Feline Mignon

I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with meat over the years.  I don’t come from family of carnivores but my mother was convinced a child required a certain amount of meat to get all the necessary nutrients. Small pieces of meat were hidden under mounds of applesauce but I managed to find the offending morsels, cheek them, and spit them out after having finished lapping the applesauce.  When asked where hamburgers came from she answered “beef” knowing I’d never eat it if she said “cow.”

How I became a vegetarian

Beef?

In college I became a vegetarian. Not for any ethical reasons but because the low-grade cafeteria meat grossed me out. In retrospect I was likely the least enlightened vegetarian possible. I didn’t eat meat but I didn’t think about the “why.” My decision was based on what I enjoyed eating and nothing more.  A few short years later the smell of swine roasted for 12+ hours pushed me over the edge and just as quickly and easily as I’d become a vegetarian I reverted to my carnivorous ways.

Looks gross, but sooo tasty!

However, the last few months I’ve felt the universe has been making it damn near impossible for me to turn a blind eye to the horror that is factory farming.

  • Alicia Silverstone reading from her new book “A Kind Diet” at the neighborhood Barnes and Nobles
  • A friend invites me to hear journalist and newly turned vegan Jane Valez-Mitchel at the 92nd Street Y
  • Two friends tell me they have started reading Skinny Bitch
  • The well executed exhibit in DuPont Circle curtsey of the “crazy vegans” I run into while visiting Washington DC
  • The NYT Magazine “Food Issue” hits stands
  • Jonathan Safran Foer’s media blitz promoting his new book“Eating Animals

All these things collude and force me to evaluate what I am putting into my body and if I’m truly okay with it.

I mean really, did I need a piano to land on me too?

We do an amazing job in this country of keeping the actual animal as far away as possible in our minds from the meat we tear into. Meat must be rid of anything that reminds us from whence it came.  No hoof, snout or heads thank you very much.  It is in this way we can divorce ourselves from the living, thinking, feeling origins of our steaks, chicken breasts and pork chops.  And, as my mother could tell you, we protect our children from this connection as well.

if it doesn't look like an animal it's easier for us to eat it

No faces here

Mr. Foer recounts a tale in the “New Yorker” of his first crisis with being an animal-eater at nine years of age.  “His parents left him and his older brother with a baby sitter and a platter of chicken. The babysitter declined to join the boys for dinner. ‘You know that chicken is chicken, right?’ Foer was shaken. That chicken was a chicken! Why had he never thought of this before? He put down his fork.” He goes on to express anger at his parents for not preparing him for this.

what's in a chicken sandwhich?

Chicken sammy anyone?

Once certain truths are revealed about how the meat we eat at restaurants is raised and killed it’s impossible to play dumb. There is no Santa Claus and our meat does not come from  Farmer Joe who wears overalls and spends his day bailing hay while chicken’s cluck in the yards and sheep graze in picket fenced fields. On the contrary, it comes from factories where meat is mass produced and living animals are treated like dead ones. So I’m proud to say that I’ve gone back to vegetarianism after 17 years of devouring short ribs, pulled pork, lamb shank, bacon, coq au vin, pork loin, shredded beef…

Okay, so at this point you might be wondering what exactly this has to do with cats. I mean this entry is titled “Feline Mignon.”

For a short while I thought about eating meat that only comes from animals that are raised humanly – on local farms, hormone-free, free roaming. But then I read about one of the factors that drove Jonathan Safran Foer to veganism – his newly found love of animals thanks to his adopted dog George.

He questions why our society deems one animal appropriate for consumption but not others and it seems to be quite arbitrary. If we were to go by intelligence, it could be argued that pigs, with the intelligence of a three year old are smarter than dogs. So why do we eat them but not dogs?

I'm 3 years old

I am as intelligent as a 3 year old

And here’s where it gets really bad. It seems that we do in fact eat dogs—we just don’t know it!  An excerpt from “Eating Animals“:

Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually. This amounts to millions of pounds of meat now being thrown away every year. …Rendering—the conversion of animal protein unfit for human consumption into food for livestock and pets—allows processing plants to transform useless dead dogs into productive members of the food chain. In America, millions of dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters every year become the food for our food. (Almost twice as many dogs and cats are euthanized as are adopted.) So let’s just eliminate this inefficient and bizarre middle step.”

Much like Jonathan with his pet dog, my cats have given me a new appreciation for all living creatures.

My cats express emotions from fear, to love, and anger.  At the mention of lamb or rabbit I cannot help but envision my pudgy stuffed-animal of a cat Petey. When reading about hens packed tightly together never to see the light of day I see Petey.  Pigs kept in small pen where they cannot even turn to scratch an itch. Calves skinned alive. Petey.

what's the different between eating rabbit and eating a cat?

