Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Meaty Post

I'd like to start with a goodbye and thank you for everything to any readers that never come back after this post.. I'm about to talk about meat and reveal a few things about myself that some may find icky. I thought about not writing this post, because I know some of you are veges (er.. vegetarians, not veges per se), and I'm not out to criticise your lifestyle choice because you are all fabulous. It's just that last nights dinner made me think about how I feel about eating animals, and seeing as my thoughts tend to just spew out onto this blog, here they are.

Last night I cooked a rabbit.  Not 'rabbit', as in some formless filet that you can get in an expensive meat shop, but an actual whole rabbit, shot by a friend of mine. He also did me the favour of skinning and cleaning it - so it's not like I had a furry Bugs to deal with. But it was still clearly an animal, with bones that I had to break to make him fit into my roasting dish. It made me think about what I was doing, about how this animal lived and died, and I thought about how long it had been since any meat I prepared resembled in any way it's source. You only need to wander down the meat aisle to realise that there is a real disconnect. Polystyrene trays with a few loin chops and a sprig of parsely do not resemble a lamb.  At least at the butcher, there is usually a pig hanging in the window to freak out the passersby. 

I do not have a problem with killing animals for food, in fact I think it's the only good reason to kill an animal - killing for 'fun' does not compute in my brain and I can't even flush a freaking caterpillar down the drain because who am I to claim exclusive rights to the broccoli?.  I do have issues with the 'meat industry' and with treating animals as if they were nothing more than meat while they are alive. I have issues with massive, unthinking, disrespectful meat consumption. I am against suffering, and make sure that the meat I buy has come from animals that were treated well, not forced to live in crates or sheds or fed artificial food to make them bloated and heavy. My opinion was formed in childhood.

At the age of 7 I moved to a farming community and got a quick introduction to 'real food' and what you might call the cycle of life.  I have been up close and personal with the slaughter of chickens, cows, sheep and deer for food and have prepared from scratch various smaller animals that arrived in their natural state - with skins, guts, eyeballs and all that.  From these experiences I formed the opinion that it is possible for an animal to live a pampered life and die painlessly and without fear. In fact, the exception, the one thing I still can't really handle the thought of is fishing. Watching a fish flop around and die slowly really grosses me out and makes me feel sad. I still eat fish, though, because I think it's one of the most healthy foods and of course we all know how I feel about Omega 3's. I hope fish have a really primitive nervous system... :-/

The other thing I realised about farm animals is that the options for this type of non-pet' animal  - are limited to 1) don't exist (and if they weren't bred for food, they wouldn't exist - some would say this is a better option), 2) grow old - and that is not pretty. Nature is not kind to old animals, or 3) be very cute and therefore transfer from 'food' to 'pet' - this happened more often than my mother would have liked.

I am in favour of a reconnection between meat eaters and the animals that they eat. I am also in favour of transparency in the meat industry and a 'less but better' attitude toward meat consumption. I think it's part of being a conscious and thoughtful consumer to research what you are putting your money into. I had always wondered why a supermarket chicken tasted so different to an organic, free-range one. One visit to a massive chicken farm told me all I needed to know and cured me of the desire for anything Tegel, KFC or any other big-name chicken brand. 

I learned that your standard, fat, juicy, intensively farmed chicken is a special mix of manipulated (not engineered, just selectively bred) genes and high-protein food. They grow to full size in one third of the time of a natural chicken. Sometimes they grow so fast that their legs can't hold them up anymore. They never eat a green thing in their entire lives. They never go outside, they are bored and stressed by being packed into massive sheds that have extended artificial daylight hours so that they eat more, they attack each other. It's hard to keep the sheds clean. The egg insemination procedure sometimes goes wrong and what hatches is a batch of 'faulty' chickens that either die or are deformed (and therefore killed). It was not pleasant and made me feel ashamed that humans are selfish enough to treat an animal like this just to make money and keep everyone (over) fed. It is profit over everything else. If Marx was still around and into animal rights, I'm sure he would be all over it.

I hope I have made my thoughts clear on this issue and not merely succeeded in coming across like a crazed, blood-lusting carnivore. I feel that if you are going to eat meat, then it's best not to be complacent about where it comes from. Eat less of it, with a bit of respect. My thoughts about smaller-scale farming and conscious consumption also apply to dairy, eggs and to a certain degree, vegetables - although I obviously don't feel upset about intensively farmed vegetables that live in crates. In fact I have some in my back yard.

Postscript: When cooking rabbit, it's best not to say 'we are having Bugs for dinner' because it can be taken the wrong way.


  1. LOVE this post. Couldn't agree more.

    When I was a kid, we used to often get whole pigs or lambs from a relative with a farm. We'd have a freezer full of meat for weeks. And my dad or grandpa would catch fish, other folks would give us bunnies - so the origin of our meat was never a mystery.

    I don't want to eat anything I've called by name though. I'm squeamish that way.

  2. Nice post, and pretty much what I could have said, or would have said. I was a veggie for some 15+ years and now eat only a bit of meat. Quality, not quantity. Hubby, on the other hand, would think he was starving if he didn't have a big chunk of meat on his plate....

  3. I'm a vege but I totally agree with the sentiments.


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