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Food for thought 10/24/10

Meat-eaters rehab. I eat meat and I like it.


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My name is Keighley and I eat meat (cue shameful, guilt-ridden anonymous greetings.) Welcome to my version of ‘meat-eaters rehab’.

During rehab, I have been involved in group discussions, visits to the snack counter and countless glasses of white wine to wash the topic of conversation down, yet I still remain carnivorous and constantly fight an internal battle between ethics, choice, hypocrisy and tantalised taste buds.

Typically South African, I was born and bred on a staple diet of Saturday afternoon braais (barbeques) served with an entrée of rugby matches and treats like biltong (dried meat) and boerewors (sausage) rolls. Growing up, I was too interested in riding my pink BMX, playing Marco Polo in the pool and dressing my Barbie dolls to ever question the food my folks put on the table. (Thankfully, it was usually healthy, they never encouraged fast foods and so it’s never been a favourite of mine). Enter a very close friend, a very interesting book and a more informed conscience, and I now face a proverbial mountain of ethics and eating.

I’ve heard people say that a book has changed their lives, and for the most part, have generally thought that they must be easily swayed by a few pages, but as fate would have it, I find myself saying the exact same thing nowadays. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals is pretty much the story of why he does and doesn’t eat meat combined with years of research and pages of opinions from all sorts of interesting people both in and outside of the food industry.

After reading the book, and through some independent research, I am shocked that the lid has been kept on a heated industry that continues to steer the inhumane treatment of animals, and remains an exceptionally lucrative industry.

To be honest, I still eat meat BUT I am far more conscious of what I’m eating, where it comes from and how often I eat it. I no longer eat chicken, barely touch pork and only rarely eat beef and lamb. I am slowly turning away from meat; I do not eat it in restaurants (at all) and continue to change my eating habits through days of eating only vegetables and fruits, which surprisingly always remain yummy and scrumptious.

For me, the change has stemmed from the treatment of animals. To say that I am an animal lover is an understatement, and after reading Eating Animals I have never been more aware of the true meaning of eating meat.

I was, and still am, mortified. What gives you and me the right to eat animals? Many genuinely believe that because our ancestors were hunter gatherers, it is somehow “in our genes” and is intrinsic to our survival. This excuse is not acceptable.

Our ancestors did not live in a world where the mass production of our food often relies on genetically modifying the DNA of cows, chickens, pigs and sheep to cater for increased stocks on supermarket shelves.

Our ancestors battled it out with animals and put their lives on the line so that they could feed their family and tribe – each animal they killed was essential to their survival. These days, we have more than enough to choose from in order to get the nutrients we need.

At the top of the food chain?
The reasoning of “Well, we’re at the top of the food chain” certainly holds no ground because we’ve manipulated an industry into playing God and producing more and more and more ad infinitum.

For me, it was a question of truly understanding my, now questionable, eating habits and the uninformed choices I have made throughout my life.

There are a few more factors that have helped me along my ‘rehabilitation’ such as the hormones pumped into animals, the ways that they are slaughtered to the fake labelling found on so much of our packaging – there really is no watchdog for organic and free range meats…just a little FYI!

Thankfully, I now feel enlightened and finally understand why more and more people are slowly turning towards the veggie and vegetarian way of life.

Yet, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a hypocrite because I continue to eat meat, and it’s a fight I have with myself every time my taste buds reawaken at the sight of a medium-rare fillet or the smell of Sunday morning’s breakfast sizzling away.

But the more bites out of reality I take, the more I’m faced to swallow the cold, hard facts that what I’m doing is supporting a wasteful, unnecessary way of life that ignores the well-being of animals. And to do such a thing is to support an industry that leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

I highly recommend reading ‘Eating Animals’, if not to stop eating meat, at least having come to that decision knowing  full well how animals are treated, the process by which your meal makes its way onto your plate and in the billion dollar industry that we find ourselves supporting.