Where's Petie?

In the past, my relationship with meat has been on-again off-again. This time I’m confident I’ve kicked carcasses to the curb for good and that my relationship with vegetarianism is the real thing.

Though I admit, I have been flirting with vegan


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34 Responses to Feline Mignon

  1. sandysays1 says:

    Plants are living organisms too. Correct? They produce oxygen not CO2? They’re more beneficial than animals. Right? UW scientists have determined that some pine trees think releasing feramones to fight invading insect invasions. Just some food for thought. What might we eat if that’s true?

    • Ihavecat says:

      Hi SandySays1,

      I’m glad you stopped by my blog to take a read and even comment! I figured someone was going to post something along the lines you did.

      Okay – Animal, Mineral and vegetable right? I seem to recall that from school and I guess it’s coming in handy! I’m only really dealing with the “animal” part of that trifecta at the moment. I’m not arguing plants as living organisms.

      The question of how in this country, we have deemed some animals “okay” to eat and others “taboo” is interesting I think. It seems to be random.

      I do think if people want to eat meat that’s perfectly fine and when i started thinking about all of this I thought I’d just eat locally grown, humanely treated animals. But I have found that if I’m not okay eating a cat or a dog, I really shouldn’t eat any meat. I can no longer separate the two.

      If people do want to eat meat I encourage they visit their local farmers market. I found out today that the Union Square Green Market committee actual visits all the farms of the farmers that have stands there. To ensure animals are well-treated and that “roam free” eggs really means the birds live outdoors versus having the “option” to go out (which most don’t b/c they have never been outside and/or are terrified).

      T

      • sandysays1 says:

        Did you feel a gentle tug on your leg? Yep, we (mostly)are products of western European culture and eat similarly to that heritage line. But travel a bit and you’ll find protein comes from a lot of sources. In Bangkok’s less westernized markets, snake is offered, dog is a favorite in parts of China, and if you don’t like fish in Micronesia you’ll get real hungry. Point is that every one eats differently. And, like you, I think everyone has their right to choose their life style and to try to convince the other guy their’s is the “correct” way. But when somebody says this is the only way and you have to do it my way, they should become high-listed on the food-chain. Like your style.

    • Ihavecat says:

      Opps! Guess I took it a bit seriously! Thanks for reading – I hope you read some of my previous posts and come back for more! I was wondering given you have a pup picture as your profile photo!

  2. mariana says:

    thanks a lot. meat is all i have left.

    years ago i quit smoking, then cut back on drinking as getting older was forcing me to face that the hangover is just not as bareable as it used to be… now you make me read this, and suddenly i see my old dog capone running through fields of green in dog heaven. and the guilt has set in.

    i have no sex, no cigarettes, less wine. and now i can’t even eat swine.

    grrrr… why must you be so right?

    m

    • Ihavecat says:

      I know. Sorry. I’m right there with you. The older I get the less I even want to drink. No sex. Never was a smoker, but I always loved my bacon!

      The more I learned the harder it was for me to personally justify eating meat.

  3. Jen says:

    sing it sister! thank you for this thoughtful and informative essay. you rock. xoj

  4. Lee says:

    I really enjoyed reading your essay, and you read my mind, I wanted to p/u Alicia’s new book and I’m a big fan of Jane Velez-Mitchell. I want to make the lifestyle change as well, Just need to break old cooking habits and master the art of preparing delicious vegan/vegetarian meals! There’s hope for me! I adore the animal kingdom too much. I can’t be a hypocrite, an animal rights advocate and then have a burger for lunch.

    • Ihavecat says:

      Lee – I hear you The disconnect became too hard to ignore but isn’t it amazing that even as animal lovers it can take us so long to “get it”? It’s actually not really that hard to eat vege and eat tasty foods! Alicia is actually a “foodie” and she eats vegan! Good luck! Thanks for visiting :)
      T

  5. A great read, T… and your choices of photos definitely pull at the heartstrings.

    I appreciate your perspective as well as your respect for each person’s individual choices. Myself, I’m a diabetic. So that means that often, protein is my friend. I know there are plenty of vegetarian diabetics out there, but I also know it’s a challenge. I’m very fortunate to live in a great city with some of the best farmers markets around. Even my neighborhood grocery store does an impressive job supporting local growers and farms. So at least when given the option I can make choices that feel a little better.

    Since my diagnosis I’ve also been trying very hard to become much closer friends with vegetables. I always had a love affair with fruit and I’ve been forced to restrict my contact with some of those old friends. A restraining order was necessary for bananas and grapes… but at least I’ll always have the berries.

    Glogirly

    Oh and Petey… well the lower left of course. I can spot a cute little kitty nose from a mile away.

  6. Sharon says:

    Beautifully written, compelling entry, Tamar. I will miss eating meat – for sure. But, as you know, I find it increasingly difficult to turn a blind eye to what I know (and I know very little compared to what really goes on!).

    The argument that we are arbitrary in deciding which meats are acceptable to eat and which aren’t isn’t as arbitrary as you may think though, if you consider history. Certain animals where chosen to be a food source versus others. For examples, horses were chosen for transportation and cows were for food. I would have to assume there was a rational thought process that went into these choices- perhaps the physical capabilities in terms of what value they add to society (e.g. physical strength of horses and their innate behavior to gallop and move from one place to another with great ease). The quiet – sweet – nature of the cow probably made him vulnerable to paying a higher price to “serving” society. If the cow was able to do more for people than just sit there, than maybe they wouldn’t have ended up on our kitchen table as dinner. It doesn’t seem right, but it was the way of the world at the time.

    I guess what I struggle with most is the way that animals are treated before they are killed and HOW they are killed. That is the most disturbing part as we know that animals are an evolved enough species to feel pain and express emotion (contrary to what the ignorant still believe). That’s what haunts me. And, Americans, as a country, have become so focused on mass consumption and commercialization that we have forgotten – or simply refuse to see- that animals aren’t steel that gets processed to build a car. They are living creatures that get processed in a way that most people would rather not face. So they look the other way.

    We all have to make our own choices. I can’t say in all honesty that I will get rid of all of my leather handbags and coats because of my newly found cause. But, I will certainly think twice before buying them again and contributing to the ignorance that exists.

    • Ihavecat says:

      Sharon, thanks for commenting.
      I struggle then with why in some countries Horse is eaten but we find that despicable while we eat pig with the intelligence of a 3 year old while many cultures – Jew and Muslim do not believe in eating pork. Some countries eat DOG and we condemn them, though we do the same – indirectly!
      T

  7. TheModernBunny says:

    I recently became a vegetarian myself, and for the same reasons you gave- factory farming is appalling and animals have a right to live out their lives.

    (Plus, I just knew that if I read Foer’s new book, I’d become a vegetarian anyway. May as well do it now. :P )

    I feel like I’m being rewarded by better health. Cutting meat out of one’s diet really does make one feel more energetic and lighter.

    I see no reason why I would ever voluntarily go back to eating animals.

    • Ihavecat says:

      Thanks for visiting ModernBunny! I just got Foer’s book in the mail – will be sure to let you know what i think. The vegan thing seems very daunting b/c i love cheese so much, but it seems like the next step. I feel terrible eating milk and cheese and butter and thinking about the chained up animals… :(

  8. Jennifer says:

    Hi Tamar -

    This is my first time back to the blog since we met early last week. I loved this piece. I’ve been vegetarian for a few years now and my decision was a direct result of the relationship that I’ve developed with my pets (also two cats, as we discussed!). However, I didn’t consciously make that connection. I just became more aware of animals around me – all animals – and more sensitive to the portrayals of animal cruelty that I viewed online and in other places.

    I also recently started reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book and have decided to take the next step and embark on a “vegan-mostly” diet (I’m in London at the moment and I’m finding it a bit more challenging to do so, given the rigorous work schedule). I want to be vegan because I don’t want animals to suffer in order for me to get nourishment that I really can – if I really try – get from non-animal sources. There is so much suffering in the egg and dairy industry. Vegetarianism seems like a cakewalk compared to veganism, but I am slowly making changes and learning to love soymilk in my coffee and and to get by without egg and cheese sandwiches. I think it will be a process. I really, really love cheese! And butter! I need to remind myself that I also love bacon, steak au poivre and BBQ ribs and I’ve lived happily without those for a long time.

    Keep up the good work and great thinking. And keep in touch.

    Best,
    Jennifer

    • Ihavecat says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks for stopping by again! It was lovely to meet (re-meet?) you the other week.

      I totally know what you mean about cheese and butter – i love it! I have a friend who has gone vegan so I’m dabbling in it. I feel terrible now when I digest butter and cheese….i don’t want to eat things that have been created as a result of any other creature’s suffering. Especially when we can live without it. I miss pulled pork and lamb shank but all i have to do is visualize the animals and i lose the taste for it!

      It’s definitely a challenge to ensure you get all the necessary nutrients (of course it turns out many vitamins aren’t even vegetarian let along vegan!). I can imagine especially in Europe. My French friend says they don’t even know what being a vegetarian is in France. My sister was there recently and she almost starved. She would ask for salad and that would come laden with lardon, tuna etc!

      By the way, it turns out a lot of cheese isn’t even vegetarian, they use Rennet (from the lining of baby cow stomach) as an enzyme of sorts for stability or something like that.

