Thursday, June 25, 2009
After receiving my first bits of “constructive” e-mail I feel compelled to delve a little deeper into why I’ve altered my lifestyle the way I have. I’ve recently been challenged to go vegan or become a bit more “committed to the cause.” I believe I am exactly where I need to be right now, and feel very comfortable with, and excited about, my choices. While I appreciate those who are further along their path than me and look to them for information and sometimes inspiration, I don’t want to be anyone else. As I wrote in my very first posting, I hate labels and only use the term “vegetarian” to make things easier at restaurants. I’m about to give more specifics relating to my reality, so if you’re not ready for the truth about factory farming, catch me on my next post.
I grew up in the South and am no stranger to farming. My uncles raised chickens for Tyson, and I have memories of playing in the chicken houses as a child. I witnessed cows being branded and castrated, and even saw a chicken lose its life to a quick pop and a sharp knife. I’m a dog and horse person and have never had much emotional attachment to anything else. I value human life over non-human life, and do not condemn those who choose to raise animals and grow gardens for the sustenance of their families.
Most men in my family were/are seasonal hunters, with one uncle qualifying as a big game hunter. I have always loved the taste of venison, quail, and fish. Although I’ve never been a fan of chicken or ground beef, a really rare, well aged steak was a thing of beauty. I’d looked into the big sweet eyes of a steer, but allowed my conscience to disconnect when it came to the reality of my meal.
I am a somewhat accomplished cook, and have been fortunate to have friends and family who share my love of good food and wine. Three years ago I cooked my way through Julia Child's, Mastering The Art of French Cooking. I have made my own gelatin from boiling bones, can gut a fish, debone a chicken, and theoretically, could field dress a rabbit and a deer. Food, to me, is much more than sustenance. It is cultural, artistic and the stuff of which great memories are made. I love to eat!
With all this being said, sometimes life gets complicated and requires major changes. For many different reasons I decided it was time to face the truth of my dietary choices. Part of this was due to my concern with the environment, part due to my health, but I’d say there was also something even bigger that I can’t quite describe right now.
These life changes prompted me to read everything I could get my hands on about organic farming, free-range ranching, corporate farms, agricultural business, and nutrition. I also went on field trips where I saw what can only be described as the worst horror film in the world, but it was real. The sights, sounds and smells are imprinted in my mind forever. I am still frightened to think that human beings are capable of such torture, brutality and perversion. Animal processing plant workers witness horrors every day, while still trying to maintain a sort of emotional distance. Even if I didn’t give a shit about animals, as a humanitarian, the meat packing industry is no place for a soulful human. I don’t see how a person who participates in that process can be whole.
When you see playful pigs trotting in a field, looking like they have smiles on their faces, with personalities and charisma, and then see them scared and violent from their own insanity, marching towards two men who operate a machine that will quickly slit their throats, the only solace is that it will soon be over for them. The squeals and shrieks of pain require humans to wear ear plugs. And this is just the “organically raised and/or free-range” pigs. Factory farms are another tier in Dante’s hell.
Chickens neurotically pull out their own feathers and their beaks are burnt and clipped without any sedatives. They are starved and deprived of water to induce egg laying. Cows’ beautiful eyes turn wild and crazed long before the chains are wrapped around their ankles to jerk them into the air, and you can hear loud pops from their legs breaking. Before this point they are supposed to be stunned with a bolt-gun to the head (unless they are up for Kosher beef, in which case they have to be totally aware of what is happening) but all too often the stun doesn’t “take” and the steer is completely cognizant of this terrifying process.
Workers stand knee-deep in blood, excrement and entrails, surrounded by deafening calls from the animals, and studies have demonstrated the psychological toll on meat processing employees are significant. All this so I can eat a steak?
So, I know the truth now. To me, once you know the truth you have a responsibility to do something about it. I have chosen to eat in a way that causes the least possible pain to other beings—human or otherwise. For those who are not ready to cut meat out of their diet, I hope I can help them find less-dreadful ways of sourcing their food. For those who have found themselves on a similar path to mine, I hope we can share information and make things a bit more fun.
I won’t say I’ll never eat animals or animal byproducts again. I have eaten fish recently, and would probably do it again. I don’t think people living in remote Africa or the North Pole need to quit eating animals. I’m not going to judge some poor person in rural China for eating a dog. I just know that I live in a place where I have many options to avoid eating another living being. I am committed to living my life in a way that is healthy to me, the people around me, animals, and the planet. I feel amazing, am having a blast, and my doctors are over-the-moon with my choices.
So this is my path. My mission for this blog is just to share information and give little slices of my life that I suspect might be entertaining or meaningful to someone else. I’m not here to judge or be judged, thank you very much. And you can keep writing… I love getting the notes (especially the funny ones), but know that I’m just where I need to be, and so are you!
Love and Peace,