A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.
When first presented with Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat, I knew next to nothing about the topic. What exactly should we be expecting, as 21st century American citizens, in terms of our food rights? Lawfully, how much control do we have over our food rights? What, exactly, are “food rights,” for that matter? The last time I discussed food rights was in a US history class my junior year of high school, when I learned the horrors of 1920’s Chicago meatpacking through a close read of muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle. Picking up this particular book, I wondered, what’s changed since then? Unfortunately, I’d come to learn that the struggle for the truth and the terror in finding it is still very real today. Discussing his fact-driven, research-loaded quest for food rights in the form of a compelling story, David E. Gumpert makes us really sit back and think: where does my food come from, and why don’t I know?
David E. Gumpert, a health and business journalist in Vermont, invites the reader into his passion for the truth, human rights, and our control of those rights throughout Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights. Immediately, the audience realizes that this is not only personal for Gumpert, but also personal for us. Right off the bat, he launches into a drama of intense, suspenseful diction, commanding our interest in his work with rhetorical questions and shocking reveals. From beginning to end, Gumpert intrigues the reader in not only what he has discovered, but also what we have to do with it. By delving into several personal narratives concerning both himself and different cases he’s explored, Gumpert shows how we, as a society, are deprived of key life choices. This style speaks to the home-hitting issue that we should all be taking very personally.
Through previous generations, the farm our food came from was a choice, part of everyday life. Now, instead of the freedom of open exchanges, our farm-fresh food is distributed and exchanged far more privately, behind closed doors, in a way that’s impossible to supervise or control. In addition to deprivation of choice, we are also faced with the gamble of trusting the food we’ve attained. How, we are forced to wonder, has my food been processed and polluted? How will this affect my health, my lifestyle, and that of my family’s? Shouldn’t we, as the consumers of this food, have every right and opportunity to know as much as possible about it? Gumpert argues that excessive government regulation has put up a wall between us and our food sources. He calls out in protest, and calls on us to join in. After all, it concerns all of us.
Gumpert labels the food rights movement as a “violent birth” (99), referencing Rawesome Foods, a food club in California attacked by government regulation in a destructive raid. However, after a messy legal battle met with passionate resistance, Rawesome would continue to run their business. This reference proves very effective in that Gumpert has reached all the way from Vermont, a highly passionate state when it comes to eating locally, to California, essentially across the country. Using such examples from his studies of different cases, Gumpert encourages a lively fight for freedom, a refusal to be defeated, and a protection of our right to decide what we eat. Highlighting this certain victory, Gumpert inspires: there is hope for attaining complete freedom of choice with hard work, passion, and dedication to our rights.
And we just may be getting closer to freedom, but not just in the earthy-crunchy dedication of Vermont, Gumpert’s homeland. In later discussion, Gumpert touches on a significant progress in our country’s society as a whole: politicians’ growing interest in protecting food rights. However, a flicker may not necessarily grow into a flame; one has to wonder, are these simply empty promises made in attempt for the vegan-vote? Plus, Gumpert notes, a politician’s general support does not guarantee a judge and jury’s support in specific cases (198). Just like any societal issue that is fought over time, while progress is made in one area, there is always progress to be made in other areas. It just may turn out that this fight is continuous and ever-changing, evolving as different rules and regulations are put into place. Will we ever regain our food freedom? Will we ever have the choice again? Will that be in my time? If food freedom is completely regained, will it be unanimously welcomed?
No one can say for sure. However, through the entirety of his book, Gumpert emphasizes the overwhelming necessity to keep informing and to keep fighting. An informed society is a passionate one, and a passionate society fights for their every right. Through his several different stories within the entire work, Gumpert makes examples of our nation’s most passionate food rights advocates, proving that with the passion that they have, anyone can make a difference.
Even as someone who knew little about food rights prior to this book, I am inspired by Gumpert, the stories he tells, and the people involved in them. They are real people, with real passions, real stories, and real families to support. They are ordinary people, just like the rest of us: small businesses and human rights advocates, Rawesome and David Gumpert. And here I was, ignorant to the battles they fought and continue to fight. There is so much power in realizing how much we didn’t know, especially about issues that affect our everyday lives. There are people like Gumpert and those he writes about, out there right now, every day, fighting for our rights, unbeknownst to many of us. If anything, this realization enlightens me that much more to our need for food rights, and inspires me that much more to advocate for them. After all, it’s the battles like these, however long and however hard, that unite us as humanity. Whatever we’re fighting for, we’re fighting together. And that’s what makes the battle for food rights a battle worth winning.
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