Choices we make
Hey there, I know you have been eating a more vegetarian diet lately after you discovered that eating red meat made you nauseous (yeah, I know you can still eat any other meat, but when you’re around me you usually don’t, which I thank you for)... I know you can eat meat (and I know you used to hunt, and you still do target practice with all of the guns you now keep in the house), but for some reason I wanted to share some stuff about the choices we make in eating meat.
Probably because you’re the only person who’ll listen to me.
And thank you for that.
Looking at choices over the years, I feel comforted in understanding how history reflects more stable ethical choices... I say that because recently I watched a History Channel show that discussed the history of mankind on planet Earth. And when humanity got toward the Middle Ages, they mentioned that at this time people then started farming animals for food, and once they did, infections moved from animals to humans, starting many plagues. (Meaning that only when they started treating animals as livestock for consumption at their own leisure, that’s when plagues came to the scene, killing huge quantities of the population.)
Oh I know, I know, you’ll probably give me the argument that people didn’t understand hygiene then, and because there was no concept of fearing the choices they made, they thought there was no problem.
And sure, they didn’t have the mental capacity to connect the dots like that, they didn’t have the empirical evidence to even be able to make any proper theories about the choices they were making.
So fast forward to meat production today: people even now still think, ‘oh, we know how to take care of ourselves now, we can cut corners in how we treat the animals so that we can mass process them and produce more meat so that we can feed a larger population (and have higher profits).’ I get it; making things on a mass scale means cutting corners to get more done, but oftentimes they forget what they’ll end up sacrificing... what they choose to give up for the bottom line and a higher profit. They forget how all this can turn around and cause devastating results.
(Oh, sorry, you don’t know what I’m talking about, and why I brought this up. I’m used to just talking to you instead of writing a letter like this. So let me explain.)
How many times have we heard in the news that salmonella has caused a whole shipment of food to be bad, so the news reports say to check the codes on the packages of processed food you buy to make sure they’re safe? Or how many times have we heard that another animal with Mad Cow disease has been found, so if anyone ate meat from X restaurants (or purchased meat from X grocery stores), don’t eat what you paid for, and if you consumed any meats from X, check to see if you have symptoms Y or Z.
They don’t tell you to consult a physician immediately because they wouldn’t want to scare you.
(Of course not. Everyone interested in the meat industry has too much invested in their making money to tell you that continuing to eat meat might be a bad idea.)
Sorry John, I know I’m ranting (you probably know me too well to expect anything else, but still, sorry), but it gets me worked up to see how there are so many different organizations — GLOBALLY — that lead people to think that they need to eat more meat. I mean, think of like China, living for millennia on rice and miso and tofu and fish diets. (I know, fishes aren’t vegetables... I still want to get a t-shirt that says “fishes aren’t vegetables” for people who think they’re vegetarian when they eat fish.) But people in China lived with plenty of protein and never had a problem with their diets — until they adopted a western, fast-food diet. (That is when they started getting the heart attacks and type 2 diabetes, living the American dream.)
Recently I saw the movie “Forks Over Knives,” about choosing a whole-foods, plant-based diet to help people with diseases (because they were very related to their diets), and they talked to Chinese people on the street, only asking them why they choose to eat red meat. Universally, their answer was, “For protein.”
In that movie, they stressed that plant-based whole-foods diets give every person enough protein for a healthy life, and I know that when I first became a vegetarian a lot of people talked to me about getting the “right” protein in my foods, because only having meat in your diet can give a person the protein they need. (I think for years I was told that I had to combine different beans and foods to get a “complete” protein — though I thought it was funny that a bean burrito had “just the right” combination of foods for a healthy meal...)
But it’s funny, you usually don’t see many dietary listings in vegetables about the amount of protein in things. I should check that out more.
And I know, when I made this decision to become a vegetarian, I didn’t have a plan. I know that years beforehand I first had my cholesterol checked when I was like 22 (and at the time they didn’t know the differences between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, and I think I ate something like ground beef pizza the night before the test), and they told me cholesterol was 212.
For a 22 year old.
So they told me to check my diet and come back in 3 months for another test, so I decided to stop eating red meat and cheese, and 3 months later my cholesterol was 136. So I knew it was under my control, so I just continued to not eat read meat (sorry, I’m a Chicago girl, I love deep dish pizzas too much) and I led my Chicago life. I did this while traveling around the country by car often, and realizing that when stopping at fast food joints on the road I was stuck with a chicken or turkey sandwich (and those things really are quite bland).
So on one trip where we drove to see the ball drop in New York for New Year’s, we stopped at the Poconos for a place to crash for the two-day drive home. The hotels were like separate cabins outdoors, and as we were walking to our hotel room I saw that someone had a cat there, and this cat was just walking around, being insanely comfortable with any stranger. So since I like cats so much, we opened our hotel door, and the cat just walked in like she owned the place. We petted the cat for a bit, but then had to let it out (so the owners didn’t worry where their cat was), and petting the stranger’s cat at a hotel made me think about the food I had been eating over the years.
