Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What to Eat

Have been thinking a lot about eating meat, for a few reasons:
  • Saw “Food, Inc.” – movie about where our food comes from. Haven’t had a hamburger since, don’t plan to have another anytime soon.
  • Heard a caller yesterday on NPR’s show about Thanksgiving recipes talk about how she was getting a fresh turkey this year. She said it would be slaughtered today and wondered if there was enough time to brine it before roasting it.
  • An article in the NYTimes by a vegan, talking about not using animals for food or anything else—and then mentioning his cat. Found myself wondering what he feeds his cat.
I am very conflicted about eating animals, and, to a lesser extent, fish. Lots of issues:
  1. Animals do eat each other. And a bear or an alligator or a tiger (if there are any left) might be quite happy to eat me, under the right circumstances. Why not eat them?
  2. We are the only species that raises animals specifically to kill and eat them. There are far too many of us to survive by killing and eating wild animals (especially since we’re obliterating their natural habitats, bit by bit).
  3. We pay other people to kill the animals we eat. And we don't want to know how the sausage is made.
  4. I live with and take care of animals that I couldn’t begin to consider eating, even if I was starving to death. Why are they different than any other animals? Because I know them?
  5. Some people believe that animals are lesser beings, as they lack the ability to reason. Seems to me that they reason just fine: my cats know that if they bug me long enough, I’ll feed them or come up to bed when it’s late. I didn’t train them to do that—they trained me. My horse knows that if he comes when I call him, he’ll get a carrot. I’m not saying that they’re going to understand or develop the theory of relativity, but they understand cause and effect, and certainly know how to cause to get effect.
  6. Animals have very distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, fears and favorites.
  7. Animals can suffer and feel pain, including the pain of separation. They will fight for their lives.
  8. The way we treat the animals we raise for food is horrific and inexcusable. Beyond inhumane.
  9. The way we process meat and poultry products is just plain scary from a health perspective. Ecoli, anyone? Rat droppings? How about the fact that a single hamburger may be made of ground meat from a hundred different cows from different places?
  10. I grew up in Ohio, next door to a farm that raised black angus cattle. And we ate meat or poultry pretty much every night. It's always been a major part of my diet, and I like meat. Or at least I used to. Am not so sure these days.
So, what else would I eat, if I didn’t eat meat? I have a bit of a lactose intolerance, which makes cheese a bit problematic, and it’s not like we treat our dairy cows all that much better than the cows we eat. And soy products aren’t a great solution, either. Soybean agriculture is a main contributor to deforestation in the Amazon, which is bad for man and beast alike. And I read somewhere that people are more likely to get sick from eating imported vegetables than meat, because of the way veggies are grown and processed.

I have thought about raising chickens, just for the eggs. Unlike Tyson, I'd give the chickens a safe place to roost, good food, with plenty of room to roam around. Of course, it would mean eating a lot of eggs, if that was my main source of protein. Not so keen on that.

I have also considered eating only local produce, buying at farmers’ markets from farms I know, canning my own food for the winter, even grinding my own flour. A lot of work and, who knows, I could easily give myself botulism (or worse, if there is anything worse).

I don’t have an answer. All I know is that it's just about Thanksgiving and I don’t feel good about eating meat. Or poultry. Or soybeans.

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