Live Well
November 2015

A Few Words to Live By…On a Horse or Off

Every year, I have the opportunity to participate in a horseback-riding clinic with an Olympic gold- and silver-medal winner. I am always amazed at how much his instructions go beyond just riding horses, and can be applied to real life situations. I wanted to share some of his words of wisdom here:

Be clear about what you want. When riding, and jumping, it’s important to be clear about what you would like your horse to do. Otherwise, he won’t know your expectations. If you are heading to a jump, direct your horse to the middle of the jump and go forward with conviction. Similarly, if you aren’t clear about your expectations of yourself, your family, friends, or colleagues, you won’t be able to accomplish what you are seeking to accomplish.

Don’t look back. Often, while riding, a horse will trip or hit the rail of a jump. It’s important not to look back because looking back serves no purpose and may actually hinder you, especially if there is an obstacle (i.e. another jump) coming up ahead. Don’t lose focus and keep forging ahead. The same applies to real life situations – if you get stuck in the past, you can’t move forward. Keep looking ahead to where you want to get to.

Don’t worry about mistakes, get order after the jumps. Unless you are a professional rider, while on a course, you will inevitably make a mistake. If you worry about your mistake, you won’t be able to plan ahead. So, get over it, re-group, re-organize and move on. We all make mistakes. Acknowledge your mistakes, re-organize and keep moving forward.

Stay organized. This is an oldie but goodie. When riding a horse, it’s important to be organized about your tack (equipment that goes on the horse), your riding and your approach to a course. In the same way, it’s important to be organized in life so you can react to any unanticipated events.

Never show a horse anything he can’t do. If you show a horse a jump that is too high, he will be scared to jump. If you show a child (or even an adult, for that matter) something they can’t do, they will get discouraged and won’t make an effort.

In short, the message is to be bold, move forward with conviction and intention, and don’t get stuck in the past. I find it useful to remind myself of these lessons regularly both when I am riding and not.

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Eating Animals

by Jonathan Safran-Foer

My husband recently decided to become a vegetarian. I am not and find that I get very tired and weak if I don’t eat meat. We have been discussing his decision: is he getting enough protein? is his feeling of fatigue related to the lack of meat in his diet? is my decision to eat meat inhumane? There are many ways to approach all of these questions. For all the research I have read extolling the benefits of vegetarianism, I have read an equal amount stating that eating meat has been part of humanity since fire was invented and is important for human health. I think, ultimately, it comes down to making the right choices about the food we eat, being mindful of the way it was grown or raised, and its impact on the environment.

In his book, Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran-Foer discusses the morality of eating meat and fish, especially in a system where their production is so brutal. Safran-Foer’s book is part memoir and part journalistic inquiry and takes us into the depths of the factory farming system in the US. As he states, “Like pornography, factory farming is hard to
define but easy to identify. In a narrow sense it is a system of industrialized and intensive agriculture in which animals – often housed by the tens or even hundreds of thousands – are genetically engineered, restricted in mobility, and fed unnatural diets (which almost always include various drugs, like antimicrobials). Globally, roughly 50 billion land animals are now factory farmed every year. (There is no tally for fish.) Ninety-nine percent of all land animals eaten or used to produce milk and eggs in the United States are factory farmed.” (Eating Animals, p.34)

The main reason for factory farming of meat, poultry and fish is to bring down the cost for consumers. This is done at the expense of animal welfare, the environment and human human health. When it comes to animal welfare, Safran-Foer goes into great detail about the inhumanity of large-scale fish-, poultry- and meat-processing facilities. As he writes of factory-farmed chickens, “First, find a chicken that will grow big fast on as little feed as possible. The muscles and fat tissues of the newly engineered broiler birds grow significantly faster than their bones, leading to deformities and disease. Somewhere between 1 and 4 percent of the birds will die writhing in convulsions from sudden death syndrome, a condition virtually unknown outside of factory farms. Another factory-farm-induced condition in which excess fluids fill the body cavity, ascites, kills even more (5 percent of birds globally). Three out of four will have some degree of walking impairment, and common sense suggests they are in chronic pain.” (Eating Animals, p.130) Of course, similar things occur with factory-farmed cattle and pigs. Safran-Foer also notes that, according to United Nations reports, livestock production accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and excrement from chickens, cattle and pigs have polluted 35,000 miles of river (pp.58 and 179). And, as I have noted in previous blog posts, roughly 70% of antibiotics used in the US are used in meat production. These end up on our plates and in our bodies when we consume meat.

Safran-Foer also explores some of the alternative methods of production and interviews some poultry-, pork- and beef- farmers who have adopted more humane and sustainable production methods. I think this is the key – making a choice to support farms that are mindful of the way animals should be raised. I think that, as consumers, we need to make a commitment to making ethical choices when in comes to purchasing and consuming poultry, meat and/or fish. We need to choose products that are not factory-farmed, and that don’t feed their animals or fish antibiotics or growth hormones.

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Upcoming Events

I will be doing a talk on Key Facts About Snacks at the
Woman’s Club of Greenwich on November 19th at 1pm. The
lecture is open to the public, free and a healthy coffee and tea
reception will follow the talk. I hope to see you there!