My Meat Dilemma
OK, what I'm looking for here is some fresh perspective - I know this is a hot-button topic for a lot of people and want to say right up front that I'm not looking to start a debate about right vs. wrong, moral vs. immoral, etc. For me, most of the important things in life have come down to a couple - a very few - conversations which I have taken away parts of, thought about for a while, and made a personal decision based upon. What I'm looking for here are some more thoughts to take away, now that I'm actively committed to the Primal Way.
When I was about seven (yes, I know) I was put in a position where I was supposed to kill a pig. This happened out of the blue one morning, at a farm near where my grandparents lived. I would go to visit every summer for about two weeks, to what would be considered, by today's standards, to be a fairly rural area of Virgina. Anyway, on this morning, my grandmother hustled me into the truck first thing and we went off to this farm, where, without a lot of pomp and circumstance, I was taken to a barn where a pig was trussed, handed a knife, and told to "cut his throat."
Now, this was a common occurrence in that area, and my father, whose parents these were, had done the same thing many times in his life, to pigs and, I assume, other animals bred for food. Out of context I can see how there might be a creepy, "Children of the Corn" element to it, but it was really just another day in the life of my rural grandparents - it was actually (I slowly gathered), something of an honor - this was man's work, and I was a little man. This was my opportunity, and one I would not get living, as I did at the time, in a bedroom community suburb of Washington DC.
Well, the long and short of it was that I declined, to the disappointment of my grandparents, and that was that, and we never talked about it again, and my Grandparents never tried to make me do it again. All was well. I've told this story to a couple of people over the years, and the response is almost always sympathy, empathy, "Oh my God I can't believe they just thrust that on you!" kind of stuff. Almost always.
Very occasionally, though, someone would know me well enough, and be interested enough, to delve down deeper into things with me. About two years ago, I wound up telling this story to a friend who was a vegetarian. At the end of the telling, the first thing she said was, "but you still eat meat, right?" To which I responded yes, of course I did, that I just wasn't hungry enough to kill a pig. That there was no necessity to kill that pig. After a lot more conversation (I should say up front that she doesn't care whether I eat meat or not, she was just interested in my line of reasoning), and a lot more thinking on my part, I started to feel first a little, then a lot more hypocritical about that act (or the refusal of it) and my subsequent actions.
Shortly after, I stopped eating meat except for fish, though I did tell myself, if I could find a farm or meat CSA where the animals were raised and killed in a humane way - a place where I could personally confirm that - that I would consider eating some meat again the future.
All of my thinking had distilled down to a little scenario in my head, where I would walk up to a table, upon which would be a plate of beautiful, crispy bacon, and a bowl of oatmeal (with maybe a little real maple syrup and butter on it). I'd be given the choice: What did I want for breakfast? If I chose the bacon, however, the curtain to my right would be whisked away, and there would be the pig. My server would say, "OK, the bacon's all yours - all you have to do is kill this pig. You don't have to butcher it, or process it in any way - just cut his lil' throat and the bacon is all yours!"
I can guarantee, if I faced that choice every morning, that despite my deep love of bacon, I'd be eating oatmeal for the rest of my life.
I've had this conversation with a lot of friends - vegetarians, some of the saner vegans I know, and many of my rabidly meat-loving buddies. The bulk of it has boiled down to these responses:
1. "Oh, but it's OK to kill a fish?" Well, in short, apparently for me - yes. If I went to that table every morning and there was a fish behind the curtain instead of a pig, well, then I'd be eating the pan-fried fish for breakfast most days, and not the oatmeal. I can say this with confidence, having caught, scaled, gutted and pan-fried many a fish in my day. I saw a book which looked interesting recently, called "Carnism: "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows", by Melanie Joy. I haven't read it, but it's an interesting question, and one that's germane given my attitude towards fish.
