Meat


Once upon a time, people thought black people should serve white people, gays should be killed and children should be seen and not heard.

Lots of people who thought that way were kind and charitable too. Among them were devoted husbands, loving wives and generous uncles.

It took hundreds of years for things to change. Now directors make films about Americans quarrelling about slavery, men loving men and sad, lonely children in big houses.

I think in the future, the films will be about charismatic vegans speaking out against factory farms.

Image Source: tmsfoodie.wordpress.com

Image Source: tmsfoodie.wordpress.com

This isn’t really a post about eating animals, but if you’re into that, I’d recommend reading Jonathan Safran Foer.

It’s about suffering caused by ordinary people.

Conditions for animals in farms the world over are so bad that watching a video about what goes on in ordinary farms almost makes me sick.

The suffering is so great you can barely even imagine it.

The animals we eat go through agony. The happiest moment is their death.

Most people know this in principle. They’ve seen the odd video about factory farming, read the occasional rant in favour of veganism and realised they’d feel pretty bad about eating their pet dog.

But they haven’t quite thought about it for long enough. Like me, they’ve turned off the videos when things get too uncomfortable and skimmed the final few paragraphs of those moralistic articles. They’ve conveniently and falsely associated the vegetarian/vegan diet with a hippy lifestyle, which they’re too busy paying taxes to support.

They’ve mistaken the argument against supporting sadistic cruelty with the one against eating meat at all. Some say “well, that’s the order of things” and others wear ironic t-shirts that say “Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.”

Though I don’t eat meat, I’m not against it in principle. Having been a vegetarian for many years, the idea seems very strange to me, but should my health depend on it, I would go back to it. And I would sooner eat road-kill than a cheap burger. It is not the fact of the animal’s death that disgusts me, but the horror of the life it must endure.

The most important thing for me is to avoid contributing to needless, unimaginable suffering.

Living ethically is difficult. I’m no great example. Last week I bought six eggs from a lady with wild, white wiry hair selling her produce from a trailer. I made an omelette. Later when I looked carefully at the stamp on the remaining eggs, I saw that they had the second lowest rating for quality. I’d eaten eggs produced by hens kept in deplorable conditions.

Here in Germany, the “organic” industry is being rocked by a scandal of deception and mislabelling. It turns out that the expensive and well-sold “bio” products are not quite so bio after all.

According to my own principles, I should go vegan. I’ve thought about it and am held back by two factors: the fear that my health would suffer, and the high cost of animal substitutes designed for vegans.

Image source: www.change.org

Image source: http://www.change.org

The world we live in can seem farcical. I can follow the whims of celebrities across the world on Twitter, but I can’t tell you where my yoghurt came from.

I’ve lived in a city all my life. The only foods I’ve sourced have been blackberries from the garden, or the occasional potato at the bottom of the compost heap.

I am ignorant but not naïve. There is another way and it starts with widespread exposure to the horrors of modern farming. Looking away has always been the surest way of supporting what is immoral. Consumers of animal products have a moral obligation to find out about the industry they’re supporting.

The argument that everything is about profit has been brought to an immoral extreme in many industries, but in farming it has been bizarrely accepted.

Part of what makes humans put themselves on a pedestal above other animals is what many identify as a superior capacity for moral reasoning. The irony of that assumption in the context of the conditions allowed for meat production should not be overlooked.

I am no paragon of morality. But education and information have made me change my habits for the better. I’ve still far to go.

I firmly believe that the scale and depth of suffering being inflicted by humans on animals in our time will be the stuff of horror history documentaries in the future.

Our descendants will ask “How did people do nothing for so long?” They will consider us barbaric and sadistic. They will pity us for our immoral economy and greed. They will question how things went on for so long, even in a time of instant, mass communication.

None of that will happen soon. But give it a few hundred years, and people will say that among those who supported these practices were devoted husbands, loving wives, generous uncles, and even passionate pet-owners.

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14 thoughts on “Meat

  1. Nice reading! Personally, I am a vegan for ethical reasons primarily, but the health benefits are a lovely side effect. For me, it’s the needless suffering that is the main reason I reject the animal exploitation industries such as meat, dairy and leather; but could I kill a wild animal that had led a free life to eat it? No, I doubt it very much. Luckily for me, I can’t picture a scenario where I would have to do so in a place where there was no vegetation for the animal itself to survive on. I would encourage and support you to move closer to veganism, but it really is your choice. I know a vegan couple in Germany and they get on very well with the lifestyle. There really is no need for meat substitutes once we explore the plethora of plant based foods available to us. It just takes a little exploration and experimentation. 13 years on and I’m still seeking out recipes to try 🙂

    • Hi there! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m really glad veganism is working out so well for you. 13 years really means the diet has stood the test of time. Can you recommend any vegan-friendly dairy-like products? I’m quite partial to milky drinks, chocolate, yoghurt and cheese and would find it hard to give them up. Will look forward to experimenting and exploring interesting food regardless!

