Abby Damen Sustainable Diet

The Journey to a Sustainable Diet

Abby Damen is THE FOUNDER OF SAVING2050 and is our first guest post author

 

I was diagnosed with endometriosis this year, a disease of the uterus caused by hormone imbalance that affects at least 120,000 girls and women in New Zealand (and about 176 million world-wide).  Exact causes for this disease are still unknown but genetics, immunological and environmental factors appear to be common catalysts.

My gynecologist had a one hour long yarn with me during my fifteen minute follow-up appointment about the causes of endo and what could have contributed to my hormone imbalance:

-the toxins in the air caused by dairy farming

-the pesticides our food is sprayed with contains high levels of estrogen

-the antibiotics and/or hormone growth supplements that particular meat-destined animals may or may not be given

 

Cool, I didn’t know that.  Naturally, I freaked out and for the previous six months I’ve been navigating the Sunday markets and grocery stores with heightened suspicion:

These vegetables are full of endocrine disrupting pesticides / She obviously doesn’t care about her health if she’s purchasing that brand of chicken / OMG – quinoa is sourced unethically, it wont be fair trade if it’s just in Alison’s Pantry and why isn’t anyone else in this queue carrying a reusable bag?!

 

supermarket confusion

Supermarket Confusion

I was so excited with the idea that if I stopped eating hormone-induced chicken my symptoms would disappear that I didn’t even research this properly:  Apparently, New Zealand doesn’t inject chickens with hormones – or at least they do, but according to Food Smart NZ, they are of the “approved” kind that “don’t impact human health”.

However, we do spray our crops with pesticides and while it’s difficult to source information on the types of pesticides used on animal feed, I think we can be slightly skeptical or at the very least curious about whether or not the consumption of particular animal bi-products have endocrine disrupting effects due to what kind of pesticides the animal itself has consumed.

Organic NZ says the most commonly drifted pesticide, 2, 4-D is an endocrine distruptor and that “…there is anecdotal evidence that 2,4-D is involved in disturbances of the menstrual cycle of adult women and in precipitating early onset of menses in children in New Zealand”.

However, New Zealand government websites boast New Zealand poultry as entirely hormone free and assure us that regular testing occurs to ensure it remains as such.  Then again, I’ve also come across articles like this one which admits that approximately 1100 farmers in New Zealand use growth hormone supplements.

WAIT WHAT?  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT TO BUY IF I CARE ABOUT MY HEALTH AND WANT TO SAVE THE ANIMALS?!

Abby and Animals

Me (+ dad) with lots of animals – aren’t they fascinating and wonderful?!

 

It is so hard to find out what’s “right” and what’s “good”. Having a sustainable diet drives me mental to be honest – trying balance the scales between eating ethically, healthily and sustainably, all while trying to fulfill my dreams of getting bulked up, and still being able to enjoy the taste of food – and at the end of the day, I still don’t know the answer.

Despite this confusion, I have a hunch that if I lived in a tiny little room (imagine that 1 x 1 square box you used to build around the Sim you wanted to kill off), I would get pretty stressed out.  There are still chickens in New Zealand confined to a space smaller than the size of an A4 sheet of paper, and whether or not the stress/hormone link is true for poultry, the possibility of consuming what was once an organism that had a stressful and shortened life shouldn’t be an option.

 

caged poultry in nz

Caged Poultry in NZ (SAFE website)

 

It’s as simple as that.

Considering New Zealand’s land mass and its population relative to its size, it’s significantly easier for us than any other country to be game changers in this industry.  Animal product consumption is estimated to increase at an unsustainable rate.  Environmentally speaking – we need to make a change.

If the environment catastrophe doesn’t resonate with you, and pictures of chickens don’t encourage you to want to consume consciously, how about the fact that 260,000 kiwi kids live without the basics.  Our society is trapped in a food system that subsidises processed food making it cheaper than natural food sources.  It frustrates me no end to think that it’s cheaper to buy coca-cola than it is to buy coconut water.

Excuse my French, but this is fucked. Unfortunately, chicken is currently consumed at an annual rate of over 35kg per person and until that demand drops, we are unlikely to see a change in the lives of poorly treated New Zealand farm animals, the detrimental rate at which we currently consume meat and even the health of people living in relative poverty.

 

corn

One kg of meat = the meals of 400 people. If only 10% of the world’s population become vegetarians, the threat of higher world temperatures would be vastly diminished.

 

Imagine if the food that got fed to the 35kg of chicken you consume over a year went to people in need.  The likelihood of your phone getting stolen may even decrease.

My dream is to walk into the meat section of the supermarket and have nothing but free range chicken and grass-fed beef available.  Woolworths has announced that the Canberra region will be the first territory to sell only cage-free eggs and I think we could do that across Aotearoa.

Let’s do more than sign a petition. If you have a similar dream, share your animal-friendly recipe with Vegetus and be the change that our generation will be remembered for.

 

The philosophy is simple: The more animal-friendly treats we get to create and enjoy, the more likely it is that we’ll be in a position to be able to afford high-quality meat, egg and dairy product in lesser quantities (because lets face it – that stuff is expensive), resulting in the low quality product disappearing from our shelves and the high quality becoming cheaper and the norm.

Ignorance is bliss – until you start bleeding out of your uterus.  So, who’s with me on a vegetarian style hangi?

 

 

References:

*A really great book is “Melting Point” by Eric Dorfman which puts Global Warming and Climate Change into perspective with the relevance of New Zealand as the central topic.  It is also in laymans terms which is a breath of fresh air for an impatient generation-Y’er like me.

**If you haven’t already, watch “Food Matters.”  It’s a slightly cynical but nonetheless interesting documentary that advocates food over drugs. “Earthlings” is also a documentary that “appeals to the emotions” as it looks at the utilization of animals in terms of science, pets, entertainment, food and clothing.

Safe Food Campaign NZ: http://www.safefood.org.nz/pesticide.php

Te Ara Government NZ: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/poultry-industry/page-5

Kids Can NZ: http://www.kidscan.org.nz/our-work/nz-child-poverty

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-gottfried-md/cortisol_b_2822176.html

Physcians Committee Org: http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/endometriosis

Endometriosis New Zealand: http://www.nzendo.org.nz/

FMCG Business:  http://www.fmcgbusiness.co.nz/2014/09/15/australian-supermarkets-support-cage-free-eggs/

Action Wanted: http://actionwanted.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/myths-about-non-vegetarian-diet/

 

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