Recently I was contacted in connection with this blog (WHOAH, SOMEONE CONTACTED YOU IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR BLOG, OMG, THAT MUST MEAN YOU HAVE, LIKE, AT LEAST ONE READER! ahaha, shut up.). The person who contacted me is a vegetarian, and he wondered if I’d ever considered vegetarianism, since my focus tends to be on healthy and humane eating. He was as gentle and non-offensive as he could be while still firmly stating his vegetarian ethic. At one point he added, “I personally consider humane-killing a joke,” and he wondered how someone who had hand-fed an animal all summer could then kill it and eat it at harvesttime.
This is not an easy issue. This is so, so, so not an easy issue. I’m an “animal lover”. I’m probably responsible for the many allergies that I have as an adult, since as a child I never existed with fewer than 11 household pets at a time. The idea of raising a hen for a few years of eggs and then slaughtering her when she stops producing makes me feel…terrible. No joke. TERRIBLE. Couldn’t do it.
And yet I eat chicken. I also eat beef, lamb, pork, bison, goat, and rabbit, among others. Not often–The Boy and I eat vegetarian meals on a majority of nights. But nevertheless, we do eat some meat, and I’ve struggled with this before. Does it make people hypocritical if they eat animals they’re not so sure they could slaughter themselves? While I’ve never gone gung ho vegetarian, I dabbled with a vegan lifestyle for a time while I lived in New York, and decided it wasn’t for me.
There are many anti-vegetarian rebuttals out there written by people who are ferociously defending their own choices with no small disregard for the arguments of the other side. There are some disgusting and abhorrent things written and done by misguided vegetarians (oh, Lord, PETA, do you really need one more person to call you out?).
I don’t appreciate the extremist tactics of either side. None of us have all the answers, and I won’t pretend to. I also won’t stoop to making fun of the other side to make myself look better. Chances are, we’re both a little right, and a little wrong. But I’m currently living an omnivorous lifestyle, and I stand behind the reasoning that got me there.
Here’s an excerpt from my response to him.
I agree that it’s hard to believe happy animals can come from industrial animal farms. That’s why I refuse to eat meat from factory farms. I’ve instead chosen small, local, family-run establishments. The offer has been extended to me to shake the hands of the people who care for the animals, and even to inspect their living conditions and pet the animals myself. So I believe there are people raising animals in a kind and humane way. It is not the majority of animals being raised for consumption today, sadly, and I am behind every effort to change those numbers.
As regards slaughter, yes, I do think I would find it difficult to slaughter an animal I had raised, but then again, I’ve never raised animals for slaughter. How can we speak of what we do not know? I’ve talked to some of the families that do, and they have told me it is something you never think you will be able to do, but seemingly miraculously, can and do with much less heartache than anticipated. That they feel united to nature’s cycles when they raise animals for consumption. That they have enormous respect and gratitude for the sacrifices being made by these animals for the well-being of people. Again, I do find the idea difficult, but I’m open to trying my own hand at it someday. I cannot attack it in good conscience because I have not tried to understand for myself.
I have great respect for the vegetarian movement and, aside from some fringe zealots, find most of their aims to be true and pure. But I know these people that raise animals for human consumption, and their aims are also true and pure. I find no reason to choose the vegetarians over the family farmers in this regard.
I’ve considered vegetarianism in the past, and lived that way for a brief span of 6 months, in that time taking care to substitute appropriate fats, proteins, and B-vitamins. During that time my health wavered tenuously and I never lost that very primitive craving for meat. Perhaps it is something I will try again in the future. In the meantime, I see no cause for changing a lifestyle that is in accordance with my ethics and keeps me feeling healthy and satisfied.
What do you think, guys? How do you connect “loving animals” with the choice to eat them?