I was eating shrimp salad, just chomping away. Big, giant prawns (previously frozen), chomping and devouring in one bite, bite after bite. Giant prawn - down you go. Chomp. Another. And another.
American gluttony? Another prawn. Yes, I think I tasted that one. Ooh, I'll try better on the next.
Chomp - yum! Mmmmm, prawn. Yup, that was tasty. Yummy little prawn...momentary thought...you once were alive. Swimming. I chomped you in one bite - your whole life for my one bite. I definitely did not enjoy that bite enough for your whole life. Even if you didn't really have sentience.
Another bite, another prawn. I eat a lot of other lives - chicken, shellfish, salmon - and generally try not to think about the sentient animal behind it. Why this prawn? Oooooh tasty, and the next (CHOMP!) Maybe because I suddenly became aware of the callousness of my chomping compared to the very poignant meaning of an entire life in that single bite (whereas a chicken takes a lot more bites).
Then, because I live in Seattle, as another prawn got chomped (this salad was FULL of prawns - thank you, Costco) I wondered about the sustainability of prawns....while barely giving a thought to consuming this life, what about everything that was sacrificed to put these prawns (shelled, tail on, frozen) into a 3 lb bag for me to buy without thinking at the bulk food store freezer section? What are the fishing practices? Do fishermen lose their lives so I can mindlessly chomp prawns in a salad on my deck in the summer? What other seafood is sacrificed in pursuit of the singular goal of "prawn"? One day, will we fish out all the prawns?
I assumed the answers were all dire - and I was a bit disappointed that I didn't know the answers. Some discussion of the merits of farmed vs. wild salmon were discussed, and logic hypothetically applied to the vague concept of prawn fishing, in combination with some assessment of "Deadliest Catch" and whether that also applied to prawn fishing, and guiltily I actually chewed a prawn (hey, they were ALREADY IN the salad - no point wasting them!) and realized I should look into it more, so at least, if I am going to choose to eat them, it is while accepting the direct and collateral impacts of them.
Some people find unity in considering how their food reaches their plates - thinking of the farmers who grow the food and benefit from selling it, then the vast numbers of people who benefit from the transportation, supply chain and ultimate sale of the food, uniting the global community, and instead, guiltily I was considering the opposite angle of the global impacts of the food I was eating....
I did some research, and found that yes, typically prawn harvesting is not sustainable, and that there is no actual measurement of sustainability that you can look for (no federal regulation or symbol, like for organic, or meat quality), other than doing research into companies that only use sustainable practices. There are some, mostly located in the arctic Atlantic, so it IS possible.
Doing some additional research, I did find that Costco specifically is focusing on transitioning to sustainable seafood supply, and has reduced or eliminated supplying non-sustainable species, and that by the end of the year, they plan to make sure their seafood is all sustainable (http://www.seafoodsource.com/newsarticledetail.aspx?id=10028).
I have to admit to being somewhat of a sustainability nut, and have been for as long as I can remember (yeah, I was THAT kid) and now being an adult, I try to mostly be ok with the reality that not everything can be saved, and that I have to make decisions about the lifestyle I want and the level of advocacy that I can effectively have while having that lifestyle, and yet, I still think about it a lot. Every time I go to the store - buy local or buy organic? Buy recycled or recyclable? Sustainable or conservation? The choices now are ever so much more complicated, and the supply of information ever so much more overwhelming, political and sensationalistic. Finding clear, concise, unbiased information is challenging and keeping up to speed with it is....something I can't even realistically consider.
The positive and uplifting thing is that there are enough people who care (even a little - like me) that the information is out there, and that more and more companies are creating and supplying sustainable items. Even if one choice is more or less good overall and I can't tell, at least I have choices that are better than where we were 15 years ago when nothing was recycled, recycling was for crazy liberal people, and the seas should be fished clean of tuna because no one realized dolphins were dying from it.
Somewhere, someone in Georgia just shook their head because they do think recycling is for crazy people, and that I'm just a liberal freak from Seattle. It's ok. My prawns are going to be sustainable so they can eat some too.