Monday, February 7, 2011

Where's The Beef Come From?

I love meat. I've cut back a lot, which has prompted some people (MOM!) to think I've become a vegetarian. Whenever I get sick or don't feel well, I'm told, "You need to eat meat!"

I do. Years ago, I considered becoming a vegetarian... and then I remembered bacon. Mmmmm bacon.

But I have cut back on my consumption of meat. It all started in 2005 with a video of a cow being slaughtered. It played on a loop. I can still see it. The cow walked in view of the camera, was hit in the head with a bar to stun it, and then its neck was sliced. The video ended as the cow struggled to stay upright as it slipped and slid around on its own blood, blood which was rapidly mingling with the blood of the cows that had preceded it.

That night, we had pizza with sausage for dinner. I almost threw up. I couldn't eat it. For a week, I couldn't eat meat. When I could stomach it again, I added it back into my diet with a promise: I would never look at meat the same way again. I would no longer assume the animal had not suffered needlessly, nor assume that the meat was clean or safe to eat simply because it was stamped by the USDA. I would be more aware of my food choices.

Eventually I cut down on the amount of meat in my diet, for many reasons:

1. The health of the planet. The more cattle, the more grazing land, the more trees are cut down to include the Amazon rainforest. The rainforest is a vital part of our ecosystem and global climate. We can't afford to lose it.

2. The health and happiness of the animal. The more we mass-produce our livestock, the less they seem like living beings and the more they seem like an item to produce, consume, and dispose of. Pigs tails being cut off to keep other pigs from chewing on them because they are packed so tightly together. Young male chickens being ground up alive because they can't produce eggs and are therefore useless to the industry. Cows being fed a diet not of the grass that they've evolved to eat, but of corn, which their stomachs can't digest well. This necessitates heavy doses of antibiotics to counteract the illnesses resulting from the poor diet, not to mention standing knee-deep in poop. Did you know that most antibiotics produced in this country don't go to save people's lives but keep cows, chickens and pigs "healthy" enough to survive their poor diets and living conditions? If we are what we eat, we can't afford to continue morally bankrupting ourselves in this way.

3. The health of myself and my family. Pounds of undigested meat in the colon. More protein than we need or has ever been consumed by humans before. Cholesterol problems. There are more reasons, but I think these are enough.

4. The health of our bank account. I won't lie. Humanely raised and healthier meat (organic, free range and the most important of all, local) can be more expensive. Unless one is wealthy, one cannot afford to eat better quality and humanely raised meat and keep up the consumption trends of the last few generations. It was a shock at first until I remembered this was a life that had been taken to sustain me, and one that I didn't even need. The least I could do was pay a fair price for it, which in turn helped us to eat less of it.

If you care to have your awareness pricked a bit, here is photo posted on Treehugger this morning. No kittens, just baby chicks.

Today's dose of reality:

Photos courtesy of Treehugger

The solution? There are several. While each might be a huge shift from where most of us are used to being, it's actually a return to the ways of an earlier time when people were connected with the source of their food. It's a subject for a later blog, but put simply, it amounts to making wiser, morally conscious choices when it comes to food.


  1. Aww...did you have to go there? Now we can't eat baby chicks? :P

  2. How about baby cows? You know how delicious veal is!

    I wish I could find the video I watched a few months back about a humanely raised veal ranch.. in England? Gah! Wish I could remember the details. The gist: the young calves were allowed to romp in the pasture, not be strapped into a box for their short lives. To see them run out of the barn, leaping and playing, obviously having fun... you know the opposite, the way veal is usually "produced" is abject misery. Why must we create (and eat) misery when it's completely unnecessary?

    Will search more for that video

  3. That image...horrifyingly necessary :(

  4. Nick. Yes. Whenever I see a warning that I might not want to look, I acknowledge that I don't want to look, and then I force myself to do it.