Dirt Girl, Texas Girl
Given a close relationship with Mother Earth and a love for Her most basic elements (soil, microbes, insects), it makes perfect sense that I eat all the goodness that She provides. I enjoy tending plants, veggies more than pretty flowers, and there is nothing quite as satisfying as the pleasure of harvesting great-tasting veggies from my own yard. Sometimes I just wipe the dirt off and toss the entire delicious morsel straight into my mouth.
Coming up in Texas, hunting was a way of life. My siblings, cousins and I learned to fire rifles and shotguns early on, and as soon as hunting season came around, husbands, uncles and grandfathers disappeared every weekend for a few months every year.
I never fired a weapon to kill another animal until my late teens, but you can be sure the sweat equity — plucking, field-dressing, bringing an animal carcass to to the table — was a valuable skill learned and practiced at hunting camp.
My parents made sure I had no illusions about where our food came from.
For decades, meat remained as the main course on our dinner plates, whether it was hunted or bought. As I eased into life as an adult, it was easier to turn to the grocer for select cuts of meat. Pretty packages of flesh distracted me from the slaughter process — what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. As I grilled chicken or ribs or steak, my husband’s job was to merely to keep the kids out of the way as I mindlessly shifted between the kitchen and the back porch, assuring that charcoal stayed lit and that temperatures were optimum for flavor. Meat preparation was my chore, even if I didn’t kill the animal myself. At some point, my taste buds had fully taken over; I’d forgotten to appreciate where it is all that meat came from.
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
More and more, I became like everyone else: removed from my place within nature, using others for my own pleasure.
Lifting the Curtain Slowly
After meeting a friend who was conscious than me about her food choices, curiosity got the better of me. My husband and I carved out time one weekend to watch Food, Inc. streaming on Netflix. What we learned was both shocking and eye-opening. How could we not know that this is how grocery store ‘cutlets’ are prepared? Why hadn’t I made the connection between our environmental woes and farmed animals that were now on a factory scale? How was it that people could do this to living, breathing, beautiful animals every single day?
With subsequent research, I learned that atrocities of the animals-for-food industry are standard operating procedure; that is, the worst instances of suffering — castrating, de-beaking, de-tailing, caging, impregnation, infanticide — are done for efficiency and to reduce costs. These animals come into this world for our stomachs alone and are completely at our mercy, and their ‘care givers’ are exempt from animal cruelty laws. This is hardly the reciprocal relationship between our forebears and their domesticated stock.
reciprocity (noun) – a situation or relationship in which two or groups agree to do something similar for each other, to allow each other to have the same rights, etc. : a reciprocal arrangement or relationship
In the 21st century of animals made to be commodities, we could no longer pay the assassin. Straight away, mammals became off limits and poultry, eggs, and milk would have to be sourced ‘cage-free,’ grass fed, or otherwise ‘free ranged.’ This kind of food became more work than it was worth, and we essentially settled into lacto-ovo-vegetarians.
Our place within nature — in balance with nature — was still left to question.
Vegetarian is the Journey, Not the Destination
A couple of years later, I learned that just being vegetarian wasn’t consistent with our moral obligation — saying no thank you to the animal torture, suffering, murder. Dairy and eggs, I discovered, carried with them some of the most concentrated torture in the industry; friendly “happy” labels meant absolutely nothing, if not to shield me from the truth, keep me consuming.
Marketing trickery was — still is — alive and well to make sure consumers like me think that animal suffering wasn’t really happening. Just because an animal isn’t overtly killed for its flesh, it still remains in bondage, forced into a kind of reproductive slavery so that humans can enjoy their “outputs.” Is it no wonder that all of these animals are females? The males in dairy and egg industries are created consequences — we now had disposable babies. Infanticide (or veal, then infanticide) is the norm for at least half of the animals.
It was time to become vegan and quit being a part of that process. In order to better align my moral compass with daily habits, I would need to eliminate all suffering from my purchases, not just what was overtly so. Ethical vegetarian — vegan — was the only logical destination. Eggs, milk, cheese, and anything with eggs, milk, and cheese were now removed from our diet.
And it goes further than that. Once the questions were asked, it was discovered that abuse and neglect is literally everywhere we look, particularly in form of pleasure and entertainment that benefit only the human. Animals used in clothing, cosmetics, some pharmaceuticals — certainly those used solely for our entertainment — would be off-limits.
Our journey has been one of education, introspection, and revelation, but these days, it is entirely unnecessary to go it alone or do it by “trial and error.” There is a growing sentiment out there that says, We can do better by our neighbors! So let’s.
Switching four children to a vegan way of life was the easiest part; they hadn’t been subjected to the decades-long speciesism “training,” the desensitizing that happened to us adults. Giving up iced cream — the worst part of it, if you ask them — was made trivial with equally tantalizing alternatives, no deprivation required.
Not causing the oppression of others through food choice won’t change the world straight away, but it is a very good start. For years now, we have lived happy, healthy, and productive lives without relying on the flesh or sacrifice of others. As more and more people come on board with veganism, vegan choices dining out or in grocery stores will become the norm.
And our moral compass, at last, points straight and true. We do it for all the animals, our fellow earthlings. To stop eating them first is indeed the most honorable, most respectable thing we can do.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead