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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…