Thursday, October 15, 2009

An existential crisis, of sorts

So there is this issue that has been bothering me, on and off, for – lets say the last couple of weeks. Here’s the thing.

I eat meat.

I like meat, I always have. I like vegetables and vegetarian food too, but I’ve never been able to come at the idea not ever eating meat. I can’t even imagine living without eggs or dairy.

All my life I have seen trucks carrying livestock; often they invoke a twinge of guilt/anger/sadness at the way we treat these animals – stuffing them in the back of a truck and shipping them off to an abattoir – but rarely any thought beyond that.

Last week I saw a truck full of cows just down the street from my house as I was driving home one afternoon. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, except that – fair warning, this is gross, you probably don’t want to be eating right now – as it lurched off through the roundabout, there was liquid excrement running off the back of the trailer with every jolt and bump. Uhm, ew? And we treat sheep, cattle, chickens and who-knows-what-else like this all the time?

It got me thinking, and my problem is as follows:

How can I justify eating meat when we treat animals like this?

The more I think about it, the more this logic extends to other animal products. I mean, I buy free-range eggs – RSPCA or Animal Liberation certified if I can find them – but I never thought about how these animals are treated when they get old. To be quite honest, I have no idea and while I want to believe that free-range chickens are also treated well at the end of their life, I’m not sure I can take that for granted. The same applies to the cows who produce my favourite organic, bio-dynamic milk and yoghurt – what happens to them? I’m not so picky about cheese or butter or cream and have even less faith in the way those producers treat their animals.

It would be so much easier to just stick my head in the sand, but part of me wants to do the research and ask the hard questions so that I can make more informed decisions about what I eat. But I am scared of the answers, to be quite honest, and of the implications of those answers, and all too aware of the people I know who have gone vego/vegan for exactly these reasons.

And that doesn’t even touch on the ecological side of the debate, which is, well, complex and I can’t even begin to pretend to understand it.

So I guess I am asking for advice and opinion; what I am interested in is the ethical and ecological stuff. I have the resources and expertise to mostly figure out the health implications for myself. But I don’t know where to go for good ethical info and perspective, so I’d love some opinions and links :)

(I don't want to stop eating meat, but I'm worried that the price may be too high. What I’d love to find is that my certified free-range eggs and organic dairy come from animals who are treated ethically throughout their lifetime, or at least that those products are available to me. And that there is accessible, ethically produced meat out there and I can make an informed, ethical choice without having to stop eating meat altogether - even if it means considerably reducing my meat consumption. That’s my ideal.)

1 comment:

ohthecuteness said...

I have gone through this very same thing. I believe that it is all right to eat meat so long as we know where it comes from and that the animals are treated properly. I am a big believer in the fact that, physically and biologically, humans are omnivores and need meat-based protein as part of a healthy diet. But I only buy my meat from cruelty-free vendors like those from the local farmers markets and the like. It costs significantly more money, but I think it is more than worth it to know that the animals were allowed to live their lives the proper way with the right food and plenty of fresh air. I have cut down on my red meat consumption lately and am eating more sustainably-caught seafood instead. What is in your comfort zone is different for everyone, but that is what works for me. Hope that helps!