by Maitri Pamo
My mami’s chiles rellenos, chuchitos, pepian: que rico! The food of my childhood and my culture, the thought calls forth mouthwatering cravings and warm feelings of bien estar. For my mother, her food is a connection to her loved ones, her ‘te quiero’ eloquently presented on plates and in bowls, a fragrant ribbon attaching us to the homeland.
When, years ago, I told her that I could no longer eat some of my favorite dishes, that ribbon snapped, slapping us both. My motives, incomprehensible to her, seemed designed to reject her personally. I was frustrated, by her inability to empathize with how much willpower was required for me to take this step, and worried about the part of my culture I was pushing away; an empty plate on a bountiful table.
I was discussing this conundrum with Daniel Carabaño, owner of the V Spot, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn. We discussed how his father, who constructed the interior and the patio of the restaurant, refused to try his food for a year. We discussed, as I munched contentedly on vegetable pad thai, how in our collective experience, many Latinos are meat-centric and unrelenting in their refusal to consider an alternative way of eating. For Carabaño, as for me, the decision to change was based on humanitarian reasons. Preparing for application to veterinary medical school while eating meat felt hypocritical. Then, while studying to become a doctor, I witnessed first hand the abject cruelty endured by so called “food animals” on factory farms. Heartbroken, I often tried to talk to my family and friends about my experiences but found that more often than not, the Latinos would start rolling their eyes, impatient, uninterested. Given the health concerns facing the Latino community, this is a foolish attitude.
Red meat consumption has been linked to increased morbidity via heart disease and cancer. The typical US diet, that has long been considered so detrimental to our health, is propped up by the food industry for the benefit of profits, not consumers.
And after having injected farm animals with antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids, I cannot justify ingesting these chemicals. Neither can I justify contributing to the environmental degradation associated with the production of meat.
More greenhouse gas production than caused by all the cars in the world, poisonous methane gas, massive deforestation, animal consumption of food that could be used to feed hungry humans, water pollution, soil erosion, pesticide and fossil fuel use are just some of the effects of animal agriculture detailed in a report of The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. If compassion for suffering living beings is not sufficient, I hope that the desire for self preservation may prompt some introspection among mi gente.
Staff writer, Maitri Pamo.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.