THE IMPOSSIBLE ETHICAL LIFE

The scent of sausages sizzling on a hot barbeque is one of my favourite smells. Which is odd, given I am a vegetarian. It also makes trips to Bunnings a continual ethical dilemma. How can I be so drawn to the smell of something that I am repulsed by?

I should qualify my vegetable bias. I am not, by strict definition, a vegetarian. I eat from the sea and so therefore I am best labelled a pescatarian. I haven’t eaten meat in over 15 years and I’m confident I’ll never eat it again.

Time and time again the question gets asked to me: why? But the answer is not so simple. A friend asked me it for the umpeetmpth time recently, and I gave my standard response: “Because there are too many compelling social, ethical, environmental and dietary reasons not to eat meat.” She pressed further. “But you have a leather couch and you’re wearing leather boots.” To this I have no real recourse.

I am fundamentally opposed to the killing of animals for human consumption. The abattoir scene in Mike Moore’s Fast Food Nation traumatised me for months afterwards and I watched it through my hands. The fear, panic and treatment of animals is, in my mind, deplorable. And yet, I continue to wear leather. People’s reaction to my stance is to point out the obvious loophole in my argument. There are others too.

Take for example ethical consumerism. Where possible I buy Fair Trade goods as I feel strongly about supporting local farmers and communities. But I don’t apply the same level of scrutiny to where I buy my kids’ clothes. I am sure I regularly choose cost over ethics because I don’t seek to find out if the clothes have been manufactured in a Bangladeshi sweatshop in unsafe conditions. Why? I can’t really answer it. Perhaps I don’t want to know.

I also try to buy local produce and yet much of my food travels thousands of food miles to reach my plate. The frozen prawns I buy come from China, and we have perfectly good prawns here. Why do I buy them? Because they are cheaper and come de-veined and shelled. And I have three pre-schoolers and no time for such preparation. Well, this is my justification.

I make every effort to recycle at home, religiously sorting the glass from the plastics. Items are either turned into craft projects for the kids or put in the recycling bin. We compost all fruit and vegetable scraps and are mindful of electricity usage in our home. And yet, we have two cars and don’t give a moment’s thought to throwing another log of wood on the fire.

It’s near impossible to live life by a consistent ethical and moral compass. Hypocrisy surrounds us. We are all hypocritical in some ways. I’ve lost count of how many church weddings I have been to where the couple openly declare their love for God and abidance of religious law, and yet they haven’t set foot in a church in years. The same can be said for the parents who are baptising their children and sending their kids to Catholic schools when they haven’t the slightest religious fibre.

Total coherence is hard to achieve. I choose to overlook some unpalatable truths for easier living. I have placed a higher value on cows over fish but chosen to ignore that my leather boots came from the same animal.

Life is infinitely more layered than linear. Lines are shaped and reshaped and sometimes these lines are blurred. Our beliefs, opinions, standards and virtues are continually challenged and compromised as we evolve. And life presents many shades of grey.

Perhaps the most important stance to adopt is the non-judgmental one. Everyone is entitled to live by his or her own creed. Everyone’s values differ and what’s important to me may be less important to you. Perhaps it comes down to drawing your own line in the sand. We will all choose a different line and that’s OK.

Oh, and back to Bunnings. I’d truly prefer to support a local hardware store but we don’t have one. And Bunnings has kids’ trolleys. And balloons. And sausages…glorious, sizzling sausages!

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