One of my professors recently began a lecture on the environmental issues regarding modern industrial food production in a rather peculiar way. He made it clear before beginning the presentation that what he was about to discuss was in no way intended to be “a judgment call” on an individual’s eating habits. One’s food choices are very personal, he acknowledged, and he didn’t want anyone in the class to feel like he was unjustly offending their personal beliefs by presenting a factual lecture on the food system.
I almost laughed out loud in the middle of the classroom. Is this really how far our neoliberal universities have come, in embracing the capitalist rhetoric? We don’t begin our astronomy lectures with a disclosure “respecting the choices” for those who believe the earth is the centre of the solar system. The fact that a professor can be shamed into making such a non-committal disclosure before a lecture is a disastrous precedent for the development of our intellectual culture today. As if calling out one’s consumer choice was something that society should respect and not dare offend, akin to race or sexual preference. The fact is that industrialized factory farming is destroying the planet and it is poisoning our people. Those who participate in it are making themselves and the planet sicker, and those who continue to hide behind the rhetoric of choice in education are doing the planet a grave disservice.