Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To Meat or Not to Meat

A vegan friend recently told me that I am “the most ethical non-vegetarian” she knows.  Of course, this was a backhanded compliment as she was implying that I will never truly reach the ethical and moral mountaintop while continuing to consume a meaty morsel every now and then.  I will admit that it is difficult for me to reconcile my absolute love and respect for animals as sentient, smart beings and then eat them.  Just for the record, I would estimate that I eat a vegetarian diet 4 or 5 days a week because I simply prefer most dishes without meat.  But, I devoured a cheeseburger last night and it was delicious.
For those of you who know my dream of someday having a pet miniature potbelly pig, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I took the bacon off my cheeseburger and tossed it onto my mother’s plate.  My argument for avoiding pork, though, is a weak one (something Jay’s parents, Jay, and my mother did not hesitate to point out while I claimed my pork-free moral high-ground at the Chinese restaurant on Saturday night).  I think pigs are wonderful.  They are smarter and more socially aware than dogs and I would never eat dog meat (shockingly my apparently moral-less mother claims that she would).  Where do I draw the line, though?  Cows are beautiful, but I’ll eat them.  Chickens are, well, chickens.  I’m not a bird person and don’t like them in either their living or food form.  But what about spinach?  Eggplant?  Don’t these species also fight for survival and deserve my sympathy?  
Get me out of NYC so I can snuggle one of these cuties
An article (and it’s a good one, so go ahead and click on that link) in yesterday’s NYT suggests that I am not the only person suffering from this omnivore’s dilemma (I know, this isn't actually what the "Omnivore's Dilemma" was about).  About a year and a half ago, after reading a simultaneously disturbing and fascinating book, I found my solution.  Remember, this is MY solution – one that works for me, not you, or you, or you.  So don’t start with the nasty criticisms, though not-too-nasty criticisms are welcome.  The reasons I have for not eating meat largely revolve around the suffering, fear, and pain experienced by the animals grown for human consumption during slaughter and during their short lives before they are slaughtered.  Ok, so I don’t want any part in inflicting these horrible feelings on bright-eyed cows or sweet, snorting piggies.  Anybody who has read a Temple Grandin book (I’ve read them all and you should too), or witnessed a veterinarian euthanize a beloved pet, knows that animals can be killed peacefully.  There need not be the horrible squealing and torture that is common in slaughterhouses.  The good news is, enough people feel the same way and are willing to pay top-dollar in order to ensure their future food has a relatively comfortable life and death.  The solution for me is to choose only Certified Humane food, in combination with eating less meat and thinking about where all my food, including the eggplant and spinach, comes from.  Certified Humane is a non-profit that inspects every aspect of farm animal treatment and requires that farms meet standards of welfare in order to be certified.  This non-profit is managed independently and is informed by leading scientists, such as Temple Grandin, as well as animal activists (ASPCA), and politicians.  Certified Humane items are easy to find in your local meat and dairy aisle and, for me, the minimal added expense is worth enjoying my food without a side of guilt.  
Look for this logo next time you buy eggs or meat
I know my vegetarian and vegan friends will not approve of this sorry excuse for chowing down at the next summer BBQ.  Realistically speaking, though, I think Certified Humane is a huge step for a country whose culture is literally based on consumption of meat (think of the most American of holidays and what's the first thing that comes to mind - gobble gobble).  Sometimes getting a base-hit is better for the game than swinging for a homer and striking out.  Please constructively comment your disagreements, thoughts, support, etc.        

In other news - SOMEBODY ELSE PUBLISHED MY THESIS TOPIC AND I'M MAD! (unless they want to hire me)

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