      I just started a new page on my site titled “Flirting with Vegan” that will detail my trials and tribulations as I dip my toe into the Vegan universe.

      Best to you in your travels and I hope we can reconnect when you are back in town!

      T

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  10. Caroline says:

    Great story! Very inspiring! I have been flirting with being a vegetarian for years and decided has my new year resolution to start living by my principles and cut meat permenantly. I just can’t wrap my head around torturing to death and eating innocent being for pleasure. Since we can easily live without meat eating some is only a question of pleasure and that horrible.

    • Ihavecat says:

      Thanks Carline! I’m with you 100% the problem is that it’s a very slippery slope! Once i hear about and think about factory farming in terms of milk and cheese i don’t want to eat milk products…then someone posted something about not wearing wool (dont even get me started on leather – i feel terribly guilty!).

      Thanks for reading the blog! hope you come again!

  11. D.R. says:

    I’m not vegetarian yet, but I am cutting back on the animal products that I eat. It’s a gradual process. For me, it’s because of the fat and calories in meat. I’ve been eating more fruits, and plant-based things like pasta. Wish I could have my own gardening space… can’t wait ’til I get my own place.

    • Ihavecat says:

      DR thanks for stopping by! Yes it’s gradual. Once i think about the animals and their intelligence it becomes easier. I know what you mean about lack of garden. Living in NYC it’s tough but at least we have farmers markets etc.
      T

  12. Daiane says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 6 years now. I love animals and I can’t see myself eating them. I recently got married and my husband became a vegetarian as well. I am so glad I will be able to raise my own cruelty-free family. We are both walking towards veganism. I’ve been vegan for 2 years and gave up when I came to US as Au Pair.

    I love to see that the love for all the animals is spreading. Keep doing it!

    • Ihavecat says:

      Thanks Daiane! YEs, as you can probably tell from my new page “Flirtin’ With Vegan” I too am trying to go Vegan. Thanks so much for stopping by the blog – hope you come by again soon!

  13. So how was Foer’s book? I finished it recently. Near the end when he discusses how “beef” is slaughtered I felt like life had turned into a nightmare.

    I’m becoming more vegan. It isn’t too hard. It’s difficult to eradicate ALL egg and dairy products because they’re in just about everything. But cutting out egg and dairy itself? Not as hard as I would have thought.

    Starbucks is now selling vegan cookies…..

    • Ihavecat says:

      Modern Bunny, I must confess I haven’t read all of it yet. I have read some of it, plus the articles he has written in the New Yorker plus heard his NPR interview and his watched his ELLEN interview.

      Did you read Skinny Bitch?
      I do think it’s easy to give up milk. Butter and cheese are harder for me.
      T

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  15. kira says:

    Tamar,

    Wow! What an awesome post! I’ve been a vegetarian now for almost 6 years. I couldn’t help but laugh with your opening paragraph about the applesauce. I used to be on a year round swim team, and my parents just like yours thought that it was necessary for a growing kid that was swimming to eat loads of meat PRIOR to practice. As a result, I would hide the meat in my cheeks and wait until I got to swim practice to spit everything out in the trash. I even got the “chipmunk” award for this at our awards dinner!

    I agree with you that the disassociation of what people are truly eating is what renders most people to continue in their ignorant habits of eating. Seeing truckloads of cows, pigs, and chickens on family road trips or passing by a chicken processing plant and smelling the smell was enough to scar me for life.

    I’m working towards a more vegan diet and try to eat vegan when I’m able. Cheese is my guilty pleasure I must admit, but the soy cheeses are pretty good!

    I’m so happy to see another compassionate person spreading awareness about vegetarianism.. I can’t tell you how many questions, comments, or non supporters I’ve encountered and I’m glad to know that I’m in good company!!

    Rock on! :)

    • Ihavecat says:

      Aw, thanks so much for your heartfelt comment – I truly appreciated it! That’s so funny about the “chipmunk” cheeks!

      I hear you in terms of cheese, i did write about a few alternatives on my “flirting with vegan” page if you wanna check it out!

      Be sure you sign up for I HAVE CAT email updates and be sure to sign up for the most recent giveaway!

      Look forward to meeting you in person!
      T

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  20. Jen Smith says:

    I became vegetarian again a few years ago, after adopting our cat (Squeaky) and had a similar experience to Jonathan … living with Squeaky made me think about the way we treat (and eat animals).

  21. WickedCats says:

    I like to think that if more people knew where and how their food came from they would think twice about eating that hamburger, or those chicken wings.  People like to think of the food they eat as unintelligent and void of emotions.  It’s easier to kill something if you don’t see it in those terms.

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