Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Meat Problem

In the past few months I have started to have a problem. The problem is, that I am beginning to think I shouldn't be eating meat. As a human being I would like to think that I have evolved enough to not eat the flesh of another creature for sustenance. It just seems a little barbaric. I know that my body evolved to be an omnivore. I have teeth evolved to chew meat (as well as teeth designed to chew leaves), and organs that can quickly turn meat into fuel. But at an intellectual level I know that it is wrong to be eating a creature that thinks, and has a personality.

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.


  1. I've spent quite a bit of time around Mr. Browne's cows - grass-fed, free to roam, raised for food, and I would be hard-pressed to say they have personalities/feelings/emotions.
    They almost seem like eating machines. Reflexive eating machines. They react to sound which translates to food. They follow people who wear bright colors. When a calf is born the mothers can often walk away and not bond. That's how calves die sometimes.
    The chicken industry is too horrifying to contemplate - but I eat chicken. It's more the raising and handling of them the astounds me. I don't think there is a humanely raised chicken in this country.
    I'm sure the pork industry is the same. Pork is often what we eat most of.
    It's like we have a switch in our brains - and we were raised on meat. K has made our own culture of meat preparation and cooking.
    I am not, as you know, an "animal person."
    I would never eat your pet but I do not have an emotional connection to animals (now all your readers will hate me). I just don't. Perhaps that makes it easier for me to say that I do not make a moral decision each time I have a burger.
    I'm more of a live/let live person, generally.
    If it upsets you in the slightest to eat it, don't.
    It's too hard to make individual decisions: burger, no, bacon, yes?
    Bacon, no, turkey, yes?
    How about this one: I drink tea each morning. It's tea leaves, not tea in a tea bag.
    It's gorgeous tea that was gifted to me by a friend. I cannot afford it. It is organic, thoughtfully produced and beautifully packaged. (Though I'm sure the black tea leaves are flown here on a plane.) What could be wrong? A friend of mine was dating an employee of the tea company. She was underpaid and treated horribly. She worked 20 hour days packing tea leading up to Christmas, afraid to lose her job. The supervisor was verbally abusive and humiliated the workers. I realize they aren't killing animals - but I never would have known that this high-minded, beautifully curated company with a gorgeous esthetic would end up sounding like a sweat shop. TEA. From BROOKLYN - this wasn't an impoverished country.
    Sometimes I try not to think too much.

  2. I hear what your saying on all of these. For me it is currently making a decision every meal which frankly is exhausting. I am not telling anyone what to do - I am having a hard enough time telling myself what to do. The one thing i would comment on is the cows. Even if they are just eating machines - which we made, there are no wild cows out there! I wouldn't be surprised if we bred them dumb and docile - the problem with eating beef is the methane. If I think I am helping the environment by riding my bike to work, and then having a cheeseburger for lunch I am doing 600 times the damage my car would have created. I think it is going to be a special occasion thing for me, and local when possible.