2. "How do you think this act of refusing to eat even humanely raised and killed animals affects anything in the world - you understand that they don't let the animal go, free it into the wild, if you or someone else doesn't eat it?" Yes, I do understand that. But despite that absolutely true statement, I still know I couldn't kill the pig for the bacon.
3. "I couldn't help but notice your nice, Italian leather belt, though?" Yes, I do wear leather, and I like leather. Would I kill a cow if that was required to purchase a leather belt or some nice shoes? I don't think so - so this adds to my feelings of confusion. Obviously, it would be impossible (or far, far more work than I'm willing to do) to eschew any items with animal content - I'm just talking about the obvious things like shoes, belts, coats, couches, etc.
4. "You're top of the food chain, buddy! Enjoy it!" This is one that I have the hardest time with, because despite its inanity, it's probably the one that will allow me to go back to eating meat. I'll accept that it's possible that, given that I'm probably not going to ever be able to get this "packaged" in a way that, for me, will not involve at least some type of conflict or contradiction, maybe I should just accept that my genetic heritage is omnivorous, that it's more natural for me to eat animals than grains, and simply do the best I can to make sure that the animals lived a relatively untroubled life while they were alive, and that they didn't suffer when they died.
I could have probably gone forever without eating another piece of meat (besides fish) again, if it weren't for going Primal. So far (it's been about a week), I haven't cheated or felt the urge to cheat, and I feel much better (feeling what I think is probably a mild bout of the "carb flu" which I assume will pass soon). But I can sort of tell that removing such a huge food aspect from my life, almost completely, is eventually going to get challenging, mostly from culinary boredom - I'm a good cook, and one of my fave's (and specialties) was pasta!
Again, I'm not looking for validation of my choices (or condemnation for my position which could definately be interpreted as a little hypocritical or wishy-washy). I am interested if anyone else has been down this road, what their decisions were, and why.
On the Primal Path - The DogHermit
I don't think it is hypocritical to enjoy meat but not want to kill and buther a pig. Some people have the stomach for that, some people don't. I don't. I don't want to know anything about my bacon other than the package it came out of. I had no problems cleaning my daughters dirty diapers or holding back their hair when they are throwing up, and cleaning it up after them when they didn't make it to the bathroom - but let my husband be sick and I have to walk out of the house because it turns my stomach listening anyone else be sick. When my MIL was sick last and needed to use the bedside commode, I couldn't empty it without gagging, even when it was urine. If she had a bowel movement I left the hospital room, called the nurses, and made her sit and wait til they could come clean her up and empty it. Bad, but there was no way I could do it. Does that make me hypocritical? Just don't think about the pig and enjoy the bacon!
First, I think it large comes down to exposure. If you had killed an animal before for any reason the second time would be easier.
Second, you are over thinking it. If you have a philosophical objection to meat, then don't eat it. If you want to eat it because it is healthy then do so. Don't hold on to both believes. Internal conflict simply causes undo self inflicted stress.
I like your thought experiment with oatmeal, bacon, curtain and pig. Of course on day 1 I'd eat oatmeal (whether or not I'd be wielding the knife myself). But by day 365 or 600 or so (assuming we repeat the same experiment with cows, deer, lambs, fish etc for each meal) past experience of being vegetarian suggests I will be fat, aching and sluggish, and just not much use to man or beast. And I like being some use. So... Babe/ Daisy/ Bambi/ Nemo would have to go.
Another thought experiment: you're shipwrecked on an island with nothing but grass and rabbits. Oh, and a gun. Will you shoot yourself a rabbit?
I always - throughout my 20 years of vegetarianism - reckoned that I would. But since I wasn't on that island, and could survive without killing things, I ate soya burgers. I could survive without meat now, of course, if I went back to eating grains and legumes. (I reckon I was on the fast track for type II diabetes, but you can survive with that for a long time, right?) Only I've become interested in thriving, and that makes a difference.
I, too, like your thought experiment.
I also like that you ponder these things.
