I have been a vegetarian (depending on your definition) since 16 August 2010.
It’s not that I have anything against eating meat, but my wife is a vegetarian, so when I met her, I adopted her diet. I figured that if I had made a decision not to eat something, I wouldn’t be too attracted to the person sitting opposite me if they were eating it. The majority of my life was spent eating meat, in as close to a raw state as possible.
Lieve’s definition of “Vegetarianism” wasn’t as severe as others. We eat seafood, and when I come across an interesting meat she doesn’t mind if I try it. A few years ago in Belgium, “Paard” was on the menu, so I ordered it. A lovely steak, I quite liked it. It wasn’t an experience to share with everyone, as later that week we visited a cousin, and they kept horses. Which brings to mind something my Grandfather would say. “Don’t name your food”.
Where we fit in the food chain has always been a source of interest to me. There are very few animals I have not eaten, or dishes I haven’t tried. I have hunted and killed food, as have the majority of my family. I cannot to this day understand why some people find certain foods disgusting simply because of its source.
Some of my first pets were guinea pigs, and in learning about them I found that they are eaten in South America. The thought that struck me was not horror, but humor. In my mind I saw a herd of guinea pigs running through a forest. When my two guinea pigs became forty guinea pigs, I suggested that we eat the surplus. My mother didn’t care for that idea.
When I worked in Animal Control, I noticed that there were no stray dogs in the Korean neighborhood. A colleague pointed to a rack of long brown strips drying in the Sun and said “There they are”. I read a couple of articles from animal rights groups denigrating the Koreans for eating dogs, and I could hear my Grandfather’s words. They were upset because their pets were another person’s livestock. It struck me as racism. Maybe the Koreans are disgusted that we eat chickens. Hindu’s don’t frequent McDonald’s.
The other day, in a group that is normally level headed and allegedly involved in world peace, someone posted a story about a market in China that serves cat. The responses were astounding. “Inhuman” and “Scum of the Earth” were some of the milder comments. I know that some of these people are from countries with cuisines that would not be accepted in America, so I was perplexed. They were most upset that the animal was cooked alive. Apparently none of them had ever eaten lobster.
I would never eat veal. I won’t go into how it is raised (although I have, at a table where someone ordered veal, gone into a description of the life of a veal calf), but perhaps knowing what you do about what I will eat tells you enough. I completely understand the difference between aesthetically unpleasant and inhumane, and the treatment of veal is inhumane. Yes, I realize the hypocrisy of wanting an animal to live a peaceful, gentle life right up until the moment it is herded to slaughter, but I also know that a cat is not terribly humane in the way it treats a mouse.
Humane is largely in the eye of the beholder. Halal, the only method of slaughter acceptable to Muslims, is considered inhumane by many people, mostly those who have never seen the inside of a slaughterhouse in America (and also probably people who just don’t like Muslims). Most of my friends cannot understand hunting, I guess they assume that cattle are simply lulled to sleep before they are killed, under a tree overlooking a valley of flowers. Euthanasia of animals is rarely understood, and even though ethicists argue over methods before they can be certified as humane, some methods that I would never employ are still legal. I believe that much of this is because as mortals, we are fearful of death, and want nothing to do with it, including understanding it.
Food in general has become sanitized. The majority of school children, when asked where milk is from, say “Bottles”. Despite the call for “Organic” food, most people want “perfect”, unblemished fruits and vegetables, cleaned before reaching the consumer. Meat is butchered and wrapped in plastic before most people see it. It is widely recognized that in a major disaster, starvation will be the number one cause of death, as people simply don’t know how to feed themselves without the assistance of the “food industry” (as an example, some people have felt their only recourse is to call 911 when McDonald’s can’t fill their order).
I am an animal. My teeth and digestive processes were designed to consume other animals and plants, I can eat what I choose, and the Earth is my Supermarket.