Eating Animals: Which to Eat? Which to Pet? Why?

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It’s no secret that it’s still hard for me to eat animals. A vegetarian for most of my life, I’ve only brought myself to eat chicken, turkey and fish on occasion. Because I buy the meat at Whole Foods and because it’s organic, I assume some of the guilt will be assuaged because what I am putting into my body has been treated humanely and will be healthy for me. Right? Wrong. 

Some people roll their eyes when you say you are a vegetarian. “Just eat meat!” they exclaim. After all, it’s just what we do. But, if anyone set foot in a factory farm, seeing the tiny male chicks blistered and bleeding, being ground alive because they won’t be of any use to lay eggs, the pigs lying in their own vomit and shit, the disease that is hatched everywhere, among the living animals, in cages, in pens, so packed, they are unable to move, none of us would ever eat meat again. This is the way these animals live from inception to doomsday, where many will be be tortured, killed and packaged just so you can say, “God, that steak was amazing.” They are killed not because we need them (as vegetarians are proven to be healthier and live longer), but simply for our pleasure. Various cooking shows show killing live lobsters, crabs and hacking away at meat, only to serve a tiny portion to judges, who take one bite and declare it inedible. The meat is thrown away. Countless animals died just to go through a “cooking” challenge. Is this ethical? Should you care? In my mind, you have to ask yourself one simple question. Which animal do you eat? Which do you pet? And why?

People don’t think twice about eating meat in a restaurant. You don’t feel bad if you leave ounces of meat on your plate or send something back, or just throw it away. You don’t think about what the animal went through – that it wasn’t really put on this earth to be locked in a cage or tortured for our gluttonous pleasure. You don’t think twice as you go home and pet your dog or cat, as you cuddle with them, and feed them good, quality food and treat them like they are the king or queen of your castle. It’s just the way things are. We don’t question the intention behind it. 
Society has made dogs and cats our pets. I ponder this often, as I look down at my first puppy, wondering, “Why her?” Why not a chicken? A calf? A salmon?” I don’t know why we didn’t choose pigs or chickens or even cows – all animals that show amazing abilities to be companions, to mate, their intelligence and gentle nature evident when given a chance. They play, they frolic, they show the capacity to learn and grow, just as our pets do. 
In some countries, dogs are eaten. A solution was proposed in Jonathan Safran Foer’s incredibly insightful book, Eating Animals, that if we ate all the dogs who are euthanized each year, we would save money and not let animals go to waste. But, no one can quite wrap their head around eating Fido, but chickens and pigs? Bring on the bacon and roasted bird!!! We have no emotional attachment to these animals, so we can eat them just fine.
The bottom line is animals will always die for our pleasure. We don’t live in a time period where we need them. We can sustain ourselves on fruits, vegetables and vegetarian protein sources. But, then, people will ask: “What would we do with all of the animals? We would be outnumbered!!” If animals weren’t reproduced for the sheer need of killing them for us to eat, there wouldn’t be such an overpopulation. If people knew that to kill one tuna around 143 species of other fish had to die – including dolphins and hump backed whales – perhaps we would think twice before popping sushi into our mouths. 
Formerly, the entire animal was used. The bones, the skin, the fur, everything. Now, we live in an age where obesity reigns supreme, and we have become wasteful. The portions of meat (and everything else) are out of control, and for what? The fact is, we will always waste tons of rotting meat… formerly breathing animals being dropped in the dumpsters because we didn’t like that dish, or we couldn’t eat that much. Those lives will never get another thought. If it were humans we were chopping and serving and wasting, there would be an outcry of inhumanity. But, isn’t it all the same? Aren’t living things living things? Shouldn’t we pay attention to the way these animals are handled?
 
Factory farms are taking over. It’s where most of us get our meat, and even if it says “organic” or “free range,” that means little. Most animals are still stacked so tightly that they can barely move or breathe, and few receive fresh air or even a window to peer from. Family farms are harder to find, but if you can find them, there’s usually a bit more assurance that your animal is being treated better. It won’t be lying among other diseased animals, suffering, dirty and dying.
Do your research. Think twice before you just pluck any kind of meat from the shelves. It’s easy to not think about it – “Why would I?” some people ask. “It doesn’t make a difference anyway.” But, it does. 
There are entire vegetarian restaurants that serve amazing food and not a single animal is killed. People often balk at vegetarian food, thinking, “I’ll be eating sprouts! Or tofu! Gross!!” But, being vegetarian doesn’t mean eating strange concoctions or wearing weird, hippy clothing. Just last night at The Chicago Diner I had a delicious black bean burger piled high with fresh veggies, crisp sweet potato fries and a chocolate chip tofu cheesecake that tasted exactly like the real thing. You can find satisfying foods without meat. It’s an individual choice, but one worth thinking about… just for a moment. Just a little. If we thought more and ate less, we’d be a different society completely, less riddled with disease and more aware.
Check for family farms in your area. In Chicago, Green City Market is a good place to start. A little education goes a long way.

