A Reluctant Journey
"Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages."
|Cows Love Jazz! NO, seriously - click here.|
A couple of weeks ago, I began to consider giving up red meat, since I really don't eat much of it anyway. A week later, after eating all the shrimp and tilapia I could stand (there's not a lot of seafood available in Fort Morgan, frozen or otherwise), I thought, why not try to quit eating meat altogether? It won't be that bad. I mean, I can still eat cheese. Sadly, after a week of increased cheese consumption, my ears were swelling nearly shut (they do this often due to allergies of unknown origin, but this was much worse). After blaming it on the wind and whatever else I could think of, I noticed that it happened right around the same time each day -- after my 3:00 p.m. cheese stick snack. Pfffffbt. Ah, well. For years I have substituted almond milk in place of cow's milk anyway (for reasons listed under "cheese", above). Might as well give up the damn cheese, too.
I have been on all sorts of diets, usually as part of my never-ending (losing) battle to shrinkmy butt. Weight Watchers (online and in person), e*diets.com, myfitnesspal.com, Eat Right for Your Blood Type, Almased meal replacements -- I could go on. Last year, I tried gluten-free for health reasons (digestive issues, you don't want to know), and a few years back I even pulled off a vegan stint for about 40 days, thanks to the E2 Diet. Out of all of them, I felt the best on the vegan diet, believe it or not (barring one meat-crazed, out-of-control craving for a McDonald's Quarter Pounder). It was initiated for health purposes (my cholesterol was bordering on high), though I lost a substantial amount of fat (stomach fat, even!) in the process.
And doesn't it just figure that the diet my body seemed to like the best was also the most annoying to follow? It required way more preparation than any other diet I've been on. Eating out (not just at restaurants, but at friends' and relatives' houses, too), I was hard-pressed to find something I could eat. I found most of the vegetarian options (and vegetarian recipes) to be full of cheese and/or sour cream, to make up for the lack of meat -- AWESOME, can I have some oil and fat with my carbs, please?! A vegan diet was difficult enough to follow in California, where fruits and vegetables are plentiful; I can't even fathom trying to pull it off in North East Colorado.
"Wait a tic," you might say, "Aren't you in the middle of Farmville?" Yep. I anticipated produce-a-plenty. However, the grocery stores in Fort Morgan (of which there are -- count 'em -- three, the best option usually being Walmart, believe THAT or not) have the saddest selection of pitiful, limp, unappealing produce I have ever encountered. All of the fields surrounding us are growing soy. And hay. And at least one giant potato field that I know of. Hey, at least there are potatoes! Nah, those are for a potato chip company. The soy and hay are grown to feed the meat that feeds the people. Apparently that is far more profitable than growing vegetables, and I get it; people have to earn a living. And that is pretty much the only way to turn a profit out here.
Back in the early 2000's, I accidentally read a diet book based on veganism (Skinny Bitch), when I didn't know what "vegan" meant (just wanted the "skinny" part). It started off as witty and entertaining, but then quickly and seamlessly moved into describing meat industry horrors, and relaying quotes from the seriously deranged people who kill animals for a living, which my brain will never be rid of. I have seen the images of dairy cows with udders literally exploding with milk, their teats covered in scabs from being milked raw (which is what prompted me, when I did drink milk, to pay an arm and a leg for organic -- now, when Chris picks up a carton of non-organic milk, I say, "Oh, so you prefer your milk with scabs, these days?" It's a very effective little campaign). I have watched the videos and read the articles depicting the very real and absolutely unnecessary pain and suffering going on at slaughterhouses. I also know a lot of people who do not eat meat for moral and ethical reasons.
I will spare you additional gory details, but suffice it to say that (a) if you've never looked into it, it's worse than you can possibly imagine (really, truly -- they torture these animals for entertainment), and (b) the unspeakable things that happen to the animals we eat before their meat goes into our bodies is not news to me. And yet, I am sad to say, I have lived an odd dichotomy: As much as I love animals, I also love to eat meat. I love hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs and sushi. Shit, I even love Chicken McNuggets, to be honest with you. Good cuts of meat, crappy cuts of meat, I have enjoyed it all, and to make matters worse, I like my steaks rare. I have spent a lifetime quietly scoffing at vegetarians and vegans, thinking what a pain in the ass they are. Furthermore, the more political the "don't eat meat" argument, the more likely I am to eat a big chunk of meat in your face. (I know -- who am I, right?? I am not proud of it, but it's true.)
To my chagrin, the fields out here that do not contain soy, hay, or potatoes, are full of live meat -- that is to say, cows. These are not the happy cows of the California milk campaign. They are living in muck and filth, and according to what I know to be true, that is the least of their problems. I have seen fields full of cows before, and intellectually, yes -- I knew where they were headed. But now, I regularly see those semi-trucks roll by, packed full of cows, which roll by again a few hours later completely empty. The frequency of it, coupled with the meat-packing plant located nearby, has made it increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that I eat those cows, knowing full well what horrors they suffered before slaughter. Even worse, I am actually helping to fund it with what little hard-earned money I have.
"No man should be allowed to be
president who does not understand hogs."
-President Harry Truman
(I don't know why he said that,
but apparently, he did.)
My feelings on this subject took a turn for the worse not long ago. While driving down the
freeway I came upon one of those trucks. As is my practice, I tried to pass it by as quickly as I could, not looking. I pulled alongside the left of it to make my move and, God help me, I looked. Just for one second. And yet somehow I locked eyes with one of the many pigs crammed into the back of that trailer, and I could not look away. It felt like it lasted for 20 minutes, at least. I cried for a couple of miles afterward, and I cried when I tried to relay the story, embarrassed as I was about it, to Chris. I would have done anything to save that damned pig. Just that one pig.
I am not saying that you should not eat meat. I don't even know that I will be able to complete this meatless journey (and I am definitely not giving up my girls' eggs!). You will not find me making any PETA-style attacks on anyone, or giving you my moral and ethical standpoint on Facebook. This is such a personal choice. However, if you're moved in the least, perhaps just consider buying kosher. If you have access to a Trader Joe's, they not only sell free-range, organic chicken, but kosher beef, as well. In order to be labeled kosher, rigorous cleanliness standards and, more importantly (to me, anyway) standards for the humane treatment AND slaughter of the animal must be followed. Yes, it's more expensive -- quite a bit more. But the little peace of mind it gave me was always worth it, even though I really couldn’t afford it!
I haven't really felt the same since the day I had that damn moment with a pig headed off to slaughter, whose suffering is long over now. Living here, I am confronted daily with the faces of the animals I eat, and I am hopeful that will generate the strength I need -- the strength I have always longed for but didn't think I possessed -- to put my veggies where my mouth is, and give up meat altogether.
So, should you spy me in a fast food drive-thru horking down a hamburger, please … don't judge.
"The animal liberation movement is saying that where animals and humans have similar interests (we might take the interest in avoiding physical pain, as an example, for it is an interest that humans clearly share with other animals), those interests are to be counted equally, with no automatic discount just because one of the beings is not human."
~Pete Singer, Australian Animal Activist