Way up here in the little mountain village of Andermatt I found myself having a mild argument about our practice in Maine of cooking lobster alive. The World's Finest Lobster Comes From Maine (Maine Lobster Council). I grew up with it and cannot bring myself to think of it as cruel. Many of my family and friends are fisherman and our meager economy is dependent on lobster. Likewise when I hear people grumbling about foie gras I think of the Besse family in Southern France. The Besse family makes the best foie gras you ever tasted (check out Dan Barber's Foie Gras Parable on Ted.com). They hosted me on their little farm for several days and showed me the warmest hospitality I am ever likely to experience. In France as in most other western countries the buyers of agricultural products are so big that it has become impossible for a small farm to survive on anything but a niche market.
The careful issue here that many of us feel uncomfortable admitting is that being alive necessitates death. This is one part of life: Life is suffering (many Buddhists eat animals) Even the tofu and the rice requires killing not only plants, but animals too - those harvesting machines don't pause to let snakes and rodents get clear before they cut, even if it did there would be the insects to consider and all the dispaced species.
The solution for this moral dilemma is to know the life before it is taken. Meet the sheep and the cows, walk in the fields and get out on the water. Get to know the farmer and the fisherman who bring that food to your table and help them by supporting their business. Get to know their practices and lend a hand. In all likelihood when you meet that local farmer, fisherman, hunter or gatherer you will come to enjoy your food more and you will certainly have a better sense of what it takes to keep you alive.
For more information about locally grown food check Out Meet Your Local Farmer from Mother Earth News and Sustainable Table. For information and resources about seafood check out Sustainable Fisheries from MarineBio, Sustainable Fisheries from WWF and Sustainable Seafood from Earth Easy. To meet a local fisherman or Farmer go for a walk, ask around and encourage your neighbors to do the same.