Animal Love – The Musings of a Non-Vegetarian ~ Catherine Maxwell

Via elephant journal
on Oct 16, 2011
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Photo: Jayme Frye

Here is the wonderful part about being human: you can choose. Almost anything!

You can choose to be married (although you may have to “settle”) or choose to be single. You can choose friends, a job, a car. You can choose clothes: skinny jeans, flare, or a boot cut? You can choose what to order off the menu.

And, to take this a step farther, you can choose whether to eat animals or not.

So now here’s where you go, “Uh-oh, this chick’s on a vegetarian kick” or “Yay! One of us!” But truthfully, I’m neither. I’m on the fence.

I love a good steak once in a while. Yet I have looked into the deep brown eyes of cows and seen their beauty. I won’t eat veal because I know how veal calves are raised. I’m faltering about cows, but I’m okay with eating chicken. I don’t much care for chickens; I am currently house-sitting a small farm, and I am terrified of the rooster. (And let me say here that I have NEVER before been scared of a big…. Well, never mind!)

But chickens, as individuals, impress me as flighty and slightly suspicious. Is that like saying I would never eat human, except maybe Aries males because they really aggravate me?

I’m definitely conflicted!

At a restaurant last week (in Morocco) I was eating some kind of pigeon-chicken-bird. A mother dog and two sweet black puppies appeared. So cute! I was feeling homesick, and missing the total-body-wag of an old doggy friend, and here were two little surrogates. I fed them all bits of the bird-creature. They wagged and licked. But when I tried to pet them, the dogs fled. What was that all about?

They avoided pets and scratches, to the point where one yelped when I did touch his body. I soon saw why: when they waggled their way through the restaurant, they were kicked by the waiter. I was furious, but everyone else in my party was nonchalant (three Moroccans and two from Malaysia.) I held back tears and gathered more pigeon from my dining partners, who were busily having adult conversations while I was holding back puppy tears.

The next day, one of the guys from Malaysia (of Chinese origin) told me I’d better never go to China, where in the markets they display dogs you can choose to take home – not for a pet, but for your dinner. I’d spend all my tourist shopping money buying these pups and finding a way to ship them home, all the while crying inconsolably!

In France they eat horse. In other countries too. I love horses; I have spent the equivalent of at least a small one-family house over the years on my horse habit, boarding, riding, taking lessons, and showing. Horses have taken carrots from my lips. My tears have soaked their manes as they have listened to my sorrows. Their strength and beauty has also brought me tears of joy. I’ve eaten with them, sharing sandwiches. But I’ve never eaten horse.

Can one be a selective animal lover? Can I assume that the steak I am enjoying was a cow living happily and then killed humanely? (Giving his life for his country, as it were?) Is it simply convenient for me to ignore what I know: that chickens are crammed into cages (much like veal) and raised until it’s time to butcher them (Humanely? Right?) I’ve never spent much time with pigs, either, but I enjoy pork from time to time. Bacon is yummy! If I take cows off the list because of their big brown eyes, is it okay to keep pigs on it if I don’t think they are all that attractive?

These, boys and girls, are the musings of an animal lover/non-vegetarian! And I’m afraid there are no easy answers. Your comments are welcome, but please don’t yell at me; I’m a sensitive Pisces! (That’s the Fish, and yes, I do also eat fish.)




Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of elephant journal and is honored to be part of the herd. You can read more at her blog , follow her on Twitter @catnipkiss, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.



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19 Responses to “Animal Love – The Musings of a Non-Vegetarian ~ Catherine Maxwell”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Alexa, and welcome to Ej.
    My answers to all your questions are here, if you are interested:
    With love,

  2. My decision to not eat meat is a combination of ethical and health reasons. I fell head over heels in love with a cow at a county fair when I was about 14 years old. I never ate beef again. But I still ate chicken, fish, pork, etc, although I felt guilty about it but obviously NOT guilty enough to give it up. I simply wasn't ready. I suffered for years with a host of female reproductive issues, including fibroid tumors. I was a mess and in agony all the time. My OBGYN finally insisted on doing a complete hysterectomy. Although I had one child and was not able to have more, I was terrified. I wanted things to happen naturally. After researching my options, I came across Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Dr. Christiane Northrup. She suggested a plant-based diet as an alternative to surgery in cases like mine. I eliminated ALL animal products and processed food from my diet and within six months, I was fine. I never had another issue. It's been fifteen years since then. I've been in menopause now for about a year- NO side effects, no hot flashes, no mood swings, NO NOTHING. I feel great!

  3. kim says:

    Im very glad you are thinking about these issues and sympathize with the internal conflicts you are going through. I gradually transferred to a vegetarian diet and then vegan three years ago. I will never go back. I loved the taste of bacon and chicken before too. But when you modify your diet, your tastebuds change too. Since you identify yourself as on the fence, why dont you do the 30 day vegan challenge? You will likely find improvements in your mental and physical wellbeing. And some changes in your cravings. Do some research first about veg alternatives and recipes to make it easier on you as well. Good luck on your path! Namaste.

