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The informed carnivore

Kelly is a summer vegetarian. The amount of meat in our diet was fairly small anyway, but having a box full of organic fruits and veggies sitting in our kitchen for 16 weeks certainly helps.

I remain Switzerland in the omnivore versus veggie debate. I love a salad. But I also think the ethics are there for a nice juicy steak. Let me explain...

Just the other day, I had a conversation (in the context of greyhound racing) about how I love steak, but I also love cows. And I think this is at the heart of why people think vegans are a bit touched in the head. Because really the same principle applies to both greyhounds and, say, sheep. Nobody is going to raise these animals just for the heck of it. Ok, maybe not "nobody." But the reason we have sheep or greyhounds or cows is that they're useful to us. Whether it's food or clothing or racing, you look at the numbers from something like NPR's article on "Visualizing A Nation Of Meat Eaters" and you see the stats on what it "costs" in resources to raise one hamburger and you instantly start questioning meat-eating.

I'm not sure enough people think through the opposite side of the equation though. What if we get rid of greyhound racing? What if we all stop eating cows and chickens and pigs? Stop eating honey? Stop wearing wool? What happens to the animals we feel so ethically towards? Is everyone going to start breeding these lovable creatures to continue the populations if there is no market for them?

I always get a smile on my face when the same friend--hi, Scott!--who happens to be involved with marine biology, mentions the words "charismatic megafauna." It's the fancy term for cute, cuddly dolphins or lions or whatever draws your attention. The wolves at Yellowstone get all the love. But it's the bison and the seasonal plants and the tiny shrimp in the ocean that sustain an ecosystem.

Another friend and I had a nice discussion/debate on this in the context of our recent pigeon-killing fight here locally. What does being kind to animals look like? I maintain that I love animals and, thus, want to eat them.

Kelly is actually quite squeamish about meat. She doesn't want to see how her meat gets to her--though I maintain that if one is going to eat meat one should be willing to go out and slaughter it oneself. Points to hunters here. They're the ultimate sustainable, local types.

Where does the paleo diet fit into this? For those not familiar with it, that's the theory that we're currently not eating what we evolved to eat. In short, agriculture has us over-depending on grains and processed foods when in reality we should be eating the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Nuts, berries, and game. I'm not sure I buy crunching down some raw beef as a dedication to saving the planet. But I see their point.

As I mentioned about widening our local freeway, the modern obesity problem is the same as traffic congestion. We think eating a hamburger in our car is a good lifestyle choice then wonder why we're fat and sitting in rush hour backup.

So we're back to the "cost" of eating meat and why I'm still hooked on meat. My preference is continuing to head towards organic, sustainable farming--including meat. But it's much more than that. Your cheeseburger shouldn't cost $.99. Eggs shouldn't cost that either. Nor milk. I frequently explain how the process involved in getting that cup of coffee to you should make you respect a good cup even more...and pay more for it. But we want things cheap. Even if they're made in China. Then we complain about outsourcing.

I had intended today to write a response to an article on parenting that a friend posted...the whole issue of spoiling kids. But then, this issue of eating meat captures the metaphor of parenting in many ways. No, this isn't A Modest Proposal...I'm saying that both as a consumer and as a parent our choices should stop being so hung up on method and more focused on outcomes. Quit worrying about staying home or working. Quit worrying about organic. Quit worrying about being vegetarian. And start asking yourself if your choices reflect the kind of world you want to live in. Are you helping your neighbors out? Are you supporting companies and industries that you feel will improve national/global quality of life?

I'll leave the implications to the reader, but I know for our family the urge to move to a sheep farm and grow our own food sure sounds like not only a lovely, pastoral way to live but a fairly reasonable way to be low impact on the planet.


  1. I loved this post. You put such an interesting perspective on animals and their meat.
    I threw out the idea to Eric about keeping chickens for eggs since Evan loves chickens so much. He said it would be stupid because he would eat all the chickens before they could have eggs. You don't keep food as pets.
    Also I totally agree with Scott and the marine biology thing. So many midwestern girls want to be marine biologists because they love dolphins. What about the phytoplankton? They get no respect.

  2. Thanks, Sam! We wish the condo assoc would let us keep chickens. They're actually quite endearing from what I've read/heard...some even come inside and watch tv with you. lol Indeed, phytoplankton get no respect. Krill are the Rodney Dangerfield of the sea. :-)


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