I used to be a vegetarian. For 18 years. No meat or meat by-products, unless not eating it would be terribly rude or inconvenient for someone else. For example, if someone offered me a bean burrito, I would never dream of asking that person if the beans had lard in them.
I became a vegetarian at the time that I worked at an animal shelter. Although we were primarily in the cat/dog/guinea pig/hamster business, the shelter had a barn, also. This is because so many people do so many stupid things, like thinking that it's ok or cute to have a goat as a pet in suburban Buffalo. After about 3 weeks of goat ownership, most of those people would start to wonder what you do with a slightly used goat that you don't want anymore. Also, our agency had law enforcement officers whose job was to respond to violations of the cruelty to animals law, which meant that we needed facilities to house animals that were taken away from the owners. People, being stupid (generally), will sooner leave a horse to starve that to admit that they can't afford to feed it anymore. So we had a wide variety of critters at the shelter. A lot of them stayed there for their whole lives, living in happy peaceful contentment, getting lots of attention and scratchies. We had a pair of Sicilian donkeys, a pig named Olivia (confiscated from a greased pig wrestling contest in a bar), horses, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, the occasional raccoon or skunk, and a cow. Really, once you get to know a critter, it's a lot harder to eat its kind.
One day I was watching a documentary about dogs and how different cultures treat them, and there was a segment about the Philippines, where dogs are (or were) commonly eaten in rural areas. These dogs really had pretty good lives. They were treated well, ran around acting doggy, until one day when a person would take the dog behind a hut and whack it on the head. Happy, happy, happy, dead. There were others watching this as well, and someone started in about how horrible it is to eat dogs. The vet technician pointed out that the dog was quite happy until it died and didn't suffer, unlike a lot of farmed animals.
That's kind of all it took. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wouldn't eat a dog so I shouldn't eat a cow. There's really not much difference between them -- dogs are generally smarter, but I've had some really dumb ones.
So I gave up meat and didn't really miss it. I was married then, and my husband missed meat, but no one told him he couldn't cook it. He was very "I'm all important and I'm a doctor and you should cook me dinner" and I was all "I did cook you dinner, it just didn't include any meat." It did lead to many a fun meal. Have you ever heard of gluten? Some vegetarian cookbooks describe it as "meat-like" but it's really more sponge-like or pile-of-dirty-rags-like. Of course, you don't know that until you cook it, and it takes all bloody day to just make the gluten. Then you have to make something from the gluten. I knew it was awful when I took it out of the oven, but it took me all fucking day, so we were going to eat it. Well. I was going to, anyway. He just looked at it, got up, picked up his plate and carried it to the sink, and scraped the gluten-ous disgusting mass into the garbage disposal.
Fast forward a lot of years. How did I fall back onto the meat wagon? Let's blame Greg, shall we? That bastard can make a mean pork butt. Eighteen years of moral choice down the fucking tubes because of the smell of pork butt and a bit of alcohol-induced weakness.
Then last night I was watching a cooking show, and unlike American cooking shows, they actually showed a cow being slaughtered. The whole thing. Captive-bolt stunner, down the chute, hoisted by the back feet, still twitching, still alive, throat slit, gallons of blood, skinning, de-gutting. I was really just hoping to watch a bit of food-porn before bed, and instead I have this gluten/pork butt/but-it-tastes-good moral dilemma shoved into my face. I yearn for the day when Douglas Adams' prediction comes true and science manages to create a suicidal cow so meat can be consumed without guilt.4 comments so far