      • Hey, you’re welcome, it’s my pleasure to actually read someone talking with honesty, not afraid to admit that there are difficulties and imperfections in us all. I should point out that I recently (few months ago) had a full blood test just to check for any deficiencies (B12, iron, etc.) and also to test liver and kidney function. My doctor was amazing (I’m aware not all are as receptive), he began by stating that a billion people live on a vegan diet without a choice in the matter and they are fine, he even suggested another test that I hadn’t asked for (vitamin D) and the results came back absolutely fine, other than a slightly below average level of vitamin B12. He did say it was well within safe parameters though. Dairy substitutes, what a minefield! I dabbled in vegan cheeses and then gave up, and I haven’t struggled without them. My eating habits have changed vastly since I gave up meat, I’ve been exposed to world cuisine that I may not have tried without being vegan. Falafel is my new favourite, and Arabic is my favourite cuisine but I never limit myself to one areas food. I try to avoid soya milk strictly because of the ethics of its production. I favour hazelnut or almond milk, or rice milk. I like to have a dairy free spread for toast on occasion, but they mostly contain palm oil, another grossly unethical and unhealthy product. But I allow myself a tub of Vitalite from time to time. It really depends where in the world you are, if you are on facebook I’d recommend joining a group called 100% vegan products europe, as the admin is an English lady who know lives in Germany and works as a translator. Apparently Lindt 70% chocolate is vegan, I just heard. I hope this helps, I’d better get ready for work now but I hope to hear from you when you get a moment to talk 🙂

  2. Really liked this article Kate and hope that in the future people will be appalled at the treatment of animals for the food market. I’ve tried to eat 100% vegan a few times in my 11 years as a veggie, however it just wasn’t right for me. I love not eating meat and love vegan food however eating some dairy and eggs is what my body needs. What I think more people need to be more aware of is free range and organic, especially with eggs and chicken (In Ireland at least all beef and lamb are free range, which is great). Organic eggs can come from a chicken fed on organic meal but they can still live their entire life in a tiny cage. It truly saddens me how people are so willing to eat poor quality meat and ignore where it came from. My opinion on it is, if you want to eat meat then be ethical about it, buy good quality, properly reared meat. It may be a bit more expensive but you get what you pay for.

    • Thanks Odette! I think people can easily close their eyes to it because there’s so little real experience of where food comes from and how it’s processed. I agree completely about making ethical food choices, but the problem is whether we can really trust what we’re buying. When I saw the old lady with the eggs in her trailer on a little market I really thought I was getting quality but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. What I need is friends with farms 🙂

  3. I must admit, the intellectual and moral virtues of remaining outwith the world of meat and poultry are nigh on incontestable; still, I can resist noting that one can’t beat a good Irish fry. 😀

  4. I am mostly-vegan. And honestly, I have found it to be very inexpensive. I don’t eat any of those cheese or meat-substitutes, because some can be bad for your health and I can’t afford them. I just cook things with basic ingredients, such as vegetables, beans, nuts, whole wheat pasta, rice, fruit, etc. You just need to find some good recipes – which, thanks to the internet, is easy. I cook large quantities and then freeze individual portions so that I have a variety of meals for later. This week for example, I made whole wheat fettucine with mushrooms and vegan cashew-based “alfredo” sauce, homemade sweet potato gnocchi, ribollita, and a lentil curry which I served with rice, avocado sushi, and lemon-lavender sorbet.

    I don’t scrutinize labels of the very few prepared foods that I eat. I just focus on eating healthy things that I cook at home.

    If you’re going truly vegan, read up on vitamin B12 so that you’re sure you’re getting enough.

    Just because you are focusing on eating vegan, doesn’t mean you have to be a 100% purist.

    • Your weekend meal has made me hungry! It sounded delicious.. Thanks so much for these tips. You’re right of course. Better to live as consciously as possible all of the time, than have spurts of ethical living followed by periods of apathy..!

  5. I really like the way you have looked at this whole subject by altering your vantage point to the future. You have produced a fresh approach and your tone is one that I hope causes people to question and consider their eating habits without feeling they’re being ‘lectured’ which always turns people off. This article reads like a piece I would find in a well established column.

    • Thanks, CB. I wrote the piece because I realised that logically, the justification for moral change is only ever widely accepted after the fact. Any movement that has questioned social hierarchies, be they racial or gendered or based on class, began with the courage – audacity – to challenge core, heavily internalised beliefs about how the world works. And I’m very glad it didn’t read like a lecture. I wanted to avoid that, while remaining honest.

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