The Death For Food Controversy | Event Currently Cancelled Due to Petition and Threat of Boycott

November 13, 2014

Once upon a time, there was an event called Death For Food that was planned to take place on Sunday, November 23 at Suzie's Farm in Chula Vista. Jaime Fritsch was to bring his meat-awareness movement to San Diego and for the cost of admission, participants would witness a lamb slaughtered and butchered, then used to prepare a 5 course farm feast. For an additional cost, one would have been able to choose to harvest and butcher a pasture-raised chicken or turkey to bring home. This event will never come to fruition, at least not at Suzie's, because as of this writing, nearly 2,000 petitioners successfully effectuated the cancellation of Death For Food, with many threatening to boycott the farm if the event took place.

Jaime Fritsch
Jaime Fritsch is a photographer by trade and his movement, Death For Food, began as a photography book and exhibition featuring portraits of animals we eat with documentary capture of their lives and death. Identifying how disconnected most people are in the process of sourcing the food that we consume, specifically meat, Fritsch was motivated to promote this project in order to close that disconnect in hopes of guiding people to gratitude and reverence for the living beings that sustain us. The first Death For Food harvesting dinner took place in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe this past summer. After the San Diego event, Fritsch intended to take the concept to the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago and eventually New York City. 

If Death For Food was to be held at a local butchery or restaurant, there likely would not be such an outpouring of dissidents, but Suzie's Farm is an organic vegetable and fruit farm, and therefore gets a lot of vegetarian and vegan customers who are not too happy with the association with animal death. Two days ago, a petition to stop the event was posted on by local attorney, longtime vegan and environmental and animal rights activist Brian Pease, who has also been instrumental in supporting the seals' stay at Children's Pool and banning foie gras in California. As of this morning, the pressure put on Suzie's Farm by Mr. Pease's online protest resulted in the cancellation of the event.

Brian Pease
Mr. Pease took to social media to gain support for his petition. His Facebook post on the subject has been commented on by an array of San Diego's in-the-know foodies, including San Diego Magazine's resident food critic Troy Johnson, chefs Anthony Sinsay and Andrew Spurgin, and many others including Fritsch himself, who even offered to engage in a public debate with Pease. Pease remains relatively absent from the comments, with his only personal commentary on the subject being his petition. We reached out to Pease for comment and to ask whether he would be willing to participate in a public debate with Fritsch if it was arranged. We still have not received a response as of time of publishing.

So what do I think about Death For Food? When I was a child, there was a long period of time that I abstained from meat. During a barbecue in a family friend's backyard, I witnessed my first whole pig roast and was so devastated to face the fact that 'pork' and all of those adorable tiny hot dogs I had come to know and love were actually made from pig parts. I did not desire to eat meat after that realization and when I was more or less forced to, I felt immense sadness for the loss of life. As I grew from a sympathetic child into an apathetic adolescent, soon my idiosyncratic diet choices seemed more silly and isolating than they did beneficial. I trained myself to ignore the innate moral compass that originally caused me to stop eating animal flesh, because at the time, it just made me seem cowardly.

And I'm not 'religious,' but I've frequently found myself contemplating the philosophy behind Genesis 1:29 which reads "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat" (King James Bible). I've wondered if eating meat was inherently wrong and that maybe we'd be a more civilized, sustainable and peaceful society if we stopped sourcing animal life for our own sustenance based mostly if not solely on desire.

My opinion regarding Death For Food is that it is beneficial for meat eaters and animals' rights activists alike. It cultivates a respect for life that we as a society have veered away from due to our separation from the process of killing. Harvesting, or killing animals for food, is part of human existence all around the world, as it has been throughout the ages. The problem is that we have become so far removed from the harvesting process that the animal's death is hardly considered and rarely respected by the meat eater. This is something that must change, as overconsumption of meat is causing grave injustices around the world - from factory farms, to terrible conditions for these creatures to the compromised health of humans.

There should be an open debate on this subject, at the very least, rather than knee-jerk reactions based upon misinterpretations. Should the event be held at a vegetable and fruit farm? Probably not, but it should go on nonetheless.