As I am growing as a human being, I find myself questioning myself more often about the ethics of eating meat. I don’t think people should be judged if they do. Nor do I think they should be made to feel like crap if they choose to eat meat. If you have a facebook account, and if you have liberals, leftists, and assorted democrats, witches, etc amongst your friends, chances are someone is posting ‘vegan propaganda’. You know what I am talking about, right? Those pictures of maimed, murdered, butchered, helpless animals who are about to appear on your dinner plate. The ethics I question aren’t whether people should eat meat. It is whether I as an individual should eat meat, and if I do, should I not ensure it comes from an ethical, organic grower.
The fact is, unless you eat organic meat from farmers you know, that is most likely exactly what you are getting on your plate. If you are like us, and eat eggs from Sam’s Club, or any old grocery store, you are eating eggs laid by chickens who have never seen day light. Who have never walked anywhere, who probably look nothing like the chickens we like to imagine.
My parents had a farm for many years and we had just about every farm animal imaginable. We had cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, all kinds of fowl. And I can attest to the fact that all of these animals felt something. Fear, affection, curiosity, annoyance, contentment, etc. Yes, we ate many of them. We were your typical omnivorous family. And we ate homegrown pork, goat, chicken, duck, etc. But these animals all knew a life the way it should be. They walked outside in the sun. They foraged for food, took dustbaths. The pigs loved their afternoon bath. What we ate, looked us in the eye and we were answerable for their deaths.
Now, I live in America. And I have no connection whatsoever to the meat I serve my family. The piece of chicken I shove into my greedy mouth came from the refrigerated case of my neighborhood grocery store. The connection has been severed by two factors. My greed for money is certainly one of them as the chicken at the store is 3-4 times less expensive than that from the farm. It is also far more expedient. Meat here comes neatly severed from anything remotely connecting it with the being that died. Served shrink-wrapped on a while vinyl foam tray, it is convenient, and very, very, dead. There is no connection to the animal that died to sate our hunger. My kids have never seen a life food animal. Ever. My son has never looked into the brown, mellow eyes of a cow, or the intelligent gaze of a pig. He has never watched a chicken cluck contentedly after a dustbath. He has never held an egg in his hand still warm from the chicken’s body. What am I doing to these children? But then, I guess, my daughter’s allergies would never allow us to have a farm.
I am in a position of relative luxury. I live in a place, and at a time, where I can easily become a vegetarian without sacrificing taste or nutrition. So why haven’t I done it yet? Well, I do like the taste of meat. I like chicken, some beef recipes, I am not crazy about pork, but I eat it, and I love seafood. I also like the ease with which I can feed my family. We aren’t a big family. Three adults, two children, and a dog who seems to forget with each passing day that he is indeed, a dog. But we lead a busy life, and I like the fact that I can toss some marinated chicken on the grill, made two sides, and voila, dinner is served.
Maybe I’ll try to make more meat alternatives for myself along with what my family eats. And maybe, if over the next year or two I can reduce the quantity and frequency of meat consumption, we can move more towards meat alternatives, and more organic meats. It’s problematic right now because my FIL (father in-law) has different meal requirements at least once a day, and so I often end up cooking several kinds of meals during the week. I really cannot use more time to cook separate food just for myself.
So, at this point, I still don’t have an answer. I wouldn’t be surprised if some day, in the future, I would decide to only eat seafood, eggs and milk. Those are the three things I would not give up. But I can see myself saying goodbye to beef, chicken an pork. It’ll be healthier too!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on veganism and vegetarianism, and unabashed omnivorism (I believe our natural state since evolving into what we are now).