I’ve been thinking about what I eat. It all started about three days ago when I saw some videos on Facebook. It came into sharper focus yesterday when a friend began a conversation centering around the ethics of eating meat. That conversation has been a long and interesting one – and respectful – I appreciate that a lot.
I was a vegan for many years. Butter was the only animal product I ate.
And now, since joining my life with my love, who voluntarily stopped eating meat, I have put eggs and dairy products into my diet.
Is this ethical? Is it right? I don’t have to eat dairy. It’s a choice I made. But is it a choice that is causing suffering to animals? Simply put – yes. I have witnessed what happens when a baby is taken away from its mother – the crying, the agony – taking that warmth and comfort away from a calf just so humans can drink the milk. And really, when you give it any thought at all, it’s pretty outrageous. Adult humans don’t need cow’s milk. We need human milk until we are weaned. Cow’s milk was made for baby cows – to help them grow big and strong. Why do we drink cow’s milk? Why not tiger milk? or marmot milk? (yeah – I know – silly examples – but still….)
Back to the ethics of eating. Why not meat? Well, I don’t like the idea of killing an animal so that I can eat its flesh. I don’t like the fact that rain forests are being cleared so that we can feed cattle on grain. Land is far more efficiently used to grow vegetables.
Someone pointed out that by eating vegetables, we are also causing terrible suffering to people in third world countries. In those countries, large agribusiness grows tons of vegetables, spraying them with miles of chemicals that would not be allowed here and then shipping those vegetables back to North America. Meanwhile, people in those countries working in the fields are getting sick and dying from the chemicals.
So – is eating vegetables any better than what people are calling “ethically” raised meat?” The question arises – what is “ethically” raised. Is it ethical to raise any animal in order to kill it?
Another argument used by meat eaters is that carrots also feel pain – so why can I eat a carrot and not a lamb?
These are all good questions – and I have been thinking about them a lot. I saw a horrible picture of something (I won’t go into detail) being done to a dog that was going to be eaten. In some countries, people eat dog meat. I had nightmares about it.
So here it is: humans have consciously or unconsciously evolved a hierarchy. It goes something like this: you don’t eat other people (well – maybe sometimes). You don’t eat house pets. The next category is domestic animals. Most people don’t eat horses because you ride them and they are almost pets. However, horse meat does find its way into pet food and some societies don’t view horses quite the way we do in the West – so they eat horse meat. Then we raise animals just for food. Pigs, even though they are madly intelligent, get eaten. People must have their bacon. Oddly, the same people who eat pigs also coo over little piglets because they’re so cute.
We eat cows and get milk from cows. We eat baby sheep. We eat wild animals of all kinds that we shoot.
We treat domestic animals very poorly for the most part torture them before killing them. And yes, they know they are about to die. Those are real tears running down the faces of the cows in the slaughterhouse. I read the argument that it is okay to eat meat if you are mindful, killing it yourself and doing it “mindfully.” I don’t really know what that means. Is it okay for me to kill another human if I do it “mindfully?” Why do we hold animal life is such low regard that we think it’s okay to kill them at all – in any way at all? (hierarchy)
So what is ethical? We let the cow or pig have a good life and then, after a couple of years, slit its throat. I don’t know.
I shot a rabbit once. It still makes me ill to think of it.
What is the right thing to do? Do I keep eating dairy? It’s easier for me to say yes to eggs when I can get them from a neighbour’s chickens. I’ve had chickens and they’ve had quite wonderful lives, not minding one bit when I gathered their eggs.
But cows – they suffer. And their lives are shortened dramatically. Even organic dairy products. A cow still has to be pregnant and its baby taken away.
I don’t have any answers. These are questions I am asking. Some people on the FB forum have stated that they have to eat meat because otherwise they don’t feel well and get ill. That might be true. Maybe they’re eating fast food? I don’t know.
I do know that in order to be healthy, we have to eat whole foods, rich in nutrition, unprocessed – not food-like products. And the more local we keep it, the better it is for the planet.
What is ethical eating when we have billions of people on the planet and many are starving while others throw food away? Grow as much as you can. Stay away from chemicals and food giants. Buy local. Grow organic. Eat low on the food chain. Do your best to do no harm.
Ironically, “Food Inc.” really wants us to eat crap. Organic is more expensive. Crap is cheap. This is wrong. That’s the other thing I wrestle with: how do I eat well, local and organic while trying to stay within a budget?
These are the thoughts that have been whirling through my mind these last few days. And they are important thoughts – very important to me. And then, I have my moments of bliss on top of mountains and ridges when I don’t think at all. See photo above (thank you, Nicky!)