WE are just 11 days away from the start of Ramadan, the fasting month. It’s an appropriate time for non-Muslims to get in sync and introduce some temporary restrictions in their food choices. Fasting is the practice of sacrificing food and beverage intake for a set period.
Religious fasting also has the goal of training the mind to have more noble thoughts. While each religion has its own method and times of fasting, there are thousands of non-Muslims in our midst who have never fasted. For them, this column would recommend that they do an ecofast in May.
Ecofast is a climate-oriented fasting method that is – pardon the pun – fast gaining popularity around the globe. Ecofast requires you to do a 12-hour or 15-hour stretch of food abstinence. It can be any 12 or 15 hours, and the most convenient period is 7.30pm-7.30am. This means you stop eating dinner at 7.30pm and break the fast at 7.30am before going to office. That’s why the morning meal is called breakfast. Why 12 or 15 hours? It’s to give your tummy a deserved break.
Beginners can have lunch in addition to breakfast and dinner. But in all your meals during ecofast, you have to abstain from livestock meat. Note that it specifies meat from living animals. You may and should take eggs as these are not living beings, and are a rich source of essential nutrients.
Why abstain from livestock meat during ecofast? To feed almost 8 billion humans, the world keeps 25 billion livestock animals and poultry alive daily until each animal or bird is ready for slaughter and is then replaced by newborns. While alive they breathe out carbon dioxide and fart out or burp out methane, which is carbon plus hydrogen. Carbon released into the atmosphere heats up the globe. Although fossil fuels and plastics are the main emitters, livestock rearing contributes 18% because of the whopping numbers of animals being groomed for the table.
In the Merdeka year of 1957, air-conditioning wasn’t needed because the carbon dioxide component in the atmosphere was just 311 parts per million (ppm). It is now 412 ppm — a 30% increase. Temperatures hit a blistering 40°C in several locations in Malaysia on the same day last month, and are expected to hit 41°C next year.
What’s the effect of carbon dioxide? You can do a test. Bring eight adults into a gym the size of your living room. Close all windows and doors. Ensure the aircon is switched off. Get these eight adults to do vigorous aerobic exercise for one hour. The carbon dioxide buildup will reach levels that cause worrying increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Keep up the exercise for another hour and all eight will be speeding to hospital.
Ecofast also spurs you to be aware of the lifelong suffering that caged animals endure. Unless they are free-range farm animals, home is a suffocatingly crammed prison space. This is caged livestock: a horrendous life in the stockade from birth to death. The annual kill is 50 billion animals. We allow these suffering because caged birds are not human.
However, tradition-based morality fails to anticipate danger in permitting the enslaving and slaughter of caged livestock: it has reinforced the evil practice of dehumanising powerless groups and giving them torture-and-slaughter treatment. The wife of a Syrian rebel let a Yazidi slave girl in their house die of thirst as punishment for wetting her mattress, a German court heard this month. This is the danger of narrow morality.
Science-based morality takes a wider approach: whatever deed harms the planet’s life-support system is morally wrong including the excessive rearing of livestock. It is bad news for non-vegetarians, but good news is coming. If you don’t like the taste of soya mock meat, wait for the arrival of lab-grown meat. This is real meat nurtured from live animal cells in hi-tech laboratories. These cells multiply to become real chicken or duck meat, and beef meatballs. Who says you can’t save the chicken’s life and yet eat it?