After announcing I’d decided to give up meat entirely, I’ve found the whole endeavor to be far less strenuous and problematic as I had at first feared it would be. I think a major part of that has to do with my approach to the whole thing.
First and foremost is that I’m not fanatical about it. It’s my decision and my life. That doesn’t mean it’s something I need to force on everyone else. If it comes up—and usually that’s when it’s time to eat—then I’ll discuss it like a civilized person instead of a fundamentalist preacher for the cause. I’ve never believed that approach works well, but I have found that casual conversation about it does tend to give others reason to think. Screaming at them that they’re brutish heathen for being carnivorous—a trait of humans that is quite natural considering we’re genetically designed to be omnivores—accomplishes nothing. You might as well point and call them gas hogs for breathing in your presence as that would accomplish as much.
Another aspect of the whole thing is that I’ve not turned my back entirely on meat products. An excellent example of this stems from my recent trip to the family farm. I brought a dozen chicken eggs home with me and thoroughly intend to eat them. Am I committing some cardinal sin by doing so? Hardly. The chickens are treated like pets, they’re protected yet not locked in some horrendous coop and forced to produce eggs, they enjoy sunshine and fresh air while being capable of entering protected enclosures when and if they want to, and they’re going to lay the eggs anyway. Just as we did with our pet ducks some decades ago, we simply collect the eggs each day (several times a day if you want the truth).
I don’t see that as a problem at all. And along similar lines, the same is true of cheese and milk so long as they are not from genetically modified animals, animals treated cruelly, or animals jacked up on steroids and antibiotics. Having seen plenty of farms where the first morning activity is to go out and milk the cows, I know these products can be obtained while ensuring the animals are healthy, normal (as in, the way nature made them), and happy (free to roam and enjoy the outside).
But here’s where I separate from vegans and from my original rant that came from disgusted anger after seeing a video of our mass-market slaughterhouses.
I still eat meat. Not much, mind you, but I do. Here’s how that works.
Although I avoid with much vigor any meat product that comes from production lines, I can’t well allow myself to starve. This is most likely to be a concern when I’m eating with others—perhaps visiting with friends or family. I think those who force their vegetarianism into these circumstances and make a big deal out of having alternative food prepared just for them do nothing more than make others resent their decision not to eat meat. Instead, I take the easy road. I’ll avoid meat as much as possible. In the absence of alternatives, though, I’ll eat what’s offered. I focus on not consuming meat products under those circumstances but equally am pragmatic and considerate.
Another way I don’t feel bad about eating meat is when it comes from our family farm. I don’t go rushing out to gnaw on bones each time I think about it, but at least I know the meat from there is healthy, unmodified, and comes from animals that are—you guessed it!—treated with respect and loved and cared for. This is similar to the premise of eating the chicken eggs. I’m not a ravenous carnivore even under those circumstances and do tend to stay away from it as much as I can when I can, but knowing the precise environment and how the animals live helps me know I’m not committing a cruel act.
Now let me explain why I’m not as vehement on this as some would want.
Have you ever sprayed bug spray? Or put on insect repellent? Have you ever driven a car and had an insect smash into the grill or windshield? Have you ever planted a garden and had to use a shovel to dig up dirt only to find you’ve harmed a worm or two? Do you wear leather? Or wool? Do you eat honey?
I ask these questions because they all represent the general premise that so many preach when it comes to going vegan. I think the ideal is commendable, an admirable goal that should be shared by more people. Nevertheless, it also represents a somewhat finicky approach to determining what life is to be respected and what life is disposable.
Bees produce honey to feed their colonies. Taking it from them is tantamount to theft, let alone endangering their lives for our want. And they are living things. Isn’t consuming honey the same as consuming milk?
Or are insects something less than respectable life? And I’m asking in seriousness because I don’t see the disparity. If you kill an ant who’s discovered the sugar on the kitchen counter, what’s the difference in eating an egg that would otherwise have spoiled, or in drinking milk from cows who are treated well and not modified or drugged? Killing the ant seems a much worse offense, eh?
And don’t get me started on driving cars… That kills innumerable insects whenever the weather is warm enough to support them. Oh, and the occasional bird or mammal who happens to cross the road at an inopportune time. How is any of that different? Wouldn’t it be more humane to carefully walk everywhere. Oh, sorry, bicycles are like cars since they run over bugs, and flying insects often get swallowed or inhaled accidentally by riders.
You see, I’m not trying to draw a line in the sand regarding what life is worth protecting and what life isn’t worth the effort. I’m trying to be logical and humane in my decision.
Avoiding meat and meat products when possible is the best bet, and I’m already doing that.
Not wasting food is as environmentally and ecologically friendly as you can get, so I’m doing that too (e.g., eggs).
Being quite finicky and selective about where these products come from ensures I don’t support the inhumane, mass-consumption, cruelty-is-our-game production lines for most general meat products, not to mention it helps me avoid the genetically modified and drugged-up products that are causing all sorts of other problems—like souped-up diseases and ailments in human, animal, and plant populations.
Ensuring the meat products I do eat come from stable, humane, organic farms helps divert support from that whole other mess. It also is precisely the kind of consumption our species has done for a very long time, except they were hunting it and eating it whereas I’m not doing the hunting thing.
Lest you think I’m only playing at the vegetarian thing, however, let me tell you this: Since I made the decision in early January, I’ve only had meat perhaps four times. That’s each time I’ve gone to the family farm, once while visiting xocobra and LD, and once at home when I made a purely vegan pizza (without cheese or eggs or milk but covered with organic tomato sauce and vegetables) and put some spicy sausage on it that came from the family farm. Everything else I’ve eaten since then has been all vegan with organic milk, eggs, and/or cheese included from time to time.
So I’m not a vegan. I’m not a strict vegetarian, although I come real close to it. What I am is a sensible person who works diligently to ensure any meat products come from animals treated humanely and not modified genetically or with horrific amounts of drugs and antibiotics. I simply keep all meat to a minimum and avoid it whenever possible; when not, I strive only for that which I know hasn’t come to the table via cruelty and torture, not to mention only that which is organic and natural.
And truth be told, this is a journey, not a destination. I’m not at the end of this road yet.