I had the great pleasure to attend a lecture given by Dr. Temple Grandin last night at the University of Iowa. She has done innumerable positive things in the cattle industry and her work cannot go without praise. Her talk was mainly about the autism spectrum, but also included some tidbits about her work in the cattle industry.
Dr. Temple Grandin put two very important concepts in my head last night.
1. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
I think this is great advice and bound to be true. It’s something for both sides of any issue to realize. In my thoughts and writings on food I try to follow this sentiment. But, like all humans sometimes I fail and become entrenched on one side of an issue or fail to consider the opposing viewpoint fully.
I don’t think everyone should become a vegan. I don’t think everyone should be vegetarian. I think the lifestyles are fine and people should not be judged for being vegan or vegetarian. And it’s most definitely not my goal to end all animal agriculture! I do believe in a world where humans consume animals for food and other uses.
But I don’t think current industrial agriculture is the pinnacle of greatness that some claim it to be. I think food corporations and meat processors have too much power. I think there are a lot of slaughterhouse workers and migrant field workers that don’t have very good jobs. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in our food system.
2. The details are extremely important.
There was one cringe-worthy moment in the Q&A when a 20-something-year-old girl asked Dr. Grandin what she thought about “toxins in animal feed” and “methane from cattle and global warming” and “pesticides in our crops”. She was very vague and Dr. Grandin pointed this out. This is when she reiterated that the details are important. I agree. This girl was made to look rather foolish. I think it’s unfortunate if you take this as an example of left-wing animal activists who get shut down when Dr. Grandin talks to them. The problem was not this girl’s concerns about agriculture or potential environmental effects. Rather, this girl hadn’t thought too hard about the details. When asked “what toxins?” by Dr. Grandin, she should have had a definite response. Like why are we using ractopamine in hog feed or why would anyone use Zilmax in their cattle?
In conclusion, let’s all try to remember that the truth is more than likely somewhere in the middle of two starkly opposed viewpoints. Vague conversations about our food system will not cut it and we all need to get more interested in the details. It’s time-consuming and sometimes frustrating to do the necessary research to make sure you’re not missing the details. But in the long run, details are what will make the difference. I’m reminded of the apt phrase, “God is in the details.”