losing my religion
I've been a vegetarian for nearly a decade. I became one because it seemed like the logical and responsible personal choice after learning about the factory farm system. I didn't want to be a part of that, so I stopped eating all meat altogether. Honestly, I never missed it. Some people go vegetarian and start crumbling at the knees at the smell of sizzling bacon, but not me. Sure, I get a little nostalgic, but never had another bite after that choice was made. This made so much sense to me because all the meat in our stores was shipped from Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) but now that I'm living in the rural Northeast, and have so much local, grass-fed meat around me—I am beginning to wonder about that original decision's validity.... Within ten miles of this cabin there is free-range beef, lamb, and poultry. There is a rabbit farm, a thriving trout stream, and a freezer full of all these things wating for me at Wayside. Have I been avoiding meat out of plain old habit, or worse...pride? Have I been selfish, and wrong, to buy organic tofu from California trucked on a oil-guzzling rig all the way to Vermont when there was rabbit stew a walk down the road waiting for me?
Catherine Friend (the author of Hit By a Farm, a beginner shepherding book I adore) recently published a book called The Compassionate Carnivore, and it is amazing. Written by a small sustainable farmer in Minnesota, Catherine raises her own poultry, lamb, and beef. She spends an entire volume talking about the kindness for animals (and activism) local meat entails. I know to some of you that may sound batty. Some vegetarians will never look at eating any animal as compassionate - but hear me out. Her reasoning is solid.
Friend's argument for grass-fed, humanely-raised meat is simple—if you care about animal welfare, support the system doing it right. If you think the factory farm convention is cruel, don't put your money into that business. As consumers our dollars are our voting ballots. Paying for local, organic, meat shows the industry we not only refuse them, but will reward the farmers we feel are doing things better. This is simple business. The factory farm industry exists because it makes money. Personally, I don't care if they change their practices because it's bad business to mistreat animals, I just want those pigs out of those steal cages. When the big wigs in the meat packing industry see droves of people going back to their neighborhood farms...things will change. So will the lives of pigs. Catherine made me understand that eating happy meat makes these changes happen. I'm starting to doubt my old food religion. For me, it makes less and less sense.
You can eat all the veggie burgers you want, but buying fake meat makes you no longer collateral damage to the CAFO business. Vegetarians, by refusing to assist the small organic meat efforts, are simply quietly sitting out the controversy in this particular aspect. This is not an attack on vegetarians! This is exactly what I am doing! But you must understand that this persona decision to return to meat, as a future meat farmer, feels right. I want to support the farmers in my community letting their cows out on grass and letting their chickens dance in the sun. Actually, It seems ridiculous not to take part. I think I'm just balking at change. It feels like such a huge step after such a long time. What is it with me? I can move cross-country but eating a slice of my neighbor's cow feels like a major life change? Jeesh.
What do you folks think?