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Awesome new book! May 31, 2008

Posted by phledge in fat, fun, phlegm.

There have been many times where I have been tempted, or rather goaded by guilt, to become vegetarian.  Obviously it’s not for the weight loss element; or maybe not so obviously, as I used to believe that there was no such thing as a fat vegetarian, and even now I have my suspicions that the kind of meat consumption in which this country engages isn’t exactly healthy for us.  But I digress.

There’s the ecological impact of meat—not so much the methane/CO₂ issue as the land, grain, water, and oil consumption as well as waste runoff that bothers me.  There’s also the ethics of meat, which I struggle with the most.  I am a point-blank in-your-face animal lover of the umpteenth degree (dude, we buried one of our dead fish the other day) but from a Pagan perspective I believe that nature knows best and that some of us are prey and some of us are predators.  That, as long as you approach the prey with respect and honor and humility, eating animals is a natural behavior that can strengthen those who engage in it.  At the same time, I try to imagine what it would be like to raise my own lambs (I like sheep, both as characters and to eat), to quite frankly fall in love with them because damnit they are so effin’ cute in a big way, and then to turn around and sign their death sentence so I can have chops.  I don’t think I could do it, and I’ve bemoaned the fact to Mr Phledge, because for a long time now I’ve wanted a teeny tiny working farm with chickens and sheep and horses.  I had this idyllic concept of shearing the ewes and collecting the eggs on this no-kill farm, all the while buying steaks and roasts from the grocery every week.  Dissonant, much?

I think this is what it’s like to be so removed from the food chain, to not be able to conceive of how this happens but just that it does, that someone out there does all the work and suffers all the heartache for me so that I don’t have to cry at every meal.  Welp, that someone now has a name for me:  Catherine Friend.  (How great is a last name like that?)

I just finished reading her new book, The Compassionate Carnivore, Or How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old McDonald’s Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat.  I am so crazy about this book that I instantaneously loaned it to a friend, which was kinda dumb since I had every intention of quoting it in my blog plug here but, well, you’ll have to be satisfied with my inane ranting and the website link.  This book by no means eliminates the ethical question of whether it is okay to eat meat or not, but it definitely explores the fact that ALL of us can agree that current agribusiness techniques are unacceptable.  It gives a glimpse of how to appreciate the sanctity of animal life while honoring their ability to feed humans.  I still haven’t worked out all the kinks in my brain that says “killing bad, living good” and I’m not sure that I ever will, but I know that right now I am a mindless eater (what Friend calls “baby bird” consuming—just opening our mouths and letting someone else, for example ConAgra, feed us without explanation).  I don’t want to be like that.  I need to know that I am getting food from people who care about their animals, yes, even as they are sending them to slaughter.  Friend eloquently describes the differences between how factory farming and natural farming handle and treat animals, and I gotta say her way sounds a hell of a lot nicer than the others.  I appreciated the fact that this woman cried when she and her partner took their first group of lambs to the abattoir.  There’s a chapter in this book that even now, as I write, thinking about it makes me tear up.  But the sadness is very much balanced by hope that readers will take on the mantle of “compassionate carnivore” and encourage other meat-eaters to do the same.

Please, if you are a vegetarian and you are inclined to decry the philosophy imparted by this farmer, read the book before you judge the contents.  This woman, like many others in the foodchain, from producer to consumer, really does care about her animals.  I don’t think it will convert anyone who doesn’t eat meat for ethical reasons, but it will at least cause some consideration for how omnivores may or may not view their suppers.  Also?  She is funny as hell.  And she has a blog with pictures of her lovely farm and its lovely animals.  (Link is on the book website.)  So what are you waiting for?  Go read this book!


1. Ashley - May 31, 2008

That looks like an interesting book, and I’ll look into it.

I care very much about animal welfare, but I like meat and I honestly believe eating meat is natural and morally neutral (look! Pointy teeth!). That said, I don’t approve of how most meat animals are treated, and try my best to eat local and organic whenever possible (with a good deal of success. All my pork and beef are local and organic).

I honestly wouldn’t be too concerned about your squeamishness with meat. A lot of people are squeamish in lots of ways, and I’m blessed that I’m not. I never had a problem with dissecting animals, or the cadaver lab, and had I been more inclined I could easily handle the squick factor of being a doctor. Not many people can handle the idea of cutting into a child, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong (in surgical context, of course).

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