up with really big plants indoors, and that then in June I was carrying inside and outside every day). I am going to try seeding in May this year. Where are you?

  4. Graham permalink
    May 19, 2014 7:59 am

    I grow organic rice in Thailand.
    I’d like to offer some advice, however your growing conditions are very different to mine.

    I saw on an earlier post that you had many empty seed cases in your harvest.
    Rice is wind pollenated so it needs a fairly large stand to be effective, try to grow as large a number of plants as you can manage. Even if they are in separate containers keep them all close together in a square or circle rather than a line.
    In our field we have settled on a plant spacing of 30 cm, by the time they flower the heads from separate plants are touching.
    If you have to move them indoors consider putting a gentle fan on them when they are flowering.

    The main reason rice is grown in flooded fields (or pots !) is to keep the weeds under control.
    The SRI (System of Rice Intensification) method has proven that the plants grow bigger & stronger with more panicles if the soil is allowed to dry out to the point of cracking before flooding again for a couple of days.
    This would have the added advantage of keeping your mosquitos under control.

    I am amazed that you succeeded in growing from brown rice rather than seed.

    Maybe you could get hold of some of this wild rice, it might be better suited to your climate.
    Perhaps they would sell you some seed, sounds like they usually roast it before sale for consumption.

    Good luck

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