  4. Erynne says:

    I’m an animal adorer, and I eat meat. I just choose locally and humanely raised animals as my food of choice. Do I pay more? Much more. But I’m paying for my dinner to have had a pastured life, to have been slaughtered humanely.

    I’ve tried being vegan and vegetarian. My blood sugar bottoms out, I get the shakes and I feeel ill. I need some small amount of animal protein at each meal to avoid feeling sick. I easy much less than the average consumer, but I do need some. Not everyone CAN be veg…and that’s okay.

  5. Rich K says:

    In order for humans to live, something has to die. Whether that something is plant or animal is up to the individual. I used to get into this argument with vegetarians and vegans all the time. Now I try to avoid it because it is almost as personal as the religious/political argument. My choice is to eat meats. I feel hungry and tired and sick if I try to eat vegetarian or vegan. Feeling that way makes me grumpy. I would rather be happy and eat meat than grumpy and not eat meat. Those around me feel the same way. I too choose to eat pasture raised animals. They are treated better and they are far healthier. Their fats won't make me sick. I guess as long as you have a good reason for your choice, it is the right one!

    Peace and love,

  6. Lezlee says:

    A great article and good to hear someone else questioning their ethics! It took me a while to become vegetarian and yes, I've fallen off the wagon over the years (all for a bacon sandwich!), although short lived each time. We do things in life for what we consider the right reasons, or it would be good if (more of us) we did, so the fact that you are questioning your eating habits is positive. I think you are maybe on the way to being a vegetarian……. When all's said and done, it's your mind and only yours that has to live with the decision you make so as long as you are happy with that and can live contentedly without punishing yourself needlessly, that's good enough!

  7. catnipkiss says:

    thanks, Kim, for the suggestion! If I try it, I am sure I will also write about it 🙂 In any case, I do seem to be moving in that direction…. Alexa M.

  8. ailanna says:

    It's definitely possible to love animals and still eat them, but many of the people who start thinking the way you do eventually stop eating them. I grew up with pets and have loved spending time with non-humans my whole life, yet only went vegetarian four years ago when I was faced with a choice to either start dealing with raw meat (which makes me feel sick) or to stop eating it. I didn't adopt the label vegetarian; if I had craved meat, I would have allowed myself to have some. Surprisingly, it never happened.

    Even as a vegetarian or vegan, there are still plenty of ethical quandaries, although my conscience is happier now than when I ate meat. There is no diet or lifestyle that does no harm. Even growing plants involves killing mice, gophers, insects, and worms, exploiting bees, exploiting human workers. I think the best we can do is make thoughtful, conscious compromises that we can live with. For some of us, that means going vegan/vegetarian, but other paths are possible, too.

  9. Saleh says:

    A wonderful book on the topic is The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self by Charles Eisenstein. The book talks about and I found it to be very true (for me at least) that what one craves to eat is also influenced by one's place in the world and what the person does. Eating with awareness before, during and after the meals, helps us pick up on the wisdom of the body and what it needs at any time in our lives.

  10. catnipkiss says:

    Hi Ben (and I love your writing, BTW!) – thank you for the link. I may soon do a "test run", and if I do, fer sure I will write about it 🙂 I read another article of yours where you stated you arent vegan and you love cheese… what a relief! Cheese is in the treasured "CH" food group: Chocolate, Chips, Cheese, and Cheap Red Wine – that no person should live without. Unless, of course, they want to….
    Alexa M.

  11. Ben_Ralston says:

    Hey, thank you. I really enjoyed this piece too. Love your humor, very CHocolatey 🙂

  12. harriet says:

    Our society probably eats too much red meat. In other countries, it is a small portion of the meal. But I read an article long ago about raising goats (as I was doing…a couple of them). Goat is an accepted meat in many countries, but males are often butchered as kids (ouch). BUt what is the life of a buck goat other than being used as an inseminator of females. OFten not too good. I think it is all about the humane treatment of all animals and not judging cultures about their practices. Americans tend to be a little divorced from the entire growing and slaughtering process.

  13. catnipkiss says:

    True, but if I had to kill and skin (or pluck) my own dinner, it would 100% be broccoli and salads from now on! I could gather eggs and milk a cow, but I dont even kill SPIDERS (I put them on a magazine and escort them back outside)! – Alexa M.

  14. boulder5 says:

    i think its wonderful that you are thinking about the animals you eat and choosing to explore those thoughts. have you ever read the world peace diet? i havent but a lot of people think it is a great book and very life-changing. it might give you even more to think about. anyway, best of luck. 🙂 note: i havent been to morocco, but ive been to turkey and there was naturally so much vegan and vegetarian food there it was fantastic… 🙂

  15. boulder5 says:

    i dont think you need to judge other cultures, but it also doesnt mean you have to participate. 🙂 also, i actually have some friends who were going to start raising goats for milk but while they were learning about the process of raising them, saw how bad it was and ended up going vegan instead. they now run a farm animal sanctuary.

  16. catnipkiss says:

    Thanks friends for all the kind encouragement and book and diet recommendations. I will be doing a 30-day yoga training in the spring, vegetarian food, so maybe I will start there. And I'm so glad nobody "yelled" at me 🙂 – Alexa M.

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