Jacqueline Windh

Every grain of rice


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