Comments

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  • This may be the most ridiculous post I've ever read. What's your point? That humans have the capacity to do awful things to animals all in the name of a delicious, juicy New York Strip? No kidding. That's not news.

    Here's a tip: Join PETA, keep overspending on "organic" fish at Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods, and SHUT UP! God, if I had a dime for every time someone went on a tirade about inhumane treatment of cows, I'd be a rich man. Regardless of what your culinary choices are, things aren't going to change. Americans eat meat. Get over it and stop complaining.

    This is the kind of hypocrisy that makes me want to slap vegetarians. You do realize that in earlier posts you've raved about the benefits of eggs right? Where do you think those eggs come from? That's right, factory farms! Oh, what's that you say, you only buy eggs from local organic family run farms? Well, because we don't live in the farmland, I assume that you had to travel some distance to said farms right? And unless you rode your bike, you had to use a car to get there. Well what about your gasoline consumption and carbon footprint? What about the opportunity cost of traveling to those family farms? And while we're on the subject, do you not wear leather either? What about silk worms? Don't they deserve equal treatment?

    Have you ever considered the economic repercussions of your actions? You do know "organic" food is far more expensive than regular food right? So while you're spending $8 on "organic" fish, I'm spending $3 and with the collective savings I'm able to purchase twice the amount of groceries or, god forbid, actually save the money for a rainy day. And American

  • In reply to drewkent23:

    Umm, there is no organic fish.

  • In reply to Linds:

    Actually, there are: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/organic-fish.html. They are controlled in fish farms. Though it's not the same as organic produce, they still meet some criteria. For instance, you can get organic fish oil and other organic fish products, but it won't quite be the same as purchasing organic chicken or organic beef.

  • In reply to drewkent23:

    Your choice to eat meat, eggs, dairy is cruel. It is your choice to be a carnist, but it is nevertheless cruel, inhumane and unnecessary. Will someone like you ever understand that, not likely. Sad really.

  • In reply to drewkent23:

    You are simply heartless. I'm guessing you never step outside of your selfish interests to do anything to make the world a better place.

  • In reply to sherriS:

    The anger of Andy's response is kind of shocking... If anyone watched a video of the way animals are treated, I think as humans, we would all be empathetic and appalled. There's nothing wrong with educating ourselves, right? And THEN making informed decisions from there. As Stephany said, animals have no voice. We have to be their voices.

  • In reply to rbfrey7:

    Unfortunately it's people like andy that keeps the meat production and the cruelty going. Since becoming vegetarian i have overwhelming support and have been amazed at the amount of us there is out there...but also equally amazed at the other side where people really dont seem to care about the suffering and would rather not know, stick their head in the sand and pretend its not cruel...so they can keep eating meat....and even worse...the people that know and still dont care. Very sad. Cant change the world...can just change ourselves. And im proud not to be eating anything that had to suffer.

  • In reply to Ange:

    I completely agree with this statement. It's startling to me sometimes that when I tell people I am a vegan, they look at me with disinterest, disdain or just roll their eyes. And the irony is it's SUCH a positive experience. You not only spend less, you don't eat anything that suffers, you can consistently educate yourself about eating a plant-based diet, and you feel so much better. I commend you on your journey! It's an interesting one to take, don't you think?

