"Destructively obedient, a slave to my habits, a cold shoulder to my consciousness."
This is a bit darker than I usually post but it is true.
At the end of this post there is a video and in that video a man whose words made me sit with thoughts for a couple of hours this morning and write this post. This man, Damien Mander, has an interesting story and shares a conviction that I've been working through for the past couple of years. The fact that an animal is an animal and there's no difference between a cow or an elephant or a puppy. It is not truth but a social construct that we label some as dinner while others as friends. While people are outraged and the offenders go to jail for the abuse of some, we lick our chops and try to forget and minimize the abuse of millions.
"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right."
Martin Luther King Jr.
I'm not trying to shame people into being vegetarians and vegans but I do believe that people should know and understand the processes necessary to have a hamburger on their plate. To try to shut out the truth or pretend that it does not exist is not right. Educate yourself- don't be a slave to your habits or the social norms. Maybe you'll never become vegan but it will change some of the types of foods you buy or if your budget is not one that can buy "organic, grass-fed, local, etc" then it won't change your buying habits but maybe you will better appreciate the sacrifices made for you. But even that sentence sounds weird to me – that you will better appreciate the sacrifices made, which are the inhumane treatment, torture, fear, and murder of animals because you want a hamburger instead of the black bean burger. It just doesn't really make sense. But that conviction is one that I am working through and maybe you're not there yet and that's okay.
Just as I ask people to have compassion for animals, we must too have compassion for humans, for each other. For some breaking away from the social norms, being different, allowing time for your tastes and preferences to change, or having to think a little bit more about what you order at a restaurant is hard. It is going against what you have known and done for the 15 or 65 years of your life as well as thousands of years of evolution where we have domesticated and raised animals as livestock and been taught that they are food.
What started as a helpful way of life- a small farmer raising a couple of cows, waking up early, doing chores, taking care of them, and then eventually having them butchered to provide and feed his family is not what our factory farming system has become. I have a coworker who hunts deer. She wakes up early, sits in the cold, and waits for her shot. If she has good aim then she experiences the deer's death, she sees it die, she guts it, she takes it to be butchered, and she uses the one or two deer she gets every season to feed her family. She knows what goes into taking the life of an animal and in order to feed her family she chooses to do it. That and the farmer from long-ago is so vastly different than factory farming. Due to the increase in our population and the increase in demand these animals are no longer animals but a commodity. They are not treated as if they have a life but only as an end product and whatever is necessary to get that product to market is done, regardless of the welfare of the animal. We get spared from all of the horror, we are sheltered from it and only see the packages of beef in the grocery store. We are not a part of the process, we do not see the process, we don't even get to know the exact process and those that try to expose the process can be criminally charged. If we knew even just an inkling of what is being done behind closed doors I think we would all think very differently about the food on our plate and possibly make different choices.
My coworker eats venison but she knows what goes into getting that deer from forest to plate. I do not believe I could shoot a deer and the small town farmer is pretty much where I started my journey to eating less meat. My grandpa is a farmer and it was during summers spent on the farm, when we would be sitting down to dinner enjoying a pizza topped with hamburger and I could hear the cows mooing a few hundred feet away in the barn, that I really made the connection that the meat on my plate was once the living creature I was petting hours earlier. For the next 15 years I made it okay for my conscience by not eating meat on the bone because for me that helped to separate the fact that the meat was once an animal. It was not until my mid-20s that I started learning more and my journey developed to what I am now, which I guess is pretty much a vegetarian with vegan preferences and tendencies. Now I know what goes into getting the animals from the farms on to my plate and I choose not to participate, not to eat meat. Both my coworker and I are educated and we make different decisions and that okay. It is the fact that we both have our eyes open and understand where our food comes from that is the most important part.
If you are someone who has worked through several different dietary lifestyle's and you believe that your body thrives and does it best with a bit of meat in your diet then eat it. You must be compassionate and care for yourself. However, really learning your body and what works best for it is different than just wanting to eat meat because you like the taste of barbecue. I don't think the majority of us have given a more plant-based lifestyle a chance. Most believe a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is just for hippies and tree huggers. It's not. So I know this may sound like I'm running around in circles saying don't eat meat, eat meat, killing animals is needed, killing animals is bad but that's because this is a confusing topic and it is not black-and-white. We are all different and we are going to make different decisions but before we make those decisions we should be informed and we should not allow our world to shut out the reality of what happens in our food systems.
As we have continued to evolve we are now at a place where there are so many other options than animal products. These options are not only better for our health and for the animals, but also for our environment and our planet. We are destroying our home and although there is not just one cause and there are of course multiple ways you could help to reduce your negative impact, eating less meat is definitely one of them. Now not everyone can be vegan (due to the area of the world they live in, socioeconomics, or availability of food) and I understand that. However, if you are reading this post on your iPhone then you are probably not a part of any of the above groups.
So the take-home message: educating yourself is the beginning of your journey and each step, even if it's a baby step, is still a step forward. So maybe you still eat meat but maybe you eat less meat or maybe you buy less fur, leather, and ivory. Educate yourself, don't trust me, do your own work. Know that there are going to be extremists on either side just like with any topic but educate yourself, do your research, know where your food, your leather couch, and your mascara come from. Let that education guide you on your journey don't be afraid to be different.
Click here to view the Ted Talk that got me thinking and inspired this post.
Thanks for reading and sharing my journey,