Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Some Chinese Dogs and Mexican Pigs Turned  Me into a Vegetarian

Facebook post: “Just want to let the animals (pigs, chickens and cows) know that you don't have to worry about me eating you now, at least for a while. Fish and shrimp, however, should still keep an eye open.

There was a news article recently about a truckload of over 1,000 dehydrated and hungry dogs that were packed cruelly into small cages in a truck that was bound for a large restaurant, where they were to be killed and used for meat. The truck was intercepted by an animal rights advocate, and people all over the world were joyful that they were saved, disgusted that this was happening , and horrified that it is probably a fairly common occurrence. I felt the same as the rest of those people.  But, an hour earlier I was driving home and saw a large truck with pigs packed into it on their way to the local slaughterhouse. My first thought was, “Poor pigs”. My second thought was, “Yummm”. 

I have been a meat eater all my life. I could eat chicken every day. I never got tired of it. A really good rare steak was a beautiful thing to me, and a rare rack of lamb with mint sauce was a favorite meal.

I have had thoughts of being a vegetarian before, but never really made any effort to do it. I have always liked almost all foods, and especially salads and other vegetables, so I was not one of those people who eats chicken nuggets every day. I have always appreciated good, fresh, healthy foods, but always supplemented with generous portions of chicken, beef of pork.

After seeing the story about the Chinese dogs, and then recalling the truckload of Mexican pigs, I started thinking about why those dogs bothered me so much, and why I was repulsed about the thought  of them being killed and eaten, when I wasn’t that worried about the pigs. Dogs, I thought, are cute and furry and we keep them as pets. Well, some people have pigs as pets, and I had read Charlotte’s Web. What make dogs more special than pigs? Is it only our close relationship to dogs, and that we don’t have many pig friends? That wasn’t good enough. Pigs are fairly intelligent for four legged creatures. They love their young and they can become attached to people. They feel compassion. Okay, I won’t eat pigs either. What about chickens? 

I remembered reading a study that determined that chickens feel empathy for one another, which leads to compassion. It was long thought that humans were the only animals to possess this trait, so we could justify the killing of animals for the purpose of nourishing ourselves, and since they could not feel empathy, we were not required to either. Now we know that is not true at all, so maybe we should have some more empathy and compassion for animals, even the ones we want to eat, even the ones that we wouldn’t let sleep on the couch. Really, what is the difference between a sweet kitten and a cute cow? So, I reasoned, if I am going to be repulsed by the thought of some Chinese people eating dogs, then what right do I have to eat a cow or a chicken or a pig? NONE.

Since that day I have not eaten any meat of a four legged animal. I have had some fish and shrimp, but that is another step in my evolutionary process that may or may not come. 

Coincidentally, the same day I was making some samples of vegetarian sausages for a local Hot Dog house, so my meals for that day were taken care of with lots of good protein. Since then I have decided to start a line of non meat meat-like products, sausages and patties, etc. I have been working on recipes and formulas and will probably be coming out with a few flavors soon. Then I will have to work on packaging and marketing. I know it is not a huge market, but I feel like it is the right thing to do. Also, I have tried some of the meat substitutes available in local stores, and they range from pretty okay to really awful, so there must be a few people out there looking for this stuff. I can hope.

I don’t know if this will be a lifelong change or if it’s a phase, but I am happy to know that I have probably saved a couple of chickens and some parts of pigs and cows in the last 2 weeks that otherwise would have been eaten. That makes me feel good.

When I see meat in the store now, all packaged up and ready to cook, I think yeah, I could eat that, but I don’t want to. I think first of the live animal and then the dead animal being chopped into pieces and I think no, I really don’t want to be a part of that.

Some people would argue that humans are made to eat meat. We have incisors and that proves it. Well, I do believe that we were made to be able to eat meat, but only what we could catch and eat ourselves, or what our friends or family would catch and share with us. If we lived like that now I don’t think we would be eating much meat at all, and we would probably be much healthier for it. I don’t think we were meant to have meat mass produced for us and available at any moment. Yes, if I was very hungry and meat was the only thing available I would eat it. And if I was at a big party with a Mexican family and meat was served I might have a little. I don’t want to go all fanatical. I just want to be as good as I can, without being crazy about it. 

No one can be truly vegetarian or avoid harming all beings. Even if all you eat is salad, you are also eating several small animals, some microscopic and some a little larger. Also, when the fields are plowed to grow our food, many small animals are killed incidentally, and others are displaced from their homes. That does not make us monsters. We are just animals trying to survive, and I would like to manage my survival  in the most compassionate way that I can.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Liana! Most us can get ourselves to..."if I had to kill it myself... no." The rest can be harder; particularly when there are no tasty replacements. It is a growing market, so don't despair.