  • In reply to drewkent23:

    Andy, you are a horses ass. This is merely someones thoughts on something important to them. If you can't say anything constructive...then why bother? You are exactly the problem with the world...selfish, hypocritical glutton. I think the article was worth thinking about...if someone wants to eat meat...then it's their choice but it bears thinking about the animal that had to suffer so you get to stuff steak down your throat. I have been a vegetarian for 4 months. I enjoyed being a carnivore...but i watched a doco called earthlings...that made me think about what i was doing and what my role in all this was contributing to the world....so i gave up meat, started walking when i could instead of using the car, recycled everything i could. Its not about changing everything...its about small steps in the right direction...and some awareness of the impact your exsistance has on the world and other earthlings. If you want to eat meat...fine. She was merely stating the process that animal goes through for you to waste half of it. No one is saying you cant or shouldnt eat meat...but was offering their thoughts and perspective. You could of done the same without ridicule...so thats what you get in return. I hope you choke on your steak...you pompus glutton!!!!

  • In reply to Ange:

    Ange, you are my new favorite person! You are absolutely right about making small steps. It's definitely a personal choice... and one I feel can be quite positive! I appreciate the support! :)

  • Andy,

    Thank you for the long, albeit angry response. The point of this post is not to tell you that your choices are immoral or wrong. How could I say this, when I myself eat meat on occasion? The only point is to be more aware of WHERE your meat comes from and to just put a little thought behind it. That's not placing judgment on anyone. My main problem besides the animals being treated poorly is the over consumption. Eat meat, just don't waste it. We do it with everything.

    Have I ever considered the economic repercussions of my actions? Of course, but this is a FOOD blog. If I started talking about what I think is wrong with the world, I would be here all day. There's little that actually makes sense with the way we do things. And the reason I shop at Whole Foods is because I spend the least amount there for better products. I have comparative shopped all over, and I am on a great budget there, buying mostly produce. While I spend $8 on fish, and you spend $3, you are pumping your body full of antibiotics and hormones, which could be one of the reasons why you are so angry.

    I do have to travel to Whole Foods, but I walk or ride my bike. In fact, I've never been in a car or on a plane, and I live in a shack I built with my own hands. I don't have electricity. I don't wear clothes, either, and I own a single piece of technology - this computer - which I am typing from in the dark, in the middle of a farmland. I have pet chickens and cows and pigs AND silk worms, believe it or not! So, this should reassure you that I am doing my part to change the world.

    I don't think my food choices will affect the food landscape, but that doesn't mean I can't talk about cruelty to animals or the reality of the food industry. If we never verbalize the things that bother us, nothing would get done (yes, I realize that is a double negative).

    I find it funny that I am promoting health and happiness and you are a meat-eating angry man. Are you a lawyer? :) It's a total waste of energy.

    And if you want to slap a vegetarian, I am game. I was a boxer for 5 years, so I am pretty sure I could knock you out. I'm quite strong for a vegetarian.

    Have a good day, Andy.

  • In reply to rbfrey7:

    What a humorous, measured response. Bravo!

  • In reply to sherriS:

    Thanks, Sherri! I read his response while at the gym and was dying to get to my computer. BUT, I tried to remain calm. :)

  • Excellent article and thank you for sharing your own personal experience with food and meat. My journey has been similar, although I am a Pescatarian who eats occasional, wild fish (no shell fish) and local, organic farm eggs with lots of chia and hemp seed of which a small cup has more protein than a steak and gives you tons of energy! :) Pay no attention to angry, meat-eating Andy who needs to experience being caged in a factory farm for a week. Even small actions like buying organic (non-genetically modified, no pesticides) and local help our planet. We need to base our actions and decisions on love, peace and compassion and supporting factory farms and fast food does not accomplish that.

    Even the United Nations just released a statement on how they are urging people to go vegetarian to help save the planet.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1RxX6si44w

    Some of the most brilliant men (and women) to have ever lived have been vegetarian or vegan and their quotes are inspiring, honest and spoken from the heart.

  • In reply to Stef:

    I am blown away by the breadth of knowledge in your response and the AMOUNT of information, which is about as black and white as it gets. That's a book in all that information! I think it's great to bring such awareness to the public, which you have so greatly accomplished!!! Thanks so much!

  • In reply to rbfrey7:

    You are very welcome. Animals have no voice, so we must be their voice. :)

  • In reply to Stef:

    I concur, and I don't know why we are crucified for wanting to preserve a life. Kind of odd, because seriously, if we decided to start eating dogs or cats, it would be the exact same thing. People would be outraged. But, it's all the same...

  • In reply to Stef:

    Thank you for taking the time to post this! Tons of information that I will pass on to my friends!

  • In reply to Gardenjeani:

    I am glad you enjoyed the read! :) You are more than welcome!

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