In Which an American Carnivore Considers Food Cruelty
True growth and belief change must come from within
This article will be shorter than my usual screeds about Big Fat American Food.
Up until recently, in most ways, I have a representative tolerance for animal cruelty to most Americans. I eat beef and pork products nearly every single day. Most days I also eat chicken & eggs. I don't drink cows' milk although I eat cheese, butter & when I'm good, some ice cream. (I am usually good). Most Americans could care less about who this animal is as long as the meat was tender and juicy. And cheap, and plentiful. Perhaps this is the case in Europe, and everywhere.
I have somewhat of a set threshold: I don't like the taste of turkey or fresh water fish. Once in a while I will eat salt-water seafood. I rarely eat any other animals. For instance, I love goats; the thought of eating a goat gives me the chills. I get severely pissed off when I read about slaughterhouses for horses and, Lord help us, for dogs. I have two Golden Retrievers who I love more than nearly anything.
Whenever I see an article on FoodTribe or otherwise about Vegan eating, I roll my eyes. I see the extent this industry goes to provide variety to Vegans and I shake my head. When I see the term 'cruelty-free eating', my first response is to smile wanly at the idealism.
But I have a brain, and a heart. Unlike most Americans, I read and write on this blog; thus, it would be willfully ignorant if I did NOT consider the level of cruelty that went into the meal I just ate, or the one I will eat next. Maybe, I should consider the rolling of my eyes and shaking of my head to be complicit to an catastrophically greedy, immoral and destructive practice.
It would definitely be better (for all) if I adjusted my cruelty threshold
I have found that absolute fundamentalism is harmful; it makes no more sense to react to the most bitter PETA exposes as it would to buy into the most ham-handed corporate farming propaganda. But we are compelled to evolve, to just use our own common sense, and listen to our own hearts. I must take steps in this new decade to adjust my food cruelty standards. It may not be that complicated.
My first step is to address what seems to be the Big 3 in Cruelty Farming: Poultry production; Pork production; and Dairy production. My mind's eye says that if this is where your food is being produced:
A typical factory farm. Note the lack of visible animals actually living on the grass.
...then you ought to be questioning your eating habits. There is a reason why your chicken and pork is under $2 a pound at your hypermarket. When you pick up your shrink-wrapped package of cheap meat, know that the animal those parts once belonged to never saw the light of day.
I have purchased locally sourced beef for 15 years. Yes, the cow was killed, butchered and delivered to me. I'm not ready yet to shuck 55 years of carnivore belief. But at least when the steer was alive, I know it was raised at a much higher level of humanity than in a factory farm. If I am going to continue to eat dairy, eggs, pork & chicken, I must get to know how these animals lived. If I cannot be certain about it, then I cannot eat them. It is possible, for me at least. I will have to make an effort, travel to other sources, and pay more money. Or I will have to learn to live without.
I know this isn't ultimate level cruelty-free, far from it. It may not be enough, to save my physical heart, or my soul, or the environment, or the living beings in question. But maybe I will then take another step. Maybe someone will read this and think the same thoughts I'm thinking today.