In context - at the time, you were 7, it wasn't a normal part of your day to day life, if you'd lived with your grandparents then maybe that would be different.
I was raised in an urban area and it's only the last 2-3 years that have seen me plucking geese and eating their hearts ( ) and all that. I have killed pigeons, chickens, and rabbit. I don't have the "facilities" to kill anything bigger (I only have an air rifle). It's kind of a theoretical question, as home slaughter is only legal here for sheep and smaller critters (hens, rabbits...). Not pigs.
I think that with a humane, idiot-proof, instant humane stunner thingy, and someone else guiding me, that I could and would kill the sheep. I would not be able to cut anything's throat. Take that up to a pig... I dunno. It's getting awfully big. Cattle? Too big. With me, it really is a size issue. I'm picturing a very simple catch-and-kill scenario here.
If I picture me standing above them in a proper handling crush.... maybe.
Forgive me typing as I think
I think it's a what-if-it-all-goes-wrong thing. If I tried to cut a bullock's throat, missed something, there's half a tonne of agonised beef thrashing around, litres of blood going everywhere..... Whereas it is simply an easier physical task to break a chicken's neck. So less chance of cocking it up.
That doesn't help with the moral aspect.
Morally, I believe we should use every part of every animal we kill. I fall far short of that (in terms of the meat I buy) but I try to follow that ethos with home killed things. So I try to keep pelts, make stock from trimings and leftovers, eat the offal.... If /when I have a dog, they'd get the carcass that wasn't meaty enough to be used.
Oddly, the comment about enjoying being top of the food chain is one that irks me there is no enjoyment to be had in taking life. Satisfaction in a clean kill, and gratitude for the life it gives me - yes very much so. But fun? No.
I’d look at the history of primal eating and where we are as a culture today. If you were living during Grok’s times, you would have likely been killing animals for food at a very young age. There would be no second thoughts about that. Due to technology, agriculture, and population growth, many things that Grok had to do are “outsourced” to others. It makes sense that you would feel uncomfortable slaughtering the pig. I’d be the same. But, I’m comfortable that animals are killed to provide me healthy food that I evolved to eat. I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to perform the act. Furthermore, I don’t feel as though I’m a hypocrite because I don’t want to partake in the slaughter.
For me it comes down to what's more important, the life of an animal or my health.
As of this moment, I've never killed an animal....never hunted.....never fished....and I am a big animal lover. I would hate to have to kill just about any animal, but if civilization broke down tomorrow, and there was no-one to kill and butcher my meat for me, I would pick up a gun and a blade without hesitation.
I did go down this road a bit and it comes to this: our existence (and the existence of every living thing on this planet) is about killing other things. We kill animals by the scores every day just by existing. We kill plants by the dozens before breakfast. we kill without seeing, without thinking, and we couldn't stop if we wanted to.
Not killing animals usually, IME, comes down to "it's cute" or "it's smart" or "I don't need to" and honestly, they don't hold any water for me. i'm a pagan and i try to live a life in tune with nature, and unless you never even bother to look at it, you realize pretty quickly that we are the only creatures in nature that seem to mind killing other creatures when we need to so it no longer bothers me.
You could think of all the animals and plants killed and displaced to grow the oats?
The food chain is really more like a circle. Someday we will provide food for other organisms so they can live. Eating involves death, there's no way around it.
Ya, I prefer not to think of that stuff when I eat meat.
Fish and chickens are the only animals that I could kill with my own hands (even a chicken might be tough....I even have a hard time with lobsters!).
I think their helplessness is what would get to me most. I've never hunted but I'd prefer to go kill a deer/moose in the wild, than sit there with a knife and kill a pig that was tied up.
I love my meat though (bought a year's worth of meat last night) and I think it's necessary for optimal health. Animals are bred for us to eat them. Without our eating them, they wouldn't have existed.
I still much prefer free range animals though where they at least get to live a nice life, rather than in the commercial farms where they just jam in as many as they possibly can.