To Meat or Not to Meat – Humane Is the Question

My son and his girlfriend arrived today from California for Joe’s daughter’s wedding. They’re omnivores, as are the rest of the offspring from our blended family. Whenever we have a family gathering, my three look forward to an old family recipe (graciously handed down from their dad’s Italian grandmother), Italian beef. This presents me with a dilemma.

Joe and I are trying hard to swear off meat. We’re not entirely successful, because food allergies limit access to other sources of protein: dairy, soy, and some nuts. We do need protein, of course, and we were starting to feel less-than-healthy on our vegan diet. But we do not want to support the factory farms that treat animals as mere commodities.

We abhor the way cattle and hogs and chickens (and ducks, and presumably just about every other food-producing animal) are so often housed in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in unsanitary and inhumane conditions. We are also disgusted and deeply saddened to read how dairy cows are misused, their offspring yanked away shortly after birth and their bones so weakened by the overproduction of milk that they often break on the way to the slaughterhouse at the end of their “useful” lives. But that’s another story.

"You'll never look at dinner the same way." Photo Courtesy: River Road Entertainment

"You'll never look at dinner the same way." Photo Courtesy: River Road Entertainment

So, I promised Italian beef to our family. Then, this morning, I came across a movie review by Roger Ebert. It’s a review of Food, Inc., a powerful recounting of the way food is produced by Big Ag in the United States. Ebert’s review touches on the very issues that made Joe and me want to forgo all meat and dairy products.

I haven’t yet seen Food, Inc., but I have heard that it is not to be missed. Ebert’s review is so powerful that I couldn’t write a better one, even if I had seen the movie. I urge you to read it, and then to see Food, Inc. when it comes to your local area. If you’ve already seen the movie, please give us your own review.

As I read Ebert‘s article, I felt increasingly guilty about my promise to my kids. Maybe I shouldn’t cook Italian beef for them. By doing so I’m betraying the values Joe and I have come to share. But, the truth is, he and I also eat meat at times. So is my promise to my kids any different than what we ourselves do now and then? No, it’s not. As Joe and I said when we first started this website, “We’re on a journey; we aren’t there yet.” That goes for living sustainably, for being vegetarian or vegan, and for being the best humans we can.

I’ll buy meat for my family, despite my reservations. We will serve Italian beef this weekend. But, if I can find it, we’ll eat grass-fed beef from a farmer who treats his animals well, not meat from a factory farm. I’d rather not serve meat at all, but it’s a compromise. Like religion, a vegetarian diet is a choice. But, also like religion, nonbelievers sometimes catch the fire — as long as it’s not forced upon them. I have to remember that our kids are on their own journeys, and they will come to agree with us — or not — in their own time.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)