I think David has probably heard it from me a thousand times in the 12 years we have been together: “I’m thinking about becoming a vegetarian”.
Sometimes he laughs as if he knows it may never happen, perhaps it’s because he knows just how I eat meat, practically raw. What he may not know is that is part of it. What he may also not know is just how much time I have seriously spent thinking about it. A lot.
But there are many barriers to becoming a vegetarian. Some in plain sight, some well hidden and perhaps not considered buy some vegetarians.
The obvious barriers are:
- Nutritional supplementing
We’re designed to eat meat, at the very base of our make-up, our teeth tell us we are built as omnivores. Eaters of both plant and animals. To supplement the loss of protein we’d need to look at legumes, fungi, bean curd and other ways to bring the protein back into the diet.
A massive part of the human culture is gathering around food and vegetarians are not well catered for, unless you go to a vegetarian restaurant and they are few and far between. It can impact visits to a friend’s house or even limit invitations from friends who don’t care to prepare two meals or to limit everyone to a vegetarian option.
- Social Stigma
Probably could have been listed above, but it is more than about socialising. There is a weird look people get when you tell them you’re a vegetarian. It’s true, I’ve seen it and in my younger days probably delivered the look a few times. People think vegetarians are weird and their vegan cousins are even weirder and will often avoid them.
As we become a busier society it is near impossible to avoid the need to eat out on occasion and almost no fast food restaurants provide vegetarian options, nor can they assure any vegetarian that their meals haven’t been cooked with animal fats and other animal by-products to provide taste. If you’re a vegetarian, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to preparing meals.
You might ask why, at the age of 35 I’d even consider the switch and why would a near-raw meat eater think he could be satisfied going “vego“. Well I have plenty of answers for you.
- Animal Cruelty
First and foremost is the intolerable cruelty many of our food producing animals face during their lifetime. Mistreated and often miss-fed. We have cows that are not properly sedated before being carved up on the slaughterhouse floors. Herbivores that are fed ground up livestock served as pellets, in essence cows eating cows because it is cheaper to do this than provide them with grain feed. We have all kinds of animals existing in cages barely large enough to hold them, but perfect of containment. They are in these cages from several days after birth until they are loaded on over-packed trucks and taken to the slaughter houses.
- Loss of environment
Not the animals that we eat, but ours and the other animals and cultures we are displacing to provide grazing lands. Huge swaths of the Amazon forest and the orangutan jungles of indonesia are being wiped out to make way for industry. Not just food-product industry but some of it is for this purpose. The animals we eat don’t have an environment and it most cases shouldn’t even exist in the numbers they do, we’re buggering up the ecology of Earth to cater to ourselves and it’s not even about not needing the food, we do, but it’s about…
Our huge farms and exports can’t be eaten all by us, we throw so much away. I consider what it was like when I was a kid, going to the Grace Bros (now Myer) food all in Mt Druitt in the western suburbs of Sydney. That’s where we’d do our weekly shop. In the cold storage areas would be meat, in the store would be a butcher. The fridges wouldn’t be stacked to the top like they are now. There would be a selection of items available and if they didn’t have what you wanted pre-packed you could take a number and request your cut from the butcher and he do it for you then and there.Now I find that our meat is all trucked in, pre-packed and in abundance. Partly because mass production, storage and delivery has become cheaper and partly to reduce labour costs within stores. But with this trucking in of food comes the need to have more on hand and I have to believe that a whole lot of the stock goes to waste, resigned to the dumpster when it is past its due date and written down by the store as spoiled stock. That’s a lot of animals who have lived and died without purpose. It makes me sad to think that anything has breathed air, had conscious thought (which I believe all animals do) and then lost its life without purpose.
- The Chicken
I don’t know how they have done it, but another recollection, when I was a kid we’d have the traditional Sunday roast and only on some sundays would this be a chicken. Back then most chickens were used for egg production, there wasn’t a massive industry in chicken meat. These days it is practically a staple. Something we have to thank for this is hormone therapy and genetic manipulation. Them ol’ chickens aren’t what they used to be. Some say that hormone therapy never really happened or that it wasn’tIn 1945 it took 98 days to grow a chicken to full-size (about 1.8 kg), by 1986 they had this count down to just 37 days, an unnatural growth rate, combined with crowded conditions cause the chickens we eat to suffer severe and painful deformations in their legs and backs during their short life. Some are killed and removed, but many remain and are sold to us as food. After all once the lower-leg and feet are removed we wouldn’t see that they were mangled. There was even an ad campaign run around 15 years ago detailing that this fast growth of chickens resulted in liquefied internal organs, the chickens dying slowly and painfully and all for our benefit.
But even dead chickens are of use to us. Often collected and ground down into a paste that forms granules that are fed back to the other chickens and other livestock meant for human consumption, or provided as fertilizer to farmers and the general public.
Practically kept pregnant through artificial insemination and in some cases provided hormones to convince them they have just given birth, dairy cattle don’t fare well. Those that do give birth have their calf removed within 24 hours, the belief being that this prevents bonding of the mother and calf, but many people report that recent mothers bellow for days and search for their missing calf. These calves are raised on reconstituted milk replacement, never to have suckled from their mothers’ teat instead drinking from buckets. Some of the female calves are added to the herd, male calves can expect to be destroyed immediately or raised to 4 weeks of age and sent to slaughter houses to become veal. There is of course also the common held belief that cow’s milk is for calves and not really a good food for humans.Meat Cattle fare even worse. Kept in sometimes bad conditions and sent to slaughter houses where they are sent up runs to receive a bolt to the forehead to knock them out and they are carved up. It is commonly understood that these herd animals communicate and know on their way up the killing run that those in front of them have met their demise, meaning the last few moments of their lives are incredibly stressful. In their life they can expect to be fed animal products, sometimes the waste from slaughter houses is recycled in granular form, much the same as with chickens.
- Fish and other water dwelling creatures
I was walking along the dock near work the other day and saw a man remove a fish from a fishing line and toss it on the dock. Bait his line and resume fishing, all the while this poor fish was gasping from breath and flopping about on the dock slowly dying. That is just plain disgusting. The fish deserves a little more respect. But more than that we are fishing out the oceans, removing octopus from the ecosystem by over fishing the baby octopus and downright cruel in our treatment of catch.I’m also concerned about prawns (shrimp), lobsters and the like. Because while we think the best way to prepare them is to put them in a pot of boiling water, ALIVE, it has been shown that they suffer right to their death. In humans we know that if extreme shock is placed on the nervous system, the system shuts down. The pain receptors in the brain go offline and therefore in extreme cases pain ceases while the cause of the pain may go on. This doesn’t happen in crustaceans. The pain receptors in their brains and their nervous systems continue to function until their are dead. Sure the sound you hear when you drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water isn’t it screaming in pain, it is the superheated air escaping from the shell, but I sure bet if they could scream they would.
But all of the above is only a small part of it, there are many other reasons to either start local farming again or to become a vegetarian. The massive amounts of water the industry uses is another consideration.
And there there are the hidden things I have thought about that make me think. Such as the growing of fruit and veg, even if done by way of organic means could still be fertilised by blood and bone type fertilizers, therefore animal products. I suppose being a vegetarian would still reduce the use of animal products on my part.
I’m not one to be ignorant about where my food comes from, I think it’s important for us to be aware that something has died for us to eat. And it would be nice to know that the animal died in the best way possible. It’s important to me to be grateful to the animals who have given their lives for our meal.
Maybe I’ll become a part-time vegetarian. It could be a good start. And then slowly ease into it. That way I could still socialise, choose veg options when available and still not impact my friends and family when they decide to host us for dinner.
Sure this is a muddled mess of thoughts, but then I guess that’s what my blog is about. Might have to tidy it up as I put some more thought into it.