Food Journeys

EarthQuaker Issue 95

It started with a comment by a Friend after Meeting for Worship, about the amount of meat and fish that was on the menu of a Quaker guest house. It went onto the agenda for Local Meeting for Business. The Local Meeting minute was sent to the Area Meeting, which sent a letter to the guest house.

However, the guest house’s reply and the Area Meeting’s lack of understanding of the sustainability issues around food showed that we needed to do more work on this issue ourselves. So the Area Meeting decided that this should be the main issue at a future Area Meeting and asked two Friends to speak about it.

Their presentation covered the land use and energy costs of factory farming; industrial fishing; and the spiritual aspect of not being in right relationship, of treating the rest of Creation as a resource to be exploited and consumed. Taking inspiration from 'Braiding Sweetgrass' by Robin Wall Kimmerer, they suggested several practices:

(1) Before buying meat or fish, imagine it as a living creature. Ask its permission to eat it and then give thanks for its life.

(2) Inspired by such respect for the living world, reduce the frequency of eating meat, fish or dairy products and otherwise try to eat seasonally. 

They felt that, as part of the Canterbury Commitment, it was important for Quaker venues and events to adopt this ethos and that, in so doing, we could be 'patterns and examples', providing leadership in this important aspect of sustainability.

My impression was that it was a bit of a revelation to some Friends. The decision of the Area Meeting was to return to the issue in the new year, giving Friends a few months to consider the issues and perhaps to try some vegetarian and vegan foods.  Was it a mistake to write to the guest house when we did? I don't think so – it was part of our learning journey and maybe part of theirs, too.

We're all on food journeys, within overlapping food cultures which have changed over time. As with physical journeys, we have travelling companions who care for each other along the way, and sometimes we need to allow fellow travellers to catch up.

Our destination? A right and respectful relationship with the rest of Creation.

Wendy Pattinson