By KaB

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7 Responses to this article

 
Claire October 25, 2010 Reply

Really great article. I just wanted to say that by being conscious, you are doing more for the planet than you think – and leading a healthier lifestyle too. I used to eat Venison even though I called myself a vegetarian. To me, ethical decisions about the kinds and quantities of meat you eat are more important that being a militant vegan/vegetarian. I ate venison just before I donated blood. I think all “bad” choices in life can be balanced by “good” choices. Don’t feel bad :)

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KaB October 25, 2010 Reply

Thanks Claire. I hear you…I try to make more ‘good’ choices through helping/ supporting animals in other ways, whether it be in consistently posting/ tweeting about rhino poaching and what’s going on about this to helping local animal organisations re: food, volunteering etc. At least that way I know I’m still doing good and helping out where I can :)

Question, apologies if I’m seen as naive: What is wrong with having eaten venison before donating blood?

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Claire October 25, 2010 Reply

Regarding your question above: venison is a meat – I just consider it the most natural and environmentally friendly meat and didn’t feel that bad for eating it. Nonetheless, a “true” vegetarian will never eat meat or meat products (such as gelatin). Sigh, it is hard work being a “true” vegetarian. I had to do it in stages and I realise I am still getting it wrong (for example, some cream cheeses have gelatin in them).

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Roline.Bosch October 26, 2010 Reply

I don’t think it’s ‘hard’ being a vegetarian. But I do think ‘true’ vegetarians have to carry a lot of responsibility to know things as some cheeses like Parmesan or even some wines are not veg-friendly.

The first few times I was confronted with meat as a new, loosely-vegetarian person, I ate it. But with every bite I could feel the pain that the animal experienceds. I could not shake the thought and eventually the guilt and shame I felt at my (in)human(e) vanity won.

Actually, the meat soon tasted pretty revolting in my mouth, simply because of the mental turmoil I was going through. Once this happened, the taste hurdle was no longer a hurdle at all.

If you really are committed to becoming a non-meat eater, I think the ‘taste’ issue will soon go away and its totally ok to eat meat while going through this process.

But if you believe it is not ok to eat meat and you justify your continuation of meat-eating by only choosing wild or free range meat to feel better about your choice, then I think you’ve got one foot in and your other out and your justification is a little hokey-pokey. There are pros and cons to both the mass meat produce industry, as well as to the wild and free range meat products. The only way you can make sure an animal doesn’t experience pain for your own taste preference is by not eating it at all.

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Claire October 26, 2010 Reply

@Roline

I think it just depends on why you choose to stop eating meat. Not all of us are vegetarians because we are concerned with causing pain to animals. That may be part of the reason, but usually it is a combination of many things.

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KaB October 26, 2010 Reply

It’s not ‘hard’ now for you because you’ve been doing it for a while, as is the case with most habits and breaking them. I think it’s clear that there really is no justification to eating meat and the reason we do is because we’ve been brought up in society to do so…hence the ancestors comment! It’s only once we start thinking for ourselves, doing a bit of research and debating issues that are directly associated with us that we start to make lifestyle changes best suited to our beliefs, and in this case, tastebuds.

Unfortunately for most, consumers are blinded by the reality of the situation and don’t really understand the magnitude of the food industry. I bet that you’ll find a few ‘converts’ should more people be exposed to the facts etc. I mean look at me, that book even changed my seafood eating habits…even more so than that of eating meat! Commercial fishing is the worst system out there and to eat tuna (after the way it is killed) is quite something, if you’re into the whole animal suffering argument. The same argument could be made on issues relating to bycatch and in trawling!

I think the most important element of my story is that I read something and did some independent research on the Internet (Greenpeace/ WWF/ doccies etc) and by doing so, I made an informed decision based on global facts and statistics! Yes, I’m a hypocrite and can’t justify a ‘better’ lifestyle through eating free range and organic meats etc but at least it’s a step in the right direction which is what we want to see in both people and the industry itself. We’ll never live in a world free meat-eaters but we could live in a better world with improved standards and better systems in place.

That being said, I believe that a book like ‘Eating Animals’ and anything similar should be mandatory in schools/ universities etc…people need to have access to the information!

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coetzeegisela November 19, 2013 Reply

Not eating meat has never been a problem. Perhaps the problem being interesting enough for the cooker to doing the cooking. My finds – veg cooking the most salubrious in all ways. G Coetzee

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