Monday, December 7, 2015

Cultural Practices and Food Choices

From guest blogger, Nina.

The concept of cultural practices can be spun in different ways depending on which light a person wants to shed them in.  One food related cultural practice is the avoidance of beef consumption in the Hindu religion.  Some of the reasons they do this are because of their belief in minimizing harm done to any living thing as well as the idea that when a person consumes meat, they are also consuming the emotions the animal felt during its slaughter (presumably pain and fear).  These two reasons align with moral principles we have studied including not eating meat as it causes a great deal of suffering, and to not cause a great deal of harm without a just reason to do so.  When put in this frame, cultural practices can be a positive example for why we should respect the culture for having the beliefs it does. 

However, certain cultural practices can be problematic.  In China, shark fin soup is a highly revered meal both for its symbolic and medicinal powers.  The problem here though is that sharks are hunted by the tens of millions, to be stripped solely of its fin and the rest of its body discarded.  On one hand, if we are respecting their culture’s right to make shark fin soup, we can at least be frustrated by the tremendous amounts of food waste created (eat the rest of the shark if you are going to hunt them!)  Though, in an ecological lens, it is difficult to respect the culture for what it is.  The hunting of sharks is decreasing their population massively, especially because their reproductive cycles are very slow.  This decrease in their population causes a decrease in biodiversity and screws up the food chain massively because the top predators are no longer there to regulate the population sizes of others.  When a cultural practice becomes an ecological problem, it is hard to respect it and we come to a stalemate of sorts in terms of balancing our concern for the environment with being respectful.

No comments: