I was all set to write about how no-kill shelters are better at encouraging adoptions with suggestions for helping your local shelter make the switch. Then I saw the bumper sticker. “Why do we call some animals pets and some animals dinner?”
That bumper sticker is not an unusual sight in my town. We’re home to one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in the United States. And the percentage of vegans and vegetarians is higher here than in most places (6% of the local college students practice vegetarianism/veganism while less than 2% of the United States general population does). So wrestling with choices about what to eat is a regular part of my existence.
Why Should We Think More About What We Eat?
- Trying to make ethical decisions is part of being human. If we don’t struggle with the hard questions in life, we’re not exploiting all the wonders of our humanity. And I believe that considering whether some animals are pets and others are meat is a big decision, worthy of the greatest philosophical minds.
- Large-scale raising of animals for meat degrades the environment in many ways. Did you know that cows and pigs contribute up to 18% of global warming? And that the methane from their manure traps heat more effectively than carbon dioxide?
- The way most animals are raised for meat is cruel. Puppy mills are not the only places where animals are treated like money-making commodities and prevented from having any kind of normal life.
- Factory farms produce food that is “icky.” Poorly treated animals get sick more often and require antibiotics. Their manure pollutes the water which is then used to irrigate our spinach (remember last year’s salmonella scare?). I believe the recent recalls of pet foods and the tragic deaths were just the logical result of food production from a factory system instead of a farming system.
Do I Really Need One More Thing to Feel Guilty About?
No, of course not. Guilt is one of the least-productive emotions ever. But without wallowing in guilt, we can make decisions that will have an effect in our lives even if it doesn’t change the world (at least not right away).
Ok, I’m Listening. What Are You Proposing?
- Think. What do you eat and why? Come to the conclusions that work for you. Keep an open mind and be compassionate toward people who make decisions different from yours.
- Express gratitude. If you choose to eat meat, be grateful to the animal that gave its life to nourish you. Some hunters I know are very reverent–they express their appreciation to the animals they kill.
- Learn more. Yes, I know. You don’t want to see nasty videos of confined chickens or the inside of a slaughterhouse. That’s why I think the Farm Sanctuary website is so effective. Farm Sanctuary is a rescue organization for livestock animals. They have lots of hopeful stories about animals rescued from bad lives who have found new homes. If you keep digging, you will find plenty of information about meat production to make your flesh crawl. But you can learn a lot without being confronted with gory videos that make you shrivel in despair before heading to McDonalds to eat a Big Mac while sobbing.
That’s very general. Are there specific things I can do?
- Meat eaters – If you always eat meat, experiment with different meals. Try vegetarian lasagna or my favorite recipe, Chilean Butternut Squash. Or try food from other cultures where meat is used as a seasoning instead of the main ingredient. Try meat that is locally raised on small farms in your area instead of on factory farms.
- Vegetarians – Experiment with veganism by eliminating all animal products from some of your meals. Cheese lover that I am, I find this tough. But Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines are a great place to look for inspiration. Also try to eat with the seasons, appreciating what’s available to you now. The butternut squash recipe above is a great way to use a vegetable that stores well over the winter.
- Vegans – Share your story here. Aleksandra of Love and a Six-Foot Leash left some thoughtful comments about becoming a vegan on my post about Ethical Purchasing that was another inspiration for writing this post. Are there other vegans reading? What led you to veganism? Do you have any favorite recipes? Have you found the choice to give up animal products hard?
Ok, you spent all this time telling us what to do. Do you always meet your highest aspirations? And just what is a Flexitarian anyway?
That’s fair. First, a flexitarian is defined as someone who generally avoids but occasionally eats meat. I also eat eggs.
In the summer, it’s easy to be a vegetarian. I have a square foot garden in my front yard and a wonderful farmers’s market a short bike ride from my house. Fresh produce is abundant, affordable, attractive, and delicious.
In the winter, I find things tougher. I don’t care for sweet vegetables much and most of what stores well over the winter is sweet. And as the days get short and gloomy (my town has a comparable number of cloudy days to Seattle, Washington), I find myself craving meat. Chicken soup makes an occasional appearance although I try to buy meat that is outside the conventional factory farm system. But when I go to a restaurant or someone’s home, all bets are off. I try to eat lower on the food chain, but that’s about it.
I often fail at meeting my highest ideals. But one bad decision doesn’t have to be the end of trying.
And as much as I admire vegans, I can’t imagine giving up cheese. But I’m always willing to try so links to good recipes in the comments section are very appreciated.
Time to Bring it Home, Pam
Although I’m certain everyone reading this loves animals, we don’t often talk about what this means for our dietary choices. This is a hard issue. And I hope people are willing to consider their choices with kindness and compassion toward themselves and others.
Please share your thinking on this.
I’ve been lucky to have very thoughtful and kind people visit Something Wagging This Way Comes and I’ve never gotten nasty comments. But I know that some people become defensive and mean when their ideas are challenged. And some others become self-righteous and judgmental. You don’t have to agree with me but you do have to play nice. So remember, I have a delete comments button and I know how to use it.
This is a blog hop for Blog the Change for Animals. So hop on!