I looked at the cat, and that that on the other side of the world, this cat was a delicacy.
Then again, in other parts of the world, the cow is sacred.
(I wonder if they decided to call the cow sacred because they didn’t want people killing their cows for meat when they could continually have milk from it instead, but I haven’t researched this, and this has nothing to do with my story, so sorry I digressed.)
But if this cat was a delicacy, and other people would never eat a cow, it all boils down to what we are taught about what should and should not be eaten.
Then I thought, well, I’d never want to kill a cow, or a chicken, or another animal.
But then I thought, that’s the beauty to capitalism, I specialize on my skills, and pay someone else to kill the animals.
And I petted this cat for another minute.
And then, without thinking (well, I guess I was thinking), I thought that maybe I shouldn’t eat any animals.
And if I couldn’t take it, I’d eat chicken once every two weeks or something.
And yeah, after a week straight of eating only pasta, I really needed to look for something else to include on my diet, but I never wanted to eat meat again.
I’m sorry I went on that long story, John... You even knew that I made that decision in the Poconos, and that’s when you decided to take me there for my 10 year anniversary of being a vegetarian (and I love you for that, that was so sweet), but I was thinking about how it wasn’t for health reasons that I decided to become a vegetarian. (I like to talk about that NOW, but I still like to drink and consume other things that aren’t the healthiest, but it’s a nice thing to fall back on when you’re in the minority anywhere in the world and have to defend the moral choices you made.)
But yeah, I think you’ve begun to see it, when going to any restaurant, as a vegetarian you only have a little under 10 percent of all of the menu options to choose from. (Yeah, I know, you can have fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and anything other than red meat, but you DID try being a vegetarian, so you know what it’s like when you go out.) And oftentimes when you go out like that, I think that’s when you begin to become aware of how much meat is pushed down the consumer’s throat. If people are concerned about getting enough protein via meat consumption, they should know that eating 3 ounces of meat would cover their protein bases for the entire DAY. (Translation, you didn’t need it at breakfast with your eggs, then in cold cuts in your lunchtime sandwich, as WELL as in an 8 to 12 ounce steak at night. In fact, when people consume too much protein like that, your body doesn’t know how to process the excess protein, and actually pulls the calcium away from your bones to help get the extra meat through your body — I wonder if THAT’s why so many people get osteoporosis now...)
I’m sorry, I seem scatter-brained as I am saying all of these things. It’s just that there are so many different aspects of a vegetarian diet versus a meat-consumption that affect so many different aspects of our lives. Eating more red meat actually makes body builders more sluggish (and there have been a few Ninja Warriors, for example, who have done marvelously without eating any slaughtered animal).
Wait a minute. I’m tired of feeling like I have make an argument for why I have chosen to be a vegetarian, or why I think it’s a good idea to be a vegetarian. I’ve said it before in poetry: “I know we could be feeding ten times more people with the same resources used for meat production” (and that argument was for why GLOBALLY it’s a smarter idea to go vegetarian, not personally or morally). And I know that it seems that some people are getting more and more knowledgeable about it (and more people know friends who are vegetarians). But nobody understood it the first few years of my being a vegetarian, my dad still teases me about it (you were a meat-eater all your life, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’ve heard the arguments; it’s not like I was trying to convert him or anything). And yeah, I never try to “convert” people into becoming vegetarians or anything: I usually keep to myself about it, and only if I am asked will I discuss it. My nephew even asked me about it, and he later decided to have a vegetarian diet, and get this — it was because he thought it tasted BETTER an there were more CHOICES; I couldn’t believe it.
Anyway, sorry about that, there I go, rambling again on different tangents, but it’s just that there is so much to cover when you make a life choice for the better like this. The more I think about it, that more I’m sure I could come up with more stories about it (and more arguments for it), but I have been writing a while. I suppose I should let you go.
P.S.: Thanks again for reading my rant. I know you eat meat, and I know in the past you killed animals (that when you were young, a gun was so easy for you that you started using a bow and arrow to make hunting a challenge). I mean, I think it was for this that I decided to keep your old meat grinder always attached to the wooden counter-top in the kitchen, unless it was for the fact that you’ve got to get along with my beliefs, and I have to get along with yours.
And seriously, I’m glad you don’t grind up raw meat with that thing in the house right now...
(Chicken and China — note)
Hey, after reading your letter, I just heard that the U.S. government’s now allowing American or Canada raised chickens to go to China for cooking & processing, then shipped BACK to the States for sale as chicken “product” (for use in like Chicken Nuggets, or in soups that are sold in grocery stores). Right now, if you buy chicken in a grocery store, you should still bag the probably already bagged chicken to avoid contamination with your grocery cart foods, all meat eaters are warned to cut different meats on different trays, use different knives and don’t cross-contaminate with vegetables, but now your chicken’s going to China (and who KNOWS what “safety” measures are cut for production there; we’ve already seen so many problems with contamination of foods processed in China. Thought you were safe by just skipping red meat? Don’t feel so safe, because we’ll cut corners like this, and it will end up hurting people more as a result...
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