“Stop Eating Flesh. That is Yoga.”
~ Sri Dharma Mittra
I’ve wrestled this alligator once or twice on elephant, if that’s the metaphor I’m after, but here we go. The keyboard is a shiny new backlit wonder, and there’s fresh coffee at my elbow.
Lately, every vegan piece I write gets riddled with holes from paleo eaters and sustainable farming advocates, who posit that eating meat like grass-fed bison or organic free range chicken is “okay,” some even claiming it is helpful, giving lifeblood to small independent farms. Uh huh.
This is less a concern for small independent farms, and more a milder form of the time-honored game of taunting the vegetarian.
Remember the game? Decades ago, in high school, it took familiar forms:
“Well, if you were on a desert island and the only thing to eat was a hot juicy hamburger, what then?”
“If you had the choice of eating a hot dog or getting punched in the face what then?”
“What if rice makes you dumb? Beans make you fart! Then you would be stupid and smelly!”
The only people I know personally who have argued that grass-fed angle with me, the only living examples of that path who I have met, talk it well, and then order meat whenever they feel like it.
News flash: at this time in our culture, grass-fed, organic meat is precious. Any restaurant using it will tout that fact, generally right from the menu. If they’re not shouting in your ear about how gently sourced their meat is, it lived its miserable life in a factory. (And grass fed does not mean not factory kept.)
It is a slippery slope from “some really kind meat is okay” to “I’ll have a chicken burrito.” So please allow me to disabuse you: unless its flagged as kind, that dead bird lived 24/7 punishment, from birth to your fork.
So cheers to you if you not only advocate for grass fed beef but also walk your talk, avoiding eating meat unheralded as merciful.
Hat’s off for the effort. On the scale of torture in your mouth, you are causing way less than a careless eater, and that matters.
But enough with all that “quit telling me how good and virtuous certain meats are and then merrily eating whatever you damn please” chitchat. Let’s explore the act that transforms animal to meat.
One recent cartoon shows a slaughterhouse with two chutes for cattle. On the left the line is “grass fed,” and on the right is “whatever.” Both chutes lead into the same door.
At the moment of death, living creatures fear the impending violence with every part of themselves. They scream and try to run. They are subjected to unimaginable cruelty, if they dare to defy. Their crime is that they want to live, just like us. We are more alike in this than any differences we have.
Did you take in the feelings, the expressions on those faces just above? People brave enough to observe slaughterhouse activity with an open heart generally stop eating meat. The accepted business practices around killing animals are unbearable in the mind. Most carnivores cultivate an attitude that since we are capable of creating cheap abundant meat, we should.
We shouldn’t. Fish sandwiches should not be two bucks apiece at Arby’s, when the oceans are two-thirds harvested to lifeless. A cheeseburger should not cost $1.50, when land and rivers all around CAFOs are riddled with pollution. Over 90 percent of contemporary meat eating is textbook unsustainable, and subsidized in taxpayer billions. Just because we can isn’t reason enough.
Just because we can, just because some of us want to, isn’t reason enough for all of us to pay for it. Vegans pay for meat in millions of gallons of fresh water, in horrendous environmental damage and in mountains of tax money. We pay for meat and are ridiculed for refusing to eat it.
But here’s the thing: eating meat is not necessary for our health and well being. There are enough vegan marathon runners and elite vegan athletes to back up this claim. I’m not inventing it. There is no nutritional reason to eat meat. There is no ethical reason to eat meat. There is no compassionate way to eat meat.
“When you start with a necessary evil, and then over time the necessity passes away, what’s left?” ~ Matthew Scully, “Dominion”
“Too late for that one” ignores that every bite is a vote, and CAFOs raise meat and breed it in response to demand. Lunch is a vote. Dinner is a vote. God, if one of you gives me the comment that plants are alive too and modern monoculture farming also causes harm to animals and the environment I will mail you a lemonade stand, I swear. I know. I know. Nobody is making claims regarding perfection or sainthood. To live is to kill; got it.
It is simply that carrots don’t scream. Radishes don’t agonize when you take their babies away. Kale doesn’t struggle in a net until suffocating. Trotting out the tired arguments kind of points out that really, there is no fundamentally kindhearted way to tear into a steak. All animals fear violence.
It’s all understandable, easily. If you want to understand it. There is some food which requires killing. Someone’s brother or father has to die to create the food. Lunch is made of somebody’s aunt. There is other food, perfectly capable of giving you all the nutrients you need, which comes from plants.
Eating meat is bowing to your taste buds, and giving powerless suffering beings the finger.
Eating is an act of entitlement, or an act of mercy.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta