Archive | February, 2013

Feel Free to Pig out on Meat Vegetarians

4 Feb

This is little writing project I had to put together for a class…

Pigs-head-001

To the Vegetarians of the world,

 

Perhaps meat eaters and vegetarians are two different species, and therefore of different thoughts, ambitions, and values. You see, I find myself attempting to justify your lifestyle and continuously emerge from the brainstorming process further confused, and happily craving meat. I have always been extremely passionate about food, with a keen persuasion towards carnivorous fare. I was raised with the traditional concepts of a healthy diet, mostly in the framework of a colorful triangle, which to my dismay encouraged a disproportionate amount of fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, I was content with a “balanced diet” as long as the greens, yellows and reds sat next to a slab of animal protein. I cannot recall the first vegetarian I met, or discussed the matters of food with; however, I am sure that I was then, as I am now, perplexed by the matter, especially in terms of the variety of motivations vegetarians carry out in their dietary choices, that is, do they exclude meat for health reasons, or ethical reasons?  I am not only troubled by their lifestyle because of my undying love for animal sustenance, but because there is not only a human history of meat consumption, but there is also a growing trend of responsible farming and harvesting that cater to the ethical mind. I by no means advocate a strictly meat-centric diet, and I fully encourage the reduction of the amount of red meat the average person consumes weekly, however, I do believe that there is benefit to the inclusion of animal protein in ones diet for health, and ethical, yes ethical reasons. This letter, my vegetarian friends, is not meant to condemn your lifestyle, but to root out the motivation to the abstinence of meat, and to promote my current knowledge of sustainable animal consumption practices. I am of the mind that we can work together to form a plan of action for your gradual integration back into the meat eating world, because I am sure you are lying when you say that hamburger doesn’t look appetizing.

 

I was recently gifted a book written by Hugh Fearnley-Wittinshall, a British chef and TV personality who is a strong advocate of locally sourced and produced food products, entitled “The River Cottage Meat Book”. The book offers insight into the need for radical reform in the production of meat, and how positive change may be achieved. He explores the carnivorous history of humans, and the moral relationship shared between ourselves, and the animals we kill for food. Hugh marks a pointed issue, stating, “It doesn’t strike me as in any way obvious that killing animals is, in itself, morally wrong. Particularly if we are killing them for food. We are not outside the natural order of things” (Fearnley-Wittinshall 17). The disconnect occurs when we as the consumer are introduced to a neat package at the store, with “its animal origins all but obliterated” (Fearnley-Wittinshall 19). I approach these points with this frame of mind: animal consumption has the capacity to be morally flawed; however, if the consumer takes a conscious approach to the treatment and production of the animal, they fall into the natural order of predator and prey. If we are willing to eat the meat, we must be able to face the cow, as the faceless consumption of widely produced animal product encourages animal mistreatment, and the entrance of chemicals and unsavory practice into the foods we eat. If we encourage not only a closer relationship with our food, but also the slaughter practice, would vegetarians feel compelled to inch closer to meat consumption? The death of animals is inevitable, therefore, utilizing them as a resource, whilst using responsible methods, seems practical.

 

It is understandable that vegetarianism is a protesting lifestyle, aimed at improving animal rights and well-being, both which are currently removed from the wide-scale economy of meat production. However, I believe that change can only be achieved through the hands of the consumer. In the Food and Wine article entitled “Why Vegetarians are Eating Meat,” Christine Lennon claims that eating sustainable meat is “a new form of activism – a way of striking a blow against the factory farming of livestock” (http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/why-vegetarians-are-eating-meat). If you buy something, you support the system that produces it; therefore, in buying meat from producers who have ethical practices, we can encourage change in the industry. More importantly, there are nutritional advantages of grass-fed “pasture raised” beef over factory produced, in that it is lower in fat, and will “have higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and strengthen people’s immune systems” (http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/why-vegetarians-are-eating-meat).

Consumer choice falls on vegetarians as well. The production of meal replacements derived from soy and wheat gluten is a production process that is energy intensive and tends to be highly processed, containing chemical additives (http://www.cereplast.com/flexitarians-the-new-meat-eating-vegetarians/). Also, where meat is generally a locally produced item, many fruits and vegetables require being shipped from abroad, not only depraving those local populations from food sources, but costing environmentally.

 

Meat consumption is not a choice that is as simple as yes or no. It requires a good deal of thought and consideration if we wish to encourage the growth of ethical standards and practices. I do not believe that a vegetarian lifestyle is the answer to creating change in food production and personal health standards. The true answer is becoming involved in bolstering the production of farms using sound methods to create not only moral practices of raising and slaughtering meat, but in creating a product that is healthier and sustainable. It is the consumer’s job to become involved in the available choices, and to encourage, with our buying practices, better alternatives to factory farming. It is because of this, my vegetarian friend, that you may no longer fear that steak, or rack of lamb because their consumption and your choices can produce change.

 

Sincerely your meat-eating friend,

 

Katie Arbuthnot