Our Daily Bread
I have just watched a documentary called Our Daily Bread.
No music. No commentary. The director has let the images speak for themselves.
And what images. Simply recording what happens in the fields and factories around the world which run our agribusiness and keep food cheap.
If this is modernity I don’t want it.
Animals just treated as lifeless, no respect, no care at all, just objects – calves taken from mothers at birth after caesarean, the nursing sows trapped in pens unable to turn over, grotesquely overmuscled bullocks being made to ejaculate at cows who are tethered and held down, chicks sorted by conveyor belt machine, the hundreds of dead or injured blithely thrown in the rubbish chute.
Surreal industrialised landscapes rather than buccolic views. Vast deserts of greenhouses, feed yards, polthened fields of salad. And the scale, the vastness beyond comprehension. Ruthless killing machines. This is the true meaning of processed food: vast sheds of chickens being hoovered up a conveyor belt to their deaths to make chicken nuggets.
Mindless, careless. How can we have fallen so far? How can we consider this the height of civilisation?
Living in a rural setting all my life, seeing the farms and farmers, the fields and the grazing animals, visiting the newborn lambs and piglets, the local artisan sausage maker and family dairies, watched combines and water mills, the slaughter yard and helped to butcher a whole pig. I am comfortable with all of that. I thought I knew what happened with food and where it came from. How wrong I was.
The scenes in this film are like those from a science fiction film. Employees no more than robots, doing the same mindless activity over and over, like zombies, just living cogs in the machines, hired (cheaply) to fill in the roles that machines cannot (yet) do: no thought, just efficiency. The machines are setting the pace, driving the men (their creators!) on. They do not have feelings or morals. The scale, the mechanisation: there cannot be any sense of responsibility or connection at this level. All is anonymous. Endless. Row upon row of tomatoes, peppers, carcasses. Just things with a price. Monoculture madness.
Squandered resources, uniformity, production, efficiency, the suffering of people and animals, chemicals sprayed by the gallon, mechanisation at every turn. Where are the people, the caring, the love of what is being tended? Life is afforded no sanctity.
It was dehumanising and I was ashamed, deeply ashamed that my species was acting like that. It made me question myself hard and deep as to how I could eat meat and how I could justify not buying everything organic and local. This is why getting everything from Tesco is not OK. Sure I know all these things, but you read so much, you get told so much, it becomes another guilt trip, another must do… but seriously, seriously people, we cannot carry on doing this, or letting people do this on our behalf. That governments can condone this is astounding. All these places need licenses.
We value the foodstuffs with so little financial worth because we value their creation so little. The two seem intimately connected. They are no more than commodities.
This film shows that we have come so far from our own souls that we do not know we have them. That anyone could numb themselves to the degree that any of this is acceptable is terrifying. The glazed look in the eyes of those exhausted yet bored workers is that of the human who has had to disembody themselves, disenfranchise themselves from their actions, like a soldier, a concentration camp warden. Detached from their actions and the consequences of them. And it is we who are supporting this. On the evidence of this film we do not deserve to be the species in charge for another moment. What horrific squalor, waste and valueless beings we have demeaned ourselves to be. How grotesque.
More, more, more we demand. Cheaper, faster. But what is the true cost of this?
How little care, value, connection to the soil, to the land, miles of glass, concrete, disinfectant, plastic, all in the name of production. This is not what we should be nourishing our bodies with. What is it doing to us? What is it doing to our humanity? What is it doing to our world?
And yet how many times have you heard this before? Too many to count? Me too…
If you need waking up as to why we need to grow our own and support local, small scale agriculture, watch this film.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses.