I have been struggling with this for quite some time, and have been talking to a number of friends about it. I have a dear friend who is a vegan. My wife is mostly vegetarian, pescetarian actually. Beth, who went on the last Alaska trip was vegetarian when we were paddling but since has gone back to eating meat. So I have many people and perspectives to discuss my dilemma with. My struggle is actually on a couple of different concepts. The first issue I had was factory farming. I don't like the way animals are treated when they are mass produced for consumption. My work around for this was to buy locally raised dairy products, which is surprisingly easy to do. We have found local providers, meaning people who have farms, and are producing for sale, milk, butter and eggs. (actually about half of my eggs come from friends who have chickens). I was in the process of finding local purveyors of meat. What stopped me was the other issue, which is this, I don't think I should be eating things that have a personality, and all the animals I eat have personalities. Think about it like this. Elephants are smart. They have personalities, and family groups. They mourn when an elephant in their group dies, and they protect their young from danger. Clearly, I would never eat an elephant. Can they be that different from say, a rhinoceros? I am not going to eat a Rhino. How about a zebra? That is for all practical purposes a horse, and I know horses have personalities. Friends tell me horses are just like big dogs. I am certainly not going to eat my dog. Could you eat this?
She is smart and certainly has a personality, but no more so than a pig. This is a big problem for me, that I am still struggling with. Then I found this:
This Ted talk helped me clarify my thoughts a bit, and also said some of the things I had been thinking to myself, though feeling like an oddball for thinking it.
Then two days ago I saw this film.
I work really hard to be good to the environment. I do all the things I am supposed to do as a good environmentalist to care for the planet. I was shocked to see that my actions aren't really the problem with the environment. My car also isn't the problem. (For clarity sake, my car isn't great, but cars are highly regulated in terms of carbon output, the bigger problem is Electricity generation, power plants do far more damage in terms of carbon production than cars do. So if you are thinking about an electric car, investigate where your power comes from. You may be doing more harm than good. I live 20 miles from the 14th most polluting power plant in the nation located on Belews Creek, As long as I live where I do, as long as I am connected to the grid I can never get an electric car!) The problem is the cheese burger I ate for lunch.
That's right, cows produce more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. Cows make more greenhouse gasses than cars, trucks, planes, ships, and railroads combined. Then add to the fact that we are also cutting down forests to raise cattle, forests which could help reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Also, we could feed everyone on the planet if we stopped growing grain for cattle - which is inedible by humans - and grew wheat and corn for human consumption. The trailer for conspiracy doesn't do the film justice. Please watch it on netflix.
So I am left with this dilemma. Meat is bad for the environment, and I think it is morally wrong to eat sentient creatures. But here is the thing, meat tastes good. I am still trying to figure out what the right thing to do is, but for starters I am drastically reducing the amount of meat I eat. I am vegetarian most days, and when I do eat meat it tends to be in smaller portions. Currently meat is a special occasion kind of thing. Time will tell how it plays out for me, but that is where I stand right now. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.