From my youth, I’ve been a mystical, spiritual person with a deep respect for all life forms. However, meat eating seemed like such a natural and integrated function of society that I never really considered giving it up – at least not while I lived a work-a-day urban lifestyle. Wasn’t it true that our ancestors in the Ice Age had to eat meat in order to survive? And wasn’t it true, as many scientists have told us, that eating meat (particularly cooked meat) contributed to, if not actually caused, the dramatic growth of the human brain, thus making us a dominant life form on the planet? Other animals eat meat to survive and if humans are just animals why shouldn’t we eat meat as well? And why distinguish animals from plants? Surely it’s a fact that plants are living things too with feelings and possibly even aspirations– so why would it be OK to kill and eat plants but not to kill and eat animals?
There are a lot of interesting questions that can be raised around this subject – I admit, however, that I didn’t really think too much about them. I just did what everyone else did around me. Meat eating was and is a highly convenient way of getting nutrients. Meat is available everywhere, in multiple forms, and society strongly encourages its consumption. It would be weird to go against societal norms and refrain from engaging in a practice that so many people, lawfully, enjoy every day.
As I grew older, I became aware of certain health concerns around meat consumption – mostly related to the various additives, hormones, steroids and whatever else was used to turn animals into efficient food products. And I found that there had always been health concerns associated with excessive red meat consumption. So I cut out red meat and most pork products and stuck to only lean chicken and turkey breast. I simultaneously increased my consumption of fruits and vegetables. I’m not convinced my health measurably improved with these choices.
Eventually I became aware of the “factory farm industry” and watched several videos that exposed the rampant abuses of these food production businesses. Animals confined to small, unlit, unclean spaces, force fed, force bred, zapped with electric prods and generally harassed, tormented, abused and, frankly, demeaned and humiliated. Living beings in these factories are reduced to being mere “things” like toasters or hair dryers – commodities that can be processed, packaged, bought and sold without regard for non-commercial aspects like feeling or desire. Seeing the way animals were treated in the name of profit margins upset me deeply and I determined that I would not support these industries at all. That’s what made me decide to change my diet.
I didn’t become a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the sake of the health of the cows, pigs, chickens and other animals horrible abused by the State sanctioned factory food industry.
At first I was somewhat ok with people who raised food in what might be termed a more humane manner – so-called “free range” farms, though in actuality these are only fractionally better than the factory farms. And I was even OK with some hunters who actually ate what they killed. I thought at least in these circumstances the animals had a bit of a normal life before meeting a swift death. But I have come to realize now that there really isn’t any right or humane way to kill something that doesn’t want to die. And animals, like people, don’t want to die.
Ancient humans ate meat, but they also ate worms, grubs and insects of all kinds. They ate rodents, lizards, birds and just about any living thing they could catch. Smaller animals and insects are so much easier to feed on than a giant woolly mammoth. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for a group of semi-starved men to hunt and kill a five ton, fearsome elephant using just some pointed sticks? Our ancestors might have preferred the woolly mammoth, but they were not eating steak three times a day – they were eating rodents and insects most of the time. Imagine going into your local fast food restaurant and ordering a larva burger or rat-on-a-stick: it’s not likely to happen in the industrialized west, although many people in the world continue to eat this way. Most of the world, at this time, does not have access to the vast reserves of beef, pork and poultry. In America, these “commodities” were commercialized and politicized with powerful lobby groups that bribed politicians into demanding that citizens ate these foods as often as possible. It’s due to the political directives that the meat industry, and now the “factory farm” industry began, and continues, to thrive.
It’s safe to say, I think, that people accessing social media and generally using computer technology to communicate are not living in the Ice Age or in a nation that is so desperate for food that almost anything is consumable. We are living in the 21st century, in a fat, rich nation. We have choices. Humans are omnivores, meaning we can eat a lot of different things. And as omnivores eating meat is not an obligation it is a choice. Plants, while equally living things and subject to harm, are not penned up in unhealthy environments, and emotionally and physically tortured and abused prior to being converted to food. Plants are also more abundant, varied in form and offer more nutritional options and plant crops are more ecologically and environmentally friendly. Even if politicians and industrialists want to coerce me into following their demands for meat consumption, I can choose for myself what I eat. I choose to refrain from eating animals and animal products. This choice works well for me, not only regarding my observations of the world, but also with my long established mystical and spiritual sensibilities. What you choose is up to you. But remember, no animal wants to be your dinner, no matter how good you think it tastes.